This meeting of the minds for bloggers was held at the palatial Rosen Shingle Creek resort. There were bloggers from right here in Florida and all over the U.S. All of them good peeps.
After checking into the hotel and having a box of signature truffles delivered to our door (a nice touch, and it’s a miracle I didn’t eat them all in one sitting), we headed to the Sandlake room to meet and mingle with our fellow bloggers. It was a ‘who’s who’ in the local blogging scene – CarlosEats, Jeff Houck of The Stew, Deb Bowen from Datz Tampa – just to name a few.
As if the company wasn’t enough to keep us entertained, the food was out of this world! Rosen Shingle Creek as about seven restaurants on the property, and each them showed off their signature dishes. There was sushi, crab guacamole with tortilla chips, seafood tacos, a lasagna that was to die for, lobster mac and cheese (I could have ate that all night!) and short ribs atop mashed potatoes. Everything was so outstanding; I would have licked the plates clean - if it were socially appropriate.
There was plenty to drink, too. Open bar, glasses of prosecco and wine, so we could enjoy our company tradition of Wine Friday on the road. Guess they knew we were coming! Oh, and there were more truffles dotting the centerpieces. One of my favorites was chocolate wrapped around peanut butter and jelly. It took me a moment to recognize the flavors, but I savored it, trying to take tiny bites so it would last just a little longer.
The evening included a very touching introduction by founder Harris Rosen, the patriarch of an amazing hospitality company that truly takes care of its workers. Afterwards, Executive Pastry Chef David Ramirez gave a demonstration on how he and his staff make all those amazing chocolates!
Needless to say, we nearly needed to be rolled out the door and into the elevator after all the delectable food we enjoyed. But it was so worth it!
After a good night’s sleep, we started our Saturday with the lovely breakfast buffet in Café Osceola. We dined with one of our new friends, Amy, founder of the blog Kimchi Mom. She’s a regular contributor to Sunday Supper and created the conference logos.
Saturday was non-stop learning. We attended workshops on the Zen of Blogging with Jaden and Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen; listened to media experts explain what they look for in stories and how to pitch them; and learned techniques to boost SEO. There were also sessions on how to write a cookbook, deal with PR professionals (like us), network and promote yourself and your blog through social media. We learned a ton! Throughout the day, everyone was texting and posting to Facebook. It was really interesting to read what people were experiencing in real time.
Our brains full of newfound knowledge, we had about an hour to get ready for one of the highlights of the evening – a Family Style Italian Feast paired with Gallo Wines. It was a homage to Sunday Supper, which aims to bring families together for at least one meal a week. As I sat at my table, I was a little overwhelmed by the number of wine glasses. They made almost a semi-circle around my dinner plate. Seriously. Five glasses in all, plus a water glass. Wine expert Michael Green gave us a fun and informative lesson in tasting. He’s pretty entertaining. But I was itchin’ for dinner to start and it did not disappoint! In a word, dinner was magical. I forgot to take a photo of the menu, but we had a salad to start, chicken with spinach and cheese, pasta in a creamy mushroom sauce, ratatouille, and to top it all off, a decadent cheesecake brownie desert with red wine mixed into the cheesecake. It was created by fellow blogger NikSnacks, who won a contest for attendees to create the event’s signature dessert sponsored by Dixie Crystals. It was beyond delicious! I should probably mention the wines were pretty phenomenal, too. I thoroughly enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. Pinot Noir was next (I declined because I knew a red wine would fill me up) and then a regular and a blush Moscato to go with dessert.
By now, all the calories I’ve been ingesting over the weekend are starting to worry me. I’ll go carb-free starting Monday, I thought to myself.
Sunday was another great day of learning, held just a stones throw from the hotel at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality. Katie Workman, author of Mom 100, gave some useful tips about how to do a cooking demonstration. I loved that the session was peppered with additional advice offered by the other bloggers who shared their ‘lessons learned.
My favorite session was how to style food and take photos. Renee Dobbs, Magnolia Days; Irvin Lin, Eat the Love; Carla Cardello, Chocolate Moosey; and Cheri Alberts, The Watering Mouth all did a spectacular job of providing useful, practical information. I’ll definitely use it the next time we have a TV placement and I put on my novice ‘food stylist’ hat.
One of the other sessions was about a subject completely new to me: crowd funding. Michael Green and Michael Levine shared how they used a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a documentary. And singing chef Jackie Gordon explains how she used crowd funding to get capital for a musical. And she serenaded us with a song about bacon. How can you top that?!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that our morning snack of blueberries and strawberries were provided by our friends at Wish Farms. I enjoyed lunch, but the dessert was superb – chocolate mousse in a mini-mason jar topped with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle and an almond. Using a Georgia Pecan instead would have made it perfect. But it was divine nonetheless.
So, I’ve written more than 1,000 words, and hopefully you’re still reading. So I’ll say this - all in all, the weekend was incredibly useful to our team. I can’t wait to put what I learned into practice for our clients! Plus, I met some exceptional and talented bloggers who I’m sure will be come great friends and resources in the future.