In September I attended the International Food Bloggers’ Conference right here in Seattle. It was a fantastic opportunity to network and learn. Because it was my first time attending (and I didn’t do a great job familiarizing myself with the agenda beforehand), I didn’t know that I would not only be learning about food, but eating a ton of it! In fact, I ate like royalty at all three days of the conference.
The show-stopper meal was definitely the Saturday night culinary fair, where local businesses and restaurants prepared an incredible variety of dishes for us to try. Here are my top five dishes from the extravaganza, plus a few extra tidbits at the end.
1) Dahlia Bakery – Pie Bites
How could a dessert not be nearest-and-dearest to my heart? I loved these. Tender, buttery gluten-free shortbread topped with vanilla mascarpone, blueberry, white peach, and a light dusting of powdered sugar? Yum! Mascarpone is enough to set my heart swooning, but combined with fruit and decadent shortbread it simply sealed the deal. I fully intend to recreate these once peaches and blueberries are back in season.
2) BigOven – Cherry Basil Cooler
I swear I must have had four or five of these throughout the course of the evening (the ever-present danger of virgin drinks, I suppose). The combination was fantastic–bright, tangy cherry flavor with peppery basil and just a touch of carbonation. While they provided a recipe card for a cocktail version containing vodka, I daresay I preferred these without the booze!
3) Edgewater Six Seven – Burrata Salad
My love affair with burrata is well-known by friends both near and far. For those unfamiliar, it’s like a dumpling in cheese form: the exterior is firm mozzarella, but the inside is a mixture of mozzarella and cream, resulting in a more ricotta-like consistency (but much more creamy and decadent than your average ricotta.) It goes wonderfully in salads and was my frequent accompaniment to tomato and basil during the warm summer months that now feel so far-flung in this chilly November weather.
Six Seven’s use of burrata was lovely in this salad: the creaminess mellowed out the earthy chiogga beets, tart strawberries, and herbaceous basil. Pistachios and a maple drizzle added a touch of sweetness to go with the savory.
4) The Chef in the Hat – Tomato Mozzarella Salad
Is it wrong to have not one, but two tomato salads in one’s favorite foods roll-up? Actually, never mind: I’m not ashamed of my tomato salad addiction.
In addition to this salad’s deliciousness, it’s worth mentioning that “The Chef in the Hat”, Thierry Rautureau, was absolutely lovely and charming. He was grinning from ear to ear and so thrilled to see all of the IFBC folks, even going so far as to arrange his food so it had the best composition for all of our pictures. I loved his excitement!
5) The Herbfarm – Lardo-Wrapped Blackberries
Talk about a stunning combination–cured pig fat wrapped around blackberries and lightly sprinkled with sea salt? Count me in. The creamy, fatty exterior cut the acidity of the sweet-tart blackberries and provided a nice textural contrast. The blackberries were also super juicy (so much so that one actually, uh, squirted and caused a wardrobe casualty–whoops!)
That just about wraps it up for my top five dishes, but here are a few little extra goodies for you from the evening:
Runner-up: The Herbfarm – Corn nuts
Homemade corn nuts from one of the most premier restaurants in the Seattle area? ‘Nuff said.
Best new experience: Teavana – Matcha
During the Teavana “Five Senses of Tea” seminar, I tasted a variety of teas and also tried traditionally prepared matcha for the very first time. It was whipped furiously into a bright green froth by Master Teaologist Naoko Tsunoda, who not only waxed nostalgic about her family’s tea traditions, but prepares a mean matcha to boot. (One of the staff told us we were lucky to have her making ours. Also, who knew that “Master Teaologist” was a profession? I didn’t. How cool!)
It was a really interesting experience. While I’m not quite a convert to drinking it regularly just yet–Earl Grey is more my jam–I would definitely give it another chance in the future.
Loser: ??? – Gin and Cucumber Cocktails
I don’t actually remember who was serving this, but maybe it’s better left that way. While this cocktail looked absolutely stunning, to call it a “cocktail” would be a bit of a misnomer: it was literally gin on the rocks with rosemary and cucumber. I enjoy a good gin-based cocktail every now and again, but not so much that I’d drink it essentially undiluted. My breath after a couple sips was enough to melt paint off a wall, and many people discarded their half-drunk glasses on nearby trays. Sorry, gin, but I don’t love you that much.
Sacramento, here I come!
That wraps up my posts about IFBC15, but the great news is that I’m already registered for next year. IFBC 2016 it will be taking place in Sacramento, CA, and will focus on the farm-to-table movement. I’m already dreaming about what delicious adventures (and warm weather) await!
Note: Active food bloggers received reduced admission to IFBC15 if they agreed to write at least three posts about the conference experience.