On January 25th, I had the opportunity to go to my first food blog conference! My friend Lauren, from Sew You Think You Can Cook, was able to join me at Food Blog South 2014 in Birmingham, Alabama. I also have family and friends in Birmingham, so it was great to spend some time with them as well. I was too wrapped up in the conference, so I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I intended. I even forgot to get a photo of myself or Lauren. I will share with you what photos I did manage to take.
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We started the day with a breakfast spread of spiced chocolate and earl grey baked doughnuts, scones, and fruit before Virginia Willis welcomed us to the conference. Along with her food blog, Virginia Willis is also the author of Bon Appetit, Y’all and Basic to Brilliant, Y’all. Though I have lived in the south most of my life, I rarely cook southern food and will be looking through her recipes for inspiration.
The conference offered three seminar tracks- Creativity, Technology and Business, and Food. We could jump between the tracks to any seminar we wanted to attend. For my first seminar, I chose Photography and Food Styling Workshop by Helene Dujardin and Tami Hardeman. In addition to Tartelette, Helene is the author of the food styling book: Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling. Tami is the owner of Running with Tweezers. This was definitely my favorite seminar. I walked into the room and was immediately met with a large table of beautiful props. They discussed different styling techniques and adding your own personality to your photos without going overboard- such as not photographing soup on a tray that has the word ice cream. I learned about the different types of lenses (tilt-shift lenses!) and the benefits of tethering the camera directly to the computer- so you can take the photo from the computer and don’t shake the camera. Also, put together a prep station to help with last minute touches to photos that includes q-tips, tweezers, and garnishes.
For the second seminar, I jumped over to the Technology and Business Track for Cathy Barrow’s How to Turn Your Blog into a Career. Cathy Barrow is the owner of Mrs Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen and has a cookbook coming out in Fall 2014: Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving. She discussed reaching out to possible employers to get your name out there. The worst they can say is no.
After the second seminar, it was time for lunch. The meal was catered by Dixie Fish Company, a seafood restaurant from Birmingham, Alabama. Offerings included Orange and Blue Oyster Poppers with Blue Cheese Dressing, Triggerfish, Eggplant Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms over Rice, Crimson Shrimp and Grits, and White Chocolate Bread Pudding. The Bread Pudding was my absolute favorite. So good. I was able to meet a few other bloggers during lunch and was so excited to find out that the blogger next to me, Kat from Generation of Savings, had heard of my blog! It just made my day.
After lunch, we checked out all the vendors set up in the hallway. There were so many wonderful vendors, but Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery really stuck out. His samples of White Chocolate Baguette were amazing and his cookbook, A Passion for Bread: Lessons from a Master Baker, is now on my wishlist. I usually make artisan bread using a pan of water to create steam. He described another technique from his book to cover the bread with a large stainless steel bowl as it bakes to trap the steam with the bread.
Another notable vendor was I Love Alabama Food. They had a handout on 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die. I grew up in Alabama before moving to Florida and enjoyed looking through the list to see which restaurants and dishes made the cut. Katherine Frankstone of Grey Ghost Bakery offered delicious samples of Cinnamon Pecan, Molasses Spice, and Chocolate Espresso Cookies.
The seminars started up again after the break. I went to the creativity lightning round- 20 minutes each mini sessions on Generating Post Ideas, Cultivating Creativity, and Writing Great Blog Posts. I often have issues coming up with things to write about for my posts and these sessions helped me come up with a few more ideas for the future. Following the Lightning round, Marion Laney, a National Committee Member of the James Beard Foundation media awards and director of photography for ideaWercs, discussed the different types of food blog awards available and ways to improve your chances of winning.
Molly Wizenberg, of Orangette, was the keynote speaker for Food Blog South 2014. I first heard of her blog while reading Dianne Jacob’s book: Will Write for Food. I must admit, I was a bit starstruck when she sat next to me before her speech. Her daughter is only a couple of months younger than Evan and we shared photos of our children cooking. It was wonderful to get a chance to talk with her and she has so many amazing things going on. In addition to her blog and taking care of her daughter, she also has a second book coming out in May: Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage, and owns two restaurants. Some days I have difficulty just keeping up with Evan.
Lauren and I finished the day on a perfect note. We went to the Cheesecake Factory with her family. There were oh so many cheesecakes to choose from and we had a bit of difficulty deciding. Lauren had the Kahlua Cocoa Coffee Cheesecake and I finally settled on the Toasted Marshmallow S’mores.