spoiler alert: there are horses. and cows.
Thanks everyone for the tweets and comments about Throwdown. It was such an awesome experience and I can't wait to tell you all about it. So I guess I will start!
It all began when my good friend Meseidy got a direct message from Ree on Twitter. She personally invited a few local bloggers to The Ranch for a Food Network special. That's all we knew at the time. Meseidy came to my house that night to break the news in person, and we were ecstatic. As in, we may or may not have jumped up and down. Okay, maybe that was just me.
So we waited long, agonizing weeks until that beautiful early fall Oklahoma weekday arrived. Meseidy, her husband Obed, and I made the two-hour drive to Drummond Ranch. It was absolutely gorgeous. We drove up right by her house, right by Cowboy Josh, who politely tipped his hat at us (and is even more handsome in person, ladies). We may or may not have almost run over George, her yellow lab, who wanted to investigate us a little too closely. (We stopped and didn't proceed until we were sure George was safely frolicking to his next adventure.) We didn't see Charlie, though, much to my regret!
They had appetizers and wine for us while we waited on the spacious Lodge patio. Even though we weren't supposed to have cameras or cell phones out, I couldn't help but snap this picture; the view was too glorious!
We were greeted by Ree's mother and her mother-in-law, and mingled with people from Ree's town, various Drummonds, and a few awesome bloggers like Elizabeth, Jennifer, and Vivian. And before we knew it, it was time for the taping.
Once we got past the shock of how huge and beautiful the Lodge kitchen was, the Riveras and I navigated past cameras, lighting props, and Food Network people and found a spot near the front. Right now, as a huge Food Network fan, I just want to give major, major props to all of the people behind the scenes of these shows. And the editors, who weeded through hours and hours of multiple camera footage to create this one-hour special. There were people prompting the audience and cooks with questions and cues; cameramen bending to get the perfect shot; arms straining against heavy equipment; women getting punched in the face with the heavy camera and still going on with the show; and experts coordinating every little detail so it flows perfectly.
When Ree appeared, it was really happening. I couldn't believe she was there in 3D, as dumb as that sounds. And she is exactly like she presents herself on her blog. By that, I mean she talks like she writes: genuine, in love with her family, mildly self-deprecating in a good way, and friggin' hilarious. She starts cooking, doing what we believe is an intro to her Food Network special, and interacting with the audience a little.
Then Bobby Flay walks in.
And mouths drop to the floor.
Were we being punk'd? I think the look on my face in my 0.5 seconds of fame, if you saw it, sums up what everyone was experiencing: shock. Eventually we scraped our jaws from Ree's polished floors and strained our eyes for a better look at the goings on. It was intense and amazing. And really hot from the lights, hot cooking, and standing. Pans were stirred while dishes bubbled in the ovens (yes, there was more than one oven), recipes were explained to the cameras, scents tantalized our noses, and our stomachs grumbled with anticipation.
Ree was a rockstar: poised, regal, witty, and firing on all cylinders. Even through collapsed gravy debacles. And at one point, as I mentioned before, Bobby needed something from the pantry and touched my shoulder to squeeze past me. I turned to Meseidy, my eyes as wide as the wheels on a Drummond truck, and confessed that I was never going to wash my arm again. (A little dramatic, maybe?)
Finally it was the time we'd been waiting for since Bobby Flay walked in the room: tasting time. If you haven't watched the show and plan to, don't read any further! We had two platefuls of delicious Thanksgiving food: tender, flavorful turkey; rich, savory stuffing; perfectly cooked and seasoned vegetables; and the best mashed potatoes I'd ever laid fork on. And the desserts? Well, I'll never use I Can't Believe It's Not Butter again. I'm ruined.
Basically, we can say that Ree Drummond and Bobby Flay had us over for dinner.
My review: I loved both turkeys and gravies; would pick Ree's mashed potatoes over Bobby's brussel sprouts -- and pretty much any food in the world (though those were the very first brussel sprouts I've ever actually liked, in his defense); LOVED both stuffings, especially their use of mushrooms; liked Bobby's cranberry dish better than Ree's; and of course, could never choose between those mouth-watering desserts. Ree was genuinely surprised when she won, and she totally deserved it.
Just FYI, in this photo Ree posted yesterday, she was really saying and doing just that. Look, there I am, standing next to Missy! And accidentally touching Hyacinth's booty!
Afterward, we had the chance to talk with the ladies of Throwdown. I even compared burn scars with Stephanie, who got a pretty nasty one during the filming. They were really nice and encouraging women, and I'm glad I got to hear some of their stories.
The Riveras and I stuck around long enough to meet and talk with Ree in person. I refrained from using the word "girlcrush" around her, but summoned the bravery to pull out my cookbook, and she was nice enough to sign it.
Ree is just as genuine and beautiful in person as she seems in her writing. And her family is awesome. For one, her daughters -- and all the Drummond women, it seems -- are giants. The older daughter is approaching Ree's height, around six feet, and the younger daughter seemed to be around my height, 5'6". I am not nearly creepy enough to stand close enough for an exact measurement, don't worry. (The question crossed your mind, though, didn't it?) Her baby boy came up to us at one point and said matter-of-factly, "I already know who's going to win. My mama." SO adorable!
And then there's Marlboro Man. He is just as cool and rugged as he appears on her blog, but has so much dimension to him. Very kind eyes, too. What stuck out the most to me about him was how evident it is that he's mad for her. He walked around in his cowboy hat and spurs (and shirt, boots, and jeans) taking pictures of the action for her, supporting her in whatever way she needed. He looked at her with such admiration in his eyes. When his children wanted to speak with him, he stopped what he was doing and gave them his full attention. And I thought it was so cute that out of all of the cooking experts in the kitchen, Ree made sure that Marlboro Man carved the turkey for her. That gesture may not have been significant to them, just second nature, but it gave me the evidence that there is lots of love and respect in that household. I mean ranchhold.
I loved everything about this day. If I could describe it in two words, they'd be delicious and inspiring.
Then our happy hearts and full tummies drove off into the beautiful ranch sunset. And everyone lived happily ever after.