The sights and flavors of GOPEX
Diplomat Beach Resort was a pretty sweet location for The Packer's 2019 Global Organic Produce Expo in Hollywood, Fla. ( Amy Sowder )

You typically don’t go to a fresh produce expo because of the hotel.

But … the location of The Packer’s 2019 Global Organic Produce Expo at Diplomat Resort & Spa on Hollywood Beach, Fla., surely didn’t hurt.

Some attendees at the Jan. 31-Feb. 2 conference looked positively giddy when arriving in the sunshine from their homes in the northern polar vortex with weather-related flight issues (like freezing plane fuel?!).

The resort had multiple pools, children’s water slides and rows of beach lounge chairs in the sand, shaded by red and white umbrellas. Nearby, the waves rolled in with the sea breeze that played with the leaves on the palm trees.

GOPEX's catered food was thoughtful, starting with full warm and cold breakfast dishes, Blueberries from Chile scones, smoothies, juices and coconut-covered energy balls. At Grown restaurant CEO Shannon Allen’s keynote lunch, the multi-course meal carried the right balance of colorful fresh produce plus decadent candied walnuts, creamy potatoes and Key lime pie. The expo's lunch buffet wowed with a cauliflower potato soup, bean salad, mixed greens and some seriously flavorful rainbow cherry tomatoes. The chicken salad and other meaty sandwiches made sure no one left hungry, and sweet lovers had a pick of desserts.

Anyone who attended the receptions Thursday afternoon and then Thursday and Friday nights were welcomed to an open bar, which was extended an hour both evenings. Live tropical music surrounded the on-theme food, from mounds of fresh shrimp and oysters, a pick of empanadas with a bright, herby chimichurri sauce, delicious nibbles carried around on trays by servers, a pan of paella the size of a car tire and Miami-style desserts.

If the expo’s complimentary food wasn’t enough, there were more onsite options: the Diplomat’s five restaurants, including a few award-winning spots like Point Royal, created by acclaimed chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and TV personality Geoffrey Zakarian.

Next year’s GOPEX shouldn’t be so bad either.

The 2020 Global Organic Produce Expo is scheduled for Jan. 9-11 at Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau resort, situated on oceanfront Collins Avenue in the heart of Millionaire's Row and the Art Deco District — a historically and architecturally significant hotel.

— Check out a on-camera beachy GOPEX recap by editors Ashley Nickle and Amy Sowder.