After a flurry of posts two weeks ago, I was sadly unable to post anything last week. I was off and away, at the massive, terribly exciting, thrill-mobile that is FoodEX. Myself and several of my coworkers were stationed out in Chiba from Tuesday until Friday, where we were representing our company at the exhibition hall.
FoodEX is a big exhibition of food and drink products. Importers, manufacturers, local businesses, and other food/beverage companies all come together under one giant roof to educate both their consumers and their colleagues about products. It’s a networking event for the companies, and a good chance for those who can get their hands on a ticket to come and check out cool stuff from all across the globe.
Tuesday was the opening day of the event. I spent the day pouring beers and answering basic questions for interested folks before passing off to one of our sales guys or our marketing manager. I also got the chance to explore the space a bit. Most of my time was spent working “in Belgium”. The beers we were showcasing at the event were Belgian beers made by Brunehaut. As a result, the theme of our region was everything Belgium!
FoodEX is split into a couple broad categories: domestic products and international products. We served Belgian beers at the event, which put us firmly in the “international products” zone. Each country or region has a section of the hall specifically designated for companies dealing in those goods. Some are larger and more flamboyant than others. The Italy, Taiwan, and Spain booths, for example, are quite large and spacious.
It’s really interesting to take a trip around the hall because you can see so many interesting, delicious-looking products from all over the world. In many cases, the people staffing the booths are actually from the country the product is from; not all representatives are Japanese importers.
On Tuesday, for example, a couple of Italian guys walked up to our booth and tried a couple samples of our beer. They enjoyed it, but seemed to speak little English (and no Japanese). They thanked me (I at least remembered “grazie” from my travels last summer), and one of them suddenly asked me: “Do you like cheese?”
“Yes! I love it!”
“Ok. I will bring you plate of cheese. And bread.”
I laughed, thinking he was just being friendly, but sure enough, a few minutes later, he reappeared with a paper plate covered in a paper towel. Piled on the plate, I found three delicious gourmet cheeses and some flatbread. It was amazingly good!
Most of the booths provide samples of their products for people to try, whether it’s food or drink. It makes me wish I could have visited the event for a day on my own time just to spend an afternoon having bite-size tastes of deliciousness from around the globe.
Our week went without incident. We collected business cards and questionnaires from interested visitors, checked out a little bit of the rest of the show, and got to try a few samples here and there.
On Tuesday I thought I’d end my day by bringing a snack to our staff at the Mexico booth. As I’ve mentioned in a couple previous posts, the company also imports some tequila from Mexico. Although the products are imported by the same company, they are from different countries, which means they are in different booths at the event.
I took the bread and cheese plate over to our staff in Mexico-land at around 4:30. I tried a little of what samples they had and also got a taste of a tequila that sells for 40,000 yen (about $400) per bottle. Many of the other vendors in the Mexico zone were also selling tequila, and a few tequila geeks were hanging around, trying samples.
As I stood at our Mexico booth, one of the vendors from the neighboring booth came over, asking if he too could have a taste from the pricey bottle. The staff gave him some, and he went to clink sample-glasses with me, then noticed my glass was empty!
“Hey! You have to try some too!”
“I already had some! I don’t want to get drunk!”
“But you have to have something in your glass!”
He grabbed me by the hand and took me over to his booth, much to the entertainment of my coworkers.
“What kind of tequila do you like? Strong? In the middle? Softer?”
“In the middle.”
He nodded, grabbed one of the bottles, and poured me a little. I nodded with approval at the small amount, and he proceeded to pour more. D’oh.
Coincidentally, just at that moment, a participant from our Casa Noble cocktail contest was also at the booth. We all smiled, and said “cheers” in our respective languages before tasting our drinks.
Moments later, the tequila man was pouring something else into my cup from another bottle, which I also tasted. We had a nice chat, and then I ran back to Belgium (ha!), fearing that if I lingered too long I might very well die at the Mexico booth. I tried to tally up exactly how much tequila I had consumed in the 15 minutes or so I was there. It was somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3 shots.
Upon my return to Belgium, we cleaned up our things, and headed out for an after-work drink before catching the train home. I, growing progressively more silly by the minute thanks to my brief sojourn in Mexico, found my return home to be a very wobbly one. I ordered food in once back to my apartment, and zonked out at 10 PM. What a day. In defense of whatever tequila he gave me, however, I had no hangover the next morning. Quality products, hooray?
The rest of the week was very similar (though thankfully there were no more dangerous encounters with tequila vendors). I tried Belgian potato snacks and amazing Belgian chocolates, delicious flavored Vodka from the USA, absinthe, tortilla rolls, and even got to take home a delicious, huge avocado, which I have since eaten. My coworkers even managed to score some giant meat slabs from vendors who would otherwise have thrown it out!
FoodEX is a very cool event everyone should have the chance to check out. The commute out to Makuhari Messe hall DOES suck if you’re not a Chiba-dweller or someone who lives in East Tokyo. Spending more than 2 hours on trains for my commute each day got old very, very quickly. If you do make it out, however, you’re in for a very cool day of food, drinks, and international debauchery!