November 19, 2013

My Pillsbury Bake-Off in Las Vegas Top 10 {part 1}

Pillsbury bake off

Over Veteran’s Day weekend I flew to Las Vegas to attend the Pillsbury Bake-Off at the Aria Resort & Casino. It was a weekend of firsts for me since I had never attended a Bake-Off and never been to Las Vegas. The thrill of hitting both in one fell swoop was so exciting! The entire weekend was a whirlwind of catching up with old friends, learning the history of the Bake-Off, rooting for contestants, and taking in the sights and sounds of Vegas. Every bit of it was so thrilling that I barely know how to begin sharing the experience. I’ve decided that listing my top 10 favorite things about the Bake-Off would be a great way to go. My list is in chronological order of the weekend. There were so many great parts!

1) Catching up with Friends: Within a few hours of arriving I started bumping in to so many old friends I didn’t know would be there. I also met a whole bunch of wonderful new bloggers! It was great to catch up with Alice, Jennie, Jenny, Amanda, Marla, Alejandra, Julie, and Elise, and meet people like Jessie, Heather, Heather, Averie, and Erin. I’ve known everyone online for a long time, but nothing replaces the fun of chatting in person.

2) The Aria: Even though I don’t gamble I was in awe of the Aria Resort & Casino. My room was gorgeous with breathtaking views of the city. It is filled with amazing restaurants and I was almost sad I didn’t get a chance to try them all. Our first night we had a terrific meal at Sage. The menu was widely varied with a strong focus on local ingredients.

Sage Menu Sage Menu

3) Listening to Ros from Vegas Roots Community Garden: Our first day in Vegas we attended a Food News Seminar. The first speaker was the inspirational Ros from Vegas Roots. She shared her journey building Las Vegas’ first community garden. A garden smack dab in the middle of the desert. A climate not known for being a hospitable growing environment. Starting with a simple donated lot she has created a space filled with healthy fruits and vegetables that engages her community. By the end of her talk everyone in the room couldn’t help but be inspired by her commitment to growing food in the desert. Listening to her made me so excited to get our raised garden beds set up for next year!

Chef Jon Ashton (image from thetandd)

4) Meeting Chef Jon Ashton: I’ve heard of Chef Jon Ashton from time to time but meeting him face to face was a terrific experience. Jon, easily one of the most charismatic speakers I’ve had the pleasure to seeing, spoke with us about the millenial generation (the generation I missed by, um, a few years) and their influence on food in the marketplace. This new generation of grocery buyers is so different than the generations before. They are looking for varied food experiences and want everything to be personalized. He also developed a few delicious recipes for us to try using Smucker’s jams. The unusual application of the flavors – jam swiped on mozzarella and wrapped in prosciutto, stirred into savory dips – was an example of the millenial palate. This is a generation of people looking for new and unexpected flavors. Jon also shared his own story of baking and cooking with his daughter and cultivating the next generation of home cooks. His message of positivity and keeping food real and true really resonated with me. I look forward to our paths crossing again.

5) Getting the low down from the Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert: I’ve spotted Phil on television from time to time but never expected to hear him in person. He shared stories from his lifetime spent researching shopping habits in grocery stores. He investigates habits by actually walking into grocery stores several times a day and asking customers why they are buying a certain time. Learning what compels buying behaviors enables him to determine current and future shopping trends. Once he has boiled these down he talks with food companies and large grocery store chains to help them anticipate the needs of customers. Needless to say, after hearing his talk I paid extra special attention what I bought and why when I returned to the grocery store last week!

Pillsbury Bake Off

Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of my Top 10 things about the Pillsbury Bake-Off!

(Disclosure: Pillsbury paid for my travel and attendance of the Bake-Off. The opinions are entirely my own. The lighting wasn’t great for photography so some of the images above have been supplied by Pillsbury as noted.)