I just had an adventure.
I’ve been to conferences before: a couple in college, several related to my current day job. But none of them were anything like BlogHer Food.
I’ll start with the people. They were almost all women, and most of them were very friendly. (I only met a couple of men, and they were friendly too.) Blogging is a solitary endeavor, and we grasped with both hands at the opportunity to talk to our peers. Everyone asked eagerly about each others’ blogs. I had plenty of opportunities to hone my “elevator speech”!
The dance of business cards was an especially entertaining part of socializing at BlogHer. When I bought mine, I didn’t know what to expect. Would other people have them, or would it seem pompous? At breakfast on the first day, conversation at my table had gone on for some time before I got brave and asked if anyone wanted my card. With relieved expressions, everyone else whipped out their cards too. Almost everyone I met had a card, even those who didn’t have blogs yet but were just researching the idea.
Then there was the swag. I’ve heard of conferences with swag. I have never before been to one. The call of free stuff is powerful – and this was good free stuff, and in quantity.
I wish I’d thought to retake this picture later in the weekend. This mostly shows what came in the official swag bag – notably a KitchenAid melon baller, there at the bottom right – and the pounds of sweeteners (organic sugar, stevia, and agave) from Wholesome Sweeteners.
As I visited the exhibitors, the bounty piled up: utensils, water bottles and cups, an awesome orange mug from Kozy Shack, buttons, samples, and free merchandise coupons galore. I wound up having to gate-check my carryon on the flight home because my swag bag was a sizable carryon itself.
And, of course, there was the food. It was never-ending. The first day’s bounteous breakfast bar; daily snacktimes featuring popcorn, yogurt, fruit, cotton candy, and more; a cocktail hour with passed appetizers; and a dizzying array of snacks, beverages, and samples available at all times from the same exhibitors passing out the swag. I particularly enjoyed the efforts of the Canadian Lentil folks, who plied us with a variety of lentil-based snacks. The lentil samosas were really good, though sadly missing from the lentil cookbook in our swag bag. I confess that I did not try the lentil brownies.
Also featured in the abundance of food was a lunchtime trip to an Austin food truck pod. I was particularly excited by this, and looking forward to comparing their scene to Albuquerque’s.
I must say, this pod had us beat when it came to ambiance. There was a pond nearby, trees, picnic tables with shade sails… only Supper Truck’s Hyder Park Tuesdays compare. I’d love to see some setups like this around Albuquerque. A much as I love our food trucks, it would be nice if there were more seating options.
The food was good, too. A purple truck called the Grackle served us free lunches featuring pork (sponsored by the National Pork Board).
I chose the pork katsu skewers, and they were amazing – crispy panko on the outside, tender porkiness on the inside, with some onions between the pork bits for a sweet surprise. The Kewpie Japanese mayo and spicy mustard on the side added suavity and heat.
I also grabbed some empanadas from the bright red “mmmpanadas” truck. They were hefty, crisp, and hot, with delicious fillings. I devoured the ham and cheese one right there – despite not being hungry at all – and saved the spinach and mushroom for breakfast at the airport the next day.
The empanada flavors constantly rotated, so when you got in the line you had no idea what would be available once you reached the window. I thought I’d have to choose between green chile chicken – a respectable flavor, but not exciting to a New Mexican – or pumpkin, which I don’t like. When I got to the front of the line my choices were these:
I loved this technique for keeping customers apprised of the current flavors. These cute little sign are magnets, and they just kept slapping them up and pulling them off as the flavors rotated.
And I haven’t even mentioned the BlogHer Food breakout sessions! I wasn’t always sure as I listened that I would be able to make use of the information pouring past me, but I have found my head to be crowded with ideas and plans since I got home Sunday. I’ve started by installing analytics on this blog so I can get a better idea of who you are, readers. And I’m using the iPhone tools I learned about to create this entry completely on my phone – from taking the pictures, to editing the pictures and creating photo collages, to actually typing it up (with the help of a Bluetooth keyboard).
The whirlwind weekend finished up with BBQ (and some very fine salted-caramel ice cream on soft snickerdoodles) at the famous Stubb’s. I got a chance to see some of my favorite folks from the conference one more – let’s not say “last” – time before walking back through downtown Austin to pack for my early flight. Thanks to everyone who made BlogHer Food 2013 happen. I hope to see you again!