Wednesday, September 24, 2014

First Half, Second Day of IFBC - WOWIE!!!!!

The first half of the second day of the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle started with a BANG and just got better and better.

We started Saturday morning with a breakfast sponsored by Nooksa Yoghurt. They provided plain and pumpkin flavored yoghurts along with an assortment of toppings including fresh strawberries, dried apricots, Craisins, M&Ms, sliced almonds, and granola. Fruit juices, coffee, tea, and muffins completed the meal. And again, one of the very best features of the conference was the company at breakfast - open, curious, informative, friendly, and fun.

The first session was presented by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, a husband-wife couple who have been working together for far more than a decade. Their first book was Becoming a Chef, 1992. They interviewed 60 chefs to get an inside look at the culinary industry from a chef's point of view. Karen and Andrew's advice, based on their experience getting this book published, was to persevere even through many rejections and to participate heavily in selling your book - let people know it exists! Their books are:
Becoming a Chef, 1992
Culinary Artistry, 1996 (culinary composition, artistry, creations)
Dining Out, 1998 (interviewing and dining out with restaurant critics)
Chefs' Night Out, 2001 (where and what chefs eat, their transformative experiences)
What to Drink with What You Eat, 2006 (pairing foods with wine, beer, spirits, tea, coffee)
The Flavor Bible, 2008 (reference of compatible flavors)
Food Lover's Guide to Wine, 2011 (which wines go with certain foods and flavors)
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, 2014 (flavor pairings of vegetables, grains, legumes, herbs, spices)

They mentioned a couple of trends they're seeing. One is treating plants like meat; for example, grilling cauliflower "steaks," increased use of mushrooms instead of meat, and using combinations of vegetables instead of treating each vegetable separately.  Another trend is the percentage of Americans eating plant-based diets. Combining those who eat vegan, vegetarian, and semi-vegetarian, are 54% Americans; the remaining 46% are omnivores.

From this session, was a session on photography. I had expected a technical discussion on camera types and settings, lighting, digital decisions, etc. Luckily, I was wrong. Todd Coleman who has been the executive food editor for Saveur for a number of years, was funny, interesting, and gave us a lot of suggestions which I think can be boiled down to, "Don't be banal or boring. Play with backgrounds, settings, light, shadow, color, and shapes. Always photographing perfectly styled food can get boring - sometimes a messy dish is far more interesting."  His philosophy is to take photographs that you can be proud of and others can be inspired by. I think the same applies to blogging as well as cooking.

The third session of this jam-packed fantastic morning was Chef Thierry Rautureau. Thierry (pronounced "Terry") is the winner of many awards, both French and American. He has been featured in many food-related magazines. He and Chef Tom Douglas have had 2 radio shows in Seattle. He's also been a featured chef and judge on several TV shows and was a finalist on Top Chef Masters on Bravo TV.  He owns two Seattle restaurants, Loulay and Luc  His session was a cooking demonstration sponsored by Urban Spoon, but honestly what I remember mostly is Thierry himself. He is funny, casual, chatty, informative all at the same time. My favorite parts were when he mimicked Julia Child in a high squeaky voice,  "If you're afraid of butter, use cream!"

As he began his demonstrations, he passed around little duck sliders - duck confit stuffed into a profiterole, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and garnished with chives. It was salty, ducky, melt-in-your-mouth, goodness in a tiny bun. What a delicious surprise! His first demonstration was on how to use your garden or farmers' market tomatoes. he made a basic tomato sauce that can be extended into several sauces, made into soup, or pureed into a Bloody Mary. Very easy and versatile. The next demonstration was using chanterelles, sauteed crispy, and used as a topping for a yellow plum jam spiced with the African pepper, harissa. Spread the spiced jam on toasted baguette slices and top with the crispy chanterelles. We didn't get to taste it, but it certainly smelled wonderful.  Again, using these basic ideas and techniques, one could make a wide variety of dishes.

With all of these great fragrances and the duck confit in a profiterole as an amuse bouche, we were very hungry for lunch. This was served buffet style and featured salads, roasted vegetables, ratatouille, chicken Parmesan, vegetable lasagne, penne pasta, foccacia, a vegetable platter, and little tiramisu and tartlets with fresh berries, and biscotti for dessert.

And all of this fabulousness was from 7:00 AM - 2:00 PM. WOWIE!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Day One of International Food Blogger Conference

At the end of Day 1 of the Food Blogger Conference, I am exhausted. Actually, it wasn't even a day, but from 4:30 PM until about 9:00 PM. First, I went to the launch and book signing for A Taste of Washington - a beautiful cookbook featuring Washington ingredients and recipes by  Chef and Sommelier Michele Morris. In addition to buying my own book and getting it signed, there was wine and new people to meet. Following this was conference registration and then the opening reception and gift suite. The reception had more wine, a variety of different preparations of salmon from salmon cakes, to stir fry, to teriyaki salmon. And to go with the salmon were mini-deserts including little cupcakes, little parfaits, apple turnovers, and chocolate by Theo.

And then there was the wonderful gift suite. It was in one of the large rooms, with tables all around the walls and a square section in the middle. All loaded with samples, recipes, and gifts. I haven't gone through all my swag yet, but I know I have a bib apron, hot pad, measuring cups, vanilla beans, brownie mix, olives, seaweed chips, teriyaki sauce, a variety of chips, nuts, and other snack items. I staggered out of there with 2 very full bags, glad that I live in the area and don't have to figure out how to get it all home on a plane.

As wonderful as all these goodies are, I think the very best part of today was meeting some very friendly and interesting people. Someone said that food bloggers don't tend to see themselves as competitors to each other, but rather tend to seek each other out, offer help, tips, wisdom, experience, and contacts. And that truly was my experience tonight - lots of fun, friendly, interesting people - wanting to hear my story as well as telling theirs.

Tomorrow is going to be much longer with breakfast starting at 7 and ending with a chef and vendor reception at about 9. I may not have energy left to post a blog Saturday night, so look for it on Sunday.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Food Blogger Conference and Apple Pie with Chocolate Ice Cream

Next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I am attending the 2014 International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) in Seattle. I am so looking forward to it. Expect some extra blogs next weekend as I describe some of the events, activities, and conference sessions. I'll be blogging from the conference.

The IFBC is organized by Foodista and Zephyr Adventures. Foodista is an active community of food-lovers with the idea to share information and ideas about all things food. They have recipes, resources, and dialogue about food at  Check them out!

Zephyr Adventures organizes and operates trekking, hiking, biking, etc. tours throughout the world. In addition to these sports-related tours, they also operate food-related tours and conferences including this one, beer-related and wine-related conferences and events. Check them out at

Some of the IFBC sessions I'm looking forward to involve food writing, food photography, social media - the bones of blogging if you will. There will also be presentations on new foods, new restaurant concepts, food trends, and the like; I hope to gain insight on how we may think about, prepare, and use food in the future. There will be lots of vendors and sponsors eager to share their tools, tips, techniques, and tastes with the foodie community.

If you'd like more information on the conference or see if there's a possibility of attending at the last minute, check out their website at

In the meantime, I don't have a recipe to share tonight - instead I'm telling you what we're having for dessert. I made a traditional American double-crusted apple pie; we're having a piece with a small scoop of chocolate ice cream. Trust me - it's a delicious combination! Try it the next time you have some apple pie.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

End of Summer Tea Party

One of my friends, Mary, gave a tea party this past week. It was a proper English Afternoon Tea; several of us brought fancy little tidbits for us all to enjoy. And enjoy them all we did! We had:
  • cucumber cream cheese sandwiches with dill and watercress
  • chicken salad in puff pastry baskets
  • chicken, cabbage, water chestnut, ramen noodle salad
  • brie en croute
  • bacon, cheese, and onion quiche with nasturtium flowers as edible garnish
  • tomatoes, cheese, crackers
  • mini tarts made with cream cheese, lemon curd, and blackberries
  • chocolate cake balls
  • assorted cookies, mostly chocolate
  • grapes, strawberries, plums
  • wine and tea
 We enjoyed these little fancies on good china with gorgeous teacups. It was a lovely respite in a busy week, and so much fun to spend some quality time with people I like. I brought one of my favorites: Puff Pastry Baskets with Chicken Salad. Don't be scared by "Puff Pastry" because I use pre-made puff pastry sheets found in the grocer's freezer section.

Puff Pastry Baskets with Chicken Salad
Makes 24 
These may be made one or two days ahead, but be sure to store the puff pastry separate from the chicken salad and don't fill the baskets until just before serving.

1 (17.3 oz) package Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets
10 - 12 ounces shredded chicken (about 1 1/2 cups) - can be rotisserie chicken from deli or poach a
     couple of boneless skinless breasts in chicken broth
2/3 cups mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper (more , if you like)
1 stalk celery, diced very fine

Puff Pastry Baskets
  1. Unwrap the puff pastry sheets and and let them thaw at room temperature for about 45 minutes
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  3. Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
  4. Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry sheets into 24 little rectangles about 2 1/2 x 3 inches each (12 from each pastry sheet)
  5. Carefully place the rectangles on the baking sheets
  6. Using a toothpick, score a smaller rectangle on the inside of each rectangle; be careful to only score the surface - do not push the toothpick all the way through
  7. Bake for 12 minutes, until golden brown
  8. Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes and then remove the baskets to a wire rack 
  9. After about 5 minutes, carefully pry off the little rectangles and scoop out any extra pastry inside. Save the pastry you pry out - they're yummy to snack on
  10. Cool completely before filling - at least 30 minutes. Store in airtight container

Chicken Salad
  1. In a bowl, shred the chicken
  2. Add mayonnaise, white pepper, and celery and mix well
  3. Chill for at least 1 hour before using
  4. Store in covered container in the refrigerator

Assembly   (assemble within an hour of serving so pastry doesn't get soggy)
  1. Carefully and lightly spoon chicken salad into the hole in the puff pastry baskets
  2. Arrange on a plate for serving