Friday, September 24, 2010

IFBC 2010: Day 2

Day two of the International Food Blogger Conference started the way more mornings should. Doughnuts! But no dunkin' around here, these were Seattle's best, yummy Top Pot Doughnuts. Combined with a cup of Caffé Vita coffee I was ready to dive into another day of culinary radness. The delicious irony was that the first session of the day was on the topic of "specialized diets" focusing on gluten-free and vegan... There was more than an audible rumble among some specialized bloggers about the choice of doughnuts (though frankly I found it a little obnoxious, as there was an entire table of wheat-free, vegan muffins from PCC Natural Markets and gluten-free muffins from Udi’s Gluten-Free...). I kept quiet and enjoyed my French cruller.
The Food Blogging For Specialized Diets panel starred Shauna James Ahern, author of the blog Gluten-Free Girl and the book Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back…And How You Can Too (and I say star because this woman is loved by her disciples) and the quietly winning Alex Jamieson, author of Living Vegan for Dummies and The Great American Detox Diet. One of the most impactful moments of the weekend came at the beginning of this session when the panelists asked all of the vegans in the room to stand up, followed by vegetarians, then gluten-free, those with a wheat allergy, lactose intolerance, etc. all the way down to issues with spicy foods. By the end, basically everybody was standing, point being: everyone has a specialized diet. A laugh erupted when Jamieson was asked about her militant vegan critics and she responded "oh, don't get me wrong vegans drive me nuts!"
Next up was Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, a titillating session led by Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, CEO and found of Intellectual Ventures, a firm dedicated to creating and investing in inventions. Myhrvold gave an exciting visual preview of his soon-to-be-published multi-volume food and cooking book Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. Meticulous cross section digital photographs and slow motion high-def video of spilling wine and gun-shot eggs had the room in enraptured silence. Myhrvold's books cover the science of cooking ("bread is actually a gel") but also include parametric recipes that make contemporary molecular gastronomy seem like child's play. A full live taping of the presentation can be viewed here.
The next session was far and away many bloggers' favorite, Digital Food Photography presented by Penny De Los Santos, award-winning documentary photographer (contributing photographer for Saveur Magazine, National Geographic and Martha Stewart Living, and cookbooks including the nationally acclaimed book “Asian Dumplings” by Andrea Nguyen). De Los Santos' slide show and stories were awe-inspiring, my only disappointment was that it was not a hands-on photography workshop as I somehow misunderstood, rather a conceptual overview and inspirational talk. What I took away and appreciated most though was De Los Santos' use of the term "making pictures", for we are not taking anything away, we are creating beautiful imagery.
Our lunch break on Sunday was an exciting one, featuring Gourmet Food Trucks of the Pacific Northwest. Familiar with the droves in LA I was intrigued what the Northwest had to offer. I couldn't get to all of them (regretfully missing El Camion and Dante’s Inferno Dogs) as I also had to fit in a Theo chocolate factory tour and time for enjoying some local beer selections from Pike Brewing Co.
Charles and Rose Ann Finkel might be THE most charming business owners I've ever met, and reading their adorable history on the Pike Brewing Co. site, I have an even more enormous amount of respect for the way they've built their empire. Rose Ann laughed while pouring us Kilt Lifter and Naughty Nellies, two of Pike's cheekily named brews.
My lunchtime partner-in-crime Sharon (of Delicious Musings) snuck us beers to make the truck queue more bearable.
My favorite bite was from Skillet, a grass fed beef burger slider with arugula, bacon jam and cambozola on a soft roll. So good! I want to buy this bacon jam (and apparently for a pretty penny I can).
Next we got in line at Kaosamai Thai. Their Pla Sam Rose was the most gorgeous street food I've ever seen, an elegant deep-fried trout topped with fresh sliced mango, red onion, carrot, cashew nuts and a sweet & sour dressing. Their pineapple curry with salmon was also top notch.
The Georgetown neighborhood's Hallava Falafel truck represented, serving a tasty slow roasted lamb shawarma served with Russian red relish, spinach and cabbage mix, tzatziki, wild Armenian pickle, and a "super secret" spice mix on a warm pita.
Sharon enjoyed the wild Armenian pickle with her crispy falafel.
I was impressed with the portable wood-fired oven Rolling Fire employed, the closest thing to a truly portable restaurant yet. The crust of the white pies was bubbly, crisp and light. Ingredients were clearly farm-fresh, a refreshingly clean pizza!
I didn't indulge in one of Anita’s Crepes, but always enjoy watching the process...
Olive Oil ice cream sounded soo good, I was very excited to try a taste. Unfortunately the pointed Molly Moon’s Ice Cream vendor declared that he was closed and told the woman in front of me that she was the last customer. I looked behind me and there was no one. I waved and asked if he could make an exception given it's only one more... and he shook his head. The blogger in front of me loudly exclaimed "Sorry!" over her shoulder. Dumbstruck I left the line, not terribly stoked for ice cream anymore. More beer!
Though not part of the corral of IFBC-sponsoring trucks, the Maximus Minimus truck had an undeniable presence, serving porcine dishes to the neighboring farmer's market crowd.
Sharon and I finished our beers and headed to the main Theo building for our guided factory tour. Our docent Kathleen was totally awesome. After a run-down of exactly where the cocoa beans come from and how Theo stands apart from other chocolate companies, she walked us through the color-coded process under the roof that produces all chocolate bearing the Theo logo. Their small batch chocolate production is truly an art form!
Goodies from the Theo chocolate shop...(You can taste everything!)
Capturing the magic that is Theo's PB&J chocolate truffle... Meanwhile, back at the ranch lunch was definitely over.
Photo contest winners were picked for capturing and posting the best food truck images, judged by IFBC presenters.
And then the final, highly-anticipated panel: Pitch to Publish, lead by Victoria von Biel, Executive Editor of Bon Appétit, Kirsty Melville, President, Book Division at Andrews-McMeel, and food blogger It girl Molly Wizenberg, Bon Appétit columnist, author of the blog, Orangette, and A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. Here is where the bloggers' burning questions finally came out, receiving both helpful advice and also some discouraging realities in return. Presenter Dianne Jacob from the first panel of the weekend won me over yet again with a devil's advocate rebuttal to the panel's [sometimes vacantly] encouraging advice: How many cold submissions are ever actually published at Bon Appétit or by Andrews-McMeel? The answer was obviously none, and the panel smiled knowingly, as did Dianne and half of the room. Naturally, following the presentation the line to meet these women was a long one.
I think with everything I learned throughout the weekend, a certain clarity and pride about what I already do was the most beneficial take-away. Every panel dropped the line at least once "you're here because you love it, it's not supporting you, it's your passion." Nor is it a popularity contest, as James Oseland stated. Wizenberg's cornerstone advice was to have a story to tell. And the burrito baby of all of it is to keep on truckin'. So I am.
This is my story, World. Eat it up.

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