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Vidalia Onion Festival & Farm Tour in Georgia
The “V is for Vidalia Campaign started on April 21,2014 and led into the 37th Annual Vidalia Onion Festival. To launch this campaign, the Vidalia Onion Committee invited food bloggers and media to share the experience with a behind the scenes look at the Vidalia onion industry, as well as one-on-one with onion farmers.
Discovered in the 1930's, the Vidalia onion is Georgia's state vegetable and brings about $140-million farm gate value to the state's economy. According to research over 90% of consumers are familiar with Vidalia onions.
When I arrived at the hotel, I found a welcome bag filled with fruits and goodies. Our note from Susan Waters, Executive Director for Vidalia Onion Committee (VOC) welcomed us and let us know when were to be picked up for dinner at Elements Bistro. We were to savor special Vidalia onion dishes. And savor we did. Our driver was William Braddy, Compliance Officer for VOC. On our way to the restaurant we stopped by the VOC office to meet the rest of the crew. We were also given a VOC bag filled with all kinds of Vidalia onion goodies.
Dinner started with Sweet onion chowder followed by onion and cucumber salad with basil vinaigrette. The main entrees were a grilled porterhouse pork chop with a bourbon demi-glace, pan roasted bacon wrapped diver scallop, sweet onion casserole,chef's potatoes, and onion puree. Dessert was a candied Vidalia onion cheesecake which I enjoyed with a glass of Italian Moscato.
Chef Michael Slavin talked about the new entrees for Applebee's menu and said we would be enjoyed them for lunch on Saturday. Applebees announced on April 25, 2014 the new Grilled Vidalia Onion Sirloin – a tender 7 oz sirloin, topped w a grilled and caramelized slice of sweet Vidalia onion, with garlicky spinach, and smashed crisp red-skinned potatoes in an Hawaiian BBQ sauce.
We toured McLain's Farm, one of the largest family owned Vidalia onion farm in Georgia. Upon arrival we were greeted by this wonderful aroma of fried onions and were given a basket of onion rings. There were 3 dipping sauces which were absolutely delicious. I still cannot decide which one I liked the best!
We were introduced to both family members and employees who are responsible for the operation of the business. Our group was divided for the packing shed tour so we were able to ask a lot of questions. After harvesting, the onions were places in large bins and then into one of four cavernous rooms to dry for 3 1/2 days,thus reducing the amount of spoilage. The onions are first sorted for spoilage, and the according to size on a large conveyor belt. The onions are then put into boxes for delivery. The facility uses numbers for sorting and packing, thereby resolving any future problems.
The whole group then went on a visit to the onion fields. The onions are planted in four rows in each grouping. Vidalia onions can only be grown in the 3 counties around Vidalia because they have the proper soil conditions While touring the fields, we were able to see how the onions are harvested. Cliff Riner, Coordinator and Area Agent( fr U of GA) came on board and enlightened us about the many attributes of the Vidalia onion and its boon to Georgia's economy to the tune of $140,000,000.
Once we returned to the plant, Chef Michael Slavin and his crew from Kansas City had prepared several dishes for us. This was the perfect opportunity to taste the Grilled Vidalia Onion Sirloin and several new dishes on the Applebees menu!
This is our group during the Vidalia onion fields tour of McLain Farms. Say – “V is for Vidalia” everyone! Pictured from left to right.
Brenda from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles
Alyce Head, Editorial Director for Cooking with Paula Deen Magazine
Julie from The Little Kitchen
My mother who attended for my blog
Susan, Executive Director of the Vidalia Onion Committee
Liz from A Nut in a Nutshell
Paula from Bell’Alimento
Karen from In the Kitchen with KP
Jennifer from Mother Thyme
Crystal from Mrs. Happy Homemaker
Susan from Doughmesstic
Meredith from In Sock Monkey Slippers
Christine from Cook the Story
Julia, Associate Editor for Cooking with Paula Deen Magazine
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Photos via the Vidalia Onion Committee and Christine Pittman of Cook the Story.
I would like to thank Susan,the committee members, staff, the growers, restaurants and the whole Vidalia community for I did indeed”experience firsthand the growing process from field to table. I am impressed with the community cohesiveness. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity!
The Vidalia Onion Committee sponsored this trip to Vidalia. All opinions are our own.