I spent this weekend away at a food blogging conference. Well, I really shouldn’t call it a conference. I am not sure what the correct term for it would be, but it isn’t conference. Maybe extravaganza (as conference hosts, Pam and Maggie and Erika have called it)? The Big Summer Potluck 4, though informative on many different levels, I think that the feeling I walked away with was inspiration. You would assume that I would be incredibly inspired when walking away from a food blogging conference to go and create great recipes, work on my writing, and gain opportunities within the food world. But, that wasn’t how I felt at all. This Sunday afternoon as I sit here writing this, I feel inspired to continue to cook as well as I can for my family. I feel inspired to learn more about baking and cooking in general. I feel inspired to continue what I feel passionate about in the form of learning more about local sustainability and local food producers and writing about it as I go along.
Let me take you on a tour of my weekend and maybe you will feel a bit inspired too:)
Friday night began at the Anderson home. A gorgeous house located in Northern Bucks County. It was a gorgeous night full of meeting new people and enjoying some wonderful food potluck style of course (hence the name). My favorite things on the menu…a Mango Pork Kabob by Betty Ann (the Mango Queen), Spicy Honey Lime Grape Salsa made by Colleen Kennedy from Souffle Bombay, and of course the delicious fresh grilled pizzas we were able to create (I put some ricotta, tomatoes, basil (from Gourmet Gardens), caramelized onions, and shaved brussel sprouts on. YUM!
Saturday began fairly early at the Bucks County Audubon Society. It was a gorgeous day which was a good thing because the inside of the barn was cooled by fans. The outside however was quite shaded. Of course, the day started off with a delicious potluck style breakfast. The spread is one that you cannot imagine. I enjoyed a delicious Strawberry Yogurt Parfait with lavender sugar sprinkled over top. Of course though the course that won my heart was the fresh fruit, bowls of fresh fruit. The fruit wasn’t just put in any bowls but the beautiful glass bowls of Kitchen Aid Mixers (cue angels…).
After a delicious breakfast in we went to the barn/really old house on the Audubon Society’s grounds. Throughout the day we heard some really wonderful speakers, ALL with an inspiring story of some sort.
Jessamyn Rodriguez from Hot Bread Kitchen spoke about making an investment in yourself and only after you truly do that can you make the investment in others that they need. It was an amazing story one that leaves off in the present in a kitchen in New York City where Hot Bread Kitchen not only serves fantastic, multi-ethnic breads but also where they are constantly helping women of minorities become real players in the culinary scene of NY as well as small business owners get going by hosting HBK Incubates, a licensed incubator kitchen offering space to small business that can’t afford one on their own. I can’t wait to go up to visit and after tasting Nancy from Hot Bread Kitchen’s homemade corn tortillas, I highly suggest you get up there too!
Next we heard some stories of social good which I always enjoy listening to hoping that I can gain enough knowledge from them to spread the word. Jess Powers spoke on behalf of Why Hunger, an organization that aims to end world hunger through solutions that come from grassroots efforts by communities all over. It was amazing to hear about how powerful we all can be when connecting together and how much of a difference we could make through attempting to solve the problems instead of just patching them. WHY Hunger also supports an organization that began in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the Rockaway community. Shore Soup Project was started by Robyn Hillman-Harrigan and a number of volunteers that needed to do something as they realized what fellow community members were going through both physically and emotionally after Sandy hit before help arrived. What this organization has developed into through the realization that issues accentuated by Sandy were there long before the storm hit but could not be ignored now. Amazing…Amazing. Please read more about these phenomenal organizations…
After a delicious grain, bean, and vegetable salad bar (and some delicious treats), we were able to sit around and speak to some of those that we had just met. And of course then we headed back in for our packed schedule and the next round of speakers…
Jeni Britton Bauer from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams spoke next. We had connected on Friday night and as I chatted with her about our children and their closeness in age and our wise grandmothers, I had NO IDEA that she was the Queen of homemade ice cream or any ice cream for that matter. We even chatted about hand crank ice cream machines which I am SO getting out this week to make one of her delicious recipes! Jeni told us about her ups and downs, her dreams, and the reason why it is so important to her that the ice cream that bears her name taste perfect. Nothing short of it…perfect. Her talk ended with a taste of her ice cream bars that were pretty darn awesome. Honestly, I may be getting a pint of her ice cream shipped my way to save it for a rainy day. Notice I said ME. I am not afraid to hide it.
One of my favorite talks of the day was given by Coach Mark Smallwood from the Rodale Institute. Now don’t get me wrong, he gave a fabulous talk, but that wasn’t why it was my favorite. At the end, after he inspired each and every one of us, I think, to go out and buy a bee hive for our yard, we got to taste honey made properly at Rodale. I heard him say $45 a jar and I immediately was thinking in my head, “Thank gosh I don’t like honey all that much because I would NEVER pay 45 bucks”. I gotta say, I have never in my lifetime tasted honey like this. It is thin, not thick and after tasting both autumn and summer honeys, the difference is drastic. Like I am talking different flavors, like the difference between strawberry and peach, different. I will most definitely be heading to Rodale to learn more in the coming months.
In between all of the speakers were some great cooking demonstrations which not having been to a “food blogging ____(a word to describe it I can’t think of)”, I am not used to this. It was great to see hands on some great techniques. I will most definitely be sharing some of these in one form or another in the coming weeks. I will definitely be writing more about Abby Dodge who inspired me in a lot of ways this weekend. Not only is she a phenomenal baker knowing the science behind every single think that she bakes, but she also is a fabulous person. I didn’t get much time to talk to her but her demeanor is one of a completely relatable person. This is something that inspires me tremendously. There were also demonstrations like I mentioned before of corn tortilla making, Philips new Airfryer (stay tuned), cocktail making, and more!
Lastly, Joe Yonan spoke. Before his talk I would have introduced him in this post as the Food Editor for the Washington Post and yes, he is that. But, he is also Joe Yonan, a man that seems to really care for community, environmental sustainability, and others. A wonderful talk about how his path in life has changed many times that re-evaluating what your intentions are and what your goals are is okay. He has just recently written a book, Eat Your Vegetables that I can’t wait to check out! Of course since the book was written while Joe took a leave from The Post to live in North Berwick, Maine (less than 20 miles from Durham), it has a bit of a soft spot in my heart:)
For our dinner, we took a tour through Joe’s book, sampling some of the wonderful recipes within. My favorite (aside from the amazing Kerry Gold cheese plate)? Either the Kimchi Deviled Eggs or the Tomato, Beet, Peach and Feta appetizers. Fab!
The dinner ended and I went home to sleep. I had stayed at my parent’s home all weekend which was so incredibly nice since I am never there sans kids and because it may be one of the most relaxing places on Earth. There is something about just being at your parent’s home…