Gummy worms to the left, dried cactus to the right and down the center nearly three football fields of sweet, salty, sour treats to sample. That's what makes up the international Sweets and Snacks Expo held annually in Chicago.
This year it was May 8-10, and two Chicago Tribune reporters were turned loose to scope out the offerings from nearly 570 exhibitors. Some of the new items they found that could be making their way to store shelves near you are:
-- Hot Tamales 3 Alarm candies in three levels of hotness: orange for hot, pink for hotter still and red for tastebuds beware.
-- There were lots of pseudo-campfire treats, with the best being Russell Stover's individually wrapped marshmallow-graham cracker sandwiches.
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-- A variety of excellent chocolate bars, including an eggnog chocolate bar from Seattle Chocolates with marshmallow, candy cane and eggnog mixed into the chocolate.
-- Trail's Best Bacon Jerky, hickory smoked flavor, are actual bite-size bacon bits that taste as fresh as the strips cooked this morning.
-- Smart Fries, garlic and rosemary flavored, are crunchy, light and airy, not greasy like fast food fries. The makers claim the air-popped potato sticks have 80 percent less fat then regular potato chips and only two grams of fat.
Enjoy award-winning wines, gourmet food, a silent auction and a chance to hobnob with Washington winemakers Saturday at Revelry at Col Solare Winery in Benton City. Auction of Washington Wines has invited 22 winemakers and growers to the event, which is a fundraiser for Seattle Children's Hospital and Washington State University viticulture and Enology program.
Tickets are $95 and available online at www.auctionofwashingtonwines.org.
Produce picks, tips
When shopping for fresh produce, follow these tips from the Washington State University Extension:
-- Do not purchase produce that is bruised or damaged.
-- When selecting fresh-cut produce, such as half a watermelon or bagged salad greens, choose items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
-- Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood products.
-- Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs and mushrooms) in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees or below.
The book: The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo.
Best for: Russo has searched the globe to catalog every sandwich imaginable, providing tried-and-true recipes, tips and tricks, and fascinating regional and historical trivia about the best snack of all time. Quick how-to instructions will ensure that every panini is toasted to buttery perfection, every Sloppy Joe is deliciously sloppy and every Dagwood is stacked to perfection.
*Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; email@example.com