A couple of weeks ago I attended the Food Blog Forum which was held in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. This was a working trip for me. Since I want to make Southern Kissed a better blog, it is important that I learn from the best. All this week I’ll be sharing with you some great photos and information about the Biltmore Estate, a farm that raises cows on grass, an artisanal creamery, a brewery, and six incredible restaurants that I enjoyed while in Asheville.
I started off my work trip with a stop at the home of Sommer Collier, the creative genius behind A Spicy Perspective. Sommer hosted a Summer Social for us food bloggers the day before the main conference. She invited us to her home and treated us to some wonderful dishes made by local chefs.
Warm Root Vegetable Salad on the left, Green Bean Amandine Salad on the right.
The Summer Social was a nice way to get to meet fellow food bloggers. However, when I am by myself I tend to be a wallflower. So once the food was ready, I got a plate and found an inviting spot to sit in the sun room. There I met Charles of The Local Forkful and his sweet wife. It ends up that they don’t live too far from me, if you consider under 2 hours not far. They are in Nashville where he works as a chef. I was quite impressed when I saw his Instagram page because he takes such incredible food pictures with his cell phone. I should drive to Nashville so that I can try some of his cooking.
Before heading back to my hotel I grabbed a couple of pieces of chocolate. Yum! I think they were made by the French Broad Chocolates which is an Asheville original.
When I got ready to leave, I met Becca from Betty Becca and offered to give her a ride back to her hotel room. First we had to make a pit stop at the gas station because I was running on fumes. Or at least my car was. Come to think of it, I probably was, too. I was so excited about everything I was going to get to do in Asheville that I had a hard time sleeping the night before.
So after filling up and freshening up, I headed over to the DoubleTree where an evening reception was being held. I was quite impressed with how the DoubleTree treated all of the bloggers. But before showing you a few of the pictures from the evening, let me introduce you to some of the people behind the scenes at the Food Blog Forum.
After signing-in, we were given an awesome swag bag full of assorted food goodies. We were also allowed to pick up some local made products, such as a bean-to-bar block of Peruvian chocolate from French Broad Chocolates. (I am looking forward to experimenting in my kitchen with that. Hopefully I will have some new recipes made with it to share with you soon.) After that we had time to try some delicious treats and to meet more food bloggers.
These crispy grit cakes with orange chili aioli were so incredibly good. I was about to tell you that they were my favorite and then I remembered the ice cream that I had. They were both really delicious.
After the evening reception I went back to my hotel room so that I could get a good night of sleep before the next day. Only thing is, it got hot in the middle of the night and I was unable to sleep. I imagine part of the inability to sleep was from the excitement about the conference. (Does being excited about a conference make me sound like a nerd, or what?)
The conference was held at Lioncrest, a barn that was built in the 1930’s and renovated into event space in 2006. It was beautiful.
Photo courtesy of Biltmore Estate.
At the conference we had sessions about creating our tribe (we’re not in this business alone), working with publications, food photography and styling, and then we had mini sessions with the experts. This kind of work is fun to me. While there we were also treated to a buffet lunch.
And of course, lunch would not have been the same without a dessert or two – or three!
When our informative sessions concluded, we had a brief break before our tour of Biltmore Estate. We were to drive from the Lioncrest venue to Diana, a statue that sits atop the hill and gazes down upon the grand home. We drove on nicely paved roads through the gorgeous trees. It would be so easy to get lost in one’s thoughts while meandering the grounds, imagining what it must have been like to have lived there in the late 1800’s.
Well, guess what? The car in front of me and I did get lost! I honestly don’t think it was because either of us was lost in thought. There was a point in the road where our caravan line was crossed by some other vehicles at a junction where we should have turned. We ended up following the traffic signs, not once seeing a sign for our destination. The guy in front of me consulted his GPS and somehow we made it to the parking lot in time to catch our shuttle to the mansion.
A benefit of attending the conference was a special culinary tour of the Biltmore Estate. (More on that tomorrow.)
The view from Diana
After our tour, we enjoyed an evening reception with dishes inspired by Biltmore’s production garden, their free-range beef and lamb, the estate’s vineyard, and other locally-sourced ingredients. I would say that I was in Heaven, except that at this point I had a splitting headache from my lack of sleep and had no medicine with me to take. Of course, I didn’t let that stop me from taking a few pictures.
We were able to watch one of the chefs prepare his dishes in front of us, too.
This was a conference unlike any other. I would rank it as one of the best trips that I have ever taken.
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow – I will be sharing my photos of the Biltmore Estate.
Have you been to Asheville?
You can learn more about this incredible city by visiting Explore Asheville.