#IFBC 2013 I Went, I Learned, I Ate

I spent my last IFBC recap post swooning over Dorie Greenspan and being a total fan girl over my fellow bloggers. Today, it’s all about making y’all jealous over the amazing food I ate, the ridiculous free swag I received and the informative sessions I attended that will hopefully make me a better blogger!

IFBC's amazing sponsors.

IFBC’s amazing sponsors.

For real, all I did the entire weekend was EAT. I was in a continual state of fullness the entire time.

We kicked off Friday afternoon with lunch provided by Chipotle Mexican Grill. You had a meat or a veggie option. Since I’m a hard core carnivore, I chose the pork carnita, which was a delicious bowlful of rice, guacamole, pulled pork and salsa. I then washed it down with two mini ice cream cones (coffee and red velvet) from Cupcake Royale. So so so good.

We then listened to Dorie’s keynote speech and immediately launched into the Amazon Grocery live blogging session. Amazon now has an online grocery store and they supplied us with bags upon bags of free stuff to sample while live blogging/tweeting/Instagramming/Facebooking/blogging. What really impressed me was the quality of the products, a lot of which were GMO-free, organic and fairly healthy. Most of the companies who provided samples are striving to be ethical in how they did business and how they produce their food. Most importantly, it was all super yummy.

Our bag of goodies.

Our bag of goodies.

I can't tell you how many of these I ate or how many bags I took home.

I can’t tell you how many of these I ate or how many bags I took home.

After eating all the free snacks and practically vibrating from my sugar high, I chose my first session, The Elements of Building Traffic hosted by Judith Dern from Allrecipes.com and the Foodista dream team, Richard Kozel, Barnaby Dorfman and Sheri Wetherell. They gave us extremely practical and helpful information, including:

– your blog won’t stand out based only on SEO
– the most important element for your blog is quality content. They recommended making your posts shorter rather than longer and posting more often. Be consistent so that your readers know what to expect
– invest in Pinterest. Your numbers will go up big time!
– invest in automated distribution of your posts, such as hootsuite, tweetdeck, dlvr.it and ifttt
– if you are finding you can’t manage everything you need done with your blog, you can hire someone through odesk.com. You pay them online and they can help you with a variety of tasks. Foodista uses the services of odesk.com regularly
– measure your traffic with Google analytics
– set up a Facebook page for your blog
– always practice writing
– put a search item in your title or your first sentence with a hashtag
– think about how people search on line and then use those search terms. For example, people will likely use the word “drinks” more often than “beverage”
– use free Google trends and Google ad words to find out what’s popular and then blog about those trends

We then had a few hours to kill before A Taste of Seattle and Gourmet Fair started. Imagine a giant conference room full of restaurants, wineries and other vendors, like Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch (seriously, the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted) handing out the finest they have to offer.

Sablefish ceviche from Poquitos Mexican Food.

Sablefish ceviche from Poquitos Mexican Food.

This olive oil was so good, I wanted to drink it.

This olive oil was so good, I wanted to drink it.

As much sushi as you could possibly want from the W Hotel's kitchen.

As much sushi as you could possibly want from the W Hotel’s kitchen.

I was so busy eating, I didn’t get as many photos of the vendors and the food as I wanted. Standouts for me were giant, perfectly smoked scallops (I’m so sorry to whichever restaurant made them – I didn’t note your name. Believe me, I loved them!) and the sipping caramel from Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery.

At the same time, there was an entire room full of free swag for us to walk around and fill up bags. And fill bags we did! Most of us had unload the swag in our rooms because it was just too heavy to lug around.

This is only a fraction of the swag room.  I was too busy grabbing stuff to take photos!

This is only a fraction of the swag room. I was too busy grabbing stuff to take photos!

Here I am monkeying around with Vane, Linda and Alice during the Taste of Seattle, sipping wine and modelling our new toques from Mail Chimp.

On Saturday morning, breakfast was hosted by Pastry Smart, an awesome California based bakery that specializes in artisan breads, pastry products and fine chocolates using all-natural, organize and American Human Certified ingredients. I love what their company stands for and what they’re accomplishing. Their food was absolutely delicious.

Apricot jam on sourdough bread, biscuit with whipped cream and strawberries, baked brie and ham.

Apricot jam on sourdough bread, biscuit with whipped cream and strawberries, baked brie and ham.

After our yummy breakfast, there was a food demo by Chef John Mitzewich of Food Wishes and Jeffrey Lunak of Blue C Sushi (there was a second chef from Blue C but I didn’t catch his name).
This was so much fun. The chefs were hilarious, constantly smack talking (my favourite kind of talk). Andrew Scrivani, the phenomenally talented food photographer for the New York Times, was also on hand to make insulting comments. We then launched directly into a photography session by Andrew. His photos are ah-may-zing. I can only hope that one day my photos will look one tenth as good as his.

Andrew had some invaluable tips and no, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars or have the most expensive equipment to take stunning photographs.

My favourite tips:
– always shoot in raw
– never ever give away your raw photos
– two words: macro lens. Use it!
– natural light is so important
– you can use cheap little boards to reflect light. He pulled out a large plastic ziplock bag full of boards, many of which he got for free when buying shirts or t-shirts.

We then broke for lunch, where again, several restaurants from Seattle were on hand to provide us with tasty offerings. I enjoyed Andrew’s presentation so much that after lunch, I went to his session on photography workflow. Much of what he said applied to the business of food photography but it was still informative.

After that, from 4:00 p.m. onwards, I spent the rest of my Saturday eating. No joke.

I went to a food and wine pairing hosted by Chateau Ste. Michelle winery.

6 glasses of wine, 5 appetizers.

6 glasses of wine, 5 appetizers.

Vane and I "learning" during the food and wine session.

Vane and I “learning” during the food and wine session.

As soon as we left that session, Alaska Seafood hosted a Taste of Alaska Seafood Reception featuring dishes such as:
Halibut corn dogs.

Halibut corn dogs.

Bacon wrapped scallop sliders.  The scallop was as big as the bun!

Bacon wrapped scallop sliders. The scallop was as big as the bun!

I then rolled myself upstairs to my room where I lay in bed until the surprise dinner being hosted by Urban Spoon.
Urbanspoon totally brought it by hosting and sponsoring a surprise dinner for all 300+ attendees. They split us into groups of 10, loaded us onto shuttle buses and drove us to different Seattle restaurants where the entire bill was footed by Urbanspoon. They also gave us swag bags including Rub with Love nuts by Tom Douglas and a copy of Chef John Howie’s cookbook Passion and Palate.

My restaurant was Marjorie. It was my first time eating there and it was such a funky space with incredible food.

Check out this menu!  They brought us a lot of food, yo.

Check out this menu! They brought us a lot of food, yo.

Every mouthful was exquisite (especially the Painted Hills short rib steak) but my favourite part was dessert: warm brioche bread pudding with bourbon caramel, cream and house made toffee.
Oh.my.gawd. My group was fighting over every mouthful. The coolest part about dinner was meeting new bloggers, like my fellow Canucks Jacqueline of Cooking With Jax and Chef Heidi, as well as the super sweet Bee of Camera In Tow from Seattle. There was one other local Seattle blogger with us but I’m sorry to say I’ve forgotten her name! Sorry girl, it was a pleasure breaking bread with you.

I was so sad to wake up on Sunday morning. The last session I attended had to do with Google +. The presenter did a great job but I’m sorry, I’m still such a novice that 99% of what he said totally went over my head.

This conference, hosted by Foodista and Zephyr Adventures, just blew me away. The W Hotel was amazing. They provided excellent service, the hotel itself is a super cool, modern space, and everything went smoothly without a hitch. Their staff could turn down a room and switch it over so fast, you’d never have guessed it was a big mess just moments earlier.

IFBC was so successful this year, with over 100 people on the waiting list, that they’re increasing the attendees for next year to 500. It’s going to be the same weekend, in Seattle, at the Westin. I’d better register and get my ticket now!

Anyone care to join me? Need more convincing? Check out all the swag I lugged home. These photos don’t even do it justice!

It barely fits on my countertop!

It barely fits on my countertop!

I freaking love these nuts.

I freaking love these nuts.

I'm going to order a crate of this ginger beer from Amazon groceries!

I’m going to order a crate of this ginger beer from Amazon groceries!

I love free kitchen stuff.

I love free kitchen stuff.

26 thoughts on “#IFBC 2013 I Went, I Learned, I Ate

  1. OMG I don’t even know where to begin! First off, I def wanna go next year. With the amount of food, swag and info gained over that weekend, it sounds like it was worth every penny (and paid for itself!). Some of the things you discussed such as automated distribution, shooting in raw, and hashtagging are all things I never even knew. Very informative. Thanks!

  2. All right, Miss Nancy, Miss Rock Star blogger, Miss Probably Most Likely to Succeed – you have succeeded in making this usually pink Ninja Baker a tad green. But envy aside, as usual, I enjoyed vicariously diving into all the IBFC goodies. Must say those desserts of red velvet ice cream and the bread pudding sound and look beyond! And I am oh, so, so happy that I’ve got a fellow food blogger who is voicing their concern about GMOs and saying bravo to nonGMO products. So, I am thrilled that your swag bag was filled by companies with a conscience…And oh, yes, wish I could have seen Dorie Greenspan – and you! – up, close and personal. Ah, well, there is always next year =)

  3. Okay, I loved every bit of this post. Especially the part about SEO not being the only thing that makes a blog stand out, because I don’t know what the hell that is, and also, the part about shooting in RAW because that’s all I do. I don’t know what the hell RAW is either, but I’ve had my camera switched to RAW files only for a few months, and it definitely makes me feel more sophisticated.

  4. I could have used that The Elements of Building Traffic seminar. I’m intrigued that they note pinterest primarily because I’m under utilizing it. I have no idea what I’m doing.

  5. Oh gosh, I just saw that registration was already open for last year. If only I could find a plane ticket to Seattle for less than $600. I’ll keep stalking the airlines and see what I can do, because I SO want to go!

    Sounds like you learned a lot. I must confess, I’m still intimidated by shooting in raw. I want to start, but I’m just….so lazy. haha. Also wish I had a macro lens!

  6. WOW. That swag is incredible. I’m definitely jealous! I don’t think it would have been the best year to go due to little Miss Lucy so I’m glad I can live vicariously through you! After a long weekend of travel, it was nice to end my Sunday here. I hope you have a wonderful start to your week!

  7. Nancy,
    omg, what a thorough post! I lived the conference all over again! 🙂 I loved experiencing IFBC with you, girl! I had so much fun. . I really hope we both get to go again next year!

  8. Ahhh, what an amazing, amazing post! I enjoyed this even more than the last. Thanks so much for sharing all the tidbits you learned and the food you ate. Kinda sad that there are some tips I just know I (we, as lawyers) will find super difficult to follow — posting more frequently, wah, getting natural light, wah. Haha. But you’re my shining beacon of hope! If you can do it, then hopefully I can do (at least some of) it (half as well) too. Also, I still definitely don’t know what SEO is and will probably never figure it out. But RAW is so fantastic! My parents used to talk about it all the time and I never understood until I started this blog.

  9. ok, you have succeeded Nancy in making me very jealous! Is it wrong that I want to go just for all of that food?! Omg!! I’m a pig…and would totally want to go just for the free food, haha! I laughed at you commenting on your continual state of being full…sounds like a good state to be in! Those maple pecans and ginger beer look to die for too!

  10. Oh my gosh, I am ridiculously jealous of everyone that went to this conference but also happy you got to experience it all! I cannot believe how much food they stuff you with and how much amazing free swag there is! I don’t know how much I’d get out of some of the sessions as certain things to boost traffic are just things I’d never have time or want to do, but alot of the info sounds really helpful and the whole thing would be worth it for the food!

  11. Loved reliving the IFBC through your write up! I think I am still full from all of the food. See you next year!

  12. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much swag from one conference before! Looks like a lot of fun. Wish I could fly out to Seattle and join you next year, but unless I win the lottery, that probably won’t happen. You should fly here instead 😉

  13. I have loved reading your conference posts, Nancy! Its wonderful to gather with people who share your passion…even better if there is amazing food involved. 🙂 I started with a small (100+) local conference this year (St. Louis Food Media Forum). It was just as you described the ifbc on a much smaller scale. Great people. Great info. Great food. I would love to expand my horizons and attend a bigger conference in the future. Now ifbc is on my radar! (ifbc should pay you as a spokeswoman!)

  14. Oh my gosh! Several people blogged about this affair but NONE of them told me the important stuff like what the food was and what kind of free stuff you got!!! My head is spinning over all the great pictures you took – don’t you just love John from FoodWishes?? Does his voice sound as dreamy in person as it does on Allrecipe videos??? What a great way to spend a weekend. I’m totally jealous now…….:)

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