Sheesh! It’s unbelievable how long it took me to prepare this post! It’s also unbelievable to find that after shooting almost 500 pictures, how few were actually usable! Such is the cross of a food blogger, I guess. But, I couldn’t not tell you about the rest of my San Francisco adventure, so here goes….
Saturday was conference day and I hit the ground running. I’m not normally a morning person, but my body clock was still on East Coast time, so 7:00 am felt like 10:00 am, which was fine with me! As I made the short hike from my hotel to the St. Regis for BlogHer Food, my anticipation was great and my expectations were high. Sure, I was looking forward to the conference itself, but I was looking even more forward to meeting so many of the talented and creative bloggers that I’d previously only known through my Google reader.
When I arrived, breakfast in the Gallery Ballroom was in full swing. I scanned the sea of animated faces hoping to zero in on someone I knew, but no such luck. So, I found myself an empty chair next to a few friendly faces, grabbed some steaming hot coffee and settled in.
Perhaps now would be a good time to mention that I have the memory of a sieve. I met so many lovely bloggers during the course of the day, and for the life of me, I just can’t remember all of their names. This is what happens when you start to get old. They say “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better”, but that is a lot of crap. Trust me, we’re just getting older, and in my case, “stupider”! So, I’m going to apologize right now to anyone and everyone that I met whose name escapes me. You know who you are.
What I do remember, however, are the various breakout sessions I attended and the excellent speakers who led them. Many of these presenters are the very bloggers that I often turn to for inspiration and guidance for my own site. I tried to hit as many as I could for at least part of the time. There was something for everyone, whether you were looking to improve your photography skills, home your writing style, save the World or get a book deal. The folks at BlogHer provided for official livebloggers to cover all of the conference sessions and have graciously made all of the posts available on the BlogHer web site. There is also a BlogHer Food Flickr group where you can check out hundreds of photos of all the action.
During the morning break I decided to run back to my hotel and unload my laptop and my swag bag. As I waited for the elevator, I glanced around and saw a very familiar face. My heart started to race and my palms started to sweat as it dawned on me who that face belonged to.
Are you ready for this?
Really, really ready?
Okay. Here goes.
I kid you not. Tim Gunn from Project Runway was standing right next to me, waiting for the elevator! I almost died! Project Runway is one of my all time favorite TV shows, and I absolutely adore Tim Gunn. What else could I do but introduce myself and gush all over him? We rode in the elevator together and chatted the whole way up to the 19th floor, where I got off. Let me tell you, dear readers, that he is just as friendly and charming in real life as he comes across on television. A true class act! He was in town to emcee a swanky Kate Spade fashion show at Bloomingdales, and he actually invited me to come. Oh, if only I could have! But, BlogHer Food was my priority that day and so I had to decline. But I will admit, I was tempted!
It was only after I reached my hotel room that I cringed. “OMG!” I thought. “What do I look like?” “Is my hair okay?” “Do I have lipstick on?” “Was my outfit cute enough? ”Did Tim Gunn think I looked like a fashion disaster!?!?” ACK!!! I imagined him tsk-tsking and calling down to the front desk to ask for the room number of that poor, unfortunate blogger so that he could send Nina Garcia to come and work me over.
I rushed to the mirror, held my breath and took a look. Hmmm. Not too bad. It was a good thing that I wanted to impress my blogger friends and took some extra time that morning to gussy up a little. Still, I couldn’t be too careful. I swiped on another coat of mascara and flat-ironed my hair. You know, just in case I ran into Tim Gunn again on my way out.
Luckily, I arrived back at the St. Regis just in time for lunch. Or was it? I pulled up a chair at a table with Jen, Helen, Chuck, Anita, Tami, Caitlin, and Ruth Ann, and we all admired how prettily set up it was. Oh boy! I was really looking forward to that lunch! There was a lovely Salade Nicoise in the center of the table. So far, so good. Then, I took a gander at the menu. The lunch was being sponsored by Bertolli Frozen Meals. Then, I realized that the lunch actually WAS Bertolli Frozen Meals! HUH? Frozen pasta meals served at a luncheon for 300 food bloggers?
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Bertolli. In fact, I happily use several of their products. I’ve even tried some of their pasta meals, and they’re not bad in a pinch, especially if you add other stuff to them. And, I’m certainly grateful for their sponsorship. But, I’m sorry. You. do. not. serve. frozen. food. at. a. food. blogger. luncheon. period. I suppose we should all have been thankful that the official lunch sponsor wasn’t Healthy Choice, another conference sponsor. Imagine the uproar if we had been served micro-meals for lunch instead! Yikes!
To add insult to injury, we then were subjected to an hour long infomercial hosted by Bertolli’s pitch man, Rocco DiSpirito. Rocco bounced around the room babbling something about we food bloggers “having the power” and being “heroes”. Whatever. He also tried to convince us that he serves these meals to company and everybody loves them. Yeah, right! It’s a good thing that Rocco is so devilishly handsome or else things might have gotten ugly! Oh wait….things did get a little ugly.
I also took a picture of Tami taking a picture of me. Hee hee!
I tried to get a decent shot of Rocco, but he moved around too damn much.
BTW, I heard that several of my blogger friends got wind of the lunch menu ahead of time and slipped out to a nearby restaurant for lunch. All I have to say to them is…..
Why in the hell didn’t you invite me!!!
After lunch there was a fun chocolate demonstration sponsored by Scharffen Berger featuring Chef Elizabeth Faulkner, chef/owner of the popular San Francisco restaurant, bar, and patisserie, Citizen Cake. You may remember Chef Faulkner from Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef America, but she has also been featured in numerous publications such as Fine Cooking, Food & Wine, Pastry Art & Design, Gourmet and W. In honor of Sharffen Berger’s Chocolate Adventure Contest, Chef Faulkner created some truly sticky, gooey, creamy, chewy chocolate creations using a myriad of wild and wacky ingredients. When she was finished, we were all given latex surgical gloves and encouraged to dig in with our hands! It was interesting to say the least, but maybe a little too sticky, gooey, creamy, chewy – even for me!
Here’s Joy from Gourmeted enjoying a little mid-afternoon chocolate overload. Isn’t she a total cutie pie? I love her!
After a fun and inspiring keynote Q & A session with Elise from Simply Recipes, Ree from The Pioneer Woman Cooks and my favorite ice cream guru, David Lebovitz, we all hightailed it out to the terrace for cocktails, canapés and conversation.
From there, I met up with some more terrific bloggers for dinner at one of the newest SF hotspots, Contigo. Andrea, Lydia, Kalyn, T.W., Val, Rebecca and I snagged a few taxis and headed over to one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever eaten. Contigo is a new Spanish and Catalan restaurant featuring small (“pica-pica”) and large dishes (“platillos”) inspired by the vivid flavors of that area. They also offer artisanal hams and Catalan flatbreads from their wood burning oven. Chef Brett cooks everything from scratch using the products of local, organic, and humane farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and artisans.
Here we are: T.W., Moi, Rebecca, Lydia, Andrea, Kalyn and Val. What a handsome group!
Of course, being food bloggers, we couldn’t come to a consensus on what to order, so we pretty much ordered some of everything on the menu. With all of the interesting and delicious sounding offerings to choose from, how could we ever have limited ourselves to just a few? After sampling at least a dozen different dishes, you would think that they’d all begin to run together, but each one was as unique and distinctly flavored as the one before it. I’m still dreaming of the Tripe with Chorizo and Chickpeas, the Patatas Bravas and the Calamares Stuffed with Lobster Mushrooms. And the Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Oxtail, Pine Nuts and Raisins? Sublime!
This is the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, which is the crown jewel of Spanish hams. Aged for 36 months, his ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests along the border between Spain and Portugal, eating only acorns.
If you ever have the good fortune to find yourself in San Francisco, you MUST visit Contigo. It really is an experience not to be missed. Besides, you’ll be supporting a fellow food blogger. Brett Emerson, the chef/owner of the place, is the voice behind In Praise of Sardines.
After literally rolling ourselves out the door of Contigo, we had one more stop to make. Jaden, Ree and Elise were graciously hosting a big post-conference bash at Tropisueno, and we were late, late, late! Let me just say that these ladies really know how to throw a party! There was lots of dancing, eating, drinking and all around celebrating. I wish we had been able to get there a little sooner as the festivities were winding down when we arrived. But, it was still great fun to do some more mingling with everyone. Our hostesses generously presented each of us with a fab swag bag filled with all sorts of useful kitchen goodies from Chef’s Catalog. My sincerest thanks go out to all three of them, not just for the party and the swag, but for also being a constant source of inspiration to me, and for showing by example what a great food blog can be!
As I’ve said before, all good things must come to an end, and BlogHer Food was no exception. I laughed a lot, ate a lot, shopped a lot and most importantly, I learned a lot. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to reconnect with some great bloggers that I already knew and to meet so many awesome new bloggers for the first time, like Ashley, Caitlin, Laura, Dana, Susan, Kristen, Zoe, Amy, Stephanie, Wendy, Alice, Denise, Ruth Ann, Cora and so many more!
Here’s a shot I took of the amazing night time view from my hotel room window. Isn’t it pretty? I love how all of the city lights look like they have little tails. They kind of look like neon tadpoles, don’t they? I miss San Francisco!
In the meantime, I’ve been having some fun cooking with the fresh chanterelles and black truffle that I bought at The Ferry Building Marketplace and hand carried home three thousand miles in my purse! But, more on that later.