Tuesday, September 30, 2014

THE LIFE OF A FOOD BLOGGER: BYTE OF TEXAS, COCHON

If you've ever wanted a sneak peek into the life of a food blogger, here is a good one. This weekend was the first annual Byte of Texas Conference. Hosted by my dearly beloved Austin Food Blogger Alliance, It was a whirlwind of food, blogger education and so much fun. After the conference, I attended the most amazing event that I think has ever been, Austin's stop on the US Cochon 555 World Tour. So that means: After mimosas & breakfast tacos, a cheese and beer class, a cupcake break, and a lamb-butchering demo, THEN I went to a BBQ and Bourbon extravaganza. My body hates me. My wedding ring doesn't fit and neither do my yoga pants. I can't tell you how difficult it is to recap this weekend. I shall never eat again. 


Friday night happy hour at Snack Bar

We started this weekend off with an incredible happy hour hosted by Snack Bar on Friday night. Besides the incredible Rosé and nibbles at Snack Bar, I was most amazed by the story behind this Austin icon. I was shocked to find out that Snack Bar is relatively new to the South Congress scene. It was opened 5 years ago by a precious couple who had no restaurant experience at all. They loved to entertain and had a passion for food. That alone gives me so much home in pursuing my own ambitions! Snack bar focuses on quality in all their ingredients, especially when sourcing their organic meats and produce. This attention to quality nutrients is very important to me and the paleo lifestyle I follow. 


It turns out, the best chicken liver mousse I've ever tasted is right here in Austin. It was unbelievable.  Enhanced with a layer of local Texas olive oil, the pate is served with house made whole grain mustard and pickled vegetables. To keep it paleo, I spread it on their zucchini crudités. Pretty huh? I can't wait to go back for it. 



The caramelized roasted brussels sprouts with herb aioli have always been my favorite thing to eat at Snack Bar.  


 BYTE OF TEXAS HOSTED BY 

THE AUSTIN FOOD BLOGGER ALLIANCE
 

The terrible photo I took during a photography presentation...
The Bullock could not have been a more beautiful setting for the conference!
Saturday kicked off at the Bob Bullock museum with We had several panels on food photography and styling. I learned about consistency in style, which makes me want to completely revamp my entire blog--yikes. But, I did start a pinterest board of food photos I love for inspiration. Melissa Skorpil left me with some good tips on composition and lighting. 

Keynote Speaker : The Homesick Texan

 I was able to  listen to one of my biggest culinary inspirations, blogger and cookbook Author Lisa Fain of The Homesick Texan. As you may know from my background, I learned how to cook when I was desperately missing the traditional flavors of Texas. Lisa's blog was the first place I turned when looking for inspiration. Her beautiful cookbook inspired my cookbook style as well. It was really cool to meet her and have her sign a copy of her newest book, "The Homesick Texan's Family Table." 


Saturday night dinner at the Salty Sow

Saturday night featured an incredible spread at the Salty Sow. From perfect deviled eggs,  roasted beets, sweet pork terrine, smooth chicken liver mousse, a brussels sprout caesar salad and a whole roasted hog, it was truly a wonderful evening. It was a great night of recapping the day's events and connecting as bloggers and friends. 

Sunday Brunch Sponsored by the Texas Beef Council and Chef Carlos Crusco


We started Sunday off bleary eyed with brunch. I posted and reposted my paleo hangover cure on my social media outlets for those who were suffering with me, but I'll admit it now: I'm a fraud. My hangover cure was just the hair of the dog that bit me. Mimosas and beef breakfast tacos brought me back to life. Chef Carlos Crusco and the Texas Beef Council provided the amazing tacos, the highlight of which were these amazing salsas Crusco made. My favorite was the roasted roma tomato salsa, and he gave us recipe cards to make them at home! Speaking of Chef Crusco, he is once again collaborating with the Austin Winery on another fabulous backyard dinner series under the stars at the beautiful Sanctuary. The theme will be one of my favorite themes ever: Dia de los Muertos. 

Mousetrap: Beer, Cheese and Preserve Pairing Class

What an incredible collaboration. Tiffany Cunningham of Whole Foods hosted the Texas beer; Michele Haram of Vermont Creamery toured us through incredible cheeses, and Stephanie McLenny of Confituras led the creative preserves. What does one learn in a cheese, preserve and beer class? Well, I learned that goat cheese is always white because it lacks the beta carotene in cow's milk cheese. In fact, the darker yellow cow's milk cheeses contain more beta carotene, and grassfed cow's milk contains significantly more than non-grassfed cow's milk. In beer, I learned that growler's keep for up to 6 days at home. Good to know.


The flavor combinations in the Confituras Preserves were unexpectedly inspiring and will end up in some of my recipes. For example:
·     Apple butter spiced with cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon
·      Fig preserves simmered with bay leaves, honey and white balsamic vinegar
·      Ginger jam with lime zest
·      Apple jam cooked with rosemary (It made me want to eat a pork chop)
·      Finally, The Belle Helene Jam, aka "a little flavor bomb," according to owner Stephanie McLenny, was made with pears simmered in chocolate. It was paired with a smokey, coffee flavored Pecan Porter from 512. It was most certainly a grand finale. 

What else happens at a food blogger conference? A 2:00 Cupcake Break, of course. This is why I  gain weight-- damn this free food! And there is swag: Check out the beautiful "Byte of Texas" swag bags we got! Full of everything from cookbooks to marketing books, food samples, hot sauces etc etc. It's like being a kid at a birthday party, and getting the best favor ever. 


 Lamb Butchering

 After cheese, beer and a cupcake break, we learned about the ins and outs of the lamb business. Yep, the lamb business. We heard from representatives of the American Lamb Board, lamb ranchers and the butcher and chef from Dai Due. I was most fascinated with the neck of the lamb. I have never heard of a dish that includes lamb neck, but, according to this particular butcher (who happens to be a beautiful young woman named Julia--which is totally cool), it is one of the most flavorful cuts of the animal. 

Thank you! 

Before I move on the the second food fiesta of the weekend, I want to give a huge thanks to our AFBA Vice President, Megan Myers, President Kathryn Hutchison and all the volunteers who put this amazing conference together. Our sponsors were incredible and made this weekend a huge success. Byte of Texas only solidified my pride in being a part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance. I am so excited to continue on as a board member for the next two years!

And now, Cochon555 Heritage BBQ

At 4:00 the conference ended. I packed up my laptop, slung it around my shoulder and made the long, hot walk from the Bob Bullock Museum to the W Hotel. A little tipsy from the beer class, I arrived at the W in a great mood, albeit suffering from a slight cheese coma. So you can understand that I felt like I may have actually died on my way there. I imagine this is the way God would welcome me to everlasting life. I was greeted with this. You see that right. Welcome ribs. 

Welcome Ribs from Stiles Switch
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Barbeque lovers are the happiest people on earth, and I'm proud to be one of them. I have never seen so much bourbon, meat and smiling faces in my life. Not only was it a free-for-all sampling of gourmet nose-to-tail preparations of heritage pigs, bourbon, wine and beer tastings, turkey-baster punches and perfect manhattans, there was more. The most incredible live-butchering demonstration commenced with a meat auction and then a dance contest. It was like that opening party scene in the Great Gatsby -- an absolute circus of carnivorous hedonism. Sunday could have been the best day of my life. 




After a big hug from Daniel Vaughn, a.k.a. @BBQsnob, a.k.a. the BBQ editor of Texas Monthly Magazine, I was standing tall. I have made some awesome friends in high places in this food world! My second welcome was from Ronnie Killen himself. We have been become twitter friends-- yes I said it-- and he handed me this:

Yet again, the best food at the fair. I took home 4 of them at the end of the night.
My rib was served with his legendary coffee sauce and a side of my new favorite Rye, Templeton. (Breaking the 4th wall: I'm writing this two days later and literally drooling on my laptop while I try to suck in my stomach.) My resilience and gastronomic endurance at its ultimate test, I moved on to the cutest chef in the house, Dustin Harvey of East Side King. He served this succulent pork confit with a delicate quail egg and pickled chili pepper on top, which was another of my favorite dishes of the night. He also shared the most complex and exciting charcuterie plate that included a mustard made with pork liver. It sounds weird, but it was stimulating to every sense-- absolutely foodgasmic. 

Dustin won Cochon555 that night, and he had some fierce competition.  Congrats!


This little blood sausage from a new restaurant in Houston called Dosi was INCREDIBLE. I don't know what was in it, but it was rich and soft and everything it should have been. I will be paying a visit to them next time I go home. 
Blood Sausage at Dosi 
Ah! Another favorite. Okay, I know I said Dustin Harvey was the cutest chef, but Ben Runkle from Salt and Time was the cutest butcher. And he made this gorgeous roulade called a Matambre Relleno. It was beef, mortadella, swiss cheese, greens, egg and chimichurri. Holy Smack. I die. 


As if the matambre wasn't perfect enough, Salt and Time put on a spectacular live butchering show and auction. This heritage pig was gorgeous, and I took home much of its skin for chicharonnes. Have you been to a pork auction? No? Put it on your bucket list right now. 


My friend Chris Perez of Citygram Magazine cradled his pig baby all night. It was a ham or a shank or something? Anyway,  it looks like he has an imminent dinner party ahead!

 

I'm exhausted from writing this post. I'm exhausted from this unbelievable weekend. It was so much fun and I hope you enjoyed reading about what its like to be a food blogger in Austin. 
Best. Life. Ever. YOLO. 

Song of the Day:
Bang Bang Will.i.am

3 comments:

  1. How did you possibly have the energy to write that entire post ALREADY!! The conference was great. I like this post and title! Good one to refer to for those always wondering what we really do at these conferences!

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  2. Our event coordinator was a great lady and she was very professional and helpful. I really enjoyed working at corporate events with her and she definitely made the process easier.

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