What started as a seed of an idea early last spring, grew into something more than we could have ever imagined. Months of planning culminated this weekend in a whirlwind of a day filled with fabulous friends, food, knowledge, and connections. It was an immense success and well worth the effort that it took to plan it.
The fun began on Friday night with “A Taste of Tennessee” hosted by the Nashville Farmers’ Market. A dozen local vendors sampled their wares, from Loveless Cafe and their out of this world fried chicken and biscuits, to Perl Catering, who made what just might be the most delicious bite of spaghetti squash I’ve ever eaten. Olive & Sinclair brought a sneak peek of their newest products, buttermilk white chocolate and smoked brittle (omg). Corsair Artisan distillery offered a lovely blood orange and gin cocktail. I’m not a lemon-bar kind of girl but the lemon bars from O.Liv Body Bar made me happy from the inside out. Bathtub Gin’s preserves are always creative, and while I didn’t catch what exactly their little tomato jam-pastry bites were called, I may have eaten a few. Just a few. And cheese. Because I love me some cheese (and Kathleen at the Bloomy Rind never disappoints!). For dessert? Gotta get a Goo Goo Cluster (me? I love the peanut butter one best!)
While I’m not a beer drinker or a slaw-eater, the souvenir beer glasses that Yazoo had made just for us were, like totally awesome, and Mista Dale’s spicy slaw was something I can definitely get behind. I AM, however, a wine drinker (albeit a beginner), and found the blackberry wine from Grinder’s Switch quite delightful. Who says Tennessee isn’t wine country?
The market house is so pretty at night. Even more so when it’s full of good friends, both old and new.
Saturday, bright and early. After a near epic disaster involving some coffee makers and non-functioning power outlets (lesson: don’t EVER get in the way of food bloggers and their coffee), the real event began.
A packed house. 94 of us in all. The fact that each and every one of them went home with a door prize really says a lot about the generosity of our sponsors. I really felt like Oprah. You get a toaster! And you get a toaster! Everyone gets a toaster! (or KitchenAid, or cookware, or some other nifty kitchen gadget or gift). But enough about parties and prizes… we did some learning too.
The lovely Amanda, Jaden, and Arianna talking candidly about PR and working with brands. It was wonderful to hear about PR from multiple perspectives, both bloggers AND brands, and the session offered some great insight into how we all can get the most out of working with each other.
By that point, the collective rumble of our stomachs was pretty darn loud. Luckily, there was deliciousness on wheels waiting for us outside at the Food Truck Court!
Happy Eating served up some fabulous japanese treats. The mongolian beef tacos were especially scrumptious. And the caramel pocky ice cream? Don’t get me started. It’s life changing.
Always a favorite, Carlos and BJ of Riffs were there serving up their twist on Bahn Mi sandwiches and Shrimp & Grits. You know I love shrimp and grits. Jaden even called it the best grits she’s ever had! I have to agree.
And last but certainly not least, Yayo’s OMG! (stands for Original Mexican Gourmet, but the exclamation certainly fits the food as well.) Serving up mini pork and chicken taco bites and freshly fried tortilla chips with some sort of magic sauce. They were gone so quickly I’m surprised I had time to snap a picture. *crunch*
Back inside. Where the food coma could easily have gotten the best of us…
Leave it to Todd & Diane to bring energy to a dark room right after lunch. I don’t think there was a droopy eye in the room. Their passion and creativity are incredibly contagious. It wasn’t hard to leave feeling energized and inspired.
The final session of the day was a unique one, which gave attendees the opportunity to speak more personally with our speakers and experts. From photography to recipe development, blog design (from yours truly!) to SEO and social media, the choice of topics was impressive.
Phew. Tired yet? Considering I had been up since 5:45am I should have been, but there was so much energy in the room that the exhaustion simply disappeared. I was running on excitement and adrenaline.
Good thing, too, because we weren’t done yet.
The Saturday after-party took us to The Patterson House, one of Nashville’s coolest bars, even cooler now after so generously hosting this event for us. They really outdid themselves.
Those, my friends, are fried goat cheese balls. I could have sat in a corner with a plate of these and been perfectly content. But I didn’t, because I was too busy further reinforcing the friendships that until now, had only existed on twitter. If I had to take just one thing from this event, that would be it. The people. The beautiful, inspiring, smart, sassy, creative, wonderful people.
This event did not happen on it’s own. It took many many hours to make everything come together as well as it did. I couldn’t have done it without my partners in crime, Beth and Leah. I don’t know if I’ve met anyone more organized than Beth. She was always one step ahead. And Leah? Let’s just say that we wouldn’t have had 2/3 of the prizes and swag that we did without her. Not to mention a place to put it all.
I also want to, once again, thank our sponsors for supporting this event.
OXO, Just a Pinch, Calphalon, Girard’s, Nashville Farmers’ Market, The Patterson House, Magazines.com, Chicago Metallic, Swissmar, Whole Foods Market, Farm Flavor, Kitchen Aid, Artisan Books, The Loveless Cafe, Lindsay Olives, Goo Goo Clusters, Amco Houseworks, Edgeware, Nashville Toffee Company, WestBend, Jarlsberg, Beanilla, Lifetime Brands, and Betsy’s Cheese Straws.
And finally, thank you to everyone who came. From those who traveled from afar, to those who just drove down the street. Your smiles and enthusiasm are what made it all worthwhile. I hope you went home with a new motivation, a bit of inspiration, and a whole lot of swag. :)
Enough with the sappy Oscar acceptance speech… I’ve got a surprise for you!
For those of you who couldn’t make it to the event, whether you had other commitments or it was just too far away, are probably feeling kind of bummed out right now. I know, I’ve been there. Seeing all the tweets and photos and posts about what a fabulous event it was, it’s easy to feel left out.
Would a super duper, stuffed to the brim, bag of swag make you feel any better?
I bet it would!
Since we ended the day with a few extra swag bags, we thought we’d give you the opportunity to win one for yourself! Not to brag or anything, but this just might be the best swag bag in the history of swag bags. Trust me.
And I’ve got two of them to give away.
You know you want one.
***GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED***
Simply leave a comment on this post with the answer to this question:
What is a topic you’d like to see covered at a food blog conference?
Entries open through Friday, October 14 at 11:59 CST. I’ll be randomly selecting the winner the morning of Saturday, October 15th. Prize will be shipped to the winner directly from yours truly. Because of the sheer weight of this swag bag and the perishable nature of some of its contents, I am limiting this giveaway to US Residents ONLY.
Want Extra Entries?
Increase your odds of winning! In addition to the main entry comment, leave a separate comment for each bonus entry.
1. Follow @loveandoliveoil on twitter and tweet the following:
I just entered to win an epic swag bag from @foodblogforum and @loveandoliveoil! Enter here: http://bit.ly/mTAPrX
2. Like Love & Olive Oil on Facebook (or if you are already a fan just say so!)
Be sure you enter a valid email address, because if your name is drawn and I can’t get a hold of you within 48 hours, I will choose an alternate winner. You may also want to add me to your address book (lindsay AT loveandoliveoil DOT com), as I’d hate for your congratulatory email to end up in the spam folder.