Last weekend I attended my very first Food and Wine Conference in Orlando, Florida. I’ve been so excited to attend this conference and I’ve been talking about it for months! I wanted to go last year but I was unable to due to my sister-in-laws bridal shower so I was determined to go this year.
Several months ago I signed up to be a brand ambassador for the conference. This meant that I promoted the conference and was assigned one of the amazing sponsors. The sponsor I was assigned was Duda Farm Fresh Foods.
In the weeks leading up to the conference I created 4 recipes for 4 different contests in hopes of winning a free ticket to the conference. I entered my Chocolate Ombre Cake in the Dixie Crystals contest, my Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote with Mascarpone Crostini recipe in the Wisconsin Cheese contest, my Thai Beef Tacos in the Certified Angus Beef contest, and my Roasted Potatoes with goat cheese, bacon, and balsamic vinegar in the Idaho Potato contest. I was very excited to hear whether or not I won one of these contests but the winners weren’t to be announced until Saturday night at the conference.
The week of the conference finally arrived. My husband and I headed off to Reagan National Airport on Thursday morning. We hit a crazy amount of traffic and just got to our gate as our flight was boarding. Talk about a stressful beginning to our vacation! We did, however, have an incredibly smooth flight which helped to calm my nerves somewhat. When we arrived in Orlando we took a cab to our hotel, Rosen Single Creek.
This was one lovely hotel and it was huge! When we got to our room we were excited to find we were given a corner suite with a great view of all the swimming pools. While we wanted nothing more than to go out to the pool, we first needed to eat. We checked out a few of the restaurants in the hotel and decided to have a quick lunch at the buffet. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food at the buffet.
Once back to our rooms we quickly changed into our bathing suits and went out to the pools. We checked them all out but in the end we sat at the lap pool. It was basically a three lane pool that was only for adults. There was rarely anyone there so there were plenty of seats, not a lot of people, and it was really quiet. We hung out there for most of the day and then went back to our room for a good night’s sleep.
In the morning we headed down to meet some of my amazing friends from Sunday Supper. I saw my friend Melissa, who I am in a very small bloggers group with, right away. It was awesome to finally meet her. She came up to me and gave me a huge smile and a hug. We went into the room and as soon as I walked in Isabel, creator of the Sunday Supper Movement, rushed in to give me a huge hug. I couldn’t believe after three years I was finally meeting her in person! She is just as amazing, friendly, and organized in real life as she is on the Internet.
The next person I met was the wonderful Renee. I felt like I already knew her since we are in several different groups together but she also greeted me with a hug and a smile. This would soon be the norm for the rest of this trip. There were about 15 of us there that morning and we were doing an hour and a half segment on TV. It was so much fun being on Good Day Orlando with host David. We did many different scenes showcasing what the Food and Wine Conference was all about. My husband had a great time hanging out with everyone behind the scenes, meeting my online friends, and of course sampling some of the tasty dishes. We both LOVED the amazing chocolates on display. This was a great way to meet and get to know some of the attendees prior to the actual conference.
After the show we headed out for lunch. We ate at the Mexican restaurant on the property. My husband and I both tried the taco trio and it was really good! We also each had a rather tasty margarita on the rocks with salt on the rim. After lunch we went back out to the pool until it was time to get ready for the evening.
Our first evening of Food and Wine Conference consisted of registration, a cocktail party, and a taste of Rosen Shingle. We went to registration, both received swag bags, and I made a delightful Dreamsicle Sugar Scrub using Dixie Crystals sugar. They had 2 masseurs there so we both got a chair massage as well. I met some of the friends from my Sunday Supper group as well as a few other bloggers I knew online.
The cocktail party was super fun. We got to see a chocolate demonstration, taste the amazing liquor filled chocolates, and enjoyed fresh strawberry martinis from Florida Strawberry Growers Association and St. Augustine Distillery. We mingled with the other bloggers and their spouses. All too soon we headed out for the nights dinner.
Dinner was nothing short of amazing. There were stations upon stations of food from the Rosen Shingle Creek. There was a sushi station, several sandwich stations, a Wisconsin cheese station, appetizers, desserts, oyster shooters, and a bar. We sat with several other bloggers including Nicole from Casa de Crews, Krystal and her husband from Krystal’s Kitsch, DB from Crazy Foodie Stunts, and Erika from The Crumby Cupcake. What a table to sit with! We had a blast hanging out with them and eating way too much food. When the night was over none of us wanted to leave so we headed over to the bar for a little while. My husband and I left early because we wanted to get a good night’s sleep before the next day. I knew it would be a big day and we would be running from 8 in the morning until 10 or 11 at night.
While it was only the first day of the conference I felt like I met some amazing people and my husband agreed. He was excited to get up and do it all again the next day and so was I. When we got back to our room there was an adorable chocolate slipper with macaroons and chocolates waiting for us! How fun is that?
Saturday morning my husband and I woke up early and headed down to breakfast. Included in our conference tickets was a pass for the breakfast buffet. The buffet was huge. They had an amazing fruit and yogurt bar, a big display of breakfast breads, biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, vegetables, and lots and lots of coffee. We enjoyed our breakfast then I headed up to the room to get ready for the day. While I was getting ready for some serious learning opportunities, my husband was getting ready for some serious pool time.
When I went back down to the conference I found a seat between Melissa from Serendipity and Spice and Cindy from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings. Isabel opened the day with a little speech about the conference and then turned it over to the keynote speakers Monica Bhide and Andrew Wilder who each had inspiring stories about change. I then listened to a very informative talk about Blogging Your Way to Success. This was followed by “The Balancing Act” and “SEO Yourself to Greatness”.
After a great morning packed with information I met my husband for lunch. We were having lunch with everyone from the conference and the theme for lunch was a poutine bar. The poutine bar was sponsored by Wisconsin Cheese and Idaho Potato. If you’ve never had poutine before, it’s a Canadian dish that consists of French fries, cheese curds, and usually a gravy of some type.
I enjoyed the chicken and waffles poutine which was waffle fries, cheddar cheese curds, chicken fingers, chives, and maple syrup. Can you say amazing? It was so good. They had another version of poutine with green chili sauce, a fried egg, and some other stuff. My second helping, yes I had two, was French fries with white cheese curds, delicious short ribs, and the traditional brown gravy. It was some seriously good food.
For dessert we had some treats sponsored by Fields Auto Group. They had all types of cakes and goodies. They also had a fun photo booth set up along with one of their cars. My husband and I had fun playing with the props and taking photos with other bloggers.
In the afternoon we had a few more sessions. The first one was with several of our brand sponsors talking about working with brands. Then there was a session on social media and another on traveling and eating. We finished up the days informative sessions with a Food and Wine Conference Game Show. Even though I wasn’t chosen for the game show, it was super fun watching the contestants, especially when they won some fabulous prizes.
Make sure to check out the rest of my Food and Wine Conference journey on my next post: Food and Wine Conference Part 2.