I just returned from the BlogHer Food conference in San Francisco. For those not familiar with BlogHer, it is the publishing network that runs ads on this site. BlogHer has thousands of bloggers generating great content and hosts conferences annually, one of which is for their food bloggers. For those of you who were at this sold out conference, wasn't it well done? There were a number of great panel discussions, lots of interesting vendors, tons of great food and two very fun parties. For those who couldn't attend, I wanted to write a recap so you could see what the conference was like, as I know many of you want to go next year.
One of the highlights of the trip was meeting up with my goddaughter, Gaby, who writes "What's Gaby Cooking'". We did a Segway tour of San Francisco and had an absolute blast. We did not want to get off those darn things, they were so much fun! The weather was spectacular and there was an air show that weekend and the pilots were practicing over the water while we were on our Segways. It was incredible.
The obligatory mecca to the Williams Sonoma store, Kara's Cupcakes, the airshow,
me and Gaby on Segways
Brian and I went to a couple of great places for dinner before the conference even started. One restaurant was Perbacco, which just blew us away. We had some of their handmade pastas, like trofie, which is very labor intensive. Every ingredient in each dish was outstanding - the basil in the pesto, the figs in the salad. We finished with their caramel gelato with sea salt - a wowzer! Then the next evening we went to Chez Panisse for dinner. I just had to make that pilgrimage. It did not disappoint. Everything was incredible, but the first course of crostini with tomatoes was explosive in taste - they grilled the bread over the wood fire and you could actually taste that. It was outstanding.
From where we were sitting, I could see into the kitchen. It was a real treat. At one point, I thought I saw David Tanis in the kitchen:
Is that. . . David Tanis?
I know he splits his time between Chez Panisse and living in Paris, so I asked the waitress if he was working that night, and she said, "Oh yeah - that's David back there - would you like to meet him and get a tour of the kitchen?" Would I? Yes! But I didn't want to impose. Brian insisted I go back there (thanks, honey!) so I did and I got to meet David and see the whole kitchen operation and the various stations. I loved it. He couldn't have been nicer.
back in the kitchen at Chez Panisse with David Tanis
I've been reading for a long time Marcia Gagliardi's "Tablehopper". She is the Queen of what's happening in San Francisco. She was kind enough to invite me to a party she was co-hosting at Orson. It involved a whole lot of chocolate, lots of strange and exotic flavors to taste and creative cocktails.
Marcia Gagliardi of Tablehopper
One of the things I heard over and over all weekend was how supportive and close the blogging community is and I think that's absolutely true. Everyone was just so happy to meet each other. It was fun to meet so many people that I know online - thank goodness everyone had their blog titles on their name badges! Some people you only know by their blogging titles, so it was fun to meet them in person. Then, of course, there were bloggers who everyone knows and they could not have been nicer to meet. What a bunch of amazing and talented women (and men, too!).
Thanks to Hank Shaw, I now know more hangover remedies and I want to make my own homemade pancetta!
Gaby (the next Food Network Star) and Me
Aran (Cannelle et Vanille) had her beautiful little baby at the conference and it was sweet to watch them. And everyone knows who these two below are, right? She was scurrying around the conference all weekend, being such a good little girl and getting to eat lots of goodies!
Danny and Lu
I have never seen so many people so totally plugged in. In normal situations, where there was a speaker or a panel, it would be rude to constantly be on your laptop or your phone. But in a bunch of bloggers, everyone is on their phone or laptop, twittering away and it's absolutely fine. I have to admit, I really loved that. And for those of you who could not attend, reading the live tweets about the speakers is a fun way to follow along.
There were lots of sessions you could go to about anything from food photography to SEO for bloggers to recipe writing and blogger ethics. There was something for everyone.
The absolute highlight for me, though, was meeting Penny De Los Santos. Yes, I am now completely in love with this woman! Her cool factor is about a 15. I've always been awed by her photography, but sitting in her session was amazing. I loved the stories she told about her photographs and her thoughts about her photography in general. She could not have been more gracious and lovely to meet. I wanted to take a picture of her, but she was too shy about it! I thought that was hilarious - she didn't want to be on the other end of a camera. But when I was editing my photos from the conference, I realized I accidentally took a photo of her when I was shooting the espresso bar. So here is my photo of Penny De Los Santos getting an espresso:
I got you anyway, Penny!
The food at the conference was great and there was always something being served in between sessions. There were lots of vendors that made some great little appetizers and there were sweets galore.
There were shuttle buses one day to take us over to the Ferry Building so that we could go to the Market. I had lunch at the Slanted Door with Lael and Susan and we tried several dishes, including the delicious papaya salad and the caramelized tiger prawns.
The shopping, of course in the Marketplace was amazing. You could spend all day there but we did have to get back to the conference at some point!
goodies at the Ferry Market
There was a very fun party on Friday night that BlogHer and Food Fete hosted. There was lots of great food, cocktails and fun stuff to sample from the vendors there.
I see Matt and Gaby yacking away
Friday night party food
The closing keynote was given by Shauna (Gluten-Free Girl), Michael Ruhlman, and Molly (Orangette). They were all compelling speakers but I must say, I think everyone was very moved by what Shauna shared with all of us. I think the room collectively gave her a big group hug and I hope she knows it.
Ruhlman getting all fired up during the closing keynote
And Michael Ruhlman did a demonstration of how to make your own bacon. The room was packed. I was lucky to be standing right next to Hank Shaw, who gave me great bacon commentary during the demo! I love that guy.
Ruhlman making bacon
Now let's talk swag. You want to know about it - I know you do! There was plenty of that during the conference. Sharffen Berger was giving out tons of chocolate. I got bottles of saffron, numerous jump drives, a digital thermometer, a Nutella knife, a very nice cookbook from Philadelphia Cream Cheese, a great BlogHer swag bag, and tons of edible goodies.
At the closing party, Chef's Catalog gave everyone a very nice bag full of kitchen items and a gift certificate:
Some tips for those of you who would like to go next year. One: Make sure there is extra room in your suitcase for all the swag. Some people could not take goodies back because their suitcases were so full. I know you can't see it very well in the photo above, but the Chef's bag included a 12-inch pizza pan. Try stuffing that in your suitcase, if there's no room! Two: Take business cards so you can easily exchange information with other people and throw your card in for drawings.
Thanks to BlogHer for such a great conference!
If you'd like to read some other recaps of the conference, here are a few links:
What's Gaby Cooking BlogHer Food and San Fran
Food Woolf: How to Go to a Food Blogging Conference
Will Write for Food: BlogHer Food, the Love Fest
Panini Happy: Memorable Moments from BlogHer Food '10
Steamy Kitchen: Oinker
Bay Area Bites: BlogHer Food Conference, Day 2
Picky Palate: BlogHer Food Extravaganza
Celiacs in the House: BlogHer Food 2010