Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Zealand Food Bloggers Conference 2012, Wellington

Last week I attended the second New Zealand Food Bloggers Association Conference (in Wellington) and it was .... AWESOME!

(And I am sure that all the bloggers who where there with me will agree with me)

I need to add that this is only our second conference, and yet AllieShirleen and all the other helpers managed to put together something so organized and professional (and of course delicious!) that I just want to thank them again and again!! 

To all the bloggers, I loved catching up with old friends and meeting new ones, and the 'vibes' I got from everyone were all about wanting to share, to learn, and to become better food bloggers. 

To our sponsors, and there is a long list at the end of this post (please let me know if I forgot to include anyone), I would like to say that your support has been so much appreciated, I cannot quite believe how many cool companies, producers and individuals have sponsored us, and the quality that we saw (and tasted!). 

To my readers, sorry if I am taking a break from the Vegan Japanese dinner menu, I will resume after this post, but I really want to write this first. And even if you are overseas and not a Kiwi, well, I am sure that you will think that a bloggers conference like this one is real world class! So make yourself comfortable because we did soooooo many things!

I arrived on Thursday afternoon at the Intercontinental Wellington, super happy with the beautiful view from my room, and with the indoor swimming pool (because it was warm and I like warm water). After a swim I returned to the room to see a lovely sunset, and then I got ready to meet more bloggers for dinner!

Ten of us were hosted by Portlander for dinner, and the staff was very patient with me when I explained that I was a vegetarian (Portlander is a steak house) and if I could just have the side vegetables (fortunately there was a long list of these on the menu). My starter was bruschetta with buffala mozzarella, and then I had a rocket and parmesan salad with balsamic, grilled mushrooms, and potato gratin (and this I can assure you was plenty for me!). I am not used to photograph steaks and meat, but I tried with Sue's plate, just to give you an idea of what is served there (to non- vegetarians, that is!). Only six girls stayed on for dessert, and then we all 'rolled' happily to our beds!

Early start on Friday morning: 8am for registration (fortunately it was in my hotel, as I am not a morning person) and then at 8:30 talented Spanish Pastry Chef Juan Balsani showed us how he makes an amazing chocolate dessert: Nayarit Chocolate Balloon. The ballon is made with liquid nitrogen (yes I have the recipe but I am not sure where to find the liquid nitrogen...) and it is filled with Sambirano Chocolate Mousse (maybe this I could make...) then decorated it with Jaina (white chocolate) caramelised spaguetti (don't ask me about the spelling, I have no idea!) and drizzled everything with a chocolate pink pepper sauce. And yes, he made all this in 30 minutes! Juan is really talented and I hope to visit him soon at Kermadec in Auckland (I'll skip the fish and go straight to the dessert!).

Spanish Pastry Chef Juan Balsani and his Nayarit Chocolate Balloon

At 9am the New Zealand Chocolate Festival was officially opened by the Mayor of Wellington, and we started our tasting tour!

Of course it is very tiring 
tasting chocolate and 
taking photos, 
so I sneaked away 
for a (chocolate) 
hand massage ...

Jared Gulian from Moon over Martinborough
10:25, our shuttles came to collect us to take us to the new smart premises of Le Cordon Bleu, where  we were welcomed by the director Cath Hopkin, and looked at the amazing goodie bags under our seats. After that we had charming speaker Jared Gulian from Moon over Martinborough talking about his blogging experience (which lead to the making of his olive oil, and we all got a bottle of that too). After Jared it was time for Alison Brook, Head of Publishing for HarperCollins NZ, talking about how food bloggers could get published.

Lunch was offered by various restaurants in Wellington, we were all sorted into groups of four and got  taxied to our selected venues. My group went to Monsoon Poon where I had spicy vegetable noodles. 

My lunch companions, Claire, Pip and Heather at Monsoon Poon

After lunch were were shuttled back to Le Cordon Bleu for more interesting talks: Lucy Corry's was entitled Is it Blogging or Writing (loved the talk Lucy, and love my cats too, but yes, in over 4 years of blogging I think they have featured only twice, and once it was because they like to eat chickpeas!) (And yes, I love !!!! too :-)). After Lucy we had Sarah Meikle, GM Marketing for Wellington Tourism. Sarah talked about Social Media, and made us all feel like Wellington loooooove bloggers! And then we had afternoon tea with some beautiful and delicate baking by the chefs of Le Cordon Bleu.

My mini-master class at the conference

The rest of the afternoon was for mini-master classes, I really wanted to go to Viviane's Food Photography, or Emma's Skype talk, but I had to prepare for my sugar rose class. It was just then that I realized that I was actually going to take a class at Le Cordon Bleu, using the kitchen of an authentic French pastry chef, and I though Wowowowow! (Scroll down to see the 'authentic' French pastry chef).

It was great to teach adults how to make sugar roses, usually this class is for kids and many eat the fondant even before starting. But maybe my style was a bit... motherly and bossy? Anyway, everybody made several roses, Heather even said that is is good not to have to buy sugar roses anymore (yes, they can be expensive). Lots of photo were taken, and it was also a good day-closing class as everybody started to chat and unwind.  Thank you all for taking part, and thank you to Le Cordon Bleu.


Dinner was a Pop Up Food & Wine Matching and the secret location (pop up dinners' locations are  secret until the last minute). Before dinner we had a cocktails mini-master class with Justing McKenzie from Liquid Winks and then we ate and ate and ate... 

I couldn't photograph all the courses that we had and mine were different from the others (I think that there were two diners who ordered vegetarian and one gluten free) and I was busy chatting, but I am sure that other bloggers (with better cameras) took more photos. 

Pop Dining Chef Ben Barton made the veggie options too,
here is the pasta for me, with lentils and mushrooms.

Day two

Ginger, cola and grapefruit, just add soda...

Day two: back to Le Cordon Bleu for some more workshops, starting at 8:30am with a chocolate tasting held by Jo Coffey of L'Affaire au Chocolat. After Jo we had Rachel Taulelei of Yellow Brick Road, who offered us an engaging talk about sustainable fishing and seafood. The announcement of the Holy Moly competition winners followed, and then it was time for some more baking from Le Cordon Bleu, and these super yummy yogurts and drinks for morning tea.

And this was just the beginning!

At 10:50am we were back into the classroom for more tasting, Six Barrel Soda with Josef Slater first, and then a State of the Vines talk with Chris Archer (look at his bottled happiness below, very innovative!).

'Serious' chocolate tasting and some Ritzling with a slice of lime


Lunch was Asian bliss! The ladies from Little Penang came in to talk about Penang Cuisine, and to give us a couple of demos before feeding us with the most delicious spice treats!

The highlight for me (a part from eating a vegetarian Penang lunch) was to learn to mold moon cakes. I have a couple of these wooden paddles at home (from Singapore) and I didn't know how to use them. Well, now I do, I will have to try soon...

I molded this one!

After lunch we went back into the kitchen to learn how to make dumplings with the Queen of Dumplings  herself, Vicky Ha. This was a super yummy workshop, we all made our own dumplings (even some sweet vegan ones) and had a chance to show off our aprons. Well, I did for sure, I had a special one that got quite a few comments (but it was for the NZFBA conference only, of course, I don't think that I could ever wear it again). We all ate our dumplings and I had a lovely chat with Vicky, good affinity I think, between Chinese and Italians when we talk about filled pasta/dumplings!


French Pastry

This is mine :-)

After eating our dumplings some of us went to a cheese making class with Allison, and the others to a French pastry class with Sebastien Lambert, Patisserie Head Tutor at Le Cordon Bleu. And what a magnificent class it was!

Clockwise from top left: combining sugar and butter, adding the ground almonds, adding the egg, stretching the pastry on the marble bench.

Clockwise from top left: rolling (and we got so many tips here!), how to place the pastry into the pasty pan, arrange the borers and... voilà!

Then it was our turn, and I think that we did pretty well! Also, it was so exciting to use the new school facilities, we were really lucky to be the first ones there, and Sebastien is an excellent tutor!

Coffee and Tea to finish

Our last Breakout sessions were tea and coffee tasting with food matching, I went to the coffee tasting with Steve Barrett from  Peoples Coffee and assisted to what I would call a 'coffee ceremony'.

And even if I missed out on the tea tasting by t leaf T, they also gave us some lovely tea in our goodie bags and I tried my first one as soon as I got home. Really lovely tea, I could drink it all day long!

Talking about goodie bags, guess what? Not only we received our conference goodie bag on arrival (plus other goodies during the two days we were there) but we also got another goodie bag before leaving, this time from the New Zealand Chocolate Festival. Well, foodies loooove goodie bags, but who doesn't??

What a conference... I have written a lot but I will probably need to edit, I feel like I would like to say even more, but for now... well, just thank you all, and I look forward to the next NZFBA conference in 2013! Where should we have it???

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©  (and if I am in them some other blogger took them... ) 

NZFBA Conference 2012 - Sponsors

NZFBA Conference 2012
We would like to offer a special thanks to the following sponsors.  You have made our conference for 2012 possible!

Primary Sponsors

NZFBA Conference 2012    NZFBA Conference 2012     NFBA Conference 2012

Sponsors - Speakers
NZFBA Conference 2012  NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012

NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012

Sponsors - Mini MasterClasses, Tutorials and Tastings

NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012
NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012

Supporter - 24 August Lunch

NZFBA Conference 2012

Sponsors - 24 August Lunch
NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   
NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012      NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012

Sponsors & Supporters - 24 August Dinner
NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012

NZFBA Conference 2012  NZFBA Conference 2012   
NZFBA Conference 2012         
(Plus Portlander for dinner on Thursday night!)

Sponsor - 25 August Lunch

NZFBA Conference 2012

Sponsors - Conference Goodie Bag Products
NZFBA Conference 2012        NZFBA Conference 2012   

   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012

NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012    

(Plus New Zealand Chocolate Festival for a second goodie bag!)

          Sponsors - Prizes
NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012   NZFBA Conference 2012    

    Supporter - Accommodation             Sponsor - Printing & Resources
NZFBA Conference 2012                   

Conference Team

NZFBA Conference 2012     Conference Logo designed by Andrea Wong of So D'lish

NZFBA Conference 2012    

Conference Manager, Shirleen Oh of Sugar & Spice...And All Things Nice

NZFBA Conference 2012                                 
              NZ Food Bloggers Association Founder, Allison Pirrie-Mawer of 

NZFBA Conference 2012  Conference Runner, Beth Brash of Eat & Greet


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