Jarlsberg Cheese Tasting

Eat, Write, Retreat {2012}

In Contests and Giveaways, Events, Travel by Amanda Mouttaki

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Last year when I went to my first blogging conference.  I wasn’t sure what to expect and was intimidated at the thought of bringing my little blog to such a public forum.  I had jitters about meeting new people, sharing a room with someone I had never met (I’d only had one room mate for a few months my entire life!), and simply being in over my head. This year I went back for two major reasons – connections and friendships. This post is heavy on pictures but I really hope you’ll enjoy the event through them.

Lobby of the Madison

photo by Daphne Domingo

The beautifully remodeled Madison Hotel housed and hosted the event again this year.  I love my husband dearly but there is something about having a big soft bed full of fluffy pillows all to yourself that is exciting.  Tell me I’m not alone on this one!

Jarlsberg Cheese Tasting

photo by Daphne Domingo

The event kicked off Friday night with registration.  It was full of hugs from old friends and a bag stuffed with goodies. With a little extra downtime I grabbed a bite to eat and a shower.  An introductory social with sponsor snacks and samples began the evening.  Soon we all shuffled into the dining room for a Cinco de Mayo buffet meal.  It was good, really good!

Dancing at EWR

Photo by Daphne Domingo

Things you don’t expect to do at a food blogging conference….square dancing.  That’s right square dancing. I’ll admit I was being a bit negative about this at first but it turned out to be really fun and a good way to break down some of those uncomfortable walls.

One Word Exercise

Photo by Daphne Domingo

Saturday was a long day of workshops and activities.  My favorite part was the writing workshop with Monica Bhide.  We were encouraged to find the ONE word that summed up what we do on our blogs and then to expand our mission from this.  It was hard.  That being said it did give me a lot of thought and focus that I’m still working to digest.  I’m going to be giving away an item from Eat, Write, Retreat at the end of this post – to enter I’m asking you to leave me a comment describing your ONE word for this website.  Don’t worry I’ll remind you again at the end.

As I mentioned before there were a lot of friends that I made during last years’ event that were back again this year.  There were also new friendships forged. I’ve been a long time reader of Yvonne at My Halal Kitchen – we were able to connect during this weekend and it truly was a major highlight for me.  My roommate Liza of (a)Musing Foodie was also great, we shared many conversations and reflections throughout the weekend. I also shared great conversations with Beth of Cooking by Design and Laura of Mother Would Know as we learned photography tricks and techniques.  Old friends like Olga of Mango & Tomato, Betty Ann of Asian American Mag, Daphne the super talented photographer whose images I’m sharing here, and Laura of The Spiced Life were great to catch up with.

Raw Food Lunch

Photo by Daphne Domingo

We ate a raw lunch on Saturday at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw.  I’ve experimented some with raw foods however frankly I just don’t think it’s for us.  I really didn’t find it very satisfying and while it makes for an interesting hors d’ouvres service I’m afraid if I fed this to my husband and kids as a meal there would be a mutiny.

Food Styling 2

Photo by Daphne Domingo

As with last year Renee Comet and Lisa Cherkasky provided tips and tricks on food styling and photography.  It’s always interesting to see how different people set up and shoot their images.  Ultimately the food I photograph is going to be eaten within seconds of the picture being taken.  In fact if you could see behind me when I’m taking a picture you would find two small people looking up whining “Mom are you done yet? Can we eat this now?”  Suffice to say I don’t use a ton of props, or have big lights, nor am I adding things to make the food “look better.”  My food is made to be eaten, sort of a what you see is what you get!

OXO Cooking Challenge

Photo by Daphne Domingo

Sunday morning we walked to CulinAerie a great DC cooking school. We had been grouped into teams before the event and my partners were Lara of Good Cook Doris and Valerie of Feastie.  We decided to make a saag Jarlsberg (instead of paneer – Jarlsberg was a sponsor), along with a watermelon salsa/chutney and roti bread. A watermelon lassi ended up making it’s way to the final presentation as well.

Michael Natkin

Photo by Daphne Domingo

I’m a little embarrassed to admit I didn’t know who Michael Natkin was before this conference.  It seemed that everyone else who was there knew this man.  I was excited to see his book Herbivoracious as I’ve enjoyed cooking vegetarian dishes in the last few years.  I was even more excited to find that many of his recipes are of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern origin (double score in my book!).  There are also many great Southeast Asian recipes that I had long written off for their use of pork or strange fish that simply isn’t found in the Midwest US.  I have already made a few recipes to much success.

Overall this weekend was fun.  It was very different from last year but I wouldn’t have wanted the exact same thing.  If you’re an up and coming or established blogger I highly recommend attend Eat, Write, Retreat 2013!

Now, I’ve got one extra Herbivoracious cookbook to give to a lucky reader!  

Here’s how to enter.

Leave me a comment below sharing the word you think describes this blog.  I’d love if you explained why you chose this word. Not only will you get a shot at winning this book but you’ll also help make MarocMama even better. 

Contest will end on May 23rd at midnight.  Good luck!

 

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Amanda MouttakiEat, Write, Retreat {2012}