Scottsdale Epicurean Expo: Generally Underwhelming, Better Luck Next Year?

Of the 30 or so stalls at the Epicurean Expo there were only two that were genuinely exciting, a handful that were cool, and many that made us ask,"What has that got to do with food?"

The blurb for the Epicurean Expo -- held yesterday and today inside the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Scottsdale Culinary Festival's Great Arizona Picnic -- makes a bold promise, "The Expo will showcase ground-breaking innovations in the culinary world." We strode into the atrium with high hopes of seeing some crazy new gizmo that hard boils eggs with lasers or a fork that is also a pair of chopsticks.

The best we can say is that at least it's air conditioned in there -- and with forecasts today of 106, picnic-goers maybe be happy to escape the heat no matter how disappointing the expo.

So what did we find inside?

We were treated to Costco sample standbys Kerrygold Cheese and Vitamix. It was somewhat depressing to see that some of the most interesting stuff was actually located in the gift shop. If we hadn't headed in there we would have missed this slice of pure consumer gold:

The Exciting:

Chow Locally: Easily the most legitimately innovative idea in the entire expo. Each week Chow Locally offers you a "share" of local produce online, usually 7-10 different vegetables. Additionally, they include recipes devised by local chefs to take advantage of that week's share. $21.99 confirms your share for that week and it all gets boxed up for pickup at various farmers markets and local businesses throughout the Valley. Meal planning and fresh produce all in one place sounds like a pretty damn good deal.

Smart Kitchen Smart Kitchen's COO and chef Perry Herst wants to help everyone "be a celebrity chef in their own kitchen." He wants to teach people how to look in their fridge and whip up an exciting meal with what they find. For a monthly fee of $9.99 you get online access to the same topics that would be covered in a traditional and pricey culinary education. Lessons start at "How not to cut yourself" and range upwards. When we asked about depth Herst said that their section on beef has over 800 pages of content.

Struggling To Make the Food Connection

We went to expo excited at the prospect of seeing the bleeding edge of cooking technology. We expected to see novel food preservation techniques, cooking tools, time savers and french fry makers. Instead we saw a handful of decent places and... this. Maybe it wouldn't have made us so sad if the window replacement service had used a promotional picture that involved a kitchen. Either way, I want to believe that there are great Arizona food entrepreneurs just waiting to have their voices heard. It's just unfortunately that someone hawking solar panels took their spot.

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