This past weekend I attended my first food blog conference and it was a blast! It was also my first time in Alabama and I liked the area so much that I want to return with Chris. It was nerve-wracking going by myself but I met the nicest ladies there and was immediately put at ease.
There were 12 sessions to choose from, with something for everyone. The first session I attended was a Photography and Food Styling workshop with Helene Dujardin & Tami Hardeman. I have Helene's book, Plate to Pixel, and was excited to learn from her in-person.
The class was a little over my head, as Helene discussed f-stops and tilt-shift lenses but it turns out that was true for many others too which made me feel better. Having a DSLR would be great, but they're so expensive and I'd rather use that money to travel.
I did learn a lot about props and found myself seeking out the clearance shelves at Target yesterday, where I found quite a few things to add to my collection. I've found that props are a cheap way to improve food photos.
I had a true Southern experience at this conference. There were lots of biscuits (and delicious lemon-raspberry jam from Southern Living), as well as grits, seafood from the Gulf and bread pudding. I also heard a lot of y'alls :)
Liquid courage is often helpful in situations where you don't know anyone and there were a few options available at this conference. Fresh Market hosted a cocktail hour with wine, and bourbon tastings were available all day. This was my first time trying bourbon and I was surprised by how much I liked it. I'm really hoping I can find Four Roses Bourbon in the Miami area.
I heard many people raving about lunch but it wasn't vegetarian friendly so instead I'll talk about dinner which was fantastic. The best part was dessert from High Road. They served pistachio honey ricotta gelato in a toasted brioche bun rolled in pistachios. I've already been on the hunt for it and unfortunately it's not carried at any stores around here.
The after party was held at Good People Brewing Company which was a fun venue. I have to give a shout-out to Erica who encouraged me to attend and even picked me up at my hotel. It's so fun to connect with people when you quickly feel like old friends.
One of my favorite aspects of the conference was the keynote address by Molly of Orangette. I was given her book A Homemade Life as a gift shortly after I started blogging and loved it! After hearing more about her newest book, Delancey, I was intrigued and immediately pre-ordered the Kindle version.
I also ordered the Recipe Writer's Handbook which was recommended by several speakers. I learned a lot from the Recipe Writing & Development session and the book should be helpful in creating a consistent format for my recipes.
The final item I ordered is a portable charger for my phone. I was jealous of those at the conference who had one because poor reception in the building drained my iPhone battery and it was a pain to plug my phone in because we switched rooms frequently.
**2/10/14 update - I love the Anker portable charger I bought. It's just as slick as promised!
If you're looking for advice on attending conferences I recommend a post from The Well on what to bring and what to expect. I left the conference feeling inspired and anxious to attend my next conference which is BlogHer Food in Miami this May!