Dole Taste of Spain Salad Summit in Carmel, California

Fields and Mountains - The Lemon BowlEarlier this month, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Carmel, California to attend the Dole Taste of Spain Salad Summit with a group of fellow food bloggers. Anyone who knows me well knows that the farmer’s market is my “happy place” so you can bet I was thrilled to visit America’s farm stand: the lettuce fields of Dole.

Hiking Collage - The Lemon BowlWhen I arrived to the ranch, I had a bit of down time before the festivities began so I decided to earn a few calories and go on the “Huff N’ Puff” hiking trail that led around our host hotel, Carmel Valley Ranch. From vineyards to rolling hills to luscious landscaping, the view along the hike was absolutely breathtaking. After a long Michigan Winter of indoor workouts, I will never take an outdoor workout for granted. I loved every out-of-breath minute.

Poolside Collage - The Lemon BowlAfter my hike, I decided to hit the pool while I waited for the girls to arrive. As someone with a degree in Hospitality Administration who has worked in the hotel industry for over 10 years, I am admittedly not the easiest guest to please. Let me tell you: Carmel Valley Ranch did not skip a beat. Complimentary value-adds were prevalent everywhere you turned –  from the endless cold strawberry water poolside to nightly s’mores at the fire pit.

Liz and Sandy - The Lemon BowlSandy was the first to see me soaking up the sun by the pool and immediately came over to give me a giant hug. I can’t tell you how good it feels to finally meet someone you’ve admired and chatted with regularly over the internet for some time. There is just something about being face-to-face that is priceless.

Ali and Kristin - The Lemon BowlShortly afterwards, the rest of the gang arrived including Ali and Kristin pictured above. We decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and eat lunch poolside.  Don’t be fooled by the salads you see above – the best part of our meal were the giant platters of truffle fries and onion rings we shared.

Bloggers in Cabana - The Lemon BowlWe had a bit of down time after lunch so we threw on our bathing suits and jumped in the pool. Just kidding. We’re bloggers. We turned on our laptops and exchanged advice on photo editing and organizing our in boxes. Top left to right: Chung-Ah, Heidi and Ali. I love the sneaky look Heidi made for the camera.

Breakfast Collage - The Lemon BowlThe next morning started on a fresh note with granola berry parfaits, green power smoothie shots and arugula asparagus salad with a poached egg on top.  One note I loved about breakfast was a reminder to eat vegetables in the morning. We love bananas for breakfast but when’s the last time you added arugula or asparagus to that ever-so-important first meal of the day?

Tessa and DJ - The Lemon BowlAfter breakfast we hopped in the shuttle to head to the Dole iceburg lettuce fields. How adorable are these cuties, Tessa and Dawn? Oh and PS: Dawn goes by DJ. Swoon.

Lettuce Farmer - The Lemon BowlOnce we arrived to the field, we were greeted by third generation farmer, Mark Pisoni. One common misconception about large produce manufacturers is that they actually own the farms. That’s not the case, they simply purchase vegetables from the farmers who own the farms. I loved chatting with Mark and hearing about his family’s life on the farm. (Fun Fact: He has several children who live right there on the farm with him. Their favorite vegetable is broccoli and they prefer it steamed with butter.)

Workers in Field - The Lemon BowlEach head of lettuce is hand cut by the workers, many of whom have worked for Dole for 15-30 years. We learned that every morning they begin their day with a 15 minute stretch to keep their muscles loose and feeling good. They do the stretch again at the end of their shift. Breaks are also taken every two hours to give the workers a bit of down time. Little details like these are the reasons these workers stay with Dole.

Ladies in Field - The Lemon BowlI’m not sure what’s more beautiful – the background or the ladies above! Ok I do, the ladies win. But I also can’t get over those stunning mountains.  Above from Left to Right:  TessaNikkiChung-Ah and Dawn.

Lettuce Quiz - The Lemon BowlAfterwards we headed to a nearby Dole plant for a little lettuce pop quiz. I’ve never been so excited for a test in my life! That is until I realized there were over 25 types of lettuce we would have to match with their corresponding names. I can handle baby kale, mizuna and escarole. There were about 10 other varieties that I had never heard of let alone seen in person. Somehow I tied for 1st place but I’m thinking that was just luck.

Vineyard Lunch Table - The Lemon BowlLunch was hosted at Paraiso Vineyards located in nearby Monterey County. Let me tell you, I was pretty bummed to be pregnant and unable to sample any of the vino!

Paraiso Vineyards - The Lemon BowlFortunately, the food more than made up for my lack of wine tasting opportunities. Yet again we were treated to a delicious menu full of Dole produce picked just down the road.

Antipasta Platter - The Lemon BowlI’m pretty sure nothing makes me happier in life than a giant antipasto platter. Salty, savory and served at the perfect room temperature. I was in foodie heaven.

Wine Refills at Table - The Lemon BowlThanks to the endless flow of wine, I think we were all feeling pretty good that afternoon.

Back at the resort, we divided into teams for a hands-on tapas competition led by the chefs at Mundaka, a Spanish restaurant in Carmel. Lucky for us, we would be having dinner there later that evening.

Mundaka Sign - The Lemon BowlI’ve had the opportunity to travel to Spain so I know what authentic Spanish food should taste like. Mundaka nailed it in every way. They even took ingredients to new heights in ways I’ve never experienced before including the deep fried chickpeas with truffle salt. These salty little devils were served warm and I probably ate 1,000 of them. If you’re ever in Carmel, you absolutely must dine here.

For more incredible recaps from the trip, please check out these lovely sites from my friends who joined me:

Sandy, Reluctant Entertainer

Catherine, Rabbit Food for my Bunny Teeth

Chung-Ah, Damn Delicious

Kristin, Iowa Girl Eats

Heidi, Foodie Crush

Lisa, Authentic Suburban Gourmet

Tessa, Handle the Heat

Ali, Gimme Some Oven

Thank you again to Dole who invited me on this once-in-a-lifetime trip!


    • Liz DellaCroce says

      You’re so sweet Ali – thank you!! Sometimes I forget people actually read what I write – haha. See you in just a few days!!!

  1. says

    OMG, that shot at the table at the vineyard is incredible, I can feel the breeze in my hair just by looking at it! So jealous you got an extra night at the ranch, and it was sooo great finally meeting you in person and seeing what a true gem of a person you are. Next time we’ll be getting in that pool for sure. XO

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      I love that photo too!!! Honestly, there were so many idyllic settings and experiences – we are lucky ducks. So great meeting you in person Heidi!! I can’t wait to see you again – hopefully soon and hopefully with a plate of onion rings in front of us. :)

  2. says

    It was so wonderful to finally meet you, Liz. And 2 times in 1 week, from CA to FL – with so much wonderful warm sun! Great recap, too. What an awesome trip. I had so much fun and learned so much with Dole, in an incredible setting. TGIF!! xo

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      I know – it was such a fun week of trips!!!! So great to finally meet you in person Brenda!! Happy Friday!

  3. says

    Oh wow looks like you had an amazing trip! I remember following you (and others) on instagram while you enjoyed the trip! Loved learning about the farmers!

  4. says

    I attended that event last summer and it truly changed my life. It there that I got the inspiration to start doing my website full time. It was really by meeting and communing with fellow food bloggers (for the first time really).

    OMG and the Carmel Valley Ranch is so divine. LOOOOOOOVED it :)

  5. says

    Thank you for the nice email and pics. of everyone. So nice to see. Have a wonderful weekend and thanks again for sharing.


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