This weekend's Metro Cooking and Entertaining Show , which runs Saturday and Sunday at Reliant Center, isn't just about celebrity chef appearances and demonstrations by some prominent Houston chefs. Each $24.50 ticket also buys admission to a show-floor marketplace of more than 125 specialty food and entertaining vendors selling goods that will let you get a jump on your holiday shopping.
I was lucky enough to taste some of these wares recently, and I've got a few favorites you should look out for. I was much taken with Houston chef Kiran Verma's  chai blend of five fragrant loose-leaf teas to which you just add fresh ginger, milk and a little brown sugar. It smells as good as it tastes, and I confess that sometimes I stop by the little black tea tin in my kitchen just to take a whiff. (If only it came in perfume form!)
Another product I always want to find in my pantry is the Texas Pepper Works'  Candy-krisp pickled jalapeño slices, to which I have become slavishly addicted.
They're not cheap at $11.99 per 12-ounce bottle, but Candy-Krisps are worth it in terms of the flavor pop and crisp texture they deliver, with just enough heat and not too much sugar. They function like the bread-and-butter-style jalapeños that have become Houston's unofficial civic pickles in recent years: great on a cracker with cream cheese, a sharp foil for meats, a boon to any sandwich.
Houston farmers market stalwart Al Marcus of The Grateful Bread  will be on hand selling his custom-blended Worcestershire sauce and Vanilla, among other items. Around the holidays in recent years, I've acquired a stash of both bottles for last-minute gift-giving. They're good for anyone with more than a passing interest in cooking.
I recommend seeking out the Cacao & Cardamom booth for remarkable chocolates filled with subtropical and Asian flavors perfectly suited to the Houston palate. Made by Houstonian Annie Rupani , these confections are startlingly beautiful with their pointillist and airbrushed visual effects. And such fillings as mango caramel, black sesame ginger, Szechuan peppercorn, and guava tamarind fairly vibrate on the palate.
If I thought I could live on Rupani's mango caramels, I would.
A more traditional treat with a Houston origin comes from Kegg's Candies , the mid-century local classic that adds a Texas twist to some of its staple items. Try a packet of their Pecan Crisp for a clever take (and a vast improvement) on Southern peanut brittle.
Somewhat to my surprise, I fell in love with a modest item called Almondina Biscuits , billed as "the delicious cookie without the guilt." These somewhat ascetic, densely textured crisps are mined with almonds and raisins, and they are highly satisfying accompaniments to morning coffee or tea. I wound up eating these old-fashioned toasts for breakfast, and when I came to the end of the packet, I suffered a moment of panic.
Which means that on Sunday at Reliant Center , I'll be stocking up — and keeping an eye out for new obsessions.