Wednesday, September 25, 2013

IFBC 2013 - Day 2 & 3

It was a great first day at IFBC and the next two were just as good if not better. Breakfast was hosted by Pastry Smart. I don't eat much pastry so I decided to sleep in instead though I heard the breakfast was great and there was more than just pastries so I am a little sorry I missed out on it.  Whenever these conferences come up in Seattle I drive part way in and catch the bus so I don't have to worry about paying for parking which means it takes a little longer for me to get there. In fact there was a Husky game going on Saturday and the bus ended up being about 15-20 minutes late which made me a little late to the first presentation.

Food Photography and Cooking Demo

The cooking demo was done by Chef John Mitzewich of Food Wishes, a video recipe channel on youtube. I've never heard of this channel but after watching the demo I think I'm going to start. I encourage you to check it out. The photography portion of the presentation was done by Andrew Scrivani who I've seen before on a food photography workshop on CreativeLive. Andrew was up on stage during the cooking demo and making fun of Chef John's food styling.  They were picking at each other throughout the presentation and having a good time. I got some video during the demo.

Culinary Expo

This was our lunch which was a variety of different things from cheeses, salads, popsicles and snack foods. My absolute favorite part of the expo was the food prepared by Veggie Grill. I've never been there but it was some tasty and healthy stuff. They have three locations in the Seattle area but unfortunately none on the east side.  I got a gift certificate from them at IFBC so will have to venture to Seattle some time to use it. One of the snack items I really liked was the dried fruit from Simple and Crisp. The orange was probably my favorite but they had apple and pear too. Oh and I can't forget the blue cheese!  I love a good cheese and blue cheese is one of my favorites.  Rogue Creamery had samples of their Echo Mountain and Oregon Blue cheeses. The Expo wasn't as overwhelming as dinner the night before so I was able to try a little bit of everything.
Culinary Expo
Sahale Snacks Crisp and Simple
Rogue Blue Cheese Smoked Salmon

Olive Oil Tasting with California Olive Ranch

I've been wine tasting dozens of times but have never done an olive oil tasting. The process is actually not much different than tasting wine. We got to try 5 different olive oils but only four were from California Olive Ranch.  The 5th was a trick and not one of their oils but one that was exposed to a lot of air and not as tasty as the others, much like the olive oil in my kitchen. They pride theirselves in how fresh their olive oils are. They have a process down that allows them to get the olives off the trees and into the mill in less than 2 hours which is impressive.  The pummus that's left over from oil making isn't thrown out but used for cattle feed. I learned that there are 4 main things that affect the taste of olive oil and the taste does change over time as it's exposed to different temperatures, oxygen, light and just age. We were given a few tips on what to look for when buying olive oil. The big one is the freshness. There should be a label on the oil that says when the harvest date is. You want one that is less than 18 months and it should have seals of certification for quality. After the olive oil tasting we were treated with some some small bites made with California Olive Ranch's olive oils from some food bloggers. @dreamaboutfood made a grilled vegetable salad, @shutupncook made grilled shrimp and my favorite was @talkoftomatoes hummus with veggies. The hummus was so good I had two. You can get her hummus recipe on her blog, I can't wait to make it myself.

Olive Oil Tasting Shrimp and Hummus

Sous Vide Cooking Demystified with Seattle Food Geek

Sous VideThis was one presentation I was looking forward to most. Scott Heimendinger aka Seattle Food Geek is about as geeky a foodie as they get. I've met him before a few times at other foodie events and conferences. If you're not familiar with sous video, it's basically slow cooking food in a water bath set to a precise temperature. Food is usually submerged in the water inside an air tight bag. Bags not needed when doing eggs in a shell and there might be a few other exceptions. If you watch the Cooking Channel or Food Network at all you've probably seen this technique. I never really had any interest in getting into sous vide cooking, mainly because of the cost. A sous vide machine will typically run you over $1,000 so for the most part you'll only see the technique used in fine restaurants or people with a lot of money. Well that all changed when Scott had a kickstarter a couple of months ago. He designed his own sous vide machine he calls Sansaire and made it affordable for the home cook for only $199. I'm proud to be one of the backers and can't wait for it to arrive in time for Thanksgiving. He sold over 4,000 units, raking in over $800,000. If you missed out on the kickstarter don't worry you can still order one at sansaire.com and at the $199 price too. You'll just have to wait a little longer for it to arrive. He showed all kinds of different ways you can use a sous vide machine and some tips like how to make steak look good after it's been cooked sous vide (use a blow torch).

Pre-dinner Reception - Alaska Seafood

Many were a little disappointed that the pre-dinner didn't have very many gluten free options. I was hungry and my "surprise dinner" which I'll talk about in a separate post, wasn't scheduled until 9:00 and I knew I'd be starving if I didn't eat so I filled up on the Alaska Seafood treats below. Alaska Seafood Snack

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

IFBC 2013 - Day 1

This is the 5th International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) and the 2nd one I've been to. It was a 3 day event starting on Friday, Sept 20th. I also went to the 2nd in 2010 which was also in Seattle. I would have gone to others if they were in Seattle but they tried out a few other cities for the past couple of years but next year they will be back in Seattle again for 2014 IFBC which will be even bigger and I've already registered for it.  You can't beat the blogger price of $95! The low price is possible because it is expected that you blog and share on social media about the event and the sponsors.

Lunch & Registration

Cupcake Royale Ice CreamDay 1 started at noon with registration and a lunch provided by Chipotle Mexican Grill and ice cream from Cupcake Royale. I will admit right now that I did indulge in a few things that I wouldn't normally eat, like ice cream. Chipotle was serving up bowls of goodness with a choice of gluten free carnitas or Tofu Sofrita with your choice of toppings. I went with the carnitas (pork) bowl and got a little of everything on it (cilantro lime rice, beans, cheese, pickled onion, salsa and guacamole) and yes it was tasty. Cupcake Royale had a few different flavors to choose from and some got tastings of all four. They served them up in tiny little sugar cones or a bowl. I went with a bowl with just a little of the Stumptown Coffee with Dark Chocolate and it was as good as it sounded.

Keynote

Dorie GreenspanAfter stuffing our faces we met in the large conference room for the Keynote speech given by Dorie Greenspan. She is an amazing woman that has done so much in her life and she doesn't take a moment for granted. She said how she's always pinching herself because she is living her dream and wants to make sure she isn't really dreaming. She's published 11 books and has gotten to work with some amazing people including Julia Child. Her face lit up when she talked about Julia Child as you can see in this photo I captured of her. She encouraged everyone to just do what makes you happy and to "always say yes" to any opportunities that come your way. Her speech was very inspiring and made me believe I can do anything I set my mind to.

Live Blogging

When we sat down for Dorie's keynote, there were paper bags full of snacks and drinks which some people started snacking on but they were for the next session: Live Food Blogging with Amazon.com Grocery. It was like speed dating with food. Everyone dumped the contents of about 15 different products from their bags on the table. There was a representative for each product that spoke about the product and their company for about 5 minutes while everyone tasted, tweeted and instagramed the products. I didn't post about all 15 but I did Suja Juice, Manuka Doctor Honey, Navitas Naturals Dragonfruit, Brookside Dark Chocolate Acai, and Sahale Snacks Maple Pecans. I didn't actually open and try them all, most of the people didn't because they wanted to save them for later. But I did try the Suja Juice and honey and they were both great. I was happy to see that most of the products were gluten free and organic however many contained sugar and/or cane syrup.
Live Blogging Suja Juice

Making Your Blog Work for You

Michael CainNext on the agenda was a choice of 3 different sessions. I decided on the one titled Making Your Blog Work for You. This was presented by Michael Cain, a theme designer and developer for WordPress. I have used WordPress before for other blogs like my D&D Adventure blog which isn't a food blog but I did blog about the spread of food we had at each of our gaming sessions. I'm still trying to decide if I want to move my Gapeys Grub blog to Wordpress or not. If I do it will probably be on my own server and not the wordpress.com site.  Though I've been thinking of getting rid of my agape1.net domain which is hosted by bluehost since I don't really use it anymore.  After attending the session I haven't really come any closer to a decision. My photos are hosted on Smugmug and it looks like they have some kind of wordpress integration but not sure if they host it or not. I'll need to look into that more before I decide. Blogger has served me well over the years so I may just stick with them for now.

Gift Suite

Instead of handing out swag bags like years past they had what they called a "gift suite" where the products were layed out on tables in a conference room and a pile of orange allrecipe bags on one side of the room and a pile of green California Olive Ranch/Bob's Redmill bags on the other and you walk around the room and stuffed your bags. There was plenty of stuff for all and everyone was polite and there wasn't any pushing and shoving. I thought it was a good idea to do it this way that way people took what they wanted and weren't stuck with a bunch of stuff they didn't want. For example, I passed on a few things like a wisk because I already have 2 or 3 wisks in my kitchen and I really didn't need another one. I also passed on a lot of the drinks because I already had a bunch from the live blogging event earlier. Plus those things are heavy and my arms were going to fall off if I put any more stuff in my bags.  Swag Suite

Taste of Seattle and Gourmet Fair

A Taste of Seattle & Gourmet Fair finished off the evening. Some of Seattle's best chefs and restaurants served up some amazing food. There were so many options that I didn't even get to try everything. My favorite dish of the night was served by Volunteer Park Cafe (Burrata with concord grapes, brioche crouton, pancetta and sweet potato coconut curry bisque). I love burrata. It's like cheesy butter and the bisque was spicy and full of flavor. In total I tried dishes from 9 different tables and wished I had room to try more. It was a great ending to the first day of IFBC. Click on the photo below to go to flickr and hover over the plates for a description of what each dish was and who made it.Taste of Seattle at IFBC dinner

Friday, September 20, 2013

IFBC Eve

The International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle is upon us. Yesterday there were a few pre-IFBC events and I even had to skip one because there was just too much going on. It was a lovely sunny day in Seattle and I'm sure those visiting appreciated it but it looks like Seattle will be back to its rainy dreary self before the weekend is over. Here's a peak at some of the swag I took home last night from the two events I made it to.
Moleskin and Cookbook
Yesterday's first stop was at Chateau Ste Michelle winery in Woodinville, a place I have been several times before and it never gets old. The event started off with a sample of some bubbly wine before heading on a wine tour which was followed by a presentation with a wine and food tasting hosted by John Sarich, the Culinary Director. We had smoked salmon, crab cake, mushroom tart and my favorite was the beef on a cracker and a bed of hummus. We all received a signed copy of John's cookbook, Chef in the Vineyard.
Bloggers at Chateau Ste Michelle Wine Pouring Wine Drinking
Winery Wine Case
Wine and Food Sampling Chef Vineyard Cookbooks

Immediately after this event was the #freshbloggers party at 1927 Events in Seattle. Traffic on 405 was horrendous so I took the side roads through Redmond and Bellevue and I think made better time that way.  I ended up spending most of my time in Seattle looking for parking. I so hate looking for parking in Seattle but finally ended up in the parking garage across the street from 1927.  This event was hosted by fruit growers, Stemilt, and berry growers, California GiantCupcake Royale also made an appearance with a variety of special cupcakes for the event including blackberry créme brule, roasted bosc pear crisp and salted caramel granny smith apple.  I couldn't resist trying just one and luckily there were some mini cupcakes so I went for the bosc pear which was delish.  Besides some alcohol drinks made with various berries there were also several containers of water filled with berries to give the water a nice natural berry flavor. Guests were given moleskins as they left which is going to come in handy for the IFBC sessions this weekend. Cupcake Royale also had some fun stickers, one of which says "I am a Frostitute". I picked one up and put it on the back of my moleskin.
Flatbread Canape Grilled Margarita Chicken Skewers Cheeses
Blackberry Cocktail Berry Water Roasted Bosc Pear Crisp Babycake
Today IFBC officially starts with lunch provided by Chipotle Mexican Grill and a keynote by Dorie Greenspan.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Pho Kit!

Pho KitHave you ever wanted to make your own pho but didn't want to buy all the exotic spices for it where they would just sit in your cupboard never to be touched again?  Now you can without having to buy a single spice with a Pho Kit! It comes with all the spices you need to make a rich, flavorful broth, including the noodles.  All you need to provide is the meat and garnishes. They're available in chicken, vegetable and beef is coming soon.

Pho KitI picked my Pho Kit up from the owner, Brandy Craig, at the Juanita Farmer's Market. You can also buy them online at phokit.com. If you ever eat pho at a restaurant, they usually use loads of MSG and a paste to make the broth. There's no MSG, preservatives or artificial ingredients in Pho Kits and they are gluten free.

I love the little sachet the spices come in because you can open it up and take a peak at what's inside. You'll find a cinnamon stick, rock sugar, star anise, cardamom, coriander and cloves. While talking to Brandy at the farmer's market she mentioned that the amount of rock sugar in the sachet make the pho a little on the sweeter side and some people prefer a less sweet broth. Taking that into consideration, I was happy I was able to open the sachet and remove a few rocks of sugar so it wouldn't be too sweet.
Pho Kit Spice Sachet

The kit makes 6 large bowls of pho. Since there are only two of us I decided to only cook half of the noodles and put the other half away for another time.  The leftover broth can be put in a large ziplock freezer bag and thawed at any time when you're ready to eat the rest. We thought the leftover soup was even more flavorful. I look forward to trying some of the other flavors.
Pho Kit Grilled Onion and Ginger Pho Garnishes