Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fantastic fun at the Food Bloggers' Conference


Time to reflect on the weekend before.  My head is still full of thoughts, ideas, food, drink, conversations and gratitude that it is hard to put anything on paper.  I was overwhelmed by the generosity of sponsors, amazed at the amount of hard work from the organizers and grateful to everyone who gave their time to assist.  Thank you.  It was one of the best weekends I have ever had.

There is nothing so good as being amongst a group of people, some of whom you know and some who are strangers, knowing that you have one thing in common – the love of food.  We loved our food.  Not only did we taste and eat lots of food, we took away a huge amount in our two extremely well stocked goodie bags, thanks to our hugely generous sponsors.

Here’s what else I took away from the conference…

Is it okay to start the day with chocolate?
Well yes it is, as long as it’s GOOD chocolate.  In fact, both days started with chocolate.  Day 1 began with a dilemma.  Was I supposed to be watching the chocolate tapas demo or looking at pastry chef, Juan Balsani from Kermadec? Hmm, concentrate on the food, Lesley.  Juan's demo involved liquid nitrogen, balloons, soda siphons, spaghetti and, of course, chocolate.  Sounds weird?  You had to be there.  Methinks a visit to Kermadec is on the cards.

Demo over and a quick shift of rooms found us at the opening address of the Chocolate Festival followed by a wander around the exhibitors. 

I had to pace myself.  There were plenty of beautiful chocolate offerings (and glorious packaging) and it was hard to choose what to take home.  In my bag, I’d thoughtfully placed a small ziplock bag where I saved some free samples until they could be appreciated later – and they were. 

What would make me feel really important?
Not much could have made us feel more important than being the first foodies at the revered Le Cordon Bleu’s new premises on Manners Street, Wellington.  Rows and rows of gleaming kitchens, pots, pans, utensils and a promise of culinary excellence await young hopefuls who walk through their door.  Being there was a real buzz for me as my father (a chef) collected the entire series of Le Cordon Bleu cooking series.  I used to leaf through them when I was younger.  I may have missed my vocation but back then observing the reality of a head chef working very long and unsocial hours in hot and steamy conditions kind of put me off.  Guess I wasn’t made for it then?

Posting photos of lambs could increase my blog traffic
As soon as Jared Gulian started speaking I knew why his blog was a success.  The Moon over Martinborough man was witty and entertaining and I could have listened to his tales of city boy gone country for hours.  His talk resonated with me as I too was dragged, kicking and screaming, to the country.  Sadly, I don’t have an olive grove, but now I do have a bottle of his olive oil which he kindly gave to each of us.  Jared mentioned that he got the most traffic hits on his blog for a picture of a lamb, so here’s mine, just in case it works the same magic.

Cute lamb

Fact or fiction?
The fact is, well in New Zealand anyway, that non-fiction sells more books according to our next speaker, Alison Brook, Head of Publishing at HarperCollins NZ.  Alison’s talk of how to get published was as fascinating for it’s insight into bookselling trends as it was helpful for those wishing to write.

Getting to know you
As part of Wellington on a Plate, we split into groups of four for our Friday lunch at participating restaurants.  Lucky us, we got Boulcott Street Bistro and I couldn’t have been happier.  You can’t beat good food done well and the Preston's lamb shank pithivier* with garlic beans, mash and Parkvale mushroom sauce fitted the bill.   I followed this with the ubiquitous crème brûlée – done by so many, perfected by so few – which was faultless.  The bistro is a cosy place with great ambience and friendly staff.  A beautiful copper espresso machine sat in pride of place at the bar.  Lunch was a relaxing affair where we found some quiet time to find out a little more about each other. 

*Pithivier is a round, enclosed pie usually made by baking two disks of puff pastry, with filling stuffed in between, as you can see in the second photo below.

Beetroot & feta with honey dressing for Domestic Executive

Lamb shanks main for me

About that lamb up there…
Lucy Corry from the wonderful blog The Kitchen Maid would be horrified to see a pet animal on my (mainly) food blog.  If you’re reading this, Lucy, it was only to stir up more interest in my blog (honest).  I did, however, agree with Lucy about her dislike of poor spelling, grammar and the extensive use of exclamation marks.  I have even been known to tick off my friend for her overuse of that form of punctuation on Facebook.  That said, please do not proofread this post for errors, we all make mistakes after all.

A passion for their work
One thing in common with all our speakers was their passion for their line of work or product.  I doubt anyone could be more positive about Wellington than Sarah Meikle, GM Marketing of Positively Wellington Tourism.  If the events held in August in Wellington were anything to go by, Wellington has every reason to be positive.  It seems to be alive and thriving and it was great to be a part of it, even if it was only for a long weekend.  I'll be back.

Do you see what I see?
My first breakout session in the afternoon was a Food Photography class hosted by superb photographer, Viviane Perenyi of At Down Under.  If you haven’t seen her blog, you should visit for her photos alone.  It was a pleasure to hear her speak and receive her feedback on the photos taken during her session.

There's always room for more food
Whilst it was the end of our day at Le Cordon Bleu, we weren’t finished yet. Conference dinner was a “pop up” food and wine matching evening at Floyds in Island Bay.  A gorgeous pre-dinner cocktail and mini master class started us off in the right frame of mind.  Thereafter, course upon course of tasty food came from chef Ben Barton in the kitchen, matched with wines from James Pedersen at Floriditas.  I didn’t think I could eat any more but each course provided just enough to keep me satisfied but not groaning. 

We had done so much that day, eaten so much food and heard so many wonderful speakers that it was hard to believe there was yet another day to go.  Until tomorrow then….

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  1. A great wrap up Lesley, it was such a wonderful weekend! Look forward to reading about day 2 & to catching up soon! Love the lamb photo! (Oh dear is that too many exclamation marks???) Couldn't help myself....I think I am a little guilty of that one :)

  2. No photos of sugar roses :-)? I can assure that they are cute and increase traffic probably as much as lamb do!


  3. Lovely round-up Lesley, and nice to catch up with you again!

  4. Great lamb picture...I was wondering if I could achieve the same effect with super-cute pics of my children?

    1. Go on, it's worth a try. I'll let you know if it works with the lamb.

  5. So nice of you! And what a cute lamb. May your traffic soar! You called me Jeremy at one point there, but I'll answer to anything as long as you're saying nice things! :-)

    1. So sorry Jared. For some reason I couldn't seem to get the name Jeremy out of my head and although I thought I'd changed it, I missed that one - even after several re-reads. Oops! Lamb's doing well so far...

  6. It was so nice to catch up with you again Lesley - in person that is. It's been almost a year! (since the 1st conference). Am glad you enjoyed the conference - more photos please for day #2!! And maybe a few lamb photos thrown in for good measure? :-)

  7. Great post Lesley, I wish I could try Boulcott St Bistro food, we might have to book a food weekend soon just for us girls! Love the lamb pic, did it get more views? Make sure you tag it as cute lamb pic ;0)

    1. Yeah another trip would be great - still thinking about last one.

      Lamb pic is proving very popular although I guess meeting more fellow bloggers and sponsors at conference has produced more traffic too? Either way, I am not complaining.

  8. Great round-up Lesley - it was such a wonderful weekend, and I'm enjoying reliving the weekend over and over again as I read everyone's posts about it. Hope that lamb picture really works for you - that would be just deeevine!! (Sorry, Lucy, couldn't resist)

    It was great to see you again - hope it's not another year till next time.

    Sue :-)

  9. Ciao Lesley, would you like to host January?
    Just need to write a post at the beginning of the month saying that you are the host (copy and paste mine if you like, just change your details :-) and then wait! Even if you are away on holiday most people send their entries towards the end of the month, and you just need to save the emails when they arrive. Recaps are usually published at the end of the month (or the beginning of the next one).

    Let me know