Aug 31, 2011
Last weekend I attended the InternationalFoodBlogger’sConference (IFBC) at the HotelMonteleone in New Orleans, LA. Presented by Foodista.com and ZephyrAdventures, this year’s is the third iteration of IFBC. In years previous, Seattle hosted IFBC – Foodista is based there. Due to increasing popularity, this year organizers decided to hold two conferences – one here in New Orleans and the other in Santa Monica, CA later this year (November 11-13).
At its core, IFBC seeks to not only educate bloggers on how to be as organized and effective as possible but also to provide a meeting place for the community to break bread and talk shop for three information-packed conference days. The topics covered at IFBC ran the gamut from food styling in photos to food sustainability. To top it off, bloggers also enjoyed food from New Orleans’s top restaurants. Truly, this conference was a food blogger’s paradise.
The conference began on Friday around 2pm. During check in, V8 provided smoothies and, conference attendees had a chance to meet and mingle. The first session’s topic was entitled “Blogging Your Values” and was presented by RobinGoldstein and GwenPratesi. This session focused on writing and a blogger’s core values. While Gwen’s portion of the presentation focused more on ethics and being professional at all times, Robin’s focused on blogger reputations, some pros and cons of charging for your content and tips on how to produce great blog content without the BS that can be widespread these days.
Friday’s second and final information session focused on food styling and photography. AndrewScrivani of the New York Times provided tips on food styling and composition. His food photography is gorgeous and made everyone’s mouths water. This was truly an inspirational session for all in attendance.
After the food photography session came the social aspects of the evening. Conference attendees headed down to another room for a meet and greet with wines from the Navara region in Spain along with snacks from Muriel’s restaurant. I tried a couple of tasty red wines and of course sampled all that Muriel’s had to offer: proscuitto-wrapped asparagus, savory cheesecake and goat cheese-stuff crepes. It was a great way to start winding down the first day and kick off the rest of the weekend.
The final official conference event of the evening was a “Taste of New Orleans” food sampling party. Being from New Orleans, I’d tried some of the restaurants in attendance but a couple were new for me. My favorite dish was Sylvain’s brussel sprout salad topped with toasted hazelnuts, Peccorino, apples and a light lemon vinaigrette accompanied by a crositini topped with chicken liver pate. It was a very well-balanced and refreshing dish. Other restaurants included The Grill Room, Ste. Marie, La Petite Grocery and GW Fins as well as Langenstein’s and Sucre. JordanWinery provided wines this evening and sponsors such as Campbell’s and Wisconsin Cheese were also serving tasty samples.
Friday night ended with an unofficial event hosted by Nosh, a social food app. They organized a small cocktailcrawl to a few of the French Quarter’s top bars. Exhausted by this point, I did not attend the cocktail crawl. In speaking with attendees on Saturday, everyone had a great time – not surprising.
Saturday started with a tasty continental breakfast from the Hotel Monteleone and was followed immediately by they day’s first sessions. On Saturday morning attendees could choose from two presentations at each of the morning’s two time slots. I attended a marketing session then a session focused on writing and food culture. The other two presentations I did not attended centered on recipe writing/development and food substitutions in recipes.
Both of the morning sessions I attended were panel style and pretty open and informal. The tips provided in the marketing section were very valuable and tactical. Presented by four different panelists, the hour was information packed, and I typed feverishly to capture as many words and ideas as possible for future use. Not only did we learn about marketing basics from BarnabyDorfman of Foodista.com but also about SEO and how to properly format recipes, presented by GeoeffAllen of Ziplist.com. BronaCosgrave spoke on communicating strategically and MarissaBrassfield finished off with a very visual presentation on personal branding.
In the second session, JayDucote, JamieSchler and DianneJacob all spoke about cultural writing. Each of them is a cultural writer and this session was more of an informal discussion on what they personally write about. It also spoke to the importance of place and context in food writing. This was interesting and allowed bloggers to really think about how they can represent the cultural aspect in blog writing.
Lunch was another tasting fest of more casual New Orleans dishes. AbitaBrewingCompany provided the beer and food was provided by ParkwayBakery, RedFishGrill, RoyalHouseOysterBar, Pier 424 Seafood and PierreMaspero’s. My favorite dish was Pierre Maspero’s oyster po’boy topped with Spinach, Artichokes, Feta and a Lemon Thai aioli. It was amazing. The sauce was like a Florentine sauce and perfectly complimented the crispy oysters. Simply delicious.
The afternoon held two very special treats: PoppyTooker and ChefJohnFolse. Poppy Tooker spoke to us about sustainability and Chef Folse not only did two cooking demos but also spoke to us about Louisiana food history. Of course Chef Folse’s presentation included a sample and we tried a velvety crab and corn bisque that was like manna from heaven. I think everyone was still full from lunch but I also saw many people nearly lick their sample bowls clean.
After a two hour break in the late afternoon, conference attendees returned for a formal wine pairing dinner, prepared for us by the Monteleone’s Chef Randy Buck and staff with wines by Winebow. The dinner included three courses, each its own wine. Dinner began with a crab ravigote atop a cucumber gelee and finished off with a remoulade sauce. This dish was paired with a Brut sparkling wine. Following that was the main course of Beef Perigourdine – a steak topped with black truffle slice and foie gras accompanied by galette potatoes, charred endive and caramelized beets. The main course was paired with a red fruity wine. The dessert was a delicious creme brulee served with a blood orange Courvoisier coulis and a nice muscat wine. We also had very tasty bread to accompany our meal with some of the best herb butter I’ve ever had.
After dinner ChefJohnBesh spoke to us about his career and the importance of New Orleans to the food landscape. It is always a pleasure to hear Chef Besh speak and he held the audience captive for nearly an hour. We all hung on this every word. Saturday was truly a great day at the conference. Not only did we learn quite a bit at the morning sessions but we also heard from three of Louisiana’s top food minds and had a lovely three course dinner to top it all off.
As if this day couldn’t do any better, after dinner I attended a private party at Sylvain for Nosh. Thirty of us were invited to break bread at Sylvain and “Nosh” about our experiences with each dish. Somehow I managed to have two Pimm’s Cups along with samples of their fried eggplant, fries, cheese plate and the lovely chicken liver pate that I’d had on Friday night (yay!). This was a great event and a perfect way to end Saturday. My favorite dish of the evening was the friend eggplant because of the lemony aioli that accompanied it. Delicious!
On Sunday, the conference only lasted until noon. We again started the day with a tasty continental breakfast from the Monteleone and followed that up with two information-packed seminars. As with Saturday, we had two session options per time slot. I attended sessions on time management and the etiquette of writing food reviews. The other two sessions were about videos on blogs and food science.
I really enjoyed the time management session. Presented by both MarissaBrassfield and Merry-JenniferMarkham, this session provided us a peek into the lives of these two bloggers and how they manage to do it all. Another dynamic to this is that they both couldn’t come from more different backgrounds so we were able to see contrasting views of two very busy lives. This was great because it offered something for everyone. I really enjoyed hearing about Marissa’s POV especially because she has a professional life that’s a bit closer to mine. Merry-Jennifer was also good because she brought in the family-balancing aspect as well.
The last session of the conference that I attended focused on restaurant reviews. I had really wanted to attend the session on eating on a budget but the presenter, AmyMcCoy, got stuck in Boston due to Hurricane Irene. Disappointing, but unpreventable. The restaurant review etiquette session was presented by CraigWalker of Nosh and Sean McCusker, partner/owner of Sylvain Restaurant. They provided tips and held a discussion on how to be better at review writing. After this session, there was a small wrap up talk and the conference adjourned.
Overall, this conference was great. Thoughtfully organized and skillfully executed, there was something for everyone here. The topics spanned subject matter that was important for us all as food bloggers. Of course all the food and beverages were amazing and the staff at the Moneteleone took very good care of us the entire weekend.