the food blog forum orlando, disney edition

If you told me that one day I would be pushing a candy-apple red KitchenAid Stand Mixer in a stroller around Epcot on St. Patrick’s Day, I would probably think you’ve had one too many green beers. And, if you told me that I would be pushing that mixer-filled baby stroller alongside a French-speaking, macaron-baking, Australian-born Canadian carrying a basket of chocolates, I would immediately know that you’ve not only been drinking but that you’ve also forgotten to take your antipsychotic medications.

But, it happened. It really did.

why, yes, i did win that mixer. yay, me!

I spent the weekend in Orlando for the second annual Food Blog Forum held in that city, but the very first one held at Walt Disney World. Disney was one of the sponsors and the host of the conference, and the hospitality shown to our group was really incredible. From the hotel rooms at the Polynesian (my son’s favorite Disney hotel), to the food served over the course of the two day conference, to the the complimentary park passes for the attendees and our family members, Disney did everything right.

Disney always does everything right. It’s their way.

While winning the mixer was a nice bonus of the trip, I was there to soak up knowledge and to have fun in the process.

Lessons abound at food blogging conferences, both inside the session rooms and outside them. Though I was doubtful whether I would walk away with any earth-shattering wisdom, I had a wonderful time and managed to gain tidbits of information along the way.

From Diane and Todd, the White on Rice Couple, we were taught that photography should be about storytelling. That is such a simple, common sense idea, but it’s one that gets lost amidst the props and pretty plates. I am quite grateful to Todd for teaching me so much about Lightroom, organizing my digital photos, and shooting in Raw versus JPEG. That brief round table session was very high yield. And aside from the photography genius, I discovered that Diane and Todd are a beautiful couple, on the inside and out – inspirational and passionate about life.

I learned from Dawn Viola’s session that she’s even more amazing than I first thought. She has such a passion and energy for life that I wish I could bottle it and add a few drops to my coffee each morning. I absorbed every tidbit of writing advice that David Leite offered to us. When his two sessions were over, I was left wishing I could pack him up, take him home with me, and force him to sit by my side while I write. Jennie’s and Kelly’s round table session on food writing was simply too short. I could talk to them for hours, especially since it’s the writing that has me so jazzed lately.

The highlight of Food Blog Forum Orlando wasn’t the swag bag of goodies or the page of notes that I took from the sessions. It wasn’t even the green beer that Mardi and I sneaked out to get after lunch, though that was pretty darn great at the moment. The best part of the conference was the coming together of friends and strangers to partake in a two-day event to celebrate food, to celebrate feeding others – whether with a fork, through the written word, or through the beauty of a photograph.

We honored the act of nourishing others, and I can’t think of anything better than that.


ย * The top photo was taken by Aggie. Thanks for capturing the hilarity of the moment for me, Aggie.


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16 Responses to “a sort-of-silent sunday: the french laundry’s gardens”

  1. Maggie — October 31, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

    I adored their gardens and every moment at the French Laundry. Hope you loved Napa!

  2. Kristina @ spabettie — October 31, 2010 @ 4:42 pm


    It is on my list to not only visit the gardens, but also eat at The French Laundry… ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Kim — October 31, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

    Beautiful! The RGB wants a garden like that (but on a much smaller scale) when we get the Bistro open. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Don’t overwork yourself. Look forward to your return.


  4. Liz the Chef — October 31, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

    Lovely photos – it’s my dream to eat there one day. Meanwhile, I’m going to throw myself into cooking out of the Ad Hoc cookbook…Take care during the busy days ahead. best, Liz

  5. Jason Phelps — October 31, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

    I have heard of the fresh dishes that come from their garden. Great pics to put some reality to those stories.


  6. What great photos of the gardens! I just ate at Redd a month ago in Yountville, yet French Laundry is on the bucket list – I think 2011 will be the year.

  7. SMITH BITES — October 31, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

    beautiful MJ!! don’t think i could have picked a tomato or carrot either but that is just some gorgeous garden! we too, are heading into the 6 most grueling weeks of our entire year – have no idea how to juggle the blog – if that’s even possible. looking forward to your return.

  8. Liren — November 1, 2010 @ 1:33 am

    You’ve captured it beautifully ๐Ÿ™‚ Just love the scarecrow!

  9. Maria at Fresh Eats — November 1, 2010 @ 9:23 am

    Such a beautiful garden, and you captured it wonderfully. We were there about five years ago and Keller was standing in front of the garden talking to one of his staffers. We wanted to introduce ourselves but they were deep in conversation, so we went and stuffed ourselves with Bouchon pastries instead! : ) Take care of yourself during this busy time.

  10. Barbara @ VinoLuciStyle — November 1, 2010 @ 11:50 am

    What a beautiful garden…you were a very good girl; there would certainly have been a great temptation to bring a part of The French Laundry out with you I’m sure.

    Sounds like a busy season for a lot of us; just tying to breathe, one day at a time!

  11. Macaroni Mama — November 1, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

    I love the photos on this post…especially pumpkin head.

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  13. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — November 7, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

    MJ, I am a week late to this post (yes it’s a very busy time for us all) but it’s so lovely I am bookmarking it for whenever I need a little zen in the crazy weeks to come….

  14. Aggie — November 9, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

    I am loving your blog! I was just in Napa a little over a week ago and just posted photos from it…including this same scarecrow! I was lucky enough to eat at Bouchon and it was nothing less than amazing….

    Great photos! I wish I had more time to spend in the garden, it was so pretty.

  15. Brian @ A Thought For Food — November 9, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us! I am going to be eating at The French Laundry next June and this has just made me so incredibly excited!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — November 14th, 2010 @ 7:14 pm

      Okay, now I’m very envious of your trip to The French Laundry, Brian. I’m so looking forward to your post about your trip, and you can bet I’ll be on the lookout for it!

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