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:
This sounds like a conference I'd really enjoy. I do a lot of writing for various publications and am always on the lookout for tips on how to be a better writer. Not to mention the photography piece! I'd love to have some food photo lessons, including styling. I wish I had more time to do a sampling of all these wonderful food blogger conferences, but this one sounds more to my liking than most of the others. Small and intimate is better for my learning style. Wish I could have been there with you and Wendy. I bet you two had a wonderful time!
Keep us posted on next year's event! I'd love to participate.
Melissa you would have loved it. You're cup of tea for sure. Monica Bhide did the writing workshop and she does many on her own. I'm going to check those out. She was wonderful! OK next year girlfriend you come east!
Sounds great, Diane! And like you learned a lot, too. What a weekend for blogger conferences this was!
Yes the food bloggers were tearing it up all over this weekend.
i agree times 7! it was a fantastic conference… best of all for me was meeting you gluten-free food lovers. diane, it was such a pleasure to meet you… i'll certainly be in touch, especially the next time i plan to dine in dc!
Gretchen I had so much fun getting to know you. Did you make it to Red Velvet for some GFDF cupcakes? Def let me know when you're back in town.
You covered everything beautifully here, my friend. Of course, I always have fun if I'm with you, but this was the conference I would recommend of the three we went to the past year. Since I am without power and the battery is going on my Mac, I'll just send folks your way for the best review.
Wendy I hope your power came back! Loved spending time with you and hope we can do it again soon.
It was wonderful, wasn't it? So much enthusiasm, such warm people, so much fun. Great recap, Diane!
Thank you Jael. I also can't wait to start reading your book. I need to go see what pile I put it in. It was nice to meet and talk with you. Let me know if you get back to DC.
Amazing wrap up Diane! I'm glad it was so awesome. I'm hoping they move it to the west coast next year … since I can go then and I know you would come if it is in California!! Really wishing I had gone to that event though. really wishing.
Alisa you know I'll take any excuse to head west but I do hope this one is here again next year so you can visit me too.
Really great summary, Diane! I know you're a tough critic so I really wish I had been there with you, Wendy, and all the other great people. Hope they have it again and we can all go next year! 🙂
Shirley you would have loved it and yep I am a tough one to impress. However they did it!
I was at the "other" conference this past weekend and though I had a great time and met some wonderful people, this conference seems to be more up my alley. So glad you had a great time.
Glad you had a good time AndreAnna. I hope they have it again next year so you can come visit me too.
so great to meet you too! i posted two recaps–one of the city, one of the conference.
Diane, thanks for including me in your list of reviews. Agree with you that Eat Write Retreat was awesome! I'm going to let Monica Bhide know about your review of EWR. She would love it!
I love your blog ! It's beautiful and so informative. Will bookmark this and tell friends about it. Thanks & was great to meet you.
Hi Diane! Thanks for the wrap up of Eat Write Retreat. I was there but I'm not sure we got a chance to chat. I hope to see you there next year!
Darn, darn, darn. Why do all the cool conferences happen when I can't pull myself away at all? My current project has had my nose to the grindstone this spring, but soon I can get out to another conference. This one sounds amazing! Miss seeing you and would love to connect again.
Jean it was a great time and it would have been wonderful to see you again!
Diane, what a great re-cap of EWR! I am so sad that I could not have been there. It sounds like it would have been just perfect for me. AND, knowing how you are, if you gave it this type of review, I KNOW I would have totally loved it! xo
OK I must have a rep as one tough cookie to impress. Well it does take a lot and my BS meter will go off rather quickly. It was a wonderful event and when they have it next year you must come.
I agree with every word. I was so happy to be constantly surrounded by such talent and such a wealth of information. My only regret is not getting to chat with everyone for a long period of time! 🙂
Kim it was great to get to meet you and I agree with wanting to get to talk with everyone for longer.
Great post Diane – you hit a ton of points spot on! Glad to have met you!!
Amanda thank you. I did have a good time. It was fun to meet so many new people like yourself.
Diane it was so good to meet you today! Thank you so much for stopping by and saying hi. Shirley did say you were closeby, too bad she is so far away, but someday I hope to see her in person. This conf. sounds neat, I should try to go next year. Wasn't it a pretty day out there today, I love being out there in the market at Lake Anne. Hope to see you again!
Robin- Big Red Kitchen
PS- I had no idea that endive grew that way, very cool!
Robin it was great to meet you in person too. Love the cooking salon you're doing. Yes it was beautiful out there today. Wouldn't be great if that was the weather every Sat. This was a great conference and I think the wave of the future.
Diane, Great takeaways in your post! It was a stellar event for sure. Perhaps the most inspiring for me was spending Saturday lunch at the gluten free table. I learned so much about you all and your individual dietary needs. It makes me see the challenges that lie out there for many with dietary concerns in a restaurant world. Thank you for sharing, fellow IIN buddy! Bonnie
Bonnie glad you enjoyed our lunch table. We're always happy to share and teach. It was nice to get to sit next to you and chat too. It was a great weekend. I'm still working on implementing some of the things I learned. First I'm studying for our test for nutrition school. Loving that work so far!