The foodie gods must be looking out for me or in this particular case Mr. Paul Allen Smith, Bonnie Plants, and Ms. Bren from BG Gardens. A brief background: Bren, a dear foodie friend of mine had been gearing up for the world’s biggest Independent Garden Center Show IGC in Chicago. And this year was extra special since it was kicking of the big #gardenchat LIVE in Chicago event at the Peterson Garden Project. And, YES, I got to witness it all in its finest glory.
Between all this hustle and bustle, Bren in passing mentioned about this wonderful opportunity to experience IGC12 and visit Chicago by being sponsored by P. Allen Smith Group & Bonnie Plants. In all honesty, I am a cook not a gardener; well the only things I do grow are herbs which are an essential tool in my kitchen. Personally, for me it was about supporting the community and friends, namely #gardenchat to be precise. Little did I know, that I would win this giveaway. I can’t even begin to express my delight, I was going to Chicago, one of my favorite foodie cities in the US, attend IGC, and most of all I get to hang out with few of my favorite foodies!! Life is GOOD!
I hadn’t even digested this fabulous news, let alone buy my plane tickets when I got another email, this time from the CEO of P. Allen Smith inviting me to an exclusive, invite only, event hosted by P. Allen Smith and his partners at Chicago’s exceptional private venue The Chopping Block. Is this for real was all I could think? Yes, yes, yes!! I squealed like a little girl.
Enough of my rants, here’s my humble attempt at recreating this wonderful evening. Starting with Allen personally sharing few of his garden recipes by entertaining us with a cooking demo and ending our delicious evening on a high note with fabulous food, wine tasting, and cooking party hosted at The Chopping Block.
The party was held the opening night of IGC12. Everyone had been on their feet since dawn prepping for this expansive one of a kind garden show. Still, all the guests managed to show up dressed to kill, trickling in with exuberance. I was fortunate enough to make some new friends a day earlier at the live #gardenchat meet and was looking forward to getting more acquainted, after all it was a party. Everyone mingled through hors d’oeuvres and bottomless glasses of wine. Moving on to Allen’s cooking demo with non-alcoholic sangria and avocado salsa. After the demo, we had a choice of either joining the chefs of Chopping Block for re-creating the recipes we were going to enjoy that evening or join the elegant Ms. Hamann, wine sommelier for some wine tastings. Since, I cook nearly every day, I chose to join an intimate group for learning more about wines.
Ms. Hammann had chosen four distinct wines ranging from the ideal summer wine to the bold reds :
- El Hada Blanca
- Big Fire Pinot Gris
- Gougenheim Malbec
- Lehmann Layers
Our fabulous food was cooked by The Chopping Block staff including Chef Instructors: Jeff Adameck, Lucio Davila, Brian Ferguson and Sara Salzinski. All the recipes were provided by P. Allen Smith. Our fresh and flavorful delights included:
- Marinated Feta Bruschetta
- Asparagus with Horseradish Dip
- Black Bean and Hot Pepper Dip with Tortilla Chips
- Non-Alcohol Sangria
- Avocado Salsa
- Ginger-Garlic Shrimp with Steamed Rice
- Baked Chicken with Herb Sauce
- Greek Tomato Salad
- Tomato and Basil Pesto Pizza
- Sugar Snap Pea, Corn and Grape Tomato Pasta Salad
- Blackberry Crumble
- Dr. Clothier’s Pecan Praline Bread Pudding
To be honest, I had walked in slightly apprehensive, yes, me, and nervous. I walked out not only with a satisfied belly but with a happy heart. I can not begin to express how energetic and inspiring these gardeners were. Like Ms. Sherri mentioned, these truly are ‘the cream of the crop‘. They all welcomed me with open arms and most importantly open hearts. I left knowing that I had made friends for life.
Bringing friends together over delectable food and wine at the exclusive venue Chopping Block, how apt and thoughtful. Throw in a cooking party for gardeners in the mix, IS a recipe for success. Thank you kindly, Mr. Smith. The resonating sentiments for that evening were kindness, laughter, nurturing, and inspirational.
Big shout out to these beautiful people who made me part of their ever blooming gardening family:
- Carol and Kerrie – The Seed Keeper Co.
- Bonnie Plants
- Shirley Bovshow – Eden Maker
- Linda – Garden Girl
- Sheri Ann Richerson – The Experimental Homesteader
- Mimi San Pedro – P Allen Smith
- Susan Appleget Hurst – Cake in the Garden
- Mary Anne – Gardens of the Wild West
Brief introduction to my generous sponsors:
P. Allen Smith is an award-winning designer, gardening and lifestyle expert. He is the host of two public television programs, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home, P. Allen Smith’s Garden to Table and the syndicated 30-minute show P. Allen Smith Gardens.
Smith is one of America’s most recognized and respected garden and design experts, providing ideas and inspiration through multiple media venues. He is the author of the best-selling Garden Home series of books published by Clarkson Potter/Random House, including Bringing the Garden Indoors: Container, Crafts and Bouquets for Every Room and the recently published cookbook, Seasonal Recipes from the Garden inspired by the abundance of food from his farm and a family of great cooks.
Bonnie Plants is a family of gardeners who love to share the joys of vegetable and herb gardening with our millions of customers. Committed to green gardening, we provide eco-friendly gardening products that are safe for the environment and easy to use. Our biodegradable peat pots and fiber pots have already prevented millions of pounds of plastic from entering landfills. Our commitment starts at our headquarters in Alabama, where we employ green growing practices such as sustainable energy production, reuse, and recycling.
Next time you are in Chicago or are fortunate enough to reside there, stop by The Chopping Block. Located in the legendary art deco landmark, the Merchandise Mart, The Chopping Block is Chicago’s largest recreational cooking school and gourmet retail store, offering demonstration and hands-on cooking classes, as well as wine classes, private cooking parties and corporate team building events.