Do you know what I haven’t told you about yet? My amazing experience with the McCormick tour!
If you recall I headed out to Baltimore for FitBloggin a day “early” so I would be able to get in on this adventure. The lovely folks at McCormick were kind enough to open their doors to a special blogger event and as we traveled from the hotel to our destination, various tweets from @Spices4Life, the hashtag #GenFresh, and their very own @ChefMarkGarcia tempted us with what awaited our arrival.
Truth be told, there was a part of me that thought this was going to be a factory tour and we would see how the spices and extracts are bottled or distributed. Even this idea was exciting to me, but I was even MORE excited when we walked through the doors and a typical office environment greeted us. Well, typical if you work in a building with the most kick ass kitchens ever. Oh, can we say kick ass here? I guess so.
The moment the bus pulled up I was squealing with joy. No, really, other people stopped their conversations in the seats around me to look at me with bewilderment. We departed, entered the building and were lead into a large room and served lunch. Let me tell you, the sights and smells of this lunch, ooooh buddy! I truly believed we were VIP. Each card noted an in intricate blend of spices and base items to show the ease of at-home creations. One of the tweets indicated the chefs had been cooking ALL MORNING. Little did I know we would find out all morning was for quantity not quality. As in, these dishes were SUPER EASY to make!
After lunch we finished up the last of our meals while watching a presentation. Various people from the McCormick family spoke to us about the Institute and their roles. There are chefs who create various dishes and help improve their nutritional benefit by adding new, different or more spices. There were people who traveled and spoke, or simply researched trends. As I mentioned before, the most interesting thing to me was that while we were in their home base, McCormick has other spice institutes all over the world. They understand taste preferences and trends are not universal and they want to learn as much as they can from all areas.
The tour kicked off with us splitting into two groups. My group went to the various cooking and prepping demos first. We began with Chef Mark who was talking about veggie prep and I was FLOORED by how beautiful and easy it was to make some of the veggie dishes. I even asked him where those were at lunch time! Yum! The best tip he gave was for preparing food with oils. Instead of spreading the oil in the pan or over the food item, rub the food and oil in your hand for an even distribution, this also allows you to use less oil. Nifty, huh?
After Mark we went over to two more demos in the kitchen where I was distracted by the many amazing gadgets on the walls. To be honest I wasn’t paying as closely of attention as I should have been. I was so excited and overwhelmed by the visit. Much like the time I watched our local Chef Bill at the runners’ dinner party. We saw a nice risotto dish created and I’ve always wondered where people find the time…then I am reminded it isn’t too complicated.
Then it was time for a dessert break. I was broken hearted earlier because all three dishes had coconut. When I asked about it and they said they would make me something else, I sheepishly asked “Are you sure?” And they replied “We’re McCormick, I’m sure we can think of something”. How awesome is that reply? And find something they did! A delicious brownie with chocolate sauce and shortbread cookies.
All too soon we were lead back into our rooms and my group was now on a special mission. We were official taste testers! OK it wasn’t nearly as official as I’m making it out to be..hehe. Still, we took surveys and tested various apple sauces. I was amazed at how differently each tasted. The first was very powdery, like there was too much cinnamon used, or that it was one of those Mott’s kid’s packs someone tried to upgrade. The second sample was a much more even flavor. It was as if the apple sauce was homemade and the cinnamon blended in much nicer. Well, I found out the first one was regular sauce sprinkled with the “red top” cinnamon so many people have loved over the years. The second sample was the SAME SAUCE only it was saignon cinnamon from the gourmet line. Fancy. Lucky for me a full sized bottle was included in our swag bag. Who knew the girl who lives on beans & rice has expensive taste?
Our final stop was a presentation/interaction on the sense and how they play such an important role in our taste and enjoyment of food. Did you know you smell your food 2x? First on the outside by sniffing or whatever means you imagine your nose to use. Then once you eat your food there is a secondary path inside your mouth toward the back of your throat which also sends the scent up to your nose and scent receptors. See, we only use the most technical language here at ROJ? Anyway, I did not know this and there were several scenarios popping into my head of times this would make sense. Many people have also learned over the years scent is a HUGE factor in our lives. It’s the strongest connection to memories and it also changes the way we perceive flavor. Think of any time you’ve been sick and tried to eat your favorite foods. Sight also is important, if it doesn’t look nice we aren’t as into it, and think about when they had purple and green ketchup…that didn’t last long, did it? What I really didn’t know was the way texture can be so crucial. Simply grinding salt to a finer degree can change how “salty” something tastes. Trying to lower the sodium level in your food? Get a salt grinder and make sure you make those crystals smaller. Neat “trick”, huh? Try it at your next meal or this coming Thanksgiving.
Of course I was bummed to leave as I’m sure there was so much more I hadn’t learned, but the parting gift was nice. They certainly helped fill out my spice collection! HELLLLLO holiday baking! And the whisk that converts from flat to round with a turn of the handle is still fascinating to me.
Now for your at home enjoyment, I present to you one of my new favorite recipes discovered via McCormick on Pinterest. Create it yourself and then reflect on the cooking knowledge you’ve gained. What’s the best tip you have? What questions would you ask at the institute given the chance? What’s your favorite spice?
Hearty Beef Stew with Roasted Winter Vegetables
Makes 6 servings. Prep Time : 15 minutes. Cook Time: 35 minutes
- 4 cups cubed winter vegetables (cut into 1/2-inch pieces), carrots, butternut squash, parsnips or sweet potatoes
- 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 3 McCormick Bay Leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Thyme Leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Coarse Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup dry red wine or apple juice
- 3 cups prepared mashed potatoes
- Preheat oven to 425 degree F. Toss vegetables and onion with 1 tablespoon olive oil on large baking sheet. Roast 20 minutes or until vegetables are golden.
- Meanwhile, cook and stir beef in remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet on medium-high heat 5 minutes or until beef is browned. Add roasted vegetables, chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme, pepper, salt and wine. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. Remove bay leaves from stew before serving. Serve stew over mashed potatoes.
Don’t forget to follow McCormick on Pinterest. If you follow them and repin their amazing recipes you could win 1 of 5 great packages! Contest ends 10/31.
Disclaimer. This is a sponsored post, all thoughts, opinions and fan girl passion outbursts are my own.