I attended BloggyCon for the fourth year in a row. It’s one of my favorite conferences of the year and it’s held at the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. Every year Mr. Beet and I fly up to Cleveland, rent a car, and drive to Sandusky. We stay there for the weekend, attending the conference during the day and enjoying the park at night. When the conference ends on Sunday, we pack up and head back to Cleveland to catch our flight home. This year, I decided to do something very different. I contacted the Lake Erie Shores and Islands Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, as they have been a sponsor of the conference for the last four years. I was set up with a week of activities including visits to the Lake Erie Islands and a trip to several of the area’s museums. One of the places I was sent to was The Culinary Vegetable Institute a few miles away in Milan, Ohio.
I didn’t know what to expect other than I knew the CVI was an event center. What I learned was that CVI is so much more than that. Yes, they host weddings and gatherings there, but they also host a slew of cooking classes, conferences, pop up dinners, and retreats for professionals in the culinary industry. And most importantly, it is also a working farm.
The grounds are magnificent, secluded and wooded. While there are a few areas of vegetable farming, most of the ingredients grown for the CVI come from a family farm a few miles away known as the Chef’s Garden. The farm practices 100% sustainable farming techniques which allows for the most nutrient dense vegetables available. Vegetables are grown, harvested, and sent to restaurants all over the United States and Canada.
We were walked through one of the arched trellis at the CVI – one where not only cucumbers were currently growing, but also one of the spaces a popular pop up dinner or wedding rehearsal dinner may be set up. There were also batches of pumpkins ready for shipment for the Fall season.
Inside The Culinary Vegetable Institute, we walked through a big room complete with a space for a dance floor and a fire place, a perfect spot for an indoor reception. There is also a large deck for more entertaining space.
However, what makes this space so unique was the large open kitchen that sat directly across from the big room. There are no doors to hide the kitchen, no doors to hide the Chef and his staff as they prepare and serve the food.
I had an opportunity to meet the Chef. Chef Jaime Simpson came to the CVI from the bustling culinary scene of Charleston, South Carolina. He even broke out a just delivered shipment of Blis Bourbon Barrel Maple Syrup from Michigan. By far it was the tastiest syrup I have ever tried, just as if it was poured straight from the bourbon barrel itself. Chef Jaime even gave me a sample to take home with me and I am waiting for the right time to open it.
The kitchen is also filled with unique vinegars, oils, and spices.
We then toured the upstairs of the CVI. There was a large library with hundreds of cook books. It was also the room that housed the beautiful stained glass art with a Chef and a Farmer.
Also upstairs is the Chef’s Suite – a hotel type suite complete with a fully equipped kitchen, dining area, bathroom with shower and Jacuzzi tub, fireplace and deck. The suite can be rented out for the night.
The concept of The Culinary Vegetable Institute started with a vision of the Jones Family who purchased the land for the farm in 1998. Chef Farmer Lee, known for his signature red bow tie serves as the Chairman of the Board and lives on the property. The upstairs is decorated with pictures of Farmer Lee and many of the talented Chefs he has worked with.
And we also had a unique view of his red bow tie as a a flower bed.
And perhaps my favorite part of the entire property is Chef Jaime’s dish collection. As a food blogger, I have my own collection of unique dishes, nothing of which can compare to the mass of serving plates here. A food blogger’s dream.
On our way out, we stopped to check out the bee hives and colonies. The farm has 80 acres set aside with plants for just the bees to nourish on!
Thank you to Chef Jaime and The Culinary Vegetable Institute for hosting us and showing us around. For more information click on any of the following links below:
And for more fun in the Lake Erie Shores and Islands Region, check out these other attractions:
*Disclosure: I have been provided with compensation during my stay and exploration of the Lake Erie Shores and Islands by the Lake Erie Shore and Islands Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. However, as always, all opinions are 100% my own.*