Friday, April 20, 2012

Nourished and GFAF Expo: The Recap

Kelli during Happy Hour at Nourished, a food blogger conference.
Today's post has been a week in the making, and as I sit down to write it, I lament the fact that I don't have better photos to do it justice. Last weekend Kelli and I traveled to Chicago for dual events—Nourished, a food blogger conference, and the annual Gluten- and Allergen-Free Expo.

In the interest of traveling light, I left behind our digital SLR camera (never again) and opted instead to just use our brand-spanking-new iPhone. Blech. What a mistake! Perhaps there is some secret I don't know yet, but as far as I can tell, iPhone cameras are good at taking low-quality, blurry photographs, and not much else.

I can't blame this post's lack of photography solely on the iPhone, however. I'm partly to blame, too. Frankly, I was so wrapped up with being "in the moment" of the weekend's events that I didn't pay much attention to photography. In part by design, I snapped relatively few photos. While other bloggers were dutifully snapping pictures with friends and colleagues, of expo vendors, of their plates of food, I left the phone in my pocket or in my computer bag.

Now I'm battling a tinge of photographer's remorse, wishing I'd snapped even a few more pictures, if for no other reason than to commemorate a truly memorable weekend. I hate to say it, but in some respects, you just had to be there, and if you weren't, you missed out on something special. It's true.

In trying to succinctly sum up the tenor of the weekend, two themes keep popping up in my mind: community and relationships. They are, in no small measure, part of what makes the gluten-free world go 'round. Amy (of Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free) eloquently said as much in her closing remarks to the Nourished half of the weekend.
The Crave ladies, Jamie and Kyra (left and middle), with celiac and Mrs. Alaska International Brandy Wendler.
Attending events like those of last weekend results in a kind of "all the planets are aligning" sort of intersection of the myriad corners of our own gluten-free world. We reconnect with friends and colleagues; meet fellow cookbook authors and bloggers; meet readers of this blog (some of who are wonderful bloggers in their own right, such as Alison of A Girl ... Defloured); chat with folks who've owned and used our cookbooks for years ... and sign copies of our cookbooks for newly gluten-free folks who'll be making our recipes for the very first time in the days and weeks following the event; network with the established as well as up-and-coming gluten-free product companies (I'm thinking of you, Bard's, New Planet, Gluten-Free Living, Living Without, Rudi's, Mary's Gone Crackers, and others!); and so much more. It's an incredible form of one-stop shopping.

At Nourished on Friday morning, I teamed up with Kim (of Gluten-Free Passport) to give a presentation about publishing. She covered ebooks and apps, while I covered traditional book publishing—the pros and cons of finding a publisher versus self-publishing; do you need a literary agent; the elements of building a strong book proposal; the ins and outs of publishing contracts; etc. Meanwhile, Mary Fran (of Frannycakes) gave a concurrent and popular session on building your blog's brand. (She's launching a series of short e-cookbooks starting in May ... check out her blog for more!)

Later in the day, Silvana (of Easy Eats) and Cybele (of The Allergy-Friendly Cook) shared their thoughts on attracting media attention. As always, they were as engaging and entertaining as they were insightful. Other sessions included the topics of food photography, food writing, recipe development, and much more.
Preparing samples for our Breads class at the GFAF Expo. Kelli (right) in the kitchen with Beth Hillson (red), a volunteer, and Denise San Filippo (black hat).
Saturday was the main Expo day, and Kelli and I spent most of the time at the Author's Row, shakin' hands and kissin' babies. (OK, so maybe we were actually smiling at passersby, selling cookbooks, and chatting with lots of friendly folks.) We shared the row with a number of other authors who are likely already familiar to you: Laura (of The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen), Karen (of Blackbird Bakery), and Robert (of The Gluten-Free Chef), among several others.

We spent our share of quality time with Jen (of So Simple Gluten Free), Amie (of The Healthy Apple), Tess (of Healthy Blender Recipes), Cheryl (of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness) and many others who I've invariably neglected to mention but who completely deserve to be in this blog post. Please forgive the omission!

Of course, the weekend was filled with much food. Saturday night, for example, we paired up with Andrea (of Rockin' Gluten-Free), Jamie and Kyra (of Food Network's Cupcake Wars-winning Crave Bake Shop), and Brandy Wendler (of Mrs. Alaska International fame) to head to a local P.F. Chang's for some tasty gluten-free eats.

Also, coming Monday, we'll share our recipe for a gluten-free version of a Chicago classic—Chicken Vesuvio—inspired by Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse & Bar. Stay tuned!
Gluten-free bagels fresh out of the industrial-size convection oven.
Sunday for us was spent largely in the kitchen, preparing samples for our Breads class that afternoon. Beth Hillson (of Gluten-Free Makeovers) tackled the first hour-plus of the class, before handing the reins over to Kelli and me. We demonstrated our Rosemary Focaccia, Baguette, and Long Island Bagels. Huge thanks to Denise, Cece, Jen, and all their generous volunteers who gave their time to help our session happen!

Although we've done it before, it's always an adventure to make your own recipes in someone else's kitchen with unfamiliar trappings. For example, the hotel kitchen's massive convection ovens browned our breads very quickly ... even when we baked them at 50 deg F lower temperatures for only a fraction of the normal time. Crazy!

And then, seemingly all too soon, the weekend came to a close. We said our incremental good byes, as different people migrated to the airport for their respective flights. We boarded our flight, too, and at last pulled into the driveway at our home in the Hudson Valley at 1:00am Monday morning.

Already later that morning, we were thinking, When can we do that again?



Melissa said...

Pete and Kelli,

It's so nice to read this round-up of the event. I was very disappointed that I couldn't be there, but your narration of events and your iPhone photos gave me a feeling of being there. Your photos aren't that bad, although I know what you mean. It's not easy to get good shots with a phone. In fact, I have trouble with the basics of my iPhone, let alone using it as a camera. =)

Well, I sure wish I had been there! It sounds great. Next time!


peterbronski said...

Hi Melissa... Sorry you weren't able to make it to Chicago, but we know how it is when life gets busy. We're hoping to possibly make it to Seattle in June, where you're speaking. We'll keep you updated! As for Chicago, next time indeed!

Cheers, Pete

mary fran | frannycakes said...

it was so good to see you both in Chicago! It is always refreshing to see more of people than just their twitter avatars :)

And thanks for the shout out for my ebooks!

WorldPeaceFood said...

Hi Pete and Kelli! Loved working with you at the expo! This recap is wonderful. I happen to have some very nice pictures of your bagels, both whole and open and sliced with jam, and a photo of your baguette whole and sliced, from when I made them at home. I am in the process of writing my blog post about the expo also and was going to use the photos to highlight some of my favorites! I am happy to forward the photos to you if you would like. I only have an iphone, but the pictures are really pretty nice. Carol Keating

Alison said...

Thanks for the shout out! It was such a great weekend, though I too am lacking pictures. (And I even dragged my big camera there). I'm a notorious over-packer. Sigh. At any rate, I loved meeting you both and hope we can see each other again someday.

peterbronski said...

Hi Alison... It was great meeting you as well! Hope to cross paths in person with you again soon!

Cheers, Pete and Kelli

peterbronski said...

Hi Carol... Thanks for your kind offer re: photos. Sounds great! And look forward to reading your blog post!

Cheers, Pete