Eat Drink Blog 2012

I spent the last weekend in Adelaide attending a Conference for Australian Food Bloggers. This post will cover all that happened, sprinkled with lots of photos, with a focus on my personal thoughts about the event.

Eat Drink Blog has been running for 3 years, with the first conference in Melbourne, the second in Sydney and the third here in Adelaide. Aside for travel and accommodation, attending the conference is completely free, meals included. 150 food bloggers applied and 80 of us got in.

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The event kicked off on Saturday morning with a tour of Adelaide Central Market in groups of 10. Being a weekend, it was vibrantly busy there.

But we still got to speak to the vendors, listen to their philosophy, and sample some of their fare (that’s black garlic we’re peeling). Poor stallholders… some of them were a little taken aback by our furious photo snapping, ha ha! The yoghurt from The Yoghurt Shop, in particular, was exceptionally good.

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Quiet and slumbery as this city is, Adelaide Central Market is pretty big and with great variety. What stood out for me was this Mushroom Shop, how nice to have a stall completely devoted to mushrooms! They even stock wild French mushrooms, airflown from Perigord.

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We were next split into two groups and taken on a winery tour. One group went to Barossa Valley and the other to McLaren Vale. I have a soft spot for South Australian reds, so it’s really nice to be visiting an actual vineyard from the region.

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I went with the McLaren Vale group… to D’Arenberg winery, where we got to have a hand at studying and tasting three different shiraz, and then creating our own blends.

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It was seriously like a chemistry class, with suction pipettes, funnels, dry ice… and lots, lots, lots of wine!

I partnered up with Adelaide-based Kimberley (Fruit Salad & Mixed Veg), and we got so lost with the tasting and wine mixing process that we named our resultant blend “No Idea Red”, ha ha!

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The session finished with lots of empty bottles and dozens of self-created blends from us. Lunch was then served as bite-sized morsels served atop wine barrels in the courtyard outside.

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So there you have it! My own self-created wine.

So I hear people say how food bloggers wear many hats. We are food writers, photographers, editors, publishers… and now I can haughtily call myself a winemaker too! Ha ha ha!

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We spent the evening in style, with a fine dinner, under open skies, at the pool deck of Adelaide Hilton.

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KIS Ginger Snow Cones | Lamb on a Spit Sliders

I’m a little gawkish socially, so I pretty much kept to the people I knew, meaning my fellow Melbourne food bloggers Ashley, Winston and Daisy. Wish I could’ve spoken to more of my fellow delegates, but I’m just too quiet in large gatherings.

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Eat Drink Blog committee co-chairs Amanda McInerney (Lambs, Ears & Honey) and Christina Soong-Kroeger (The Hungry Australian) gave the opening address.

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Empanadas | Juka w Lime & Garlic Mayonnaise

I was pretty impressed that the South Australian Minister of Tourism also attended the event and gave a welcome speech. She seemed to indicate that all the growers and producers in South Australia know that we are here and they are very excited about it.

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Grilled Corn w Cheese & Lime | Grilled Piri Piri Chicken
Smokey Beef Ribs, Chipotle Sauce

The meal was prepared by Adelaide Hilton’s executive chef, Dennis Leslie. It was quite Mexican influenced and the menu was designed for us to nibble at slowly and chat as the warm evening skies turned into a balmy night. I really liked the grilled corn and piri piri chicken.

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Quesadillas | Arroz Cubano

It was a pretty splendid evening, spent comfortably amongst ‘my kind’… listening to the constant patter of camera shutters as the platters of food (quite endlessly) arrived.

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Haighs Chocolate Fountain, Churros, Beerenberg Strawberries | Tres Leche Cake
Selection of Woodside Cheeses

I almost couldn’t fit in dessert, but ended up consuming quite a few churros… the triple milk cake was also quite an unusual eat.

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The conference proper started bright and early Sunday morning in the kitchens above Adelaide Central Market. But first… we dived into this breakfast spread, courtesy of Red Door Bakery.

US-based Diane Jacobs (Will Write For Food) delivered a breathtaking keynote address about ‘Food Writing’. She spoke about how food bloggers have turned the food publishing world on its head. How it’s just so different to be able to write about whatever you want. That food bloggers now can have a reach that’s bigger than magazines and newspapers, we have become key influencers.

Diane also walked us through the ethics around sponsored posts, how you need to be uncomfortable about what you’re getting for free and what that means. She advises that on this front, we should seek to go forward in the most joyous and ethical way possible.

Session two was a discussion panel by Shai Coggins and Rebecca Varidel (Inside Cuisine) about ‘Building a Community’. Rebecca got quite emotional during this session, it was so touching… And I was quite bowled over that Shai Coggins has been blogging for 13 years. Back then we’re talking about a nostalgic era of Geocities and IRC…! Whoa mama!!

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The later part of the morning was broken up into a series of workshops that you can choose from. This was the (very entertaining) ‘Home Shoot’ workshop run by Peter Georgakopolous (Souvlaki for the Soul). So yes… it’s possible that I’m a closet recipe blogger, lol!

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Even though Adelaide Central Market was closed, several stallholders turned up that Sunday afternoon to provide us with a pop-up lunch spread! Special thanks to all of them.

It was a hot 36ºC day, so my appetite was small. I was happy enough with some seafood paella, a slice of hand cured, artisanal black pig jamon…

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… and some of the finest cooked ham I’ve ever eaten, from O’Connells Meat.

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Dessert was shrouded in a cloud of dry ice: mini pancakes with strawberries, molten chocolate, chocolate yoghurt. I had two mountainous serves of it. So much for having a small appetite. ; )

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The afternoon session began with a dynamic and incredibly fascinating talk by Geoff Kwitko (The Startup Club) about ‘SEO / Metrics / Google Ranking’. I wish he was given significantly more talk time. Here’s a photo of Geoff from dinner the night before… lol, taking a snap of an entrée.

In a nutshell, Geoff suggests that SEO should be important to all bloggers as it usually makes up 50% of your web traffic. Just by making a few adjustments towards better SEO, you could get a remarkable rise in traffic. He made things simple by summarising that ‘Google likes genuine, natural friendships between similar, relevant sites’. So between us fellow food bloggers, linking to each other (via blogroll, links in-post) is a great way to increase domain authority, making you score higher on search results.

So what are you waiting for, fellow food bloggers? Let’s link up! :D

The next speaker was a lawyer (Paul Bullock, Anthony Mason Chambers) who covered legal matters such as ‘Defamation & Copyright Laws’. We then had an interesting Q&A session about ‘Ethics and Working with PRs’ with Christie Connolly (Fig & Cherry) and Ed Charles (TomatoMelbourne), chaired by George Ujvary (The Foodologist). What transpired was very interesting, but is beyond the scope of this blog post.

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We broke for a brief afternoon tea with a vibrant selection of sweets by Natasha Stewart from The Cupcake Table. The next session (pictured above) with Simon Bryant and Tammi Jonas (Tammi Tasting Terroir) was again very engaging, covering the ‘Ethics of what we Eat’. Both of them believe that eating is an ethical issue, you can’t write about a delicious pork dish without considering whether it came from an unhappy pig. Tammi suggests that food bloggers should write ethically… “it’s about the lives of animals, it’s about the health of the planet”. Simon adds by saying that as food bloggers, our reach is huge, and with that comes a responsibility. Tammi ends by saying that mindful eating is the most joyful form of eating, the joy is actually making the right choices. I fell in love with this incredible discussion, and if there’s anything I took home from this conference, it would be a rekindling of my interest in slow food and ethical eating.

… then again, that very same evening, I went and feasted on live fish (held in tanks) and (presumably) battery chickens from a Chinese restaurant in Adelaide’s CBD. *sheepish laugh* But… oh well… babysteps…. :D

The final session of the conference was a panel between Helen Yee (Grab Your Fork), Peter (Souvlaki for the Soul) and Sandra Reynolds ($120 Food Challenge) about ‘Opportunites from Blogging’. Each of them had a very different story to share about where they began, and how they got to become the successful bloggers that they are now. They were stories about persistence, perseverance, learning, dedication, luck and hardship. For bloggers with big dreams about going somewhere, these stories were quite inspiring, although Sandra still advises that we keep our day jobs. They also suggested that each and every post you write is an opportunity for something, so we should never skimp on the quality of our posts.

We ended the conference promptly at 5pm with hasty goodbyes, many of us had to immediately catch the evening planes home. I’d like to thank the Adelaide committee for the incredible amount of work they have put into making this conference run so smoothly.

As for my fellow delegates, even though I did not converse with most of them, I could see that I was surrounded by a sea of brilliant minds… food bloggers with a soul and a vision. And I feel lucky to have been touched by each of their hearts and stories.

On the personal front, even though my blog has matured into a 2-year-old ‘adolescent’, I acknowledge that I do not engage and network enough to become something bigger than just a personal ‘photo-journal’ of shared food stories for a niche group of followers. From this conference, I will try to rethink about what I’m doing and where I want to be headed towards. And hopefully write more meaningful posts…