Breathe, Just Breathe

by Heather J Sell, ShoutOUT®, August 1, 2015
As a brand ambassador, I was granted conference tickets at a discounted rate, but the recount, feelings, and delicious memories are my own honest opinions, thoughts, feelings, and tastings.

Photo of various foods and desserts

Food & Wine Conference collage. Photo: Heather Sell

I kept chanting these reassuring and calming words over and over again in my head as I drove to my first ever Food & Wine Conference in Orlando this year. Why was I nervous? Well, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at this event. I was attending a la’ solo, and being a somewhat shy person (believe it, or not), it was a bit intimidating to think about getting there and not knowing anyone. Participating in the Family Foodie and Sunday Supper Movement Twitter chats had somewhat prepped me, as the participating bloggers seemed pretty friendly and welcoming. I was hoping that rang true at the conference.

Photo of a night-lit glowing archway at Rosen Shingle Creek

Rosen Shingle Creek’s Glowing Arches

Driving up the expansive lane at night to Rosen Shingle Creek, the host resort, is simply glorious! I arrived the night before the cornucopia of flavor was to commence and let me tell you, the sight is breathtaking! Pulling my burgundy-colored Murano up to the circle drive, excitement fueling my anticipation, the magnificent hotel burst through the night like a colossal Greek god rising mightily from Mount Olympus, arches radiating with an ethereal glow, and a mountainous fountain spilling restorative waters into a rotund basin. And I wasn’t even inside yet!

After I checked in and keyed entrance into my spacious room, I sank into my king-sized bed, luxuriating in alone time and a fabulous view from the 6th floor (even at night), anticipating the opening evening’s activities.

Back to the breathing. Being somewhat shy and attending a conference with loads of people that you don’t know is a bit overwhelming. So the next morning, I channeled my extroverted friend Laurie and asked myself, “What would Laurie do?” So, I posted on the Food & Wine Conference Attendees Facebook page asking if anyone was heading downstairs for breakfast as I’d love to start meeting people and getting the party started. Breathe. Breathe. A huge ShoutOUT to Kathleen and others for the quick response to either join in or swing by. I mention Kathleen explicitly because after meeting up with her and her husband during their breakfast, and chatting for a bit, they helped me feel welcome and not-so alone. After that, I didn’t have to worry about reminding myself to breathe. Better yet, as the day progressed I ran into people I knew and hadn’t seen in awhile – extra perk!

The first night was so much fun! Dixie Crystals treated us to a Sweet Retreat where we sugared up and gathered around several “Make Your Own Body Scrub” stations. What a blast! That night alone, I met so many phenomenal people and was blessed to have connected with a few new friends! And what an enjoyable way to interact with everyone. I made 3 body scrubs that night – Lemon Rosemary, Mint Chocolate, and Dreamsicle, each container laced up with colorful ribbon and a spiffy sticker identifying the scent. Side-note: My younger brother fell in love with the Dreamsicle scent at first sniff, so that became a happy gift for him.

collage FWCON

Flavored popcorn at Florida Strawberry and St. Augustine Distillery’s Welcome night, mixing Dixie Crystals Body Scrub, and Delectable hand-crafted Chocolates by Rosen Pastry Chef, David Ramirez

My head is still spinning from all of the mouthwatering food, scrumptious desserts, bold, full-bodied wines, motivational workshops and sessions, generous sponsors, and of course, fun, spirited bloggers at #FWCon.

I couldn’t fully fit every delightful experience here, as this article would reach to South America (and back), but I will share several highlights that I carry with me. Keynote speakers Monica Bhide & Andrew Wilder launched the event on Saturday with opening comments and discussions on “Everything is Subject to Change.” Though change can be frustrating, confusing, and a downright pain, it can bring you experiences you never thought imaginable.

Idaho Potato and Wisconsin Cheese wowed our taste buds with a Poutine Lunch Bar offering changeups on the traditional Canadian treat. The kale and mushroom with cheese curds were hands-down my fave.

Potato Candy, Heather Sell & Chef Michael cooking it up, Kale & Mushroom Poutine

Potato Candy, Heather Sell & Chef Michael cooking it up, Kale & Mushroom Poutine

Danielle Omar cautioned, “Don’t get caught up in what others are doing” while chatting during “The Balancing Act” session, sharing tips on how to balance blog and personal commitments. “Be authentic” was the recurring theme during the brand representative’s roundtable conversations on bloggers developing relationships and collaborating with businesses and brands. Your readers, the brand, and most importantly, YOU, will know if it’s not authentic or coming from the heart. Choose to work with brands that mirror your blog’s values, mission, and a product/service you’re passionate about. Build relationships and start conversations. Remember…there are real people on the other end of those Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Periscope, and Instagram accounts. Besides, you never know who is watching.

Heather Sell and Angela Litzinger rocking the celery mustaches and orange accessories.

Heather Sell and Angela Litzinger rocking the celery mustaches and orange accessories.

Other highlights for me included being selected to play a foodie version of “The Price is Right”; snagging a ride in a sporty Omaha Orange 2015 Jeep Renegade (want one) from Fields Auto Group when they conveyed us over to UCF Rosen College of Hospitality; pairing with Chef Michael Ollier from Certified Angus Beef® during his sautéed beef medallions in a red wine pan sauce cooking demo; winning 3rd place for my Parmesan Potato Cakes with Avocado Sauce recipe during the unveiling of winners in the Idaho Potato Commission recipe contest; indulging in a melt-in-your mouth, oh-my-stars! Certified Angus Beef® steak dinner at Saturday night’s celebration feast; singing “Everywhere Man” karaoke with KC on the Dancing Heads screen(my daughter says she can never un-see that); taking selfies with Angela, sporting celery stick mustaches and balancing a bowl of celery and oranges while learning how to use the selfie-sticks; tapping into my senses and challenging my preconceptions when writing during Monica Bhide’s “Writing with Your Senses” session; and learning how to effectively use both natural and unnatural lighting and props when photographing food with Faith Gorsky & Julius Mayo, Jr. It was a fun-filled weekend!

As Monday morning yawned and awoke with a sunny smile, I loaded up my much-heavier suitcases and loads of swag into the Murano and trekked back down that sprawling lane to I-4, realizing I had learned to breathe and had worried for naught.

There are so many other memorable moments I cherish from this weekend and are still romancing my thoughts. I wish I could share them all with you here. That just means that you’ll have to join me next year at the Food & Wine Conference so you can take away your own delicious memories.

About ShoutOUT

In 2009, I started sharing my experiences, food, travels, and events, along with all of the incredible people and businesses I was meeting and discovering. What began as a fun hobby had such an overwhelming response, in 2010 ShoutOUT was born! I continue to stretch the boundaries locally, regionally, and nationally, discovering, sharing and connecting as I go.
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5 Responses to Breathe, Just Breathe

  1. Yep, there’s something about the environment at #FWCon that is so inviting. I’m glad you enjoyed t he weekend and I was delighted to meet you in person!

    • ShoutOUT says:

      You’re so right, DB! And thank you! It was a treat to meet you after chatting with for so long during #SundaySupper! Look forward to seeing you next year!

  2. KC Quaretti says:

    Heather, I would NEVER have guessed you were the least bit shy! YOU made everyone feel part of the action! So glad we got to connect and definitely want to keep in touch!

    • ShoutOUT says:

      You are too sweeet, KC! Thank you! It was so much fun hanging with you and doing the dancing heads together. I still chuckle every time I think about it! And definitely want to keep in touch! Hope to see you soon.

  3. Jenny says:

    I need to make it to FWC one year soon!! It is always held on the weekend we celebrate birthdays! Maybe I can talk the gang into an Orlando celebration

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