(Picture from HLS Facebook page)
Alex and I started our journey Thursday morning. Tim dropped me off at her apartment and we got on the road headed north shortly after!
About four hours later we made it to Amanda's. We took a short walk to Chipotle for a quick late lunch to tide us over until our dinner mingle that I actually hosted. After lunch we went back to Amanda's house to indulge in this beauty! She made a smore's pie! Soo good!
Thursday night I helped plan and host a dinner mingle. Molly, a Minneapolis local, was a great source of information to help me choose what to do and where to go. I ultimately chose dinner at Chino Latino and drinks after at Sky Bar.
Chino was the perfect recommendation and place for us to land on. It's a big restaurant with a fun atmosphere that serves a wide variety of flavors and cuisines. It's also served family style. Perfect for us foodie bloggers! We split our table into groups and each group chose a few things to try. My group was super laid back and not picky. It didn't take us long at all to choose our dishes. And we chose perfectly! I loved everything that came to our table.
(Pic from HLS Instagram)
After dinner we headed up to Sky Bar, a rooftop bar also in Uptown. It was actually a fairly chilly night (at least it was coming off of 90 degrees temps earlier in the week) so we had a drink or two, chatted and called it a night.
The next morning we met up at the hotel with reps from Wild Harvest for a tour of their headquarters. I really didn't know what to expect on a tour of an organic food company, but it was really fun! And informative.
There were three different sessions that we saw and were involved in. They all were really interesting but the recipe development one was really fun.
Mainly because we got to sample these amazing turkey burgers! So full of flavor and included a tatziki sauce, one of my favorite flavors! It was easily at the top of my list of foods ate all weekend! I need to get on recreating it at home.
Another area we visited was the sensory lab. We learned how Wild Harvest goes through their taste testing process and we got to be the taste testers this time! Can I get this for my real job? ;)
We also learned about product testing and how they make sure that the product on the shelf is always of the highest quality. It's really actually pretty fascinating the thought and processes that go into this part of a food company.
We were totally spoiled during our whole tour and were constantly tasting really great food! They had an awesome spread for us to snack on!
Plus a bartender on hand to mix us up some yummy mock mojitos.
After we returned from our tour with Great Harvest, Amanda, Alex, and I ventured to the registration area to pick up our highly coveted SWAG BAG! This bag was no joke! It was packed to the brim with lots of fun goodies. It was so nicely packed that I opted to not mess with the tetris-like packing and wait til I got home to dump it out to further inspect the contents.
We had some spare time to grab some lunch before heading to the scheduled round table discussions. After hearing how the Hola Arepa food truck was a must-visit for an indescribably delicious sandwich-taco-type thing, we were sold!
This thing was legit! I loved it! I really need to do some research and see who sells arepas in the Des Moines area!
After enjoying lunch outside we headed back to the hotel meeting area for some round table discussions. I attended blogging 101 and met some new friends and fellow Iowa natives!
After a morning of eating and a late lunch, I wasn't feeling anything too heavy. I settled on this fresh hummus plate. Perfect choice for my last meal of the day.
The cocktail party was held at The Guthrie Theater, a beautiful venue right on the river. Photo booth, ice breaker trivia matching game, some drinks, great company, and a school bus to take us home?!? It was a pretty good night!
|(Picture from Kelly)|
|Had to pull out our T-shirts from May and show our BLEND love with the HLS roomies!|
Saturday morning started bright and early with a full breakfast with the best little biscuits I've ever had! Made with cheese and herbs, I'm still dreaming of those biscuits!
After breakfast, we dove right in to the presentations. There were many sessions throughout the day and I really learned a lot. It's always nice to talk blogs with people that understand and also know fr more than me on the technical side of things. It brings forth a renewed motivation and gets new ideas swirling.
|Our two fearless leaders and planners of HLS, Julie and Heather|
|Lauren, Cassie, and Gretchen|
During lunch and time between sessions, we made our way through the vendor area. It was really great to connect with some new brands and learn about new products. The sponsors were beyond generous and I came home with lots of new foods to fill my cupboards.
It was also my first experience with Qwest bars! I was so excited to see them included in the Kona Kase that was a part of the bag!
This particular Saturday also happened to be the always highly anticipated Iowa vs. Iowa State game. I found some other Iowa State fans at the summit! I was happy to find more state fans than just myself to catch some of the game with. After all the presentations for the day Molly, Emily, Gabe and I headed to the hotel bar to catch the first half of the game before we headed to Crave for dinner.
This was a fun restaurant; one I would definitely visit more if I lived in Minneapolis. I loved that there was a really wide range of choices. The atmosphere was pretty fun, too.
I had been on a beet and goat cheese kick lately so when I saw a salad on the menu featuring both of those ingredients, I knew I was sold. I loved it and the addition of the candied nuts was the perfect addition to send it over the top! After dinner at Crave we headed to Hell's Kitchen to meet up with some other HLS'ers for awhile.
Sunday morning was the last event of the weekend. A fun run about 2 miles or so from the hotel to the famous cherry and spoon sculpture, the perfect setting for a group pic.
After breakfast and a wonderful chair massage, we packed up bags and all of our swag! Let's just say Alex and I were really happy we were driving to make sure all our new goodies made it back to Iowa with us!
I'm happy and excited that HLS 2014 will again be within driving distance! You can bet I'll be there again next year! I see a big Iowa blogger road trip to Madison, WI next year!