So, where do I start?
How do I even begin to describe the experience I just had?
My heart says it went something like this:
But if I explained it like that, my brain (and yours) would likely explode.
But, in all honesty, that’s exactly how it felt. And it still hasn’t really hit me yet.
I did go to Ben and Jerry’s. And it was an amazing time.
Let me tell you about it.
I flew into Burlington, Vermont on Sunday night, where I happened to meet up with a fellow Chicagoan – Tammy from Chicago Bites. We shared a cab over to the Hotel Vermont – an amazingly cozy place that pretty much had the whole modern/rustic aesthetic thing nailed. Upon checking into my room, I discovered a bag of Ben & Jerry’s swag, including a personalized fleece, a lock for securing my next pint, some local candies and HEADY TOPPER. Hello! Clearly the people at Ben & Jerry’s did their research. *slowclap*
And then, we got hungry – as food bloggers tend to do. We stopped at Leunig’s Bistro – a cute and cozy little place downtown. We each ordered a Fiddlehead IPA (a local beer made in nearby Shelburne), a cheese plate (they had eight options) and a bowl of soup – I got white bean and veggie; Tammy got French onion. I really enjoyed everything, but the cheese plate was the standout. Complete with homemade crackers, a sweet/tart cherry chutney, and fresh fruit, I could’ve just ordered that and been completely happy.
We finished the night with a drink in the hotel bar, and then settled in for bed. Festivities started tomorrow – bright and early at 8:15.
* * *
Monday’s when the real fun began. We met the entire group, which consisted of 15 bloggers from across the country (including another Chicagoan – Vanessa from French Foodie Mom), Ben & Jerry’s PR folks and even someone from Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever. We enjoyed breakfast at the Skinny Pancake – a local crepe restaurant – before heading over to the Ben & Jerry’s corporate office.
When we arrived, we were greeted by the entire staff – everyone was clapping for us. It really showed the excitement that everyone shared for our visit, as well as for their company. We got a quick tour of the building (which is SUPER cool, by the way – it even has a twisty slide right in the lobby!), and then settled in at Scoop U, a portion of the building normally used for training. It resembled, as you could imagine, an actual Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, complete with all the fixin’s. And yes, we got to have some ice cream. (In fact, employees get to take home three pints of ice cream a DAY. Talk about employee perks.)
After settling in, we met with Dave, the CMO, Jake, the mobile marketing guru, and Laura, the Scoop Shop extraordinaire. From hearing them talk, you could tell that Ben & Jerry’s really is a special place. They pride themselves on being an activist-based company – a group who leverages their business opportunities to make a positive difference in the world. From working with bakeries like Greyston in the Bronx to supporting mandatory labeling of GMOs, Ben & Jerry’s is so much more than ice cream.
BUT, back to the ice cream. As CMO Dave said, “there are those who like Ben & Jerry’s, and those who haven’t tried it yet.” And try it we did. In fact, we got to conceptualize and create our own flavor with help from the Ben & Jerry’s R&D team. How. Cool. Is. That? I teamed up with fellow Chicagoans Tammy and Vanessa, as well as Atlantian Akila from The Road Forks, and together we created Polar Vortex – an ice cream that…well…I probably don’t need to explain the inspiration to you.
Polar Vortex is…
- Vanilla ice cream with a hint of coconut extract
- White chocolate chip ice
- Coconut flake grit
- Chocolate covered potato chip cluster asphalt (for those potholes, yo)
- A marshmallow core center reminiscent of pure snow
- A layer of dark chocolate chunks at the bottom of the pint, proving that there’s still a glimmer of hope at the end of a Polar Vortex
Brilliant, right? Not only did we get to create it, but we also got to work with the Ben & Jerry’s art directors to make a poster to promote it. Here’s ours:
After all of the groups created their ice cream flavor and poster, there was a competition to determine the winner. More on that (plus much, much more) in my next post.