IFBC 2010: the food

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!

Linda hosted a little soirée for both out of town and Seattle-based bloggers and  foodies the night before IFBC began and I don’t think anyone went hungry…  Look at this array of goodies:

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.

I could have eaten the mini croque-monsieur, the tortilla espanola and these meatballs all night long.  The meatballs, especially, were fabulous.

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.

Sunday’s lunch boded better already since there was beer available for the first time since Friday.

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.

38 thoughts on “IFBC 2010: the food”

  1. Excellent observations and summary of IFBC. I will always remember the great bloggers I met and the surreal quality of being surrounded by beautiful food, yet always hungry. I actually lost weight my week in Seattle. The best post so far that highlights the strengths and weaknesses, the beautiful food and the generous sponsors, the excitement and energy—and the hunger.

  2. I could just stay at Linda’s place! 2 sous vide? And the hospitality is just great…

    I have to say conferences’ food always a let down. Too little and what were they thinking? I am sure all these comments will be taken on board and better next year 🙂 Hope I can make it in time 😉

  3. Great recap of the foods… I had almost forgotten about those lovely lamb meatballs on Saturday before dinner… Now I am craving them again! 🙂

    I definitely thought that Sunday’s lunch was really the only well-planned option of the weekend, and as a non-beer drinker, would have loved some iced tea or something, but I survived! 🙂

  4. It was so wonderful to have you here just for you being YOU! Of course your mad skills in the kitchen were a very welcome addition too. Hope I didn’t work you too hard- you rocked! Also, your IFBC assessment was unfortunately spot-on. Here’s to hoping they’ll improve next year!

  5. Now just imagine if you were vegetarian. I thought the food choices for us were appalling. I bought my lunch both days and had a giant plate of grits for dinner on Saturday. I can’t imagine what the vegans ate. And breakfast was just silly. How did they expect us to sit still for so long on a sugar and carb diet? Anyway grumble grumble. Very nice recap of it all!

  6. Thank you for your honesty. The conference was so exciting in the presentations but the food left lots to chance, and a good conference should NEVER leave food to chance; especially a FOOD conference.
    No protein, no tea, no snacks and having to deal with too many people in two small a space are all elements of a disaster. Luckily, the only disaster was not having enough.

    Thank you for the listing of the chefs and restaurants. I have been searching for this information, so lovely to have them all in one terrific post.
    Wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that party at Linda’s, it sounds amazing!

  7. Yours is the first blog post I’ve read about the conference, but I saw a lot of mixed tweets.
    The food truck idea was genius. I’m slightly obsessed with food trucks, so what a fun way to end things!

  8. Wonderful post! Those food truck were the bomb! And, the meatballs? I agree. I wore the remains of one on my preggy belly for half a day!

  9. Great, practical insight – and helpful to me, for ours out here. Somethings are so obvious – but I would NOT have thought about them (brightly lit rooms with outdoor light – lack of which is a huge peeve of mine when dining, but planning our event, it wasn’t a consideration – until now!)
    I am really surprised – shocked, actually – about a couple of things – the lack of food and beverage!!!
    Thanks, Mardi!

  10. This so reminds me of my experience with the blueberry fest, the hungry part in particular. Crappy lighting? Dark rooms? Seriously, that is a problem. And those sweet breakfasts would have sent my blood sugar crashing big time. Still, hopefully the venue will be brighter and better next year. Loved this post! Thank you for letting me live vicariously through you. One year I will also go too!

  11. Wow! That is crazy that you guys were hungry so much of the time … Does not sound well planned at all. I still want to go next year. Hopefully they have some of the kinks ironed out. Really interesting recap!

  12. Uh yeah, pretty unacceptable really. I think if I’m able to have 40 people at my house and every leaves stuffed with food and drink, then a professional organisation should be able to feed their registered guests to satisfaction, ESPECIALLY if they are food bloggers, aye carumba.

    I’ve been to a conference dinner a couple of years ago that was horribly undercatered, and it’s remarkable just how quickly a crowd can turn when mass hunger abounds.

    I’m SO impressed by your ingenuity in the face of this, with the soiree. People should hold more soirees. They make me think of Hyacinth Bucket.

  13. who would have thought you would be hungry at a food bloggers’ conference? the food did look good – i would have definitely wanted more of it too. sounds like with whatever glitches there were in the programming, you had a great time (re)connecting with foodie friends old and new.

  14. Sounds like you missed the lemon crepes on Sunday — splendid on their own and mildly amusing after the writing exercise. Simple too, already recreated them and gonna post my version soon. Thanks.

  15. Mardi, I think you presented a very fair assessment of many frustrations I encountered at IFBC. Thanks for letting me join you on the search for more food to round out “lunch” on Saturday. I would have never imagined being hungry at a food blogger conference. Although I do want to clearly state that all the food I sampled at the conference was enjoyable. There just wasn’t enough of it.

    And really, would it have been so hard to have a diet coke or hard boiled eggs show up on the menu?

  16. Great recap! I felt exactly as you did about the food. What was there was lovely, but there just wasn’t enough of it. And, while I love donuts and muffins, they don’t love me. I really needed some protein to balance it out, and I’m sure there were plenty of others who did too. But, I’m sure that the organizers tried their best with what they had to work with.


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