Memories: Dirty Dancing at Mountain Lake Hotel

A month ago, I attended one of the most creative and fun food conferences ever: Mixed Con!

The SWAG-packed weekend took place a mere 150 minutes away from me at the breathtakingly beautiful Mountain Lake Hotel outside of Roanoke, Virginia. The hotel was the filming location for “Dirty Dancing”! The ENTIRE property was reserved just for our conference. The only outside visitor was the ghost of Patrick Swayze, but I cannot confirm nor deny his presence was felt during my stay (even though my room's lights flickered briefly on the first night)

Kellerman's? Mountain Lake Hotel? Both.

Hosted by the lovely and fabulous Paula of bell’alimento and Susan of Doughmesstic, MixedCon was a small and intimate conference with only 100 bloggers in attendance. I didn't know a SOUL when I stepped onto the premises, it was like the first day of school in a new town. But if you know me--you know I've never met a stranger. Ever. 
One of the first people I met was Janet from Army Mom. She's from Winston-Salem too! It was truly a blessing meeting her and I can't wait to have lunch with her soon.

I don't get to travel to food conferences often. They're usually in the Four Corners of the American Culinary Earth: Seattle, San Francisco, New York or Miami and not in small resort towns cradled in the bosom of the Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains. Another blessing in disguise, all of the SWAG we were promised and delivered upon... Oxo, Kitchenaid, Dixie Crystals, Hershey’s, Attune Foods, Way Better Snacks, Lucky Leaf, Dreamfields Pasta, Roland Foods, Cameron Hughes Wine, Creminelli, Anderson Seafood, Stonyfield, Le Creuset, Smith's Edgeware, Dreamfarm, Wisconsin Cheese, Real Butter
There were also opportunities to eat, drink, eat, be merry, win prizes, eat, be merry, drink, win, drink, eat and did I mention win prizes?
Swag bag photo courtesy of Me and My Pink Mixer
Saturday's conference sessions were full-to-the-brim with information and fun activities to keep everyone busy. Unfortunately, there was a black hole sucking all internet and cell phone service into oblivion, but I was able to tweet a little bit at night from my bed (with my phone held at a 90º angle in the air).

First up--cookie decorating with Marian from Sweetopia. I can't remember the last time I decorated a cookie. I don't have that much patience before eating it. Case and point: We were given a tree cookie (see below) and an ornament cookie to decorate. I decided my ornament was too ugly to photograph, so I ate it. My tree turned out fine. But it didn't leave Virginia...


Next--Cake decorating with Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes and Ace of Cakes fame and his lovely assistants, Elena and Mary.

Me and the girls. Elena (l), Mary (r)

This session was a bit of a blur (to me) because there were so many ingredients, options, and materials to work with but not a lot of time. I could have sat in that room for 6 hours, decorating (and messing up) one singular cake. I decided upon Christmas lights, red, green, and a little rolled fondant for panache.

In the midst of our cake decorating, I got to make black fondant with Duff and he made a comment like,"Making black isn't fun..." And I feigned disgust, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN 'MAKING BLACK ISN'T FUN?" and you could feel the air suck out of the room with the gasps. "Just kidding!" I proclaimed... and all was right with the world. Leave it to me to bust this man's balls.

Me and Duff
There was a break in the afternoon's program. Well, I took a break... and I walked around the property a bit.

Other sessions included: Food Styling with Tami Hardeman of Running With Tweezers (my real-life Facebook friend and fellow food blogger), E-book Creation with Heidi of Foodie Crush (Look out 2013, a Nik Snacks e-book is coming!) and video production from Chez Us.

Later in the evening, there was a party featuring Captain Morgan and some other spirits like Crown Royal Maple. And a showing of "Dirty Dancing".

One of my many drinks
I really did have "the time of my life". I met some wonderful people, became inspired to do better and more in 2013 and to keep doing what I do best--be awesome.


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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

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  1. Meeting you is at the top of a VERY long list of highlights at MIXED! PLEASE do call me soon. I cannot wait to have lunch with you (or dinner, or breakfast!) and gab! You are sooo much fun and I am praying you will go to Mixed II later this year! Maybe we can carpool? :)


  2. Great!

    We Love your skills.
    Keep sharing good stuff like this.

  3. I am so jealous you got to meet Duff Goldman! I've been watching all the baking shows he's in. Nice way to psych him out, haha. It's cool to see these memories. I've been thinking of my own travel memories, too. It'll be SO GREAT when we can all travel again! But we have your blog to read in the meantime. :-)


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