Food and Wine Conference 2015 Recap – It’s time to meet your online blog friends in person!

by angelaskitchen on August 5, 2015

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As a food blogger, I spend a lot of time in front of the computer. A lot. Chatting with other bloggers online, building relationships with people who are as excited about sharing delicious food as I am is my jam. It’s such an amazing community, but you often don’t get a chance to meet those same wonderful people in person. If you are a food blogger, you definitely need to chat with your online buddies and plan on attending a conference to meet up in person. And, if you want an extra fabulous experience with great food, the chance to meet up with great brands, and classes to help bring your blog to the next level (and did a mention the FOOD? Wowza!) you definitely need to meet up at the Food and Wine Conference.

As you know, I was fortunate to attend the Food and Wine Conference this year. Honestly, I am still trying to process it all. Yes, there are lots of great conferences out there, but this one was extra special. Isabella for Family Foodie and Sunday Super and her team included details I haven’t seen at other conferences, elevating it to a experience that refreshed as much as it inspired.

The venue for the conference was amazing. Rosen Shingle Creek is one of the most lovely hotels I have stayed in. The service and food was beyond compare. Also, as a person with severe food allergies and celiac, it was wonderful to have the chef and servers come out and double check with me about my allergies. I felt taken care of and that my food needs were taken seriously. Extra points from me!!

Rosen Shingle Creek rose garden

The rose garden path leads to a fountain before opening onto the golf course. Beautiful!

Kicking off the conference, everyone had a chance to make fabulous sugar scrubs with Dixie Crystals. You can find the recipes on their website, along with printable labels. I couldn’t choose which to make, so I made all three varieties, Mint Chocolate, Orange Dreamsicle and Lemon Rosemary. It has been a fun souvenir from the trip, though my daughters claimed the Mint Chocolate for themselves-LOL! We are trying to decide which scrubs to make next. Dixie Crystals has a great variety of scrub recipes to choose from, we may just have to try them all! One thing I particularly like about using Dixie Crystals in a scrub is that the sugar crystals don’t seem to be as large as other sugars. I like that as it gives an effective, yet very gentle, scrub which is perfect for my sensitive skinned daughters. For baking, that also means everything blends more quickly and evenly in my recipe, a must for me when baking gluten free.

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After making the Dixie Crystals sugar scrubs, there was a mixer to meet others over beautiful hand molded chocolates, berries and martinis sponsored by Florida Strawberries and St. Augustine Distillery. Chef David Ramirez did a fun chocolate molding demo for us. So interesting to see a master chocolatier at work!

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And one of those special details I mentioned? After the mixer, all of the attendees had  a surprise waiting for us back in our rooms: a chocolate high-heeled shoe filled with macrons! Just… WOW! I brought mine back as a gift for my sweet hubby who was completely fine that I attended the conference even though it was our anniversary weekend. Love you, hon!

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The next two days were a whirlwind of sessions, breaks, and more amazing food. Monica Bhide and Andrew Wilder started everything off by reminding us that in our business Everything is Subject to Change, and it is up to us to embrace those changes and use them as springboard to inspire us in ways we never knew were possible before. Dan Cristo melted my mind a bit with his crazy SEO brilliance. Two of my favorite bloggers, Liz Latham and Stephanie Parker shared their experience with working with brands as well as some valuable tips on the business side of blogging. On the other side of brands working with bloggers, we then heard from representatives of several brands (Certified Angus Beef, Cabot, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Imperial Sugar/Dixie Crystals and Jeff Hock of Locale Market) and got their honest perspective, which was very interesting and helpful. Later in the day, we learned more about kicking up our Social Media presence from Ann Tran, Kathleen Decosmo (the reusable magnetic wipe-off-the-design-and-decorate-again cupcake liners from her are such a cool product! I will for sure let you know when they are released this Fall. So excited!), and tips on building a travel blog business with Rick Griffin, Sandi McKenna, Rachelle Lucas and Wendy Wofford-Garcia. One of the best sessions for me, though, was presented by a panel of bloggers I personally follow and respect on how they balance their blogs, business, and home life: T.R. Crumble, Brenda Bennett, Jenny Melrose, Danielle Omar and Brianne Izzo. Presenters were candid and open, sharing their knowledge generously. It was so refreshing and I learned a lot.

The sponsored breaks were phenomenal. We had chocolate from Pacari Ecuadorian Organic Chocolate (all gluten free and dairy free, with several raw bars. LOVE!), peach smoothies and fresh peaches from Georgia Peaches and Gena Knox, and a poutine bar lunch with Idaho Potato.

The meal that stood out the most though was the Sunday Supper (on a Saturday!) sponsored by Certified Angus Beef and the Hess Collection of Wines. Chef Michael dazzled us with a lovely salad of tender greens, watermelon, and heirloom tomatoes, paired with Hess Select Sauvignon Blanc. This was followed by a meal of Certified Angus Beef® brand grilled New York Strip Steak (I have never had a more tender cut of beef in my life… Swoon!), roasted potatoes, tender asparagus, mashed sweet potatoes, and braised greens. Everything was served family-style reflecting the warm personality of Food and Wine Conference founder Isabel Laessig. Her passion to bring families back around the dinner table one meal at a time can be seen at her blog, Family Foodie, and the Sunday Supper Movement. Paired with Hess Select Treo and Pinot Noir, this was the Sunday Supper of my dreams.

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This is what happens when food bloggers eat together!

On Sunday their were several panels to choose from. They were all so good, I wanted to attend them all, but until I can clone myself, I had to pick. I attended a writing workshop from Monica Bhide, took a session on video with Lenny Ferreira of Chez Us (love them so much!) and attended a Pinterest session presented by the amazing duo Amanda Boyarshinov and Kim Vij (their session was so helpful for me. I can’t thank them enough!). Check out Amanda’s award winning recipe for Steak & Mango Salsa Flatbread. Yum!

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I’m thrilled to be part of the Chicory family!

And those amazing people I keep gushing over? First off, I had a chance to meet my sponsors who I was attending as a brand ambassador, Chicory. I signed up with their company as a partner a few weeks ago, just before getting paired up with them as a brand for the conference. It was a match made in heaven! I couldn’t have asked anything better! Chicory has been a great addition to my blog, making my recipes shoppable, gives you a better idea the cost price point of a recipe (perfect for those who are budget minded, like me) and you can even save time in you schedule by having the groceries you need for a recipe delivered right to your home. How awesome is that? I am so happy to be part of the Chicory family and was thrilled to meet the people behind the company. They couldn’t be nicer!

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 There may have been shenanigans after dinner when doing potato-themed karaoke. And, yes, I do have video proof. Bwahahaha! Thanks, Idaho Potato! It was crazy fun!

Everyone I met was so warm and friendly. I especially pleased to meet and hang out with my new bud Heather Sell of ShoutOUT Enterprises, Inc. You know I’m going to love someone who is willing to be goofy with me (my general mode of life) and is game for sporting celery stick mustaches while balancing a bowl overflowing with celery and oranges while we learn to use a selfie-stick! Yep, we look totally amazing! Head over to her blog and show her some love. She’s the best! She won an award from Idaho Potatoes for her Potato Cakes with Avocado Sauce. I’ll be making that soon using dairy free ingredients – she had me at potato and avocado!

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From start to finish, it was a great was to mingle with others who love the nuances of food as much as I do, enjoy amazing meals sponsored by fantastic brands, with great sessions with really usable information that any level of blogger can learn from. Everyone I met was super nice, willing to help and answer questions, so encouraging and supportive. I left with many new friendships and had a chance to connect in real life with people who I’ve known for a long time via email and our blogs. I honestly can’t wait to go back the the Food and Wine Conference next year! Thank you for everything, Isabel!

I attended Food and Wine Conference as a brand ambassador, so attended at a discounted rate, however all words, opinions and complete excitement is my own.

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