Man cannot live by chocolate alone…
A lot has been written about IFBC, my last post included. There have been varying opinions on the success of the conference – I think all attendees will agree that it was wonderful to connect with old and new friends and, of course, being amongst a bunch of like minded people is always great – the sense of camaraderie at IFBC was truly something. However, I think that something the majority of people attending will also agree on is the fact that it was not the most well-planned conference they have attended and there is definitely some room for improvement. This great post from a volunteer confirms the fact that it was just as chaotic behind the scenes as out front.
I think for me, the most obvious errors were with regards to the food. Quite simply, a lot of the time (especially during the first two days of the conference), a lot of us were hungry. Those who didn’t drink wine had the choice of POM drinks or water with meals (or coffee, if it hadn’t run out) and those who didn’t drink beer on the last day of the conference were stuck with the same choices. Some fairly basic oversights for a food bloggers’ conference, and did I mention we were often hungry?
More on that later, because the start of my trip was full of great food and wine. Staying at the Hotel Chez Salty Seattle meant that you don’t have a bar fridge in your room but you have this outside of your room. You know, in case you get peckish during the night…
And if you decided to get creative during your stay, there were not one but TWO sous-vide machines closeby!
Yeah, ok, so see those quail eggs? I cooked them. In the sous vide machine. I also assembled the potatoes filled with quail eggs and topped with some bacon crumbs. Oh and the grissini? Linda had me working on those pretty much as soon as I stepped off the plane! The gorgeous candied tomatoes were all Linda – aren’t they magical? And the fondue you see there is actually goat cheese infused with lavender and honey. Definitely a high-end soirée! Wine was consumed, new friendships were established and old ones renewed. A great time was had by all. Cheers Linda! The next morning, the gourmet treats continued to be available as Linda served me this Japanese pannetone (brought by the lovely Shirley the night before) and peaches and cream. Pouring cream. Need I say more?
The opening reception of IFBC was held in the basement of the Hotel Monaco. Not sure who chose that venue but it was labyrinthine and dark. Confusing to navigate (especially with a gigantic bag of swag, a glass of wine and nibbles), and generally made for a rather bumpy start to the conference. Also, can I point out that we are food bloggers? We take photos of the gorgeous food you will serve us. Do not put us in rooms with no natural light and psychedelic carpet that reflects weirdly on the food. I have only seen a handful of good shots of the food from that night and they are from people with cameras that cost more than my mortgage payment every month.
In any case, there were cupcakes. From Cupcake Royale. They were mini ones so I had a couple.
Breakfasts at IFBC tended to be a carb-loaded affair. With lots of sugar.
Oh yes, there were giant strawberries as well, but no yoghurt, no protein. There were a LOT of sugar crashes around the time of the first break. Where no snack was served and the coffee had run out. Those of you following the #IFBC hashtag on Twitter might have noticed a spike in snark mid-morning on that first day. Well we were hungry and grumpy. And looking forward to lunch. Which sounded so promising…
Alas, another letdown. Gorgeous food, beautifully prepared, but I think someone forgot to give the chefs the memo telling them that it was lunch, not a snack, not a small bite of deliciousness making you yearn for more.
The wines were provided by Walla Walla Wine Alliance and the food included a steak tartare by Chef Daisley Gordon of Campagne, braised octopus over chick peas with chorizo by Chef Shannon Galusha of Bastille Cafe and Bar, marinated zucchini carpaccio prepared by Chef Jason Stratton of Spinasse, and a salmon carpaccio by Chef John Howie of Seastar Restaurant, John Howie Steak, and Sport Restaurant and Bar. Of these, I only tried the chick peas and the zucchini (both amazing) because it don’t *do* raw food. Sorry. Call me a bad foodie. On the far right in the middle row up there is a gluten-free offering, Chef Kaili McIntyre’s beet paella and a pastry filled with mashed cauliflower and peas. This was surprisingly delicious though I don’t think I would call that rice and beets a paellla.
There was no dessert except for the ubiquitous Theo Chocolate which, whilst delicious, isn’t a substantial dessert (especially when you have been snacking on it all morning because you are starving). So in the bottom row, you will see the – ahem! – cake that a few of us went off to Simply Desserts in search of and the spring rolls we brought back to snack on throughout the afternoon. Shocking really – no conference should leave you hungry, let alone a food-bloggers conference.
The Saturday apéritif was sponsored by the Secret Sherry Society (no there wasn’t a secret handshake!) and included a number of delicious (but tiny!) bites of goodness, paired with different types of sherry.
Saturday night dinner, served after James Oseland’s inspiring keynote speech, was fabulous food, unfortunately marred by the rugby scrum-type setup to gain access to it. Tip for next year: DON’T allow 250 people to simultaneously flood out of the room into a tent about 1/4 the size it needs to be where they will then have to line up for way too long to get a small plate of food, then repeat for the other dishes, by which time the first plate is cold etc…
Thanks to Rodney Strong Vineyards and Columbia Winery for the wines and to the following chefs for putting out amazing food in difficult circumstances:
Ethan Stowell (one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs, multi-James Beard Award nominee)
Tamara Murphy (one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs, James Beard Award winner)
Holly Smith (Winner of the 2008 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the Northwest)
Dana Tough and Brian McCracken (whose restaurant, Spur, was featured in Food & Wine magazine’s coveted Go List of “the most outstanding, must-visit restaurants in the world”)
Jeff Mall and Josh Silvers (both widely acclaimed chefs at Zin Restaurant and Syrah Bistro in California)
Again, the lighting was too poor for me to be able to take any decent photos of the wonderful food (there were beef cheeks!). Also, by the time we sat down, we were all too hungry to really focus on anything other than the food.
Lunch was billed as: “Gourmet Food Trucks of the Pacific Northwest, including Skillet, El Camion, Rolling Fire, Anita’s Crepes, Dante’s Inferno Dogs, Hallava Falafel, and Molly Moon’s Ice Cream and local beer selections from Pike Brewing Co.”
Embarrassingly, I admit to eating at least a bite of most of the foods pictured (great lighting, finally!): Molly Moon’s salted caramel ice cream, pizza from Rolling Fire, hot dog from Dane’s Inferno, gluten free nachos (which I didn’t have but which were gorgeous), Tom Kha Gai and Thai chicken larp taco from Kaosamai Thai. The bottom row is all Jen’s food that she kindly let me photograph: Tacos from the taco truck and falafel from Hallava.
Simply put, this was an awesome end to the conference (and thank goodness we ended the day with full bellies). Next year? Bring on the food trucks! Give us some decent light so we can showcase the gorgeous food. Don’t let the coffee run out and make sure there is enough food. Again, tips that can also be applied to real life.
Thanks to California Walnuts, The National Watermelon Promotion Board, The Ontario Tender Fruit Producers, The Ontario Apple Growers, The USA Rice Federation and Rosewood Winery for making it possible for me to attend IFBC this year through their generous sponsorship.