IFBC Day 3 -Kathleen Flynn rocks the house

Sunday.  I love Sunday – the warm bed (just a few more minutes, because I can), a nice breakfast, lingering over the paper with a second cup of tea.  None of that happened today.

The last day of the confernce is sunny and cool and the traffic into downtown is practically nonexistent (yay – why can’t it always be like this?).  Bays English Muffins provides a light breakfast and a tip filled demo (seedless lemon wedges! perfectly lined cake pans!) and them we were off to some of the final sessions of the event.

In case you’re wondering, cauliflower and Harissa are the next big things – not together, though I can imagine something quite tasty happening with that combo, but as separate food trends.  Throw some flavored butter on it and you’ll be the hippest kid on the block.

The highlight of the day for me was the presentation by Kathleen Flynn (or as she was known to the Cordon Bleu instructors from her first book, “Meeez Fleeen”).  As a writer, she is funny, insightful, genuine and spot on with her information. Her presentation “Journalism 101 for Food Bloggers” was more of the same, with the addition of big gestures and lots of pacing.  All the stuff I learned in high school journalism came rushing back but with a specific purpose and her spin of experience.  It was the session with the most notes taken and the one that will make the most difference to what you see here moving forward.  And she had the best shoes of any presenter all weekend!

IFBC Day 2 – Words and pictures

Saturday comes too soon – the first session starts at 9:00, a time I’m usually still snoozing on a weekend.  But I get up and out and downtown and its soon obviously worth it.  I’ve read her stories and drooled over her recipes and all the personality I’ve come to expect is up on stage in the actual person of Kim Severson.  She’s funny, smart and tinier than her writing would lead you to believe.  The breadth of her experience and knowledge give her opinions and information so much weight, yet she is unassuming and warm.

Two breakout sessions later and my head is swimming – and not just because of the amazing cocktail they serve us as part of the holiday blogging demo.  Seasonal ingredients, styling, photo tips, finding an authentic writing voice – so much information, all of it useful, personal and necessary for a better blogging experience for both reader and writer.

A lamb session with Ethan Stowell,  the Grand Wine Tasting Reception and the Culinary Fair (more amazing food and wine) wrap up the second day of this adventure into the wide world of blogging.

IFBC Day 1- Chef’n

Friday is a little gray, a little cool and a lot exciting.  First day of the conference and there is so much to take in. Starting with the session led by Jean Layton (drjeanlayton.com) we jumped head first into pages, productivity, links and SEOs.  For a newbie, it was an overwhelming introduction to a complex world – the fact it is filled with interesting, passionate people makes the new words and concepts seem worth digging into further.

The highlight of the afternoon was a trip to the yii Chef’n headquarters.  I’ve driven by their building on 4th Ave South a million times and had no idea the treasures it contained.  Their products are everywhere and garlic’s best friend.  We learned about the genesis of some of the products, saw the fabrication workshop, had a great lunch and left with a terrific swag bag.

The Opening Reception and Gift Suite was another opportunity  to meet and mingle.  Conference sponsors are so generous with their products, it’s an embarrassment of riches.  Imagine unlimited BluePoint oystes from Hama Hama, salumi straight from the hand of Armandino Batali, a variety of top flight wines from Maryhill winery and a gauntlet of product samples, free for the taking – it was a gourmet kleptomaniacs dream.

Tomorrow promises more riches, this time of the nformation variety.

IFBC or Bust – 3 days in the Blogosphere!

It is finally here – the International Food Bloggers Conference. It has been seven years since I attended the first conference in Seattle, they’re back in town and I’m headed to the Sheraton hotel for three immersive days.  The speakers lined up are amazing, the sponsors (swag!) are many and magnificent and the break out sessions promise to really help me get a handle on what you read (and eventually see) on the site.  The first time I attended, it was a revelation of (mostly) women who were exploring and sharing their worlds, past, present and future.  Some were interested in self-discovery, some were keen on showing others their passions and others, like me, were there to see how this new-ish medium could inspire ourselves and others.  Now eight years strong, I’m sure there will be even more to take in, share and learn.  I’ll keep you posted!

Boat Street still sailing along

The news was dire.  I read Renee Erickson was closing her lovely restaurant Boat Street Cafe, to focus on several new enterprises.  The restaurant is mere blocks from my office but it had been years since I’d gone there for either lunch or dinner.  Now that it appeared to be going away, I jumped at the invitation of co-workers to have a “last hurrah” lunch in the airy, white space.  Down the steep driveway and around the overflowing planters, into the lush courtyard and through the door into the cafe, everything was exactly as I’d remembered from my last, long-ago visit.

Seated by the friendly staff, we perused the single page menu.  Much to my delight, there at the top in big letters was the news that, though the Cafe was closing, the “Kitchen” portion of the enterprise was not only staying open but was expanding into the main dining area.  Crisis averted!  Of equal importance, given our level of hunger, were the choices available for immediate consumption.  Lentils can sound like a meager dish but in the hands of the Boat Street chefs, they are rich and savory, mixed with wilted kale and crowned with a poached egg – the accompanying toast soaked up the juices and bits of renegade yolk while the chunks of beets added a fresh earthy edge to the dish.  At least that’s what I’m assuming – my friend didn’t offer to share, she was so busy enjoying her selection.  That was fine, as I was swooning over my roasted mushrooms and garlicky, creamy greens, which had been topped with a rustic sausage link.  A crusty baguette, perched on the edge of the plate was a perfect sponge for the savory sauce that pooled at the bottom of the dish.  We didn’t hear a peep out of our other dining companion as he enjoyed his roasted pork loin, nestled in a mound of custardy polenta.

Maybe it was the sunny Friday afternoon, the great company or the crisp Rose we were drinking; maybe it was the warm welcome or the relief that a great lunch spot wasn’t going away any time soon.  Whatever the reason, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.

Going to the game? Get some gochujang!

Hot dogs, peanuts, burgers and beer – for some, no game would be complete without them.  If you are heading to Safeco or the Clink, there is another, more international option to be had before you head into the stadium.

Through a happy accident, I discovered Girin Steakhouse and Ssam Bar, a new take on classical Korean cuisine in the Stadium area.  The plan was to meet friends at a well known spot in Pioneer Square.  Getting there early, I looked over the menu and figured one of our party would leave very hungry, what with her loathing of seafood and mushrooms, both of which were in just about every menu item.  We needed a new plan.  Having passed Girin on my way to the original destination, I  grabbed our other friend and headed back from whence I came.  Thankfully, our seafood-hater hadn’t found parking yet (no surprise in Pioneer Square) so the change of venue wasn’t a problem.  I’m so glad we made the switch!

Located on the street level of The Wave apartment building, adjacent to the north parking area of Century Link field, Girin is a beautifully realized restaurant and bar with a modern Asian vibe and amazing food and drink.  Don’t let the front doors get the better of you – they look like large slabs of wood, without obvious hinge or handle.  Run your hand across the middle of the door and you’ll catch an edge that, with a strong tug, admits you to a stone-fountain and plant filled courtyard.  Head left to the bar or right, into the restaurant.

We went to the bar, as our intent was Happy Hour – and in the bar that runs from 4 to 7! (4-6 in the restaurant).  The HH menu is like a greatest hits from the restaurant menu but around half the price.  The staff was really helpful in deciphering the unfamiliar dishes and putting together a good selection of flavors and textures.

Despite the tongue twisting names, plates came out looking like Korean versions of familiar friends.  Love a really rare steak?  Try the yukhwe – super thin, rosy petals of raw beef, scattered with pine nuts and micro greens, topped with a quail egg.  The combination of cool, creamy beef and rich egg yolk made the dish so delicious, we placed a second order.  Like tacos?  Try the ssam – chose your protein and then wrap it in a lettuce leaf with a dab of rice and a smear of spicy condiments.  Are hot wings your thing?  The gochujang wings are crispy, juicy, spicy, sticky and addictive.

Girin prides itself on sourcing the best local meats and produce.  They craft their own condiments, kimchi and are even house fermenting traditional beverages.

I love it when fate steps in and pushes you in a new direction – Girin wasn’t where we thought we were going but, once there, it was the best place to be.  And now you can go there too, on purpose.  Details at http://www.girinseattle.com .

Films for food lovers @ SIFF

For three weeks in the spring, when I’m not at work or sleeping, I’m either standing in line for a movie, sitting watching a movie or on my way to another movie, all courtesy of the juggernaut that is the Seattle International Film Festival.

This year, there is an embarrassment of riches in the food documentary department, a trend that has been ‘brewing’ for years.  As international cuisine, craft everything and concerns about what we eat and how it is made are moving into the mainstream consciousness, filmmakers are taking up their cameras and exploring the topic of food from every angle.

I couldn’t resist a pair of films whose description began with ” a mouthwatering quartet of hour-long culinary chamber pieces …..cooking extraordinarily breathtaking Japanese dishes based on the ingredients of the season”.  That is from the SIFF website, describing the films “Little Forest – Summer/Autumn” and “Little Forest – Winter/Spring”, two films that follow a woman’s culinary journey through the seasons when she returns to her childhood home in the Japanese countryside.

Those are just two of twelve documentaries being shown over the course of the festival.  Want to know about the food truck scene in LA?  Go see “City of Gold”.  Interested in the traditional method of brewing sake?  Check out “The Birth of Sake”.  French cuisine, global dishes, steak, seafood, sugar, sherry – they’re all covered.  And what about the chefs who create all this amazing food?  Get to know Curtis Duffy, Georges Perrier, Sam Rama or Sergio Herman in films that uncover what makes them tick.

Go to siff.net, click on the Festival tab, go to Films A-Z and sort by genre for ‘food’.

Peruse the offerings, grab a ticket or two – maybe I’ll see you in line!