Sparks of Culinary Creativity & Inspiration!
CLICK HERE TO VIEW A SLIDESHOW OF PHOTOS FROM THE AUSTIN TRIP!
So I finally had a chance to come back down from cloud nine and get back to reality after an awesome week-long conference in Austin, Texas with the International Association of Culinary Professionals. What an incredible time spent with amazing and talented professionals in the food industry! If you haven’t been to Austin before, its a must see foodie destination, full of Texas Barbecue and Food Trailers (not trucks like we have in NYC), and the perfect spot to host this year’s conference with a focus on Culinary Excellence and Innovation. I spent five incredible days meeting other food writers, chefs, cookbook authors, food bloggers, food stylists and photographers, agents and publishers – and was creatively inspired by all the incredible speakers and new foodie friends I met!
I flew in on Tuesday night with Rachel (The Fabulous Foodie) and Marie (Food Nouveau) and after arriving at the Hilton Austin, we decided to hit the infamous Sixth Street to try out a few of the hot spots in town. We made a new friend with a bartender who bought pickles to make us Pickleback shots with Jameson and (per Rachel’s artful persuasion – don’t ask) which clued me in to what was ahead for the next five days in this town!
Day 1 Conference
We had a few hours before the conference started on Wednesday so Rachel, Marie, Nikki and I went to grab breakfast at the infamous Juan in a Million restaurant. We ordered some delicious Migas – platters made with scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions and tomatoes with tortillas and fresh salsa and guacamole,
a delicious Chicken Fajita Salad with Jalapenos and Guacamole..
and had the opportunity to meet Juan himself who was more than willing to get a snapshot with us!
My first session, DIY The Perennial Palate, John Mitzewich of Food Wishes, and Sara O’Donnell of Average Betty. We learned video production techniques, equipment and editing tips and saw samples of all the incredible video work that these video bloggers have produced as they told us how they got started and secrets of the trade.for Food Bloggers, was hosted by of
Next we went to the IACP New Member Orientation, led by IACP Board Members including Author Kathleen Flinn and Lia Huber of NourishNetwork.com who gave us tips on how to get the most out of the conference and networking.
We headed over to the Host City Opening Reception at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum where we were greeted by cowboys and armadillos and cows, and sampled delicious food and cocktails from some of Austin’s finest restaurants in town.
Of course I couldn’t pass up the Late Night Club Crawl, where a small group of us went to East Sixth Street (led by Wendy Brannen of Vidalia Onion Committee and some other local Austonians who knew the hotspots!) – East Sixth Street is Austin’s funky part of town with groovy lounges, food trailer parks and low key outside bars.
and ended up at Liberty for some late night grub in a trailer park, munching on crispy Korean Chicken bites and Tempura Fried Beets. Weird? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely!
Day 2 Conference
The next day was full on with amazing sessions by Shauna Ahern, Gluten Free Girl, who led the Blog to Book breakout session focused on in-depth discussions with other talented food bloggers and food writers such as Marge Perry and Dixie Caviar, from around the country as we shared our goals and tips for success in the blogosphere.
We went on a search for some BBQ and ended up at The Ironworks Barbecue,
where we loaded up on plates of fat, juicy Ribs, Beef Brisket, Sausage, Beans and Pickles washed down with huge Iced Teas to quench our thirst in the midst of the heatwave!
My last session of the day was on Networking – run by Mark Bitterman, Author of Salted and professional Selmier. In the session I had the pleasure of meeting Dianne Jacob, author and food writer, Tara Wilson, Event Planner and owner of Savvy Southerner, Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, and Jessica Merchant of How Sweet It Is. Great conversation, great networking tips and great people to get to know!
The evening ended with an Awards Gala and Ceremony at the beautiful historic Driskill Hotel and Paramount Theatre, where some of the most accomplished food writers, editors, photographers, stylists, cookbook authors, chefs and food personalities were accoladed and awarded for their culinary excellence.
My friends and I headed out for drinks and dinner afterwards to Annie’s Cafe & Bar for a delicious meal of Shrimp Creole, Watermelon Blush Martinis and Sauteed Spinach and Garlic. After all the festivities I still mustered up enough energy to attend the Food Styling session by master Denise Vivaldo – who is super talented and hilarious — perfect ending to a perfect evening!
Day 3 Conference
The next day was jam packed with superstar talent speaking about Crafting a Great Story led by Penny De Los Santos, Daniel Klein and Kim Severson from the NY Times. Penny is an amazing photographer and told us heartwarming stories about her trip to Mexico on her last photoshoot for Saveur Magazine with food writer Molly O’Neill – true passion and talent that shined straight through in her storytelling! Daniel showed us more of his fun food adventure videos and Kim Severson led the panel with wit and charm – she is the funniest person known to man!
The Culinary Expo and Culinary Book Fair was incredible – food artisans, vendors and gourmet products were on display including some amazing French Chocolate
..and tons of food samples to accompany our delicious Tex Mex lunch!
I met Dorie Greenspan outside at the Culinapp Trailer and got some amazing cookies and checked out the cool new iPad app she is featured in. I also bought two cookbooks at the Cookbook Fair – Fried Chicken and Champagne by Lisa Dupar (winner of the Cookbook Award!) and Good Food to Share by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan of thekitchn.com (whom I both met at dinner that very same night..how cool is that?!)
One of my favorite sessions was a French Cooking Demonstration with Jacques Pepin and Amanda Hesser – Jacques made some of his delicious recipes – Mini Savory Cheesecakes, Chicken Supremes with Tapenade and Mushroom Sauce, and Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons, as Amanda interviewed him about his life as a celebrity chef. Talk about a treat!
After the demo, I was able to meet him and sample more of his goodies up front afterwards which was an eventful part of the conference and a true honor to meet such a culinary legend as Jacques.
We ended the day in our Committee Breakout Meetings and I joined the IACP Food Styling and Photographers group for some inspiring ideas for our group and networking amongst talented peeps such as Jamie Tiampo, Derek Richmond, Nader Khouri and LeeAnn Wright.
Friday night I went to an amazing dinner at Fonda San Miguel, a longtime favorite Mexican restaurant in a gorgeous neo-Colonial building
with a backyard herb and vegetable garden full of corn stalks, lavender, cilantro, parsley and more.
The establishment was vibrant with color, charm and character – wood carved doorways and Mexican folk art on the walls,
and the food was outstanding – Zucchini Gazpacho Soup, Mini Shredded Beef Tacos , Carne Asadas with Black Beans and an Enchilada Mole.
Of course there were plenty of Mango Margaritas floating around to accompany homemade chips and fresh salsa, and a mesmerizing caramel Flan for dessert!
Day 4 Conference
Our last day of the conference was studded with food stars – I watched Dorie Greenspan talk about her new digital cookbook on the newly launching Culinapp along with Lorena Jones of Chronicle Books and Rux Martin of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I couldn’t pass up Dorie’s cookies on the way out!
Next up on the line up was the dynamic trio of Food Bloggers: Kalyn Denny of Kalyn’s Kitchen, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes and Lisa Stone of BlogHer.com discussing the ins and outs of food blogging, offering sage advice to the audience.
Last but not least, and one of my favorite sessions was on Light and Photography with White on Rice couple Todd and Diane Cru – I was truly inspired by their beautiful and simple photography, their sheer talent, passion for their work and amazing presentation and offering of advice.
The party we were all waiting for was the Up in Smoke BBQ at Boggy Creek Farm – talk about crazy fun! A full on BBQ bash was awaiting us with Ribs, Brisket, Smoked Pig, and all the dressings: corn, beans, cole slaw, german potato salad and some fine Handmade Texas Vodka cocktails..
..as we sat outside listening to jamboree musicians on the big white southern back porch of the farmhouse.. Nothing better than this!
On our last night out, Rachel, Marie, Dave and I went out on East Sixth Street (again!) and hung out at Liberty –
a groovy dive bar with an awesome dirt patio in back with a food trailer, picnic benches and amazing food (same place we got the Korean Chicken Bites and Tempura Fried Beets).
We eventually moved on back to main Sixth Street to find some Flaming Dr. Pepper shots (aren’t those illegal now? The last time I had one of these was in college in Upstate NY!) and hit the pizza truck on the way home. Definitely a colorful street and colorful crowd – now I know where they got the saying “Keep Austin Weird!”
Heading back home to NYC
After four full days of talking and eating and networking and eating and talking and drinking – I had to get one last Mexican meal in. Rachel and I headed to SoCo (South Congress) to visit the legendary Guero’s Taco Bar.
The tortillas were handmade and grilled in front of our eyes as we watched with anticipation..
We noshed on Chips and Guacamole and Salsa, a few Pulled spicy pork and chicken tacos with beans and rice, and some Iced Tea to diminish the slight hangover from the Flaming Dr. Pepper shots the night before! (Not my idea, thanks)
My head is still spinning from all the sights and sounds, amazing food and amazing people I met, and I have to say that my trip to Austin will stay close to my heart forever. The new friends and talented culinary professionals I met have inspired me to do my best work, to follow my heart, to pursue my dream of a food writing and photography career – and I thank all those I shared it with for making this an incredible event I will never forget. Can’t wait for next year’s event in New York City – see you all then.
Austin – I LOVE YOU! Stay Weird.