As I’d mentioned in my post about updating the NYC Food & Drink Events page on this website, the past few months of 2017 were much busier than I’d ever experienced before. Even with it being the usual Busy Season for catering and events, this one was especially hectic. Our current polar vortex, or whatever is causing this frigid weather, provided me with the perfect excuse to stay indoors and to get caught up on researching Food & Drink Conferencesto list for 2018. These are mostly industry events, with a focus on food, beverage, and food policy.
Having attended last year’s Big Summer Potluck for the first time and having gained so much inspiration, motivation, and insight, I knew that this was a food blogger event that I wanted to put on my calendar for this year. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position to commit to going to it back in February when the tickets were on sale as I was still in culinary school. I put my name on the waitlist, and a ticket came up a few weeks ago. I went on line and secured my place lickety-split.
Heading to Friday night’s potluck dinner – it’s kind of like summer camp!
The overall theme of the weekend, is Food, Inspiration, and Community. Like last year, there were plenty of all of those things to go around with a group of energetic, eager food bloggers all assembled to share their experiences. This year’s specific theme was Invest in Yourself. As the program description put it: “When you invest in yourself, you not only move forward but you also put yourself in a position to invest in others, invest in the community.” Having spent the past year, investing in my culinary education and getting ready to spend more time and energy moving my career from simply writing about food to making more of it, and hopefully even teaching about it, this topic had particular relevance for me.
All of the weekend’s speakersshared their experiences with us. They brought up their initial inspiration, their starting steps to realize their dreams, their professional setbacks, their course corrections, and their successes. From Jessamyn Rodriguez ofHot Bread Kitchen, we heard how this amazing, incredible business incubator for immigrant women came into being. Their program has launched several new enterprises and allowed many women (and men) to support their families. I’ve long been a fan of their delicious breads and have used them in several of my recipes.
“In 2006, I decided to invest in myself,” Jessamyn started off her story. She was working fulltime when she decided she wanted to know about making bread. She pursued a baking certificate at The New School and then took on an apprenticeship at Daniel, where she was taken under the wing of the head baker to learn the craft. This lead her to think about using bread to create an organization that could help women to create their own businesses. In order to get it off of the ground, she said it was about prioritizing, “about putting resources in the right places.”
Another entrepreneur who re-enforced what Jessamyn told us about being inspired, not losing sight of a vision, and about working through what might be perceived as failures to achieve success, was Jeni Britton-Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. She talked about her passion for making ice cream and how, initially, that drove her to produce the flavors that she wanted to, not necessarily what the customer might want to buy from her: “I had to fail miserably to find out about [that].” In the end, though, acknowledging this fact has made her a better ice cream-maker and has made her business stronger.
Jeni “thinks of every project as a train I’m on,” she told us. Some of them have already reached their destinations, some have crashed and burned (the failures), and some have yet to arrive at their destinations. There’s 1,000 failures for everything that works, she added. Why did she continue? she was asked. “Because I didn’t want to do anything else,” she replied. I’m not sure about the times that things didn’t work, but the J-Bars that we had for our afternoon break were delicious. That’s enough to be very inspired!
Joe Yonan telling his story
Our last key speaker of the day was Joe Yonan of The Washington Post, my hometown paper, talking about “Reassessing the Dream.” I always love when Joe is speaking at a conference, as he has such wonderful insights into food and the state of food writing (I mean, really, who can forget his comment about someone doing a book called “the 50 shades of grey Maldon Sea Salt” from The Cookbook Conference.). He talked about being “in need of a major change of scenery” a few years ago, after going through layoffs at The Post, the sale by the owners of the land on which he’d had his community garden plot, and the death of his beloved dog. He negotiated with his bosses and ended up spending a year in Maine, staying with his sister and brother-in-law on their farm, where they try to raise as much food as possible and to be as sustainable as possible.
“This kind of thing isn’t just a fantasy, there are real consequences to the things that you do,” he cautioned us. It might sound appealing just to run away for a while and to have some other life (even I feel like doing that now and again), but he had to organize his leave of absence from his job, sublet his apartment, and sort out how to make money in the meantime. He was there to contribute to the running of the farm and to be engaged in that life, about which he had hoped to write a book. The one he did write (shown in the photo above) covers just a small part of what happened to him while living on the farm; he also took away some valuable insights.
Kimchi Deviled Egg – my new favorite food – and Poblano Tapenade from Joe Yonan’s new book with Hot Bread Kitchen Lavash Crackers
He told us, “I learned more than I ever could have imagined about growing food.” More importantly, he said, he learned about “uni-tasking,” something that is more and more foreign to us in the fast-paced, overly-stimulated environment in which we usually function. He shared with us that even now that he’s back working in Washington, DC at the paper, he’s still “reassessing the dream that we talked about” and learning the lessons from that year. He doesn’t know how the experience will affect him in the long run; he’s also not sure that he really needs to know that – yet.
As others will mention in their own write-ups, a weekend at The Big Summer Potluck is not an easy thing to summarize in a quick post. There’s the new friendships that are made, the people whom you connect with whom you’ve only “met” previously on social media or via their blogs, the advice and insights shared by the featured presenters, the delicious food and new recipes to discover from all the dishes that everyone has contributed (yes, it really is a potluck), and the swag bag contents to explore using. This year, in particular, with all the changes and investments that have been going on in my life, my finally pursuing a long-held dream of attending culinary school, and in changing my career to one working in food, the tidbits and life lessons from the speakers are ones that I hope to take away and incorporate as I continue to pursue my own dreams.
*According to Mexican legend – if you can get your tortillas to puff when you cook them, you are ready for marriage. I’m so going to practice doing that before BSP5 next year!
Warm Farro and Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Fried Shallots and Balsamic Dressing
Farro is one of those things I fell in love with when I lived in Italy. It was many years before I ever found it available in the United States, which I was happy to discover, as it is a tasty and flexible grain, useful in creating all sorts of interesting dishes. I developed this recipe using farro supplied by Tuscan Fields to have a chance to win a scholarship to this year’s Eat, Write, Retreatconference in Philadelphia in May. Having been to the two past years’ conferences, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this creation will be good enough to land me a place at the table with my fellow food bloggers.
Starting with Tuscan Fields Farro ai Funghi (farro with mushrooms), I mulled over what I could come up with that would showcase the beauty of this grain and highlight the flavors of the season. At the moment, we’re at that awkward in-between stage in the markets. All of us are craving green things: peas, asparagus, ramps. We’re also anticipating the start of strawberry-picking season and the arrival of new vegetables – all the things that signal that springtime is here and that summer will soon be on its way.
Farro ai funghi (farro with mushrooms)
In the farmers market last week, however, I still found lots of root vegetables and not much else. I decide to roast the vegetables as a time-saver to make this an easy, weeknight supper, and also as I think it brings out so much depth and intensity of flavor, especially with these being end-of-season produce. The herbs and the vinaigrette perk up the dish with their brightness and acidity. Fried shallots are one of those quick garnishes that adds a delightful crunch to any plate. This dish would be a great vegetarian or vegan meal but could also be served alongside some roasted chicken or grilled lamb. I hope that you enjoy this recipe, and that it helps me to go to Eat, Write, Retreat this year.
Warm Farro and Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Fried Shallots and Balsamic Dressing
Prep time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Serving size: 6 portions as a side dish; 4 portions as a main course
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a baking pan, place the chopped vegetables, garlic cloves, and thyme. Toss together with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in the oven to roast for about 25 minutes.
Adding farro to the pan
Place a saucepan on the stovetop to boil water and cook the entire package of farro according to the instructions listed on the back. It should take about twenty minutes to cook the farro to a nicely chewy but still toothsome texture.
While the farro is cooking and the vegetables are roasting, fry the shallots and prepare the vinaigrette. Place a sauté pan on the stove and add the canola oil. Add the sliced shallots and let them cook until golden brown, stirring them to keep them from burning. Remove from the heat, drain, and place on paper towels until ready to serve.
Reducing balsamic vinegar
To prepare the vinaigrette, pour the balsamic vinegar in a shallow pan or saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the vinegar is reduced by about 1/3 to 1/2. Place the vinegar in a bowl along with the chopped thyme, salt, and pepper. Whisk in enough extra virgin olive oil until it is a thick sauce-like consistency, about 2-3 times the amount of vinegar.
Roasted root vegetables
Check the vegetables to see if they have finished cooking by inserting a paring knife into the largest ones to see that they have been cooked through. Remove the thyme sprigs and pour the vegetables into a bowl along with any olive oil that might still be in the pan. Set aside the garlic cloves.
Taste the farro. It should be cooked through with very little resistance. Add it to the bowl with the root vegetables.
Roasted root vegetables with farro and parsley
Take the skins off of the garlic cloves and put them through a press or smoosh them into a sieve until they are very fine. Toss farro, garlic, and vegetables together with the chopped parsley.
Warm Farro and Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Fried Shallots and Balsamic Dressing
Put a mound of the vegetable mixture in the center of a plate. Top with the fried shallots and drizzle some of the vinaigrette on the plate. Eat while still warm.
Kitchen Witch Tip:
Seasonings and herbs should be added to a vinaigrette with the vinegar to get the most out of their flavor. Then, add the olive oil.
Last weekend, I spent several days in the company of some amazing food-focused folks at the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference here in New York City. This is the second year I’ve attended this conference, and I took away lots of great information and insights from the various panels and workshops. This was also my first opportunity to speak at a conference, where I shared some of my experiences of having had content lifted from this website and how I’ve addressed that issue.
“Platform” seemed to be a key catchphrase this year. How and in what ways do you communicate your recipes and thoughts? Is in it paper format? Do you have a blog? Do you need an app? How engaged are you on social media streams?
Cookbooks are being examined on many other fronts in addition to the printed words on the page or the recipes contained within. They can also reflect issues of race, class, and income in addition to religion, culture, ethnicity, and nationality. Even the act of giving and gifting cookbooks can have a meaning about how you wish the recipient to use them or experience them.
While there is lots of free recipe content available via the internet, cookbooks are still one of the strongest selling segments of the book-buying market.
When taking food photos, don’t copy someone else’s style or the latest fad. You need to have a personal vision (well, in addition to the right equipment) and execute on it.
Copyright and plagarism are very thorny issues. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act offers some protection and means of redress if this happens to you, but there are also grey areas.
“I have something to offer” – This is something to keep in mind when putting together your cookbook and/or your blog if you are serious about making it happen.
WOMM (Word of Mouth Marketing) is very important. It is all about “surprise and delight.” Make it fun, interesting, and leaving people wanting more.
You have to be a part of the conversation, no matter what medium you use (Twitter, Facebook, Google+). You also have to be accessible, authentic, and accountable.
For those who have been writing a while, go back to why you started. This will help you determine your identity. Also, figure out what emotion you are looking to create in a person coming to your site or reading your book.
This is far from a complete list of all the terrific information and valuable insights that conference attendees heard during the conference. Several of the panels were videotaped and additional ones were recorded for audio replay. You can check them out on the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference website. You can also pull up the real-time conversations about the conference at the Twitter id #cookbookconf.
A few weeks ago, I seemed to have the same conversation over and over again with fellow food bloggers about what conferences to attend in 2013. I added a Food & Drink Conferences page to my website a little while back in an attempt to try to keep track of all the various ones going on throughout the year. Each time I go to update it, I find more and more interesting-sounding meetings, ones that, were money and time no object, I’d happily try to get to. In 2012, I sort of maxed out on my conference budget, as there were many gatherings based in New York City. I tried to go to many of the ones held there to save on hotels and travel.
What conferences do I have on my list for 2013? My answer to my blogging friends is the same one that I’ll list here: just a couple of them. I’m still in culinary school through April, so it isn’t really possible for me to afford to go to many of them this year, unlike in past years. The timing doesn’t work for a few of them, like this year’s IACP conference, which is being held in San Francisco a week before I have to take my final exams. I’m trying to reassure myself that I’m missing out on that one for a bigger cause.
One of the conferences I really enjoyed last year that is on the list for this one is the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference. In addition to panels and speakers featuring cookbook authors, PR folks, and publishers, there were also hours of conversations about digital publishing opportunities, recipe websites, apps, and e-books. This seemed to be to be a wonderful, comprehensive look at where we get our information on finding recipes to use as well as on how we as bloggers and writers can look for publishing opportunities.This year, I’ve been invited to be a panelist where I’ll be speaking with Jane Kelly of Eat Your Books(a terrific resource for keeping track of and making use of those cookbooks in your collection).
But, really, why should you go to conferences, spend all that money, take time away from your friends and family, and be cooped up in some hotel or other for several days? Here’s some of my thoughts on the take-aways:
– Pick up helpful hints for your website
– Add new skills to portfolio (social media, web design, photography)
– Brainstorm ideas with other bloggers
– Discover some terrific new blogs to follow
– Network and meet other fantastic folks who share your same interests in and passion about food
– Make new friends and connect with those folks IRL (in real life) whom you only know through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and/or Google+
– Learn about this ever-evolving industry and how to capture opportunities to grow your blog and your brand
– Get re-energized about why it is you blog anyway
– Have fun, eat great food, and explore a new city (or get better-acquainted with one you already know)
– Come home with some really great swag
TechMUNCH NYC -> food+technology
These are just a few of the many reasons that I’ve enjoyed the conferences I’ve attended in the past. Check out the list I’ve started for the Food & Drink Conferences I’ve found so far taking place in 2013. Some of these have already started accepting registration (often at early-bird pricing). As more conferences are announced throughout the year, I’ll continue to update this list and will start to add the ones for 2014 to this page as they come up as well, too. Hope you have a terrific time at whichever ones you decide to attend!
I’ve been dawdling a little bit all day, trying to write this post. It’s not that the topic is exactly difficult or challenging but that I’m not quite sure how to put all of my thoughts together after spending a fantastic weekend in the country in Pennsylvania at Big Summer Potluck. This was my first year attending this food blogger gathering, which I’d followed on Twitter last year, reading about how much fun everyone was having and the special bonds that seemed to develop between attendees that carried over well after everyone went back home.
My mind is still processing all of the inputs that it was given in just a few short days. In looking at my photos from the weekend, I think that the tagline from the program is the key take-away: Food, Inspiration, and, above all, Community. Here is an all-too-brief look at how these things came together to create a special experience unlike any other conference or activity that I’ve taken part in since I started taking part in the food blogging world.
What else would a food blogger weekend be without some incredible edibles? From the Friday night fried chicken fest hosted by the Andersons at their lovely home to the final morsel of breakfast scoffed down at the end of the weekend, we ate lots of delicious dishes, catered by Max Hansen Caterer and provided by our sponsors along with bowls of coleslaws, noodles, salads, and even some chutneys and pickles supplied by fellow attendees as part of the spirit of the potluck.
One of my favorite desserts of the weekend, and there were plenty of sweet things to try, were these Triple Chocolate Brownies by Chef Dennis, whom I’ve gotten to know through Google+. It was so nice to have a chance to meet him in person this weekend. His website is a treasure trove of fantastic, easy recipes as well as tidbits about how to be a better participant in the food blogging community.
A star on the farm
Speakers gave us tips about how to write better and how to organize and formulate our ideas as well as just how to be better observers of the world around us. Brooke Burton-Lüttmann spoke to us about creating “mindfulness” and about becoming more in the moment, aware of what is taking place as we go through our daily lives, which can often get very cluttered and busy. She said that we should take some time to reflect on where we are right now, where we were when we first had the idea for our blogs, and where we would like to go. As someone who has written a website for going on seven years, this really resonated with me, especially as I figure out the next chapter of my life personally and professionally.
Molly O’Neill shared some jewels from the treasure trove of her food writing career. “This is a life-long sport,” she said, encouraging us to dig in there and set ourselves up to be in the game for a while. “We’re all works in progress,” she added, “The key is to nurture life and live a life that allows you joy, growth.” Looking around the top floor of the re-configured barn where we were meeting, she confided in us that she “couldn’t function without a strong peer group,” some of whom might be in the room right there with us.
From one of our hosts, Pam Anderson, we heard more about the craft of writing good recipes. She walked us through her methodology as a professional recipe tester, habits that also translate to putting together posts on her website, Three Many Cooks. As she said, if we have a food blog, “We are first and foremost test cooks.” Get other tastebuds’ opinions was one helpful hint, as everyone has a different idea of what works and what doesn’t. Test a few different variables in each recipe, adding more or less flour, using a different type of chocolate, etc. to see if you really do have the right combination for the flavors for which you are looking. These are among the skills to develop well in order to create your own style and way of coming up with recipes.
Getting set up outside where it was cooler
At any conference or retreat, it is mostly about the people you meet first and foremost. It was wonderful to get to know a whole batch of new folks who are also lovers of good food and cooking, including a bunch of people from the New York City area whom I’ve never crossed paths with before. Then, there was also the opportunity to have some real time to talk to friends I have made at other conferences and events. Relaxing in the country allowed us all to take time to chat, rather than running off to the next activity or meeting as is usually the case in our frantic, over-booked lives.
Table setting on the farm
I have to give a special “Thank You” to the fabulous Betty Ann (aka @Mango_Queen) and Elpi of Asian in America magazine, who let me hitch rides with them all weekend, as I needed to carpool having arrived there originally via bus. This gave us some extra time to catch up on each others’ lives and to compare notes about writing about food. We met last year at Eat, Write, Retreat, and it is always a pleasure to see them at other conferences to hear about their latest news. I feel very privileged that they are part of my personal community of fellow bloggers.
Big hugs and many, many thanks to Pam, Maggy, Erika, and all the other volunteers for a fantastic and fun weekend filled with lots of laughter, fantastic food, plenty of sangria, and energizing discussions, not to mention a few spells of rain, a Bluegrass band, ketchup chips I never got to try, and an impromptu Patsy Cline rendition by The Diva That Ate New York. I’ve got my Sharpie at the ready to block off the weekend for next year’s Big Summer Potluck!