Getting Stuffed: Food, Wine, and Knowledge at #FWCon (Part 1)

Disclaimer: I was not paid or sponsored in any way to write this post. The media and opinions displayed here are my own. 

A few weeks ago, I won the opportunity to attend one of the most delicious, educational experiences I could ever have. It started with an Instagram contest sponsored by Roux Tampa, where the criteria was to hashtag #DoYouRoux.  The accompanying picture would be of yourself eating the first bite of something delicious. Easy, right? I went with dark chocolate.
   Yes, those are chopsticks!

 The night Isabel of Family Foodie notified me that I’d won I was shaking. Why was I shaking? Well, the prize was a full conference pass to the Food & Wine Conference, as well as a two night stay at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida. That’s worth getting excited about!
It was a short drive from Oldsmar to Orlando, with only a brief moment of traffic sludge around the Disney exits. When I turned in the drive for Rosen Shingle Creek, the shaky feeling returned. I felt like a kid on their way to see the Magic Kingdom for the first time. To me, this hotel looked like a castle. 
    Photo Credit: Rosen Shingle Creek
My room was on the 14th floor,  which is the highest floor at this hotel and boy, did it have a view! The best view was when I first walked in, though. 
    I get two beds?
    Fancy everything in here.
    The phone had my name on it! 
And this picture sums up my reaction:
I settled in right away. It took a few minutes to blow dry my soggy clothes and get my eyes to go from bloodshot red back to somewhat human (mascara & rain don’t mix). And of course there was the obligatory “I made it here O.K.” phone call with my husband. Refreshed and recharged, I ventured down to the convention center.
The journey from my room to the conference registration was a winding walk, with sights of indoor restaurants and stores. This place was better than what I’d daydreamed about all week and then some.
It was a quick check in with the registration desk. I slipped my oh-so-official conference lanyard over my head and smiled with delight when I took a peek inside of the swag bag. There were so many goodies! Others were excited about this as well, and it was a great icebreaker.
A few short conversations later, we made our way into the first event, which was a sugar scrub crafting session with Dixie Crystals. We had the choice of Lemon Rosemary, Orange Creamscicle, and Mint Chocolate Chip. The room they had us in smelled incredible! It didn’t hurt knowing that all of the ingredients we were using were edible, either.
There was no contest for me. I made a beeline right over to Mint Chocolate Chip. The process was easy, albeit a little messy, but certainly fun! I’ll admit, there was a moment there when I wanted to just shove my face into the bowl. It was a primal, chocolate-loving urge. 
What really topped it off was the decorationing station. The table had labels for each scent with ribbons in coordinating colors. It was adorable! Here’s how mine turned out:
We still had more sweet surprises waiting for us. It was a Welcome to Florida Reception, put on by the Florida Strawberry Grower’s Association and St. Augustine Distillery. 
Tiers of handmade chocolate took center stage, with a live chocolate making demo to sweeten the deal. Around the room were other edibles such as flavored popcorns, fruit infused water, and a bar serving up the reception’s signature cocktail: Strawberry Shortcake Martini. 
I left the popcorn be, but made it a point to sample the artfully decorated chocolates (which were washed down with that scrumptious martini!). 
   Chocolate making demo!
I wasn’t sure how I was going to have room for an actual meal, but when we entered the Butler room I knew I’d make some. There were tables and tables AND tables of food. I didn’t even try them all. It was a massive spread all the way around the room. 
There was a sushi station, a cheese table with a menagerie of cheeses, a bar… It would take me too long to name off the list. Just have a look!
    Looking down into the Butler Room
    Beef Shortrib Slider

   Foie Gras Cotton Candy

It was great meeting up with Tracy Guida at the conference that night. She and I ended up partnering up for most of the foodie adventures that weekend. 
After dinner we had a drink at the Headwaters Lounge in the hotel, where I had a fabulous Pineapple Upside Down Martini.

We sipped our drinks and had some great girl talk, but soon we were both drowsy from the day. 
I went back to my room and started getting ready for bed. All of the sudden I noticed a chocolate shoe sitting by the T.V.! What a sweet surprise. (And it was filled with macarons, too!) 
I went to bed very happy that night.
(Stay tuned for Part 2!)

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