Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sobeys Holiday Blogger Challenge

photo provided by Highroad
I got a very last minute invitation to participate in a Holiday Blogger Challenge at an event hosted by Sobeys.  I already had another event that I was planning on going to but couldn't pass up this invite to join an Ultimate Holiday Blogger challenge with fellow food bloggers and see what Sobeys had in store.

The event was held at the fabulous Cirillo's Academy on Dundas St. West on a snowy night this week.

I was the first guest to arrive, I left early because it was snowing and rush hour and I wanted to make sure I didn't get stuck in traffic.  I would rather have time then be stressed about being late.

I walked in to a beautifully decorated space with festive drinks like a cranberry and rosemary vodka I think.   I tried the pomegranate and mint gin drink and it was really pretty and great.  Really set the mood for the evening.

As other guests and bloggers arrived we were also treated to an amazing spread of cheeses and charcuterie that was explained by their "Cheese Strategist" as he was called.  There was also a "humane meat" expert there to chat with us about the Certified Humane meats that Sobeys carries.

We sipped on delicious drinks and nibbled on yummy bites while getting to know the Sobeys team, I have never met any of them before except for our new Food Revolution Ambassador Monika who wasn't there that night but other Food Rev Team members Carol (@greatmealideas), Mardi (@eatlivewrite) and Christine (@typeAconsult)  were there.   Thanks to Mardi for suggesting that they invite some of the Food Rev Ambassadors.

After we were warmed up we were then assigned the evenings mission of creating a Holiday dish from a "Chopped" style box of items.  No scary items in this box though.  We also had the use of a small pantry of extra Jamie Oliver and Sobeys brand items.

The Box contained the following items:
photo provided by Highroad
Certified humane Pork Loin
Wild rice
Orange Rosemary glaze
Dijon Mustard

I was paired up with Isabelle, a food blogger that I don't think I have met before although I may have seen her at other events possibly.  Mardi and Carol were paired up and Christine was paired up with a blogger from Halifax, and the other 2 bloggers I didn't know were paired up.  Sobeys people chose the match ups.
We had about an hour to make our Holiday Dishes so we got right on it trying to come up with ideas.  I immediately thought of a kale salad since it was fairly simple and would fit with the box of ingredients.
Isabelle thought that we should swap the wild rice for Arborio rice and I like it better so I agreed.  We skipped the cheese altogether.
I made a vinaigrette with the pomegranate juice, clementine juice, mustard and oil and white wine vinegar and we added some shallots.  It turned into a beautiful orange pink color that I dressed the chopped Kale with.
Then I coated the pork loin in mustard and salt and pepper and sliced it into medallions and tried to pan fry it.  I wanted to get a sear but the pan wasn't hot enough.  Before I fried the pork I toasted quinoa, then walnuts and then fresh rosemary in oil.  I took out all 3 things and placed to the side and then added the shallots and then the pork loin.  We added Sriracha to the orange glaze and I added that to the pan after I cooked the pork a bit.

photo provided by Highroad

After madly chopping things Isabelle made the risotto with white wine, and she added some of the walnuts, green onions and some of the kale.  Remember that Risotto takes 20 min of stirring so that took a big chunk of the time.    
We had a food stylist on hand who went around helping everyone with their plating.  We had to make 4 plates for the judges.  Since we had a salad, rice and the glazed pork she suggested we put the salad in a bowl on the plate.  We madly tried to get all the plating done at the last minute.  I wanted to cook the pork as last minute as I could to keep it warm.
We put the kale salad in the bowl and then topped it with the popped quinoa, clementine segments, shaved fennel, the walnuts and the pomegranate seeds.  Thinking about it now I think I would have plated it different to show all the elements better.
I spooned the risotto on the plate in a row and then placed 3 slices of tenderloin to the side of the rice.
We garnished with fresh rosemary and some of the fried rosemary and fresh ground pepper.   It needed more color on the rice and meat so I took some of the clementine slices and dragged it through the glaze sauce and put it on the plate.  It's hard to make it look and taste good with both hot and cold items on the same plate but this is what it looked like when we were done.

me and Isabelle with our finished dish. photo provided by Highroad

The judges really loved Isabelle's risotto but they found the plating not as great, saying they had to spin the plate around to eat it.   We were trying to keep the salad fresh and add height but I am sure there may have been better ways to accomplish it.  It seems like a few of the blogger teams made variations of the same kale salad so they didn't really say anything about the salad other than the fact that the fennel wasn't dressed because we placed it on top of the dressed kale.  We didn't want the dressing to turn it pink but I guess it would have tasted better if we had mixed it in.
Food is very subjecting.  Anyway.. an hour later we were done with the cooking challenge and since the judges ate the food we prepared they had lots of Sobeys food they wanted us to try.

We tried some Maple bacon which was a big hit with all of us.  They made little blt crostini's with it.
We also had little dishes of the 3 different ready to heat side dishes like a Spiced kale and Chick Pea Pilaf, Sweet Leeks and Mushroom Pilaf and Butternut Squash and Quinoa Pilaf.  I liked the Kale and Chickpea one the best, it had Moroccan seasonings.

I forgot to mention that we had some of their Maple Wood Smoked Trout on cucumber slices with cream cheese when we first arrived.  That was from Manitoulin Island  and made from sustainable trout.  It was delicious.

Then the meat guys had us taste some of their Pull-Apart Roast Pork and their Beef Pot Roast with a bit of potato on the side.

They finally rolled out dessert which I loved which was Jamie Oliver's Apple and Blackberry Crisp with Ice Cream on the side.  I love crisps in the winter months.

I have to thank Sobeys for being so generous and hosting a fun hands on event.  They even sent us home with a huge gift bag with some of the Sobeys Sensations products like Chocolate Truffles, Lemoncello Butter Fudge, Belgian Biscuit Collection and Compliments Dark Chocolate covered Marshmallows which I dived into and couldn't stop eating, I polished off that whole box in a couple of days.

You can participate in their Better Food For All Contest to win $1000 in Sobeys groceries by taking a photo of your best Holiday Dish and tagging it #betterfoodforall on Instagram and Twitter.
Follow Sobeys on Twitter here:  @Sobeys

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a lot of fun! I think you are ready for the Food Network now. Just wanted to mention that everyone is doing kale these days, so not surprising that the judges remained indifferent to it. Next time think in thinly shaved fennel with citrus and pomegranate. That was one of my signature salads when I worked at the hotel.


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