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Food Blog Forum Orlando 2012 Wrap-Up

by Jeanette on March 22, 2012 ·
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Food Styling and Food Photography

From the Photography & Styling Live Demonstration by Diane Cu & Aran Goyoaga

Last weekend, I attended Food Blog Forum in Orlando, hosted by Jaden and Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen, and Diane Cu and Todd Porter of White on Rice Couple. The venue was Epcot Center thanks to the generosity of Walt Disney World. Julie Deily from The Little Kitchen and Dawn Viola pulled off a top notch event with their herculean efforts, and the support of a generous group of sponsors. It was a whirlwind of a weekend, jam-packed with information sessions, round-table discussions, and fun food-filled events to meet food bloggers from all around the US and Canada.

I finally got to meet some of my friends that I’ve met through social media – David Leite from Leite’s Culinaria, Alison Lewis from Ingredients, Inc., Aggie Goodman from Aggie’s Kitchen, and Amanda Formaro from Amanda’s Cookin’ and founder of The Secret Recipe Club. It’s the strangest thing, but by interacting and engaging with people through social media, you immediately feel as if you’ve already met the person, so we all gave each other big hugs when we finally did meet in person.

I also met bloggers that I’ve admired from afar, including Elise Bauer from Simply Recipes, Jenny Perillo from In Jennie’s Kitchen, Aran Goyoaga from Cannelle et Vanille, and Dawn Viola. And of course, I met lots of other incredibly talented food bloggers that I hope to get to know better before the the next Food Blog Forum.

Me, Grace Langlois, and Aggie Goodman

Me, Grace Langlois, and Aggie Goodman

I was thrilled to see my good friend Grace Langlois from Grace’s Sweet Life (can’t wait to see her new cookbook that’s coming out in a few months – go Grace!) and meet new friend Sally Pasley Vargas from Cooking Lessons.

I came out of the weekend with so many new, fresh ideas, that I know I can implement at least a dozen new items that will move me forward. Here are my key takeaways from the seminar:

  • Photography & Styling presented by Todd Porter and Diane Cru: Don’t stray from what you believe in; don’t compare your photographs to others; your food story is unique.
  • PRspectives (Jaden Hair, Thomas Smith, Rachel Barbarotta, and Arianna Bastanini): Authenticity is the most important thing; engage with brands you are passionate about
  • How to Write Bigger, Better, More Badass Food Posts presented by David Leite: Don’t use “I” in all of your sentences. It’s not about you, it’s about love memories, forgiveness, something larger.
  • Master of Ceremonies, Scott Hair, who had lots of inspiring tips: Be specific about what you want to achieve and where you want to go. Whatever it is, it needs to inspire you, and you must know why you want it. You’ll figure out how to do it if it’s compelling enough.
  • Taking Your Blog to the Next Level presented by Dawn Viola: Become an expert in something, e.g., what’s your niche
  • Pitch Therapy Round Table (Jaden Hair): The most successful blogs are narrowly focused. Know your culinary point of view.
Cold Cucumber Soup

Cold Cucumber Soup, one of many choices at the Healthful Taste of Disney Lunch

One of the highlights of the event was the lunch we were treated to on Saturday by Disney. The theme was “A Healthful Taste of Disney.” Most people don’t think of food at Disney parks as being healthy, but behind the scenes, Disney’s chief chef, Gary Jones , has been adding healthy options to their menus at all of the theme parks. I have to say that when my family vacationed at Disney last summer, I did not notice many healthy options in the theme parks, so now that I am aware of Disney’s healthy offerings (although their hotel restaurants are incredibly gluten-free friendly and food allergy friendly), I will definitely keep an eye out next time we visit.

Me and Chef Gary Jones of Walt Disney

Me and Chef Gary Jones, the man responsible for Disney’s healthier menu options

To give you an idea of the variety of healthier options that Disney Orlando is offering at some of their hotels and theme park restaurants, I’ve included a sampling of all the food we were treated to for lunch:

  • Seared Tofu with Zucchini and Eggplant Ratatouille, Roasted Mushrooms, Lentils and Sun-dried Tomato Puree (vegan), Citricos, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Fresh tossed salad made with Epcot Land Pavillion Sweet Greens, Vero Beach Arugula and Red Watercress, topped with Myrtle-spiced Florida Rock Shrimp, served with Tangerine and White Balsamico Vinaigrette, Flying Fish Café, Disney’s BoardWalk
  • Whole-Grain Penne Pasta with Florida White Shrimp, Cedar Key Clams and Calico Scallops, Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce, The Wave…of American Flavors, Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Sanaa Vegetarian Sampler of Stewed Lentils, Spicy Cauliflower, Pappadam and Sanaa Signature Dips and Spreads (vegan) – Sanaa, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Seared Salmon with Couscous, Broccoli and Hummus – Columbia Harbor House, Magic Kingdom Park
  • Chicken Picatta served with Whole Wheat Pasta – Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Slow-roasted Bourbon-Induced Black Pig Heritage Pork Tenderloin Slider with Local Hydro Grown Greens and Heirloom Tomato on Golden Spelt Roll, Super Grain Fries, No Sugar Pomegranate Ice Vanilla Lemonade Soda Float – Epcot
Fireworks at Epcot Disney World

We were treated to a spectacular view of IllumiNations at Epcot

As if the incredible lunch spread wasn’t enough, Disney outdid themselves and set us up with our own private viewing of the spectacular Light Show at Epcot on Saturday! A big thank you to Jaden and Scott, Diane and Todd, Julie, Dawn, Disney World, Kitchen Aid, Oxo and all the other sponsors, as well as the team of Disney hosts who helped make this event possible.

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  1. don’t compare your photographs to others; your food story is unique – what a wonderful advice.
    Thanks for sharing these notes Jeanette. Maybe next year when my baby gets a little bigger I can come to some conferences. Would love to meet some of the bloggers.

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      I learned a lot, not just from the presenters, but from the other attendees. You should definitely try to attend a conference next year.

  2. I love the Boma at WDW. Awesome selection for Gluten Free. Absolutely luv the Zebra Domes. Have to ask for Gluten free version though. Simply Delish

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Shelly, thanks for sharing these gluten-free options – I’ll have to try them next time we’re at Disney. We were at the Port Orleans hotel and the chef at their restaurant was extremely accommodating. When I asked for a dairy-free smoothie, he was a bit puzzled, but after I made a few suggestions on what to put in it, he was more than happy to make it. My son was thrilled to pieces and loved the extra special attention and it definitely made my vacation so much less stressful.

  3. Jeanette, I was so glad you could come down and join us! Thank you so much for waking up early and helping out on Saturday too! 😀 I hope I get to see you again this year!

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Julie – you rock! Honestly, you are a super woman. FBF was an incredibly well organized, professional event and I know how much work went into it. Yes, hope to see you again, maybe at BlogHer Food?

  4. LOVED LOVED Meeting you and spending so much time with you! You are so fabulous and a breath of fresh air!

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Alison, ditto! It was a blast hanging out with you. So glad I finally got to meet you in person and spend some time with you – you are a sweetheart!

  5. Great recap and it was a pleasure to finally meet you :)

  6. That sounded fabulous – great food, great people, new ideas and a mini-vacation!

  7. Great recap of last weekend. I’m so glad I got to meet you and now know about your blog. I must admit that I can’t stop looking at the recipes on your blog–my kind of eating, friend!

  8. It sounds like a memorable event Jeanette and so much fun to meet other bloggers while learning a thing or two.

  9. It was a great recap… everytime someone from the conference post a recap, it takes me right back there.. hard to believe that at this time last week, I was waking up and packing to go meet blogger like you.. We missed meeting each other this year, but I put your blog on my reader and hopefully we can keep it going until we have the opportunity to meet again.

    • Monica – hopefully we’ll meet in the near future. Meanwhile, I will be checking out your recipes.

  10. Wow, Jeanette, this looks like it was all fantastically fun! What a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing. Also, I’m having a great giveaway today with four potential prize winners, so you should enter!

  11. Sounds like a fabulous time, and great learning experience! Last summer when we were at Disneyland with my kids, I was impressed that the meal’s were actual “kid size” portions and not huge. Plus the side offerings were limited to fruit or veggies, and drinks were milk or 100 % juice. Certainly better than most!

    • I am really impressed by all that Disney has done to provide healthier options – for such a large organization, it is quite a task.

  12. It’s so great to see these photos of you and other blogging friends. It sounds as though the weekend was a huge success and the menu sounds to-die-for!

    • Dara – it was quite an event – hope to see you at one of these get togethers soon.

  13. This sounds like such a fabulous conference. I am pea green with envy and hope that one day I can get to at least one of these events. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings…Mary

  14. Oh Jeanette! What a great event! Thanks for sharing it with us! I’m so glad you had a great time kabbitziing with foodie friends and sampling wonderful food! Nothing like a wonderful learning experience, huh? Cool that you and Aggie got together too! I read her blog frequently and like her on-line personality so much! Neat to see you guys connecting!

    • Meeting Aggie was one of the highlights of my trip – I’ve been wanting to meet her for a while! She is super sweet.

  15. That is so much fun! I wish i could have attended too. A few of my blogger friends went and i heard so much about it but going all the way to Orlando from CA was tough. Thanks for sharing all the fun in the post :)

  16. Disney was so accommodating to all the dietary and allergy needs of the FBF guests. The healthy choices were all delicious! So glad we were able to meet Friday at the opening reception!

  17. looks like fun, and your niche is healthy dazzling recipes

  18. This sounds like SUCH an awesome event and one that I definitely need to try to attend next year! I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about it, which is not always the case for these conferences.

  19. What an amazing event to be part of. I’ll have to make sure to mark it on my calendar to be able to attend next year. I’m a little jealous even if that’s not a very attractive emotion to feel!

  20. wow jeanette! what a treat to go on such a conference! and good to know that disney provides a lot of healthy options 😀

  21. I would definitely recommend FBF – it’s a nice intimate group, the perfect atmosphere to meet and get to know other food bloggers…and we were all spoiled by the royal treatment we received from Disney ;).

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