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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
After 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.
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.
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.
After 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.
In 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.
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