Last weekend I was in Seattle for the second International Food Bloggers Conference. I had to miss it last year and was very excited about the chance to participate this year. The conference was held at the Theo Chocolate factory in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, and the agenda had a number of sessions that caught my interest as well as a few that turned out to be pleasant surprises. Though the cost of the conference may make you feel a pinch in the wallet, I think it was an excellent value considering the quality of the sessions as well as the chefs they brought in to cook the lunches and dinners.
The weekend was fantastic from start to finish. Spending time with old friends (Jen, Susan, Alice, Diane, Stephanie, Denise), making new ones (John, Allison, Peabody, Kevin, Amanda, Donna, Deseree), and meeting so many folks that I admire (Shauna and Dan, Penny, Kelly, Diane, Lael) was the biggest kick for me. I admit I was a little tongue-tied when meeting some of these fantastic folks, which is probably better than babbling on like a dork, but still I hope I didn’t make a complete fool out of myself.
In addition to all the awesome people, here are my biggest “likes” from the conference:
Penny de lo Santos: Beautiful photographs that make my heart ache. I had a moment akin to the first time I saw The Bread Baker’s Apprentice cover in the bookstore, when I had this out of body experience and heard my own voice say, “I want to make bread like that.” Being engulfed in Penny’s photos brought the same reaction, “I want to make photos like that.” I finally had to stop tweeting her tips because I didn’t want to miss a single image. And she is funny and delightful. The biggest thing I hung onto from Penny’s presentation is to allow time for photographs to happen. Waiting for the right moment can make all the difference between a good photograph and a photograph that stimulates our emotions.
James Oseland: It was so refreshing to hear from a leader in the food mainstream media that he not only gets bloggers but embraces us. He shared how he started writing about food, and like most of us got into it in a roundabout way. He understands our need to share our love for food and food culture and supports the work we do, whether as a hobby or a profession.
Shauna and Alex: The session on blogging and special diets was really excellent. There was never a moment where it felt like the conversation was stilted or awkward. Both are passionate about their work and it shone through.
Readers to Eaters: Phillip and June Jo Lee promote food literacy with programs and events designed to help connect eating and reading. They work with libraries, schools, farmers markets, community organizations, and restaurants to create custom programs. As an educator, I think their work is wonderful and would love to see an organization like this working in the DC Metro area.
Seattle Urban Farm Co.: I had a chance to chat with Brad, one of the owners, and they do some great stuff helping individuals and companies set up organic sustainable gardens. If you are in the Seattle area and want help with a garden, check them out.
Modernist Cuisine: This is what you can do when you have an insatiable interest in something and money is no object. It was like Food Geeks meet The Mythbusters and Time Warp, great stuff. The book collection is a tad pricey for the average home cook, but I really don’t think that’s their audience, and I’m hoping for a digital version with HD video at some point so the boys can amuse themselves watching the popcorn video a zillion times in a row.
Lamb, Grits and food trucks: Yes, we had some really tasty food: bahn mi and rack of lamb on Friday night, steak tartar on Saturday, and grits (yes, grits) on Saturday night. The food truck lunch on Sunday was not only delicious but also my kind of casual fun.
Twitter back channel: Check out the #IFBC Twitter stream if you haven’t already. You’ll find lots of helpful tips and quotes from the sessions as well as some hilarious snarky commentary, some of which could make a sailor blush.
Finally, a big special thanks to Theo Chocolate, Sur La Table, POM Wonderful, and all the other sponsors who helped make this weekend memorable. And I’m looking forward to the possibility of IFBC becoming a roving event, perhaps on the East Coast next year!