I wrote this post on the plane home from Monterey, California where I was fortunate enough to be the guest of Dole for their first-ever Salad Summit. Despite a two-hour flight delay and only making my connecting flight with seven minutes to spare, I arrived on Thursday evening where we were taken to the best restaurant in Monterey, The Sardine Factory.
(Romy from RomyRaves, Cheryl from TidyMom, Kristen from Dine and Dish, Me, Deb from SmithBites, Shanna from MyFavoriteEverything)
After eating there, it’s obvious why. We bloggers were not prepared for the food or the beauty of the room where we sat.
Knowing we’d never be able to choose from all the appetizers, the wait staff started by bringing out trays of perfectly cooked calamari (with a hint of basil), risotto balls and shrimp. We all took forever to decide what we’d have. I finally settled on the abalone medallions which were highly recommended as a local specialty. Totally happy and completely stuffed, we all went home and absolutely collapsed into a food-induced coma.
The next morning we were served a beautiful breakfast – a green smoothie, berry-stuffed French toast, Frittata and quiche which had be specially prepared by the hotel restaurant using Dole berries, salads and vegetables.
Fueled up with a big breakfast, we were ready to head over to the Dole offices to hear from the President of Dole Fresh Vegetables, Ray De Riggi, and members of their team about the brand. We learned little-known facts about salad and salad consumption in the US. We also learned about Dole’s new packaging, media campaign and about the history of the brand.
The jist of it is this: Yes, Dole is trying to get Americans to eat more salad (which we all know we need to do), but this new campaign is trying to get Americans to try new salads and mixes and then understand how to use them. As of June they will have new packaging which describes the taste and texture of each lettuce or salad mix and what it pairs well with. Ingenious. And they’ve got these fab little salad kits if you’re just trying to get dinner on the table and want a salad that even your kid can throw together.
(I particularly loved this salad called Endless Summer)
Now for the best part of the trip: our lunch at La Bicyclette. It’s in my top five dining experiences of all time, starting with the sweet sign and bicycle outside and the charming, rustic European décor inside.
I’m going to try and hold myself back here, but it’s hard. I could write a whole post on the risotto, but I’ll keep it to a paragraph. It was delicious and the most visually appealing risotto I have ever been presented. The color was incredible, vivid and bright. Before tasting, we all thought it had to be saffron, but it was a carrot risotto with a hint of citrus. This creamy, soft risotto was topped with tender purple artichoke hearts that had been sautéed in truffle oil. The dish was topped with arugula, shaved fennel and carrot and Cypress Grove Midnight Moon (the chef got bonus points for this because I’m a diehard Cypress Grove Chevre fan). I literally came undone over this dish.
The next course was two kinds of pizza: heirloom potato with gruyere cheese, and a butternut squash pizza topped with arugula which also featured Midnight Moon. Second to the risotto, the butternut squash pizza was the talk of the lunch.
The afternoon was filled with a tour of Dole fields, meeting farmers, growers, employees and touring their impressive packaging facilities.
(Dole fields, iceburg lettuce)
Back at the plant, they gave us a quiz of over 20 different types of lettuces to identify. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t do so well. I think I got 15 out of 25 correct. If we food bloggers can’t identity half the lettuces out there, I was thinking, what hope is there for everyone else?
For me, this really highlighted the importance of Dole’s new packaging with taste, texture and suggested pairings. For people who aren’t salad enthusiasts, this new packaging might help them to venture away from the standard iceburg or romaine they’ve been buying their whole lives.
Shattered after a day of eating and touring, we went back to the hotel where we had dinner at their restaurant called The C Restaurant. They too had specially prepared a menu using Dole salad products. Blessedly, the meal was light – we had two delicious salads. One had grapes and candied walnuts, the other was grilled hearts of romaine (loved that, such great flavor!), thin-sliced house-smoked pork loin (a beautiful compliment to the grilled flavors) and a soft boiled egg.
The last morning we were taken on a tour of the famous 17-mile drive where we had fun seeing the sites.
(I got new cowboy boots for my birthday, so this is me pretending to be a cowgirl. But really it just looks like I’m falling off the fence!)
(The Lone Cypress)
(Brooke from Cheeky Kitchen , Cheryl from TidyMom, Kristen from Dine and Dish, Me, Dana from FitCeleb and Shaina from FoodforMyFamily)
Have I mentioned how much I love these women? Kristen bought me this Sea Otter stuffed animal and Brooke bought me maritime-themed cookies to celebrate my birthday. As we stopped at a look-out point on the 17-mile drive, I was taking a photo when all of the sudden, the girls spontaneously started singing “Happy Birthday” in front of all these other tourists. Of course I turned bright red, but it made my heart swell.
I’ve written mainly about the food because it was just such a huge part of our experience, but of course connecting with the ten other bloggers was not only fun, it was also uplifting. I learned so much from them in those 36 hours and left inspired, invigorated and happy.
I also left feeling incredibly excited to try new salad mixes and to eat salad in new and interesting ways – like in green drinks (more on that later!) or romaine on the grill, I have to make that. But I’m going to start by attempting to recreate that carrot risotto.
Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies says
It looks like such a wonderful time, Maggy. I’m excited by these new salad mixes. I’m always intimidated to buy a whole head of a new lettuce, for fear of not liking it and the entire thing going to the deer in the yard. Thanks for telling us all about Dole’s new mission – I’ll be on the lookout!
Sandy @ RE says
So many of my favorite ladies. Looks like a lovely time. Love the boots, always love a good salad. We grow our own lettuce and eat salads every day! 🙂 Thanks Maggie!
We’ve always eaten tons of salad in our family. When you two were growing up, I’d serve salad with dinner and you’d never eat it. It finally dawned on me that I needed to serve the salad first when you were hungry. It worked. You two gobbled it up! And that’s how the tradition of eating in courses started at our house. I wasn’t trying to be fancy. I was just being smart!
Looks like an amazing time, mags 🙂 I can’t wait for you to master that carrot risotto and feed it to meeeeee! and mom, i never knew the beginnings of “courses” at our house! but the tradition has carried on into my home. sometimes we eat salad second, but you’re right…when we do that we’re not really hungry for it. salad first!
I love grilled salads, but I have never had grilled romaine – will have to make that!
Mom, you sneaky lady! I never knew that. But I gotta hand it to you. That’s smart!
LOVE, this recap Maggy, what a beautiful place!
Looks like such a wonderful trip to a gorgeous place! I will also be waiting patiently for you to figure out that carrot risotto recipe. Sounds divine!
sniff sniff……this post makes me wish we were still there!!!
It was so fun getting to know you Maggy, sharing incredible food, great laughs, and all the sights!!…….ummmmm, no hair net pics? hahaha
I’ve always been a fan of Dole bagged lettuce and salad kits…….this trip made me love them even more!!
Isn’t Monterey *just* gorgeous?! I did my Master’s research there on lettuce and somehow, the beauty of the scenery made all the hardwork easier. 14 hours days? Sure, why not, I’ve got the ocean as my view!
Thanks for sharing your experiences 🙂
What a great recap, and that risotto indeed looks amazing. I would have guessed saffron, too. Great job with the restaurant food photos!
I’m glad you got to see firsthand why Monterey is my favorite place in the country. I didn’t realize Dole had offices there. That salad test intrigues me. I wonder how many I would have gotten right. Probably less than half!
Maggie – So happy to have had you here in Monterey with us and glad you liked the trip. Please please please post you carrot risoto recipe when you get it mastered! Chris
Jamie | My Baking Addiction says
It looks like you had an amazing time with some fabulous ladies!
P.S. I love the fence photo! 😉
I’m loving reliving these memories. Already seems like way too long ago! Love you!
It sounds like a wonderful time! As soon as you finish the risotto can you move onto the berry quiche? That sounds intriguing to me!
What a fabulous recap! I’m a salad lover and experiment with many different lettuces but I have to say that salad test would have thrown me for a loop too! There were SO many lovely lettuces!
Great photos! Felt like I was right there with all you lovelies! I especially *love* the cowgirl pic! Ride ’em cowgirl!!!!!
Nicole Gustas says
Maggy, your post makes me want to go to Monterey. Oh, wait, I’m already here! Your photos make all the food look so delicious, and your shots of 17 Mile Drive just capture why it’s such a great place to visit. We’re so lucky to be somewhere with such great produce surrounding us!
If you want to come back and see more of where your salad is grown – or your readers want to see it – we’ve got lots of information on farm tours and so forth right here:
Thanks for visiting! We’re glad you had a great time!