Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eat.Drink.Blog conference, Adelaide

When I told my brother that I attended a food-blogging conference in Adelaide recently he rolled his eyes at me and muttered "good grief".  He still thinks food blogging is a bit of an odd pursuit, a bit like train spotting which has a reputation for being for the hobby of loners and weirdos.

If only he new how many great new friends I've made in the 2 years since I started my blog and how much I've learned about food and gardening through blogging. Two years ago I hardly ever cooked a meal from scratch (hello Chicken Tonight) but these days I'm in the kitchen trying new stuff ALL the time! All thanks to blogging (I've also gained 10kgs...but lets not talk about that)!

Needless to say I felt very lucky to be one of 80 bloggers who were selected to attend the annual Eat.Drink.Blog conference that was held in (r)Adelaide this year. I have a soft spot for Adelaide after living in Broken Hill for so many years - a trip to Adelaide was like going to New York City (I kid you not - Adelaide has Sushi...Broken Hill did not)!

South Australian Tourism kindly arranged for drivers to come + collect us from the Airport. FANCY!

Our two-day conference kicks off with a whirlwind tour of Adelaide's Central Market - a bustling indoor market that's the largest in the southern hemisphere and has been in operation for over 140 years. The minute you step inside these markets the outstanding level of the produce (and the producers)  is evident at every turn: handmade, artisan, fresh and free-range. It's criminal that Sydney does not have a city market like this.

Next we're off for a visit to South Australia's wine region...I was on the McLaren Vale tour, whilst some of the others headed to the Barossa. The McLaren Vale are is beyond stunning - so tranquil. Imagine having this only 40 minutes from the city!

Our group was to spend the afternoon at d'Arenberg - a well-known producer of award winning wines (for those who know about wine you've no doubt heard of them). We heard a little from owner “d’Arry” who has been working at the winery since 1943 (!!!!!) - which to me was the most incredible thing. This man is basically a living legend - the changes he's seen through his career are mind-boggling (he talks to us about getting the first tractors on the property). I felt it was a real privilege to hear “d’Arry” talk...I felt very humbled indeed.

We then spent the afternoon learning how to blend wine - I basically made vinegar so I won't be giving up my day job. Wine-making is not as easy as wine drinking that's for sure!  I'm also not much of a red wine drinker which I think was my Achilles heel.

And then it was time for some food...thankfully, as I was feeling a little light-headed from tasting my vinegar-blend. I really enjoyed the canapes at d'Arenberg - I think it would be really nice to have a long Sunday-lunch in their restaurant.

Tired yet?  Too bad as it's back to Adelaide to get ready for our big conference dinner at the Adelaide Hilton where we were greeted with a huge lamb-on-the-spit from ethical butcher Richard Gunner (it was beautiful by the way and came served a tasty little slider).

For me the other big hit of the night was the Grilled Corn - the recipe for which executive chef Dennis Leslie has shared on this blog (yes, even the chef is a food blogger - see that big brother).  It really was a fantastic evening - sitting out on the balcony in the balmy weather chatting with old + new friends  was pure only complaint, there was just WAY too much food for even 80 food bloggers to eat.

Day 2 of the Eat.Drink.Blog conference sees 80 bloggers swoop on the lovely breakfast provided by Red Door Bakery with cameras drawn. Remember people: no one eats until EVERYONE has taken a photo (except for me who could not resist sneaking one {ok two} of the delectable Berkshire pork + fennel sausage rolls.

With breakfast inhaled it's now on the conference part of the conference - the part where we get to share ideas, listen to our peers and learn lots of interesting things about blogging from industry experts. First cab off the rank is acclaimed American food writer Diane Jacobs who only recently started her own blog after many years in traditional print media.  If you're interested in breaking into food writing Diane has a great book that you should get your hands on - Will Write For Food.

We also had wonderful and informative talks on photography from Peter G, a session on food-styling by Fiona Roberts (my food styling still sucks, but i guess it takes practice, right) as well as a tops session on SEO - something that I NEVER thought I'd find interesting - but Geoff Kwitco just knows how to work a room.

Before we know it it's time for lunch at the Adelaide Central Markets. We were VERY lucky to be treated to a lunch by some of the stall-holders who came in on their day off to feed us. This was a great opportunity for us to talk a bit more to the producers and I especially liked my chat with Barossa Fine Foods - we talked ethical meat, of course.

It seems, from my chat with  Barossa Fine Foods, that much of the pork in SA is raised in "eco-shelters", a large barn with open sides that allows the sun to peak in, but pigs cannot go outdoors. Sows are not kept in gestation crates (a big plus as they are beyond cruel IMO). Once the sows have given birth they're put into small farrowing crates for about four week that restrict their movement greatly...the justification for this is stop the sows rolling onto the piglets and crushing them. This seems better than in a factory-farm intensive indoor system, but still nowhere near as good as true free-range farming. I'm now more confused that ever about whether or not barn-raised pork is "ok" to eat or not in terms of humane treatment of animals. Sigh.

Now that we've got that lesson in ethical pork farming under our belt it's back to the conference for a talk by Simon Bryant (of Cook and the Chef fame) and free-range pork farmer and ethicist, Tammi Jonas. And, guess what we talked about? Ethical eating of course! I've long admired Simon Bryant for his stance on the ethical treatment of animals - he pulls no punches in declaring that factory farming is bullshit!  It was a true pleasure to hear him talk. Tammi summed this session up perfectly really when she said "the kindest type of eating we can do is mindful eating" think about what you're people into your mouth people - has that chicken you're eating led a good life?

Simon,  a vegetarian, did put a few cats amongst the pigeons when he announced that he will eat meat if it's put in front of him (so as to not offend his host) as well as part his job as a chef - he says he needs to taste what he cooks. You can read a bit more about this on Tara, Lauren or Erin's blogs. It's an interesting ethical discussion.

The afternoon drew to a close with this STUNNING afternoon tea put together by fellow blogger and patisserie student, Natasha who basically stayed awake all weekend baking for us. This was my first ever taste of a "cake pop" and I have to say that I'm hooked on these moist, bite-sized morsels of cake.

So that's it folks. Two epic days of eating, chatting, learning, making new friends, seeing old friends, photography, eating some more and just generally have a great time.

Massive thanks to the organizing committee (who were all fellow-bloggers with real lives, families + day jobs) for pulling this event together for us to enjoy. Also a bit thanks to all of the sponsors and market-stall holders who so generously gave their time, services and products to a bunch of hungry bloggers. And thanks to South Australian Tourism - SA is pretty awesome!

I can't wait for next years conference. Fingers crossed that it will be in Western Australia - somewhere that I have never been to.

Attending the conference was totally free thanks to a number of generous sponsors, but interstate bloggers like moi had to pay their own way when it came to airfares and accommodation.


  1. Bravo, great wrap up and love your pics. Can't wait to see what's in store at the next conference

  2. great montage of photos. fantastic memories :-)

  3. Great memories Mel, it was so much fun. It is very exciting to think about perhaps attending the next conference.

  4. Great round up! It really looked like one helluva weekend :)

  5. Beautiful photos mels ;) I wanted to go to that but Das had HSC...;( was so sad to miss out.. I was actually quite filthy about it, that it was held during HSC exams.. bahahahahah .. thx for sharing...

  6. I wonder why it will be next year? up North?

  7. Looks like you had a great time! Can't wait to go to SA, everyone I know tells me it is just stunning.

  8. Great coverage of the conference! I need to schedule a trip to SA soon.

  9. Best weekend away ever! I want another one plz! :D hehe

  10. Looks like a fabulous weekend away!

  11. Great roundup of the weekend Mel. Still amazes me the amount of food that was on offer. Such a great weekend and wonderful memories.

  12. Awesome wrap up! Was such a great weekend - I have been lazy on my post. Its on the to-do list ;)


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