Category Archives: Travel

2016 #FWCon Recap

Buckle up folks, because this might just be the longest post I’ve ever written on my personal blog, like EVER! LOL! But, it’s not my fault, that’s just how much was packed into my one weekend at the Food Wine Conference. Enjoy the read…

Although the ambassadorship did score me the awesome deal of a discounted ticket, this did not affect this recap of the conference. All opinions below are my own!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 Food Wine Conference put on by Sunday Supper Movement hosted by the fearless leader known as Family Foodie aka Isabel Laessig. Not only did I simply attend, I got to attend as a brand ambassador for FeedBlitz which is a kick ASH ad-free email service perfect for Bloggers looking to grow their brand.

Score a FREE 30 day trial of FeedBlitz here:http://bit.ly/AGFeedblitz
Score a FREE 30 day trial of FeedBlitz here :http://bit.ly/AGFeedblitz

 

food wine conference 2016The weekend began innocently enough with my arrival at the stunning Rosen Shingle Creek hotel. If you have never stayed there, I highly recommend it for Disney and Universal Studio visits. It’s gorgeous. Ya know, if you can afford it! Luckily, we had a group rate 🙂

After checking in, my roommate and I quickly set up shop. We created an instacooler in one of our sinks and I had brought along a minibar in a bag filled with snacks to avoid any ill-advised overpriced purchases. Here’s the cooler and below is what was in my minibar bag:

2016_FWCon_1011 2016_FWCon_1015Once our room was all set up, it was conference time! First up, registration and mingling with CK Mondavi wines. Here’s me with the biggest wine glass I’ve ever seen in my life:

2016_FWCon_1021Once we’d wined a little it was off to the Florida Milk Spa! I rather enjoyed this! They allowed us to make Greek Yogurt masks, gave us a bottle of lavender scented milk bath and there was even a milk bar. I didn’t drink the milk, but everyone said it was really yummy!

2016_FWCon_1025At the conclusion of the spa time, I headed back to my room to drop of my swag bag. Although I had it in a cart instead of carrying it on my shoulder this year, my roommate wanted to drop them at the room before heading out to other festivities, so I complied. We hurried to the room and then hurried back to the end of the Strawberry Reception hosted by Florida Strawberry Grower’s Association. Luckily, even though the reception was all but over, they still had some of those delicious milkshakes which I thoroughly enjoyed.

2016_FWCon_1038Once I sucked it down, it was off to the Taste of Rosen Shingle Creek to try some miscellaneous food items. As a blogger I’m embarrassed to report I didn’t get any decent images at this event. For my next conference I’m bringing a better camera and/or an external flash! This was the end of “day 1”, but there was still much fun to be had!

Onto day two…

Day two was filled with classes and information. I did get a cool pic with Food Network Star Donatella Arpai


and I met some awesome people! I even got a yummy “around the world” lunch by the folks at Idaho Potatoes complete with my own personal Spuddy Buddy, but, the highlight of my day was….

Mac and cheese bar with @cabotcheese at @foodwinecon!!!! #thisisiwhyiblog #baconbliss #bloggerlife #FWCon

A photo posted by Ashley Grant (@famousashleygrant) on


Oh my goodness! A mac and cheese bar. Why was THIS my highlight of the day? Because mac and cheese PLUS bacon equals heaven. If you can’t understand that, you can’t sit with us! (us being me and my many personalities! hahaha)

Moving on…the end of the day brought the wine to the food wine conference and CK Mondavi did not disappoint! Overall the dinner was a fabulously fun experience and I loved the folks I got to sit with.

The after party was a VIP experience poolside, but I confess I didn’t partake in it very much. So, I’ll wrap with day two by saying this – It was a day of fun, food, wine and truths, and I am grateful for the experiences I had and the lessons that came from them!

Day 3, The Final Day

Day 3 was spent mostly at the Rosen  College of Hospitality. There was a fun brunch by the golf course prior to that, but it was a little too sunny for my taste. I was melting! The bacon and waffles were delicious though!

Onto the College of Hospitality – The morning started with a cheese lesson from Cabot cheese. Man oh man! The pairings they created with the cheeses were out of this world! I was so amazed by all the things I never thought to do with cheese, and can’t wait to play with my food now that they have schooled me. They even gave us a copy of their cookbook and I’m looking forward to exploring it.

Anywho- during the tasting my bloggy friend Tracy and I had a crazy urge for a soda take over so we slipped out to the vending machines. Both her and I won steaks during our expedition! Yep, the awesome people from Certified Angus Beef had been hiding these little cows all throughout the conference and if you found one that said “you win steaks” you won! I found a cow, and then Tracy found a cow in one innocent trip to get our carbonation fix! Amazing! Oh, and I scored an extra soda when two popped out of the machine instead of one. I was on a roll!!!

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After the cheese it was time to go to class. I enjoyed the Podcast class with Carole Sanek and Josh Elledge, but felt the class was too short. Can’t wait to learn more from them now that the conference is over.  Once class was over, this happened:

Before the craziness ensued! #teamcakeordie #FWCon #hashed #gonnawin @wishfarms

A photo posted by Ashley Grant (@famousashleygrant) on


I have never pretended to be a chef or even a decent cook, but when you’re asked to be in a #hashed competition not once, but twice, you accept! My team was called Cake or Die and although we didn’t win, it was the most intense competition I think I’ve EVER been in! It was nuts, it was crazy, but above all – IT WAS FUN!!!!!!!!!!

The competition was perhaps the most fun I had all weekend and I sincerely hope that Isabel and the team behind the conference make the #hashed competition a staple of every conference going forward.

The rest of the day consisted of another class, lunch and then an amazing presentation by Denise Vivaldo and Kita Roberts on food styling and photography. Finally, the weekend was over and it was time to go home. I argued with myself all weekend as to whether I not I would attend in 2017, but after digesting everything that happened this year, I sincerely hope that I will be a part of next year’s Food Wine Conference event in some way! I have even inquired about potentially being on the planning committee, so we’ll see what happens next.

All in all, the conference was a rewarding experience. Although there are some things I would have done differently, I’m exceptionally grateful for the lessons I learned and the relationships I made and/or renewed. I’ll post some additional things on the conference later, but for now, I think that wraps up my wild and eventful weekend at the 2016 Food Wine Conference!

Now, I want to hear from you. Did you go to Food Wine Con? If so, leave me a comment with your favorite part of the conference! And, if you were there, follow me on my social channels of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn, and I PROMISE to follow you back 🙂

Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas – Resort Review

Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas
photo courtesy of Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas

On September 26, 2015 I got to stay at the Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas for one night. The resort did accommodate me with a complimentary stay, but this did not impact my review and all opinions are my own. For my full disclosure policy please click HERE.

I knew I was going to be visiting the Disney area for the weekend of September 26, 2015 because I wanted to do a bar hop similar to one that some of my pals on facebook have done annually for the past few years. They call it the “Happiest Hour on Earth” and during this bar hop they visit several of the Disney hotels and have an adult beverage at the bars of each location. Knowing that by recreating this for myself and my husband it would mean lots of drinking and being the responsible (sometimes) adult that I am we decided it would be best to stay the night in the Disney area to avoid potential DUIs, accidents or other drinking and then driving issues. Enter Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas!

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Have a drink you want me to try or a product/event/service/place you want me to review?

Contact me HERE! I’m PR friendly!!

Located a short drive from Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas offers a complimentary shuttle to the Disney area. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to get on said shuttle which meant that my husband officially became the designated driver for the day and night, but we were grateful for the night’s stay anyway because by the end of our adventure we were so tired that the thought of driving all the way back to Tampa exhausted us even more.

Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas 2

Anywho, onto the pros and cons of the resort:

PROS:

  • we got a kick ASH two bedroom townhouse to stay in for the night
  • Gated community so you know you’re going to be safe for the night!
  • The AC worked great and there were fans in the rooms for awesome circulation
  • super comfy beds and pillows!!! I forgot where I was and slept so well!
  • The toiletries were Neutrogena products and they smelled good and left us squeaky clean
  • The property felt more like homes than a hotel
  • Great kitchen complete with stovetop, microwave, dishwasher, full fridge, pots & pans, plateware, glassware, utensils and more that would have made for an awesome long stay away.
  • Hairdryer in the bathroom
  • Iron and ironing board
  • High-speed Internet access included with resort fee
  • Non-smoking property- LOVE this because I hate me some cancer sticks ya’ll!
  • Friendly staff
  • restaurant located on site
  • Pool on site
  • Coin laundromat on site
  • Gym on site
  • Check out full list of hotel and room amenities here.

 

CONS

  • small bathrooms – we had to close one of the bathroom doors just to comfortably sit on the toilet
  • small shower and the water pressure was low, but at least the water was hot! (more than I can say for some of my showers at home)
  • the hot tub was under construction, but given that the weekend we visited it was kind of rainy this didn’t affect our stay
  • Breakfast is not included with your stay
  • We did have a strange thumping that wouldn’t stop in our first room, but the management quickly moved us to another room after discovering we had a problem with the first one and all was well after that!

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Overall, our stay at the Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas was exceptionally pleasant. Other than our need to move to another room, I honestly can’t complain about the property. It was nice that it didn’t feel like a hotel and that the staff was so friendly. I would definitely recommend this property if you’re coming to Disney or just to Kissimmee for the weekend or longer. Discounts are available for AAA members, AARP members and government personnel. *Frugal tip- Save money by bringing another couple with you and splitting the nightly fee! There are also three bedroom villas available for larger parties.

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The Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas is located at:
4787 W Irlo Bronson Hwy
Kissimmee, Florida
Phone number: (407) 997-3300

Have a drink you want me to try or a product/event/service/place you want me to review?

Contact me HERE! I’m PR friendly!!

A Few Reasons to Use a Travel Agent for Your Travel Needs

 

 

If you have travel in your future I would like to suggest you use your local travel agent for all of your travel needs. In 2012, seven out of 10 travelers booked their own rooms and flights online, per eMarketer (source). Here are just a few problems with this:

1. You are working with robots instead of live people who can answer questions for you

2. You have no one to call in case something goes wrong!

3. It’s more difficult to change your plans should you desire to

4. A travel agent can make suggestions you may have never thought of

5. In booking online you are left to research everything on your own and may not even have anything but a destination in mind when you begin…

Worried about pricing? Think online sites are cheaper? Not only do many travel agents price match, they are there for you every step of your travel adventure. If you need to make travel plans, book through a travel agent, not one of those online sites that could screw you with the fine print!