A huge thank you to Southern Living and Delta Faucet for sponsoring, hosting, and showing this food blogger what southern hospitality is all about. All opinions expressed below are my own.
If you happen to follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I had the amazing honor of visiting the city of Birmingham, Alabama last week to take in the local food scene and to go on an exclusive tour of the Southern Living headquarters and test kitchen. Seriously, you all... this trip has been the biggest "pinch me" moment so far of my food blogging career. I was joined by seven other fabulous food bloggers from all over the country (yay to new friends!) to enjoy some truly southern cuisine & hospitality, and to get a behind the scenes look at just what it takes to produce and publish a copy of Southern Living magazine each month...
|Photo credit to Kelley Wilson of Miss Information|
But first, the food! The evening that we arrived in Birmingham we were treated to an amazing dinner of southern barbecue at the up and coming Saw's Juke Joint. Our meal started with southern classics like fried okra, smoked wings, & a DIY blackberry lemonade drink bar. We enjoyed 3 more delicious courses of deconstructed BBQ shrimp tacos, pulled pork with all the classic southern fixings, and a deconstructed banana pudding for dessert. But the highlight of the evening was getting to pick Robby Melvin's (the director of the Southern Living's Test Kitchen) brain about how he finds new and fresh recipe inspiration that still stays in line with traditional southern cooking week after week.
We started out our full day with Delta Faucet and Southern Living the next morning by enjoying a delicious brunch at Another Broken Egg Cafe, which was featured as one of the five best breakfasts in Alabama by Southern Living magazine. Plates of their Biscuit Beignets were ordered and bowls of Blackberry Grits and City Grits were passed around and shared by all...
It was a fabulous opportunity for all of us food bloggers to chat, get to know each other, and swap some recipe and food photography tips and tricks. I just want to note that I somehow managed to snap a photo of food bloggers with plates of beautiful food in front of them and not a single one of them was snapping a photo of them at that moment. That's a rarity, folks. ;)
Of course, I couldn't help breaking out my camera again when my plate of Crabcakes Cavallo was placed in front of me! This is one of Another Broken Egg's signature dishes, and I had to try it- two jumbo lump crab cakes topped with two poached eggs that was then covered in an Andouille infused hollandaise with diced red bell peppers & green onions. Heaven, folks. :)
Next up on our journey through Birmingham was a stop at the renowned Dorothy McDaniel's Flower Market (it may have been voted best florist in Birmingham... ahem) to try our hand at some potting and mound floral arrangement.
I am the first to admit that I am not the craftiest of people, but the step-by-step instruction we received at Dorothy McDaniel's helped us all create this amazing floral arrangement. It was actually nice to be creating something and not be in a kitchen doing it. ;) Some of the bloggers decided to risk the TSA and take them home in a bag (I believe every one of them was successful in this endeavour), and some of us decided to leave them with Dorothy so they could be donated to a nearby battered women's shelter.
The pinnacle of our visit to Birmingham was the entire afternoon we spent at the Southern Living headquarters. In true southern fashion, we were greeted with cold beverages when we arrived including my absolute favorite- sweet tea.
These are the lovely food bloggers that I had the honor and pleasure of spending 36 amazing hours with...
From left to right- Britni from Play Party Pin, Kelley from Miss Information, that's me, Kit from The Kittchen, Emily from Jelly Toast, Jessica from Swanky Recipes, Jennifer from Kirbie's Cravings, and Tiffany from Living Sweet Moments.
Seriously, you all- click on the links and follow each one of these ladies! :) I promise you will not regret it.
The Southern Living Test Kitchen is a food blogger's absolute dream. See all of that above? Those all are actual painted wood surfaces for food photography. And that is only half of them!
And the Southern Living prop room? Yeah, they had to shoo us all out of that room! ;) Some women dream of walk-in closets filled with clothes and shoes, but I think just about every food blogger has a fantasy of having an entire prop room like this one at their personal disposal- shelves of color sorted dishes, stacks of beautiful cake platters, and linens galore.
I am glad that they were able to get all of us out of that prop room because we might have missed the best part- an actual tasting of recipes that had been developed by Pam Lolley, recipe tester and developer for Southern Living, and Robby Melvin himself! Pam had helped create and test an assortment of amazing dessert recipes for the tasting, and Robby had been working on some quick dinner recipes perfect for busy weeknights...
And yes, we got to sit down with them both and try them all. :) They walked us through each dish, letting us know the inspiration for each one, and explained to us just how thorough the recipe testing process for Southern Living's recipes really is.
Our last stop on our tour of the Southern Living Headquarters was the Time Inc. Lifestyle Video studio. Leigh Corra, Executive Producer for the studio, walked us through what actually goes into the making of a video tutorial for the Southern Living site. Popular how-to videos for Southern Living like this one for their Sweet-Tea Brined Fried Chicken were shot in this very studio.
I have to say that I was not only impressed by just how many videos they shoot here, but also by the crazy amazing lighting in this studio! The photo you see above? I did no post editing to it at all. It was pretty much perfect upon upload.
My visit to Birmignham and Southern Living last week just reaffirmed what I already know- I am a Southern gal at heart. :)
A big thank you to Delta Faucet for sponsoring this event and for reminding us that sometimes the best things in life make a little #HappiMess.