EAT. DRINK. BLOG. conference, perth 2013

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Last weekend, I was privileged to attend the fourth annual Eat Drink Blog conference at Perth City Farm in East Perth, Western Australia. Spanning an entire Saturday and half of Sunday, the conference included nine learning modules, a fully sponsored Saturday night pop-up dinner and three half-day elective masterclasses, all of which required huge amounts of pre-event organisation.

So, before I write about anything else, I want to say a huge thank you to the dedicated, ever-smiling committee who organised this generous event for Australian bloggers. None of this would have happened without you.

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Saturday 09/11/2013: EAT DRINK BLOG Conference

Perth City Farm is a lush, green oasis situated by the scattered grey landscape of Health Department buildings on Royal Street in East Perth. Built on the remnants of a former scrap metal yard, it now incorporates a sprawling community garden, urban farm and organic cafe, the latter of which stocks organic artisan bread from Loafers.

On Saturday mornings from 8am – 12 noon, the Farm plays host to a market full of small-batch cheeses, organic fruit and vegetables, free range eggs, biodynamic meats, homemade soaps and unrefined honey. Keen crowds mingle with passionate growers and producers in a happy dance, often to live bands or acoustic guitar.

rooster2

Upon arriving at the Farm, I immediately felt lifted by the smell of fresh apples and citrus bathed in soft morning sun. As I wove my way through groups of sticky children to the rear function room (a.k.a timber shed), I spotted a few people snapping photos of crusty bread with DSLR cameras. Bloggers? Quite possibly.

No, probably.

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The shed entrance was bordered by smiling fruit vendors who seemed slightly amused by the trickle of camera-wielding food bloggers who soon disappeared within. As I descended the stairs to register, I was greeted by the smile of an amiable volunteer. Lanyard, check. Program, check. My feet gravitated towards the steam rising from the 5 Senses coffee machine.

The first two meters of conference space were cluttered with slightly apprehensive, disquieted individuals who were assumedly attending a blogging conference for the first time. Their expressions mimicked the butterfly ramming the wall of my gut – excited, in a trapped kind of way.

As a fledgling blogger of eighteen months, I was completely unaccustomed to seeing groups of food bloggers (and their cameras) in a single confined space. Glazed pastries from Jean Pierre Sancho, Australian pears and ice-packed yoghurt from West n’Fresh were surrounded by a wall of bloggers searching for the best camera angles. I took some quick snaps before continuing my quest for coffee.

yoghurt pears

My coffee order was scrawled onto a paper cup by one of the deluged-but-smiling baristas at the 5 Senses coffee area. The air in the shed was hot due to external humidity and incessant sunshine, only slighty offset by oscillating fans.

I waited in the crowd, checking each appearing cup for the inked version of my name. Thankfully, the order was completed just before the official conference ‘welcome’ began. I squirreled myself, coffee cup in hand, into a nearby seat between Andrea from Noshbites and Jamie from Gourmet Male.

I sat, sipping thoughtfully as the beautiful Ai-Ling from Blue Apocalypse introduced the program for the day. Unfortunately, I remember very little apart from the toasty, rich, delicately floral coffee in that paper cup. Coffee can do that to you (thank goodness for paper programs).

coffee

The rest of the day was a haze of learning modules, panel discussions, food breaks and practical demonstrations including an interactive coffee workshop from Charles Stewart and Jeremy Hulsdunk (barista and customer services manager at 5 Senses Coffee/Perth Australian Barista Academy) and a breakdown on mobile blogging and social networking issues by Thang Ngo (blogger and food writer at Noodlies, see his presentation and the results of his conference survey here).

The official program is available here, incorporating relevant topics such as working with media and Public Relations, ‘sponsored posts’, ethical and legal issues within the world of copyright, blogging and photography. The speakers were dynamic, varied and utterly enthusiastic (despite the heat and huge amounts of sleep-inducing food) including:

  • Adam Roberts – cookbook author, food writer and United States blogger at Amateur Gourmet
  • Ed Charles – internet consultant, journalist and blogger at Tomato
  • Jeremy Hulsdank – above mentioned barista and customer services manager at 5 Senses Coffee/Perth Australian Barista Academy
  • Russell Blaikie – head chef and manager of MUST Wine Bar in Mount Lawley and Muster bar and grill in Margaret River
  • Michael Tucak – arts lawyer from Creative Legal
  • Cynthia Chew – food writer and blogger from The Food Pornographer
  • Phil Lees – social media manager and food writer from The Last Appetite
  • Max Brearley – freelance journalist and blogger at Pub Diaries
  • Emma Galloway – cookbook author, ex-chef and blogger at My Darling Lemon Thyme
  • Sophie Budd – chef at Taste Budds caterers and cooking school
  • Anthony Georgeoff – editor of Spice magazine, blogger at Manthatcooks
  • Simon Park – photographer and blogger at The Heart of Food
  • Thang Ngo – above mentioned food writer, commentator and blogger at Noodlies
  • Paul Kilmurray – founder of Urban Locavore (project involving WA artisan producers, delivering fresh produce to your door)
  • Kiren Mainwaring – head chef from the incredible Co-Op Dining restaurant in East Perth

If you’d like to peruse some of the very worthy write-ups from other attendees of the event, please follow the media link here. There are also some incredible photo diaries such as Rachi’s snapshots on Le Bon Vivant.

I’d also like to echo the common thanks expressed by attendees to the incredibly generous food sponsors including the team at European Foods (the primary event sponsors) who created an incredible continental lunch spread with freshly-shaved jamon, Scotch eggs with truffle aioli, cheeses, antipasti, Baci chocolates and San Pellegrino drinks. Brownes dairy sponsored the venue whilst also providing creamy milk for coffees throughout the day (thanks again to the tireless baristas at 5 Senses coffee). Morning and afternoon tea cakes, tarts and other treats were provided by Littlesweet baking and Red Hot Spatula catering. We were well and truly spoiled.

littlesweetAfter the conclusion of the official program, we had just under two hours for drinks at the nearby Royal on the Waterfront before heading back to the venue for a Pop-up Twilight Market dinner. Thanks to Matt at Inspired Food, Jemima from Feed Your Soul, Perth, Jamie at Gourmet Male and Dianne at Travelletto for the ciders, laughs and perfect company. Two hours has never gone so quickly.

buttys

Saturday 09/11/2013: POP-UP Dinner

The air had cooled considerably by the time we made our way back to the urban farmstead. Shadows fell on the pavement in dappled forms as dry leaves crackled underfoot.

We wove our way through the front gates into the main courtyard of the farm, where food bloggers congregated around plastic tables. They sipped from mint-tinged cups of Jax Coco and crunched on crisp-fried empanadas from Marcelita’s Colombian foods. Music hummed in the background, setting a merry rhythm as vendors assembled their wares.

galafrey hall Matt, Jemima and I decided to share plates in an effort to sample everything in one giant hit (we were slightly unrealistic, as we were still defeated by Butty’s burger van).

Our first stop was Jax Coco for incredible coconut water cocktails followed by a glass of 2010 Tempranillo Shiraz from Mount Barker-based Galafrey wines. The latter was delicious; peppery and fruit driven, a perfect accompaniment to chewy, hand-stretched Old Lira pizza and succulent pork and potato empanadas from Marcelitas.

empanadasAfter crunching our way through an empanada each, we visited Bangkok Jump Street for crispy pork crackling salad and Pad Thai. The combination of flavours and textures in the salad was incredible; soft herbs and dressed greens with crunchy crackling and cubes of tender pork. Great food made even better by the friendly vendors serving it.

jumpstreetIn reflection, my very favourite food truck was the Jumplings dumpling van. Juicy, soft Japanese-style duck dumplings in ponzu sauce with chilli and coriander? My version of dumpling heaven. I’d encourage you to check their facebook page often so that you can stalk them every day of the week. On hot days, they also wear Chux wipes as sweatbands. I like.

jumplings

I failed to get a picture of the Delish Ice artisan ice-pops van, but I can assure you that those girls know how to make a delicious popsicle. I tried their wonderful passionfruit, mint and lime (as they had run out of the very unique basil and elderflower with gin syrup).

The popsicle was ice-cold, tropical and refreshing, like the best parts of a fruity mojito on a hot summer’s day, as was an ice-cold gin and tonic with West Winds uniquely Australian Sabre gin (unfortunately they had run out of Cutlass, instilled with coriander and bush tomato… I’m on the hunt to buy myself a bottle).

By the end of the evening, we were full of heart, mind and stomach, ready for sleep before the next day’s elective adventures began. Thanks again to the Eat Drink Blog Committee and all of the sponsors for an unforgettable foodie experience. I can’t wait for next year.

*Click here for my experience at Sunday 10/11/2013: Cocktail and Cuisine Masterclass at The Classroom

47 responses

  1. Isn’t it the most fun connecting with other food bloggers?! I had the opportunity to attend BlogHer Food in Austin this past summer and as much as I enjoyed the workshops and food treats, the best part was getting to meet folks who were passionate about food and preparing it.

    • I’d definitely agree that the networking and friendships were the best part of the conference! I loved the opportunity to meet similar-minded foodies from around the country :) It must’ve been wonderful to attend the BlogHer event… as far as I know that’s a huge network of foodies! It’s wonderful putting ‘faces to names’ after communicating with fellow bloggers online for a period of time xx

    • Hahaa, definitely do it. Think of the works that could be written over the course of a weekend! Or start an ethical bloggers conference…? That’d be one of the most useful in the world, methinks! xxx

  2. The second I read the words “blog” and “conference” I had images of hoards of camera wielding foodies all honing in on a single cupcake or rustic loaf, and it sounds like you had just a bit of that (although with more food to choose from)! I think I’d have been a bit embarrassed taking photos when nearly everyone else was too, but you clearly kept your composure and managed to get some amazing photos. Beautiful! I love the hen one :)
    It sounds like a great event and you must have had an super time!

    • Hahaaa, yes you were entirely right Trixie. It was quite confronting actually, I managed to snap a few photographs but none of them are framed quite as I would like (I’m not acquainted with getting in other people’s way so I was rather inhibited over the weekend!). The rooster photo is probably my favourite. I snuck out of the conference room and spotted them in their pen. I hadn’t seen a white bantam rooster before, quite a handsome sort!! xx

    • Sounds great, these warmer nights are perfect for cider and good company (and of course, food, we are food bloggers after all!). I’m pretty sure the Perthies were thinking about organising a bigger gathering in early January after the Christmas rush was over, but if you’re interested Jem and I were thinking about brekky or something before that? You work on Saturdays though. That sucks :(

      • Yes they are :) January sounds like a fantastic idea. :) I’d defiantly been keen to catch up for a brekky, just let me know when and where. I can just go in late to work on a saturday, because I have the power *insert evil laugh here* :)

    • I definitely agree Julie! Learning is definitely lots of fun and it was fantastic to be able to connect with so many other passionate food bloggers. Like Stephie, food bloggers are some of the most awesome people around… I feel lucky to be part of the community! xx

    • Thanks Maria! It was so much fun. Food bloggers are honestly some of the most lovely people around, I feel quite privileged to be part of the community (both in my hometown and online, it’s a privilege to know passionate foodies from around the world like you!) xx

    • It was heaps of fun Whit. Definitely snap up the opportunity to go to one in your hometown if you can! It’s awesome to communicate with other food bloggers online but it’s an entirely different experience to communicate and share ideas etc face to face. Very cool :) xx

  3. Oh goodness, this sounds like an incredibly stimulating environment – the photograph opportunities, the potential conversations, the inspiring meals – all wonderful. makes me want to find a blogger conference somewhere up in the midwest :)

    • Definitely go to one if there’s an opportunity! It was such a fantastic experience, I loved meeting so many passionate foodies from all over Australia. It’s amazing meeting similar-minded people online (like you!) but to see some of them face to face is even better. I’m hoping to go again next year. Thanks for the sweet comment Jen xx

  4. How wonderful, you sound like you had such a great time. One day I hope to attend a bloggers conference, Everything sounds great, food, company, speakers. I would really like one of those dumplings now, sounds delicious.

    • Thanks Suz, yes definitely go to one if there’s an organised event in your area! So much fun, definitely felt spoilt and I’ve made a few lovely connections that I hope to maintain in my local area. Oh, and the dumplings? Divine. I loved every bite! xxx

    • Haha, it was definitely almost a perfect weekend… would’ve been perfect if you and some of my other non-local blogging friends were there! Maybe one day we can get some rich benefactor to fly us all somewhere for an international blogging conference. I can dream! x

      • We live in Sydney but my partner is from Perth and I know it and WA vv well. Consulted on the master plans for a lot of east perth (and lived back in perth for a few months 2 years ago) so feel I know that area particularly well. So coffee sounds good but…maybe we could meet somewhere on the nullabour!

      • Ah, we love hanging out at Claisebrook cove… very cool to know that you consulted on the plans. There’s an awesome cafe there called ‘Toast’ that you may be aware of. Very good coffee. The last time I went to the Nullabor was when I was 13 years old… half a lifetime ago! I can’t remember much of it, except that we hit a kangaroo :(

      • ha – we were zooming along the nullabor and got speed camera-ed by a plane at 153km per hour. Fortunately we were in wa otherwise would have been arrested! Just a massive on the spot fine. Glad to hear you’re enjoying CC – I did subi-centro too. Enjoy the weekend!

    • Oh, you should definitely go to next year’s conference Uru! I’m betting it’ll be back over east now that WA has had a turn. It’s free and a fantastic opportunity to meet and network with other bloggers (plus you get free stuff, haha). Take a look at the website for regular updates: http://eatdrinkblog.org/ xx

    • They were so, so good Jen!! Pretty sure that dumplings of any kind are one of God’s special gifts to mankind! Hope that you get an opportunity to go next year, I’m pretty sure it’ll be back over east again xx

  5. This sounds sooooooooooo fun!!!! I’m so jealous, but so glad you had fun. Thanks for taking all the pics and sharing the experience with us! Super fun to read!

    • Thanks Erika! I do hope that you get a chance to go to a blogging conference some time soon. It’s awesome to be able to network with other bloggers and feel like our weird blogging behaviour is normal, haha! Wish that you could’ve been there :) x

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