Thursday, August 30, 2012

Food Tasting and Guest Speakers

It has been exactly one week now since the Food Bloggers Conference. I've been procrastinating starting some assignments which are due at the end of September and am currently decorating an exciting cake I can't wait to share with you. For now though, here is the final blog post in the trilogy that was the Food Bloggers Conference.

We were so honoured to have some amazing guest speakers throughout our two day conference. Jared Gulian from Moon over Martinborough entertained us with his amazing story of how blogging lead him to create some amazing olive oil. We were so lucky to be treated to a bottle of Moon Over Martinborough olive oil which I cannot wait to try! Next we had Alison Brook who is head of publishing at Harper Collins NZ with lots of fantastic tips on how to get published. Lucy Corry (from the Kitchen Maid) then spoke to us about the importance of our blog content where I picked up some great tips and ideas. Later, Sarah Meikle from Positively Wellington Tourism talked to us about the importance of marketing and in particular how to utilise Facebook to its full potential. On day two Rachel Taulelei from Yellow Brick Road talked about sustainable fishing and seafood which was a real eye opener to me! How lucky were we to get all those fantastic speakers in two amazing days?!

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Jared from Moon over Martinborough

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Lucy from the Kitchen Maid

On day two we were treated to a mini masterclass and tasting with Little Penang (a Malaysian restaurant in Wellington). The team at Little Penang were so good to us! They taught us how to make a traditional dessert and delicious a salad. We then had the honour of devouring six courses from their amazing menu. I have to be honest, my nose was a little runny, I'm so bad with spicy food now -I need to eat more!

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The team at Little Pengang show us how to make Malaysian sweets

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Traditional Malaysian sweet for when a baby girl is born 

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Food Bloggers Conference

Food Bloggers Conference

Food Bloggers Conference

Keeping with the Asian food theme, Vicky Ha fromthe Dumpling House showed us how to make dumplings. This class was so much fun, though Vicky can probably knock out a hundred dumplings in a minute, we all managed to make a descent looking dumpling in the end. The Dumpling Queen even showed us how to make sweet dumplings which I had never heard of. I was a little sceptical about eating the shrimp dumpling as I don't generally eat shellfish but I gave it a try and it wasn't bad! Just tasted a little fishy, I think it's the texture that gets me! Unfortunately I didn't get to try a sweet dumpling but they look fabulous!

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Vicky shows us a sweet dumpling

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Shrimp filled

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My masterpiece!

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Our little creations, don't they look good?

Chris Archer from State of Vines introduced us to "Bottled Happiness" which we all agreed was an appropriate name. We taste tested the lovely Ritzling wine with a squeeze of lime juice and were even lucky enough to have a bottle in our goody bags!

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Chris from State of Vines

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Bottled Happiness

I think my favourite tasting had to have been Six Barrel Soda's delicious syrups. Joseph Slater took us through his journey in making fresh and real flavoured sodas. You wouldn't believe the difference in the taste, if I had the option I would never drink Coke again and drink his homemade stuff (made with Kola nuts and all sorts of other yummy spices). Can't wait to get my hand on some here in Auckland, I hear Little and Friday are stocking it now!

Food Bloggers Conference
Joseph from Six Barrel Soda

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Kola nut, lemon and ginger syrups 

One thing that left us all gob smacked was the huge amount and variety in our goody bags. These sponsors really knew how to spoil us! We had everything from coffee and vanilla to tea and peanut butter. Then, as if we weren't spoilt enough, the amazing team at New Zealand Chocolate Festival gave us ANOTHER goody bag filled with delicious chocolate goodies! Oh my goodness! Confession time: I've been snacking on chocolate and brownies and other bad-for-you-but-tastes-amazing goodies from the bags all week! Help! Thank you so much to the amazing sponsors for all the tasty treats, Mr S is enjoying them too! Another big thanks for the New Zealand Food Bloggers Association and in particular Shirleen and Allison for organising the whole thing. The conference was such a success and we couldn't have done it without you!

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Goody bag from the food bloggers conference

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Goody bag from NZ Chocolate Festival

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Shirleen from Sugar and Spice

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Allison from Pease Pudding

It has been so amazing meeting all these fantastic food bloggers from around New Zealand. There are blogs I never knew existed and it's great to put faces to the names I already know.
I had my doubts about going to the Food Bloggers Conference at first. Not because of the content but because now that I'm studying I have to watch what I spend and going down to Wellington for a two day conference isn't exactly cost effective BUT I'm so glad I did! I can't believe how much I learned! You'll be happy to know that I've taken on board what some of our talented speakers talked about and have started up a Twitter accounts (Lydiabakes) as well as started up another blog (Pecan Tales) just for my cat Pecan (as per Lucy's advise). I hope that you've enjoyed my account of those two magical days, now I can't wait for next years conference!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pastry and Roses and Coffee oh my!

Last week I attended the New Zealand Food Bloggers Conference held in Wellington. The main reason I wanted to go was to learn more about blogging (duh!) as well as up skill in a number of areas. Earlier this year the amazing team at the New Zealand Food Bloggers Association sent out a list of mini master classes to choose from and I was giddy from the get go! The conference was set over two days where we listened to speakers, taste tested delicious goodies and (most excitingly) attended mini master classes.

The very talented Viviene Perenyi of At Down Under took us through a food photography course where I learned some great tips. We split up into groups and photographed fruit, although I was a little biased and decided the lemons were the prettiest!

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Viviene teaches us about food photography

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My bowl of fruit photo

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My favourite photo

Next we had the lovely Alessandra Zecchini (she created Sweet NZ!) to teach us how to make fondant roses in a simple way. I did feel like a bit of a cheat being there but I hadn't used those techniques before so I definitely learned something new PLUS I had lots of fun and isn't that what it's all about?!

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Alessandra takes us through fondant flower making

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Yay! Pettinice fondant, that's what I use too!

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Alessandra's creations

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My fondant rose creations

On day two the head Patisserie tutor, Sebastien Lambert at Le Cordon Bleu Academy (where we were lucky enough to have our whole conference) took us through a pastry course. He showed us how to make pastry, roll it out and press it into a tart tin all while winning over our hearts. This was SO good for me, I have never worked with pastry before so I was trying to take in as much as possible. There was a little bit of pressure on as I had THE Julie Le Clerc opposite me (who is the loveliest by the way!) but I think my tart looked okay in the end. I'm super excited to try making something with pastry now. Oh and I forgot to mention how adorable Sebastien was with his legit French accent, though it was hard for me not to laugh as he is the splitting image of my husbands best friend!

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Getting ready for the pastry course

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Getting excited about the pastry course

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This is Sebastien, isn't he a cutie!

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Showing us how he squashes the pastry to mix it together (a pastry revelation!)

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Showing us how to throw flour (which I still can't do)

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Sebastien explains that you should prick the pastry with a fork and
THEN turn it over

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Tadaa! My pastry creation! (not bad for my first time huh?)

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The lovely Julie poses for a photo with her pastry case

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The whole gang!

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Say Pastry - "Pastry!"

Lastly Steve Barrett of Peoples Coffee offered a coffee tasting complete with a chocolate macaron (probably made by Sebastien) to accompany the delicious coffee. He explained the difference between espresso and filter coffee and the importance of fresh coffee beans with the right ratio to water. I am not usually a black coffee drinker, it's usually "blonde with one leg" as they say (milk and sugar). But that is pretty much a swear word to Steve and once I tried this amazing coffee made correctly there was no need to add anything! I could taste berries, peaches and all sorts! It was a revelation of some sort for me! Steve was so generous in giving our entire conference a packet of Peoples Coffee to take home, I'm so excited I get to share delicious fresh coffee with Mr S!

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Steve talks to us about good coffee

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Smelling the difference between whole beans and ground beans
Mmmm the smell of fresh coffee!

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Filter coffee at its finest

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Filter coffee with a finer filter than we'd had before

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Nothing beats a macaron with some great coffee!

So there we have it! Technically from now on my photos should be better, my roses should look neater, my pastry should taste tastier and my coffee should be fresher! No one's perfect though! We'll just wait and see how I go. First things first, I'm "taste testing" some more People's Cofee! Stay tuned for the last of my series of blog posts from the conference, hopefully you're not sick of my photos yet!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chocolate Breakfasts and Food for Bloggers

This year I was lucky enough to be able to attend the New Zealand Food Bloggers Conference. This was the second time running after a successful first round last year (which I didn't know about at the time). It was held in Wellington and run by the amazing duo Shirleen (from Sugar and Spice) and Allison (from Pease Pudding) along with a tonne of amazing sponsors and venues.

We started off both days with a chocolate breakfast which was a bit full on but I'm not one to turn down good chocolate! We got to experience the New Zealand Chocolate Festival and sample some of the finest chocolate from all around. We were so spoiled by NZ Chocolate Festival, they even gave us all goody bags full of delicious chocolate to sample!

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Juan Balsani demonstrating how to make fancy chocolate tapas

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Juan Balsani's work of art

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Delicious drinking chocolate

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Chocolate fountain

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Chocolate without the calories (soap!)

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Chocolate!

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Schoc Choc!

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More hand made chocolate 

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These guys had award winning salted caramel chocolates

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Jandal chocolates!

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My favourite packaging

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A new and delicious take on chocolate covered almonds. The white ones were amazing!

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Chocolate chess!

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Hair drying chocolate to keep it warm, why didn't I think of that?

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Look at that cake!

On day two Jo Coffey from L'Affaire au Chocolat showed us the ins and outs of real chocolate tasting as we sampled some of the finest chocolate from around the world. How spoiled are we?! I think my favourite (and everyone elses) was the chocolate coated cocoa bean. Can't wait to get my hands on some more of those bad boys! Learning about what REAL chocolate should taste like gave me such a greater appreciation of delicious dark chocolate. I think I have expensive taste now!

Food Bloggers Conference
Jo Coffey telling us all about good chocolate

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Chocolate sampling - it's a hard job but someone's gotta do it!

One of the highlights of going to a food bloggers conference I found, was the amount of great food on offer there was. Wellington on a Plate was wrapping up at the time we were there and we were lucky enough to be sponsored by some of the finest Wellington restaurants for lunch on Friday. I was chosen along with Kate (Mama's Pantry), Margaret (With Love, Mags) and Celia (Ultimate OmNoms) to go to lunch at Coco at the Roxy. There we met the lovely manager, Valentina, ate a fabulous lunch and got a personal tour around the restaurant and theatre. The food was absolutely amazing and I have to say, this was one of the highlights of the conference for me!

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Coco at the Roxy

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Silence of the Lamb Burger

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Delicious ice cream with berries, peanut brittle and Whittakers dark chocolate

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Celia, Me, Valentina, Kate and Margaret enjoying our dessert

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Fabulous architecture in the Roxy 

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Movie merchandise gets changed often

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Lovely archway

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Vintage movie artwork on display down the halls

Later that evening we were taken to a secret location (Floyd's Cafe in Island Bay) for a Pop Up Dining experience (something I had never tried). Pop up dining is where chefs use someone elses kitchen to serve up food in a fun and exciting way. The dinner was amazing, though I had to leave early so missed out on dessert sadly. We were also treated to a cocktails mini master class by Justin McKenzie from Liquid Winks who served up a wickedly satisfying cocktail for all of us.

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Rustic and cute

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Food Bloggers Conference

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Justin McKenzie whips up some fresh cocktails

The conference was definitely every foodies dream come true! Chocolate, good food and drinks, what more could you ask for? All up I took 632 photos (don't worry I won't be posting them all!) But I do have lots more to share so stay tuned for the next two instalments of the fabulous NZ Food Bloggers Conference...