Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Fresh Air Retreat in magical and mysterious New Orleans, LA. This three day event brought together an intimate group of amazing food bloggers and was inspiring and informative.
From the incredible brainstorming and lightning round sessions to the one-on-one conversations, and of course all of the sumptuous food, this was a trip to remember. Stick around as I recap an epic three days.
About the Hostesses
Our hostesses were Liz from The Lemon Bowl and Lauren from The Curious Plate who greeted me with the biggest hug. The time and energy that went into every detail and making this experience intimate and educational for all of us was amazing. They had everything seamlessly scheduled to a T! Not only did we get the maximum amount of information, but we were also be able to truly experience the city.
They instantly made us feel comfortable and welcome. Their yin and yang personalities allowed them to work brilliantly together. The team they assembled for this event was top notch and made it a once in a lifetime experience none of us will forget. I can't thank them enough for the opportunity to attend this event.
As we arrived we gathered outside and introduced ourselves. It was nice to unwind after our travels and get to know each other.
Liz brought out an array of delicious dishes. The first was an assortment of grilled andouille sausages ranging from mild to NOLA spicy along with condiments. The second was fried okra and an artfully composed fried green tomato. This was hands down the best fried green tomato I've had.
Chef Trimmel wowed us the first night with a whole snapper prepared a couple of different ways and the ultimate southern staples, tender collard greens, one of my favorites, and mouthwateringly delicious red beans and rice. The red beans and rice were a feast unto themselves.
Day Two of the Fresh Air Retreat
The first full day started with poached eggs and a collard green hash before we gathered to meet with Ally and learn about Raptor/Slickstream. It was eye opening to see how the website can generate income. Ally went over so many different tools that not only help make your website more user friendly but also help increase engagement. The entire session made me realize what an asset my website is and that I need to make it a priority.
Afterwards we headed to Napoleon House which is a beautiful, historic spot full of so much character and old-world charm. We feasted on their specialties, the light and refreshing Pimm's cup and the famed sandwich of New Orleans, the muffuletta. Lunch was followed by a tour of the upstairs. Because of its age and history, it's considered a museum.
Most of us proceeded to the famed Café du Monde for pillowy soft beignets with their snow flurry of powdered sugar. Be prepared to fall in love at first bite and get good and messy. I only wish I'd worn stretchy pants to be able to eat more. From there we explored the shops downtown and took in the city market. The entire area was alive with vibrant music playing from every corner.
Once we returned to the house, we freshened up. Chef Trimmel created several appetizers featuring crackers from La Panzanella and raincoast crisps. In addition, there was not only a selection of condiments to create your own unique combination, but there was also a s'mores station. You know I totally crushed that!
A Night to Remember
Dinner that night was a true feast! Chef Trimmel created a seafood boil with all locally sourced ingredients. It was spicy but extremely flavorful and balanced. After dinner we gathered around outside and enjoyed s'mores, ice cream, soaking in the last moments of the day while enjoying companionship and conversation.
Then it was time to truly experience New Orleans at night! We got dressed up and hit up Frenchmen Street. We danced the night away as we requested song after song. It was fun to unwind and see everyone's personalities come out.
We needed a refresher once we got back to the house, and what's more fun than eight foodies in a kitchen? It was one of the most epic things I'd ever seen, nachos, grilled cheese sandwiches, cookies, and so much more. It was a total snack party.
Day Three of the Fresh Air Retreat
Day three of the Fresh Air Retreat started with Chef Trimmel preparing scrambled eggs and DIY oatmeal bowls. We gathered around for a brainstorming session to discuss our blogs and social media. Because we all have different specialties it was interesting to hear what works for some people.
Besides learning about new apps, we did lightning rounds where one person would present a problem. We had 90 seconds to offer up a solution and it was interesting and informative to hear the solutions people came up with.
Next we met with Kaitlin, a senior influencer relations specialist from Think Maxwell. It was so enlightening to be able to pick her brain on what influencers can do to create better content and offer better services to brands and agencies. I took a ton of notes on what I personally can do as providing customer service is one of the most important things when working with brands.
Chef Trimmel continued to wow us. Lunch was a DIY rice bowl affair with beautiful, fresh, and vibrant ingredients. I topped mine with shrimp, tuna, radish, cucumber, avocado, and sesame seeds.
After lunch Gaby and her assistant from Del Duca Food set up a beautiful display for us to create our own charcuterie boards with their artisanal meats. They showed us different ways to create the perfect board, including how to make show stopping meat roses. It was fun to take the time to create a charcuterie board which is something I've never really done before.
After we took pictures of our boards and group shots we hit the town. Visit New Orleans was generous enough to set us up with VIP backstage passes to a music festival. The music was incredible, the drinks were generous, and we all were dancing.
From there we got a bird's eye view of the stunning skyline of the Big Easy at Alto, a rooftop bar with fun cocktails and a spectacular vista overlooking the city and concert. We took fun group pictures and enjoyed some drinks. After that it was on to dinner!
Dinner was a celebration of the history and color of New Orleans as we dined at the famed Commander's Palace. There were so many delicious appetizers to chose from, the pork belly being my favorite. The pecan crusted black drum was the perfect choice for an entree, but the main event was the desserts. By the time we left, we all had food bellies.
Final Thoughts on the Fresh Air Retreat
As a food blogger most of the time it's a solo, behind the scenes venture, from recipe development and creation to capturing it at its best and sharing the process through video, photo, and words. It was incredible to meet such a diverse and talented group of people. It was amazing to learn from each other and learn together, and discuss strategies, technology, apps, and bounce ideas off of each other.
Amanda Kamppinen not only captured beautiful photos of the Fresh Air Retreat but will also be photographing my upcoming cookbook. Her vibe is incredible and it was such a pleasure meeting her.
The other guests included Nick of Macheesmo who was incredibly outgoing, kind, and funny. He needs his own show! MacKenzie of Grilled Cheese Social was laid back, fun, and a total riot.
Jordan of JZ Eats is incredibly outgoing and I love that she's found her niche. It was amazing talking to her as she's in the middle of working on her own cookbook and was able to offer insight and advice. She offered so many helpful tips.
Ari of a Well Seasoned Studio is absolutely brilliant. She provided so much information for the website I couldn't keep up.
Maegan of the BakerMama is kind and so inspiring with her business. I was in awe of what she's built. Finally, Elizabeth of Confessions of a Baking Queen whom I've followed forever was so much fun to connect with in person. She is so much fun and has killer dance moves. I wish she lived closer.
The one-on-one conversations were amazing as well as connecting with people in the same space/industry. We talked about our personal lives, our journey to get where we
are and where we would like to grow to. Everyone had their own specialities of what
they do so everyone had different takes on things that worked for them.
The Fresh Air Retreat was an eye-opening experience and I learned so much and am already implementing new things to further grow my website and business. From the exposer to new apps and technology to the friendships and conversation, this will be a trip I never forget.
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