I recently had a great discussion with Seth Resler of Mystery Meet, where food lovers in the Bay Area can get together at a restaurant in San Francisco (that isn’t revealed until 24 hours before) and discuss their love of all things culinary.
Just a few weeks ago, Julie Crabill of InnerCircle Labs (a fabulous PR agency in San Francisco) and I presented the Media Training for Bloggers panel at the 2012 BlogHer Annual Conference in New York City.
Sure there are tons of reasons to visit the BlogHer Annual Conference: great speakers, insightful panels, networking with Fortune 500 brands as well as other like-minded bloggers, not to mention it’s the biggest social media conference for women in the world.
But let’s be honest, many of us love the freebees. This year was no different with 100 sponsors on the expo hall floor. Not every product you’ll try is great, but I’m happy to report that some of them were exceptional.
Here’s my list of a few of my favorite food-related products that I tried and liked, in order.
1) Dannon Oikos Greek Organic Yogurt(NEW) – I LOVED this product. I’ve tried other Greek yogurts and though I like their thick creamy texture, I’ve never been a fan of the tart bite it leaves you with afterwards. This stuff has all the great texture with a smooth creamy aftertaste and much less bite. I believe it when they say it won a taste test against other Greek yogurts. This stuff is awesome and my new favorite.
2) Ella’s Kitchen – These squeezable, portable, all natural, organic fruit pouches for babies and toddlers are different than some similar products on the market. They have no additives: no sugar, salt or even water. It’s made from only 100% organic fruits, veggies and/or rice. They don’t use GMO ingredients either. And best of all, they’re easy to find (Target stores) and my kid loves ’em. Sold.
3) GladWare “Glad to Go” Containers(NEW) – Everyone knows these reusable yet disposable, microwavable, dishwasher-safe containers that have now become a staple in every kitchen across America. But Glad’s gone one step further with this new version of the product by adding a new detachable 1.5 oz cup that snaps right into the lid. This is perfect for keeping salad dressings separate from your greens, bringing dips to go with your veggies. Genius.
4) Jimmy Dean-Jimmy D’s Breakfast Minis: Turkey Sausage on a Mini Croissant(NEW) – Okay, so this certainly isn’t healthy by any means, but I’m a sucker for a breakfast sandwich. Two of these little puppies are only 230 calories and they give you a good amount of morning protein, which always makes me feel better than eating a bowl full of sugar and carbs.
I got the chance to moderate one of the most diverse panels of speakers I have ever encountered while I was at the BlogHer Food Conference in Atlanta, recently. The subject of the talk was “Food Blogging for Change”. It’s a lofty subject that can be slightly overwhelming.
I introduced Bettina Luescher, Chief Spokesperson for the United Nations’ World Food Programme, which distributes food to over 70 countries; Andrew Wilder of the blog Eating Rules in Southern California, which offers tips and information for eating healthier; Michelle Ferrier of Locally Grown News in North Carolina, who sees food as a pathway to community and social change; and anonymous blogger, Mrs. Q of the blog Fed Up With Lunch in Illinois, who gained fame by blogging about her year-long project eating the school lunches that were served to the kids at the school she works at (hence her anonymity).
They all work passionately in their chosen communities, be it globally, nationally or locally. What they have in common is that they’re all working to promote changes in food policy, food education and the way we see food. They’re also aware of the power of using your voice for change. Here are some highlights of what we discussed.
Elaine: I wanted to pose three words to the panel: budget, taste and health. Can all three values coexist? Can it be done and does it become overwhelming for the average person to achieve all three in their daily lives?
Andrew: Taste is the number one reason people choose something to eat. Folks know they need to eat healthy, but time is a factor for many of us. But change starts with knowledge and knowing what is healthy for you. With budget, a recent study showed that many local farmers markets can be cheaper than going to the big box grocery store. Good food is everybody’s right. And it’s important to focus on ‘better’, not ‘best’. There’s no such thing as a ‘superfood’.
Elaine: Is safe, healthy food hard to access for certain populations, and is it realistic to assume that everyone can get access to it? MF: The Food Environmental Atlas online now has information available to help people find safe, healthy food communities that are developing food hubs for gathering, processing and distribution of healthy foods, such as community gardens. And food trucks are now being used in different communities to deliver safe and healthy food to communities where they don’t have good access to it.
Bettina: On an international scale, we are using some of those same ideas and methods. As an aid organization, we have buying power to purchase from small scale farmers (generally women) and support the farmer to pool food from other farmers and produce larger scale distribution. And in Haiti, we are buying milk from local farmers so they have an income and then we give it to children in school meal programs, which keeps it local and makes a huge difference.
Elaine: We’ve heard over the Conference that change can start with a hashtag. Do you believe social media can have that big of an impact on the various food communities you work with?
Michelle: One person’s website or blog can lead to a Facebook page, which can then lead to a Twitter account. Social media can allow one person to communicate to different audiences with different content. Twitter can provide fast facts, Facebook can give more information, your website can give personal opinions.
Andrew: Change happens one person at a time.
Bettina: I appeal to everyone in this room to be a voice. It’s not a guilt trip, it’s a power trip. It starts with knowledge, how to share and tell stories and present solutions. There are simple tricks to use with huge rewards.
Michelle: We all have images of hunger that we get from television and the media. But we have to turn that story on its head and recognize that all of our children are starved for good food.
Elaine: If you could come up with a “wishlist” of three changes you could enact in this country’s food policy, what would they be?
Mrs. Q: There needs to be legislation changes to our school lunch programs. 1) I think French Fries should no longer be considered a vegetable (applause breaks out). 2) Chocolate milk needs to go. 3) We need to ban processed meats in schools.
Michelle: 1) Local governments need to recognize that food security and access to healthy food needs to be viewed as something just as important as every other issue. 2) We need to bring back Home Economics classes at the elementary school level. 3) We need to change school lunch policies to a “last child-first child” policy.
Andrew: 1) The ideas of “organic” and “conventional” labeling requirements need to be swapped (applause breaks out). 2) Take any marketing language off every food package. 3) Stop subsidizing corn and instead subsidize fresh fruits and vegetables.
Bettina: I have one big one: No funding cuts for child hunger programs…EVER.
*For notes from the entire session, please visit this link.
As an American, I celebrate Thanksgiving like everyone else. My table is filled with stuffing, green bean casserole and the proverbial roast turkey every Fall.
But as an Asian American, I also get a second Thanksgiving, of sorts.
Chinese New Year is an annual event that falls on a different date each year because of the lunar calendar, but it’s usually in February or March. It’s also a holiday that’s filled with a whole lot of food and family.
But unlike the Thanksgiving tradition of gorging ourselves silly, a Chinese New Year’s Eve feast is filled with food for different reasons.
Because it is sacrilege to cook on Chinese New Year Day (You’re not supposed to touch a knife or an open flame at any point during the day. It’s bad luck!), the abundance of food also has a practical purpose. You’re supposed to eat the leftovers throughout the next day or so. These traditions were made before microwaves, after all.
The feast itself is also filled with symbolism, as is with many Chinese traditions.
A few must haves on the table:
– A Whole Fish: It needs to be complete from head to tail to symbolize completion and wholeness. If you serve parts of it, your luck will be “cut off” so to speak.
– Tangerines: They look like gold bouillons in theory, so they symbolize wealth and luck in the new year. And leave the stem and leaves on! They’re also good luck.
– Noodles: These are served on Chinese New Year AND on your birthday to symbolize a long life. And don’t bite, slurp! (It’s not impolite to do so in the Chinese culture.) You cut off your luck if you bite your noodles!
– Pomelo: This golden yellow fruit symbolizes abundance and prosperity.
– Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, watermelon, etc.): Fertility and abundance.
– Black Moss Seaweed: The stringy look of this dish symbolizes long life and wealth
– Bamboo Shoots: Wealth and new beginnings
– Chicken: Family and happiness, and of course, must be served whole (just like the fish)
– Eggs: Fertility (of course)
This is just a partial list, but everything on the table during the holiday is very intentional.
So go on, this Chinese New Year’s Eve (which also falls on Groundhog Day and my daughter’s birthday) celebrate with a bowl of your favorite noodles, some chicken or fish, and then have a tangerine or two for dessert. Your year should be brimming with good luck.
And here’s a link to some other foods traditionally served on Chinese New Year, along with what they symbolize.
For me, the second annual BlogHer Food Conference was more than just an event.
This time last year, I was totally bummed the event had sold out by the time I’d heard about it for the first time from my food blogger friends. I went searching on the BlogHer website and realized I was just SOL. But as a blogger and a woman, I was intrigued by the company. So I wandered over to the “Jobs” link on the bottom of the page. With the economy in a serious funk, I had been out of work for over 12 months, sent over 200 resumes, and was just plain discouraged. I sent my resume in thinking I had nothing to lose.
I’m so glad I did.
This year, I not only got to go to BlogHer Food at the San Francisco InterContinental Hotel as a food blogger, I was there as a member of the BlogHer staff.
I’d spent a lot of years conducting interviews for radio and television, but I was truly honored to moderate the two panels I was on: “Our Food Future: Kids, Cooking and Health” on day 1, and “Food Diplomats and Cuisine Ambassadors” on day 2. There’s nothing like the topic of food to get people talking, whether it’s about starting your own food revolution in your community, or sharing stories about how family and food can create wonderful memories. I was delighted to help guide the panel and include the audience in on the conversation, as well.
Aside from the usual “cliques” that emerge at blogger conferences like this, I was overwhelmed with how friendly and supportive everyone was. I had the pleasure of meeting so many people I’ve both admired and followed, as well as reacquaint myself with old friends.
I don’t know what it is about a BlogHer Conference, but they always manage to make the vibe totally about community. I know I work for them now, but I got to attend this conference, for part of the time anyway, as an attendee and observer. Whether I work for BlogHer or not, this is an event I’ll be attending for years to come.
A quick shout out to some of the many wonderful people I chatted with at BH Food (in no particular order):
It seems like ages since BlogHer ’10 came and went, but a lot has happened in that time, hence this extremely late post about my travels to NYC. Man, I love that town. Everytime I go I threaten to move there.
There are so many different ways to eat cheap, eat well, and find creative new things to try (this is also true when it comes to shopping and fashion there, too). Because I was busy working BlogHer ’10 for about five days, I literally saw daylight Wednesday early evening when I arrived, and then Sunday morning once the conference was over. Crazy, huh?
Fortunately, New York is one town that never sleeps, so I didn’t have a shortage of things to do or places to eat. I also squeezed in a trip to the Top of the Rock, which I’ve been wanting to go to for a while. So much cooler than the touristy Empire State Building, in my opinion.
I’m sorry, I was talking about food… I apologize for the lack of photos since I lost my Blackberry in a cab. Typical, I know.
The Famous Halal Cart
Had the chicken and white sauce and it’s something you really should try. The chicken was super moist and the fabulous creamy sauce that is worth the raves. There are several “imposters” across the street, but the one you want is closest to the Hilton Hotel’s front entrance (Midtown, not Times Square), just across the street (where we were lucky enough to be staying).
I am so happy I decided to make the trip down to Chelsea to visit this place. It is the cutest “mall”, for lack of a better term. It’s an old church that was then turned into a nightclub, and is now an adorable building that houses the cutest and most eclectic shops, boutiques, and artisan food shops! You can’t get a meal here but you can definitely walk away with snacks and hard-to-find food goodies.
Now, I didn’t have lunch in the bistro like I’d wanted, but I did make it to the cafe. Had a ham and cheese panini and it was a big “so what”. Next.
The Legendary Katz Deli
I think Katz has seen better days. Many food bloggers have commented that their pastrami and corned beef have been dry on recent visits, and I have to agree. Regardless, it was still a solid pastrami sandwich, just nothing to write home about. But “When Harry Met Sally” is one of my fave movies of all time, so it was nice just to go and check it off my list. The pickles are damn good and the service is quintessential NYC (know what you want and make it quick). It’s probably the most touristy thing I’ll ever do in the Big Apple.
Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Truck I was so excited when I happened to see this truck on my way back from Uniqlo in SoHo. (Someone please open a Uniqlo in Northern California! It’s like a Japanese H&M and I miss it!) I’d seen a piece on these guys on some food show and they had some very interesting flavors like Currents and Cream (which they were out of!), and Ginger. I decided to share the Cane Sugar special with my friend Monique. It was creamy, bordering on a gelato texture, but not as elastic and smooth. The ingredients were obviously quality (they apparently only use the finest milk, eggs, and cane sugar, no additives), and it had a lovely butterscotch aftertaste which was delightful. But it was overpriced, in my opinion. Again, something to cross off the list. No regrets.
After all those good eats, it was ironic that my last meal in town was at Panda Express at JFK. I guess not every meal in NYC can be a winner :).
I recently had the chance to interview Top Chef Season 6 finalist, Kevin Gillespie. On the show, he was known for his dedication to the craft of cooking and lack of dramatics, which also won him the title of “Fan Favorite.” As a food blogger and personal fan of Kevin’s, I was delighted to chat with him and was glad to find out that he was as friendly and personable as I’d hoped.
He’s currently working with the Purina Beggin Bacon Bash to celebrate International Bacon Day on September 4th. Kevin has made it publically known that his favorite ingredient to cook with is pork, so it’s the perfect fit.
I spent a lovely 10 minutes talking to him about his various new projects, whether or not he’s watching the current season of Top Chef, and what sort of comfort foods he turns to when he’s had a hard day (apparently, we share a love of fried pickles).
He was also nice enough to share with me a story that involved the other two Season 6 finalists, Michael and Bryan, that never made it to air. It’s a hoot!