I'm in "The Bay Area" --otherwise known as San Francisco--not "The Bay" as I was once so matter-of-factly corrected by my then three year old niece, Ehryn. Year ago--let's see, I'll do the math, my niece was about three then, and she's almost 22!!! Gasp. I can't believe that. Anyway, about 19 years ago, I visited my sister, Mandi, as she lived in/around Oakland. She took me all over to see the sites of San Francisco, her beloved city (My sister passed away almost 10 years ago, being here in San Francisco is bringing back floods of Mandi memories!). We piled in the car one day, with my niece along for fun and as we were going across the bridge (The Bay Bridge--right?), I said to Ehryn, who I was sitting in the backseat with, "Ehryn, we're going to the Bay." She said to me in such a corrective, authoritative voice, "Katrina, it's The Bay Area." Well, who knew? I hadn't realized you couldn't just call it The Bay. No matter what you call it, here I am! Kevin worked it out for me to be able to go to the Food BlogHer '09 Conference. He has been home with the boys all weekend while I'm here "playing". (Thanks, Kev, this really has been a great getaway. I recommend "mom's getaways" to all moms. It's a good thing.)
Friday afternoon I arrived and had a great time relaxing in my gorgeous Le Meridien Hotel room for a few hours before I got to go to the St. Supery Winery for a BlogHer/Bertolli Frozen Foods dinner. I entered a contest and was one of about 20 bloggers chosen to attend this dinner, which was endorsed and some of it made by Chef Rocco DiSpirito.
Do not laugh at me in the picture, I feel like I look like a deer caught in the headlights (not to mention I think I look fat--but don't I always!), but here's Rocco and I.
It was so fun to see him. (If you know me, you know I like seeing and meeting famous people. He mingled with everyone and ate dinner right there with us. He stopped and talked about each of the courses he prepared (my pictures of the food turned out horribly-so I will spare you that!). Rocco is endorsing Bertolli Frozen Meals and I think he has great reason to do so. I thought their frozen pasta dishes were pretty darn good! Some were better than others, but I especially liked their Chianti Braised Beef & Rigatoni and the Mushroom Lasagna in a tasty tomato rosa sauce (The mushroom lasagna is not available in stores yet--but will be VERY soon!) I'm sure I'll stock a few of these ready to make and EASY meals in my freezer and am super glad I got to try them! Thanks, Laura and Stacy (Ogilvy) and all the Bertolli crew as well as Gina and Erin from BlogHer! They gave us a nice gift pack of a bottle of wine (Enjoy, Anna!), a Flip Video Camera and we're told they are sending us a signed copy of one of Rocco's cookbooks! Thanks, Bertolli!
Part of the evening, duh, since it was at a winery was pairing the best wines with the different pasta dishes. You may know that I don't drink alcohol. Never have. Never will. I still enjoyed getting the chance to go to the winery, it was beautiful. And it was fun observing the others around me enjoying all the different wines throughout the evening and watching their personalities change as they'd had more and more to drink! ;) Some handled it better than others. (By the time we got to the winery, it was just getting dark, so we didn't get to take pictures of the outside. Beautiful wine country though! I kept thinking of Cathy at Noble Pig while I was at the winery. She and her husband are starting a vineyard in Oregon, you know. And someday, she'll be the one talking all about the wine and sharing her love of it with all the visitors. For now, she has a light hearted, delicious blog!
I'd never met Anna until yesterday, but felt like we were old friends. I am glad she talked me in to going to the conference and that I got to put a real person with this blogging friend I've enjoyed baking and chatting with for a while now.
I'm kind of lame in the picture taking department--lame in that I chicken out of telling people I want their picture and really lame when I'm in the picture myself. But I totally enjoyed meeting so many people whose blogs I've loved and had the pleasure of reading and looking at for a while now! I will probably forget some, but especially enjoyed meeting---
Mary of The Food Librarian (Can you say--YUMMY bundt cakes? The myth has been resolved. Not all librarians are old ladies with buns in their hair. hehe Mary is a great, young gal with a tasty blog and she just happens to be a librarian, too.)
Wendy of Pink Stripes (A fellow Tuesday's With Dorie baker whose blog leaves me drooling!)
Maria of Two Peas and Their Pod (Maria's blog is newer than mine and she's probably in her early 20's, but she bakes, cooks and blogs like an old pro! If I was in Utah, I'd want to eat at her place!)
Nicole of Baking Bites (Nicole's blog is one of the first I ever started reading. And besides Cookie Madness is probably the site I turn to for yummy recipes that I know will turn out every time. I've made a lot of Nicole's recipes and can't wait to buy her new cookbook--a picture with every recipe, my favorite--that and it's all delicious looking baked goods!)
Jenn of Just Jenn Recipes (A new blogger with more yummy food!)
Lori of The Recipe Girl (I didn't even realize Lori was on the bus in the seat right in front of me to the winery until they had us all introduce ourselves and tell about our blogs. Lori's blog is another I've enjoyed for a while now.)
Tiffany of The Cookie Blog (Again, didn't realize she was on the bus to the winery until she introduced herself to everyone. I kept thinking she looked familiar. Her blog--Hello, it's all about cookies!)
There are more bloggers I met, those are some off the top of my head, it was great to meet everyone that I met!
The conference was really good, full of lots of great speakers, all of which who have very successful blogs. I attended sessions which included some of these great bloggers.
check them out more!)
Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen (love looking at all her healthy dishes and pictures of Utah and have for a couple years now!)
Lauren (Lolo) Ulm of Vegan Yum Yum (I'm not vegan and don't ever plan on being vegan, but she was a great speaker and I can't wait to see more of her blog--she also has a cookbook coming out!)
Elana Amsterdam of Elana's Pantry (I'm not gluten-free, but have loved her blog for a few years now. Take a look at her gorgeous photos! Elana also has MS, which is a topic near and dear to me and makes me "love" her even more! Elana can take a picture of simple, plain old kale like nobody's business!)
Michelle Lentz of My Wine Education (Enjoyed listening to her ideas about blogging.)
Those were the panelist at the first session I attended. After Anna and I sat on the floor (packed room!) for this session, there was a break and food demonstration by a former Top Chef participant. It was LOUD in the room full of people talking and Anna and I decided to go outside and take a walk. We took our BlogHer conference swag bags back to her hotel so we didn't have to lug them around the rest of the day. Then we took a taxi back to the St. Regis where the conference was held. Lunch was being served.
Rocco was at it again, telling us about Bertolli frozen meals and even showing us how quick they are to prepare. The tables were set very nicely and we ate a nice salad with tuna, three more Bertolli pastas and a roll. Anna and I skipped out on dessert (milk chocolate panna cotta--by Rocco--I've never cared for panna cotta/flan type desserts), but we wanted to go get an actual chair at the next session.
The next session we attended was great, too. (I'm being too lazy to write all about the things we learned, but it all helped me figure out which direction I want to go with my blog.) The speakers in this session were--
Amy Sherman of Cooking With Amy (I wasn't familiar with her blog, but met her because Anna knows her. She is very knowledgeable in the blogging world and really nice. I'm excited to add her blog to my reader, especially as I just went to her blog so I could link it and right there front and center was one of my favorite things--peanut butter and banana on a slice of bread!)
Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen (Jaden has a cookbook coming out. The photos on her blog are divine!)
Helen Dujardin of Tartelette (Helen's blog is beautiful and yummy. She is a "real" pastry chef/food writer/recipe developer/food stylist/food photographer/food class instructor/WHEW! That's a lot of talent!)
Had enough of all these blog link reviews? Then stop reading this. ;) I'm going to continue. Why? Just because I feel like it.
The final session of the day that I attended was a fun panel that included---
Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman (Ever heard of her? Who hasn't, really? She was a joy to listen to. Somehow, as a mom of four, home schooler, among other things, she has five great blogs!)
Diane Jacob of Will Write For Food (Fun foodie reading!)
Garrett McCord of Vanilla Garlic (If you want to know what kind of guy Garrett is, check out a recent post of his about Pumpkin Bread Pudding with shaved chocolate and look at his caption on the photo of chocolate on a grater. Too funny, but please, take his advice!)
Susan Russo of Food Blogga (Oh my gosh, there's so many great blogs out there, here is yet another!)
Photo intermission-------------------------------------------- Feel free to get up and stretch your legs for a second.
Next up was another demonstration by Chef Elizabeth Falkner. She took a bunch of Scharffen Berger chocolate ganache, gooey caramel, homemade marshmallows, some spicy spices, pretzels, peanut butter, Corn Nuts and a few other things and combined it with her hands. Then she let conference goers put on plastic gloves and dig in by the handfuls and eat the concoction out of their hands. I did not take any, but everyone who did sure thought it was fun and delicious.
We then attended the closing keynote by three popular bloggers which again included--
Ree of The Pioneer Woman
Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes (Food blogging at its best.)
And one of my newest favorites, David Lebovitz (Ice Cream hero of my life this summer! David added some nice humor to the panel as he enjoyed taking a friendly jab at Ree and Elise during the discussions.)
I knew this picture I took wouldn't come out very well because of the lighting in the room, but here's Ree, David and Elise.
And THAT concluded the conference. Whew. Why did I link all those blogs? Really, for my own benefit.
I ordered a salad and a little dessert from the hotel's room service for dinner Saturday night. A gigantic Asian salad that I felt like I really plowed through, but still left quite a bit uneaten. I should have taken a picture of the thing. As Sam says about lots of things these days, "giant". It's so cute, you should hear him say it. I must be missing my bebes.
I first thought this Bittersweet Chocolate Chip Cheesecake with fresh berries and caramel drizzle looked a little wimpy for the price I paid for it ($8), but after eating the salad, this was the perfect amount of cheesecake and the berries with caramel were delicious!
The cheesecake doesn't even look that great, (I hate the lighting in hotel rooms!) but I thought it tasted fabulous.
Today (Sunday), I dilly dallied through the morning, realized my hotel was only a few blocks from the Ferry Building, went for a little walk around the area and worked a little on this blog post.
Embarcadero Center and Ferry Building
While I was down at the Ferry Building, a 10K Race for the Cure for Breast Cancer Awareness was going on.
I was feeling a little welling up inside as I watched people run to the finish line for a bit. I thought it was great to hear little groups of people cheering the runners on as they were almost done. Someday I'd like to run a benefit race of some kind.
Anna and I met up at 12:30 with Rina! We had never met Rina before, but she is a reader of our blogs, who talked with Anna about meeting as she lives in the area. She was so nice to meet up with us. She made us some cupcakes--Red Velvet. I took two of them and gave Anna the rest to take home. Rina--they seriously are really good, very moist and I love the little chocolate chips inside. Get that blog started! Can't wait to see more! ;)
We had lunch at Tartine, which was an interesting, busy bakery with funky art on the walls.
Here is Anna and I at Citizen Cake , which is owned by Elizabeth Falkner, the executive chef who was at the Food BlogHer Conference and has also appeared on Food Network and is quite the renowned chef! Lots of yummy things at Citizen Cake!
Thanks for the rabbit ears, Anna! ;)
Yummy cookies. I assume. I bought a couple. The German Chocolate cookie and "the" chocolate chip cookie. Didn't try them. I accidentally left them in Rina's car! Oh well. I'll bet they were good and heaven knows I didn't NEED them! ;)
What a couple of great ladies!
Rina then took us to the Ferry Building for some shopping. I bought one of these giant cookies. They are from Scharffen Berger. A little crisp, but mostly chewy and the chocolate is FINE!
More crappy hotel room lighting.
Thanks again for spending the afternoon with us, Rina!
Anna and I said our goodbyes, then I took a little break in the hotel room before deciding I wanted to make my way down to Fisherman's Wharf. It was probably close to two miles there and another two back. But I'm so happy I did it. Loved seeing more of good old San Francisco and it was gorgeous warm weather with a nice breeze.
I thought, "Oh cool, there's some sea lions out."
Then I walked a little further down the pier where there was a much bigger crowd of people. And lots of funny barking noises. Then I saw the real party.
I am pretty sure the last time I was in San Francisco--15, 16, 17 years ago there were NO sea lions out. I read this. Cool.
Way off in the distance of this next one you can see Golden Gate Bridge. It was just starting to get a little foggy, so I never did get a good picture of it. Sure purty out there though!
I passed by Boudin Bakery where you can watch bakers prepare some of the bread. You can also talk through the window to them (the bakers, not the crab. Ba dum dum!). Look at this giant crab loaf and cute pig.
I got me a half turkey/avocado sandwich and little salad to go. Didn't realize until I got back to my hotel to eat it that they didn't give me a fork. I had a spoon in the room. You ever try eating a salad with a spoon?
Both the salad and the sandwich were really good. Just don't tell anyone that I mostly ate the salad with my fingers (worked much better than the spoon did!).
Before heading back though, I made my way a little further to Ghirardelli Square. I wanted to because it brings back memories of when I was in San Fran with Mandi (my sister).
My boys will LOVE these pictures. They'll probably also like the bag of taffy I got for them!
The Candy Barrel Store
And that, my friends, is possibly my longest post ever (I'm not sure though, because NYC last year in April were some pretty long ones.) This is how I can only get it done. I know that once I go home tomorrow, I'll have a much harder time than sitting in the quiet of the hotel room. Again, THANKS, Kev, for working it out for me to go on this trip!