Monday, November 21, 2011

for the love of food

A week later and I am still running on high over last week’s inaugural NZ Food Bloggers’ Conference, so a favourable review of The Tasting Shed in Kumeu in this week’s Canvas magazine rekindled the excitement of the event.  The Tasting Shed was the venue for the conference and it deserved the great write-up it received. Good coffee and yummy chocolate brownies for break and lots of tasting platters with intriguing flavours for lunch - all served up by friendly and helpful staff who didn’t seem to mind the onslaught of cameras and iPhones clicking away at the food.  Over-eager to indulge, I haven’t always managed the knack of photographing the food before eating, but I did manage to capture some of the dishes. 

Roasted beetroot, red onion, green beans, radicchio, feta and walnuts

Romesco marinated chicken thigh, Israeli couscous, parsley and harissa

Braised and rolled pigs head, kohlrabi remoulade and sweet & sour carrot 

Prawns, cider, pickled shallots and garlic puree

After a wee drive from the south of Auckland to the west of Auckland, I admit to some trepidation as I stepped amongst the newly arrived.  But there was no need for apprehension.  Everyone was absolutely lovely and friendly and soon there was the chitter chatter of a bunch of people who had the love of food in common.

There was a lot to take in – not just food! – and I was so impressed at how much I learnt on the day. Here’s what I took home.

Workshops & Presentations

Make the most of…
Andrea Wong -  Web Design and Search Engine Optimization
Make the most of your web layout, use key words in blog name and title; use an easily readable font.  Your “About” is not just an afterthought, so what's yours about?  The last point hit home – I really need to work on mine. 

Use what you’re comfortable with
Jaco Swart - Social Media
Wow, why do I sometimes feel like such a dinosaur?!   As the well-worn saying goes,  “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”  Readers, I went home and “reactivated” my Twitter account.  (My daughter remarked that you couldn’t really reactivate something you hadn’t used!).  Spent a little time getting basic help tutorials and I was off.   I’ve added a few words to my lexicon - hashtag anyone? – but maybe I’ll eventually get the hang of it.  So far, so good and I’ve read some really interesting articles I might otherwise not have seen. I’m also keeping in touch with fellow attendees from the conference.

Know who you are writing for…
Alessandra ZecchiniWriting for Different Media Types
An honest, direct and sometimes funny account of Alessandra’s experiences on what to expect if you want to write professionally.  Alessandra summed it all up very well and gave great tips on approaching people in publishing. 

Keeping it organic
Emma Boyd - Our Kitchen: Fisher & Paykel
Emma was much envied, being one of the contributors to a food blog where two working days per month are given over to photography and contribution to their blog.  The organic part doesn’t so much refer to the produce as to keeping the blog organic in a way that the contributors want it to be and I very much liked that concept.  There’s already a list of foodies looking at F&P’s job vacancies but as I’m not that good at designing appliances I’ll just keep visting their blog – it’s well worth a look.

Who would have thought - so many uses for seaweed and sea vegetables..?
Louise Fawcett - Pacific Harvest Food Product & Demo
As a child we lived upstairs from neighbours from the Isle of Islay who cooked seaweed – at the time it was a very foreign concept to us city Scots! Who would have thought that years later I’d be nibbling on seaweed, nuts and seeds and other food treats from the sea?

Afternoon Tea – with a difference...
Coopers Creek - Vineyard Wine Tasting
I can’t speak for myself about the wine tasting (drinking and driving don’t mix and I’m too much in love with wine to spit it out) but I believe the Coopers Creek Vineyard wine tasting was a great session too.

Where’s the light coming from..? 
Bron Marshall - Food Photography Tips Workshop
When we should have all been waning after a packed schedule, we found renewed energy and enthusiasm for the last session.  Everyone was excited about this one.  I found that concentrating on one or two points and practising with our own cameras was way better than covering a whole lot of things in a short time (and far easier to understand than my “at home” photographer – sorry, Bill, if you are reading this, he, he!).

We really didn’t want to leave, but leave we did, clutching a huge goody-bag of wonderful treats.  But we weren’t finished yet!

Moving into Auckland central, our next host venue for dinner was Cook the Books in Grey Lynn where they efficiently furnished us with drinks on arrival – a tasty non-alcoholic punch for me - and produced tray after tray of fine tasting nibbles.  Zingy Asian flavours in little wonton baskets, miso and corn mini fritters with a to-die-for herb pesto (I could have licked the bowl), mince and mozzarella mini pies (courtesy of I Love Pies).  They were all so good and I wanted to stay longer but for me it was time to head home as I had a long drive. I will definitely be back to Cook The Books for a book browse and maybe a cooking class or two.

On the journey home, I reflected on the wonderful day I had, sated with both food and the meeting of kindred spirits.  It had been a super day and I look forward to meeting these bloggers again and to the next conference!

My thanks to the lovely Allison Pirrie-Mawer of Gourmet Gannet who organized the conference, and to all other helpers, presenters and the sponsors.  Such an amazingly, successful day!



  1. Nice one Lesley! So what's your Twitter name? :-)

  2. Excellent post so full of detail and key learnings. Glad you took the time to make such a full some account. Was a wonderful experience to be there and just as much fun to relive through your blog

  3. Shirleen - Thank you - @eatetclesley - still got to link Twitter to this page (another step!).

    Domestic Executive - thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Ciao Lesley,

    it was lovely to meet you in person, and attend the conference, and reading about it again, even after a week ar so, it is great because it makes it last longer :-)

    Now all, remember that Mairi is hosting Sweet New Zealand on


  5. Lovely to meet you Lesley! Nice account of the day too :)

  6. You did get some great pics of the food! Lucky we nabbed the Tasting Shed as a venue before they get too busy to fit us in!

  7. Sounds like you had a lovely day. How nice to get some tips and pointers too!