Wise Traditions 2010: The Politics of Food

Life in its fullness is Mother Nature obeyed ~ Dr. Weston A. Price

I had the honor of attending the Wise Traditions Conference in King of Prussia, PA this past weekend. This was the first time I attended the conference, but not the first time I wanted to go. I wanted to attend last year, but found out about it too late to make the plans necessary to travel across country. This year I was invited by the Weston A. Price foundation to attend the event and cover it for my blog. So Roberto and I were given free press passes to the conference on Saturday giving us the chance to attend many of the talks, and meet many vendors, some of whom I have known for a long time, online, but not in person. And of course we were also able to meet a few food bloggers, too!

The Weston A. Price Foundation or WAPF, is at the heart of the fight for real food. The conference this year focused on The Politics of Food. The topic was perfect timing in light of the many government crackdowns that many small family farms and food artisans have been facing in recent months, which calls into question whether people in the USA have a right to choose what foods they eat. It is also timely as another Food Safety bill is about to be voted on.

(Jenn with Jill Cruz at WAPF table, Jenn with Sharon Kane, Sally Fallon Morell and Jeffrey Smith)

For those who are new to the work of Dr. Price, Saturday’s conference opened with a talk by Sally Fallon Morell, President of the WAPF and author of the wildly popular book Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Her talk was extremely informative. Dr Price was a prominent dentist of his day. In 1939 Price published Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, a book that details a series of ethnographic nutritional studies performed by him across diverse cultures of isolated non-industrialized peoples from the Swiss Alps to the South Seas and although the foods in the diets were different, there were some key similarities like the consumption of animal fats and fermented foods.

Price believed that various diseases endemic to Western cultures of the 1920s and 30s – from dental caries to tuberculosis – were rarely present in non-Western cultures. He argued that as non-Western groups abandoned indigenous diets and adopted Western patterns of living they also showed increases in typically Western diseases, and concluded that Western methods of commercially preparing and storing foods stripped away vitamins and minerals necessary to prevent these diseases.

Well, I for one appreciate and agree with Dr. Price’s findings. Which is why I follow the foundation’s guidelines for preparing whole foods. We have been eating this way for over a year and it has made a tremendous difference in our health from digestive and skin issues to emotional balance and energy. It has been profound. With a diet rich in full fat, good quality (humanely raised, grass and pasture raised) animal products, I have lost and then maintained a healthy stable weight for over a year, gained more energy to sustain my busy and active lifestyle, and despite popular and mis-informed belief, I have maintained an excellent cholesterol level and all my other blood tests came back normal or above average. All this on a diet full of cream, butter, cheese, raw milk, bacon fat, etc. *

In Fallon’s talk she discussed how eating local, sustainable, non-industrial foods is a political act these days since it keeps money local, brings prosperity to small farms, instead of commodity farms and produces healthy people, which means less money for the pharmaceutical industry. Very wise woman.

We also listened to two other amazing talks on Saturday. One by a hero in my book Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology and author of Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating

Jeffrey opened his talk with some interesting reports:

* In 2010 Monsanto went from being Forbes company of the year to the worst stock of 2010.

* The Nielson Survey named “GMO Free” the fastest growing claim for store brands in 2010. Meaning the trends are moving in the direction that consumers want – which is non-GMO foods!

* The American Academy of Environmental Medicine stated that all Mds should prescribe non-GMO foods to all of their patients.

For helpful tools to make sure you are not eating GMO foods look on the package for these words “Non-GMO Project Verified” in the coming months and visit this page to download the Non-GMO Shopping Guide.

The third talk we attended was given by Judith McGeary of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance . Judith has been working to amend the Food Safety Bill, so that it will not destroy small farms. To find out more about how you can help please voice your concern to your senators as this bill is about to be voted on. Also make sure to check out the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund to learn more about your right to eat the foods you want and those rights that may be taken away.

In between talks we took a break to peruse the vendors at the conference. I had a great time meeting some new friends and seeing face to face some people that I have been working with online for a long time. Some of my favorite vendors were:

WAPF
Sharon Kane who wrote “The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking”
Cultures for Health
Farm Fromage
Shiloh Farms
To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co.
U.S. Wellness Meats
Vital Choice

There was also an amazing farmers market, featuring the local bounty and many Amish vendors from nearby Lancaster County, PA. We bought some delicious cheeses and fresh raw apple cider for lunch. Between that and all the samples we were able to try, we were quite satisfied!

To end our day at the conference we listened to some fellow bloggers on a panel about how to use social media for effective food activism. It was a great talk that was presided over by the wonderful and fabulous Kimberly Hartke from Hartke is Online! Other panel members included:

Kari Carlysle, Linked In guru
Kelly The Kitchen Kop
Jenny McGruther of Nourished Kitchen
Ann Marie Michaels of Cheeseslave
Jill Nienhiser, webmaster for WAPF

There is so much to learn at Wise Traditions. All of the talks we attended were just part of what was available during the 3 day event. It is remarkable how much they offer and how well organized it was. My hat off to the organizers who did a superb job with every last little detail. I have decided to make this conference a yearly event. The information obtained is too important not to go.

If this sounds right up your alley and you are sad to have missed the event this year, fear not! All talks were recorded for your listening pleasure! You can purchase them here.

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional. This information is based solely on my own personal experiences with dietary change. Please consult a medial professional before making any major changes to your diet. Also the animals the products I eat come from are raised humanely on small family farms on diets of grass. Do not expect these results from the same products at a regular grocery store.

Un-Processed: Is It More Expensive To Eat Organic and Local?

I don’t go to the grocery store very often anymore. I am lucky to have a variety of year-round farmers markets, local farm stores and independently locally owned markets that sell locally made food available to me. Generally going to the grocery store means that I am really really pressed for time, or desperately need something I can’t get at these stores like paper products. To save on gas, I might pick up some organic staples while I am there and make due for the week with what I have in the pantry and freezer. But I know that not everyone has this variety of Local Love available. So I wanted to talk about how the average person living pretty much anywhere, can eat organic and local and SAVE money.

Many months ago I had such an experience. We were actually still in Florida. I had just stocked up on frozen organic berries for smoothies and some organic meat ( which was on sale) and I was getting all my dairy to make cheese, yogurt and kefir for the week (not a farmers market week). The woman in front of me had her cart, which was not as full as mine, with frozen dinners, boxed lasagna, bags of frozen meals – where you add your own meat, soda and a few organic veggies (she was trying)– enough food for maybe a week of meals. I made sure to take note of her total just for curiosity’s sake. When my cart was rung up, my bill was only $2 more than hers. I had loads of fruits and veggies, grassfed beef, organic meats, frozen organic berries, eggs, dairy and pantry staples – things I would be using over the next several weeks. This really amazed me, because I have been told so often that eating the way we do, is too expensive for the average Joe or Joan. So much so, that I was actually starting to believe it.

This event has stayed with me all these months, and so when Andrew from Eating Rules asked me to guest post for his October: Un-Processed challenge (you can still take the challenge!!!), I enlisted the help of friend, fellow blogger and grocery store resister, Melissa from Alosha’s Kitchen to write a post about how eating locally and organic has reduced the cost of our food bills over a year by about 30-35%!!!

If you want to see how we did it, I suggest popping over to Andrews blog and reading all about it!

Learn how to  have fun in the kitchen and support your local community, while feeding your family healthy and nutritious meals that taste WAY better than pre-packaged fodder, for less than the cost of eating every meal out, or takeout, or from the frozen food section! Try it yourself and see what happens! There are several recipes in the post to help get you started! Enjoy and Have FUN!

Pairing is Caring – Boloco, Burlington, Vermont

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From top, clockwise: Happy Boloco people, Inspired Burritos, My buddy Matt hard at work, Happy Bloggers – me, Cheryl and Greg from CrankyCakes)

This week I attended my first foodie event in our new (again) home state of Vermont! Again and again I am reminded in subtle ways why we moved back to this great state, and this was no exception.

Pairing is Caring was held on Monday, August 16th and joined the forces of Boloco Inspired Burritos and Magic Hat Brewing Company . I was invited as part of the press pack on behalf of PMG Public Relations. PMG stands for People Making Good. PMG is not your typical PR firm, they are local to Vermont and focus on healthy brands. Brands that care about the environment, culture and responsibility. PMG has core knowledge of issues, goals and philosophies behind socially and environmentally responsible business and their targeted audience. So thanks PMG for a great night out!

The proceeds from Pairing is Caring went to icouldbe.org, a leading online e-mentoring program that matches middle and high school students with adult mentors from all over the country. Funds raised from this event will be used to implement an icouldbe.org mentoring program in one of Vermont’s public schools. It is easy to become a mentor with icouldbe.org – it takes about an hour a week to connect with your “mentee” but can make all the difference in the world to them and the path of their lives. It all takes place online, making it all the more manageable for people with busy schedules. So check it out today!

We had the chance to sample all eight varieties of Boloco burritos as well as 4 Magic Hat brews – the goal was to see which pairings of burritos and beer were a match made in heaven.

Boloco is not just a burrito shop, it is a business that cares about people, both customers and workers. It cares about the environment by serving drink and food in corn cups and bamboo bowls. It’s about naturally-raised meats and organic tofu. It’s about composting and recycling and reusing building materials. CEO John Pepper in his presentation to kick off the night, discussed many of the goals for his shops. Mostly centering around being part of the community and about changing the face of the fast food world, where customer opinion matters and where employees can make a real living, and even career with their jobs.

This philosophy really shines through when you talk to the servers, the people behind the counter. Like my new friend Matt, who gave me the full menu run down, after I told him that this was my first time eating at Boloco. Matt was very well informed about the flexibility offered on the menu and clearly passionate about the ingredients and food philosophy of the restaurant. In one simple word, he was inspired, just like the burritos. I mentioned to John, the CEO towards the end of the night how impressed I was with Matt. He wasn’t surprised. He knows his employees and works closely with them to make sure that each person at Boloco is true to the vision. This is not your average fast food establishment, people.

As for the beer, well anyone who loves a good microbrew should be familiar with Magic Hat, whether you are in New England or not. Magic Hat is one of the pioneers of the microbrew movement, and has achieved much acclaim.

Now on to the Food and Drink section of this blog post! So as I mentioned, we were able to sample all 8 varieties of Boloco Burritos as well as a special burrito just for the event and 4 Magic Hat Brews.

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BURRITOS AND BREWS

Burritos:

Buffalo Chicken
Memphis BBQ
The Summer
Bangkok Thai
Teriyaki
Yucatan Habanero
Cajun
Classic Mexican
Spicy BLT (this was created just for the event, and will be featured on the menu in the coming months – it features local bacon, cheeses and veggies).

Brews:
#9
Hex
High PA
Odd Notion

My personal favorite pairings were as follows:

Memphis BBQ and Hex
Buffalo Chicken and Odd Notion

Disclaimer: I did not personally try all 9 burritos or all 4 beers. I didn’t sample Bangkok Thai or Teriyaki burritos since both had soy products in them, tofu in one and soy sauce in the other. But those who did try them really liked them. I also did not try High PA as I am not a fan of IPAs and I didn’t drink #9 either, since I am already familiar with the beer, and although I like it, it is not my favorite of the Magic Hat varietals.

The Memphis BBQ burrito was my over all favorite of the night. It was filled with all natural pork carnitas, sweet bbq sauce, cole slaw, pinto beans and rice. It had a wonderful bbq flavor and the pork was melt in your mouth tender. Not to mention it has coleslaw in it – and I am a known cole slaw fanatic. I have never met one I didn’t like, and that is the truth.

The Buffalo Chicken was nice and spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. If you like buffalo wings and all the traditional accoutrements, this would certainly satisfy the craving and is a lot less messy.

I also believe that the Yucatan Habanero is worth mentioning – filled with grass-fed humanely raised steak and pickled onions, with a spicy habanero sauce, it satisfied my spicy tastebuds. Although for some it was too hot, so bear that in mind when ordering.

As for the beer, I really loved Hex, and could see myself buying it. It is a seasonal beer, amber in color with hints of toffee, caramel and smoke, all flavors that I am looking for in my beer. I also enjoyed the Odd Notion, a Belgian style beer with flavors of coriander, bitter orange peel and a hint of green apple. This brew was really refreshing, and just a bit odd – in a really good way!

So to wrap up, all in attendance had a great night at the event – the food and drink were really good, and the passion of the people involved in all aspects of the event, from the hosts, organizers and charities it was funding, was infectious. What I brought away from the night is that people have a lot of choices when you find yourself out and needing to eat at a restaurant. So why not support the local ones who also support the local food shed, and the people they work with to make your dining experience unforgettable? Spend your dollars wisely. We all have a choice, and we can all make a difference by making small choices that add up. There are inexpensive places to enjoy food that not only tastes good, but is also trying to make the world a better place, one burrito at a time.

Ladies Supper Club: Dishing Up Vermont!

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(Sunshine with Toad Hollow Goat Milk Caramel and Mary Joy with none other than Ben & Jerry’s!)

As many of you know, I am part of a fabulous group of ladies, who love food, in Saint Augustine. Every month we hold an all out foodie event, that we call, Ladies Supper Club. Each month, on a rotating basis, one of us hosts and picks the theme or main dish for the month, then each of the women is assigned a dish – welcome cocktail, appetizer, soup or salad, veggie side, non-veggie side, dessert and wine. We let our creative juices flow, and come to the dinner with dishes based on our best interpretation of the theme. We have had some really memorable themes, like Blueberries, Cooking with Julia Child, Tamale Fiesta, etc. I really love spending time with these ladies each month and seeing what creations everyone comes up with. We all lead busy lives, and it is nice to have scheduled time to come together each month, and spend time finding out what has been going on in each others’ lives over the last month. I am really going to miss these ladies when we move to Vermont. Ladies Supper Club was a great way for me to meet some wonderful women in Saint Augustine. Who knows, maybe I will start one, in the Great White North.

In January, it was my turn to host. Last January, I hosted a Moroccan inspired meal, which I was happy to learn was memorable for the ladies. We had a great time feasting on spiced foods, and worked off some of the meal later by blasting the music, and having an impromptu bellydancing dance party!

This month, in honor of our upcoming move to Vermont, I decided to make the theme none other than Vermont. I have an awesome cookbook called Dishing Up Vermont 145 Authentic Recipes from Green Mountain State, by Tracey Medeiros. The book contains 145 authentic recipes from the Green Mountain State. Contributors are various restaurant proprietors, chefs, bed & breakfast owners and farmers who are all inspired by the bounty of food available in this beautiful state. This is a cookbook of local and seasonal foods. Something I am very passionate about. So I decided to choose a recipe from this book for Ladies Supper Club.

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(Brie Stuffed Chicken, with a Pear and Cider Sauce – and Apple Pie for dessert!!!)

The dish I choose to prepare was Brie-stuffed Chicken Breasts in Pear and Cider Sauce. This dish is from The Dorset Inn. I was really intrigued by the flavors, and you can never go wrong with Brie, especially in my Supper Club group! I sent my choice for a main dish around to all the girls a few weeks in advance, and looked forward to what everyone would bring to dinner!

dinner_drinks

(Old Vermont Cocktail)

When the ladies got to my house, they were all carrying bags of food! For our welcome cocktail we had a maple syrup and bitters cocktail, which was reminiscent of curry (weird, but actually quite tasty). To eat along with the cocktails we had a yummy brie dip, the recipe from a Vermont B & B. The soup was a cheddar ale. We had delicious roasted root veggies and fresh baked rolls to accompany the chicken. For dessert, homemade apple pie with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream (3 flavors) and Toad Hollow Goat’s Milk Caramel ( This is to die for!).

It was another great evening! Thanks ladies!

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* Also, don’t forget to SPREAD THE LOVE THIS MONTH, purchase a copy of my e-book – The Secret Energy of Love Through Food! All proceeds during the month of February will go to Haiti Relief!

Read the rest of this entry »

Cooking and Hanging Out with ValleyWriter and The Royal Foodie Joust Winners!

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We had a great time this fall in New England this year visiting family and friends. Thanksgiving is over, and posted, and so now the time has come to share some of the highlights in eating and visiting that we enjoyed in New England. We traveled from Connecticut to Vermont and back again. In fact we drove up to New England from Florida, stopping at my Aunt’s house in VA both on the way up and on the way back. We got to spend time with Roberto’s daughters Rachel and Gwen as well as many friends along the way. It was a wonderful time – a time I have looked forward to every year since we moved to Florida.

We spent a large portion of the trip in Western MA. I lived in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts for over 10 years. I came to live there by way of education, and then after 4 years of college, decided to stay. I was just so enamored of the place – the quaint towns, historic buildings, and good food, as well as all the cultural activities taking place due to all the colleges in the area. I made a lot of lifelong friends while I lived there and was definitely part of a community. When I think about that time in my life, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling – and I always enjoy spending time there. I have moved away from New England twice since I lived there, once to go back to my home state of Maryland for a few years, and the other when we moved to Florida three years ago. Each time I move away, I find myself missing it, and it doesn’t take long before New England re-claims me. I guess I am a New Englander at heart, and I am proud of it! :)

People in New England are just nice. It is a very eclectic kind of place sometimes, and so it is typical to have friends from all walks of life. People are just more accepting of paradoxes, creativity and uniqueness. I don’t know how to describe it, but I always find myself gravitating towards New Englanders wherever we are, and that is how we met Valley Writer and Mr. Valley Writer.

We met them, almost 2 years ago, when we were all newlyweds, spending our honeymoon in Jamaica. We originally met them at a social for newlyweds and then ended up running into them at breakfast one morning. So we decided to sit together. We found out we had a lot in common. She and I are both writers (this was before her now famous blog), we both have black cats with asthma, and we both were practically neighbors at one point without even knowing it, in a small New England town called Hatfield. She met her husband the same way I met Roberto – online, and in the same time frame. So likely I ran across Mr. Valley Writer’s profile in my searches…who knows. But there was just so much in common (besides the love of food and cooking) that we knew we were meant to be friends. We visited with Mr and Mrs. Valley Writer last year when we were in New England . Then this year, they graciously invited us to stay with them for a few days.

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When we arrived, the first thing we did was take a quick drive to a local farm, and pick up her last CSA of the year. We picked out some nice root veggies to make some roasted roots – my favorite – to go along with dinner that night. The plan for dinner that night was to make duck. Neither of us had ever made a duck before, so we were both very excited at the prospect. We were worried about the method of cooking, we didn’t want it to be dry.

cooking-at-ambers_preparing-duck

So we decided to do it beer can style, and used a raspberry wheat beer in the preparation. It turned out really delicious – although it did make the house a little smoky – all that delicious duck fat (which of course was reserved for later use)!

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We enlisted Roberto to cut the duck – and of course he had to wear Amber’s Flirty Apron that she won a few months back from The Foodie Blogroll.

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(Mr. Valley Writer likes to keep his identity hidden….just WHO is HE?)

The food was really good that night, but the company was the best part! We all had a great time getting re-acquainted with each other and getting to know each other better – and it was a breeze. Sometimes you just really hit it off with another couple, and this was one of those times!

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Unfortunately Mr. And Mrs. Valley Writer both had to work while we were visiting. So the next night, to thank them for their hospitality, Roberto and I decided to get some extra ingredients, and cook them dinner. There was already a pork tenderloin in the fridge, so we decided to add some wild rice, glazed carrots, and miniature carrot cakes from Whole Foods (which used to be called Bread and Circus in that part of the world) to complete the meal. We prepared the pork in a fresh apple cider and dijon mustard sauce, and it was delicious. When they got home from work, we all started working together in the kitchen! What else can you expect from a bunch of foodies? This time we had Mr. Valley Writer do the honors on cutting the meat.

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Again the food was great and the company spectacular! We had a wonderful few days spending time with them, and look forward to continuing our friendship when we move up to Vermont this spring!

Thanks Valley Writer family for your hospitality and friendship! Please check out her post about our visit together on her blog, Adventures in the Pioneer Valley !

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In addition to Finest Foodies Friday, I am also phasing the Royal Foodie Joust Winners and New Ingredients posts over to Foodieblogroll.com. So if you want to read about the winners and the new ingredients. Please visit Foodieblogroll.com.

Also for more foodie fun, don’t forget to join us at my friend Ben’s blog for a Homemade Party!

1st Annual Foodbuzz Food Bloggers Festival – San Francisco, CA (Saturday Afternoon and Evening, Part 3)

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Saturday afternoon, after the Farmers Market we enjoyed the afternoon’s main event – The Tasting Pavilion at the Metreon. We enjoyed talking to Jerry from Cooking By The Seat of My Pants on the way over to the Metreon. Growing up in California, he told us a lot about different California grown foods, like rice, wine and cheese. In fact we talked quite a bit about cheese (and which is better, CA or VT – of course you can guess that I am all about the VT cheeses). Oh…and cowboy hats. I have known Jerry for a long time through blogging and he is just as much of a character in person as his blog would have you believe!

At the Tasting Pavilion, we tasted food and drink by many local CA producers as well as Artisan food producers from all over the country. It was an amazing experience and so inspiring to see so many people passionate about food! It was a great opportunity to network with food producers, and hopefully we will work together with many of them in upcoming Foodie Blogroll Giveaways! :)

Some of our favorite tastes were all the delicious dishes inspired by Bertolli sauces that Food Bloggers at the festival created. It was really fun to watch them prepare their winning dishes in the Bertolli Sauce Kitchen! I got to catch most of Chrystal and Amir’s aka The Duo Dishes , presentation (that is them in the collage above) and they did an awesome job! The best part was getting to taste all the food coming out of the sauce kitchen! Well done everyone! I wish I could have seen all the presentations…but there was just too much to see!

We also enjoyed talking about beer with the guys from Magnolia GastroPub located in San Francisco and Rogue Ales . If we had stayed a few days extra I would definitely have stopped by Magnolia. They brew their own historic and traditional beers, and create gourmet gastropub food sourcing local ingredients!

One of our favorite eats of the afternoon was a seafood ceviche from Fuego At The Maya. Executive Chef Jesse Perez made an awesome version of the Latin dish, including Mexican shrimp and tender juicy scallops, broiled calamari and sweet potato. Check out Jerry’s post – he has a lot of great photos about the things I discussed!

Roberto and I also attended a Merlot wine seminar hosted by Alder from the popular wine blog, Vinography.  This was an extremely interesting seminar about the stories behind the wines – about the producers, and the history of where the grapes are grown. It was a new and intimate way to learn about wines, something that Alder is amazing at doing. There was also much talk about wines in general, which was very informative. Our favorite was the Paloma 2006 Merlot, from Spring Mountain in Napa. All of the Merlots we tasted were from California and were between $25-65 a bottle. Definitely your upper end, and very different from what most people think of, when they think Merlot.

After the afternoon’s events, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the Saturday Night Dinner. This was a big night for me, because I had the extreme honor of being asked by Foodbuzz to co-host the Food Blogger Awards with Managing Editor of Foodbuzz, Ryan Stern. Coming into the weekend I was a bit nervous, but after meeting nearly everyone who was going to be in the audience I felt much better about it. Plus Ryan is a great person, so I knew I would feel comfortable up there with her!

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(Roberto and I on the bus to dinner, Me and Mari from Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard, Peter from Souvlaki for the Soul and Joan from FOODalogue, the gang at dinner).

The dinner and awards ceremony was held at Greenleaf Produce Warehouse which was the perfect place for a dinner brought to us by Outstanding in the Field . It was a bit too chilly to hold an outdoor dinner, so this really was the next best thing!

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(Photos courtesy of Peter Georgakopoulos)

Very rustic and the perfect environment to enjoy a menu of farm fresh products. Our menu was created by Chef Dennis Lee of Namu. All of the food was local, organic and sustainable and the meats were all pasture-raised. It was really nice to enjoy a guilt free meal of the highest quality!

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(Photos courtesy of Peter Georgakopoulos)

Winemaker Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon , selected wines to accompany each part of the meal. It was fun learning more about Outstanding in the Field, and chatting with Greg from Sippity Sup about being nominated for several awards, and about fashion!

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(Photos courtesy of Peter Georgakopoulos): Me and Catherine of Munchie Musings, Christey of FotoCuisine, Joan of FOODalogue, and Val of More Than Burnt Toast

We had a truly wonderful and memorable dinner, in really great company. We had the honor of sitting with longtime blogger friends: Peter of Souvlaki For The Soul, who came all the way from Australia to be at the festival, Peter and Christey of FotoCuisine , Val and Giz of BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine , and Joan of FOODalogue . I also got to meet Angela of Spinach Tiger , another of my favorite blogs. In fact, Angela was the first blogger I saw in San Francisco – we checked into the hotel at the same time! The best thing, is everyone we met in person is even better in person! It was a fun night talking about blogging, food and everything else. I really enjoyed spending time with these people, and know I have life-long friends! I can’t wait for them all to come and visit! Thanks to Peter G for many of the great photos in this post. Your photos are truly magazine quality, Peter! You should totally be famous!

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(Val, Roberto, Me, Joan and Mary (aka Giz)

After dinner many headed over to the Americano at Hotel Vitale for a nightcap. There I got to spend some time chatting with the Foodbuzz staff and my blogging and Twitter buddy, Esi from Dishing Up Delights ! It was great finally getting to meet you! And of course we were trying to get in as much time with everyone as possible. We knew we probably weren’t going to make it to the Brunch the next day, so this was our last hurrah so to speak. It was wonderful getting to see everyone and making that personal connection. I didn’t want to leave…or more realistically, I wanted to pack everyone up in my bag and take them home with me.

If you have never been to a blogging event, I highly recommend it. If there aren’t any in your area, start one! There is nothing like meeting bloggers in person! Thanks so much to Foodbuzz for putting on this wonderful weekend, and I am very much looking forward to next year’s festivities!!!

1st Annual Foodbuzz Food Bloggers Festival – San Francisco, CA ( Saturday Morning – Part 2)

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DISCLAIMER: Our camera battery died on Friday night and so the photos in this post are snapshots pulled off our video camera – which is essentially why they suck! ;) But I wanted to be sure to give some viuals.

The next morning, everyone met up at the Ferry Building, to enjoy the morning at San Francisco’s incredible Farmer’s Market. We started off up stairs drinking coffee, eating pastries and meeting up with bloggers. We had a fun and lively conversation with Nichelle, from Cupcakes Take the Cake and got to meet another one of my foodie friends, who had evaded me the night before, Joan of FOODalogue . After chatting, we wanted something savory for breakfast. So on several recommendations from Foodbuzz staff, Roberto and I (as well as many other bloggers) enjoyed breakfast sandwiches from the Golden Gate Meat Co. We decided to enjoy the sandwiches al fresco so we could enjoy a view of the San Francisco Bay. Once back inside, we couldn’t pass up a “meat cone” from Boccalone which was a mix of several of their different cured pork products. The mortadella with pistachios was my surprising favorite (usually my favorite is salami). I wish we had gotten video of this, but we were hanging out chatting with Kristi of Austin Farm to Table. But I know she talked about it on her blog, so go check it out!

We spent the rest of the morning perusing the market. I was especially impressed by one of the indoor shops that was exclusively mushrooms. I saw the most beautiful and delicious looking mushrooms – colorful chantarelles, lobster mushrooms and the biggest FRESH porcini. My heart sank a little because I knew I could not take any home. Outside, we spent time marveling at the fresh produce booths. We tasted Asian pears, yogurt, persimmons, honey and much more. I also bought 4 lbs of beans and grains from Rancho Gordo on a recommendation from Kat and Matt of A Good Appetite .

At 11:00 we joined Peter and Christey from FotoCuisine , Joan of FOODalogue and Catherine from Munchie Musings at the Farm to Table Discussion led by Executive Chef of the Americano – the restaurant at the Hotel Vitale, Paul Arenstam and the general manager of the Hearst Ranch (sorry, no picture of these guys…). Hearst Ranch  supplies their grassfed beef to the Americano for their burgers and so the discussion centered on the differences between grassfed and conventional beef (something I talk a lot about ), how farms and restaurants can work together to get quality and local meats to consumers, how food producers can work with food bloggers to get unbiased and genuine word out about their products, and how to build a farm to table model that works, and can be copied by local farms and the restaurants around them.

Some facts about grassfed vs. conventional beef:

Conventional beef depends on fossil fuels and government subsidized feed (like corn and soybeans) to feed their cattle. Conventional cattle are weaned at 6 months and spend the rest of their life, eating subsidized grain, living in close quarters (with other cows, and their own excrement) and in 13 months become 1300 lbs of meat.

Grassfed beef remains free ranging and pasture fed their entire life. They depend on sunlight and photosynthesis to eat. They experience low stress, and little handling from humans, making their meat tender and lean. In an 18 month period they will become 1100 pounds of meat. Grassfed cattle, through well managed grazing, are part of a natural cycle which actually aids in the conservation of grasslands.

During the question and answer period, Catherine, from Munchie Musings asked about what kind of a discount food bloggers could get on Heart’s new program where consumers can buy a share of a grassfed cow directly from Hearst. He was quick on the draw and responded that food bloggers can get a 30% discount and free shipping, if they use the coupon “foodbuzz”. Now that is a great deal! If I lived in CA I would totally go for it – but I am looking forward to supporting my local meat producers. If that fails – I am going for Hearst – they are a company that I can support without reservation.

I really enjoyed the morning – it was nice to see lots of farm fresh products at the market and then learn more about how local businesses and farmers can work together to get local foods out to the consumers. It was inspiring in so many ways. If you live in California, and have not been to the Americano, you should try it out. Their menu sounds delicious, and I got to sample Chef Paul’s Hearst Meatballs at the Tasting Pavilion later that afternoon (more about that in a follow up post) and they were really fantastic. I would also encourage you to check out Hearst Ranch and their Cattle Share program.

1st Annual Foodbuzz Food Bloggers Festival – San Francisco, CA ( Friday – Part 1)

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Roberto and I were fortunate enough to spend the last weekend with 250 other food bloggers at the Foodbuzz Food Bloggers Festival in San Francisco, CA. This was our first trip to California, so we were very excited to visit San Francisco and for all the events of the weekend! Needless to say we had a great time, in great company. I have been blogging since 2006, and in that time have had a few opportunities to spend time with other bloggers. Putting faces to the names we see and hear so much through blogging and getting to meet in person people we have “known” for years in the blogosphere is a really awesome experience. These last few weeks, I have had a chance to meet many bloggers, both through the conference, and also through our travels in New England. I will try to do my best to re-live those experiences through words.

This weekend was a real meeting of the minds of food bloggers. I will attest again, for the record, that food bloggers really are the nicest people in the world.

Hanging out with food bloggers has a certain comfort level to it, because you already know up front that you have a common ground (and a high level of obsession)! So having the privilege to get to know the people behind the blogs you love, and learn more about them and their lives, beyond the food blogging aspects, is an enriching and wonderful experience. I am very thankful to everyone at Foodbuzz for the great job they did putting this together for us. Giving us the opportunity to meet other bloggers, and feeding us amazing food along the way!

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(Me with a delicious Autumn Apple Martini, with Mari from Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard, with Vanessa from Italy in SF and with Kat from A Good Appetite).

The weekend was kicked off on the rooftop of the Hotel Vitale with a meet and greet happy hour. We enjoyed cocktails from Skyy Spirits, sparkling wines, beers and sparkling juices, including a special and delicious Autumn Apple Martini which was inspired by Melissa York of Cheese Wine and Cheddar. This gave us all the opportunity to meet and greet everyone.

After happy hour we headed over to the Ferry Building and were treated to an amazing Street Food extravaganza featuring the best of the best of San Francisco ‘s street food fare. I did my best to try at least a bite of everything.

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I think the unanimous favorite of the evening was the Porchetta Sandwich with greens and caramelized onions from Roli Roti . Porchetta is a Roman specialty, and my resident Roman claims it is the best he ever had. So you can imagine how good it was.

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I also really enjoyed the Potato and Chorizo tacos from Tacolicious. Their sauces are to die for – if you can take the heat! If not, their Green Goddess herbal sauce, will cool things off. The tacos were so good, I had to go back for seconds!

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I also admit to going back for seconds at Straus Family Creamery, the booth right next to Mission Mini’s Cupcakes (this one is the Pumpkin with Dulce de Leche icing!) They served us organic coffee and vanilla bean ice cream. It was creamy and delicious! Just the way ice cream should be.

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Another delicious treat was the vegan, raw cheesecake from Alive! . Honestly the best cheesecake I have ever had – see my face! The expression says it all!

But this was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to the offerings. We also really enjoyed fresh shucked oysters from Hog Island Oyster Co. To wash it all down, beer from Thirsty Bear and cocktails from Skyy Vodka- my favorite was called the Blood & Sand – equal parts of The Glenrothes Select Reserve (Speyside single malt Scotch), fresh orange juice, Cinzano sweet vermouth and cherry liquer. The drink was garnished with delicious cherries from Italy. There were also fresh chichharones (spicy pork rinds) that were perfect with the wheat beer from Thirsty Bear.

Also in the offerings were – wood fired pizzas, meat pies, roasted beet salads and more. It was a fantastic way to experience some classic San Francisco treats and meet all the wonderful vendors who create this delicious food and feed the people of San Francisco!

That night we really enjoyed hanging out and getting to know the folks from Foodbuzz, meeting my buddy Kat from A Good Appetite, Val and Giz of BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine , Vanessa from Italy in SF , Mari from Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard , Jen from FoodBat and Donna from Cooking with Donna (anyone have her blog URL?).

It was also great spending time with our Florida friends, Peter and Christey from FotoCuisine.

Please stay tuned for more pictures and stories from the weekend!