International Food Bloggers Conference 2011: Highlights from Santa Monica

Here’s a quick rundown of highlights from my whirl wind experience at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Santa Monica November 11-13, 2011 including details from our Food Truck lunch and the dinner prepared by Chef Michael Moore from Sydney and wines from Temecula.

First, I missed out on November 11 because of my son’s birthday party. I heard dinner was a blast and that folks enjoyed wandering around with their food tickets.

On Saturday, we arrived and got checked into the hotel–the DoubleTree with its warm chocolate chip cookies, suites and for many of us, views of the Pacific on this gray, rainy, cold, fall day.

We were just in time for a food truck lunch held over at nearby SaMo High School by some picnic tables. The trucks were lined up and offered a limited but delightfully varied and tasty menu. My son, the birthday boy, was over the moon about the grilled cheese sandwiches: one half was plain and simple, but the other half was mac n cheese with rib meat. Wow. No wonder my husband had been trying to track The Grilled Cheese Truck down for awhile!

I couldn’t tell you which was food from which truck was my favorite. Honestly. I can be really tough to please but it was all so good and so nice AND they were all willing to take the onions off!  (Onions destroy my palate and I was going to be tasting wines later). Perhaps what was most memorable was the super fresh ginger in the peanut sauce from the Chomp Chomp Truck.

We also fell in love with the Voss water that was served. While I certainly would have enjoyed experimenting with wines with these foods, the Voss water in the glass bottles has such a classy presentation, and was of such high quality that I wasn’t tooooo disappointed. I usually don;t go for “water with gas” as they call it in Europe but this time I did because it went better with the rich food than a still water.

Here’s a few of my tweets with links to photos of Food Truck Heaven:

In the afternoon, I caught some of Rand Fishkin’s session that focused on SEO for Food Bloggers; you can check out his slideshow “SEO for Food Bloggers” for yourself.

Then it was showtime! Don Sebastiani & Sons winemaker Michelle McClendon, Michael Wangbikler, wine educator and PR person for Balzac,  and I settled in on stage and away we went! Highlights to come in an upcoming post as soon as I can get it finished and up!

We had a break then dinner by Chef Michael Moore from Sydney AUS. He was in California on a culinary exchange where chefs from AUS and he was also here to promote his new book BloodSugar.

The meal was possibly the most beautiful, artful one I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience and consume in person. Dinner was delayed because the plating of the salad was so intricate. The dressing was whisper light, graceful, a ballet on the collection of farm fresh vegetables.

While this was billed as a wine pairing dinner, it seemed to me that chef Michael Moore was more interested in experimenting with local produce than wines. (He may not be big into wine–when he came out at the end of the meal, he was drinking a beer!)

I am not sure who chose this pinot grigio or why but it didn’t do anything for the salad (and it was not a great representation of the varietal. I got a lot of acetone or nail polish remover from it; it’s nameless here but if you really want to know, you might find a photo of it in my twitter feed…)   With all those fresh, raw or barely cooked vegetables, I would have gone with a sauvignon blanc–and Mike Wangbikler agreed. I don’t know much about wines from Temecula but I am sure they grow some decent sauv blanc down there!

The second course was billed as “chili beef.” Chef Michael Moore explained that when he was asked to produce a menu so it could be printed he kept it purposely vague. But chiles with beef for a wine pairing dinner? Hello? It is really hard to find wines that will work with chiles. I scraped my jalapenos off and still found it challenged the 2006 C’est La Vie Syrah from Temecula.

Fortunately I tasted the syrah first before my tastebuds were inflamed with chiles but unfortunately, the bottle was corked which gave our table mates a chance to sniff and taste a corked wine! It was Mike who called it–I could tell something was wrong but couldn’t name what it was as quickly as he could. Others at the table didn’t know something was wrong but when they tasted the new wine, they could tell that something was more right with this bottle!

The chile beef was served with some chickpeas that also had a kick to them. The flavor was great but not what I’d choose to do a wine pair.

The syrah did all right: while a bit hot (listed at 14.7% but more likely closer to 15.7), it wasn’t too tannic and it had enough fruit (lots of blueberry and plum) and pepper to stand up–but nothing magical happened. And that’s what I want when I’m looking at a food/wine pair–I want magic. Big magic. Back to the wine: the color is super dark and intense purplish with pink (which makes me suspect it’s got some other fruit in it–petit verdot?)

A quick Google search reveals that Europa (which makes this wine) is one of the new kids on Temcula’s block and I guess i’s a bit Disneyland in its creation of a European Village which has got me curious.

The third course was a dessert of creme brulee with fresh raspberries, blackberries and other fruits. I was most engaged by the vanilla bean which was toasted somehow. This was paired with a 2010 Oak Mountain Winery Muscat that was refreshing, light, and delicate with white stone fruits like peach and nectarine as well as pear. It’s color is a light yellow almost green with a cork closure and a surprising 13.2 alcohol (surprising because it was so well balanced that I would have guessed it was lower).

I really liked this wine and if it had been on our table earlier, I would have tried it with the salad. I think it might have worked! This is a very summery wine but here in California, it can feel like summer all year around and certainly this would be a welcome wine for a weekend picnic at the beach,  a brunch on the patio, or a light lunch of cheese, crackers, and fruit. Of the three wines from Temecula, I would be drawn to first check out Oak Mountain.

Some of my tweets with photos from dinner:

Interested in learning more about current trends in SEO and how to monetize your blog in more ways than poor paying Google ads or affiliate links? Here’s a blog post from The Write Alley based on a session on Sunday from the conference on these topics.

In addition to a post about the panel I was on, I’ve got a number of posts about ready to publish about fall wines as well as some ideas for wines you might choose for Thanksgiving turkey, ham, goose, duck or stuffed portabellas. These wines range from inexpensive options for turkey like Smoking Loon’s Pinot Noir and Zinfandel (I’m super impressed with these for the cost) to more expensive Pinot Noirs from New Zealand, Chile, Sonoma as well as a Zin from St Francis, a chardonnay from Foley and Rhone style wines from Zaca Mesa that would pair well with duck, goose and game hens!

2 thoughts on “International Food Bloggers Conference 2011: Highlights from Santa Monica

  1. Pingback: Holiday Wine Challenge Part 1: Turkey? Ham? Red? White? Rose? « Wine Predator

  2. Pingback: Going to Queensland with ProBlogger Darren Rowse? We’ll know soon! « art predator

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