A few weeks ago, I participated in the Taste of Spain Salad Summit blogging event with Dole in Monterey, California, where we spent 3 days learning more about Dole Salads, touring their lettuce fields and processing plant, eating Spanish-themed foods, making tapas, and meeting other amazing food bloggers.
We stayed at the Carmel Valley Ranch, which consists of 500 acres of beauty and gorgeous suites and amazing views, vineyards, and mountains surrounding us.
My husband and I went one day early and enjoyed the welcoming rooms, beautiful grounds, stunning pool, the amazing gardens (the restaurant grows its own foods), and breathtaking views.
Knowing that the bloggers were coming the next day, we spent the first day hiking.
To the very top.
You can see the lushness of our view. It was spectacular!
We went off the trail where it said “bridge out.” Where 2 1/2 hours later we did indeed find the bridge out and waded across the deep waters. My shoes and shorts were wet, but my iPhone was safe! Very important to a blogger – (You can follow all my Instagrams, here.)
You can see the rooflines of the condos … wayyyyy down there.
And yes, at that point, we called the front desk for a pick up!
It was an adventure for sure, one that my husband and I won’t forget. We love adventures!
The first night before the festivities began, a few of us girls (Brenda, Heidi, Heather, and Ali) had a little “happy hour” on our back deck, then headed down for an amazing poolside receptions and fabulous dinner cooked with fresh Dole produce.
The next morning of the summit, we were bused out to the Dole Growing Fields.
There Dole Farmer Mark Pisoni met us “in the fields” and taught us about his job–the work and dedication that goes into our food–and his loyalty after years working for Dole.
We learned how Dole Salads has created partnerships with the farmers in the Monterey and Salinas Valleys, which now have second and third generations running the farms.
Many of Dole’s employees have worked for them for 15 to 25 years. That is true loyalty. dedication?
That’s Ali’s sporting the new “hair net” look. She’s a cutie!
We walked through the fields, out to meet the harvesters. This is where I heard Farmer Mark say: Salads are Living and Breathing. I love that!
We got to see the workers in action, cutting fresh from the ground, deciding which heads were up to Dole’s high standards, pulling off the outside leaves, and then placing them on to the conveyor belt for the next step of rinsing the lettuce. (Check out Heidi’s video of the process.)
It made me want to get in there and help, just to experience it.
Freshness is their goal for each head of lettuce, with less than four hours from farm to package.
It gave me a whole new appreciation for the workers in the hot, sunny fields, and for choosing my next head of Iceburg, the next time I want to make a Wedge Salad or need crunchy lettuce for lettuce wraps or tacos.
Oh, and we cut open fresh heads of Iceberg and enjoyed a hunk of lettuce! It was so sweet, crunch, and delicious!
Did I mention how gorgeous the views were in sunny California? We had the most delicious weather. (Yes, it was so pretty you could almost taste it.)
Back on the bus, we then drove to the Dole Plant in Soledad, where we participated in a fun contest. We played a Lettuce 101 Matching Test, where we matched the 26 different varieties of lettuce with their names. Yikes! I thought I really knew my lettuces, having a lettuce garden ourselves. I only got 17 right.
Oh, and did I mention how much I love bus rides? If they aren’t too long, it’s a great way to connect with other bloggers. I got to know Kristin from Iowa Girl Eats, my lovely birthday girl. We share the same birthday, except I’m 20 years older than her. HA. Yes, I could be her mother. But on a fun note, I’ve always loved this girl, so it was awesome to meet her live and in person! (Instagram shot above.)
We soon arrived at one of the most beautiful wineries, Paraiso Vineyards (which means Spanish paradise), which was named by John Steinbeck.
When the Spaniards came, they had to give everything they saw a name … The suggestions sometimes came from the nature of the place itself: Tassajara, a cup and saucer; Laguna Seca, a dry lake; Paraiso, because it was like heaven …
–from East of Eden by John Steinbeck
It was such a lovely spot, with a gorgeous view out the back of the tasting room overlooking the valley, where we enjoyed another fantastic meal cooked with Dole’s fresh veggies.
We enjoyed more wine (they are known for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs)–Empanadas filled with Spanish Manchego Cheese, Roasted Garlic and Chorizo Sausage, Quinoa & Chicken and Fresh Dole Arugula Salad (garnished with edible flowers)–another fantastic meal with a Spanish theme!
I got to converse with these 4 ladies who sat across from me. One of the cool things about blogging brand trips is you get to meet new friends – every single time! (From the left: Liz , Chung-Ah, Nikki, and Heidi).
Later that afternoon, we learned a lot from Eating Well’s Lisa Gosselin, Dole’s 2013 culinary partner and part of the Taste of Spain Salad Summit, as she spoke to us about Global Culinary/Eating Trends and how people are coming on board with healthy eating, making it a “way of life.” She shared some very interesting information with us.
Breakfast in America is now the biggest meal of the day.
And breakfast eaters are the healthier ones, with more fruit, whole grains, calcium, and protein in their diets. Yay!
Studies show that the top 3 internet searches for food are: lasagna, banana bread, and pancakes.
The biggest growth of breakfast foods are in oatmeal and frittatas. Snacks are next, with Americans eating them 3-4 times per day. We’re basically eating all day long – smaller meals.
The top snacks are: one piece of fruit, a bag of chips, and chocolate. Interesting.
I loved how she also saw a trend of “weekend brunch” being the “new dinner party.” And we’ll end with this one:
Asparagus is the favorite vegetable in America and goat is the most popular meat in the world.
Lisa said that meals have become more like snacks, or mini meals, which are tapas. Spanish small bites. Or, small plates of food meant for sharing, and originated in Spain.
Which leads me to our final “fun” event with the Dole Salad Team.
We teamed up with Gabe Deoris and Executive Chef Brandon Miller, who own the restaurant Mundaka (we ate dinner there later that night – fantastic Spanish meal), to create our own Spanish tapas!
At the end of the day, hanging out with friends.
And a little more pool time …
As ethnic foods are becoming increasingly popular, it was fun to be a part of this cutting-edge Spanish Salad Summit and learn more about Dole, their products, and their company.
It truly was a fabulous experience for me!
Thanks to Dole Salads for inviting me on this Taste of Spain Salad Summit. I was not compensated for the trip, but all of my expenses were paid. As always, all opinions are my own. Also a big thanks to Bob and Mike from the PR Dole office, and Kelley, from Dole, who coordinated and planned this trip. It was awesome!
Kristin, Iowa Girl Eats
Heidi, Foodie Crush
Catherine, Rabbit Food for my Bunny Teeth
Tessa, Handle the Heat
Ali, Gimme Some Oven
Chung-Ah, Damn Delicious
Liz, The Lemon Bowl
Brenda, A Farmgirl’s Dabbles
For Dole recipes and to enter the Taste of Spain Giveaway, visit them at www.dolesalads.com.