What a weekend that was (and yeah, I realize it’s already mid-week now – I’m writing from wine country)! BlogHer Food 2010. In San Francisco. With hundreds of my people. Oh, I didn’t mean people as in Chinese people… I meant “my peeps” as in food bloggers. Looking back, I don’t actually recall how I got from shooting golden aspens in the San Juans of Colorado to having a head-spinning wonderful time in this gorgeous city. A blur (because of the head-spinning… and everything else).
The theme of my weekend was to maximize quality time with the good people I love. Done and done! Chuck and Hungry Bear swept me off the airport curb and drove me into the city for drinks and catch up. My bee-yoo-tee-ful Seattleites, Tea and Lara met me for dinner at Contigo (a blogger must, no?). Simple, elegant, wholesome fare served up by Brett and Elan – two genuinely warm and fascinating people. The food… the food was brilliant and delicious. There, I used the word delicious – so the “delicious” police can just stick it. At the hotel, I was reunited with my friend and roommate Jennie. We both stayed up later than we should have, talking and laughing and gossiping. That Jennie is good people – heart of gold.
yes, let’s eat here
wood oven-roasted sardines on avocado toasts with pickled onions
summer corn and chantarelles
brett, lara, and tea
The start of the first day was filled with screams and squeals as friends reconnected, met for the first time in real life, and generally freaked out. That’s how these things go. I, myself, was guilty of dispensing many, many hugs. I wondered if I would be burned out on conferences having attended IFBC just a little over a month earlier. It requires a lot of energy to be “on” all the time. And by “on”, I am not referring to a public persona per se. I’m talking about a heightened state of interaction and enthusiasm that leaves you barely able to see straight after 12+ nonstop hours. It’s akin to how your face starts hurting because you’ve been smiling so much and so hard.
brooke listens on while looking fabulous
diane recording video
So there will be inevitable comparisons between IFBC and BlogHer Food because I’m not sure I want to attend both next year and because it’s natural to contemplate an experience in reference to other similar experiences. Unlike IFBC’s big group agenda, BlogHer Food offered four session tracks: values, visuals, vocation, and voice.
todd and diane kick off the visuals track with a great preso
helen and i led a session on professionalizing your photography
These ran in parallel so that you had to choose or session-hop. I see pros and cons of both ways, but the biggest con was missing out on a lot of great sessions. The biggest pro was having a more intimate interaction between speakers and attendees. I liked that it was a proper conference venue because we could leave our junk and all of our friends’ junk (because they weren’t staying at the hotel) in our rooms rather than schlepping everything around. That, and the area outside of the sessions was a great place to connect with friends and regroup.
aran sings to lucy as miren looks on
Let’s get to brass tacks here. The food. It’s a food blogger’s conference after all. The BlogHer Food 2010 food was worse than IFBC and better than BlogHer Food 2009 (i.e. it was edible, but not especially impressive) and the sponsorship was heavily corporate which… I didn’t like. I found myself skipping out on most of the food offerings. Breakfast was meh, because I’m Asian and I want SAVORY food for breakfast, like bacon. Where was the damn bacon? IFBC kicked BlogHer Food in the ‘nads with all of their local chefs and artisan or locally sourced foods and the food trucks (oh, the food trucks…). BlogHer Food food felt and tasted (for the most part) like it was pulled out of a box and laid on a platter. People would say (as if to excuse BlogHer Food), “But Seattle is a great food town.” Um, HELLO?!? We were in San Francisco!
As soon as I heard pasta was on the lunch menu for the conference, I got the hell out of there. It’s not that I can’t make myself sit through a meal that is less than perfect. It’s that I’m in SAN FRANCISCO and I look at my schedule as a series of meals – opportunities to discover fan-freaking-tastic food. Chuck, Broderick, and I hoofed it over to Spice Kit for lunch. Those who stayed for the conference lunch said it wasn’t bad. That’s great. Again, I’m not here for food that “isn’t bad”. I can get “isn’t bad” back in Colorado, m’kay?
at the spice kit: viet, korean, chinese
pork belly buns
I blew off the late afternoon session and product demos (can you tell I’m not too keen on the whole product thing?) to get a little quality time with some wonderful people: Shauna and Danny, Aran, and the KIDS! We all told folks that the kids needed some air, needed to get outside, needed to move around, but really – we ALL needed that. The adults enjoyed the peace and quiet of 50+ children running around on a giant playground (Yerba Buena Gardens – kid’s dream come true).
miren resting after she and lu ate crackers and jumped on my bed
lucy wants us to get going
food fête welcome party after conference day 1
Ditching the welcome party early, I had a dinner date! This dinner date was set up long ago – among friends and between very busy schedules. It was originally going to be a smallish group, but over the course of one day it blossomed into a much larger group of 16 (+2 kids): Shauna, Danny, Lu, Aran, Miren, Penny, Molly, Tea, Marisa, Lara, Dianne, Allison, Son, Justin, Jen, Todd, and Diane. Large group dynamics.
finally seated! aran texts penny where we are
molly, shauna, and little lu
I have strong feelings about large group dynamics and large groups in general because I am all about the QT and I feel large groups really diminish that experience. Plus, I hate coordinating large groups because it’s an exercise in trying not to gnash your teeth. That’s the OCD in me. But you know, considering the fabulous awesomeness of the lovely friends – all of the wrangling was worth it to spend an evening together at Amber India. I dare say, their butter chicken was *almost* as good as Manisha’s. Almost. We all wound up sharing dishes around which was even more fantastic. I think the winner was Dianne’s okra dish. Sooooo good!
my butter chicken
tara’s eggplant dish
Day 2 of the conference had me up bright and early. It’s amazing how early I woke each morning with the intention of getting work done and how little progress I seemed to make for the amount of sleep I didn’t get. And several friends brought up one very good point – why do high end hotels charge for wireless when the Best Westerns and Holiday Inns offer wifi for free? The answer: assholery.
golden sunrise over the city
I pretty much stuck with the visuals track for the duration of the conference. Todd and Diane rocked their session on food photography the first day. I think those two are excellent teachers. They are knowledgeable, incredibly generous with their information, and so much fun to boot. Of course, I attended my own session, because I was in it. Helen and I shared our experiences going professional in photography with attendees. Tami, Adam, and Delores delivered a really informative and fascinating panel discussion on food styling. Before I met Tami, I didn’t know there were such people as food stylists. They also tend to be far more fashionable than me… then again, I guess everyone is more fashionable than me, so nevermind that. And then there was Penny. Penny’s talk. I saw her bring the house down at IFBC. But just like I could with Todd and Diane, I could listen to her wisdom over and over again. I was not disappointed. Although I had seen Penny’s slides before, the content was different from her talk at IFBC and it was even more special and inspirational.
the only food that really did anything for me at the conference
lunch with food bloggers
BlogHer Food closed out with a panel on something about the heart and soul of a chef (well, they said chef, but really, it was about the heart and soul of these three very talented food writers). I didn’t pay attention to the title because the three members of the panel were a draw for anyone with a food blog. Last year’s keynote panel was about blogging, but this year’s panel was about writing from the heart and writing as a vehicle for introspection, for examination of one’s life. The speakers resonated with the attendees and they shared some of their personal journeys. In closing, Michael gave a great and impassioned speech on how cooking sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom – how cooking has brought about our evolution as a social species. I loved it. The entire session was outstanding.
keynote panel: shauna, michael, molly
I was only at the BlogHer Food After Party (thrown by the hostesses with the mostest(es): Ree, Elise, and Jaden and organized by Jen) for a little while before I had to skidaddle off to dinner, but it was a hoppin’ by the time I left. Also, I can tell you that I found the bacon… at the party. Heaps of good food, great bacon, better people. You will have no doubt seen countless photobooth photos circulating the interwebs at this point. Huge thanks to our hostesses and organizers for another bang up job.
afterparty photobooth: son, allison, chuck, myself, and anita
In a nutshell BlogHer Food 2010 was an improvement over the previous year’s conference. San Francisco is a terrific location. I liked that my hotel room was in the same venue as the conference as opposed to a 20-minute bus ride away. The sessions were wonderful and full of good content. The schedules were not ridiculously jam-packed which gave people the flexibility to do more outside of the conference… like mingle. Unfortunately, the food was surprisingly underwhelming considering that the conference was for food bloggers. I just wish the organizers would get a few food bloggers on board to help with menu planning next time. The sponsorships irked me. I understand the need for sponsors, but I would have preferred local artisanal sponsors over… Pepperidge Farm. It felt like I was being marketed to rather heavily. Also, the twitter stream was a limp fish, dead compared to IFBC’s raucous, insightful, hilarious and (at times) racy hashtag. In the end, what mattered most to me was the people – and they had that in spades. Good job, BlogHer Food.
While everyone else has been trickling back home, filling the twitter stream with “I miss you!”s and “So great meeting you”s, I’m still hanging around the bay area. More on that later, I promise! What I want to share after all of that hubbub over the conference and rockstar status bloggers and great food is a simple recipe. In fact, this is one of the first cookie recipes I learned to bake back in the day.
butter, flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, more sugar & cinnamon – not pictured: eggs
mix the sugar and the butter
Snickerdoodles. I was inspired to make them because I like how the name name rolls off the tongue. Snickerdoodles. Snicker + doodles. I snicker all the time in my head. I don’t doodle so much, but doodle is a funny sounding word. Doodle. *snicker* I’m a snickerdoodle kind of girl. I like butter, cream, vanilla, cinnamon flavors. Chocolate? Not so much. I told Chuck the other day how I tend to eat around chocolate chips in chocolate chip cookies and give all of the chocolate parts to Jeremy. “There are all these *bleeping* chocolate chips! I just like the matrix, not the large-grain suspension!”
rolling dough into balls
But my friends – my friends thought snickerdoodles were cookies made from Snickers bars. That thought makes me shudder just a little, but they got really excited when I offered to bring snickerdoodles to a party and then looked a little disappointed when I showed up with a platter full of cookies with no sign of Snickers candy bars and then looked delightfully surprised when they sank their teeth into a cookie. Don’t diss on my snickerdoodles, yo.
coat with cinnamon-sugar
everyone needs a little elbow room, see?
Despite my success with snickerdoodles (I made a lot of those buggers), I stopped baking them altogether when I moved to Colorado. Again with the high-altitude problems! Actually, it was because I had such issues (and by issues, we’re really referring to failures) with other cookies and cakes that I didn’t even want try my hand at the snickerdoodles. It was a little too depressing for me. But lately, I have been experimenting with cookie recipes again because I’ve forced myself to start addressing the high-altitude adjustments for baking. Most of the time you should try a recipe as is, because it might turn out just fine. If/when it flops, then you begin to troubleshoot. The flopping is what I hate. You should have seen the amount of cookies I sent to Jeremy’s department the week between the fall shoot and BlogHer Food.
baked and cooling
I’m so happy to report that these snickerdoodles were incredibly well-behaved, with barely any adjustment for high-altitude! The insides are fluffy and light with a delicate, but crisp outside. That crisp only lasts when they’re fresh-baked though. Pop them in a tin or tupperware for storage and it goes soft all the way through. Great buttery, cinnamon flavor. Excellent for graduate students who just passed their thesis proposals! [By the way, Lisa asked me if all of my recipes are for high-altitude so I thought I should clarify (and one day in my ample spare time I'll edit the "about" page to include this). My recipes are for sea-level and any high-altitude adjustments are in parentheses and only apply to my elevation at 8500 feet above sea-level because you know, *I* use my recipes.]
fluffy insides, crispy cinnamony outsides
from Martha Stewart’s Cookies
14 5/8 oz. (2 3/4 cups) flour (at 8500 ft. use 16 oz. flour or 3 cups)
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt (at 8500 ft. use 1/2 tsp + an extra pinch)
8 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tbsps white sugar
2 tsps ground cinnamon
Oven: 350°F. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix well (you could sift it, but I don’t). Beat the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar together with paddle attachment on medium until fluffy and pale – about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon until evenly mixed. Shape the cookie dough into little balls. I like 1-inch diameter balls, but the book suggests 1 3/4-inch diameter balls. If you make smaller ones, you make more cookies. If you make bigger ones, you have fewer (but bigger) cookies. Your choice. Roll the dough in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on a baking sheet at least 3-inches apart (okay, for the smaller dough balls, they can safely be 2-inches apart). Bake the large ones for 12-15 minutes until the edges are golden. Bake the small ones for 10-11 minutes (11 minutes for me). Remove to cooling racks and let cook. Store in airtight containers for up to 3 days. Makes about 18 large cookies or 4 dozen smaller cookies.