Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip....Do you want to hear about the Food Blog Forum? Do you have a choice? Well, I suppose you could leave right now. Hurry, because the whole thing is just a paragraph away. But if you are anything like me, you cannot resist hearing about bloggers meeting each other and learning tips about blogging, so you will read on.
First off, let me warn you. I did not take one single picture. It's better that way. My food photos are barely acceptable. My landscape and people photos just plain stink.
The Food Blog Forum is run by Jaden and Scott Hair of the Steamy Kitchen and Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple. If you have not visited the forum site, please do. It's filled with so many wonderful tips. Every six months or so, they organize a weekend for food bloggers. This was the sixth event of its kind. However, with Disney as a partner, this past weekend was the best so far (or so I heard over and over from those who have attended more than one).
Okay, with that background information and the photo warning, let me tell you my tale of adventure.
On Friday morning, after braving through road construction of the most annoying kind, Ann from Cooking Healthy For Me arrived at my house as my ride and roomie for the weekend. We had a fun 3 hour trip to Orlando (it's normally 2.5 hours, but we had to make a few certain places we needed to visit along the way). Ann has Disney running through her veins. She has a yearly pass and visits many times a year. I could not have asked for a better person to travel with. She knew all sorts of tidbits and trivia, plus, she is one of those gracious people who know how to make things happen...in a good way.
We arrived at the Polynesian resort, registered, got our "hopper passes" to the Parks, found our room and unpacked. We did not have to be at the Grand Floridian Hotel until that evening, so we headed over to the Magic Kingdom by boat. The monorails were down, making the only way in or out of the park the bus or the boat. The boat really had no competition. It was the first day of Spring Break in Florida. Can you imagine the crowds? It was a mad crush of people everywhere. Ann kept asking me if I wanted to go on any rides or see anything specific. With 90 minute waits, really, all I wanted was a turkey drumstick from Frontier Land. So, off we went. My eyes were much bigger than my stomach. The delicious drumstick was huge and weighed a ton. We stood in the shade while I acted like King Henry VIII, eventually dribbling on my capris. Yeah, I am a great one to take out in public. When it finally came time to go to the Soiree at the Grand Floridian, I was changed and presentable once again. Honest, I didn't spill on myself again the whole weekend!
Each time Disney fed us, it was a journal experience. Truly, they bent over backwards and impressed all of us immensely. The outdoor "affair" (read that with a snooty, dramatic voice) was lovely. There were four food stations: a shrimp bar with three kinds of huge shrimp, each in single shot-type glasses with sauce at the bottom and the shrimp tail sticking out the top; a macaroni and cheese bar (which I could only drool over because of my gluten intolerance) with toppings ranging from lobster to mushrooms; a salad bar which was really a wooden frame (picture a swing set frame) with three huge sets of copper coils hanging down and curling around martini glasses filled with three kinds of salad (it was like a salad chandelier); and finally a dessert bar, which truth be told, I did not even look at.
We ate our fill amidst squeals of delight as bloggers met in person for the first time. I can now say that I have personally spoken to and shaken hands with some of the biggest names in food blogging. And you know what? They are all just folks like you and me: nice, shy, funny, nice, food obsessed, gracious, nice, friendly, knowledgeable, not to mention nice. (Most importantly, though, I got to meet Kim from Cravings of a Lunatic in person. If I could, I would have wrapped her up and taken her home with me...what a sweet, sweet person!!)
On Saturday, we trooped en masse over to Epcot for a full day of food, lectures and amazing giveaways. The event was sponsored by not only Disney, but also KitchenAid, Oxo, Le Creuset, King Arthur Flour, Bob's Red Mill, Land O' Lakes, Whole Foods, Goo Goo Clusters, Scharffen Berger Chocolate and more. All the attendees went home with fabulous swag. Some lucky ones went home with 7 quart KitchenAid mixers, Le Creuset Panini pans, gift baskets and more. The generosity of the sponsors seemed to know no bounds!
We were treated to some amazing lectures. We learned about telling stories with our photos and words. We learned about working with and approaching brands. We learned about creating our own recipes. We learned about copyrights, wordpress, photo editing, food styling, writing cookbooks and so much more. We learned that we could make our blogs anything we dreamed them to be. The Food Blog Forum gave us all we need, now we have to DO something with that knowledge!!
Lunch was another spectacle. We were treated to some of Disney World's finest dishes. For gluten-avores, there were pork sliders, salmon on cous-cous, and a turkey pasta dish. For gluten-free me, there was an amazing Indian curry, a salad with rock shrimp, pan seared tofu with ratatouille, and my personal favorite, beet and goat cheese skewers. I may or may not have gone back for a fifth serving of beets.
Here is where I confess that I came down with a virus at about 4:30 pm. Things hit me hard like that. Abra Cadabra! I am sick. Fever, sore throat, a mini flu grabbed me right in the middle of learning how to create my own recipes. So, Ann, the Good, got me back to the Polynesian Resort and stayed with me while I bemoaned the fact that I was sick. We missed the Epcot night show and desserts that were served up for the other bloggers. Instead, we enjoyed room service: sweet potato fries and bun-less bacon cheeseburgers.
We finished our weekend with a brunch at Whole Foods on Sunday morning. They graciously served us a private meal made from many foods from local Florida farmers. This included a yogurt bar, French toast with bananas, beef sandwich fixings, fresh fruit, quiches and desserts. By then, most of us were very, very tired. Nourished both in body and mind, we said our good byes with hugs and photos (but not with my camera) and promises to attend again if the stars align and the Forum returns next year.
The following sites actually have photos of the event: What a Family Eats, Let's Get Cooking and How Sweet Eats. Be sure to keep your eye out for other recaps, too. I bet you an undisclosed amount of money that mine will be the only one without photos :-).