It's been nearly 3 weeks since my visit to the Red Gold Tomato facilities. I think it's about time that I finish the story, no? When we last spoke about my great adventure, the limousine had just dropped us off at the hotel after a terrific meal at Bonges Tavern....you can read about it here.
The seven Red Gold Bloggers were up bright and early on Saturday---we had a big day ahead of us. The first thing on the agenda, was a trip to Red Gold's Elwood facility where we were meeting for breakfast and a tour of the plant.
- Standards are high--only 53 farmers are considered "Red Gold" growers. Red Gold partners with these growers to determine field selection, soil fertility, staggered planting schedules, and variety selection.
- Red Gold distributes tomato products to all 50 states and to 15 foreign countries.
- Red Gold is the largest privately owned producer of ketchup in the country.
- Red Gold produces enough tomatoes to reach the moon and back!
While the facts are interesting, the actual tour was very telling. We were asked to remove jewelry, scrub our hands, and wear hairnets for our walk through the production area. The high standards were very evident---it was clean! Not that I expected it not to be clean, but everything was sterile. They even wash the walls! Just that morning, I had heard of another food recall (from my own state)--it was such a relief for me to see a company that had such high standards to ensure excellence.
Since it wasn't "tomato season" while we were there, we didn't get to see the actual tomato canning, but we did see some ketchup production. From the washing of the plastic bottles, to the big vats of steaming ketchup, to the filling of the little ketchup packets, we were given the grand tour. I was feeling pretty good about ketchup at that point.
It doesn't take long for a group of bloggers to whip out the cameras....
Later, we were able to compare Red Gold products with some other major brands and we met Project Development Manager, Emily Jones. Have you ever put different brands of tomato product side by side? My guess is no. This is where I was so surprised. Look at the picture above, with the two kinds of tomatoes next to each other. You can actually see how smooshed the other "major" brand is...plus it had the tough ends and tomato skin still hanging on it. The juice was watery and separated...ewww. This, more than anything, had me convinced of the Red Gold quality.
Next, we were treated to lunch at the new Red Gold headquarters. Can you believe they bought an old elementary school and converted it into offices? We were honored to have lunch in the new cafeteria...which was previously a basketball court!
Lunch was prepared by Linda aka "Red Gold Lady". Among other things, she treated us to a fruity, tomato salad and some tomato crescent pinwheels...it was very tasty!
After lunch, the limousine brought us back to the hotel for a little rest before the big night ahead of us...we were going to The Taste of the NFL!
Renee from The Great Foodini, me, and Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks
Monica and Linda from Red Gold
The Taste of the NFL bills itself as the Party with a Purpose...the purpose being a huge fundraiser to raise money for food banks all over the country. This year, it was held at the Gleaner's Food Bank Warehouse in Indianapolis...a most apropos spot as the building houses food bank contributions. When I saw the huge section of Red Gold tomato cans, I realized that the bloggers weren't the only recipients of the Red Gold generosity....
Because this was a strolling food and wine event, we were given a wine glass and a plate when we entered the building. Each NFL team had a station set up with chefs that they felt best represented their home town. The food was amazing! I think my favorite was the Smoked and Slow Roasted Pork Belly over Michigan White Beans at the Detroit Lions station. Or maybe it was the "Beef On Weck" with Fresh Horseradish, from the Buffalo Bills, or the Lemon Gnocchi with Shrimp, Crab, and Asparagus from the Washington Redskins. I take it all back. It was the Purple Velvet Cupcake from the Franklin Street Bakery in Minneapolis...at the Vikings station. Delish!
While the food was great, the people watching was even better. Over 3,000 people attended this event.
Cake Boss!All in all, my Red Gold Blogger trip was fabulous. Not only did I glean some good tomato knowledge, I got to rub elbows with some wonderful people.
Please stop by and visit my new blogger buddies:
Renee from The Great Foodini
Wendy from The Weekend Gourmet
Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks
Deb from Just Short of Crazy
Sherry from Super Exhausted
Heather from Basilmomma
And let's not forget our wonderful Red Gold Tomato Hosts. You can find recipes and information on Red Gold's Facebook page, as well.