Dole Salad Summit: Lettuce Begin the Festivities!*

* Okay, fine, totally a groaner.  But I have an excuse: I’m jet-lagged!

Today’s blog post marks a first for DDD: it is being written from somewhere other than my home  office north of Toronto! Where’s Waldo Ricki, you ask? Well, perhaps this will give you a hint:

No?  Then how about THIS:

 Ah, now we’re getting warmer!  Literally.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m in the breathtakingly picturesque town of Monterey, California (a state I haven’t visited since 1977–the year Elvis died*), and it’s all courtesy of the lovely people at Dole. That’s right: the company that produces more fruits and vegetables than anyone else in the world (I know!! I wasn’t aware of that, either!). Despite my intense dislike** of airline travel (I think the HH’s thigh may require surgery after the permanent nail marks I implanted in it during our flight to Chicago a couple of weeks ago); despite the 4:45 AM wakeup call; despite my airport limo being a no-show at 5:30 in the morning (the HH stepped in to save the day yet again–love you, HH!); despite all that, followed by a 6-hour flight and subsequent 2-hour limo ride (rendered enjoyable by the great company of Amie and Kevin!), I made it and am raring to go for the three-day extravaganza known as theDole Salad Summit— jet lag be damned!

We’re staying at the InterContinental Clement Monterey, tucked into the shops along Cannery Row and just across from Monterey Bay. Here’s my plush hotel room:

[That’s a furry “sea otter and pup” on the bed-the Monterey Aquarium just down the street.]

The fireplace (!!) and desk:

All this, and a bathroom that’s bigger than my first apartment. I think I may just sleep in the tub tonight.


Pretty nifty, huh? Sorry, HH, wish you could have hopped out of the car this morning and come along, too.  (“Mum, forget about Dad!  We wish WE could have come along! We are thinking that maybe at the hotel, we’d finally get the chance to sleep on the bed. . . It’s a king size, after all, so there’d be plenty of room for all three of us. . . ” .

Despite the three-hour time change and a brain that’s quickly turning to mush, I decided to forgo a nap and took a quick walk along Cannery Row before dinner.  I mean, how could you resist views like this?

Even the flowers look better in California:

And of course, some things are the same, no matter where you are:

Our activities began in earnest at dinnertime, when we met in the hotel’s library lounge for a cocktail party. It was great to finally meet the other bloggers at the Summit!  Stephanie (Recipe Renovator), Dana (Dana Treat), Sharon Palmer and I discovered the similarities in our diets; Gina (Skinny Taste) and I reminisced about the SHAPE magazine awards, for which we were both nominated (and which she won!);  after a few enthusiastic twitter conversations, Irvin (Eat the Love) and I finally hugged in person; and I cooed over tiny baby feet when I met Maria and Josh, who brought their adorable Caleb with them. We were all also introduced to the Dole team: Amanda, Bob, Chris, Michelle, Kelley, Gil and Shannon.

Over dinner at The Sardine Factory, the gabfest continued: Nancy (A Communal Table) and I chatted about everything from kids to catering to the dearth of classic restaurants; Bree shared her experiences living in Nova Scotia for a time, as well as many other places; Paula (Bella’allimento), Susan (Doughmesstic) and Brandi (Bran Appetit) were curious about the anti-candida diet (ACD); Shannalee and Tim (Food Loves Writing), Barbara and I waved across the table; and throughout, Bob, the Dole representative seated beside me, engaged us with talk of everything from NPR radio shows, to the differences between LA and other areas of California, to interesting tidbits about the company.

Unfortunately, by the time I remembered to snap a photo of our meal, the light had faded too much to do it justice. The staff at the restaurant were incredibly solicitous about serving something I could enjoy that was in keeping with the ACD. In the end, they whipped up a lovely, huge bowl of broth-braised mixed veggies alongside a serving of smoky, white bean and sundried tomato spread.  Given that mealtime fell at about 10:30 PM Toronto time, that was more than enough food for my normally-asleep metabolism, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

[Between courses, an ice swan housing a palate cleanser of orange sherbet was served to each of us.]

I managed to say hello to almost everyone last night and am now  looking forward to our jam- packed itinerary tomorrow with stops at the farmers’ fields, the Dole processing plant, and for tastings of new salad products  at our “Lettuce 101” course. I promise to include pics of the salad and meals next time, too–I mean, this IS a food blog, after all. 😉

Here’s a list of all the bloggers in attendance:

See y’all next time with a wrap-up of food, lettuce fields, and more! In the meantime, don’t forget to tune in to Wellness Weekend at 8:00 PM EST tonight!

*for those of you young’uns who weren’t actually born yet when I last visited, Elvis was. . . well, let’s just say he was basically the Adam Lambert of my parents’ generation.

** actually a euphemism for “paralyzing dread fear.” But sometimes, you just have to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Other Dole Summit Posts:

[Disclosure: Dole paid for my travel, accommodations and food during my stay. They did not ask that I write a positive review of them, or a blog post about them at all. This post may contain other affiliate links. If you buy using these links, at no cost to you, I will earn a small commission from the sale.]

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© Ricki Heller, Diet, Dessert and Dogs



  1. Shannalee says

    Up that early and still managed to put together this post! You’re amazing!

    • Ha, ha!! No, didn’t do it all this morning. . .I was here quite early yesterday! Today I hope to chat close up with you both!! 😀

  2. Yay! Glad to see you blogging on location! Sounds like an amazing trip so far, and a fabulous group!

    • Cara, I COULD NOT HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOU!! Thank you, thank you for that tutorial. How do the photos look?? 😀 And yes, a fantastic and incredibly friendly group of people–so much fun! 🙂

  3. Hi There Ricki,

    Thank for the update! Glad you’re having a great time here in California. Although, it’s raining here today in my neck of the woods, so I hope you have the sun! It has been so hot and sunny for weeks, and now a quiet, albeit chilly cloud cover has moved in.

    Can’t wait for more pictures! Have a great rest of your visit.

    Be Well,

    • Thanks, Amber! As you’ll see in the next post, our schedule was busy up to the minute–would have loved to say hello in person! Just means I’ll have to go again. 🙂

  4. Wow, I want an ice swan. Forget what’s inside, just the swan to rub on my face. OK it’s hot here. I love Monterey! I hope you enjoy the conference. So share what you can.

    Sienna would like to tell Elsie and Chaser she has been to Monterey before and it was very fun. What a brag she is, sorry. I guess she’d like that king size bed too.

    • Bitt,you are so funny! The ice swans were nice, but the food during the rest of the trip was actually much better. . . salad galore! I can’t wait to post about it once I get back. 🙂

  5. Oh, Ricki! I may have been born in 1987, but I’m offended, offended I say! that you think I wouldn’t know Elvis. In fact, I actually have no idea what Adam Lambert is?!

    A little less conversation, a little more action please… 😛

    Also, I gasped a little at your first picture of Monterey as I immediately recognised it from my first trip there, which was part of a three-day guided tour that took in Big Sur, the John Steinbeck Museum, and more. That was in August 2007.

    Teehee, okay okay, I get why you made the Elvis joke now 😉

    Can’t wait to hear/read more, you lucky thing!

    • Ah, Hannah, just a little joke. 😉 I think I’m going to have to get back so I can see all the other things you mention. . . though what we did see was pretty spectacular. 😀 What a time we’d have there together!! xo

  6. Oh, what fun, Ricki! What a great group of folks, too. I don’t know them all, but the ones I do *know*–from meeting in person or following their blogs–are terrific! Have a blast, dear. So glad they’re taking good care of you! 😉


  7. Ricki I’m so happy for you! Monterey looks like a fabulous place to spend a few days (did the girls and HH survive?). xo

    • THanks, Maggie! Yes, they survived–but barely. 😉 As suspected, the HH ate toast and cheese or cereal for dinner each night! Gah!! At least he remembered to feed The Girls properly. 😀

  8. Have a wonderful time.

  9. Magda @ No Food Diet says

    Wow, Ricki, I am glad you are having a great time and I hate to be a downer, but this “summit” really rubs me the wrong way. Ice swans? Luxury hotels? All expenses paid? A “salad summit” dinner at an expensive seafood (?!) restaurant? It sounds exactly like one of those things that politicians are always getting in trouble for because companies are trying to buy their influence through fancy trips. This sounds like Dole is trying to buy bloggers’ goodwill and marketing through your blog by paying for this luxury trip.

    If Dole is the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, don’t they have a responsibility to be an industry leader? Are they also the largest user of pesticides and herbicides? Why is organic such a small part of their product line and what are they doing to transition to all organic? I hear their practices in Hawaii have not been good from an environmental or sustainable perspective. Not to mention BPA in their cans — what are they doing about that? These are important questions both for the health of their consumers as well as the health of the planet and I hope that the bloggers at this summit are asking hard-hitting questions like this to Dole while you are there. Hopefully you all will be able to see through any marketing hype they try to spin you and not be influenced by all the money they are spending on you.

    That all being said, Monterey is a lovely town and I hope you enjoy your time there!

    • Hi Magda,

      Thanks for your comment, and for your perspective. I’m actually glad you brought this up. Yes, the accommodations, the travel, the food–in a word, everything offered by Dole–was spectacular and top notch. As the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, I imagine they have a budget for such things. 😉 And, like any other large corporation, they host PR events, they solicit information from informed individuals and other companies, and they endeavor to present their company in the best light possible. I wouldn’t expect anything less, frankly; it is a business, after all, and every business I’ve ever encountered exists to be successful. And like any journalist, I had enough confidence in my own ability to differentiate between what is a PR stunt and what is reality to feel I could assess what I saw with objectivity, and report it back to my readers.

      I don’t know whether you’ve read my second installment about the summit yet, but yes, we did ask hard questions of the Dole staff (I was actually the person who asked about whether or not they have organic products, and what they plan to do in future about organics). I found that the people at Dole were consistently open, approachable, willing to share information (even information that might have been difficult to share–not everything in every company is 100% perfect), and both committed and dedicated to their company. I saw a company that takes its responsibility to both the public and the planet seriously and operates with integrity. Given that they work with 15,000 growers worldwide and that they employ 76,000 people in 90 different countries, it would be impossible for everything to work smoothly all the time and in every way. What I saw, however, was a company that is really putting out an effort to do the best job possible–and one that is open to new suggestions and ideas. And that impressed me; it would have impressed me whether or not they were hosting my visit to Monterey. I’m glad I had the opportunity to witness the operations up close and take a peek at the way a small part of Dole operates. It changed my own perspective, as I mentioned in today’s post.

    • Hi Magda, I just wanted to say that as someone else who attended the summit, I really appreciate the questions you’re asking and think they’re exactly the questions that were on many of our minds during the trip. What you said about Dole being an industry leader is valid, as is Ricki’s point about Dole’s being a business. I saw both issues get raised through blogger questions and discussions, and while I personally still have concerns with the use of pesticides and chlorine in their lettuce, I can’t deny that Dole was 100% approachable and willing to talk through these issues. They indicated a desire to move towards organic in the future, as well as a continuing search for a way to eliminate pesticides–and I guess time will tell.

  10. Magda, as another blogger who attended, and who asked those very questions, thank you for raising them. I’ll be writing a “Q & A with Dole post” as my follow up. For me, while it was a little weird to accept a trip, they were completely upfront that there was no expectation that we would even write one post, they knew we were free to ask any questions we wanted, and I too felt that they were not greenwashing. We asked about organics, and GMOs, etc. I also asked about gluten-free salad kits, etc. For me, it was a chance to get to be face to face with a large company and represent my readers. While it was nice to be treated so well, I can honestly say that that aspect of it will not influence what I write. Hope this helps and thanks for your honesty!

    • Stephanie, thanks for your perspective (from someone else who was there). I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say about the trip (and hope you had a fabulous time at Camp Blogaway!!). 🙂

  11. Awesome, you were blogging on site! Nice recap so far! It was great meeting you!

    • Hey Kevin! Yes, somehow I managed a quick recap while there. . . I had to wait a few days for Part 2, though. 😉 Looking forward to seeing what you’ve cooked up from the market (I think you’ve inspired me to get down there again). Great to meet you, too! 😀

  12. finally catching up on the dole posts – can’t believe you got an ice swan EACH! Sounds like a fun trip but the name of the company sounds odd to me as in Australia people who are unemployed get the ‘dole’ when they sign on for unemployment benefits.


  1. […] just returned from two blogger events, the Dole Salad Summit and Camp Blogaway. Both were fun and informative, and I’ll be posting about them in more […]

  2. […] Amie from The Healthy Apple Barbara Ruhs, Registered Dietician for Bashas supermarket Brandi from Bran Appetit Dana from Dana Treat Gina from Skinny Taste Irvin from Eat the Love Kevin from Closet Cooking (a fellow Canadian! Whoo hoo!) Maria and Josh from Two Peas and Their Pod Nancy from A Communal Table Paula from Bella’alimento Rachel from Coconut and Lime Shannalee and Tim from Food Loves Writing Sharon Palmer, RD, author of the upcoming The Plant-Powered Diet Stef from Haute Apple Pie Stephanie from Recipe Renovator Susan from She’s Becoming Doughmesstic Ricki from Diet, Desserts, and Dogs […]

  3. […] at the Dole Summit: Salad Samplings, Salad Ballet and Salad Recipe from Nancy at A Communal Table Lettuce Begin the Festivities from Shannalee and Tim at Food Loves Writing from Stef at Haute Apple Pie from Brandi at Bran […]

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