The Southern Baking Retreat: A Recap

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The whole biscuit bunch!

The whole biscuit bunch!

If you’ve been following Southern Bite for any amount of time, you know that the folks at White Lily and Martha White have been big supporters of the blog for some time.  You also know that I’m a big support of them, too!  In fact, White Lily has been the only self rising flour I use in my kitchen forever.  My mother and grandmother are the same way.  If you make biscuits, you know what I mean.  There’s just nothing quite like White Lily.  But back to the story…  Well, a  few weeks ago I was invited to their first ever Southern Baking Retreat.  Now, I’ll preface this by saying the invite included a seasoned Lodge cast iron skillet in the shape of a guitar.  Seriously, folks, how could I say no to that??  So last week, I and 9 other bloggers convened in Nashville for the Southern Baking Retreat sponsored by Martha White and White Lily.  It was nothing short of amazing!

We started the day Wednesday with lunch.  And lunch it was.  Linda Carman is the director of the test kitchen for Martha White (read more about Mrs. Linda here) and they always host the National Cornbread Festival and The National Championship Cornbread Cook-off.  Well, Mrs. Linda and her crew had prepared lunch for us that consisted of some of the winning recipes for the last several years.  Dessert was the winning recipes from the Martha White Muffin Mix Challenge.  It was amazing!  Be sure to check out the PDF with all the recipes (yep, they let us share all the recipes with y’all!)  My favorites have to be the Roasted Poblano Chicken Posole with Floating Corn Cake Islands, Buffalo Chicken Cornbread with Blue Cheese Salad, and the Luscious Lemon and White Chocolate Tart.   After lunch we learned more about the history of Martha White and their strong association with country music and artists like Rhonda Vincent.

After that we were whisked away to Rutherford Studio.  Mike Rutherford is an amazing photographer who has done work for presidents as well as clients like Jack Daniels (and of course Martha White).  He has an amazing studio that boasts a huge kitchen to accommodate the large scale food shoots that he is know for.

A view from above - Mike's studio is amazing!

A view from above – Mike’s studio is amazing!

Well, we got to take over the kitchen in a “Chopped”style cooking competition where we had to do the Martha White Muffin Mix Challenge.  We were paired up and had to create a dish using Martha White muffin mixes.  My partner, Celeste from Sugar and Spice by Celeste, and I created what we called a Red White and Blueberry Tartlette.  We used the Martha White Strawberry Muffin Mix along with some butter and roasted chopped pecans to create a crusty, cake layer that we then topped with a cream made with fresh whipped cream, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and fresh lemon zest.  We topped them with some macerated strawberries and blueberries.  Honestly, we were a bit intimidated by the challenge, but we were pretty happy with the outcome.  Southern Baking Retreat 16

Dinner that night was absolutely amazing.  As my buddy Brandie from The Country Cook put it, “it was like something out of a movie.”  We were offered drinks and appetizers (deviled eggs- mind you) atop a rooftop terrace overlooking Broadway downtown Nashville.  Dinner was an amazing salad, sweet tea brined roasted pork loan atop pimento cheese grits, molasses green beans, and decadent chocolate cake.

Appetizers

Appetizers

Rooftop dinner in downtown Nashville overlooking Broadway

Rooftop dinner in downtown Nashville overlooking Broadway

Dessert

Dessert

The real treat was the entertainment that followed.   Hall of Fame songwriters Tony Arata and Pat Alger joined us and played some of the hits that have made them famous.  The highlights include songs for Garth Brooks like “The Dance,” “The Thunder Rolls,” and “Unanswered Prayers.”    It was truly a moment of being among greatness.  These guys have written some of the biggest songs in history!  We even got serenaded by by the 5-time Grammy Nominated Queen of Bluegrass Miss Rhonda Vincent.  I got to have dinner next to her and let me tell you, she is just as sweet as her voice is beautiful.  It was one of those night that you just didn’t want to end.

AMAZING songwriters - Pat Alger & Tony Arata - They've written some fo the biggest hits for folks like Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, and Bonnie Raitt

AMAZING songwriters – Pat Alger & Tony Arata – They’ve written some of the biggest hits for folks like Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, and Bonnie Raitt

RhondaVincent

A little blurry, but that’s Brandie from The Country Cook, Rhonda, Tina from Mommy’s Kitchen, and me. Brandie and Tina might possibly be some of the coolest people ever.  Yep, I think they are!

The next day started with a bright and early trip to the Loveless Cafe.  And trust me, if you’ve never been… you HAVE to go.  They are kinda known for their biscuits, made with – you guessed it- White Lily flour.  So let me give you a little run down of how this went.  We each find our seat at this long table.  Each of the chairs are draped with a tea towel that says things like “I Love You Like Biscuits and Gravy” and “We Go Together Like Ham and Biscuits.”  We all find our seats, decide on beverages and then it starts.  First they bring out huge platters of biscuits along with sorghum molasses and their homemade blackberry, strawberries and peach preserves.  They were phenomenal!  Next we’re passing around huge bowls of fruit salad, then hashbrown casserole.  After that we had grits, country ham with red eye gravy, and bacon.  Then scrambled eggs.  Then FRIED CHICKEN!  It was, well… to use a word that defined much of the trip for me, bananas.  And I don’t mean there were bananas there to eat, that’s just the word that I used to describe the unbelievable amount of food we were being served.   It was bananas.  Seriously.

How neat is this tea towel!?!?

How neat is this tea towel!?!?

Famouse Loveless cafe biscuits

Famous Loveless cafe biscuits

That's a spead there, y'all!

That’s a spread there, y’all!

Yep, I said it.  Fried chicken for breakfast.

Yep, I said it. Fried chicken for breakfast.

Jesse bringing us fried chicken for breakfast!

Jesse bringing us fried chicken for breakfast!

Making biscuits at the Loveless Cafe

Making biscuits at the Loveless Cafe

After breakfast, we ended up back a Rutherford Studio to learn a little more about White Lily and to bake some biscuits.  That was a real blast!  We used 4 White Lily recipes (see the PDF for them all) to see how the differences in the type of flour and prep method can yield an entirely different end product.  I had the great honor of being able to make biscuits with Mrs. Linda (read more about Mrs. Linda here).  She’s the director of the test kitchen for Martha White and being able to bake biscuits with her is undoubtedly a highlight of the trip.  I’ve got a fun post coming up about biscuits making, too,  so y’all stay tuned.

Southern Baking Retreat 13

Mrs. Linda and our Touch of Grace biscuits.

The afternoon was spent with Southern Living Test Kitchen Director Robby Melvin.  It was so enlightening to hear how such an iconic brand like Southern Living develops and test the recipes that go in their magazines and other publications.  He was just filled with tons of knowledge.  I could have picked his brain all afternoon.

Our chat with Southern Living Test Kitchen Director Robby Melvin

Our chat with Southern Living Test Kitchen Director Robby Melvin

After an afternoon trip to tour the Grand Ole Opry, it was time to pack our stuff and part ways.  It was bittersweet as our small group seemed to have really connected.  I got to finally meet my blogging buddies Brandie from The Country Cook and Tina from Mommy’s Kitchen.  That was a really treat as we have “known” each other online for quite some time, but have never actually met in person.  I got to make a bunch of new friends too.  I’ve listed them and their blogs below.

grandoleopry

The folks from DVL (who handle media and advertising for Martha White and White Lily) did an incredible job putting the event together!  Lauren, Courtney, Andrea, Kristin, Mrs. Linda, Bonnie, Claire, Ronald, Erick – we can’t thank you all enough.  It was such a blast.  Y’all call me anytime.  Seriously.  Anytime. For real.  Call me…  Waiting for the phone to ring…. {strums fingers on his desk}

Here’s a fun video that DVL put together for us that captures the highlights.  The music, of course, is by Rhonda Vincent.

RECIPES: Want to check out all the great recipes that were a part of the Southern Baking Retreat?  Be sure to download this PDF with all of them!  Special thanks to the folks from Martha White and White Lily for letting us share them and a big thanks to DVL for putting them all together for us!

Other bloggers who participated (you’re gonna love them, too):
Tina Butler – Mommy’s Kitchen
Julie Chiou – Table for Two
Lindsay Landis – Love and Olive Oil
Jennifer McHenry – Bake or Break
Kelly Miller – Mostly Homemade Mom
Brenda Score – A Farm Girl’s Dabbles
Brandie Skibinski – The Country Cook
Robyn Stone – Add a Pinch
Celeste Ward – Sugar and Spice by Celeste

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Comments

  1. Dang it, Stacey! I don’t think I can TAKE IT! Ima just have to block you, Brandie and Tina out of my field of vision until I get this green monster off my back!

    I keed, I keed. Congrats to you all for getting to have such an amazing experience!

    MMMWAH!

  2. Man I wish I could have joined y’all! It looks like you all had a great time!

  3. Susan Broughton says:

    Stopped in to say hello was visiting from The Country Cook Brandi’s giveaway

  4. I LOVED your recap. Love the sweetness. And I am going to take a screenshot where I was referred to by you as “coolest people”. Because I feel I will need this to show people in my life that yes, I was once cool to someone. You’re the best Stacey. You are good people!

Trackbacks

  1. […] had thoughts of pimiento cheese grits in my head for a while before I went to the The Southern Baking Retreat when low and behold, what did we get served for dinner?  Of course!  Pimiento Cheese grits. It […]

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