So What is The Sweet Escape: The NJ Dessert Tasting Expo?
You might have read my blog entry about it from last year, detailing the whole event about two months too late (see, this time I was prepared!!). But anyway, it's just what it sounds like. Over 35 dessert makers, treat makers, bakers, bakeries, confectioners and more, displaying all of their most fabulous creations for you to taste and sample. There are freebies and raffles, classes, guest speakers and lots of really, really nice people. One of the best things about the whole event is that a portion of the advanced ticket sales go to charity- Elijah's Promise and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. I was honored to meet Chrissy Banks, who told me all about the Better World Market in Somerset, which I plan to visit and tell you all about in a future blog post!
2013's event was held at the NJ Convention & Expo Center in Edison. The 2014 event was held at Kean University in Union.
|NJ Dessert Tasting Expo|
How Does the NJ Dessert Tasting Expo Work?
You purchase your tickets online in advance. There was also a Groupon available and a discount code from the fab Mr. Cory's Cookies, so if you go next year, be sure to shop around for your best online deal before purchasing tickets. There are a variety of tickets you can buy:
- VIP (which is more expensive but gets you in earlier and gets you a swag bag full of goodies)
- general (no swag bag and your entrance is an hour later than VIP)
- general or VIP with classes added (check their website for which classes were available)
Upon arrival you will be presented with a little box to hold all of the extra goodies you take (so put it together before you enter- you're going to need it).
|Check-in at the NJ Dessert Tasting Expo|
|This VIP badge made me feel important!|
Here's what was in this year's swag bag:
|So many goodies!|
I especially loved these paper straws from InkScissorsPaper. I might not ever use them because they are so pretty! Omg...so pretty.
|Aren't these paper straws adorable??|
I was fortunate enough to have VIP passes this year, thanks to the amazing Atasha Scott, who organized this event. So when we entered, we were also given a yummy looking cake pop:
|Almost too pretty to eat! Almost.|
I'm not sure if general admission also got these, but I am guessing not.
You also get a plastic gold coin to vote for "Best in Show." Last year I gave my coin to Ann's Sweet Potato Pies. This year I gave my coin to Love Puddin (who has no website yet- c'mon Love Puddin!).
What Vendors Are at The NJ Dessert Tasting Expo?
This is the second year the event was held, and there were some return vendors from the previous year and some new vendors. There were also sponsors from larger restaurants and businesses, such as Goya, Shore Cake Supply and ShipRite Bags just to name a few. You can check the Sweet Escape participant page each year to see which vendors are signing up. This year, some of my favorites were:
- Ann's Sweet Potato Pies
- Love Puddin'
- Cake & Co.
- Wild Lizzy's
- Willow and Olivia
- Babycake's Sweets
- Lakeside Maple
- Sweet Dreams Mini Donuts
I can go on and on, because I don't think there was ONE vendor that I didn't like. Although, I am pretty easy to please when it comes to desserts and sweets. :)
|Delicious sparkly cupcakes from Cake Music NY|
What Do You Get for Your Money at The NJ Dessert Tasting Expo?
Okay, so this pile of business cards represents just SOME of the vendors I sampled from:
|Are you getting tired of seeing my wrinkly thumb in these pictures?|
And the vendors were soooo nice. They want you to try their goodies. "Take more!" they said, "Try another!" Now, I know this might not have been the case as the day wore on, the crowds got larger and the samples wore down. But in the beginning, there was no limit, really, to what they let me try. Some vendors sold larger take-home portions of their items, too. I purchased a slice of sweet potato pie from Ann's Sweet Potato Pies, a container of Buffalo Wing flavored popcorn from Jadore Candy, a strawberry shortcake pudding from Love Puddin (yes, I had a cooler in my car for this very reason!), and a Roasted Garlic & Sweet Onion Jam from Jams by Kim.
|Now That Was a Great Party! Display|
And a word here about just how friendly these vendors were, especially if you were friendly to them and expressed what you thought about their goodies. The super sweet gals from Willow and Olivia gave me a free red velvet cake ball just because (those were really for sale only) and it was DELICIOUS.
|Willow and Olivia rocks!|
The family love was flowin' over at Babycake's Sweets, as they told us all about the amazing cupcake stand that their dad created for them, and told us about the unique coquito flavored cupcakes they were offering. See them?
|Babycake's Sweets Cupcake Stand|
You can really go crazy with the samples. I saw people who brought their own tupperware boxes and were FILLING them to the brim with goodies. The rest of us were a little more reserved, maybe stashing the goodies away in our bags or boxes for future sampling, or just plain eating as we went. I like to know what I'm sampling (that's the whole point, really, it's a tasting expo). I like to talk to the bakers and creators, try their goodies, take their cards, tuck their names away for future reference or party needs. That's what I think it's all about. I respect the desserts (and the makers), I assure you. I don't want to just go home with a pile of cupcakes and cookies, eat them, and not know who made them, where they came from, or how to get them again! But maybe you do. So it's all about what you prefer.
This year there were also classes and lectures you could attend, including:
- kids' cupcake decorating class (extra fee)
- Cakes by Timbo cake decorating (extra fee)
- cake designing demonstrations
- cake/baking tool demonstrations
- a visit from Mr. Cory of Mr. Cory's Cookies
|Look! It's Mr. Cory of Mr. Cory's Cookies!|
Pros and Cons of the NJ Dessert Tasting Expo
Like any major event (especially an "expo," as they tend to be large events), there are pros and cons.
PROS: The pros to me are obvious- there are so many freebies!! And if you're thinking, it's just cupcakes and desserts, so what? Well, where else would you have the opportunity to sample so many different kinds of confections in one place? Unique, homemade goodies- cakes, cupcakes, pies, flavored popcorns, mini donuts, granola, dried nuts, cookies, chocolates, cake pops, rice krispie treats, puddings, coffee...and that's just naming a few! If you're in this industry it's a tremendous amount of networking. If you like desserts, it's heaven.
CONS: It gets crowded. What can I say, these are desserts! By the time we left the event around 3:30 (after arriving a little before 1:00), it was getting packed. I heard people grumbling about the crowds, but like any of these events, I think you have to arrive early to avoid that. I also wish people would have kind of jumped from table to table. It seemed like people wanted to stay in a long line that flowed in a circle around the room to all the tables, but I think it was better to roam from table to table and just check off what you visited in your program guide as you went.
|Blurry pic but it shows the light crowds upon arrival.|
|Heavier crowds by the time we were leaving.|
I had a little trouble finding the venue this year, as there weren't many signs. But maybe after driving through Kean for ten minutes, we came upon the main entrance (we had somehow entered through the back) and saw the flashing billboard sign directing us to the right hall. After that a parking attendant pointed us in the right direction. This is only the 2nd time this event was held (first time in this location) so you have to figure there might be room for improvement each year.
I don't know if this is a con, but you are going to EAT. And eat a LOT of sweets. And after a while you do need something salty or some water or just real food in your belly. So remember to pace yourself if you're there, or to space out what you sampled. I loved the granola and dried nut vendors- I tried to visit them in between my 'sweet' taste to get some 'salty,' too. Smart, right? ;)
Jersey Momma Tips for the NJ Dessert Tasting Expo
- this is a dessert tasting event, so for the love of God, do not go in there worrying about your diet or complaining about your weight or whatever. Just eat and enjoy yourself!!
- remember to take business cards and tell the vendors what you thought about their products. I loved talking to all of the people there. I think that was one of the best parts.
- arrive early- this is an event that is bound to get crowded
- if you're not buying a VIP pass, you might want to bring a small bag to carry any extra goodies you might purchase. You might also want to bring a small bottle of water, if this is permitted at the venue.
- you can even go extreme like me and bring a cooler for the car ride home, just in case you purchase any awesome pies or puddings or whatever, that need to be refrigerated (and did you read that right? I said for the car ride home! I don't want to see people dragging coolers around inside the event, for pete's sake)
- use your "Best in Show" coins!!! It's only fair to go back and vote for who you thought was the best. Not quite fair to sample all the goodies and then skip out on showing your love.
- leave the stroller at home. I would even go so far as to say, leave the kids at home, too! They are welcome at this event but that's a lot of sweets for a kiddo to eat, and I think adults would enjoy it more without the kids in tow. But that's just my opinion.