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Ben & Jerry’s Blogger Visit and Free Pint Giveaway

April 1, 2012 - Written by Diana

With free scoop day looming ( April 3, 2012) - I thinks it’s time for me to tell you about my recent trip to visit Ben & Jerry’s headquarters  in Burlington, Vt.  Two nights, 1 1/2 half days for a whirlwind tour and blogger gathering with staff of Ben and Jerry’s led by the two man (or one man, one woman ) Ben and Jerry’s pr team-Sean  Greenwood and Liz Stewart- along with Kevin Flight from Cone.

They flew us into Burlington and paid for all expenses including the hotel.  Kevin and Liz ferried us around from event to event with Sean joining us.  We had an inkling that there would be a tour and a chance to design ice cream, but not much more information than that- the emails were kind of vague.  I think we all went with a wing and a prayer hoping it would work out well for all of us.  This was my first sponsored trip, it was tons of fun, mixed in with more than an overview of their value added business and an overload of ice cream.

We were taken to  dinner at American Flatbreads where we shared pizzas and salads.  The talk was an intro to who they are, what they do, and there was a discussion of our favorite brands.  Just so you know-  I threw Graeters and Jeni’s into the mix because those are two Ohio brands that are have a following outside of the state.  I also asked about the rumor on the Greek Frozen Yogurt  and got their standard – We can not at this time confirm or deny ….yada yada yada….  After dinner we walked down Church St, a very cool street with no vehicle access, with lots of neat shops and pretty lights to get to the Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Shop.  At this point the shop was closed for the evening but we were all way too full to partake of any ice cream.  We did get a nice view of the neat decor with rustic floors.
I should add that when we checked into our hotel we had a Ben & Jerry’s swag bag with nice little gifts like a cool apron, eco-friendly reusable water bottle, ice cream container lock ( to keep your ice cream safe from your teens), and a folder with a nice write up of company info.

Our very full day started with a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate chip mint while we watched a small overview of the B&J business.  Then the factory tour.  You aren’t in the factory itself, but in a hallway full of windows looking down on to the production floor.  The operation was much smaller than I expected with a national brand. From there we detoured into a special blogger offshoot into a tasting room.  Really cool in that we were able to talk with Laure and Nate about what goes into their quality control testing.  We learned that no matter what flavor was favorite, right off the line made it best.  We also had a chance to do a taste comparison against a rival brand, Ben and Jerry’s won though truthfully it was a non-scientific test since we knew the other brand. Pistachio Pistachio – right off the line was my favorite ice cream .To be fair, it is one of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice creams with whole pistachios.

Laure and Nate went through all the different testing :      

Laure and Nate also talked about their work environment.  They were working OT right then because of something coming up (Greek Yogurt – however they didn’t mention it by name …. hmmm) but Laure mentioned that she was good with that since she just had two whole weeks off at Christmas time.  They both loved working there, and they liked that Ben& Jerry’s promotes Community Action – part of the Social portion of the three pronged business statement of Ben & Jerry’s.

From there a quick trip up a slippery slope to the flavor graveyard to see the headstones of the flavors that didn’t last.  Fun note:  there was a car with just married painted on it.  Sean left some coupons for free ice cream under the windshield wiper as a gift…awww!!

We had a working lunch subs and salads provided and met the Unilever director from Norway, Jostein Solheim.  He gave us an overview of how he ended up in the US and why Unilever was a good match for the Ben & Jerry brand.  Unilever gives Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the autonomy to use their name and follow the causes they support while the company runs the business end.  Unilever can help the company with its resources to help a small company compete globally and agrees to be value added by allowing their workers community service days and working to make the company environmentally advanced with its global reach.  Ben and Jerry represent the brand and still take part in the decision making but not in the day to day operations of  the business.

We had a meeting with the marketing team, the  social media gurus and the web guys. They talked us through some of their ad campaigns including Colbert’s Americone’s Dream, Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Snack (a family favorite), Dave Matthew’s Band’s Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies and the Target volunteerism brand.  We heard all about the first Ben & Jerry’s Cowmobile – used for a cross country trip to give out free ice cream and burnt to the ground outside Cleveland.  This summer their plans involve tweeting (@Benandjerrys) locations from another ice cream mobile and giving out more free ice cream, but not in Ohio this time.

Interesting point – I don’t meet their core market which has an upper limit of 44.  However I get the part that it’s people without kids, because now that my kids are grown we’ll spend more money on the higher quality ice cream  instead of going for quantity of cheap stuff.  Kids snarf the good stuff way too fast.

Discussion points were Social Programs, Community Action teams and the Environment teams.  There is so much more to Ben & Jerry’s than just a brand name.

This was a great break from the sit down meetings, the power points and videos. This was a chance to be the person behind the counter. We had scoop lessons from Amanda (the Scoop U Dean) – learning how to perfect the three ounce scoop which seriously folks I must reveal that I never mastered. The scoop is a down and over in a l-shped pattern, one scoop for a chid dish or baby cone and two scoops on a regular cone or dish. We were able to sample all of the scoop flavors – including the new greek yogurt flavors. We had a relaxing little blast of fun and then they hit us with a surprise – we were going to scoop for the office. We did our best to keep the line moving though there was an issue when Roberto’s waffle cone broke and we were trying to move it to another cone – not a good idea.  Don’t improvise, do it over, it’s important to give out a quality product. Two of the coolest parts:  there were some guys from the EU filming for fair trade ( Ben & Jerry are aiming for all fair trade ingredients), so maybe we’re in a french foreign film ( HAH!!)  and Sean brought out the harmonica and played while we scooped- it was a very cool moment.

More fun when we were brought to meet the flavor team of Kristen and John.  We had a nice talk about coming up with flavors and flavor names, and what works.  Then the good stuff.  They have a smaller kitchen lab set up where they use a soft serve to try out different combinations by adding flavor to the base, creating variagels for a swirl and adding fruit or candy bits.  The team came up with three flavor combinations using the greek yogurt base and other ingredients they had on hand.  The first was a honey greek yogurt base with a fig swirl and pistachios, then we had a vanilla greek yogurt base with blueberry lemon swirl and apricot bits (I’m not a fan of frozen apricot bits).  The last was a nutella swirl with shortbread cookie pieces in a vanilla yogurt base.  The swirl and the base with chunks both went in piping bags, then it was swirled together into a pint container while turning around on a turntable.  We tasted the batches before they went into the deep freezer to harden overnight.

Meeting THE Ben & Jerry.

We were in the middle of a tour of the corporate building with Liz when we were called out to meet THE Ben & Jerry.  My dad if he were alive would probably have liked that part a lot.  When I was talking about this trip to my son’s friends – his response was -”I didn’t know there was real Ben and Jerry?, I thought it was a made up name, I didn’t know they were real guys.”  I’m here to tell you they are real guys.  They asked about our blogs and what we did and the flavors we created.  Plus we have a group photo with them to prove they really exist.

- then it was back to the hotel for a short break and off to dinner.  I loved their corporate office – a nap room, dogs in the office, flexible schedule, a nice big kitchen and ice cream.

Andrea Asch is the Manager of Natural Resources and I think has the perfect job.  While she did a power point highlighting all of their social programs and believes in a value added business and not just being a company that talks about sustainability, but one that walks the walk.

Talking points:

Listening to Andrea was probably one of my favorite parts of my trip.  She said that there was always something new to investigate and think about- how can they do things better, but you have to examine what you will have an impact on when you change something.

We got one last trip to the lab kitchen to try out our new flavors before heading home.  Our fun flavors turned out nicely – with Fig jam and Pistachio being my favorite.  So much fun packed into such a short time.  The PR people and everyone at Ben & Jerry’s were excited for their Greek Frozen Yogurt Launch the next day, and you could feel the enthusiasm for their business.

Sean gave us coupons for Pints as a thank you gift right before we left.  I’ve treated myself, given a couple away to my kids and now I’m offering it to you.

  1. Three winners
  2. US citizen
  3. One entry per household
  4. Tell me in the comments – what your favorite  Ben and Jerry flavor is.
  5. Deadline is midnight April 6(EST).

One more thing – The Chew on ABC recently did a trip to Ben and Jerry’s.  This video shows both Nate on the Factory Tour and Kristen creating a new flavor, two people I met on my trip.

 

Disclosure:  I received this blogger trip from Ben & Jerry’s.  I asked what was expected and the reply was – we hope you might write about your visit, but nothing is expected.   I received my hotel and expenses paid for, along with free pint coupons and t-shirts and a swag bag. I had a blast, loved their ice cream and loved their value added business approach.

Horizon View Farms Bed & Breakfast – Rockwood, PA

November 5, 2011 - Written by Diana

I recently spent two weeks at my mom’s house while she recuperated from surgery – the longest time my husband and I have spent apart in our 24 years of marriage.  Before I left, we talked about him driving out to NJ from Ohio (I flew) to come and get me and then on our way back across the turnpike we would stay in a Bed and Breakfast for the weekend before we went back to our regular jobs.  Originally, we had planned a longer vacation, but when my mom’s breast cancer came up, it was put off or put away, so this was our way to get some of the trip in.  We didn’t have many choices since we were late making the decision of where and when, however, we made a heck of a great pick with Horizon View Farms Bed and Breakfast.

Horizon View Farms is in Rockwood, PA just south of Somerset off the PA turnpike (76).  It’s a newer Bed and Breakfast, and it’s part of a bigger plan.  There’s a Horizon View Farm part where the beef cows are – we met them as they stalked us while we hiked around the 490 acre property.  There’s the Horse boarding, trail rides and training center, and there’s the Bed and Breakfast.  We were offered the option of a trail ride, but my husband wasn’t up to it.  It snowed more than 6 inches while we were there last weekend (the surprise snow storm that hit the east?), and it was the perfect opportunity for taking a hike in the snow to take winter photos instead.

The Bed & Breakfast is divided into suites.  On the first floor there are two nice size suites with Queen beds, a sitting room and bathroom with shower.  There is a common small kitchen with fridge, freezer, and microwave plus cabinets full of dishes, silverware, coffee amenities, etc.  There is also an eating area that has cafe type seating which is pretty neat.  There is a planned deck, but so far the weather hasn’t cooperated enough for them to work on it.  I liked sitting  in front of the french doors overlooking the horse area while sipping coffee.  In fact one of the best things about this place is all the windows and light even though it snowed the whole day, at the same time, the bedroom windows were covered with both blinds and drapes and were dark for sleeping which I love.

We stayed upstairs, and what a treat that was.  The second floor had a full kitchen with dining area, two bedrooms plus another available and a bathroom with shower.  Then the piece de resistance is the full third floor loft living room with windows on both ends.  In the evenings we would bring a glass of wine up there and watch a movie on the tv.

As a bed and breakfast you are used to the hosts staying on site.  This is a little different in that Cheryl didn’t stay on site, but she did give us a tour, told us how to find what ever we needed.  She let us know that the property was wide open for us to hike around on and explore, that there was an option for a trail ride or lessons if we wanted.  She told us about what was in the area, where to get a decent meal and pretty much set us up.  A really funny coincidence is that though we never met, we actually attended the same college at the same time , neat, huh? She also gave us a bottle of wine from the owners and a bowl of salsa with chips.  We didn’t see Cheryl again, but we talked to plenty of the staff, who were all friendly, helpful, pleasant – really enthusiastic people.

I will warn you that you are out in the boonies – you will need to figure out what and where you will eat.  The other couple that stayed in one of the first floor suites went to Somerset for dinner.  Somerset is about a fifteen minute drive and not too bad.  Dough Girls is the main spot around the corner from the B&B.  Anything that can be made with dough is there – ie – Pizzas, pies, hoagies, cakes, etc.  However, I wouldn’t go there without calling first and putting in an order.  If you order when you show up, it will be a twenty minute wait, even for a small meatball hoagie.  We also noticed that people called their orders in and then ate there.  Cheryl, the person I made the arrangements with for Horizon View Farms gave us some great suggestions too, but we didn’t feel like driving.

I brought some vegetables and chicken in a cooler with us, but we didn’t have any oil or butter.  There was a flyer in one of the drawers about a Market in Rockwood (right across from dough girls), so we took a little jaunt to it and found exactly what we needed.  I didn’t do anything big.  We peeled and diced a butternut squash, some potatoes and chicken breast, tossed it with oil to soften and then threw in a little wine (Thank you!!) for it to stew in. I stole the salt and pepper from the downstairs kitchen.  Two things I would suggest for the kitchen – A really sharp knife (butternut squash is not easy to peel) and a cutting board.  We actually ate this meal both nights – but we are stewy people, so it was perfect.

There was a continental breakfast waiting for us when we woke up.  Fruit, cheese and meat tray, crackers, granola, yogurt, cinnamon rolls, oatmeal, etc ( different varieties each day) plus the breakfast fairies set up the coffee for me, I just turned it on when I was ready for hot coffee.  There was a separate coffee pot in our upstairs suite, but the breakfast fairies let us have our privacy, so I used the downstairs coffee.

The only downside is that the thermostat is downstairs.  The first floor is cooler than the second, and the third floor is cooler than the second.  As a result we got a little overheated when we were sleeping.  If I had to do it again, I might crack the bedroom window just a bit to let some of the heat out.

We had a fabulous time, we hiked around the property and met some cows.  We took lots of photos of the winter wonderland.  We went to Laurel Hill State Park which was just a few minutes down the road.  It was all very lovely, private and friendly just what we needed for a getaway.  I recommend Horizon View Farms Bed & Breakfast highly. Oh, and lest I forget – Wireless all the way, Baby!

This isn’t a paid or sponsored review – Cookerati was never discussed. This was a weekend away for my husband and me, and we loved it.  The opinions are my own.

 

 

North Market, Columbus Tour – My Impressions

December 1, 2009 - Written by Diana

What ever I tell you about the North Market it won’t be enough.  I have been there in the past, and always loved it.  I’m jealous of my husband who works only a few blocks away and could venture out to this smorgasbord of flavor to get a different type of meal whenever he desires.  So, when I was offered a tour of the North Market I decided to go for it.

The North Market is a public market on Spruce Street, just a few blocks north of Nationwide Arena.  It is filled with merchants, in individual market stalls.  Kind of an indoor open air market.  Dave Wilbe, the executive director of North Market gave us a brief background of the North Market and a tour of the building.  Dave is very personable and seemed to be a go to kind of guy that all the market owners and workers would call out to and let know they needed something, or had something nice to share with him. 

Thanksgiving 2009 101

The North Market started as one of four public markets of Columbus that started 133 years ago and is the only one still surviving.  In 1948, the first building burned down and they were moved to a Quonset hut. A board was formed to protect and promote the vision of the North Market and in 1992, the North Market was moved to it’s current placement in downtown Columbus.  North Market is a not for profit organization, the property is owned by the city and it is staffed by four people who run its daily operations.  As we walked around, and Dave talked about the different shops, you could see how unique each shop is.  Also most of the shops source locally, in other words, most of the foods are from the local Ohio area.  That’s not to say that there aren’t exotics, because there are plenty of choices there also.  One of my favorite things about the North Market is that you can find plenty of organic, fair trade, artisan, handmade, homemade and specialty items. They also have really cool names for all of the shops, in fact, at the main entrance is a wall that holds individual cards for each shop with a description of the stall and it’s owner(s).

Some highlights:

 

Thanksgiving 2009 045

The North Market is a hustle bustle, happenin’ place. Upstairs is the dining area with tables and chairs.  What we found really cool is that you can look down into a lot of the shops and see them make pizza, cut meat, and prepare food.  It gives you a birdseye view and was fun to watch.  By the way – Dave says there’s wifi.  You could spend the day there.  Farm market time is on Saturday morning and continues until the farmers don’t have any more to bring in.  Plus they have events like the Ladies of the Market Cookie exchange December 3rd, and the Craft Extravaganza on December 5th and 6th. Last week, there was a leather show there. 

NM birdseye view

If you are in the area as a tourist, you should make the North Market your dinner destination. Seriously, if you are at COSI, the Art Museum, visiting the Statehouse, you can get here easily. If you work downtown, you are missing out by not stopping by.  Want fresh not frozen meat for dinner that hasn’t travelled 200 miles, come to the North Market.  What’s it missing?  It doesn’t have Hungarian Kolbas (though I suggested it should) and I couldn’t find a whole nutmeg, but I was able to complete the list I brought along otherwise. Visit North Market, you’ll fall in foodie love.

By the way – there are so many things I didn’t mention that I loved.  Go to their website and browse around, it’s pretty darn cool.