After being up late Friday night riding rides with the family at Magic Kingdom (catch day one here), I woke up bright and early….actually not bright as the sun hadn’t even come up yet. It was early…..but worth it! I was excited to see Michelle after her drama the night before, and meet more food bloggers. Being the big Disney geek that I am, I was also excited about riding the monorail over to Epcot for our conference.
I was a bit disappointed when I later realized this is the only picture of Michelle and I the whole weekend…and it came out kinda grainy. But I do like how it captured our excitement of being there! It was neat riding the monorail so early, and seeing the sun come up over the bay. That picture was snapped near the Contemporary hotel looking in the direction of the Fort Wilderness campground. I’m a nature girl, so I’ve always been in love with Disney property….acres and acres of natural preserve, not tacky and built up like so many other touristy destinations.
It was also cool to be at Epcot before they opened for the day. We made our way over to The Odyssey which is where our conference was located for the day. The Odyssey is that futuristic building tucked in between test track and Mexico. I’ve passed it a million times and never gave much thought to it at all. I share a picture further on in the post.
Once we walked in and got our seats, it was time for breakfast. Yes….you read that right. Disney had breakfast ready and waiting for us. Wow…what a spread it was. It was Saint Patrick’s Day, and they didn’t miss a beat. They had Irish inspired eggs….in fact we had 3 egg dishes to choose from. I chose the egg white frittata and the eggs and potatoes. They were both so good and hit the spot. I love having protein as part of my breakfast. They also had scones and a variety of fresh fruit to choose from. It was all so delicious!
Before you know it the conference was under way. I felt a little more relaxed this year….not that I don’t still have a lot to learn, but the initial “first conference – glean every single bit of info you can element” was not present. In other words….no pressure. We had 4 presentations in the morning, and I loved the round tables they added to our afternoon this year. We were able to select 4 sessions the night before out of a total of 12. It was hard to narrow it down to just 4, but we all agreed we’d share our notes later (online). Food bloggers are such a friendly and helpful bunch!
We learned abourt sharing our food story through photography from Diane Cu & Todd Porter of White on Rice Couple pictured in the top left photo. Their presentation was very inspiring and moving, and was one of my favorites of the day. In the top right photo are Jaden and Scott Hair and one of their sons. You may remember I met Jaden last year. She, Scott, Diane and Todd are the founders of Food Blog Forum.
We also had a session on PR: the process of working with brands, a session by David Leite on improving the storytelling in our posts, and Dawn Viola shared on how to take our blog from hobby to professional. Overall, a great informative morning! As you can see in the photo above we had amazing sponsors in addition to our Disney hosts….thank you so much Kitchen Aid, Oxo and Le Creuset for such amazing prizes being given out over the course of the day. Giveaways are always so much FUN, don’t you think?
Before you know it, it was time for lunch! This was the highlight of my day. Disney also hosted our lunch: A Healthful Taste of Disney,” and I wasn’t the only foodie excited to be there. They walked us over to the other side of World Showcase, and opened up a large gate between the United Kingdom and Canada. When we walked into the huge room, we were all blown away with the beauty. See all the cameras popping out. It’s always a neat thing to be in your element with others…..food bloggers are a rare breed.
I’m not sure what I expected, but let’s just say Disney again went above and beyond! Different Disney resorts, restaurants and bakeries were represented all over the room. Ahh sheer foodie heaven, and as a Disney fanatic I was living a dream as I roamed from station to station meeting the various Disney chefs and sampling their food. I’m trying not to make you too jealous, but we had almost 2 hours of tasting.
Chef Damon Lauder & Chef Matt Maslowski of Park Event Operations, Epcot showcased Burger, Fries and a Float Meet Nature’s Lab!
Slow-roasted bourbon-induced black pig heritage pork tenderloin slider with local hydro grown greens and heirloom tomato on golden spelt roll. Super grain fries with Himalayan sea salt (pictured in top 3 photos above).
Soda Float with Rotovap Extracted CO2-infused vanilla lemonade with nitro whipped, no sugar pomegranate ice (pictured in photos below)
This homemade natural soda with no chemicals or sugar was AMAZING! I went back for seconds. It was sweet, but no sugar was used. Is anything like this sold anywhere?
Chef Frank Vega & Manager Stephen Shepherd of Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, Disney’s Hollywood Studios showcased Chicken Picatta.
Chicken sauteed in white wine-lemon butter sauce with caperberries, spinach, and whole wheat pasta (in photo above – bottom left corner and bottom right corner).
Chef Frank Brough & Manager Randy Ramos of The Wave…of American Flavors, Disney’s Contemporary Resort – Whole Grain Penne Pasta
Whole grain penne pasta with Florida white shrimp, cedar key clams and calico scallops, roasted garlic tomato sauce (not pictured).
And wait till you see these desserts……two tables filled and of course I had to sample as many as I could…..research, you know!
Pastry Chef Jeff Barnes & Manager Nicolas Graefe of Disney’s Contemporary Resort Bakery –
Mascarpone cheesecake with lavender-infused Florida strawberries (pictured above top left) SO good!!
Olive oil-infused chocolate truffle mousse with sea salted caramel (pictured above top right) Incredible!
Green tea rice pudding with yuzu-splashed goji berry compote (pictured above bottom left) Unbelievable!
Master Pastry Chef Erich Herbitschek of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Bakery
Berry Gateau with port wine foam (pictured above top middle) These were SO good that I had to have a second one!
Peruvian Chocolate Cylinder with St. Germaine Glaze (pictured above top right) You couldn’t ask for a better quality chocolate. Incredible!
Chocolate Ravioli with cognac (pictured above bottom middle) Many raved about these little bombs that exploded in your mouth. I didn’t sample since I don’t like the taste of liquor, but heard it was an amazing experience.
These were just five of the 10 stations represented there. I actually sampled 6, but the pictures from that station didn’t come out. Between talking to the chefs, other food bloggers, taking pictures and actually eating I regret that I didn’t get to sample the last 4 stations. Words can’t express my gratitude to Disney in hosting this amazing lunch for us.
Look who I spotted on the way back from lunch…..PLUTO. My youngest daughter’s favorite! She’s been sleeping with a stuffed Pluto every night since she was 18 months old. Our conference happens to be during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival they have every spring. The picture on the right is the Odyssey….the building where our conference was being held. Told you you might recognize it.
1) Recipe development and writing – Jennifer Perillo & Kelly Senyei
* I’m a longtime reader of Jennie’s blog In Jennie’s Kitchen, and we’ve chatted on Twitter over the last couple years, so it was great to finally meet her in person. We actually ended up meeting during lunch. 30 minutes was just not enough time for her round table session…..I could have talked recipe development all day with them!
2) Writing a cookbook from two perspectives – Angie Dudley & Alison Lewis
* You may have heard of Angie aka Bakerella and her widely successful cookbook “Cake Pops.” I was also excited to finally meet Alison of Ingredients, Inc. since we “know” each other in the online world. Love Twitter! Alison has a cookbook out “400 Best Sandwich cookbook.”
3) Working with brands – Rachel Barbarotta (Kitchen Aid) & Arianna Bastianini (OXO)
* They were very helpful in sharing what they look for when checking out our websites, and how they determine which
food bloggers food writers to work with. Again so much to learn…..I wish our sessions had been at least 45 minutes.
4) Photography & Live Styling Demonstration – Diane Cu & Aran Goyoaga
* Aran Goyoaga is the author of Cannelle et Vanille a blog I’ve shared with you all before (above photo, bottom left). I’ve been reading her blog for a couple years now, and we just happen to live not too far from one another…..small world! As you can see from the above photos, Aran made a lovely salad (food styling) and then Diane showed us how to capture it on film. They are both wonderful photographers. I’m pictured with Diane in the above picture, bottom right.
After our round table sessions (which ended way too soon), it was time to wrap up our day. A few more giveaways, and making sure we had all the information about that night’s party. My name wasn’t called this year, but I was fine with that. As far as I was concerned, I had already been blessed…..you know, the Polynesian, Disney, the Disney chefs. What a weekend to remember, and hard to ever top.
After the conference, it was time to find our families. You may not know the story behind the scenes, but after Michelle and I returned from Food Blog Forum last year…..we kept up with each other. Michelle joined my Mops group, and we attend the same church. As you can see ”our littles” are good friends….mine on the left, hers on the right. But one thing that hadn’t happened yet was our hubbys meeting. So it was cool to see a picture of our littles swimming together that my 13 yr old texted me that afternoon. Our hubbys bumped into each other at the Polynesian pool, and our girls had been swimming together all afternoon. Yay!!
We caught up with them just as they finished riding Spaceship Earth, and then we started our journey around the countries together. Epcot’s World Showcase features 11 countries, and my family always has a wonderful time sampling their food and checking out their shops. Each country is represented by actual natives from that country. It’s really quite neat! If you’ve never been, you have to go!! I’d love to share our favorites in each country, but I’ll save that for another post someday. But it was fun sharing it with friends!
We were treated to a front row viewing of Illuminations and Irish inspired desserts for the afterparty that Disney hosted. Thank you, Disney! Just check out that cool green table, and the desserts of course, were amazing. There was a Guinness ice cream topped with bacon brittle. Can I tell you how incredible this bacon brittle was? Mmm….of course it was too dark to get any shots of the desserts. I finally met Kiran which was super cool because we’re online friends, and she’s also a Florida food blogger.
There was a group of us talking about social media as the party ended, so we continued chatting as we walked to the front of the park. I was on the last monorail back to the Polynesian, and kept receiving texts from my 13 yr old who was trying to convince me to take them over to Magic Kingdom when I got back to the hotel. It had been a long day, so they were definitely happy just to check out the Polynesian with me some more and split a Pineapple Dole Whip and some flatbread pizza down at Capt. Cooks.
Stay tuned for day 3 – I’ll wrap up the weekend with a recap of our Sunday brunch hosted by Whole Foods Orlando. Thanks again to Julie, Dawn, Jaden, Scott, Diane, Todd and all the other hard workers that make a successful Food Blog Forum possible!!