Taste of the Nation from KatiesCucina.com

Last year, I was invited to attend Taste Of The Nation event and was unable to attend due to family being in town. After turning down the invite I vowed I would attend the Taste of the Nation event in 2013.  All the proceeds from the event including the live auction and silent auction go to support Share Our Strength, which as you may know helps end childhood hunger.

This is the same organization that we do our annual food blogger bake sale for each year! So, it was a no brainer to not go and support such a great cause. All in all they raised $245,000 for childhood hunger relief in Central Florida!

Taste of the Nation from KatiesCucina.com

When we walked in I was blown away by the massive room filled with food, friendly people, tables, and items to be auctioned off!

Taste of the Nation from KatiesCucina.com

This year they did their silent auction via mobile app. All the items for the auction were donated anywhere from golf games to hotel stays to celebrity memorabilia! During the middle of the event they also did a live auction for some of the big ticket items like 2 tickets to the American Music Awards and 2 tickets to the ESPY’s… not just tickets, but hotel, limo, etc… 

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Taste of the Nations Orlando

Photo Credit: Taste of the Nations Orlando

Next month, Share Our Strengths Taste of the Nation® Orlando returns August 10  for their 24th annual fundraising event! If you live in Central Florida you are in for a big treat. Tantalize your tastebuds with appetizers, entrees and desserts from more than 30 of Central Floridas finest chefs and restaurants complemented by silent and live auctions and live entertainment.

As you know Share Our Strength is an organization that I’ve been supporting over the past few years to help end childhood hunger. This is the same organization that we host our annual Food Blogger Bake Sale for each year raising thousands of dollars. Last year, the Taste of the Nation event drew more than 2,200 attendees and raised $249,000 for Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.


When: Saturday, August 10, 2013
6:45 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Where: Orlando World Center Marriott
8701 World Center Dr.
Orlando, Florida 32821

Tickets: $150 each

Attire: Cocktail / Semi-Formal

Purchase Tickets HERE

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Over the past two days, I’ve had the privilege to attend the Southeast Produce Conference for the second time! Last year, I loved the Southeast Produce Conference so much that I knew I wanted to be back in 2013! On Friday a handful of bloggers had the opportunity to tour Spice World–you know the company that makes the squeeze bottle and jarred garlic?!?!? Yes, you see I kind of love them. I’ve been using them for years. My first memories of garlic came from a glass jar with a blue lid. My husband also works just a few buildings away from Spice World, so I tend to pass it often and have always wondered what was inside the warehouse building. Well the day finally arrived where I got to go behind the scenes and see what all happens in Spice World. All of the garlic packaged and found in your local stores is packaged in the Orlando warehouse. Over 5 million pounds of garlic is packaged each year. Yah… you read that right. The place smelled amazing (as you can only imagine). Did you also know that the majority of the garlic is harvested in California, and then a portion of it is chopped/minced and dehydrated and sent to Florida to be packaged. Due to legal reasons we weren’t able to take photos inside, but let me just tell you how amazing it is. Its a massive warehouse, amazing and talented people who work behind the scenes, and of course if you love garlic then the smell was oh-so delightful! After our tour we had a lovely bbq luncheon hosted by Spice World. Then we were swept off to the conference to meet with vendors and talk with them on ways they can work with bloggers.

Spice World - Southeast Produce Conference from KatiesCucina.com

Our blogger round-table was wonderful. We had about 30-40 produce professionals and spoke about a variety of ways that bloggers can work with brands. We had topics set out but just about every round of round-table discussions had a totally different set of questions being asked by various industry professionals. I think everyone was able to take away something from the round-table session.

The next day it was time to walk the trade show floor. Seriously, I said it last year and I’m going to say it again this year… I died and went to produce heaven. Honestly. I love this show. Last year, I spent a good two hours at the show and so I figured I would do about the same this year. WRONG! Either the show grew or I was chatting it up way more–instead this year I closed the show down!

{Recap} Southeast Produce Conference 2013 from KatiesCucina.com

The very first booth I made it too was Coosemans Worldwide–they are the distributors of the herb company that I buy when I’m in need of fresh herbs (and my garden is out)! They were sharing a hot new trend for 2013… micro-greens! Yes, consumers will finally be able to buy micro-greens. Right now these are only available in Miami and fingers crossed will be in Central Florida sooner than later.

Y’all know how much I love Wholly Guacamole… they were there and sampling guacamole and salsa!

California Sun Dry was at the conference as well. They had a few different recipes you could taste and was showcasing all the fabulous sun dried tomato products they produce!

Southern Specialities… beautiful packaging. Hands down–I was in love and couldn’t stop raving about it. Seriously the design-geek in me came out. lol. If you buy the Publix brand of vegetables you are buying Southern Specialities!

{Recap} Southeast Produce Conference 2013 from KatiesCucina.com

I got to try the four new Bolthouse Farms juices that will be released the middle of this month: Multi-V Goodness, Salted Caramel Latte, Daily Greens (which would be great as a Bloody Mary), Mango Ginger + Carrot. They also were sharing their two new dressings as well: Italian Vinaigrette Dressing (25 calories) and Miso Ginger Vinaigrette Dressing (40 calories).

Another brand that I eat on a weekly basis… Crunch Pak! I love their apples–they are pre-cut and they don’t taste like they are soaked in chemicals.

Next up, Organic Girl greens!  I just started buying them within the past year in an effort to start eating more organic. I think lettuce is a good-gateway to going organic!

{Recap} Southeast Produce Conference 2013 from KatiesCucina.com

I love Makoto dressing and got to meet some of the team members last year–the same group was back this year and it was nice to see a familiar face.  This year they were handing out grilled shrimp with vegetable dipping sauce. Tasted just like I was at a hibachi!

Did you know that Wonderful Pistachios is a sister company of POM Wonderful? I had no idea until this weekend! We love pistachios in our home!

I stopped by the Bland Farms booth that specializes in Vidalia onions.  I mean come on… who doesn’t love a bloomin’ onion? That is one of the many ways you can cook them up!

I was super excited when I spotted Lipman tomatoes. I developed a recipe for them last year and had to introduce myself and take a picture!

{Recap} Southeast Produce Conference 2013 from KatiesCucina.com

I spotted Lane Southern Orchards and stopped by to tell them about my visit last summer and how I love their orchard. They still have no clue who I am, but I will tell you that I will still stop and pick up peaches this summer on our way back from Georgia!

I stopped by the Duda Farms booth. Whenever I buy celery I buy theirs at Publix! Y’all I’m very excited to say that I got to take home a bag of Meyer Lemons… don’t judge that I might just be the last person on this planet to try this coveted lemon… I’m super excited and can’t wait to bake with it!

{Recap} Southeast Produce Conference 2013 from KatiesCucina.com

This year I worked smarter not harder. I brought a rolling cart. And  I still managed to carry two green bags as I walked out of the convention center floor! At first everyone was looking at me weird but by the end of the show…  people were jealous. My trunk was full of fruits, veggies, and nuts!

{Recap} Southeast Produce Conference 2013 from KatiesCucina.com

Once I got home I unloaded all my goods on to our kitchen table… my husband crawled out of bed (he was sick with a nasty stomach bug all weekend) and was amazed by how much I brought home. I divided it up between myself, our parents, and our neighbor! Everyone got a little bit of fresh produce! I had a wonderful time getting to see some of the new and exciting products that will be making their way out to the consumer market in 2013 as well as networking with so many amazing individuals.

Disclaimer: I received a media pass to attend this event. This event is not open to the public. As always all opinions are my own. 

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Last week, Christine from Cook the Story and I talked with Heather from Winter Park Harvest Festival. This is a day long celebration celebrating local famers. Coincidentally it is held right before Thanksgiving each year, so you can buy locally produced fruits and vegetables among other things for your big feast! Watch our google hangout to learn more about this local event.

I can’t wait to attend the Winter Park Harvest Festival this week; Saturday, November 17. If you’re not local you can live vicariously and follow me on instagram to see what’s going on!

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Driscoll's Berries

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by Driscoll’s at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. They hosted a dozen bloggers from around Central Florida. Driscoll’s commitment to delicious, healthy eating was demonstrated in multiple live culinary demos by Chef Jon Ashton and Dietician Wendy Bazillian.  Together they prepared three courses that added flavor, flair, and fabulous health benefits to mealtime.

Driscoll's Berries Culinary Demo

The culinary demo that I attended started promptly at 5pm at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival Center. I’m embarrassed to say, but in the years I’ve been to the Food & Wine fest I’ve never been in the festival center! Now, that I know it exist I’ll be going in their each year.

Meeker Vineyard 2005 FroZin

We started the culinary demo with a glass of FroZin, a dessert wine from Meeker Vineyards. The Meeker Vineyard is a family-owned winery in Sonoma County, California. I’m not a fan of white Zinfandel. Although, this was not like any Zinfandel I’ve ever tasted. This dessert wine delivers incredibly fresh Zinfandel aromas and flavors. From the first sip you taste the berry aromas.

Meeker Vineyard FroZin

Disney hostess, Pam Smith introduced  Co-Winemaker Lucas Meeker took the stage to talk about the history of The Meeker Vineyard and all about the 2005 FroZin that we were drinking (retails for $24). His passion for wine making shines through as well as his knowledge!   It was so hard for me to slowly sip this wine. It was so good. I could have easily guzzled a bottle down during the demo. But I knew that wasn’t really lady like or proper. Nor were they handing out multiple glasses of wine to drink!

Chef Jon Ashton and Dr. Wendy Bazillian

Next up, it was time for Chef Jon Ashton and Dietician Wendy Bazillian to take the stage. Chef Jon Ashton was so animated and started the demo off by doing a toast to the crowd!

Driscoll's Berries Tasting

Servers began passing out our three course tasting. Pictured above (bottom) Brie & Blackberry Wonton, (middle) Strawberry Bruschetta, (top) Thai Turkey Meatball. All three were spectacular. Chef Jon Ashton started with the Brie & Blackberry Wonton and built up from there. It made sense as the flavors began to intensify throughout each course!

Chef Jon Ashton

As Chef Jon Ashton talked about the recipes he also walked around the audience. Giving me the chance to capture this photo! As you can tell from the photo–he is very animated! One thing that Chef Jon Ashton said really resinated with me; “Relatable recipes you can make in your kitchen“. I strive to do this all the time, so I enjoyed the fact that he has similar beliefs as I do!

Oh and don’t worry, I’ll be posting the recipes in the next month. I plan to make all three for upcoming get togethers because I know everyone will thoroughly enjoy them!

Chef Jon Ashton and Dietician Wendy Bazillian

 Dr. Wendy Bazillian gave insightful berry facts throughout the demo. Did you know “one serving of strawberries has more vitamin C than one medium orange“? Who knew! I didn’t!

Dr. Wendy Bazillian also spoke about storing your berries:

  • Keep them in the container
  • Store in the coolest place of the refrigerator
  • Clean before eating
After the culinary demo we had the chance to talk with Chef Jon Ashton and Dietician Wendy Bazillian about cooking and berries and everything in between. After talking with them we made our way over to Downtown Disney to Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant.

Wolfgang Puck's Restaurant

I was excited to try the sit down restaurant since I have only eaten at the quick service restaurant attached. The food was delicious. We started with vegetable spring rolls, followed by mixed green salad. Almost our entire group of 20 chose the spicy beef goulash and spaetzle for dinner. For dessert everyone was served a slice of cheesecake with fresh berries!

Unfortunately, Chef Jon Ashton wasn’t able to have dinner with us, but Dr. Wendy Bazillian was! I sat across from her and enjoyed talking with her. She has published multiple books and makes frequent appearances on national morning shows such as The Today Show. I asked her what her tips were for doing short cooking segments since I’ve recently done two. I always want to learn and improve so it was great hearing her talk about what to expect and what to never expect from a morning show!

Disclaimer: I received the culinary demo and dinner for free. I was not compensated to post about this event. All opinions are my own.

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Emeril Lagasse

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend Macy’s Culinary Council event featuring Chef Emeril Lagasse. I immediately said yes when I was invited to attend. Emeril was the first celebrity chef I started watching on tv some 15+ years ago. At the time his recipes scared the hell out of me, but his charisma and confidence in the kitchen is what sold me. Now, I look back to those then recipes that scared me and I laugh. Then again, I have so much more culinary experience now.

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Bacon Off Orlando 2012

Today I had the privilege to attend Bacon Off Orlando. A battle between two of Orlando’s award winning food trucks; Big Wheel Truck and the C&S Brisket Bus. They placed their house cured and house smoked bacon head to head for Central Floridians to choose the best bacon. This made for the ultimate father’s day gift! Given it was a day to celebrate dad–I did just that. I took my dad to Bacon Off Orlando.

The first truck my dad and I visisted was Big Wheel Truck. Like any food truck event there are lines. So while we waited in line I encouraged my dad to go grab a beer and come back in line. He came back in line and in no time we had our first bacon platter to try.

Top Left corner: Bacon Platter from Big Wheel Truck

Top Right Corner: Creamy Bacon Polenta w/ Big Wheel Provisions Bacon lardon & redeye gravy

Bottom Left Corner: Local Berkshire Brown Sugar Bacon

Bottom Right Corner: Big Wheel Bacon Dip

Next, up it was time to taste C&S Brisket Bus’ bacon!

Top Left corner: Bacon Platter from C&S Brisket Bus

Top Right Corner: Bacon Cured Chicken Wing

Bottom Left Corner: Bacon Spoon Bread, Bacon Maple Compound Butter

Bottom Right Corner: House Made Bacon Jam, Crostini, Arugula, Tomato

After we tasted each of the bacon plates, we indulged in this beautiful buffet filled with brisket and smoked pork, salads, and watermelon!

I also had the chance to hang out and catch up with a few of my fellow food blog friends in real life; Pictured left: Julius from Droolius.com, Top Right: Christine from Cook the Story, Bottom Right: Suzanne from Koko Cooks.

Needless to say, my dad and I had a wonderful time at Bacon Off Orlando–indulging in bacon and critiquing each bacon dish we sampled. I’d like to say my dad was in “hog heaven” … no pun intended! Bacon Off Orlando Voting and Trophy

So, you might be wondering who won in which category… and the winners are…

Best Original Bacon: The Big Wheel Mobile Food Truck‘s Local Berkshire Pork Bacon
Best Bacon Side: The C&S Brisket Bus‘s Bacon and Corn Spoonbread with Maple Butter
Best Bacon Product: The Big Wheel Truck’s Bacon Dip
Best Novelty Bacon: The Big Wheel Truck’s Local Angus Beef Shortrib Bacon

Bacon Grand Champion: The Big Wheel Truck!

From the sounds of it on Twitter this was a successful event and might be returning next year. For you Central Floridians that missed Bacon Off Orlando 2012–keep your eyes peeled for information next year on Bacon Off Orlando 2013!

Disclaimer: I received 2 tickets to attend Bacon Off Orlando; however, I was not compensated nor required to write this post. I truly enjoyed my time at the event and wanted share with all my readers. All opinions are my own!

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I think y’all know by now–I love bacon. It is the sole piece of meat that keeps me from going vegetarian. It is like candy to me–I could give up all other forms of meat, but not bacon. If you live in Central Florida and you are a bacon lover you have no excuse to not attend Bacon Off. You might be asking what is Bacon Off Orlando and why must I attend?

Two of Orlando’s award winning food trucks; Big Wheel Truck and the C&S Brisket Bus will place their house cured and house smoked bacon head to head for guests to choose the best bacon. Best of all it’s on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 17, 2012 from 12-4pm.

As a first event of it’s kind in Orlando, the $30 ticket price includes a bacon sampler plate from each truck, with tastes of bacon in 4 different categories; guests will vote on their favorite, and the winner of each category receives bacon bragging rights. Ticket price also includes access to a bacon-filled buffet, a craft beer or all-natural soda, and live music from The Mud Flappers.

A proceed of sales from Bacon Off benefits the Audubon Park Garden District, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, who works to strengthen and bring cohesion to the district by fostering support through public and private resources with the common goal of rejuvenating and promoting a district that enhances the entire community.

Let’s talk about what these tickets give you access too?

  • A “tasting plate” from both Big Wheel Truck and C&S Brisket Bus (for you to taste and vote on the 4 different types of bacon).
  • Voting rights to vote on your favorite bacon in each category, plus vote on the overall “Bacon Grand Champion” Best Original Bacon, Best Novelty Bacon, Best Bacon Side, Best Bacon Product and Bacon Grand Champion)
  • All you can eat access to a buffet: The Big Wheel Truck is roasting a pig and providing a variety of salads, and the C&S Brisket Bus is providing a make-you-own sandwich station.
  • A beer of your choice from Cigar City, Swamp Head, or Narragansett (quantities are limited, first come first serve) or a non alcoholic Boylan’s Soda. *Additional beer, soda, and water will be available for purchase.
Remember, this is a food truck event–chairs won’t be provided so make sure you bring your own chairs if you wish to sit. Retail opportunities include Big Wheel Provisions line of house made, locally sourced grocery provisions, and merchandise, and C&S Brisket Bus’ line of bacon swag gear. The Batter Bowl will be on sites selling sweets as well!
You have multiple chances to win a pair of tickets to Bacon Off Orlando. 1 winner will be announced via Katie’s Cucina Facebook Fan Page on Saturday morning, June 16, 2012.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Remember, this is a ticketed event. Cost per ticket is $30. If you don’t win tickets to this event don’t fret you can purchase tickets at: www.baconofforlando.com. Bacon Off Orlando will take place at East End Market 3201 Corrine Drive, Orlando, FL 32803

Disclosure: I am receiving 2 tickets to attend Bacon Off Orlando and I was provided 2 tickets to giveaway on Katie’s Cucina. All opinions are always my own. Bacon Off Ticket Giveaway image proivded by Droolius.com. Information about the event provided via press release from Tony Adams of Big Wheel Provisions.


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