I had originally intended to post this on Saturday night or at the very latest Sunday morning. However, I was simply too distracted until now.
If I had to sum up day two of IFBC 2012 here in Portland with one word it would be that. Wow. I am so overwhelmed that I can’t seem to focus and write down just how great it was.
I suppose I’ll just start at the start.
We weren’t going to attend breakfast this morning with the conference mainly because it was being hosted by the National Pork Board and I really didn’t feel like I wanted to sit through a near-hour long talk about the pork industry. Call me biased. I don’t care. But, we ran into a couple friends we’d met the day before (Stef from CupcakeProject.com and her photographer husband Jonathan) who said there was fresh fruit and potatoes on the buffet so we decided to check it out. We grabbed a quick breakfast and headed off to the first sessions of the day. We both ended up choosing to attend the session: It’s not selling out, it’s getting paid: the evolution of food publication monetization. It was moderated by Sarah Stringfellow of SAY Media. The panelists/experts were Gabi Moskowitz of BrokeAss Gourmet and Tori Avey of The Shiksa in the Kitchen. Both of these ladies have been able to take their blogs and expand them and gasp! make money from it. Sarah did an excellent job of keeping the discussion moving at a great pace and focused with excellent questions.
Tori has recently launched a store portion on her website where she sells the products and brands she believes in and loves. A long time in the making, her store has been well received by her fans and followers. Gabi has been able to find success with her blog by syndicating content to various online newspaper sources and get paid for each article. I love both ideas. Though the traditional banner ad method for monetization seems to be the norm, I’ve always felt uncomfortable about posting ads on my site because I simply dislike how they make it look. I think there are other ways that would work better for me.
My takeaway from this session was that a) you really need coffee before you attend morning sessions and b) content syndication appeals more to me than any sort of traditional ad methods like banner ads. It’s something I’ll look into.
Next up we went to the SEO session with SEOmoz‘s Rand Fishkin. At first, Jacquelyn and I were thinking we’d already know what we wanted to know about SEO because of our work backgrounds, but I think it turned out to be one of the best sessions we attended this whole conference. Rand Fishkin is an amazing speaker who is obviously an expert in this field. Though he covered a lot of what we already knew, there was something new we both learned. Jacquelyn got a huge boost during the session when one of our new friends sitting between us Vicki Winters of The Vicki Winters Show (and rather appropriately and awesomely Twitter-handled MyBigFatMouth) volunteered and Rand asked her what her fav blog was, she leaned over to Jacquelyn and asked what her blog was. So Rand used Jacquelyn’s recap post here as a test to show how Bit.ly could work for bloggers. It was awesome. Jacquelyn said that as a result she had the best traffic day on her blog ever. (Don’t you all just hate her? So jealous!)
We took a much needed break for lunch and headed over to the main hall. The lunch was sponsored by the Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System and I went in with a total bad attitude. Like, seriously, am I going to have to listen to a pitch about how it chops, slices, dices, and just set it and forget it?! About 10 minutes into the demo by the cutest little blogger ever – Stephanie O’Dea of A Year of Slow Cooking – I was forced to tweet:
And guys! It’s the truth. This all-in-one appliance is amazing. What’s even more amazing is the fact that every attendee at IFBC received a free Ninja Cooking System with a bunch of accessories. We felt like very lucky attendees indeed. Best swag ever!
I have the type of skeptical personality where I’ll try a new product or tool with the sole intent of proving their claims wrong. I am excited to put the Ninja Cooking System to the gluten-free and vegan test.
In the afternoon there were sessions focused on writing specifically. We chose the The Insider’s Guide to Recipe Writing and Development session hosted by Kelly Senyei. Kelly is author of Food Blogging for Dummies and JustATaste.com. There was so much information in this session. As a result of some of the excellent tips she shared I have decided to revisit every single recipe on my blog. I’ll be testing it even more thoroughly. It’ll give me a chance to take some new photos of some of the older posts which are pretty lousy.
We had time to do two sessions during this writing track but I honestly just felt brain-dead. So a group of us girls (Heidi of The Busy Nothings, Marisa of Margaritas In The Rain and Jacquelyn of The Gourmet Housewife and a few others coming and going) decided to sit down at Gather just off the hotel lobby to have a drink. Being in Portland and hearing they had a variety of local distilleries – one of which produced a nice gin – I had to try it. So I enjoyed a Rogue Distillery Spruce Gin. It was the most different tasting gin I’ve had. It didn’t really taste like the gin I was used to. It was really rather amazing.
Jacquelyn and I headed back to our room to chill out for a bit. She had a chance to FaceTime with her husband and little guy and I caught up on some notes and started writing this post. I got derailed somewhere between then and now but here’s my best recollection of how the rest of Saturday at IFBC went.
First we started out with a picture before going downstairs for dinner.
We had a formal sit-down ‘Farm to Table’ dinner on Saturday night. The meal was provided by Wildwood Restaurant and Bar and the wines from Oregon Wine. I was very much excited for this meal because there was buzz about having amazing gluten-free and vegan meal options. We had to put out the special meal ticket with our dietary requirements by our plates and we were served a special meal. From what I could tell it looks like the gluten-free meals were the same as the vegan meals. I sort of felt sorry for some of the people at our table who were disappointed at not receiving any meat with their gluten-free meal. I, on the other hand, was in heaven at having a fully vegan and gluten-free meal for the first time during the whole conference.
The first course was a gluten-free white bean crostini, with tomato, fried caper and lemon zest. It was really tasty. The lemon zest added such a nice brightness.
Next up was Pan-fried gluten-free crouton, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, lemon juice, blanched basil and olive oil mixed with green beans. (I just noticed the menu doesn’t say green beans anywhere on it. That must have been missed by mistake.) This was a decent dish. The ‘normal’ people had something similar it looked like, but with shaved parmesan cheese on top. I don’t know if theirs had pine nuts in it or not. I enjoyed the tomatoes and the pine nuts the most.
The third course was Butternut squash risotto with saffron, chipotle, vegetable stock and cinnamon/thyme scented beets.
The beets were great. The risotto had some nice saffron flavor but I didn’t have any spiciness or smokiness from chipotle in mine. That’s okay by me, I am not a huge chipotle fan. But sadly, the white asparagus was really bitter and woody and the risotto itself wasn’t nicely cooked. Sigh. This is kind of where the night got weird for me. Amazing what a sad risotto can do to turn a night upside down. It’s a much weirder, bigger story, which I don’t think I want to rehash anymore. Suffice to say, there were lots of complaints about this dish throughout the dinner. Not just by other tweeters who were disappointed (one of which I happened to retweet during the dinner) but also by some of my table-mates who were pretty vocal about their disappointment as well.
Foodies – or maybe just food bloggers – are a strange bunch I’ve decided, myself included. We have strong opinions about taste, texture, etiquette, and what’s good and bad in the food sphere. We aren’t always right. But we sure like to think we are. I know I do. We don’t all mean to be snobs, but I know it can easily come off that way. A lot of the guests who had the regular meal were calling out the people who had tweeted their disappointment in the vegan & gluten-free meal. They said it wasn’t classy to comment on how the risotto was barely edible and the asparagus was bitter and out of season. There were comments about how the meal was a free meal, and it was unkind to ‘bash’ it. (Though I would disagree that it wasn’t a free meal, it was paid for in part with my conference pass.) Sigh. Here we are, a group of people who are mocked by the rest of the real world for consistently Instagramming and Tweeting photos of their meals. We are always critiquing the food we eat, anywhere else we go. Why would it be any different for this meal? Especially considering there was a giant screen in the front of the room with all the tweets marked with the #IFBC hashtag streaming on it. I didn’t read all the tweets. I don’t know if any were over-the-top rude.
It doesn’t really matter because then dessert was served.
If there’s anything so universal as a peacemaker it’s dessert. The vegan and gluten-free dessert was a chocolate sorbet with fresh blackberries and a cinnamon-basil syrup. So rich and decadent. The hint of basil was beautiful. I shared my sorbet with some of the guests on our side of the table. They agreed it was amazing too.
After the dinner we moved to another ballroom to the MailChimp after-party. I use MailChimp for my newsletters on here. I got a totally cute MailChimp hat and a t-shirt. There was a photo booth set up and I had tons of opportunities to pose like an idiot with random food blogger strangers and friends throughout the night. I have no idea how many photos I ended up in, but I had fun doing it!
I was chatting with a fellow vegan – Veronica from LowFatVeganChef.com – and as we were about to head into the booth I finally made the connection . . . I had sent her some fun stuff in my very first Foodie Penpal Swap. It was fun making a real-life connection with someone you only have met online. She gave me a ton of great advice too. As fellow vegans – and fellow Canadians – I am sure we will definitely stay in touch.
After another long and exhausting day I went up to my room and crashed. I couldn’t finish my already-started blog post. I just flopped on the bed and called it a day.
I have another post planned about the final day of IFBC and our visit to Portobello, a vegan trattoria in Portland. Stay tuned for that one coming soon.
You can also read up on my recap of Day One of IFBC here.