Wow!! Where to start….my mind is spinning from the many incredible moments over the weekend. I have SO much to share and SO much to say, but the weekend was non-stop from start to finish and I found myself needing time to process it all. I’ve tried to sit down and get to this post several times over the past few days, but I just couldn’t seem to write about it yet. Normally I need to write to process, but this time I think I needed time to reflect first…a few days to come back down to reality. AND I needed a quiet house…that’s hard to come by in a house with 3 girls! Hopefully I’ll be easier to follow now that I’ve done that!!
I shared with you all one of the things I was MOST excited about was meeting my local food blogger friend, Michelle of The Domestic Mama, in person! And having the time to get to know her better, and really share our food blogging experiences with each other. When we finally met Friday afternoon, it was like getting together with an old friend…we didn’t miss a beat. We had a 2 1/2 hour drive to fill up, and funny enough, I don’t think either of us remember how we actually got to our destination…that’s how FAST time went! Did I mention how SUPER excited we both were?
First up on our agenda (after a brief check in at the Rosen Plaza Hotel) was the meet and greet at Whole Foods Orlando. You know how much I love Whole Foods!! And though I had fairly high expectations of our evening, I was stunned at all the effort put into this night. Words just don’t do it justice, so take a peek…..
Five delicious appetizers, mountains of Kerrygold cheeses, the infamous cake of Brie, the unending flow of wine, not to mention a crème brulee bar. Oh yeah, lets not forget about the raspberry and chocolate mousse cups. Did you all know these are some of my very favorite desserts…I always buy chocolate mousse and crème brulee when I’m visiting France in Epcot!!
They really went ALL out for us, and we finished the evening feeling pampered and satisfied. Thank you Whole Foods for all the yummy goodness and hospitality! The evening zipped by so fast…meeting many food blogger peeps and snapping pics, that it wasn’t till much later I realized I never did sample that Brie cake (bummer!)
About those food blogger peeps…we were too busy chatting to get any pics that first night (they’re coming), but I finally got to meet some of my long time Twitter friends: Julie of The Little Kitchen (and main organizer of this wonderful event!!), Aggie of Aggie’s Kitchen, Tina of My Life as a Mrs. and Joan of FOODalogue. Both Tina and Joan live in my area, and Tina right around the corner (literally) which is really cool. We even attended the same church for over a year, didn’t know each other and Tina watched my baby in the nursery before I even started up my food blog. Small world, huh? Of course all the foodie peeps were as friendly in person as they had been in cyberspace!
I also met Susie & Jeff, Asha, Binky, Rachelle, Adam & Joanne, and Julie of the Alkaline Sisters. And last, but not least…our hostess Jaden of Steamy Kitchen! You can read her recap of the event here. Jaden is super friendly, fun and down to earth. I knew I was going to like her!!
A few of us were there down to the very end as we just didn’t want the evening to end. Michelle and I had a few things to pick up at Whole Foods so we wandered around chatting about our night. And our slumber party continued back at the hotel, donning pj’s and pulling out laptops. We won’t even go into our Wi-fi situation (non-existent), and being tethered to an ethernet cable for the online session we wanted to have together…we have much to learn from each other, and wanted to get started on that. But the hotel made up for it in many other ways (a clean room, comfy beds, a mini fridge, spectacular view from the 6th floor, close proximity to our events, a great rate and walking distance to Pointe Orlando).
Saturday morning, bright and early we headed over to the Rosen College of Hospitality Management for our blogging sessions! You could tell all the bloggers were wide awake and ready to learn. Outside the classroom, there was a nice display of coffee and a variety of tea to try, as well as plenty of water. What a nice touch! As soon as you entered the room, you could see the stack of prizes at the front of the room for the giveaways and all the cool SWAG bags arranged at the back of the room.
When I first walked in, I got to meet another long time Twitter friend Merry-Jennifer of The Merry Gourmet. Another super friendly blogger! She and Aggie are also Twitter friends, and I find them both very inspiring and we all seem to have quite a bit in common! I don’t have a picture from that morning, but this is me and Merry-Jennifer that night at the after party. And pictured above in the bottom right corner is Jessica of The Novice Chef and Jaclyn of Food Plus Words.
The morning sped by and before we knew it, it was time for lunch! We had a catered lunch of roast beef and other meats, cheeses, rolls, salads and cookies, and a chance to sit and chat. I met Katie of Katie’s Cucina during lunch, and it was great to have some down time in the middle of the day. But I know we were all SUPER excited about the afternoon photography sessions with Helene of Tartelette. I picked up so many helpful tips about lighting, food styling and camera equipment.
This incredible day of learning and gleaning went by way too fast! Our talented list of speakers included: Jaden and Scott Hair, Helene Dujardin, Dawn Viola of Wicked Good Dinner, Lindsay Landis of Purr Design, Peter Scott, Jeff Houck ~ Food writer for The Tampa Tribune, and Heather McPherson ~ Food editor for The Orlando Sentinel. They were all SO very helpful and giving of their knowledge in their respective fields. Thank you again for sharing with us!!
To sum it up…it was a well organized day (thanks Julie and Dawn), VERY informative with many AWESOME prize giveaways. I even won a prize….check it out….pretty cool, huh?
After a long day of learning, I was a bit tired. But there was no rest for the weary…we had to freshen and change at the hotel and head out to the after party at McCormick & Schmick’s. After a few trips around the mall (the GPS didn’t take us straight to the valet in front of the restaurant), we arrived fashionably late to the party. Imagine our surprise and delight to learn that they had closed the entire restaurant for our affair, and we were treated like VIPs for the night. There was a huge spread of sushi, shrimp, kobe beef sliders, sangria, wine, and cosmos. I finally was able to meet a few more Twitter friends that evening: Renee, Lael and Brie.
I got to spend quite a bit of time getting to know Helene a lot better, and I have to say she is a true gem. She is SO passionate about her photography and the cookbooks she photographs. She is VERY talented, but super humble.
Me and Julie of The Little Kitchen. She’s such a sweetheart!
Again Michelle and I were a few of the last ones there, and were busy chatting it up with Julie and Helene when the valet brought our cars around. We drove back to the hotel discussing our evening (we were still trying to wrap our minds around it all), and our plans to go to IKEA the next day before heading home (Michelle had never been to IKEA, and I spotted one on our multiple trips around the mall LOL!! You can read about our Ikea trip here.) Once back to the hotel…we flirted with the possibility of crashing a prom in progress, and then we realized we were famished (too much talking, not enough eating). So we decided to walk across the street in search of a late dinner. Another late evening, being able to wake up without an alarm and then a bit of shopping and lunch at IKEA was a nice way to wrap up an AMAZING weekend!
Is it too cheesy to say that Food Blog Forum Orlando for me was a life-altering event? I know I’m not over-thinking this. I don’t even know how to put this into words, but meeting all of the wonderful food bloggers I met, and having all of that creativity and ENERGY in one room really made an impact on me. Food bloggers are a unique group of people…all walks of life, all ethnicities and cultures, and a WIDE spectrum of ages, but we all have one central thing in common FOOD!!
And to further clarify FOOD…I don’t just mean food, I mean LOVE of food, creating it, sharing it and using it to CONNECT with others! It is really a vital part of the human experience. Don’t get me wrong, I have MANY people in my life that I share this passion with, but walking into my first food blogging event was just like finding the right pair of shoes…a perfect fit! I hope I get to the chance to attend many more in the years to come!!
**Many of my friends have done a recap on their pages if you click their links above. Check back and I will have them linked up here at the bottom of the post.**