Thursday, February 23, 2012

Visiting Tomato Country.....Part II

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 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.

A quick lesson on tomatoes was an eye opener. Steve Smith, Director of Agriculture and Chuck Williamson, Elwood Plant Manager taught us some awesome facts about Red Gold tomatoes. Here are a few things:
  • 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!

Tomato tour fashion. Check out the hairnets and the headphones. Chuck Williamson (the only male in the pic) gave us an awesome tour through the ketchup processing plant. I hear that his employees were waiting for him to break out into song and dance, what with that fancy headset and microphone. :)

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 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 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 the Vikings station. Delish!

While the food was great, the people watching was even better. Over 3,000 people attended this event.

Ted Allen

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.

Disclaimer: My trip to Indiana to meet with the Red Gold company and to go to The Taste of the NFL was given to me as a prize by the Red Gold Tomato Company. As always, my opinions are my own.


  1. What a great story. I'm very happy that you enjoyed your visit to our city!

    1. Del, Indianapolis has always been one of my favorite cities. It must be the people. :)

  2. Loved your post and the pics...we really did have a fabulous time, my friend! Hopefully our paths will cross outside of the blogisphere again soon...

  3. Ted Allen! So cool! I hope they open this up to Colorado if they do it again, it looks like so much fun.

    1. Angela, it was such a fun time! Wouldn't it be great if they could do it again? Maybe a company in New Orleans will host a blogger contest next year for The Taste of the NFL...any beignet factories out there? :)

  4. So fun to see more of your adventures in Indiana with Red Gold! I'm now a Red Gold convert :) And I was so lucky to get to meet you that weekend.