You can usually find the better (or at least quirkier) stories along the outer edges of the McCormick Place floor at the National Restaurant Association's annual show.
That's where the little guys are, the ones hawking their products thought up during sleepless nights and upon which they're staking just about everything.
That's where Ben Hirko of Coralville, Iowa was. Hirko is creator of Benny's Bloody Mary Beef Straw, a beef snack stick with a hollowed-out center.
Use the straw to sip your Bloody Mary. When you're done with your drink, you're left with a juicy beef snack.
"In Austin, there's a place that puts a whole bacon strip in your Bloody Mary," said Hirko, a former bartender.
A few booths down, in the same aisle, stood Jack Milan, a Boston caterer.
Milan's product, Edibles by Jack, are edible spoons (spoon-shaped crackers, really) that mimic the ones used for hors d'oeuvres at fancy parties.
"I've always been frustrated by the concept of porcelain spoons," said Milan. "People just take them or they break. I thought, 'This is stupid. We're losing so many spoons.' "
Milan says he came up with his edible spoon idea 15 years ago, and has been using them for his catering company for that long. He's only just now sharing the idea with the world (or ideally, the world's caterers, hotels, country clubs and so on).
The spoons come in 10 flavors, both savory and sweet, and they're not just for hors d'ouvres. "One of my signatures is crème brulee on a chocolate spoon," said Milan.
Hirko's beef straws aren't on the market yet; his website isn't even active. It'll all be ready in July, he says.
He seems to be in good shape. While we spoke, up walked Steve Wald, senior director of new products for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "Bloody Mary beef sticks? Who thought of that?" he asked.
Hirko grinned. The two men shook hands, and Wald thrust his business card forward. "If you need an extra opinion or advice, feel free ...," Wald said, before walking away.