by Alex Palmer | November 28, 2017
Local food and culinary creativity were the focus of the first half of Destination Texas, Northstar Meetings Group's gathering of hosted meeting planners as well as suppliers from top Texas destinations, hotels, DMCs, and more. Held at Horseshoe Bay Resort, a little over 50 miles northwest of Austin, the event gave attendees the chance to learn about the wide range of offerings available in Texas through networking, education, and one-on-one meetings. 

As planners arrived and picked up their registration information, they were personally fitted for a pair of shades at the Maui Jim Sunglasses booth. A number of them also made donations of clothes to Dress for Success, which provides business attire and training to help women succeed in their work and life. Northstar Meetings Group, which owns Successful Meetings, worked with the multinational organization as the event's corporate social responsibility partner.

Following a site tour of Horseshoe Bay Resort, where visitors got a look at the new guest rooms that will be part of the property's $65 million renovation, the gathering formally kicked off with a Welcome Illumination Reception at the Whitewater Putting Course and Patio. Local food was the focus, with booths offering up house-cured meats, brisket and jalapeno sausage, and several Hill Country wines. Hye Rum, a distillery in nearby Hye, TX, served up cocktails made with local rum. 

Between bites, attendees had a chance to go up in a hot-air balloon -- the property hosts an annual Balloons Over Horseshoe Bay Resort event every spring that brings together musicians, wine tastings, and other attractions -- though wind conditions required that the balloon stay tethered to the ground.

The reception wrapped up with a sundae station serving up homemade ice cream, fresh whipped cream, and an almond cookie for the top.

The food-centric focus continued into the next day, with an education session over breakfast presented by Christine Couvelier, owner of consulting company Culinary Concierge, as well as past executive chef of President's Choice, chair of The Chef School of George Brown College, and director of culinary strategy and executive chef at Cara Operations. She laid out the food trends that attendees should be aware of and offered suggestions for bringing more innovation to event F&B. 

These trends included "the next generation of sommeliers" that go well beyond wine, such as sommeliers for craft cider, rum, sake, and even water. Couvelier discussed how to explain the origin of dishes and ingredients, and that "at your events, tell the story on your menus." Among the other observations mentioned: "salt is the new pepper," "crickets are the new kale," and "the stigma of imperfect produce is fading." Couvelier wrapped her presentation by exhorting attendees to "think about how innovation and inspiration can become part of your passion for the food business."

Her presentation followed messages by two of the event sponsors: Stacie Nerf, senior sales account executive for Delta Air Lines; and Konnie Patke, director of group sales for Fredericksburg CVB, which will be hosting attendees for a post-event fam trip.

Following breakfast, attendees headed into Horseshoe Bay Resort's Granite Ballroom to begin their one-on-one sessions.