In case you have been stranded in a jungle without internet connection for the past week or so, we spent a couple of days last week in Des Moines, IA at the test kitchens of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. We had so
much fun with the kind folks from both Better Homes and Gardens
, and the crew from NMS
who helped arrange the event. Not to mention our fellow Cook-Off Companions
! Here’s some highlights:
First of all, one of the best parts of the trip for Kate and me was to hang out with each other! I live in Idaho and she lives in Louisiana so we don’t get to see each other in person very often. One of the most commonly asked questions of the trip was, “How did you guys end up starting a food blog together??” We must have told that story 30 times!
Sara on left, Kate on right
(In case you don’t have pictures of us up around your house to remember who’s who…)
When we arrived in Des Moines we got a quick rest at our hotel and then jetted off to the BHG Test Kitchens where we met Test Kitchen Director Lynn Blanchard. The famous kitchens didn’t disappoint! Check out this gorgeous space- it’s called the Show Kitchen.
Kate and I decided when we grow up we want to
live/hang out for fun work at the BHG test kitchens. For one thing, it’s full of beautiful things, like this:
Even their books are beautiful.
If I’m ever rich and famous I’m going to employ someone to be my full time wrap-all-of-the-books-in-my-house-in-white-paper wrapper upper. Just because it looks awesome.
And this might actually be the best part. If you work at the BHG test kitchens, you get all kinds of fun things, like a computer, a stapler, free pencils, full use of the copy machine…oh, and a gourmet kitchen.
That’s our amazing new friend Julie. She was assigned to
help us out for the day and we got to invade her space! Seriously. That’s her office
. How cool is that?! Julie was so fun to hang out with, and we quickly found we had a lot in common. All three of us are grads from the same university
! She also has a sister named Kate and a sister named Sara. What can I say, it was meant to be!
After we took a look around the test kitchens we headed out to dinner at a great restaurant called Django
. “All French-No Attitude” great tag line. We feasted on all sorts of deliciousness.
That top left picture is actually samplings from the appetizers
. Sure wish I had worn something with an elastic waist! I had Parmesan Encrusted Chicken, Kate had that succulent Fillet, and she Jenny and I all got different desserts so we could try them all. Kate’s Crème Brûlée was probably the favorite (as evident by the fact that Jenny
and I stole it when Kate was immersed in deep conversation and finished off half before she noticed. Dessert theft: one of my many talents).
The next morning, we gathered for a fantastic breakfast in the test kitchens. I loved that the food we ate was all made from the new BHG Cook Book! It was amazing. I can’t wait to make this rolled egg souffle and share it with you guys. They served it with some sort of awesome cheese sauce I could have drunk from a shot glass.
After full tummies (again, why didn’t we bring the elastic pants?!), we had time in our kitchens to prep for the cook off. Along with our awesome burgers
, we also made a fresh corn with smoked paprika butter, and roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes
. We had to do corn–we were in Iowa for pete’s sake! It was so fresh and delicious. (Note to self: add refrigerator drawers to dream kitchen list…)
After prepping we took a break for lunch. Again, awesomeness from the BHG cook book! These roasted veggie sandwiches were amazing.
And so were these fudgy brownies with macaroons on top.
We were too busy to take pictures during most of this part, but you can see tons of video here
After our dish was finished we threw it on a plate (literally. We were down to the last second! Wasn’t our best plating job, but hey, it tasted awesome.) and were off to face the judges.
That’s Richard Swearinger Senior Food Editor at BHG
, Catie Bielecki Digital Editor
, and Deb Wagman who writes the BHG Live Better Blog
The judges were kind. I was especially excited that they loved our tip about cooking bacon. You can see here in the judging video where they comment on how perfectly crisp it is.
After some final comments the cook-off was officially over. So much fun! Since we were at the BHG buildings, we got to sneak off for one of my favorite parts of this trip–a tour of their photo studios.
“Studio” isn’t really the right word because it’s a huge space. As a food blogger, I was in heaven. Check out some of the props they have for photo shoots:
Note I said “some” of their props. Besides dishes and place settings they have endless back drops of doors, windows, walls, furniture, surfaces, etc. So they can pretty much create any room they want. It was pretty amazing.
We even got to walk in on an actual food shoot!
We had a blast meeting new friends. I’m pretty sure we’d all hang out if we lived in the same neighborhood. And we’d have killer dinner parties.
We have so many pictures from our trip that we’ll be adding them to our facebook
albums during the week so you can all take a peek!
Speaking of facebook, maybe we should give away some cookware right now–what do you think? Yes?? Okay! Head over there to the discussion tab (click here
) and someone will win a set of the Non-Stick Hard-Anodized! Hurry it’s a quick one, winner announced Wednesday!
To see the current Cook-Off Standings and vote for us, click here!