I just spent the weekend eating, writing, talking and relaxing with fellow foodies at the Eat, Write, Retreat food blogging conference in Washington, DC. Of course one of the best parts for me was getting to hang out with friends Wendy from Celiacs in the House, Shauna from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, and the new gluten-free bloggers I met. Rella from Penny Pinching Epicure who’s blog I’ve been reading but we’ve never met in person was as adorable in person as her avatar. I met Johnna from 52 Sweets who was such a joy to be around and who also has special talents creating balloon sculptures. I also met Gretchen from Kumquat who is a RD and food stylist living gluten free who always had a smile on her face.
This was my 4th food blogging conference and was by far my favorite. Casey and Robyn were very smart in designing this weekend. Well they seemed to think along the same lines as I do so of course that makes them smart in my book but I bet they would in your book too. I was not the only one who thought that as I kept polling people all weekend long and heard lots of great reviews.
So here are my thoughts on the weekend. I share both what I liked with this event and comparing it to past events. That is not to say that every past event was horrible as they weren’t and I’ve enjoyed many. Well one was horrible but that’s a whole other story.
1. They love everyone! Everyone got to do every class. The sessions were arranged by splitting the group into 2 smaller groups for the hands on sessions of Photography and Cooking. For me I got to create a dish to be photographed by the pros with the team at my table. Of course having Gretchen at my table was a huge advantage. Everyone came together for the writing workshop and then split again after lunch where I went to the CulinAerie Cooking School session. My partner in crime Wendy and I created a tasty mix of eggs, onions and chorizo to stuff into endive leaves and top with Manchego cheese. I think Wendy’s favorite part was the cheese.
2. No Divas! I couldn’t find one but maybe I should have been looking in the mirror? The presenters were wonderful people who were there for the weekend and stayed with the group. They were around the whole time to talk with and learn from beyond just their presentations. They were all open and giving and that was truly appreciated. The participants were all so friendly and I think I got to talk with almost everyone. The group was small enough that you could organically do that with no special “networking time” needed. Every time you walked into the room there were lots of great conversations going on, laughing and sharing.
3. I didn’t starve! OK this may seem like something silly to write about a food conference but for me being gluten, dairy and rice free often throws a wrench into the works. But the hotel staff had great options for breakfast every morning and the dinner the first evening had a few things for me to choose from. Our lunch on Saturday was at McCormick & Schmicks where they went to enormous detail to provide each one of us with food priorities the right meals. They knew each one of us by name and I was of course the most challenging. The chef came and explained each course and then spent extra time to share with us how ours was a little different to insure us a safe meal. When he found out at dessert it was the first time I’d eaten rhubarb in the sauce with strawberries, he went to get me a piece of raw rhubarb. I of course had to taste it and I loved it. It was crisp, tangy, tart and a bit of a lemon taste. I’ll be buying rhubarb for sure while it’s in season.
4. The Sponsors were Real! OK yes there were real people there but the products were almost all something I would use or eat myself. Now that’s hard to do. Upon arrival we were given a great tote bag with some wonderful goodies in there. I think I only pulled out 3 things that had gluten in them and the rest I’ve kept to share and use. In past swag bags at other events, I felt like I was being given old things these companies had laying around and were just trying to get rid of.
Heading into the welcome reception the first table with friendly faces was Lindsay olives. I like olives ok but I’ve not been eating them for very long. I’ll use them in recipes but don’t often eat them alone. They told me their Natural olives were buttery, nutty, and creamy like Chardonay. Well of course I had to try them and I loved them. They’re not in brine so they have a different taste. I’ll be using these for sure. I also got to sample California Endive, wonderful wine from Bourboursville Vineyards, and coppa from La Quericia. There was also OXO on hand and Calphalon. Attendees actually walked away with new pannini presses, toasters, mandalins and crockpots. Amazing.
Oh and Calphalon has given me THIS LINK along with THIS CODE -C95926 for you to use if you would like to receive 10% off any purchase. This offer runs from May 23rd to June 6th so if you’re looking for a wedding gift, graduation gift, personal gift or you need some new fresh pans and equipment, don’t delay. I’ll be using my code to get a new stainless saute pan with lid. Also on their site they are giving away a Dream Kitchen for Dad. Yeah, I’d be dad for a day too. Now to get the discount you need to use THIS LINK and THIS CODE-C95926. They are not giving me anything more than the same discount you are getting but I will be entered into a drawing to win some really cool Calphalon products for sharing this information with you. Maybe we’ll both get lucky.
5. The presenters didn’t just talk, they taught! I’ve been to conferences before where I felt like the presenters were talking at me and not really teaching me anything I could turn around and use. These presenters were also not so focused on superficial topics like how to get people to your blog by hook or crook or just promote their own projects. They shared from experience and taught. I learned where to actually put my photo equipment for beter pictures and what tools would be handy to have around when styling or setting up the photo. I learned wonderful skills to improve my writing, if I put them into practice. I even learned a new way to make garlic paste. I learned about moving beyond my blog if I’m interested in using sponsors or writing a cookbook. I learned how PR agencies operate and to get them the information they need. I learned how to pitch to newspapers and publishers and then I had the opportunity to do it right then.
6. It was on the East Coast! I was so happy it was on the east coast and close to my home. I could drive there and was very comfortable knowing the city. I didn’t have to worry if I would get food or not because I know what’s available if I got into a bind, which never happened. It was also close enough my husband could join me for a little R&R. We even snuck out for a date on Saturday night to Ceiba. I’ll share that restaurant review soon.
7. Casey, Robyn and their team! These two, very smart and highly successful women were so wonderful to be around this weekend. They kept things on track, had us all going in the right direction, kept us fed and fed and fed and they asked all throughout the weekend how things were going. If we needed something or there was something not just right they fixed it immediately. For every session there was a feedback form that you could hand in right after the session. Brilliant! They were so open and giving and I felt very lucky to get to know them. You might think two gals who created and organized this event might be running around crazy, panicked or no time to stop and chat. Well no way here. They had everything running smoothly and if they were running around I missed that. The folks on the team also were calm, cool and collected. Everything ran great. I’ve never been to a conference like it. They even had the schedule printed on the back of our name tags so we always knew what was going on. Smart.
I hope they will offer this again next year because I’ll be one of the first to sign up.
Here are some reviews of the event from fellow attendees: