Remember how I teased you a few posts back about a fun bloggers trip I went on? Well, first I wanted to apologize for teasing you, that wasn’t nice 😉 But I know I can make that up to you with this post because now I can share all of the “juicy” details!! Last month California Strawberries invited me and a few other bloggers on a retreat to learn all about your favorite berry! It was an incredible experience, to say the least!
When I think of strawberries, I can’t help but be transported to summer and my childhood. We grew strawberries in our backyard, along with plums, peaches, nectarines, tangerines & lemons, but the strawberries were always my favorite. It seems as though summer wasn’t official until that first sweet bite. Strawberry juice drizzling down my chin, that’s when summer began for me! Being a native Californian I didn’t realize how good I had it until I packed up for college out of state and missed a few summers at home. Little did I realize back then just how important my beautiful state was in producing this luscious little berry!
The strawberry retreat started out in the heart of Cannery Row. We checked into the gorgeous Intercontinental The Clement in Monterey California for our stay. The ocean view from the rooms is stunning, and is a great reminder of why strawberries thrive in this area. The ocean helps create perfect moderate temperatures for these beautiful berries year round!
Shortly after checking in we were whisked away to Montrio for dinner. The talented Chef Tony Baker created so many heavenly dishes inspired by strawberries. Tony & his team work closely with local farmers, ranchers and fishermen making it possible for those who dine at Montrio to be able to enjoy only the freshest most sustainable ingredients. You can definitely tell that the food is farm to fork because it tastes so fresh & flavorful!
This strawberry panna cotta with scallop ceviche was a favorite appetizer of mine! The flavor combination was unreal! Have mercy! I had no idea how delicious these pairings would be together!
Here’s me and Kristen of Living Loving Paleo in true paparazzi style, trying to capture this delicious ceviche.
One of my favorite dishes of the evening was this dreamy crispy pork belly with balsamic compressed strawberries, poison oak honey and feta. Truly delicious! Look at that glistening pork belly! I mean, COME ON?! I dipped those luscious strawberries into that honey shortly followed up by a mouthful of that pork belly, flavor explosion!
The next day we had a delicious breakfast together where we learned some pretty amazing things about strawberries from the California Strawberry Commission. Like that fact that 90% of the Nations strawberries are grown in California, MIND BLOWN! Also, did you know that there is no such thing as a commercially grown GMO strawberry? Pretty awesome! Strawberry farmers are also very progressive and really care about our environment, they are leaders in research on ways to conserve water, protect soil and reduce fertilizer & pesticide use. More than any other commodity group in the world, they continue to invest millions of dollars in non-chemical farming methods, go strawberries!
After breakfast and a little strawberry 101 we headed out for an unforgettable tour around one of their strawberry farms. As you can see in the picture below, we got up close and personal on the farm. I have dirt on my knees from picking handfuls of berries right off the plants & photographing the beauty from the ground up! It was also so fun to have Michelle from The Whole Smith’s & Kristen from Living Loving Paleo on the trip, as well as many new blogger friends!
The tour took place at one their inspiring grower’s farm, Jesus Alvarado. Jesus’s story is one that will stick with you and warm your heart. He has worked with strawberries in some form since the age of 8, starting out in Mexico. Eventually he left his family to come to the U.S. were he worked for many years as a picker. He learned English along the way, and is now the owner of an 80 acre strawberry farm, Fresalva Berry in Salinas California. Jesus is an incredibly determined and successful man, yet very humble with a smile & laugh you won’t soon forget! Plus he still has mad picking skills, check him out in the video below. If someone thinks that picking strawberries isn’t a skill, I beg to differ! He reminds me a lot of my grandfather who has been a California farmer for most of his life. Both coming from humble beginnings and acquiring success from passion and hard work, men who respect the land and treat their employees like family. Jesus produces conventional as well as organic strawberries. His biggest client being one I’m sure you’re familiar with, Driscoll’s.
After the tour we were invited to a strawberry inspired lunch in Pacific Grove. Chef Jasmine Wolf drove her famous food truck all the way up from Los Angeles. I love that Jasmine tries to buy organic, local, and humanely-treated produce as much as possible. “Comfort food with a conscience” and that it was. We ate ribs with a strawberry bbq sauce (must recreate) which were to die for!
More ceviche and strawberries but this time with shrimp and served in these cute avocado boats! Almost too pretty to eat!
And these tempting stuffed strawberries with a balsamic reduction and bacon dust, BACON DUST my friends, Uh-May-Zing!
As if you needed more reasons to eat strawberries, here are some cool ones you may not know. Like did you know that one serving (about 8 strawberries) have more vitamin C than an orange? Put down that orange and grab your 8 a day! Also, one serving contains only 7 grams of sugar & 45 calories per cup! Strawberries tend to be thought of more as a dessert, but this yummy berry is perfect in many savory dishes as well. Not to mention, they’re a nutritional powerhouse packed with essential vitamins, dietary fiber, potassium and phytochemials.
Strawberries are so fun for a paparazzi to stalk This is what I looked like 98.9% of the time during the trip, thank you Robert Durell for capturing so many memorable moments, and a big thank you to my wonderful friends at California Strawberries and Modern PR for making this happen!
Check out this awesome video to see some fun moments from the retreat!
And of course I couldn’t leave you without a recipe including strawberries. With so many dishes on the trip including strawberries and balsamic vinegar I thought I’d create an easy recipe with a fun little twist. Strawberry balsamic coconut cream popsicles. Don’t let the balsamic vinegar scare you though, you won’t exactly taste it, but it undeniably brings out the sweetness in the berries. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do in our house!
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, thank you for supporting the brands that make Paleo Paparazzi possible! As always, all thoughts are 100% my own.