Saturday, February 18, 2012

Red Gold Blogger Contest Part I...Featuring Tomato-Pesto Pinwheels

Now that I’ve sorted through all the pictures and gathered my notes, it’s time to share more details from my fabulous weekend in Indianapolis as part of Red Gold Tomato’s Taste of the NFL food blogger contest. It was an amazing weekend from the moment I came down the escalator in the airport on Friday and met up with the other food blogger winners, until I boarded the plane back to Texas on Sunday! I Many of us had been chatting via Facebook and Twitter in the weeks prior to the trip, so it was like meeting friends. 

We were greeted by Monica, who works in Red Gold’s Marketing Department. We posed for a few quick pictures and were off to jump in the Texas-sized limo that would be transporting us for the weekend. We chatted and got to know each other while taking a quick spin through downtown Indianapolis to see some of the Super Bowl-related excitement.

From left is Heather from Basilmomma, Me, Renee from Great Foodini, Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks, Deb from Just Short of Crazy, Sherry from Superexhausted, and Cathy from The Dutch Baker's Daughter.

Super Bowl mural on the side of the JW Mariott in Indianapolis.

Our next stop was our hotel to meet up with Theresa from Red Gold to have some lunch and go over our weekend itinerary with her and Monica. After lunch, we had a couple of hours to relax and get cleaned up...then we all met in the lobby to head to dinner at Bonge Tavern with several members of the Red Gold staff…including the Reichart family, who owns the company. 

The restaurant is rustic and casual on the outside, and the food served is best described as upscale comfort food. Everything from appetizers to dessert was amazing!! We had a great time getting to know our Red Gold hosts. The Reichart family, who owns Red Gold, were such welcoming hosts…they made us all feel like part of their family. 

Our amazing Red Gold hosts, including: Theresa from Marketing, Colt Reichart, Selita Reichart, Monica from Marketing, Brian Reichart, and Linda (aka Red Gold Lady).

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel…it had been a very early morning for me (up at 400 to catch my plane…), so it was an early night. The next morning, we headed to the Red Gold's nearby Elwood facility for Tomato School. What a fun, educational morning!! We learned how Red Gold Tomatoes are grown and processed into their wide variety of products. I was very impressed to learn that most of the farmers who grow their tomatoes have been connected to the company for many years…over multiple generations in many instances. 

Learning about Red Gold's tomato operations at Tomato School.

The company’s pride in their products is evident in every aspect that we saw that day. After a yummy breakfast featuring Red Gold products, we donned super-chic hairnets and were given a fascinating tour of their production facility. That day, ketchup was being produced, and we received bottles of ketchup to remember our visit by!

Red Gold's ketchup production line in Elwood, Indiana.

The customized stamp on the bottle of ketchup we were given to remember our visit by!

After our plant tour, we had a taste test to compare Red Gold products to their competitors...based on both sight and flavor. Then we drove a short distance to the brand-new Red Gold corporate headquarters. We were their first official visitors, which was a great honor! 

Red Gold's brand-new headquarters...we were their very first official visitors to the this new facility -- what an honor!!

Our special welcome on the crawl on the in-house TV system at Red Gold's headquarters...nice touch!!

We were given the grand tour of the building…which happens to also be where Red Gold President Brian Reichart attended elementary school as a child growing up  in the area. We ate a fabulous lunch prepared by Linda…aka Red Gold Lady…that featured Red Gold products. We were treated to a visit from Stewie, the Red Gold mascot…of course, that was a great photo op!

Group shot with Red Gold mascot Stewie in the foyer of the Red Gold that tomato mural!!

We made it back to our hotel mid-afternoon...after a quick pit stop at the amazing Concannon's Bakery, which is very popular with the locals. When the owner found out we were visiting food bloggers, she sent us back to our hotel with a box of her amazing pastris to sample. After a brief rest, it was time to get glammed-up Taste of the NFL. I'll pick up the story here later this week...

I want to share the recipe for a fantastic, simple dish that was served at our Red Gold luncheon: Tomato-Pesto Pinwheels. There little bites are a snap to whip up, and they are positively delicious!! My only changes to the original recipe were to use garlic crescent rolls instead of plain ones...and I added a sprinkle of shredded parmesan cheese that I had in the fridge. 

Tomato-Pesto Pinwheels
adapted from Red Gold

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350. Unroll a package of garlic-flavor refrigerated crescent rolls onto a cutting board sprinkled with flour. Press at the perforations so you have one sheet of pastry. Spread with 1/3-1/2 cup of your favorite pesto. Top the pesto with a 14-ounce can of well-drained Red Gold diced tomatoes with garlic, basil, and oregano. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese on top of the tomatoes.

Step 2:  Carefully roll the dough toward you so you have a long roll. I found it easier to slice into rounds by placing the cutting board with the dough into the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Use a serrated knife to cut the dough into 16 slices. Place each slice on a non-stick baking sheet.

Step 3:  Bake the pinwheels until golden-brown, approximately 15 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking to ensure even baking and browning. Let the pinwheels cool for a couple of minutes before removing them to a serving plate. 

These little bites are so good...the combination of basil pesto, juicy tomatoes, and melted parmesan combine with the crescent rolls to make one yummy pastry. At our luncheon, they were served with a couple of salads. I'm going to serve them with a shrimp and pasta dish for dinner tonight, so you can see that they are very versatile!

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