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Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day!

We had mini rhubarb apple pies for breakfast this morning to start the day right. [Recipe to follow tomorrow. :)]

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Cherry Blossom Festival in Vancouver

I keep saying this, but it’s true: it’s been a busy 12 months. So busy that it’s been a year and 2 days later that I’m posting about the Cherry Blossom Festival from 2011. What better time to play catch up on this event than on the day the festival starts again: Today. I couldn’t be more excited, to tell you the truth. Family friends are visiting and I’m bringing one of them later to VanDusen Botanical Garden, amidst high hopes for some sunshine.

Sakura Days Japan Fair, a family-friendly Japanese festival, is happening this weekend at VanDusen to celebrate the start of spring and the blooming of these gorgeous trees that line many of our streets in Vancouver. [You can check here for various locations in bloom.]

And what’s a fair without some good food? Many Japanese restaurants around Vancouver are participating with their own Sakura menus.

There are lots of other things to do during the festival that runs through the 28th of April:

Cherry Jam Downtown (April 5, 11am to 1:30pm) at the Burrard Skytrain Station
Tree Talks & Walks (April 5, 7, 8, 14, 15 & 21)
Plen-Air Blossom Painting (April 7, 14, 21 & 28 11am-2pm) – open for registration
Cherry Blossom Umbrella Dance Flash Mob (April 14)
Bike the Blossoms (April 28)

Visit the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website for more info.

[There is an egg hunt for the kids at VanDusen tomorrow but it's sold out, and so is the SakuraB Bento Box Lunch today.]

Whatever you decide to do this month, I’m sure you won’t miss the cherry blossoms around the city. Enjoy them while they last. :-)

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Posted in events, travel1 Comment

Bake For The Quake

Even now as I look at the screen to type, I’m still not sure what to say. The past month has been a trip through rolling hills of yays and nays, that the line between living in the moment and  is one big-pixel Gaussian blur. Geeky. There’s drama, action and catching something and almost missed it, suspense, there were fits of impatience, and then there’s one grand patriarch of the family who is ailing. Then you have the fantastical news (yes, I’m being sarcastic), from wars to natural disasters.

I was still going to stay mum about these things, but there is something as human as being compelled to act in spite of one’s suffering, to help another. I’m talking about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which hit close to ‘home’ — Asia, where we have a lot of friends and family. I read and watched the news as it happened that early Friday morning, one horrifying update after another. It was during that time on Twitter that Melody ( a fellow Vancouver blogger) and I got to talking about doing something to help. Social media is a powerful thing and what better way to use it than for good? So what do food bloggers do to help? Doing what we do best and do something with the food we love: Have a bake sale!

It’s been a few weeks of planning, but it’s for a very worthy cause! We’re going to have Vancouver’s finest bakers come on board for an evening of baked yumminess. No, it’s not a reference to 4/20 (ha), but I’m talking about some real fine, freshly baked goods that warm the heart: they’re good for you and they’re good for the people we will be helping.

If you would like to join in as a Baker, check the Baker Guidelines and shoot me an email at gourmeted /AT/ gmail /DOT/ com.

If you would like to Sponsor the event, get in touch with Melody at mel /AT/ gourmetfury /DOT/ com.

If you would like to help in any other way, send either of us an email. We’ll be posting more details on the Bake For The Quake website.

You can also donate directly to our Doctors Without Borders fundraising page.

Please spread the word and get involved!
THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT, FRIENDS!

Mmm...peanut butter brownies...

Posted in announcements, events4 Comments

Chili Con Coco Loco | Asian Style Beef Chili with Garlic Fried Rice

And so it is, the first month of the year is almost over. The newness of 2011 has worn out and although the thrill ride of the holidays is definitely tucked beneath shadows of gift wrappers past, I couldn’t be more excited to finally let you know what’s been cooking up in my kitchen! Casey, the talented force behind Kitchen Play, organizes monthly events that bring bloggers and PR professionals together — in the name of food and all things food-related. Several weeks ago she informed me there will be an all-Canadian Kitchen Play eventand would I want to join? Uhm, yes!

I was curious to find out which company or organization we will be working with and what “secret ingredient” participants will be asked to use for the recipes. My anxiousness beefed up (hah!) while I waited for more details from Casey. A few days later, she revealed that we would be sponsored by no other than the Canadian Beef (www.beefinfo.org). Smile.

Would you like to “play” along with us in the kitchen?

Try any recipe for this month’s Kitchen Play — go crazy and put your own twist!– for a chance to win $100 from Canadian Beef. So what are you waiting for?
(Please refer to the complete contest rules.)

I love beef. I love my steaks. Ribs. Even offal. My assignment was to create an original entree recipe using, yes, beef! Wheels started turning and one of my initial recipes consisted of tender cuts, but quite expensive. After testing it,  I realized that won’t fly on a regular weekday meal; not even on a weekend. The truth is, I would have filet mignon with salt and pepper cooked medium rare with some sizzling butter and sauteed mushrooms on a regular basis . I’ll also take grilled wine-marinated top blade steaks. Given a good quality piece of meat, I will just let its amazing flavor and texture dazzle me. However, this is not the time to go down the beaten path and there is definitely more to beef than grilling steaks! I wanted to create something that’s different from the norm, but still hopefully a dish that everyone can enjoy.

Heather (Travis), the Beef Information Center‘s director of Public Relations, told me that they are open to any and all ideas. I like that. If you know me, I will go there. After experimenting with one idea after another, and eating one mistake after another (yes, I end up with disappointing meals, too!), I took several deep breaths… Beef is hearty. It’s filling. When done right, it makes a world of difference between blah meat and a cleaned out plate that begs for more. I wanted that feeling from my dish. It’s odd how recipes start out in my head. For this main course, the goal was to get that feeling of eating something so good you sit back and unconsciously rub your belly out of happiness and satisfaction. Plus, it’s winter, so I was looking for that element of heat. Soup. Spice. To keep the cold away.

I decided on some chili. But what can I do to it? I sure love the different textures when I make it with ground meat and chunks to chew on, and the heartiness a good chili brings. However, given my Asian roots and upbringing, I still admittedly look for flavors of home: coconuts, coconut milk, lime (in the Philippines we have a citrus called calamansi)…

So. What if?

This isn't your usual chili.

What if, with careful manipulation of the ingredients, I can make this North American favorite with an Asian twist? Do I go there? Do I dare put coconut milk in my chili? Yes, yes yes!

Beef goes really well with coconut milk, which goes hand in hand with chili. How about a double kick from chipotle chili and sriracha? The flavor is full, but I didn’t like the taste to lose its novelty, so let’s add a burst of freshness from cilantro.

A spritz of lime.

Finish it off with warm garlic rice. I would go so far as to eat it with coconut garlic rice. Wow.

Rinse, repeat.

Was that a Chili con Coco? Chili con Coco Loco?

A creamy and refreshing hearty chili. Who knew?

Ooh, and what is that something else you taste? You can’t really figure it out, but it’s there.  You’ll just have to scroll down and check the recipe! There are a couple of things you might not expect in this chili, but trust me, they make it so good. :-)

As I sit back and relax, and enjoy a full belly of chili goodness, I hope you’ll try it. It’s now my new favorite chili.

Thank you again to our sponsor, Canadian Beef, and Kitchen Play for letting us “play” in the kitchen to bring you new ways to enjoy beef in your meals. And don’t forget, you can join us for this month’s event by cooking along for a chance to win $10o from Canadian Beef!


   Get the recipe for Asian Style Beef Chili with Garlic Fried Rice

Posted in Asian dish, beef, events, original Gourmeted recipe12 Comments

The Mummy Diaries, Part 1: Spanaspookyta

Up until we moved from Manila, the Halloween holidays were spent going to cemeteries to visit our loved ones who passed away. We begin this cemetery-hopping with family from All Saints Day through All Souls Day. They weren’t ever about parties or making ghoulish treats, which would seem inappropriate when you’re visiting your loved ones’ graves. Nowadays it’s a long way from “home” to do our annual visits. I haven’t forgotten our roots, but I’m slowly adapting Western Halloween festivities. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right?

Fact: I avoid horror movies and can’t watch them alone. I can’t handle haunted houses, unless you can stand me screaming my brain off, then your brain off. I’m afraid of the dark. Halloween food and costume parties are as far as I’d go for Halloween. Thanks to Renee‘s #GreatHallowTweet BlogHop, I’m getting into the spirit! I’m fumbling my way through while my Hallow cohorts have better things up their sleeve. Look for the pumpkin on the sidebar and click on their links to see what they’re up to. Whooo!!!

My first Halloween “treat” for you this year isn’t a sweet treat and requires some imagination…so forgive me. I love vegetables. For some people, knowing that this has spinach inside it is spooky in itself. Haha. [You can also check out last year's Macawrongs.]

Mummified spanakopita!

If you poke a couple of holes with the tip of knife, boring through the filo to a glimpse of the spinach before baking, the "eyes" would well up like this.

I’ve included some photos of the process of mummifying them. These are basically snack size and would also make excellent appetizers! I already have half of mine in the freezer for later.

Spread the spinach mixture (use your go-to spanakopita filling recipe) on two filo sheets greased with olive oil or butter.

Fold over, and slice the whole length of filled filo into 2-inch width strips. You will end up with about 12 filo mummies. If you do, you will need 4 more filo sheets to for mummification.

To create the mummification strips, brush half of a single filo dough and fold crosswise. Cut in half.

For one of that halves: Cut into quarters. For the other, cut into 8 strips crosswise, which will be the mummy strips.

Get one of the quarter sheet and fold over one of the spanakopita pieces.

Use a dab of olive oil to stick them together if needed.

Lightly and sparsely brush the thin strips of filo pastry with olive oil and wrap around to create the mummy effect.

Tadah!

Posted in appetizer, baking, cheese, events, snacks, vegetables29 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s 2am and I’ve just finished packing up the brining bag for the turkey, made with pineapple juice this time. Tomorrow, the cooking symphony will go like this (ideally):

  • bake pumpkin pie
  • bake herb cornbread stuffing (I don’t like cooking the stuffing in the bird.)
  • roast turkey
  • cook cranberry sauce
  • cook maple-glazed carrots (maybe…)
  • make appetizer of tuna salad in lettuce cups
  • make gravy

All these for our Thanksgiving Dinner. Yumm.

My cook-in-crime (a.k.a. brother) is unexpectedly indisposed because of an ankle sprain, so the rest of us will do our best to get things in order. :)

Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian friends!

Every year there are new things to be thankful for — small successes, big successes, baby steps, long leaps, changes, fulfilled dreams, etc.  –  but what I’ll always be thankful for are my family and friends, because without them these are all meaningless. Thank you and love you all. xoxo

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now off to bed I go.

Posted in events4 Comments

Will Write For Food

If you’re a food blogger, then you probably know Dianne Jacob. If you’re a food writer and/or a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), you probably know her as well. IF you are either of the two and don’t know her,  get with the program {smile}. She wrote this gem of a book 5 years ago called, “Will Write For Food“, an invaluable resource on food writing. A good number of food writers will probably tell you that hers was the first book they read on the subject.

I edited the photo of the book for Blogathon 2009.

I was a bit late into the scene, being a cooking hobbyist and a food blogger. The first edition (on the right) came to my attention early least year. Admittedly, I battled with it a few times because of the writing exercises, which taunted the defiant student within me. I approached Dianne several months later at BlogHer Food ’09 and said something like, “It made me cry/suffer (because of said exercises),” the dramatic Leo coming out. [Goodness, yes, I said that. We're still friends, right?] What I should’ve blurted out was, “But what about blogs, Ms. Jacob, can you give food writing advice to blogs?” It was more of a wish than a question.

That wish was granted this summer with the release of the 2nd edition, the digital coming of age version, where what used to be the lowly food blog  had earned its own chapter. In fact, Dianne herself started a blog in 2009, signaling her own immersion in the blogging world. And of course, the Internet embraced it, with her thought-provoking posts on food writing.

I recently met Dianne again during the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle and she mentioned she’ll be in town, a treat for those of us across the border –

If you are in Vancouver, Canada Dianne Jacob will be at Barbara-Jo’s tomorrow,
September 14, 2010 6:00pm

1740 West 2nd Avenue (half a block east of Burrard)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6J 1H6

Tel #604-688-6755

Now onto the book!

Here are the chapters of the 2nd edition and some highlights I noted:

1 What, Exactly, is Food Writing?
- writing with the senses, passion in writing, writing voice, writers describing their own voices

2 Characteristics of a Food Writer
-
traits based on interviews with food writers and editors

3 Getting Started
-
a day in the life of several writers, how food writers got their start, an excellent reading list for those wanting to expand their knowledge

4 Get Published with a Food Blog
[New chapter in the revised and updated edition]
-  includes suggestions on what kind of posts to write, photography, book and product reviews, ethics, SEO and online exposure, going from blog to book, classes and references (that new bloggers may not have heard of)

As a regular reader of Dianne’s blog, I can tell that this chapter drew upon her own experience online and the wealth of information from various food bloggers. It was interesting to see hot blogging topics, such as product reviews, being included.

5 Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer
- story ideas, positioning and targeting your story, finding markets, crafting a query letter, writing and editing your work, ways to make decent money

6 Secrets of Restaurant Reviewing
- how-to, restaurant checklist, good and negative reviews, describing food, education, getting started and paid

7 The Cookbook You’ve Always Wanted to Write
- what makes a good cookbook idea, different kinds of cookbooks

8 The Art of Recipe Writing
- recipe development, philosophy of recipe writing, parts of a recipe and how to write them, attribution and copyright

9 Memoir and Nonfiction Food Writing
- food-based memoirs, food history, cultural anthropology and philosophy, guidebooks, biographies, food and health books, kitchen science, adventures, journalism and essays

10 Writing About Food in Fiction
I barely glossed over this section, but for your benefit, it includes mysteries, characters plucked out of the food business, classic literature, and children’s books

11 How To Get Your Book Published
This is another section I skipped, but it includes a guide for writing book proposals, main issues to negotiate in a publishing contract, and avenues for self-publishing.

The updated Selected  Web Sites section itself is worth checking out, with lists of magazines and web sites that take freelance writing, food writing classes, and food studies.

The question is:  Should you get the new “Will Write For Food“?

For the new and veteran food bloggers and writers: Yes! Whether you are doing this for fun, trying your chance at–or carving–a new career, this book will provide you with information and tools to improve your writing,. The exercises after each chapter (except for the last) are great starting points or refreshers. The lists of online and offline resources that Ms. Jacob provides are treasures themselves.

For those who already own the first edition: If you want to stay relevant with food writing in the digital age, yes. The 4th chapter on publishing a food blog is not the only update to this book, just so you know. Having read both, poring over the new edition felt like finally engaging with someone who knows that the Internet provides a viable avenue for food writing. Here’s a book that knows new media, our  medium –blogs.

Posted in books and publications, events8 Comments

Girls Re{treat} at Hotel Dana Treat and a Weekend of Eating

As hinted previously in my IFBC recap and blogging conference comparison, I’ll be posting next about the other part of my IFBC weekend — our re{treat}.

Since last year, a group of us who all met at BlogHer Food ’09 dreamed of going on a girls retreat. We’ve brainstormed places and time, but nothing really came out of it and sadly, the idea slipped through the cracks. Two months ago, by some stroke of luck, a girls re{treat} organically sprung from our friend Dana‘s generous offer to have us stay at her house. We’re not the same big group from last year, and in fact I’ve never met 2 of the girls, but we all love food — everything should be completely fine, right? I was excited and anxious, and the night before–sleepless for Seattle.

You might not be interested at all to read the rest of this post, but before you leave, at least consider this: make time for a fun weekend with just your girl friends (or guy friends). It doesn’t have to be a far away destination or be planned to the last minute. Just commit to have fun and promise yourselves to be in your best behavior. [We are the worst with the ones we love sometimes, and that is not the goal here. ;-)] From the past weekend, I can’t tell you enough how invigorating, exhilarating, fulfilling and refreshing it is! It’s just the shot of tequila my soul needed. Yeah, it comes with a hangover, but the good kind. Don’t get me wrong, family is great, but a girls re{treat} has its own sanity-saving merits, too.

Without further ado, here are the women who have collectively made that IFBC weekend so much more than just a trip to a conference (click on their names and check out their blogs):

  • Kristina, my BlogHer Food ’09 rockstar roommate, resource of all things tomato and leads this school of fish, flew in from Tennessee with 3 hours to make up for and a honking jar of Moonshine Cherries that will knock you out of your senses;
  • Denise, another sweet friend who I met (and also lives) in San Francisco, is half of ChezUs (say “cheez-us” only if you say “praise” first), organizes digital media workshops and heads an online video production company with her beau Lenny, baked and brought homemade cookies for us to try (that’s a food blogger for you);
  • Tracy, a cool bean with the hip haircut and adorable head accessories that hint at her Bay Area and artsy roots, will regale you with her quick wit and – get this — horoscope readings and analysis had us deep in conversation;
  • Cheryl, also from California, whose endearing candidness will stop you in your tracks, has a perfectly timed humor that could leave a roomful of tourists cracking up, is the kind of writer you wish you were; and
  • our hostess with the mostess, Dana, vegetarian personal chef extraordinaire who unknowingly broke her 20-plus years of vegetarianism with fine lard at Kate’s pie making class, and who showed us around Seattle, brought us to the city’s yummiest spots (with the time we have available), put us up in her gorgeous abode with warm beds, and kept us full (and punchy) with {dana} treats from her kitchen and cellar. [We're also grateful for Dana's husband who was a good sport about going to the island with their two adorable boys so we can have an estrogen-packed weekend.]

Ours is a kinship forged in car seat rotation program, good food and wine, laughter, cutting classes, hugs from (Dana’s) sweetest two boys (when they came back), and more laughter.

We headed to Matt’s in the Market after we skillfully arranged everybody’s luggage in the car, which was a movie-worthy feat in itself. Warmly greeted by their friendly staff, we couldn’t help but notice the outstretched arms of Seattle’s sunshine beckoning us through the restaurant’s half moon-shaped windows. It’s just the welcome weather we wanted. The deep honey-colored wooden tables, varnished with character, are the stuff of food bloggers wet (restaurant) dreams set in daylight. The usual lunch hour cacophony filled the relaxed and spacious nook on the third floor of the Corner Market Building. It’s a perfect place for casual first dates, drowning the awkward conversation in everyone’s blithe chatter–a sly hand to calm the nerves until dessert for two is served.

Each plate that passed through the open kitchen behind us made for a difficult choice after another. Should we order Pulled Pork? Banh Mi? Spicy Tuna Melt? Drinks and minutes later, salt-pepper chips – the common denominator of all our palate’s desires — crackled to eager synchronized bites, hushing our out-of-towner banter.

Stumptown BBQ pulled pork

Stumptown BBQ pulled pork

Before me was a mountain of super moist and tender pulled pork, topped with crunchy coleslaw, and nestled in crisp and light crusted soft brioche bun. And the Yukon gold potato salad that came with it? Moved me to reconsider my passive attitude towards potato salads.

Yukon Gold Potato Salad

Potato Salad

We shared each others food, sufficing our own curiosities. Ours was a lively table where Oohs and Mmms staccato-ed in mid-sentence.

Having sandwich envy

Having sandwich envy

Our server, Chris the Wine Guy, was one of the highlights of this meal. He captivated us with his oratorical description of sandwiches, and random stories, like eating the most amazing sandwich during his friend’s Bachelor Party Trip. Every restaurant needs its own Chris.

That kick-start meal was (hopefully? hypothetically?) burned off by leisurely strolling through Pike Place Market and admiring the endless row of affordable really cheap, but good quality, fresh flowers, gliding through the aisles of The Spanish Table, prancing around the Paris Grocery through Lillet-colored glasses, and lingering last in the World Spice Markets, where the concept of shaving a sea salt block with salt shaver left us wondering what we’re missing.

We were chauffeured to Hotel Dana Treat by the gracious hostess herself. Let me tell you, we were heaps better off there than at a hotel, plus the company can’t be beat! We settled in our respective rooms, toasted to French aperitif, and made our pact with the 100-proof Ole Tennesee Moonshine Cherries with our first “shots”. Zaps your brain to Neverland in record time is what it does.

After getting our IFBC badges and goodies at Hotel Monaco, looping in and out the maze of food and sea of fellow bloggers, looking for familiar faces (Hi Susan, John, Carrie, Arnold, Alice, Lori!) — and finding new ones (Hello Deseree, Jun, Jennifer, Leann!), during our brief meet and greet, we hopped back into the Dana Treat Mobile to catch our 7:30pm dinner reservation at Delancey.

Delancey Seattle

Delancy Seattle

We were joined by Mardi, Megan, Jen, and Sarah, the birthday girl.

Happy birthday, Sarah!

This further solidifies my belief that every dining party should have a birthday person. It’s fun. You get to sing to them and perhaps divide a pavlova dessert among ten.

Burrata, prosciutto, arugula and olive oil

Burrata, prosciutto, arugula and olive oil

Yes, that makes 10 of us, drinking beer and wine, and ordering — brace yourselves, because I kid you not — nine pizzas. That’s all flavors divided among ten brave, we’re-ready-with-our-fat-jeans women.

Cheryl attacking the margherita pizza

Don't ever mess with Cheryl. The margherita pizza laid helpless under her calculating hands.

Brave is the keyword here, as our eyeballs just about popped out after the 5th pizza. We tried as many flavors we could possibly stuff our face with, like amateur runners who are in over their heads having signed up for a half-marathon.

Crimini mushroom pizza

Crimini mushroom pizza

I tried all 9 with room for dessert, I can’t lie. The crowd favorite is the white pizza with fresh arugula. The padron-laden pie comes a close second.

The majority voted for the White Pie as their favorite. A sublime combination of housemade ricotta, fresh and aged mozarella, garlic and arugula won us over.

The majority voted for the White Pie as their favorite. A sublime combination of housemade ricotta, fresh and aged mozarella, garlic and arugula won us over.

The crust is light and crispy, with bubbles I always tend to gravitate to when dissecting one. They are my personal joy. I have to tell you guys, Delancey makes really good thin crust pizza with fresh, flavorful ingredients, and that’s all a pizza lover really needs to know. The combination of ingredients is neither overkill nor pretentious, and they don’t try to put everything in one pie. You can taste each component, and you can linger with them for a while. I can honestly say that you don’t have to fly all the way down South to Pizzeria Bianco and line up for a good part of the day to eat the best pizza this side of the coast. That said, make reservations before going to Delancey. A great pizza comes with a good following, and you don’t want to be disappointed by coming hungry without calling in first.

The night was young, but we are not, so as much as we had wanted to pull an all-nighter to catch and drink up, we had to roll into bed for the first day of the conference. And this is just the first day.

To be continued with more food tales, and friends.

Here’s a quick reference of the places in Seattle I mentioned:

Matts in the Market
94 Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98101-2066, United States
(206) 467-7909

Delancey
1415 Northwest 70th Street
Seattle, WA 98117, United States
(206) 838-1960

Pike Place Market
(address to the parking garage:)
1531 Western Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101

The Spanish Table
1426 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 682-2827

Paris Grocery
1418 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 682-0679

World Spice Markets
World Spice Merchants
1509 Western Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
206.682.7274

Posted in events, restaurants, shoppes, travel11 Comments

Why I don’t Eat SEO for Lunch, plus the Triumvirate of Food Blogging Events

This post has been brewing for days, almost past its expiration date. All that’s needed to be said about the conference sessions has probably been posted by my fellow #IFBC attendees. It doesn’t help that I have a tarnished history of not blogging about conferences past. My excuse is that I usually continue traveling after each event, as is the case right now, thus pushing post statuses to Never. However, let me turn over a new leaf and tell you about that memorable weekend in Seattle, hopefully with a different perspective than what you’ve already read out there.

Having been a part of conferences in different capacities (as an assistant to the hosting organization, booth planner/manager, coordinator, and as an attendee, but thank god never as a sponsor-haggler), I’ve learned that I needed to be clear about what my goals and expectations are for going, or I’d just be wasting my time, energy, and money. Essentially, we invest in ourselves and/or our businesses when we go to these events, so why not make the most of it?

I went to Seattle to see old friends and meet new ones, enjoy a relaxing girls re{treat} at Hotel Dana Treat, and attend the International Food Blogging Conference and learn something new to improve this blog. And I’ve accomplished all of that and more, coming home a happy sappy camper, filled with pocketful of good memories.

What I Gained at IFBC

1. Inspiration

For me, there are two kinds of invaluable speakers in conferences: those who inform and teach, and those who inspire. It’s very rare to find someone who’s really good at what they do, whose zeal for it oozes like fine honey, and who can convey a message that we can easily digest. We were so lucky to be in the midst of such individuals. They have an infectious passion that lingers about. We were transported from Theo’s Chocolate Factory and lived in their shoes even for just a moment. That in itself makes the conference worth it.

I left the conference and bid the weekend goodbye with a renewed zest for life. It wasn’t just about food, writing or photography — it’s about living and breathing whatever you love to do, without reservations.

2. A chance to reinforce old friendships, make new friends, and meet other food blogging ‘crazies’

The other half of my IFBC Seattle weekend has something to do with friendships, which I will be talking about in my next post. I’ll be a complete sap here in a moment, so prepare your barf bag if you want. The thing that really makes a conference (for me) are The People. A conference is nothing without the connections you establish, and I’m not talking about “connections” in the they-will-be-useful-to-me-in-the-future or it’s-who-you-know sense. I’m talking about making a real connection with individuals you value as a person. Of course, I came to the event for personal, rather than professional, reasons. If I’ve met one new friend and kept the old ones close, that’s good enough for me. And I don’t use the term “friend” loosely, either.

From a food blogging point of view, there’s nowhere else you can easily find someone to babble about food and blogging within close proximity other than at food blogging event. For a weekend, we can be ourselves unabashedly and be among “our people”. We come armed with our cameras, photographing food before and after taking a bite, after the last bite, and after we’ve consumed everything on the plate. We hold someone’s plate for them so they can use both hands to take a photo. We gladly hold a candle to light the dish for a better shot. We tweet about how damn good each bite is. We can’t wait to post about what we’ve eaten. To the outside world, we must look comical like a pair of dancing/mating blue-footed boobies. For a weekend, we fit right in.

3. Knowledge

Here’s the agenda. Like I said in the beginning, my beloved peers have probably posted about it already and I’ll add links to their posts as I compile them.

Megan took excellent notes during the Recipe Writing panel with Amy, Dianne, and Kristin, and you should go read that. The semicolon was a point of contention. I personally like using semi-colons;

{Grins}

When they said: Do not give recipes for free! I also heard that as, “Value yourself and your work.

I kind of glossed over the SEO part, because it’s part of what I do professionally. I’m here to share recipes and photos, and I don’t like intermingling work with pleasure. I try to write meaningful recipe titles and head notes, but cooking or writing a post to follow a trending topic, long tail…short tail, is absolutely against what I am willing to do in the name of SEO for my personal blog. I don’t eat SEO for lunch and I’ll have no tail on my plate, thank you. If you’ve been visiting this blog long enough, you’ll know that I like going for the unusual and never-before’s. I don’t think there will ever be a big buzz about sweet beet pie with yogurt syrup, but that’s what I like to make.

If you’re looking here for info they provided to help you with your food blog’s SEO, here are some important tips you can use:

  • Use Google Insights to track rising trends
  • Use core words to describe content. Use them in the URL, blog title, and 1st sentence of the 1st paragraph. Also use them in sub titles, photo captions and “alt” attribute.

As you’ve probably read in the tweets during our Writing with All 5 Senses session, the compositions quickly dived from lyrical to downright carnal. That’s food writing for you. Here’s my take on it: I like reading winding, complex, and 3-D descriptions when I’m reading for pleasure. However, when I’m at someone’s website and I want to get cooking — show me the friggin’ recipe! I don’t want to wade through lilting or flowery words. I want clear, understandable and executable information at my disposal. My voice is not wishy-washy, Alice-in-Wonderland-overcame-the-evil-sister pitchy. I write like I talk. If I get into crazy food talk with you, I’m either depressed or you need to ask me what I’m smoking! My background is scientific and technical, and it’s gut-wrenching to even try to write otherwise. I write descriptions and instructions as if we’re in a lab minus the, “In conclusion…” And that’s me.

We were unethical enough to skip the Law & Ethics panel, but the tweets about the supposed “hot” lawyer were entertaining. We traded it for Kate McDermott‘s apple pie, drank wine and took photos.

We got our food geek on with the session on truffles, chocolates and fresh organic person vegetables (I swear, last night I typed person!). We learned about assuming a “position of the utmost congeniality“. Oh dear.

James Oseland‘s keynote, as I said in my tweet, was the best aperitif we could ever have. He could very well be a food blogger, plus he loves us.

The next morning’s panel on Blogging for Specialized Diets with Shauna and Alex was an eye opener and made me think of making a change to create food that is inclusive, instead of exclusive. I wanted to do a group hug after that.

Penny de los Santos‘s session on digital photography made such a huge impact on me. It was a journey through her lens. She’s inspirational and motivational. I love that she doesn’t say you need the most expensive and complicated camera you can get your hands on. She stresses the importance of practice. I just wish it was the first session of conference, because that would certainly make me think differently about the way I take photos.

4. Weight

Ahaha! And the great thing is, no one’s calorie-counting. If you did–did the flying Bambu plate frisbee hit you on your way out?

5. Extra doses of food blogging mojo

I have so many ideas in my head, I can’t wait to just get back into aggressive blogging in contrast to aggressive tweeting (a conference joke). I can’t wait to get back posting regularly and hopefully show you how I’ve grown.

Overall, this is a well-balanced food blogging conference and certainly worth registering for next year.

IFBC and Other Major Food Blogger/Blogging Events

Please remember that these are all based on my own experiences and personal biases of past events. There may be significant changes in succeeding years, and I can’t comment on that unless I go. Others who have attended any of these events may not also agree with me, if you are one of them, please add to the discussion. I would love to hear and share your point of view.

I am also not someone who: blogs for the money, is trying to get a book deal or break in print publish, or is trying to switch careers.

I am passionate about food and cooking, and I just choose to blog about it.

It also happens that not a lot of my friends are not into food/cooking or blogging, but my online friends are. I’ve built friendships all over the world through this blog. I’m in it for the food and friends.

As of Sunday, I’ve participated in each of the triumvirate of food blogging events once: BlogHer Food, Foodbuzz Blogger Festival and most recently, the International Food Blogger Festival (IFBC) in Seattle, Washington. I really wanted to experience them all and try to decide in the future which would be the best one to attend for my needs. But the problem is, they’re all different.

Below are my opinions on the three, which may help those who are deciding which one/s to attend. These are my own thoughts, and if you have something to share, please do so in the comments.

  • Lectures and Sessions
    There was a fixed agenda at IFBC and if we weren’t interested in a panel, we could either endure it or skip it. Both BlogHer Food and Foodbuzz provided options, but the latter required us to sign up for each session of those sessions. At the first one-day BlogHer Food (it’s 2 days this year), we were able to panel-hop between floors because it was in one hotel. However, Foodbuzz sessions were not exactly “educational” (food blogging wise) in the same way as the IFBC and BlogHer Food ones were; they’re more informational.
    There were also official extra/optional sessions at IFBC and Foodbuzz, but the difference is that for IFBC, they were outside of the cost of the conference and were on days before and after the event. Announcements for some of these had been ‘late’ travel planning-wise, and people from out of town and who had already booked flights and made hotel reservations were out of luck.
  • Panelists
    IFBC  had a good mix of well-known traditional and new media professionals, and food and culinary artisans.
    BlogHer Food was mostly (not all) headed and curated by food bloggers, some of whom had made it into print publishing.
    Foodbuzz had mostly food and culinary artisans who taught us about their food/products and how to taste them.
  • Food quality, variety, abundance
    Foodbuzz and IFBC had rounded up the best chefs and food in their respective cities. The main difference is with the abundance and variety of food. We had a Tasting Pavilion at FB, where we were “unleashed” for an afternoon, and enjoyed a lavish sit-down dinner. I don’t remember a spotlight on specialized diets at FB, compared to IFBC, where gluten-free was the star and almost had vegetarian fares as an afterthought. My friend Dana had to go buy her own food during the Food Truck lunch. BlogHer Food made an unforgettable food faux pas by serving us frozen dinners on big plates. Really.
  • Median age of attendees
    I would say that IFBC had a more mature crowd compared to Blogher Food and Foodbuzz Festival, where as a 32-year old I felt older than younger.
  • Cost
    Both IFBC and Foodbuzz Festival cost $350 for 2 days, but eligible Foodbuzz publishers’ registration fees are waived. Blogher Food was previously $101.48 incl fees for one day, and it’s $153.71/day for 2 days this 2010.
  • Pressure to promote event sponsors
    Food bloggers inherently know the requisite need to promote sponsors when they go anywhere or receive anything for free. Sponsorships are needed to make events happen. We know that. However, there is fine line between classy and tacky, and unfortunately I think IFBC crossed that during our food cart lunch break. Bloggers will tweet or talk about things if they like them, there’s no need to shove it down our throats.
  • Swag
    A lot of people always ask about the the swag and giveaways, and I admit that it made me curious and excited at BlogHer Food. It still does because it’s like being a kid and opening a bag of presents. I think the event swag with items I most use is the one from BlogHer Food, and it wasn’t even from BlogHer, it was from the after-party hosted by by Jaden, Ree and Elise. Foodbuzz had an excellent selection, too, but the ones I really liked were the ones I got at the taste pavilion, which not everyone received (so I didn’t take that into consideration). The IFBC bag had gems in there, too.That said, the swag should never be your main reason to go.

So, where should you go? It’s really entirely up to you.

From my personal observation of past events**, if you want to:

  • Be inspired and to learn, go to IFBC;
  • Be able to choose panels you would like to attend and meet as many food bloggers and food blogging A-listers in one event, go to Blogher Food;
  • Meet food artisans, learn about food and drinks through tastings in a class environment, EAT and mingle with other food bloggers, go to Foodbuzz Festival.

All three are great avenues to build offline relationships with people you know online. Be willing to share, be kind, be generous, and be open. We are a growing community of bloggers who focus on what nourishes each of us on a daily basis — just how wonderful is that?

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Vancouver’s Celebration of Light – Tribute to China

After several years of skipping out on seeing the Celebration of Light fireworks competition, I revisited this summer spectator crowd sport in Vancouver with my family to watch the pyrotechnic tribute to China, last year’s winner. [Before the Canadian and Chinese national anthems, it was announced that Spain won this year's festival.]

We had an unexpected guest of a massive downpour within 10 minutes of setting up our picnic mats. Not only was I in warm weather running gear, my change of clothes obviously did not anticipate the sudden drop in temperature. Oops. Yeah, I was freezing in my dri-fit clothes.

We were troopers and braved it through the rain, damp grounds, cooler-than-expected ocean breeze, massive crowds and the additional 2 hour trip back because of the slower-than-toirtoise-pace traffic. I didn’t come home empty-handed though. And for all that, I need to show you at least some of the photos I took under the trees, where we ended up staying. Hope you enjoy!!!

Now time for a “nap” before I watch the matinee showing of Inception with a gal pal who’ll watch it for the second time. Yes, I could be the last person who hasn’t seen it!

What are you up to this Sunday? Or what did you do this past weekend (for those of you waking up to Monday already)?

In any case, Happy Sunday and have a fantastic first week of August. Rabbit, Rabbit!

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