eat well, travel often, dream big!

Recovering from BlogHer Food

It’s taken me a full week to recover from my trip to Seattle. I was really shocked at how exhausted I was when I got home. Usually on a trip home from Morocco it takes me 3-4 days to start feeling normal again but I just couldn’t shake the sleepiness.  My trip to Seattle was long and involved a stop in Phoenix both ways and silly me decided a red eye was the way to go.  I know that many of you were waiting to hear about the conference and while I kept promising myself I would write, I just couldn’t drag myself to my computer. BUT, now it’s time.  I didn’t take a lot of pictures with my good camera, instead I relied on my cell phone most of the time. There is a great gallery from Danielle Tsi of the “official” photos that is worth checking out.

The event started early Friday.  I was not staying at the Fairmont Olympic as the rooms were all sold out when I was ready to book.  I did stay nearby at a smaller hotel.  I was happy with the location as it let me be close to the event and save about $100 a night!  With only a few hours of sleep (remember that red eye idea), I showed up bright and early.  I was immediately impressed by the great breakfast buffet that was spread out. Not only was it beautiful it was delicious.  The first session was a presentation by Diane Cu and Todd Porter also known as the White on Rice couple.  It was amazing.  They are so gifted and have a connection that I rarely see in couples.  It was a beautiful, inspiring and motivational presentation. I kept thinking how nice it was to see another bi-cultural couple and to relate to their discussion on how both of their histories are influenced in their cooking.

BlogHer Lunch

Lunch on the first day was equally as impressive as breakfast.  There were a lot of options that were gorgeous and delicious.  I stuffed myself.  Then I took a nap.  I know, I know I should have been in those sessions but I needed a nap bad, and I know I was much more happy and friendly after recharging.  I made it back in time to hear Bryant Terry and Terry Walters talk about Great Food, Good Health, and Social Justice – very powerful and engaging.

Conference Sponsor Mars Historical Division makes chocolate the old fashioned way.

Some more food was eaten and I was off to an offsite event for Silk. It was great to attend and try some Silk cocktails (I had the mocktails).  The food was also great.  I really hope to possibly work with Silk and share some of these great entertaining ideas with my readers. It’s often come up here and on my Facebook page that finding attractive and delicious drinks that are non-alcoholic is problematic.  These were both beautiful and delicious.

Day two featured another great breakfast conversation with brands and bloggers.  It was great to hear from brands and from two successful bloggers about monetization and ethics.  I learned a few new things that I will be using as I go forward. I followed this with a session about storytelling through blogging.

Pikes Place

One of my very favorite parts of the weekend was exploring Pike’s Place.  I’ve been here once before when my sister lived in the area and as a market junkie it was great to poke around and eat!

Indoor Market

Living in the Midwest, I’ve really missed seafood. I made it a point to eat as much as possible while in Seattle.  I even thought about buying fish and sending it home. I saw salmon that was $4.99 a pound!  The same kind here sells for about $18 a pound.

Homemade Pasta

My favorite find was Pappardelle’s Pasta selling homemade pasta.  It wasn’t just any pasta – these were special.  I picked up lavender fettucini and Tunisian harissa linguine. I also chose a package of garlic basil gluten free pasta.  It wasn’t until after buying these noodles I realized I would have to get them home.  With the help of some bubble wrap they did survive in my suitcase.

The final large session was with Kim Sunee author of Trail of Crumbs, a memoir of her life. I enjoyed hearing about the process of writing a memoir and it offered some insight into what to share and what maybe not to share.  This is an important issue in blogging.

Finally it was time for the closing party at Sodo Park (that’s not actually a park it’s an indoor venue).  Sadly the food here didn’t quite stack up to the rest of the weekend.  Overall, I had a good time in Seattle.  I do wish the conference would have featured more advanced topics and that there would have been more forced interaction with new people.  It often felt that everyone who knew someone wasn’t interested in talking to anyone else. Thankfully I did make a few new friends who were awesome!

I would like to also give a special thank you to Saffron Road Food for sponsoring me to attend this conference. It was great talking to new people and sharing a little about Saffron Road – it also makes for a great conversation starter!

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MarocMama, Saffron Road Food, and BlogHer Food 2012

BlogHer Food 12

This summer I will be traveling a LOT.  Just a few weeks ago I was in Washington D.C. for Eat, Write, Retreat and in a only a few days I’ll be in Seattle for BlogHer Food (coast to coast in under a month!) I have yet to attend a BlogHer event but am looking forward to connecting with other bloggers, gaining some education and I WILL be taking a walk to the Sound to scout for whales.  This is my 3rd visit to Seattle and all others I’ve come up empty handed in that department (if you’ve got secret tips for seeing whales leave me a comment!).

I am also really happy to let you know I will be attending this conference through the sponsorship and support of Saffron Road Food!  This is great news for other bloggers in attendance because I will have a stash of coupon products to pass around (at approved times and places of course). If you’re going and would like to find out more about Saffron Road and give their products a shot – find me and make sure to connect with me ahead of the conference if possible!

Saffron Road World Cuisine Logo

I hope you’re as excited as I am about this partnership — oh and when I get back, I’l be doing a special giveaway for my readers so get ready!  You’ll also get an extra entry for following me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and subscribing to my newsletter (you’ll also get a free cookbook for subscribing to that!).  The same goes for following Saffron Road on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest – get a head start and follow today!

I had the opportunity to speak with Saffron Road about their collaboration with me. Here’s what they had to say;

MarocMama (MM):  Why have you decided to partner with MarocMama to attend BlogHer Food?

Saffron Road Food (SRF): The desire to create authentic culinary experiences that are halal, all natural and sustainably farmed is just the start to the list of shared values between Saffron Road and MarocMama which made for a simple choice in blogger sponsorship for BlogHer Food. Both MarocMama and Saffron Road believe in cultivating an ethos which facilitates the coming together of families and friends at the dinner table to enjoy great World Cuisines, explore epicurean tastes, and foster multicultural exchanges and enlightening dialogues.

 MM: For someone who has never heard of Saffron Road Foods, what do you think is important for them to takeaway about the brand?

SRF: Saffron Road’s mission is to restore the sacredness of our food and its relationship to us and our mother earth. We aim to offer 100% natural Halal foods which are also holistic, sustainably farmed, either antibiotic free, not genetically modified, or organic. Our livestock are fed only 100% vegetarian feed, humanely treated and never fed antibiotics or growth hormones. We seek to bring our mission to a higher calling, embodying a socially conscious company ethic as well as being a dedicated green company. Our calling is to usher in a new culinary excellence in World Cuisines as well as be the healthier alternative in culinary excellence for all natural and gourmet ethnic food cuisines.

MM: MarocMama embodies the spirit sharing great food cross-culturally. How do you think Saffron Road fits into this mission?

SRF: Saffron Road celebrates ethnic diversity though our diligence for authentic tastes from around the world. This is well demonstrated by the range of products Saffron Road offers from Indian delights such as Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Saag to Middle Eastern favorites such as Lamb Koftis and Moroccan Stew and even American staples such as Chicken Nuggets and Macaroni & Cheese. Saffron Road is always scanning the globe to make the best of World Cuisines easily accessible.

MM: What makes Saffron Road standout among other brands who share a similar market space?

SRF: Saffron Road possesses more 3rd party verified claims than any other retail sold brand in the market: Certified Halal, Antibiotic Free, Gluten Free, Certified Humane®, and enrollment in Non GMO Project. We believe that we should always be at the cutting edge of innovation, purity, excellence and creativity in the natural food sector.

MM: Why is participation in an event such as BlogHer Food important to Saffron Road?

SRF: BlogHer Food provides an ideal forum for MarocMama to not only educate other bloggers about Saffron Road, but the event also lends itself to being an invaluable educational experience through bringing food bloggers together to learn, share, and inspire cooking, writing, and photography.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about this partnership and if you’ll be at BlogHer Food I’ll see you there!

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Eat, Write, Retreat {2012}

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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