For those of you follow me on Facebook or on Twitter or Instagram, you know I went on a little trip last week. I had the honor and pleasure of being invited to a two day event in Nashville, that was hosted by the good folks at Martha White and White Lily Flour. It was an event to not only learn about Martha White and White Lily products (which I already loved!) but to have some fun eating, baking and learning some new tricks in the kitchen!
Below is a list of all the bloggers in attendance. We were a small group which I enjoyed.
Southern Baking Retreat Bloggers
The Country Cook (me!)
First, if you have time, take a look at this sweet little video that was made for us to document our time at the retreat. It is short but really sums up the whole trip!
I just need to start off this post by tipping my hat off to this special lady. Her name is Linda Carman. And to me, she is Martha White. She is actually the test kitchen director for Martha White. And she is the warmest, sweetest, kindest woman you would ever want to meet. She made me feel at home and she was so kind to take the time to teach us all some new tricks and techniques.
And this is her test kitchen. Don't you just love it? It's just a regular ole kitchen! And she doesn't use anything fancy. She creates and test recipes right here. Linda has written a few cookbooks for Martha White. She also creates numerous recipes each year that you see on the back of those little Martha White packets. So now you can see where all those recipes get their start!
So, when we first arrived, we were treated to a lunch. This whole meal consisted of Cornbread Festival winning/runner up recipes. And can I say, I had never eaten posole before.? This posole had a corn cake on top. After tasting it, I can see why it was the festival winner!
We were then given the surprise (that about gave me a heart attack!) that we had to come up with an original recipe using Martha White muffin mixes and some other assorted ingredients. We had about two hours to come up with a recipe, prepare it, bake it, then make it look all pretty to serve. I ain't gonna lie, I panicked at first. But then I caught sight of the Apple Cinnamon muffin mix, and thankfully, the inspiration flowed from there.
It was like an episode of Chopped. Except no one was being judged or chopped. Ha!
This is Julie from Table for Two and Robyn from Add a Pinch. They were smiling through it all. And I got to sample a bit of their creation along the way!
I even had time to pose for a picture with Tina from Mommy's Kitchen while our goodies were in the oven. She is one of my best blogging buddies and this was the very first time we ever had a chance to meet in person! Like Forrest Gump said, "We go together like peas and carrots." Or like biscuits and gravy. Or two peas and pod. Or like ham and biscuits. You get what I'm sayin'.
In the end, this was my final creation. I decided to call it Rustic Apple Cranberry Cobbler.
I was fortunate to have Linda as my "sous chef". She peeled and chopped those apples like nobody's business! And she cheered me on the whole time. She loved my ideas and she ate the final product and gave me the sweetest compliments through it all. I kept asking her if she wouldn't mind just hopping on the plane with me to go home. I fell in love with this woman, y'all!
Now, I'm not the most gifted at plating food and desserts. But I think the end result was pretty darn tasty. Now, I just need to remember how I made it!
All the bloggers and our recipe creations.
Look at these desserts, y'all! Seriously, I was so fortunate to be with such talented folks.
All of these desserts were made with Martha White muffin mixes in a very short period of time!
Then, after all that excitement, we were whisked away to eat supper! More food! We ate dinner at a place called Aerial. And this is why it has that name. We ate on the roof. On the roof! With the most gorgeous view of Nashville you ever saw. I kept thinking I was in a movie. Folks like me don't usually eat at places like this. I was like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Except I'm not a hooker, and I don't have long gorgeous legs, and Richard Gere wasn't there. Er, um, well, you get my point.
In a word...it was breathtaking. I've never experienced anything like this in my life. I only wish my family had been with me to experience it all.
This was our menu. I'm sure y'all could guess which one I chose. I am a Virginia girl after all and you know we love our piggy here. Sweet Tea Pork Loin. And yes, it was outstanding. Oh, and did I mention it was served with Pimiento Cheese Grits. Pimiento Cheese Grits! I ate all those first. It was a grits epiphany. They were that good!
Then, for entertainment, we were treated to an intimate acoustic performance from Hall of Fame songwriters, Tony Arata and Pat Alger. So, you know those songs made famous by Garth Brooks like "The Dance", "Unanswered Prayers" and "The Thunder Rolls"? Guess who wrote them? You are looking at them! And they sang them for us! Say what? An experience I will never forget as long as I live. And I will neither confirm nor deny that there might have been a few tears shed during a couple of those songs.
Oh, AND THEN, this gal showed up to play and sing. Grammy Nominated Bluegrass Queen, Rhonda Vincent. We all sang the Martha White song, and boy, can this gal play the mandolin! And her voice is incredible. I still can't believe I was there to witness such an incredible performance by these talented folks. And all this was just on my first day in Nashville!
Above picture (left to right): me, Rhonda Vincent, Tina from Mommy's Kitchen and Stacey from Southern Bite. We talked about crock pots and tour buses.
We saw the logo for the retreat everywhere we went. It was so nice! I told everyone that I half expected to see the logo when I walked through my door at home!
The next morning, we were treated to breakfast at the Loveless Cafe. It's a pretty special little place there in Nashville.
They specialize in true Southern cooking. Like fried chicken. Yes, we ate fried chicken. For breakfast!
Oh yes I did!
And there was also all this. It was all good, but I would like to make a special mention of the grits. Oh mercy, the grits! Perfection!
Look at these precious tea towels (more on those later!)
Oh, and there were the biscuits too. Soft and fluffy and only made with White Lily flour, of course!
And in case you were wondering...there really is someone in the kitchen making the biscuits from scratch. You have never seen anyone cut biscuits out faster in your life!
After breakfast, they rolled (yes rolled!) us back into the van, and back to the kitchen for some more hands on fun. Yup, we were gonna make us some White Lily biscuits!
Biscuits really are not hard to make. With just a handful of ingredients, you really can make a beautiful biscuit in no time. And White Lily makes it so easy with their featherlight, self-rising flour. #savethebiscuit
I was teamed up with Brenda from A Farm Girl's Dabbles. She had never made biscuits before. All she kept saying was her husband was going to fall in love with her all over again because she was learning to make biscuits. She's a natural! We were given a cream biscuit recipe to make.
All the other groups had different variations of biscuits. Most all of the biscuits are super easy to make. Some just take a bit more time than others to whip up.
Here's me and Brenda with our cream biscuits. I'll be sharing that recipe and step-by-step photos in a future post.
Here's Linda and Stacey with their biscuits. Stacey from Southern Bite is another one of my good Southern foodie friends. Did I mention he's coming out with a cookbook? Coming soon!!
Look at all our smiles. Biscuits make everybody happy!
Look at all the different types of biscuits there are. Yet, all of these are made with almost the same ingredients!
Nothing says lovin' quite like flour and a biscuit cutter.
After all the biscuit fun, we got to meet and talk with Southern Living's test kitchen director, Robby Melvin. We learned a lot about what goes into publishing those mouth-watering recipes you see each month in Southern Living magazine.
This was our final day in Nashville. It was hard to end all the fun.
We were surprised with one final trip...
Yep, to the Grand Ole Opry. This was such an awe-inspiring moment for me. It is country music history in there.Now, come on, you know I had to do it! Dolly Parton stood in this exact spot!
Special thank you to Stacey (my brother from another mother) for snapping this pic.
Let me tell ya, the folks at Martha White and White Lily could not have been more warm and gracious.
Honorable mention: This is Erick. He photographed all the prettier pictures that you see above. And he also created that video. He followed us around like foodie paparrazzi for two days. So, I turned the tables a bit on him while he was enjoying his bacon at breakfast. "Mmmm, bacon...".