A couple of weeks ago, I boarded a plane to California.
Monterey, to be exact. I’d never been to that part of the state before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Would it be like LA, the only place I’ve really ever been in California?
Nothing could have prepared me for what I found.
A quaint seaside village full of converted oceanfront factories, now filled with luxurious hotels, outstanding restaurants, and touristy shops. Small town feel, with charm and character oozing from every boardwalk plank. Seals and their babies, lounging on the protected beaches. It was spectacular.
As you may have guessed by the title of this post, I was there at the invitation of Dole. Along with a handful of other bloggers, I was treated to 3 days of mild weather and crisp white duvet covers and in-room fireplaces. We stayed and played at the gorgeous Clement Monterey, an Intercontinental Hotel. Perched out over the bay, the Clement is a contemporary gem, and I don’t think the Dole team could have found a better location for our event.
Upon arrival in Monterey, Brandi and I met up with Paula and headed out to The Cannery Row, where we indulged in a little late lunch. While each of us found something good to eat, it was Brandi’s order of beer batter corn dogs that left us drooling. Most of all, I loved the vibe here – a penny covered floor in the entrance, crackling firepits on the back deck – all so cozy and welcoming. Exactly the kind of atmosphere you want to spend lots of time in.
Alas, time was not ours. We had only a couple of hours to rest up from our flights before dinner, so nap time filtered right into dusk, and we were off to The Sardine Factory.
This was one deceiving restaurant, kids. With the old sardine boat marooned at the entrance, I expected a crab shack type of place. Imagine my dismay when greeted with chandeliers and glassed atriums, a most exotic and stunning room for a private dinner. Scallops and calamari, ice swans filled with sorbet, creams and glazes as far as the eye can see…it was divine.
Morning came quickly and we were bussed off to the Dole Offices, where we had a roundtable discussion of what Dole is doing, where they are going, and how to best achieve their goals. Believe me when I tell you – they are very receptive to the consumers – of which we were. We sampled several of their new blends (I’m going to share my favorite here with you below), and then headed to Salinas, where we saw first hand the farming in action. But first – Lunch at La Bicyclette in downtown Carmel.
Sweet Lord. Carrot Risotto. Amazing pizzas. Bread that I could live on. And dessert – oh, the fruit tart and chocolate mousse. Swoon and die. Great ambiance here, too – rustic and oh-so-French, but unassuming and approachable. Perfect in so many ways.
After lunch, we made our way to Salinas. We passed through many varieties of lettuce fields, but iceberg is where we saw the workers really making it happen. Hand picked and washed on the spot, the iceberg is immediately hauled off to the nearby processing plant to be chopped, mixed, washed (3 times!), and bagged for delivery. From farm to store in less than 4 days! I thought it was very interesting to learn how they pumped the oxygen out of the individual bags and pump in nitrogen, which keeps the salad from dying as quickly…giving it a shelf life of around 2 weeks or more. I was also impressed to learn that the farms are actually family owned and operated, and many have been in business with Dole for decades. The farmers were very passionate about providing a high quality product, and in no way did I feel a huge “corporate” vibe. Tractors and men, picking lettuce, chatting as they worked, taking care of the job at hand. Very, very impressive.
Later that evening Dole presented us with a wonderful Salad Party – grilled salads, salad topped pizzas, seafood, you name it, all with a setting sun over Monterey Bay. It was a fantastic way to wrap up the day, and finally get to really chat with other food bloggers.
The final morning was filled with a tour of the 17 Mile Road, which led us to Pebble Beach and it’s picturesque golf course. And the homes! I can’t even begin to describe the palatial properties near the golf course. Money, money, money. I’d rather not think about it!
Now that I’m home, believe it or not, I am NOT “Salad-ed Out.” I thought I would be, but no! I , along with so many other bloggers fell in love with the Pineapple Vinaigrette that topped our arugula salad. Macadamias, mango and avocado rounded out this most flavorful salad – and I can’t stop thinking about it! So, I’m going to share it here with you. But first – check out Felicity Huffman! (She says my name! Can I pass out now?)
Because so many people are Salad Lovers, Dole has created not only the ultimate in pre-packaged, time saving salad kits, they’ve also created an exclusive community called the Salad Circle. The DOLE Salad Circle is the perfect destination for anyone who loves salad.
The Dole Salad Circle is members only – but any salad lover can join for free to get recipes, serving and entertaining ideas, tips from the experts and chat with RDs, chefs and even growers. To become an instant member, go to http://goo.gl/C90Lk) or the DOLE
Salads Facebook page.(www.facebook.com/dolesaladguide)
Before I go into details on the prize, let me give you the recipe for that amazing salad. It’s perfect for summer – so fresh!
Arugula Salad with Mango, Avocado, Macadamia Nuts & Pineapple Vinaigrette
1 bag Dole Arugula
1 mango, chopped
1 Avocado, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Macadamia Nuts
Salt & Pepper, to taste
For the Vinaigrette
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used Nudo)
1/2 cup Dole Pineapple Juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon shallots, finely chopped
Prepare the dressing by combining the olive oil, pineapple juice, lemon juice, and shallots. Whisk until well blended. Serve over arugula, mango, avocado, and nuts. Serve and enjoy!
You know you want in on what it’s all about. I can help you with that! For anyone who joins the Salad Circle and lets me know about it, I’ve got a great gift pack for you to share with your friends! You can throw a Salad Party in your own home to introduce yourself to all of the varieties Dole has to offer. There’s plenty of FREE Dole Coupons, Salad Circle Recipes and coupons to dish out to your guests, a nice big Salad Bowl, GREAT reusable shopping bags to give out (or hoard for yourself), bag clips (I love these) , and a Dole Apron. Just become a member, then come back here and let me know you did. That gains you an entry into this fun Giveaway!
For more chances to win, do any (or all) of the following, just be sure to leave a separate comment for each item you do:
- Tweet a link to this post on Twitter
- Share this post on Facebook
- Become a Fan of Doughmesstic on Facebook
- Follow Dole on Twitter
There you go – 5 chances to win a great, healthy prize pack!
Contest is open until May 23, 2012, 11:59pm EST. Prize is courtesy of Dole. Open to US Addresses only. Winner will be notified via email.
Disclaimer: I was invited on this trip courtesy of Dole. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.