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May 26, 2016

Cauli-Mac and Cheese + My Awesome Adventure at #FWCon

Buckle up folks, because not only do I have a delicious recipe for you, but I also have an amazing recap of the Food Wine Conference I attended recently to share as well. There were so many informative sessions, friendly and helpful company representatives, high-energy fellow attendees, along with delectable food and wine, that I'm not quite sure where to start!

First the recipe. I received a cookbook from Cabot in my swag bag from the conference, and couldn't wait to dive into it. If your as big of a cheese head as I am, you'll understand why. It's LOADED with yummy recipes starring Cabot products, so don't be surprised when you see even more of their recipes pop up on here from time to time.


Their cheese is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. so I went with one of their mac n cheese recipes. I adapted it to suit my diet restrictions by using cornstarch instead of flour, and cauliflower instead of pasta to make it gluten free, but the main star of the show, the Cabot cheese sauce, still shines through.


Cauli-Mac & Cheese


Ingredients

1 large cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
6 ounces-(about 1 1/2 cups) Cabot Cheddar Cheese {Your choice of Alpine Cheddar, Sharp Cheddar, Extra Sharp Cheddar, or Seriously Sharp Cheddar} grated (I used Sharp Cheddar)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
Crumbled bacon (optional)

Directions

Boil cauliflower in a medium-sized pot of salted water until tender, but not mushy. (About 12-15 minutes) Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. (Make sure the cauliflower is as dry as possible, or you will have soupy mac and cheese). Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring milk to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often so it doesn't scorch.
In small bowl, whisk cornstarch into water until completely dissolved.
Stir cornstarch mixture into milk, stirring constantly until sauce is simmering and slightly thickened.
Remove from heat and add cheese, mustard and salt, stirring well till combined and smooth.
In a large bowl add cheese sauce to cauliflower, stirring gently to combine.
Serve topped with bacon if desired.

Recipe adapted from the Cabot Creamery Cookbook 2015, page 150.

If you've been following me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, I'm sure you've already seen some of the photos I took at the conference. If you're not, you should be! :) But I saved the best for last, and will be sharing some of my favorite moments from the conference here.

First was the trip. My husband and I drove almost 1000 miles to get there (983 to be exact) and were pretty tired after we arrived in Orlando. I know, why didn't we fly? Because I am deathly afraid of flying, so much so that I guess I have a phobia about it. So driving it was! We arrived a day early, so we were able to relax in our hotel room, and munch on take-out pizza our first night.

Photo courtesy of Isabel Reis Laessig.

The conference was held at the beautiful Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel. I didn't get to stay in one of their rooms unfortunately. (It wasn't in my budget this year, but watch out next year!) But from what everyone who stayed there says, the rooms are amazing.


This was my first blogging conference, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But I was super excited to get started because not only was I attending the conference, but I was chosen as a brand ambassador for Cabot as well! They are a cooperative of 1,200 dairy farm families located throughout New York and New England, who make "The World's Best" cheese and dairy products. And when they say "The World's Best" they aren't kidding! They have won numerous awards, including the "World's Best Cheddar"!. I can personally vouch for that, their cheeses are so good. They also give all Cabot profits back to their farm families! Now that is the type of company I want to buy from.


  • First on the agenda was registration, where we checked into the conference, received a swag bag. and were treated to a glass of CK Mondavi wine. There was fun galore as people took photos with the largest wine glass I have ever seen, and starred in an Idaho Potato dancing heads video if they wished. Then we moved on to a Florida Dairy Farmers milk spa, where we could make our own facial masks, while we sipped on yummy flavored milk from their milk bar, (I had a chocolate caramel version that was delish) and nibbled on Cabot Creamery cheese. They even had two masseuse available for a true spa experience!

Photos are my own, or courtesy of Florida Strawberry Growers, and Certified Angus Beef.

  • Next the Florida Strawberry Growers Association welcomed everyone with a strawberry milkshake cocktail, (Who knew strawberry milkshakes were so tasty when you add rum to them?) strawberry cupcakes, and chocolate treats prepared by an award-winning pastry chef and chocolatier. We finished the night off by gathering to enjoy a scrumptious Taste of Rosen Shingle Creek dinner, prepared by their chefs, along with cocktails. Everything was so good, and I didn't think it could get much better than that. But I was in for a surprise the next day.

Photo courtesy of Isabel Reis Laessig.

  • It did get better! The day started off with a breakfast buffet at Rosen Shingle Creek's Cafe Osceola, which I unfortunately missed. I blame it on being unable to sleep from the excitement of the conference and not crashing into bed until 3:00 am, then having to travel there from a different hotel. (I will definitely solve that problem next year, by getting a room at the Rosen). Then we were able to enjoy a welcoming speech from the amazing woman who organized all this, Isabel, who started Sunday Supper four years ago. She has built it into an amazing movement, with many exciting things planned for the future. Next was our keynote speaker Donatella Arpaia, who gave us an inspirational account of her climb to being a success. A climb that wasn't easy, but one she never gave up on, and just look at her now! A Food Network star, chef, and restaurateur.


  • After a quick snack break with Duda Farm Fresh Foods, where we were treated to clementines, and fresh celery with yummy dips, a fun station to create our own stamped swag bag from Stoneridge Orchards, a DELICIOUS Mac n Cheese Bar from Cabot Cheese, and a promotional giveaway for an auto from Fields Auto Group, it was back to another informative session. We got to meet some of the actual families behind the brands, to learn where our food comes from, and the pride and heritage of those families. My favorite quote was from Amy Richardson "We don't inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our kids". Then it was time for lunch, sponsored by Around the World with Idaho Potatoes. Wow was it good! I especially liked the Thai Curry Potato Soup.

Photos are my own, or courtesy of Food Wine Conference.

  • Lunch was followed by an engaging and entertaining session with Patricia Rossi. Her talk Business Etiquette & Professional Presence was interactive and fun, and reminded us that "Business Etiquette Still Matters In A Casual New Business World". We then learned how important social media, mainly Instagram, is in today's business world with How To Get The Most Out of Instagram. My favorite point was creating your online presence on Instagram and staying true to your brand. It really helped me focus more on where I want my blog to go in the future. After another short break with yummy snacks from Cabot Cheese and Duda Farm Fresh Foods, we learned what the hospitality industry is looking for when they work with blogs, from Working with the Hospitality Industry. An eye-opening discussion for sure. Then it was time for us to head back to our rooms, to freshen up for the much-anticipated #SundaySupper Denim & Diamonds Dinner and Awards Banquet, sponsored by Certified Angus Beef, Out of the Weeds, and CK Mondavi.

Photos are my own, or courtesy of Isabel Reis Laessig and Food Wine Conference.

There was a private after party by the pool once dinner was over, but I wasn't able to stay long. All the excitement and travel had finally caught up with me, and I needed to go back to my hotel room for a good nights rest. I heard from fellow attendees the next day that the party was a blast though, and a good time was had by all.

  • The next day was just as cram-packed with helpful information, and delicious food and wine as the previous two days had been. We started off with breakfast at the hotel, then enjoyed a ride to the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality, in luxurious cars from Fields Auto Group. Talk about being pampered! There we were treated to a tasty spread of cheeses and snacks from Cabot, paired with the perfect CK Modavi Wines. As we sipped our wine, we were introduced to two of the 1200 dairy farm families who work with Cabot. They walked us through a day in the life on their farms, and answered our questions about dairy farming. Fun times awaited us, because we then proceeded to the very first #Hashed Cooking Competition the conference has ever had, sponsored by Wish Farms. Talk about intense! I was part of the Women and Wine Team, and while we didn't win, it was a lot of fun and everyone is looking forward to doing it again next year.


  • Attendees were then able to chose between a variety of sessions they could attend, from How To Cook The Perfect Steak, to the basics of shooting quick-style videos which are all the rage now. For lunch we were treated to some amazing fish from Oceanus Seafood, along with the winning recipe from the ‪#‎BlueberryToss‬ recipe contest hosted by Wish Farms. The winner was a delicious Blueberry Salad With Wild Orange Dressing from The Orange Bee. (Who also happened to be the captain of my team Women and Wine, in the #Hashed Cooking Competition)!

Photo courtesy of Isabel Reis Laessig.

  • After several more sessions of our choosing, we enjoyed a food styling and photography session with the hilariously funny Denise Vivaldo and sweet as can be Kita Roberts. These women know their way around food photography, although I don't think I'll ever use Denise's tip for making a Vaseline pie. :D They were the perfect duo to end the conference sessions with.

Photo courtesy of Renee Dobbs.

  • But wait, the grand finale is yet to come! To finish off the conference, we had our Weekly Sunday Supper Twitter chat LIVE at the fabulous Tapa Toro! They did it up big, and served us mouth watering tapas style dishes, provided live Latin-style music, and even had a real-life flamingo dancer, as we chatted on Twitter, and ate our food! I didn't get to stay for the whole meal, as my late nights, along with good food and wine caught up with me, and I had to say my goodbyes early. But trust me, if you are in the Orlando area, you'll definitely want to have dinner at this entertaining and delicious restaurant.

Photos are my own, or courtesy of Isabel Reis Laessig.

Shew, I think this is the longest post I've ever written on my blog. But I honestly could write much, much more. It was a whirlwind of good food and wine, good company, and good information. If you didn't get to go, I highly recommend you do so next year! I learned so much that I can use to improve my blog, as well as my social media presence and personal life as well. And the people! The fellow attendees were so warm and welcoming, that they made this first time conference goer feel right at home.

There are only two things I regret about the conference. One, not bringing a better camera, and two, not taking more pictures! So mark your calender's and plan to join me next year, I'll save you a seat!

Disclosure: I was provided with a discounted ticket to the Food Wine Conference. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

3 comments:

  1. It was so wonderful having you at this year's Food Wine Conference April! Thank you for this amazing write-up of this year's conference. You rock!

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  2. What a fantastic - and thorough - post! It was great getting to know you at #FWCon. I hope to see you again next year! PS Your Cauli-Mac & Cheese looks sooooo delicious!

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  3. I was so happy to finally meet you April! I love how you adapted the mac and cheese recipe to fit your diet and I agree, their cheese is amazing! :) I hope you will come again next year! I should have much more time in our free time since Grumpy will not be tagging along!

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