Saturday, September 4, 2010

International Food Blogger's Conference 2010 - Gluten Free Food & Friends

Shauna James Ahern, author of the blog Gluten Free Girl, standing with her new cookbook "Gluten Free Girl and the Chef," which will be available in bookstores nationwide on September 28, 2010.  

A week before IFBC, Shauna (Gluten Free Girl) and Diane (The WHOLE Gang) arranged a pre-conference impromptu tea for all of the gluten free bloggers who would be attending. We met at "The Flying Apron" a gluten free vegan bakery in Seattle. 

I was a little nervous about this initial meeting. First, I had never taken a cab before in my life. I had no idea how you did that sort of thing. For those of you who are also in my naive shoes... it's really easy. You just call them and they come and pick you up. (I actually had their number memorized by the end of the trip! lol) I'm not sure why I stressed over this... 

I was also nervous about meeting all of these women face to face. Carol of Simply Gluten Free graciously agreed to share the cab with my husband and I over to The Flying Apron. It was a joy to meet Carol. About 3 years ago I started corresponding with Carol when she first began blogging, and now she's a gluten free cookbook author and television chef! 

Shauna and Danny at The Flying Apron

The first person I saw as I walked into the bakery was Shauna. She is every bit as warm, funny, and natural as she appears on her blog. Her voice is calm, her smile genuine, her laughter infectious, and I love her style. I felt very comfortable in her presence. For me, a person who tends to be shy and introverted, this was so welcoming.

And really, the whole group was welcoming. I think we were all a little nervous. We met Diane of The WHOLE Gang, Shirley of gfe--easily, Wendy of Celiacs in the House, Ali of Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen, Kim of Cook It Allergy Free, Karen of Cook 4 Seasons,  Melissa of Gluten Free For Good, Jean of GF Doctor Recipes, Heidi of Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom, Alexa of Lexie's Kitchen, and Jeanne of Four Chickens. There were several other bloggers there (please introduce yourselves if I've left you out -- SO sorry!) and unfortunately I didn't catch their names.

The nut butters were delicious, the icing on that cupcake is just perfect, and I captured Shauna's "yes" on her arm.
Love this!

Marilyn Taylor of Marilyn's Nut Butter's brought a variety of handmade nut butters for everyone to sample. They were naturally gluten free and I loved the Cinnamon Walnut Pecan best. The wooden sampling spoons for the nut butter were super cute. They reminded me of the individual cups of ice-cream we used to get in grade school. And Marilyn? She's a gem. An incredibly sweet lady!

Chocolate cookie from The Flying Apron and nut butter samples.

Michel and I tried 3 different gluten free baked goods at The Flying Apron. I had a big chocolate cupcake. Michael chose a big chocolate cookie (which tasted like an oreo to me) and a chocolate chip cookie. They were a little crumbly, but very good! I also had a big cup of hot white tea. It was so refreshing and I loved that they infused the whole tea leaves with a sterling silver tea strainer. I use a strainer like this at home for individual cups of tea and it always makes me feel very British. I can pretend. :-) 

Little Lu.
Shauna and Danny's sweet daughter sitting with Jean Layton's lovely daughter.
I love Lucy's expression. Those beautiful blue eyes are captivating! 

Another joy from this trip was meeting so many families and children. Jean Layton's children, Ali & Tom's children, and Shauna & Danny's daughter. I'm not sure if it's because I feel like a kid myself or if I just like kids (despite not having any), but they always make me comfortable. Had there been a children's table at Flying Apron that's where I would have been. The giggles, smiles, and laughter were so much fun. These girls were so sweet and it was lovely to see the way they interacted with each other and with all of us. 

Ali & Tom of Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen. What a beautiful family! 

Unfortunately, our time at The Flying Apron was short. I was so thankful to meet everyone. That night the conference began. I participated in the daily events of IFBC, but I spent most afternoons and evenings with Michael. 

We ate at a different restaurant each night we were there. The first night we ate at Sazerac and I forgot my camera. Sazerac had a wonderful atmosphere and I loved that they had a gluten free menu with many options. The food was good, but not exceptional. I felt that it was very overpriced. 

Our second night we had initially planned to have gluten free pizza. Michael had researched the downtown area and tried to find a place with gluten free pizza. No luck. Instead we went to McCormick & Schmicks. They do not specifically have a gluten free menu, but they KNOW gluten free. I was so impressed with every staff member there. 

Photo used with permission of Guy Prince, author of the blog MeatHenge.

It's funny to me that the absolute best dinner I had in Seattle was a seared pork chop with homemade mashed potatoes from McCormick & Schmicks. The restaurant is actually known for their seafood, but Michael and I decided to try their other offerings. Michael had a grilled chicken caesar salad and I had boneless pork chops. The waiter & chef took such care into making sure my boneless pork chop meal was safe and it was truly one of the best tasting meals I've ever had.  The chef knew not to create a gravy, so instead he made me a fresh black bean & corn salad to eat with my meal! I was so impressed with McCormick & Schmicks. Sadly, once again... I forgot my camera and didn't get a picture of that amazing meal. (Thanks for allowing me to borrow yours Guy!) 

Heidi, Shirley, and Wendy sitting behind me during the 2nd full day of IFBC.
Those smiles are contagious! 

Their were many foods available at the conference as well. The chefs that made meals for Saturday took an extra effort to make several gluten free and vegetarian options available. Unfortunately, I didn't get to try many of them. By the time I made it over to the lunch tables, they were gone! I think IFBC didn't take into account how many people needed to be served for the conference.

Heidi, Wendy, Carol, and Lexie. I love Lexie's smile in this picture!
We were awaiting the gluten free lunch that Danny & Shauna were preparing for the gluten free bloggers.

There were SO many food bloggers at this conference! I wish I had introduced myself to more people. LeAnn of BullCityFood (grey scarf) was accompanied by her mom. She's a fellow North Carolina food blogger!
LOVED meeting you LeAnn! (And this was an odd shot, she was really smiling through the conference!)

Alexandra Jamieson, a vegan holistic nutritionist and counselor sat with me on the bus ride to the 2nd full day of IFBC.

Alex was on the first panel of Sunday morning "Food Blogging for Specialized Diets." She's the author of The Great American Detox Diet and Living Vegan for Dummies. She's a full time mom, nutritionist, and counselor. She is one of the nicest people I've ever met and she is also married to filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. We had a wonderful conversation on the bus over to Theo Chocolate. Alex, I put Soylent Green on my Netflix list! 

During the first day, Erin of the Endive Chronicles sat next to me. She was so kind and I was amazed at her iPhone tech skills of tweeting and taking notes all on that little phone! Erin is the food editor for Mutineer Magazine. It was inspiring to talk with her. Thank you for being so friendly Erin! If you ever need a gluten free article for Mutineer, just let me know! 

Lexie, Melissa, and Jeanne patiently waiting for lunch. 

Shauna, Danny and Lu... after working so hard to prepare our lunch! They did an outstanding job. 

The first course prepared for us was an argula salad with fig and bleu cheese.
Don't be fooled, that plate was completely cleaned off by the time I was finished with it!
Have you ever had fresh figs? Try them! They are so soft and sweet.

The main course:
Prosciutto wrapped salmon with capers, lemon, and basil served over corn-quinoa pasta. Yum!

Shauna's fresh homemade gluten free French bread.
Straight from her new cookbook! I can't wait for the recipe! 

I loved these flowers that were thoughtfully placed on the bistro tables under the dining tent at Theo Chocolate. 

Me, Heidi, and Shirley
I'm still kicking myself for not getting more pictures with everybody else!

Our last dinner in Seattle was at Palace Kitchen. 
A small group of gluten free bloggers made plans to eat at Palace Kitchen on Sunday evening. I had decided not to join them, thinking Michael and I would find a neat little (maybe less expensive) place to dine that evening. Funny enough though, after walking for several blocks and not finding a place we wanted to eat... we saw Palace Kitchen on the corner of 5th Avenue. It dawned on me that it was same restaurant that the bloggers had gone to. I had no idea it was so close by. It was 7:30 by then and I wasn't sure if they would still be there, but as one last hurrah we saw them as soon as we walked in the door! We scored a table right behind the group including Carol, Kim, Melissa, Shirley, Heidi, and Diane. It was a treat to get to have one last gluten free meal with them!

Incredible olives served at Palace Kitchen

My favorite thing about Palace Kitchen? They served olives as a starter for people who were gluten free. I've never been to a restaurant that had an alternative to the bread placed on the table at the beginning of the meal. I think my mouth literally fell open when our sweet waitress brought this out as something as I could eat too. It's amazing how the small things mean so much when you live life gluten free!

Sauteed scallops with a cucumber salad
I had salad along with these tasty scallops. They were crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside with tiny hints of lime from the little corn crisps. It was a truly delicious dish.


Seattle was wonderful. I'm thankful to all of the gluten free bloggers I met and shared the weekend with. Thank you for being so welcoming, warm, and helpful!

  • Was IFBC expensive? YES. I don't know that we've ever taken a trip that was as costly. Between the conference itself, the flight, the hotel room, cabs, bus rides, meals, etc... ouch!
  • Was IFBC a good experience? Yes and No. There are many things I would have changed about the conference itself. They definitely need better planning and organization. They need to be more aware of food sensitivities and the amounts needed to serve such a large crowd of people. They need more breakfast & drink options (not every food blogger drinks alcohol...) They need more options for transportation. More sessions about the actual art and mechanics of food blogging and less sessions led by sponsors trying to sell a product. 
  • Was the trip worth it? Absolutely. I knew it may be one of the few opportunities that I have to meet all of these lovely women and I wanted to see them face to face. I wanted to put their blog names with faces. I wanted real hugs. I wanted to tell them how much I appreciate their blogs and what they do for the gluten free community. 
So to everyone who attended IFBC, especially my gluten free blogging friends, Thank you. Thank you for an experience and a trip that I will never forget! 

And if you're ever headed to North Carolina, you have no excuse not to come and see me. You know you'll have a safe gluten free meal waiting for you in my tiny, but comfortable kitchen.

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