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My Great Seattle Adventure, Part 2: Friends, Fun and (Lots of) Food

I started writing this post about five different times, and it has taken forever! I wanted to get it just right! Each time, I’d get a few paragraphs in and then I’d have to stop and start over. It just seemed so overwhelming! How do I sum up those two extraordinary, action-packed, fun-filled days that were the International Food Blogger Conference, or IFBC [1], as it is called by those “in the know”. This has got to be one of the few times in my life that I really just can’t seem to find the words! And unfortunately, I can’t seem to find most of the pictures either. Shots I thought I took of the conference simply aren’t there, and most of what I did get, came out pretty crappy. But, I do want to share my wonderful experience with you, so please bear with me as I suck it up and just do it! And, I warn you. It’s going to be looooooong! I’ll be blatantly borrowing some great photos I found on Foodista’s Flickr Pages [2] to supplement my own meager offerings. Please, nobody sue me!

With my trip to the fabulous Pike Place Market [3] behind me, I turned my attention to the next part of my great Seattle adventure – the actual IFBC. [1] The festivities were to commence on Friday evening with a cocktail party held at the historic Bemis Building in the SoDo [4] district of the city. After I changed outfits three times, I headed down to the hotel lobby to catch the party bus shuttle, where I met Recipe Girl [5], Pinch My Salt [6], Cooking with Amy [7], Eating Out Loud [8], The Daily Spud [9] (all the way from Dublin!), Simply…Gluten Free [10], Wild Yeast [11], Plumpest Peach [12], The Well-Tempered Chocolatier [13], My Last Bite [14], Passion 4 Eating [15] and several other fellow attendees.

Wow! This was going to be fun!

The cocktail party was a low-key, laid back affair, which I think was meant to be a kind of ice-breaker for the attendees. (Believe me, by the time I had gasped, clawed and limped my way up the four fights of stairs to the party room with these guys, the ice was definitely broken!)

Once inside, I encountered a sea of smiling, friendly food bloggers and vendors with…..NO NAME TAGS!!! That meant if you didn’t have a photo of yourself on your blog, no one knew who you were. So, in between sampling the lovely assortment of Northstar Wines [16], sipping the rich and robust coffee from Caffe Vita [17], nibbling on Theo Chocolates’ [18] fine chocolates, slurping oysters from Taylor Shell Fish [19] and munching on the delicious appetizers provided by Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar [20], we all walked around quizzically staring at each other and saying,

“Hi! Who are you?”.

It was hilarious to watch! Navigating my way through the crowd, I got to meet Hedonia [21], Bring to Boil [22], Orangette [23], Discover the word of Artisan Beef [24], Phoo-D [25], Seattle Tall Poppy [26], Simply Recipes [27] and Steamy Kitchen [28]. (I’ve actually met Steamy Kitchen many times before as we live less than ten miles away from each other. But, it was great to see her again anyway!)

Our special guest of the night was Renée Behnke [29], president emeritus of Sur la Table [30]. Renée spent some time chatting with the crowd and graciously gave everyone there an autographed copy of her new cookbook, Memorable Recipes To Share with Family and Friends. [31] It’s a beautiful book and I’m looking forward to recreating some of her lovely dishes!

Bright and early the next morning, we all convened at the conference venue, the lovely and elegant Sanctuary at Admiral [32]. I have to say, it was a little intimidating. I kind of felt like it was the first day of junior high school and as I walked inside, I started asking myself all kinds of ridiculous questions, such as:

“Does my hair look okay?”

“Are my jeans too long/short?”

“What if I say something totally stupid?” (Oh, please God, don’t let me say something totally stupid!)

“What if a) everyone hates me; b) everyone things I’m a nerd; or c) everyone hates me AND thinks I’m a nerd?!?!”

I know, I know….not very appropriate thoughts for a grown woman to be thinking, but…..still…..

I needn’t have worried, though. Everyone I met was just as nice as could be. We all milled around, chatting each other up as though we’d known each other forever!

We were greeted by steaming hot coffee and a lavish breakfast pastry buffet courtesy of Stumptown Coffee [33] and Bakery Nouveau [34]. There were rich and buttery croissants, chewy, nutty breads and crusty baguettes. Honestly, the almond croissant that I had positively shattered when I bit into it! It was as good, if not better, than any I had in Paris!

Once we had all loaded up on coffee and delicious pastries (except Simply…Gluten Free, who couldn’t eat the pastries), it was time to get down to business.

Instead of giving you a blow by blow narrative of each and every session, I’m going to give you the highlights and direct you to the IFBC web site [1]. The Foodista crew has done a marvelous job of recording each session and is making podcasts of them available so that all of you can glean the same knowledge and great advice for yourselves. Besides, If I tried to include everything here, this post would be endless!

Here’s Molly from Orangette [35] and Jaden from Steamy Kitchen [28] with Kirsty Melville from Andrews McMeel Publishing [36] talking about the “ins and outs” of getting a book deal from your blog, including how to write a book proposal. You can’t see her, but Amy from Cooking with Amy [7] was also there as the moderator.

Next, was a very interesting session called “Finding Your Voice”, which was all about settling on your blog niche, keeping your writing fresh, relevant and unique and building a rapport with your audience. James Beard Journalism Award Winner, Rebekah Denn [37], CEO/Founder of Women & Wine [38], Julie Brosterman and Kathleen Flinn [39], author of “The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry [40]”, were our able panelists for this one.

A fabulous gourmet lunch was provided by Kerry Sears from Four Seasons ART Restaurant, [41] Brian Cartenuto from Cantinetta, [42] Jonathan Hunt from Boom Noodle [43], Mt. Townsend Creamery [44], Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese, [45]Theo Chocolate [45]and DRY Soda [46]. While every dish was incredibly delicious, my favorites were those amazing little Bomboloni! Bomboloni are small, round and dreamily soft pillows of fried dough, usually filled with cream or jam, and dusted with sugar. These were filled with an amazing orange-scented pastry cream. Heaven!

After that feast, what I really needed was a nice, long nap, but instead we were treated to informative sessions on food styling and building blog traffic. Two adorable representatives from Picnik [47] were there to tell us all about the photo editing site, and I have to say, I was really impressed! I’d used Picnik in my early blogging days, but kind of forgot about it after I got Photoshop. Since then, a ton of great new features have been added that are fun and very easy to use. In fact, almost all of the pictures and collages on my Seattle posts were edited using Picnik. I love Picnik!

The next stop on this great Seattle adventure was the Words & Wine [48] event with special guest, Ruth Reichl [49]. Ruth certainly needs no introduction to anyone involved in the world of food, but for anyone who isn’t already familiar with her, she was the restaurant critic for the New York Times [50] for many years before graduating to be the editor of Gourmet Magazine [51]. Ruth is also a best-selling author and the recipient of four James Beard Awards. She is a legend and an icon, and after having the opportunity to chat with her at this event, I can also say a very charming and lovely woman! I am so thrilled to have met her!

After a delightful evening of “words and wine” with Ruth Reichl, we each received an autographed copy of her newest book, “Not Becoming My Mother”, [52] (woo hoo!) and went on our merry way.

Believe it or not, by that time I was actually hungry again! And fortunately, so were many of my new blogger friends. A group of us decided to have a nice dinner at Chef Tom Douglas’ signature restaurant, Lola [53]. We had a great time chatting, laughing and eating sensational food!

Here we are mugging for the camera! From left to right are: Passion 4 Eating [15], The Well-Tempered Chocolatier [13], The Daily Spud [9], MOI, [54] Recipe Girl [55], Wild Yeast [11], Plumpest Peach [12], Simply…Gluten Free [10] and Brownies for Dinner. [56]

Later, as I climbed into bed and pulled the covers over my head, I reflected on yet another awesome day of my great Seattle adventure. I had made so many new friends, learned so much and had such a great time doing it. And, there was still one more day left to go! I’m pretty sure I drifted off to sleep that night with a smile on my face.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of My Great Seattle Adventure, coming soon!

BTW, to enjoy lots more excellent photos of the IFBC, check out Sheri’s post [57] on the Foodista blog [58] and the Foodistablog [2] page on Flickr [59].