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something about best intentions + blogher food 2010 recap

Recipe: snickerdoodles

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.

opening address

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

banh mi

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

skipping the ferry building for some dim sum (shauna and anita)

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!”

adding flour

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

[print recipe]
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.

37 nibbles at “something about best intentions + blogher food 2010 recap”

  1. Wei-Wei says:

    Snickerdoodles are surprisingly unpopular cookies, but what’s more shocking to me is that even CINNAMON is a surprisingly unpopular spice in my school. :(

  2. Stephanie Meyer says:

    Excellent, excellent recap. THIS is the conference I was at. The whole experience, while excellent, was missing some sass, thanks for adding a sprinkle back in. Yeah :)

  3. The Italian Dish says:

    Great recap, Jen. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about the conference.

    I was just planning on making some cookies to send my sons in college and wondering which cookies to make. I think it’s these now!

  4. Erin says:

    I LOVED them!

  5. Kate @Savour Fare says:

    I was underwhelmed by BlogherFood last year (though the people were great) and so I picked IFBC this year, bur all these posts have me second guessing. I kind of wish there could just be a food blogger meetup without the structure of sessions and sponsors, because at this point I really just want to hang out with people. And eatgood food.

  6. Janet says:

    Since I live over a mile high (in Boulder) and bake a lot, I’m interested in your high-altitude baking adjustments. I notice that you added flour and salt, but didn’t change the leavening. I’ll have to try that. My first go-to adjustment to cakes or cookies that have baking powder or soda is to reduce the leavening by 1/4. The theory is that the lower air pressure will allow the baked good to rise too quickly, before the structure is set, and then it will fall, leaving those unattractive dips in the middle. I know on cake mixes, it says to add flour, but I thought that was because the leavening was already added to the mix. For items that are going to be in the oven longer than cookies, like muffins or cakes, I also add a little moisture (maybe an extra 2 Tbsp per cup), to counteract the drying effect of the extra time things have to spend in the oven to finish cooking at high altitude (lower boiling point, and all that).
    All that said, I’ll give these a try! Snickerdoodles are a classic, and I’ve not made them in years.

  7. Andrea Meyers says:

    Missed you and wish I could have been there. Love your take on things. I go to the conferences for the people–you, Anita, Allison, Susan, Denise, Diane, Todd, and everyone else I’ve met through blogging–and I’ll ditch a session or lackluster meal in favor of real time with friends and real food. I like how some regional blogger meetups and potlucks are starting to happen and have been tossing the idea around with some bloggers in the DC area.

  8. Style Your Food says:

    its always fun to spend time with great people we love and you look like you were having a blast and I bet the food was wonderful also. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  9. Alexandra says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a perfectly baked snickerdoodle. The insides have been too dense. I NEED to make these fluffball ones!

  10. chinese grandma says:

    hi jennifer – i’m big fan of your blog, and this post made me laugh. didn’t know anything about blogging before i started a food/family one this summer (sort of been in a time freeze since 2001 having 4 kids), and i’m glad i didn’t. getting my head around it all now, and just reading about this conference thing makes me feel like the time my husband dragged me down to times square on new years eve. crowds give me the willies. to me blogging is something that’s done solo in the dark when everyone’s asleep. but i’m loving discovering new (to me) blogs now, and i think i fell in love with yours when i saw the za jiang mien.

  11. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand says:

    I was pretty sorry to miss it, before I read your post. After I read it, I was REALLY sorry to miss it! Next year, next year!

  12. Maria says:

    Great recap of the conference. I am glad I finally met you! I agree, the people made the conference shine. Next time, I am ditching to eat good food with you:) Still kicking myself for not getting out to enjoy the fine eats of SF more. It was a good time though, I love the food blogging community and enjoyed seeing your smiling face.

  13. Debbie says:

    Thank you for all the great pics of the conference. I really enjoyed reading about it. The snickerdoodles look delicious!!!

  14. Margie says:

    I enjoyed this post. Informative and sincere. I LOVED, and do love that about you, J. You don’t sugar coat a danged thing…well, I take that back. Those cookies are sugar coated ;) … I’ve been baking snickerdoodles for years. Martha’s recipe is minus cream of tarter, something that other similar snickerdoodle recipes call for.

    P.S. Martha Stewart is my hero. I banked on her for the recipes used for my daughters wedding cupcakes last year. That woman is spot on when she plays with flour!

  15. Joy says:

    I always enjoy your images. It looks like you had a great time!

  16. Kristin says:

    The family loves Snickerdoodles, but I do not. I’ve often wondered if it’s because of the cream of tartar that Margie commented about. I think I’d better try this version! And having to be “on” for so long…exhausting, especially for introverts.

  17. tz.missjane says:

    I always enjoy your posts. The photography is delicious! Your positive attitude is life affirming.

  18. Deliciously Organic says:

    Thank you for your honesty. It’s been interesting reading the recaps of those who have attended blog conferences before. This was my first, so I was basically happy to meet people, but didn’t notice many of the other things that the “veterans” did. I agree, the food was terrible. A few times I snuck out to eat some “real food”. :) As I was spooning a bit of pasta onto a plate I heard a waiter behind me begin his speech about how it’s a new packaged cream sauce….I lost my appetite after that and barely ate the rest of the weekend. :)

    I enjoyed meeting you and can’t wait to read more of your candid and honest posts!

  19. Danielle says:

    Jen, it was great to finally meet you in person, I only wish I knew you before the conference so that I could have crashed those lunches with “real” SF food. Perhaps another time. Hope you’re enjoying the super-nice weather we’re having in the Bay Area these past few days – looking forward to your recaps!

  20. Amanda says:

    Wow, your ‘doodles look so thick and pillowy! No need to worry about altitude problems, it seems!

    I also enjoyed reading your take on BlogHer. Honest, and at times quite humorous!

  21. Maressa says:

    looks very yummy! Just the right cookie for this fall weather! I will see if I can make them this weekend.

  22. Rose says:

    Snickerdoodles are my favorite cookies! I’ve never found a recipe for them that I wanted to try until now. Thanks, Jen.

  23. justcooknyc says:

    hey, Jen and I made it into that table shot at the super yummy dinner at Amber. Thanks!

  24. Shauna says:

    Great recap, Jen! Our Yank Sing date was definitely a highlight for me. :)

  25. Fiona says:

    Seriously? I was smitten all over again when I read (aloud, to Charles) “assholery.”

    But then you provided a snickerdoodle recipe that might work for me now that we’re higher up off the ocean. I made some this summer and…um…they sucked. And I’m an old hand at cookies. So I needed this. Thank you.

  26. Rachel@Tasty Thailand says:

    I’m not a conference person as, like you say, the food is almost always dreadful and there’s far too much selling of products going on. I may however hit Blogfest Asia next year, although it’s supposedly in Singapore, which is my least favorite Asian country. But, at least here in Asia, the food is guaranteed to be amazing :)

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  28. jenjenk says:

    ummm…may i stalk you at the next conference? you went to some of my favorite eats in SF!! Love those places!!!

    and thank you so much for my new word of the day: assholery.

  29. Pei Lin says:

    the use of cinnamon already leaves me feeling all warm and fuzzy!

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  31. jenyu says:

    Kate – I hear ya.

    Andrea – I like those regional dealies too – except I want to see ALL of my blog pals from near and far :)

    chinese grandma – thanks! i think blogging should always ultimately be for whatever it is you love to do. the rest is icing on the cake.

    Tamar – yeah, I think it would have been fun to have you room with me and Jennie!

    Maria – it was lovely meeting you too, hon. xo

    Kristin – I’m an extrovert and I find it exhausting!

    Deliciously Organic – so nice meeting you as well :) I think the fun of the conference is breaking out and doing what suits you most!

    Danielle – thanks :)

    Fiona – hey lady! Good to see you here! xo

    jenjenk – loved meeting you and thanks for putting on such a dawg at the after party!

  32. susan says:

    love the recap and LOVED meeting you, Jen! this was my first, and certainly not my last, conference! you are an inspiration and I am humbled and honored to know you!!! until next time!

  33. The Bird Cage says:

    Just finished making these… THANKS! I had tried so many recipes and they were always a dissaster. This one came out perfect. Crisp, chewy, aromatic and addictive!

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  36. Erin says:

    I was debating between 4 Snickerdoodle recipes, and I am so glad I went with this one! I saw it on Just came out of the oven and I’ve already had 3… dangerously addictive, and wonderfully delicious, thank you for the recipe!

  37. Lisa says:

    A ha! A snickerdoodle recipe without the cream of tartar! I think that is what always brought on a bitter aftertaste. I will try this recipe for sure!

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