Food Fight Write! blogger steak challenge, pioneer village, and WFC launch party + recipe

With little sleep, it was time to wake up, pack up utensils and ingredients, and head over to Celebration for the first annual Blogger challenge, sponsored by Saucy Mama and The Kansas City Steak Company. After finding a close parking spot near Market Street, the bloggers enjoyed a grab-and-go breakfast of champions which included bagel, cream cheese, yogurt, an apple, orange juice, trail mix and water. The competitors are much like athletes cooking away in a 2 hour heat and need energy for their sport.

The final touches to Kenmore Kitchen Arena were being set by making sure each station had all the equipment set up and ready to go. In one station, the bloggers attended a kitchen training by Kenmore’s Pro-Team. This included training on how all the appliances work from the oven/cooktop, toaster oven, and Bull grill.

Then, it was off to the cooks’ meeting where all the rules of the competition were explained. The blogger cook-off was not as strict as the normal competition as most of the bloggers had never competed before. The challenge was a taste of what it would be like to be in a competitor’s shoes. The bloggers also had to write up their recipe which included ingredients and preparation instructions within 3 hours before turning in their dish.

Photo courtesy of World Food Championships
The bloggers had 15 minutes to prepare their stations, placing their items to cook with on the prep tables or in the refrigerators. There was also a pantry of vegetables along with a variety of Saucy Mama sauces available. But instead of ordering them like the normal competitors, it was a mad dash as bloggers were grabbing vegetables and sauces like Cutthroat Kitchen. My Yard Farms also provided microgreens to incorporate into their dishes.

Presentation plate during test kitchen prior to World Food Championships
The author’s recipe, Filet a la Madrone (recipe below), focused on The Kansas City Steak Company’s filet mignons, Saucy Mama’s Poblano Ranch Dressing, and CaliforniaRancher’s Santa Maria Style seasoning. The Santa Maria Style had the right flavor profile to match with the Italian flavors of the pesto sauce and tomato side dish. Fresh basil leaves were unavailable in large enough quantity to make pesto and had to resort to a ready-made pesto. Unfortunately, it did not have the bright green color that was expected. The flavor was flat as well so it desperately needed to be doctored up.

Filet a la Madrone

  • 2 Kansas City Steak Company filet mignons
  • 2 tbsp California Rancher Santa Maria Style seasoning
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp + ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp + ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp Saucy Mama Poblano Ranch dressing
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup My Yard Farm microgreens

  1. Heat grill to high. Grease grill with bacon drippings or oil to keep steaks from sticking to the grates.
  2. Remove filets from packaging and season with California Rancher’s Santa Maria Style seasoning and set aside to rest and come to room temperature.
  3. Cut grape tomatoes in half and stir in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper to coat. Cover and refrigerate to let the flavors marinate.
  4. Add basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, ½ cup olive oil, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper to food processor or NutriBullet and blend until smooth with dark green color. Set aside but do not refrigerate.
  5. Sear steaks over high heat for 2 minutes on each side. Reduce heat to medium and cook to your perfect temperature (rare: first side for 7 minutes, second side for 5 minutes; medium: first side for 8 minutes, second side for 7 minutes; medium: first side for 9 minutes, second side for 7 minutes). Remove from heat and let the filets rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
  6. Stir the pesto, if separated, and decoratively swipe two tablespoons of pesto in the center of the plate.
  7. Decoratively swipe 1 tablespoon of Saucy Mama’s Poblano Ranch dressing in the middle of the pesto for a two-toned effect.
  8. Slice filet and arrange on atop of pesto/ranch swipe.
  9. Place ¾ cup of the marinated tomatoes on the side of the steak and top with microgreens.

After two hours of cooking and grilling, it was time to turn in the dishes to the judges. With nerves calmed, station cleaning was at hand to return dirty equipment and pans to the wash station while the bloggers packed up their personal items.

The bloggers headed to the bus for the last time to visit Pioneer Village at Shingle Creek run by the Osceola County Historical Society. The Pioneer Village is a collection of carefully relocated structures that once stood in different areas of Osceola County. Each structure has been lovingly preserved to demonstrate how life was once lived, complete with Partin Family’s Caretaker’s House, Blacksmith’s Shop, Lanier “Cracker House” (an early-American form of architecture defined by the center breezeway which created a natural air condition for the home), Tyson House (showing how an average farming family of  11 lived in a single room dwelling), The Cadman Complex (including bungalow, kitchen, bachelor’s quarters, and citrus packing house), Seminole Village, and Mary Kendall Steffee Nature Preserve. If you are a history buff or an avid photographer, this is a great place to visit.

The bloggers enjoyed a lunch provided by Experience Kissimmee, an instrumental partner in bringing the World Food Championships (WFC) to the “The Gateway to Fun”. Kissimmee puts you right in the middle of the action from world-class theme parks like SeaWorld Orlando to exciting dinner shows like Medieval Times to accommodations that will fit every budget. Experience Kissimmee is a great resource for meeting planners as well.

After a short bus ride back to Celebration, it was time to head back to Parc Soleil for some relaxation for a few hours.

Westgate Resorts Town Center Resort & Spa’s Ship Wreck Island Water Park was closed off to the kiddies for one evening to showcase the Kick-Off Reception for the World Food Championships. As one of the supporters, Westgate Resorts planned a beautiful reception with food stations galore as past winners reunited as the 2015 World Food Championships began. The bloggers gathered near the stage to see how they did. Rebecka Evans, blogger and WFC competitor, won 1st place with a $500 prize. Ken Hulme, blogger and personal chef, won 2nd place with a $250 prize. Cho Wut Yee, blogger and television personality from Myanmar, won 3rd place with a $100 prize. The full score board can viewed here. The author received a score of 80 and placed 19 out of 32.

The 2015 Food Fight Write! Blogger Summit has come to an end but the World Food Championship is just about to start.

To see more photos, please visit OC Food Diva’s Facebook page.

For more information:
Celebration, FL

2491 Babb Road
Kissimmee, FL 34746
Hours: Daily from 10 AM to 4 PM (Closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day)
Admission: $7 for adults, $3 for children 4-12 years old

7700 Westgate Boulevard
Kissimmee, FL 34747

Food Fight Write! touring a local farm, dining with Shamu, and home inspiration in Orlando, Florida

As the sun broke, a beautiful, clear day was about to start in Orlando. It’s only a short car ride to the MeliĆ” Orlando Suite Hotel at Celebration to start the field trip day at Food Fight Write! A brand new bus was the mode of transportation for the 45-minute ride to visit Long & Scott Farms in Mount Dora.

Upon arrival, the bloggers were treated to a continental breakfast in Scott’s Country Market. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to seen from Kirby Pickle Cucumbers and Scott’s Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. With caffeine and carbohydrates stock piled for energy, Hank Scott (2nd generation to manage the farm) gave a tour on the Sweet Corn Express, a tractor-pulled cover wagon, around the farm. Long & Scott Farms was founded by Frank Scott, Jr. and Billy Long in 1963 and has expanded to 1,200 acres producing Zellwood Sweet Corn, Kirby Pickle Cucumbers, red & green cabbage, along with a variety of other produce. The bloggers also got a glimpse at the processing plant as fresh pickle cucumbers were washed, sorted, and packed for their next destination. After some last minute shopping at the country market for the blogger challenge and World Food Championship competitions, it was time to head back on the bus for our next stop, SeaWorld Orlando.

After another 45-minute ride, the bloggers arrived at Ports of Call, a special events complex for groups large and small. From there, the bloggers were broken into groups as they made their way into the park. SeaWorld is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with lots of special events and holiday eats through the end of the year. The first stop was a ride on Manta. This flying roller coaster with head-first, face-down inverted nosedive makes you feel like you’re flying through the water just like a manta ray. For those that didn’t want to ride, the Manta Aquarium has over 100 rays and thousands of colorful fish to view at a much slower pace.

  • Energy Saving Tip: SeaWorld Orlando has one of 6 solar powered Coca Cola vending machines in the world. The machine has 3 solar panels on top to power the mechanisms inside.

The bloggers continued on to Shamu Stadium to have a memorable luncheon at Dine With Shamu®. Located on the backside of the stadium, guests can enjoy sustainable seafood, organic coffee, and items that promote environmental responsibility. This lunch was a little special as the chefs gave the bloggers a culinary journey through the park via the buffet, allowing them to try a lot of different menu items from inside the park all in one place. Choices included lobster mac n’ cheese, barbeque ribs and brisket, Latin American and Asian inspired dishes, salads, sides, and desserts. Each table also had the privilege of dining with an animal expert while watching the orcas train.

  • Special Winter Holiday foods available at SeaWorld Orlando: Apple Pie on a Stick, S’mores, Mini Donuts, and a Festive Hot Beverage

After lunch, the bloggers headed back to Ports of Call to get up-close and personal with some very rare animals. A baby tamadura (lesser anteater) eating meal worms from a tube. You can see how their tongue is used to get into small holes in order to retrieve small bugs. The tiny screech owl looks like a baby at about the size of your hand, but she’s fully grown. A regal bald eagle and crested caracara pose for photos. Two toed sloth lovingly holds on to her trainer and lackadaisically views everyone upside down.

After the bloggers said their goodbyes to the animals, it was time to get back on the bus for the last stop – The Retreat at ChampionsGate for workshops with The Inspired Home. These vacation homes are minutes away from Walt Disney World Resort with easy accessibility to Downtown Orlando and Orlando International Airport (MCO). This community also has resort-style amenities like a clubhouse, restaurant, fitness center, aerobics studio, theatre, game room, playground, splash park, resort-style swimming pool with lazy river, tiki bar, and more. The workshops were held in a couple of the model homes with beautifully spacious kitchen and living room areas.

The first workshop was presented by Manuela Kjeilen, Passion 4 Baking. She talked about how she started baking and how she became an InstaSuccess by building her brand on Instagram. She has more than 1.3 million Instagram followers. While she told her story, she baked her Norwegian Almond Cookies from scratch and the bloggers got to taste them right out of the oven.

Emily Ellyn and her managing partner, Michael Rizzo presented a Backyard Pizza Party & Cocktails while talking about how Periscope and Facebook Reel Life can impact your brand. Emily shot a live Periscope video while making flatbread pizzas in the kitchen.

As the workshops ran a little longer than expected, a few bloggers needed to shop for the blogger challenge the next day or had other commitments. Here’s a great big Thank-You to Nancy Judd’s husband who kindly took the small group packed like sardines in their rental car, while laughing and talking about food on the way back to the Melia. Bloggers always find a way to make the best of every situation.

A quick stop at Parc Soleil to change into business attire and it was off to dinner. Ocean Prime is a modern American restaurant and lounge from renowned restauranteur Cameron Mitchell. The interior is elegant, yet relaxed with white linen and mellow oceanic vibe.

Start your night off with some handcrafted cocktails. Berries & Bubbles ($14) is made with Belvedere Cytrus Vodka, marinated blackberries, house made sour, and Domaine Chandon Brut. Dry ice gives it a bubbling caldron effect. The flavor is sweet and tangy from the blackberries and very smooth. Rating: 4.5/5

Black Orchid ($13) is Belvedere Black Raspberry Vodka, St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur, hand squeezed lemon, and white cranberry juice presented with a round ice cube with a purple orchid frozen within. As the ice cube melts, the petals spring to life and float inside the drink. The flavor is light and tropical, almost like lychee. Rating: 5/5

White Truffle Caviar Deviled Eggs ($12) are the most decadent deviled eggs you’ll ever experience. The lusciously smooth yolk mixture paired with the truffle aroma and flavor is just mind-blowing. The caviar adds just the right amount of salty flavor. The yolk mixture is beautifully piped into the white halves like mini beehives. Rating: 5/5

East Coast Oysters on the Half Shell ($18) are presented on ice with cocktail sauce, horseradish, and lemon. The oysters are plump and juicy. They are sweet with a touch of briny flavor to balance the palate. Rating: 5/5

Dutch Harbor King Crab Legs ($59) are split and served with asparagus and drawn butter. The drawn butter had a tea light warmer underneath to keep the butter from solidifying during your meal. The crab legs are cooked to perfection and the meat just fell cleanly out of the shells. The meat is sweet and buttery on its own so it doesn’t require as many dunks into the drawn butter. Rating: 5/5

16 oz. Ribeye ($46), seasoned and broiled at 1200 degrees, topped with black truffle butter ($4) is beautifully cooked to your liking (black and blue in this case). The ribeye is wet-aged for 21 days to impart a more condensed flavor of beef. The outside has a great char from the high heat broil, sealing the juices inside. The steak cuts like butter even at a black and blue temperature. The black truffle butter adds a sensually decadent flavor while bringing the sweetness of the beef to the forefront. Rating: 4.5/5

Parmesan Truffle Fries ($9) are freshly cut in house and fried to perfection. The exterior is crispy and the interior is fluffy. The truffle flavor was subdued by the parmesan. Either adding more truffle oil or reducing the amount of parmesan will help the truffle flavor come through. Rating: 4.5/5

Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($10) are so cute like tiny caramelized gems. The outside imparts caramelized and roasted flavor while the interior is tender and sweet. Rating: 5/5

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie ($10) is peanut butter mousse encased in bittersweet chocolate ganache. It is beautifully presented with dark chocolate straw, whipped cream, and purple orchids. It looks like a fancy giant Reese’s peanut butter cup. The chocolate ganache is silky smooth and melts immediately on the tongue. The peanut butter mousse is fluffy and rich with peanut butter flavor. Rating: 5/5

After a short drive back to Parc Soleil, it is time to get some sleep. The blogger challenge is just a few hours away.

To see more photos, please visit OC Food Diva’s Facebook page.

For more information:

26216 County Road 448A
Mount Dora, FL 32757, United States

7007 Sea World Drive
Orlando, FL 32821, United States

1403 Moon Valley Drive
ChampionsGate, FL 33896, United States

7339 West Sand Lake Road
Orlando, FL 32819, United States

Ocean Prime Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box Recipe Series: Quinoa Cranberry Pudding Parfait

Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box in this post was provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.