Project Food Blog 2010: Road Trip

I was thrilled on Friday to learn I had advanced to Round 6 of Project Food Blog!  From over 1900 original contestants, 600 entered the first challenge and now we are down to the final 60. Thank you so much for reading and voting and commenting – it really means so much to me 🙂

It was quite serendipitous that Project Food Blog’s Challenge 6 coincided with a real road trip. To speak at a conference. At Niagara Falls. Which got me thinking.  So I hereby present Fiesta at the Falls: Rethinking conference food.

If I say “conference food”, what comes to mind?  Bad coffee, soggy wraps, packaged cookies, overly sweet juice… and I could go on and on.  When I was in Philadelphia this past summer for two back to back conferences over 10 days, I was so pleased to have a little free time to get out and explore some of Philly’s good eats because the conference food was driving me up the wall.  In small doses, it’s fine. For that long, it’s not.  Reading the challenge prompt, I immediately knew that I wanted to pack a picnic for two which my very good friend and I would enjoy overlooking the Falls in our “Fallsview” room.

For this challenge, you’re tasked with creating a delicious meal that will travel well and still look great.  You need to whip up a entree, side, drink, and dessert to enjoy after hitting the road. Be sure that your meal fits inside the Project Food Blog Road Trip cooler.

When I was planning this menu, my mind wandered to a Mexican theme.  So often, conference food is bland and tasteless, I guess in an attempt to appeal to the masses and not offend anyone’s tastebuds with anything too “exotic”.  I wanted something light and tasty with a bit of punch that I could prepare in advance and that would travel well.  I took my inspiration from Food and Wine’s Mexican Cocktail Party and this month’s Macwteets (calling for pink macs) and International Incident Party, calling for us to cook with lavender helped me plan one of two desserts.

Surprisingly, my seemingly thousands of Tupperwares fit into the PFB cooler, bulging though it was!  And you know, who doesn’t travel with a Microplane?

My food stayed in my work fridge all day and was fine after the nearly 3 hour trip (ugh, Friday traffic) to the Falls.  Upon arrival at the hotel, said cooler was pleased to see that our “Fallsview” room, did indeed have a dramatic backdrop…

 So I set to work organising the room whilst Edie, my friend and roomie (she was also in Philly with me!) headed out to investigate conference registration.

You *all* totally carry table linen and crockery in your luggage, right?

And, erm, a Magic Bullet?

This Pomegranate margarita recipe did not call for the drink to be blended with ice but the Bullet was on my desk when I was leaving work on Friday and made its way into my bag.  It was a good call and this is one I will be making again.  Am not a huge tequila fan but the Cointreau (yes, I transported the Cointreau in a Mason jar. Totally normal, right?) and the lime zest I added took the edge off it and it was a great Friday night cocktail!


Next up, chunky guacamole with cumin. The avocados rested on my pillow whilst I was getting organised. Never mind chocolates, how about a turndown service offering made-to-order guacamole?

Love chunky guac and this one has just the right amount of spice from the jalapeño and warmth from the cumin…

As we enjoyed our drinks and guacamole with chips, we admired the dramatic view outside…

Made in advance gazpacho, literally took two minutes to plate and serve – my kinda soup!  I was inspired by the heirloom tomatoes we had received last week…

This recipe was really interesting, and included celery, Worcestershire and cucumber which I have never used in gazpacho before.  It’s a winner, from Simply Recipes.

Next up, my version of an interesting conference wrap – Mexican rice, bean and turkey salad in corn tortillas. And yes, that’s the same turkey leftover from Canadian Thanksgiving that I used in my last PFB entry. Do I get extra points for getting creative with leftovers two weeks in a row? 😉

And you know, we kinda sorta did some work too…

Oh that wine? Yep, that even squeezed itself into the PFB cooler at the last minute too. It wasn’t cold when we arrived so we MacGyvered an ice bucket..

(who needs a garbage can anyway….?)

All right. Onto dessert.  Brownies, as we all know, travel well.  Macarons, on the other hand, need a little bit of Parisian TLC…

Yes, the macarons I made for this month’s Mactweets fit in that gorgeous Ladurée box I was given by a parent of one of my students (yes, they know me well!) These are pink for October Mactweets macarons filled with lavender and lemon buttercream for the International Incident Lavender Party! I normally don’t combine challenges but they seemed like the perfect addition to any road trip…  Edie also happens to be a huge fan of macarons so I knew she would appreciate them!

Yay! After last month’s Mactweets disaster, I found my feet again!!  These were exquisite!  I had not baked with lavender before and was wary as it can be overpowering. This buttercream used only a tiny amount of finely ground lavender to which I added some lemon zest: délicieux!

Onto the brownies.  When I was searching for recipes online using chili, I went with this one from Serious Eats because the picture showed a lovely fudgey, moist brownie, unlike the dry squares that pass for brownies at conference dessert tables..

This is one amazing brownie recipe – the middle is moist and fudgey, just the way I like it.  The chili and cinnamon are subtle and not overpowering and I can imagine this would be lovely with a dollop of whipped cream.

Of course after all that frenzied preparation and gazillion Tupperwares in action, there was the unfortunate task of washing the dishes. But even that was more fun when you got to do it in the bathroom with the hairdryer (geez, why didn’t I think of that to dry them???) and various phones, laptops etc. plugged in nearby.  (Side note: What is *with* hotels not having enough electrical outlets?)


Leftovers for breakfast!

With a view!

This meal was not only a lot of fun to prepare but it was light, fresh and healthy –  certainly the best meal we ate during the conference.  The view wasn’t bad either…

If you liked my Fiesta at the Falls: Rethinking conference food,  I would love your vote to move on to Round 7 of Project Food Blog, where we have to bring a recipe to life through a video.   I have a *perfect* recipe to showcase from my blog archive…  Voting will be open at 6AM Pacific Time on Monday, October 25th until 6PM Pacific Time on Thursday October 28th.  Click here to vote! Many thanks for your continued support.

* Don’t forget to check out what everyone else brought to the International Incident Lavender Party here.

** Did you know? Jamie Oliver is speaking in Toronto on November 18th.  Thanks to The Art of Cooking, I am able to offer a discount to you, my readers, of $10 per ticket (more if you purchase more than 5 tickets).  Click here for the special promotion code to be applied to your ticket price.  Don’t miss this event – I saw Jamie speak last year and it was inspirational to say the least. It inspired me to start Les Petits Chefs, for one…

81 thoughts on “Project Food Blog 2010: Road Trip”

  1. What a journey and love that view! Really appreciate that you still thought about the lavender party 🙂 Your macarons are getting better and better and better! Onwards to round 7!

  2. Love this idea! So often, as you said, conference food is terrible…this, however, looks AMAZING! Great job!

  3. Wow what a challenge! But you totally pulled it off! I am in awe… love the colour contrast of the pink and purple of the macarons… so pretty!

  4. That’s quite a project Mardi! Well done, and good luck. Getting into the 60 is an achievement, and I love the way you are going! Love the pretty in pink feet, flavours and all! Charming & délicieux! Thanks for joining us at MacTweets despite your packed sched!

  5. I LOVE your idea for this challenge. What a great idea to create delicious and exciting food in the middle of bland conference meals. And I absolutely love that you chose a Mexican theme, creative and tasty! The view from your room is beautiful too, the perfect setting! Fantastic job. 🙂

  6. I wish I was at your conference to taste all those gorgeous dishes you prepared! It would definitely have been a highlight for all (who doesn’t love something delicious and uplifting at a conference?) And the macarons you made for the IIP are just lovely. I adore the pastel colours!

  7. What a fantastic view from your hotel room – lucky you! What a way to be resourceful in the hotel room! That meal looks great and I am amazed you fit it all in that bag! Great job! And congrats for making it to round 6!!

  8. Wooow, this all looks amazing! I’ll have to try some of these recipes out. Oh, and I’d stay at any hotel that offered guacamole turn-down service 😉 …Good luck!

  9. Everything looks totally delicious and the view is stunning to say the least. So sorry to hear you’re weren’t feeling well this weekend- I wish you a speedy recovery so you can get ready to make your video 😉

  10. My hat is off to you, Ms. Mardi of Many Hats- one wonders where on earth you find the time. Love that you use the resources available and you make the best of every situation. The setting is remarkable, and like others have said before, killing 3 birds with one stone is no small feat.

  11. And youwere worried about the photos- they came out great Mardi ! Again bravo on another challenge , can’t believe that you got all that in the cooler but what a box of treats! I’m very jealous of Edie ! Good Luck on your video

  12. Wow that is some stunning view! I would love to see the Falls! And I love the way you combined all of these challenges, very creative. And yay gorgeous pink macs in wonderful flavors. Think Pink! But the best? The brownies! They do look divine! Great road trip and wonderful picnic meal!

  13. Congrats on getting this far, the tour looks fantastic! Great photos too. All the best for the next round, I’m looking forward to seeing this video

  14. What a fun hotel room picnic!
    I hate normal conference food, especially when they force whole boxed lunch on you that includes all kinds of nasty things no one wants to eat, leaving stacks of those behind afterward.
    Looks like you chose food that travels well or could be prepared on the spot (very smart!).
    I looove the avocados on the pillows : )

  15. What a delectable moveable feast! Amazing work and it looks like delicious results. Mmmm. And the photos of the falls in the autumn are lovely. You have a new career possibility in boxed lunches with flair!

  16. You definitely must be the most popular conference roommate ever. Love the meal and the brilliant combo of challenges. And the macarons…oh so beautiful. Pink and purple loveliness.

  17. Great job, Mardi. I knew you’d have a spectacular backdrop when you tweeted you were headed for the Falls. They look amazing in Autumn. Lots of ingenuity in this post. What a wonderful treat for your travelmate and readers.

  18. Love Mexican! (coincidentally, I made Mexican meals 3 days this week due to finding Habanero Lime Tortillas at Trader Joes). It’s amazing how the macarons stayed fresh throughout the journey! Edie’s a lucky travel buddy!

  19. I’m the Edie in Mardi’s travels Being the consumer of above-mentioned dinner, I cannot, in all honesty, tell you my favourite morcel of the evening. Everything was absolutely delicious ! And did the meal (and view) look that spectacular? You bet! All I can say is….Vote for Mardi !! …and yes – I’m one lucky travel buddy.

  20. You are as awesome as the view you had! Such a creative and innovative picnic, complete with a tablecloth that compliments the *mexican bean & rice salad* so well. Everything looks like it would have been such a delight to eat. Can’t get over how pretty your macaroons are. Looking forward to casting my vote for you in this and subsequent rounds 🙂

  21. Wow, that’s so impressive. Good for you! I have my fingers crossed that you make it through to the next round.

  22. Pingback: Round up #8 - International Incident Lavender Party | Addictive and consuming - A Melbourne food blog
  23. Wow girlfriend, what a feast. I love that you thought of the relaxing beverages. Who doesn’t need a good bevvy after a hard day at a conference too. You’ve got my vote Mardi & congrats for getting through to the lofty levels of the competition huh. Keep rising to the occasion & we’ll keep cheering you on OK!!

  24. Hi Mardi – oh how beautiful the Falls are! I only experienced them as a child. Such a great entry in the challenge. You gotta have some zesty foods to liven up the trip. Good luck!

  25. Traveling with a microplane? You are hard core 🙂 What a lovely road trip menu – better than any conference food, I’m certain! And it was great to get a peek at the falls, I haven’t been there in over a decade!

  26. Haha! Have Magic Bullet, will travel.

    This post has far too many things for me to be jealous about! Why don’t I get to go to conferences in places like this? (erm, I guess Lake Louise and Santa Fe are pretty sweet places, but I didn’t have a view like this!) and oh god, I know the pain of bad conference food. Bad Mexican conference food, even, in Santa Fe, which makes me pine for your cooking even more 🙂

  27. As a kid we lived in Detroit, MI. I have such memories of visiting Niagra Falls! As an adult I have equally fond memories of chilling the wine in the waste can! Ahhh. GREG

  28. Great post! The food looks delicious, and I love your idea of re-imagining conference food. Nicely done. Those views are incredible. I voted for you again!

    Good luck! Hope to see us both in round 7!!! =)

  29. you are inspirational, seriously. i wish you had been my room mate in college. 🙂 a few things i loved in this post: the avocados with the pillow backdrop and the gorgeous macarons – you are getting really, really good at making them!!

  30. What beautiful views! I have never been but would love to. Especially if you are bringing the food. Nice job. You have my vote.

  31. I don’t know how you do it, but wow. Great work again for the challenge! I’d love a little of everything, please!

    I think I need to re-think about how I pack for road trips and include the microplane and magic bullet. Hah. Oh, and go on a road trip with you, because damn, that is some road trip/conference food you have! Yummy!

  32. I LOVE this!! It’s such a great combination of something special, without being over the top, but incredibly easy to pack up!!

    I think you totally hit the nail on the head with this one. Absolutely looks like a fantastic Road Trip meals. Love it.

    You have my vote!

  33. I’ve only been to Niagara Falls once as a kid, but it’s still vivid in my mind.

    I’m a huge fan of gazpacho, too, and that looks tasty, and a great idea for a carry-along! (Voted!)

  34. PFB, MacTweets, & IIP – that’s so great that you were able to make all challenges and combine it in a wonderful picnic. That view is amazing, I bet it made your picnic more enjoyable. Been voting for you since the beginning and you don’t disappoint. Can’t wait to see your video. 🙂

  35. Loving the Mexican theme and what better way to start a conference weekend than with a bright & breezy cocktail?

    Would love to see you on video, so holding thumbs that you advance!

  36. I cannot believe you managed to cram all of those goodies in that cooler! Did the microplane cause the alarms to go off at the airport?
    Great “road” food. I bet you had a lot of envious colleagues at the conference:)
    Good luck!

  37. I realise I haven’t commented on this post. BAD FEEDER. But you know that I think this entire entry was really wonderful – the food looks delicious and I am so impressed that you pulled this all of whilst not feeling very well (and still not feeling well…?).

    You are a super woman, my dear, with awesome talent and creativity. Don’t let the man get you down because you rawk. Well done and good luck my lovely 😉

    Jax x

  38. I’m with you on conference food, I think the only conference I’ve ever been to with decent food was Foodbuzz Festival last year. Your spread looks awesome and that view is amazing. Good luck!

  39. Love, Love,LOVE your post! Love the pics of the falls- haven’t been there since I was 12! You pack a picnic like I do! I once hand carried a peach tart to Shakespeare in the park because it didn’t fit in my picnic basket! Good luck this round- love reading your posts!!! PS- the macarons look incredible- I need to learn how to make them as they are naturally gluten-free!

  40. Congratulation for making to challenge #6!!! You’ve got my vote again this round! Congrats & Best wishes to making to next round 🙂

    Have a great week

  41. How strange is it that on my last weekend away the BF and I had a Mexican themed night??? Our menu was almost identical!! Except yours looked much more professional. We added a ceviche too which was AMAZING. Those brownies look ridiculous….(-ly good). PS-next time you do guacamole, try Stacy’s pita chips from Costco….Good luck on PFB!!


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