This weekend I attended the International Food Blogger Conference here in Seattle. I had been looking forward to this event for months, and I was not disappointed.
Imagine walking into a cocktail party with two hundred and fifty or so extremely animated people you’ve never met before, all of whom want to talk about exactly what you want to talk about. They are witty, interesting, humorous, and curious about you. Then sprinkle in a few fascinating celebrities you’ve always wanted to meet—yes, that’s Morgan Spurlock over there drinking a cosmo, and indeed that was Dianne Jacob who just joined your conversation with fellow food blogger Father Leo. Throw in chefs offering tidbits of their finest creations, all the wine you care to drink, and gifts to take home with you. There are people walking around with a lamb pop in one hand, a camera in the other, and a grin from ear to ear…and oh yes, it doesn’t end on Friday night. All of this goes on for three days.
I learned something from every speaker, but there were a few that really knocked my socks off: Penny De Los Santos, whose session on food photography was so inspiring that she had her audience in tears, then on our feet for a standing ovation; and Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, who talked about the multi-volume cookbook he is producing, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking . Wow. Just, wow.
I met, ate with, and learned from some amazing, passionate bloggers, like Feed Yourself, Teenie Cakes, Rural Eating, Purple House Dirt, Awake at the Whisk, Food Flirt, Stephen Cooks, Savour Fare, and so many others.
Truly remarkable chefs produced food for hundreds of people at a time without even breaking a sweat–like it was no big deal at all to plate 250 meals while hungry bloggers vied for photos, asked questions, and generally acted like a plague of tipsy locusts.
I love trying new foods, and I had a couple of firsts at the conference. Somehow I have lived in the Pacific Northwest my entire life without trying Geoduck clams—until I walked up to the table where two grinning guys from Taylor Shellfish Farm presided over a very…umm…substantial geoduck on ice and some gorgeous, delicate plates of geoduck ceviche and crudos. They led me through the initiation rites–squeezing lime over a morsel of geoduck, spearing it with a toothpick, dragging it through kosher salt, and popping it in my mouth. It was good! Crunchy but yielding, and after the initial tequila shot blast of lime and salt, it tasted of nothing but fresh seawater.
And then there was the Steak Tartare, served up at lunch on Saturday by Daisley Gordon of Campagne. I generally prefer my meat in a state of advanced char. But how could I pass up the opportunity to jump into a new experience with both feet? The chef answered my questions about the provenance of the beef, then he handed me a plate. After picking up a glass of the paired wine, I wandered around a while, joined a group at a stand-up table, generally stalled, and then I finally spread the ground steak on a slice of bread, topped it with a few greens…and became an instant devotee. I went back for seconds.
On Sunday, a convoy of gourmet food trucks roared and chugged into position outside before lunch. The odors of fire and meat and goodness filled the air, and we all stampeded outside.
It was wonderful to spend an entire weekend eating, drinking, and making merry like a gluttonous duchess. But in the end, it’s not just about partying like it’s 1999. Here’s what I came away with: Pay attention to what you put in your mouth, where it came from, what it is made from and how. Food should be shared, so gather together in community. Be inspired. Be passionate. Be brave. And never forget those who are absent from the table.