A Foodie Conference, From the Non-Foodie.

Last weekend, I stepped out of my comfort zone (which is right here behind this computer screen) and attended the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival.

By myself.

Without knowing a single soul that would be there.

A bit intimidating, but also exciting.

I went because I love food.  I really love food.

But the minute I stepped into the first event, I knew that I was THE least educated person in the room.

Don’t get me wrong – I feel that I am a decent cook, and am also fairly knowledgeable about the wonderful places to get great food out in Birmingham.  However, I am not what you would call a “fine diner”.  When I see a menu that starts listing a dozen mysterious things that the food is braised, infused, rendered, and tempered with, I get scared and order the Tilapia.

{Insert Shame Here}

So yes, the curators of the event might at this moment be second guessing themselves for inviting me, but it’s too late now!

For our welcome to the conference, we had an unbelievable spread of antipasto (is that the word?) and artisanal cheeses.

IMG_4816

I was all nervous and dropped a blueberry, but managed to get a few things onto my plate successfully.

And, upon my first bite of cheese, I was questioning my entire eating lifetime up to this point.

And I knew then: This conference was not going to leave me the same.  I was either going to become (or aspire to become) a total Foodie of Anthony Bourdain proportions, or I was going to feel unworthy to ever partake of food again.

But back to this amazing cheese.

I think it might have been Brie (I do like Brie) but I really have no idea, and I certainly wasn’t going to ask anyone and get definitively labeled as The Conference Idiot first thing in the morning.

So.  If any of you more-foodie-than-I people out there can identify this cheese,

IMG_4816 copy

then you might be responsible for some extreme weight gain in my future.

As I was eating, servers were walking around with other treats.  Most noticeably (at least to me), these ice cream sticks:

IMG_4820

I got one from the third row, right as a girl next to me got one from the top row.  She tasted it, and said “Ooh!! Is this Bleu Cheese?  Or perhaps Gruyère?”

“Mine just tastes like Ice Cream.”

And then I realized that I’d just let onto my Foodie Idiocy, but hoped she would think that mine was different than hers and really was just ice cream.

Until another person walked up, got the exact one that I had tried, and said, “Oh! I think this is Bleu Cheese!!”

I quickly slunk away before I could embarrass myself further.

…but it DID taste like Ice Cream.

The Festival is broken into several different elements: learning sessions, the tasting tents, and dinners and special events.

The learning sessions are much like learning sessions at any conference (like the ones I attend at BlogHer), except that you get to eat gourmet food while you learn about it.

(Perhaps BlogHer should consider incorporating this?)

I was excited about the first learning session I chose, because not only was it focused on Greek Dining, but it was curated by my favorite Atlanta restaurant, Kyma.

We learned about Greek Food, Wine, Geography, History, and techniques while we ate these amazing platters..

Creamy Eggplant Caviar, Raw Ahi Tuna, and a Tomato Chip on top, made out of tomatoes from Santorini, Greece.

IMG_4828

Lamb Shank with Trahana Pasta (Pasta made with sour yogurt and flour) and Fennel made five different ways,

IMG_4835

And for dessert, Banana Kataifi (banana wrapped in shredded filo glazed in Greek Honey) with flourless chocolate cake and yogurt sorbet.

IMG_4839

All three of these dishes competed as the best food that I ate all weekend.  They were stunning.

They also taught us all about Greek Wines, but as little as I know about food, I know exponentially less about wine.

He started out with “About these wines, I’m not going to be all heady and intellectual.  I’m going to be basic.  So….”

And that’s all I understood of the entire speech.

Later that afternoon, I checked out the tasting tents.  They contained endless rows of different Tasting Trails, which allowed us to sample how each southern region does a type of cuisine.

Tasting Tents Atlanta Food and Wine Festival

Dozens of amazing dishes were available for the taking.

On the Bar-B-Q trail, I preferred my hometown favorites, Jim N Nick’s, who were serving their Bar-B-Q Pork Taco.

IMG_4852

(I wrote more about Jim N Nick’s and what they are doing to revitalize the Southern Hog Farming Industry on Alabama Bloggers.  I promise – it’s fascinating.)

On the Southern Snacks trail, I fell in love with the idea of Pimento Cheese Stuffed Eggs by The Hungry Peach.

IMG_4856

Brilliant, no??  I will be stealing this idea for our next family get together.

On the Southern Sweets Trail, I was surprised by the delicious vegetable cookies from Cookie Underground.

IMG_4867

Other great offerings were fruit snacks done right,

IMG_4871

Fried Chicken,

IMG_4875

And seafood.

IMG_4878

(It was on the seafood trail, though, that I definitively decided to never eat mussels ever again.)

For dinner, I was thrilled to get to eat more food from Kyma.

I think I counted eleven courses in all.

Which means that I was there from 8:15 to nearly midnight.

Attempting to converse with strangers.

Like, small-talk style.

And I realized something about myself: I’m not one of those bloggers that is so excited for everyone to know I’m a blogger and shoving business cards as fast as I can.

In fact, I think I need a fake business card.  Because once I give you my business card, it kinda precludes my ability to blog about you, right?

Also, it seems that conference attendees are naturally wary of bloggers, as if they know that we want to blog about them.  One girl in particular wrote down my blog information with a very accusatory arch to her eyebrow, as if to say, “just in case you get any ideas…”

But luckily, I sat with two charming couples, one with which I had a lot in common (geekiness especially), and the other of which kept us laughing all night long.

(In a good way, of course.)

But both couples understood the plight of the blogger.  In fact, Geeky Husband begged me to blog about him – even if it was horrible and awful and embarrassing – just so that he could say he’d been blogged about.

(Consider yourself blogged.)

As for the rest of the guests… well, I’ll try to get those fake business cards before my next conference.

(Just kidding!!!)

(Kinda.)

Back to our meal.

The lighting was rather challenging for my poor camera skills, but I did manage to snag a couple of pictures.

One of our appetizers was Chris’ favorite Greek Dish, Saganaki (for which I gave you our recipe not long ago), topped with wild mushrooms and my first ever taste of Foie Gras.

IMG_4886

…so now watching Anthony Bourdain should make so much more sense.

And I broke my cardinal No-Oyster-Ever-Again rule because – hey – it was covered in Avgolemono and Caviar! It has to be good, right?

IMG_4890

The Avgolemono and Caviar were divine.

However, I am back to being a No-Oyster-Ever-Again type of girl.

The Octopus, however, was phenomenal.

IMG_4893

Yes, people.  Eat Octopus – you will be glad you did.

The next day, I excitedly went to a cheese session, hoping to rediscover my first bite of the conference.

IMG_4905

But, although these cheeses were quite tasty, they were not the elusive cheese I was looking for.

(Feel free to step in and tell me the name of my mystery cheese.  I know that one of you is foodie enough out there to identify it on sight.  Right??)

I had an amazing two days, learned a lot, embarrassed myself a little, and ate some dang good food.

Am I now a foodie?

I’m pretty sure that foodies everywhere would be horrified if I categorized myself as one of them.

But my eyes have been opened to the fact that, perhaps, when the menus get a little complicated, I should dive in, rather than just ordering the Tilapia.


Leave your comment below!

Comments

  1. Everything looked so wonderful. No telling what type of cheese that was. It’s probably best not to find out.

  2. So glad you had fun!!
    Next year, I am in…as soon as dates are announced I will block my calendar and start saving! :) Who knows, it might even inspire a now-rare blogpost out of me!

    And no idea what the cheese could be… I love cheese. { On a side note, I’ve been wanting to take a “field trip” to Belle Chevre…because I am particularly obsessed with goat cheese….}

    Any way, glad it was fun! Enjoyed the foodie tweets!

    • YES! I would have had SOO much more fun if I had had a proper foodie along for the ride. You absolutely MUST go with me next year!

  3. I’m a wanna be foodie and I would have been intimidated if I were alone too. The stuff looks amazing and I’m sure it tasted even better.

    I would start my rant about Jim N Nick’s, but I’ll save it for a more appropriate time and place.

    • You’ve got me somewhat curious. :)

      • I see it as the T.G.I. McFunster’s (an Anthony Bourdain-ism) of the BBQ realm. It looks like they bought all of the stuff on the wall from where ever Cracker Barrel buys their stuff.
        It needs to have character:
        A bass on the wall the owner caught
        Pictures of famous people that have eaten there
        Old Budweiser neon signs
        A back door where you pick up the BBQ so people from your church don’t think you’re going in there to drink.

  4. Yay! You left AF&WF a more of a foodie than when you arrived. Told ya! Can’t wait to read about the dining adventure where you don’t order the “safe” choice.

    I’m sorry to read that you felt intimidated and not “foodie enough” – truth be told many of the people who were there are either lovers of food, fans of the chefs or both. Few, if any, were experts. And even then, *they* don’t know everything.

    Glad you enjoyed your trip to Atlanta overall. Hope you’ll come back for more.

    By the way, mine tasted only like ice cream, too. ;)

    • I did enjoy my trip! But, seeing as how this was my fourth trip to Atlanta in four weeks, I think it will be at least a couple of months before I come back – I wanna stay at home for a few days! :)

  5. Stephy_B says:

    This is NOT the blog post to read when it is 11 a.m., you’re pregnant, and lunch is still an hour away! Man, that all looked so good!! I think I would have just driven down to Nashville and hopped in with you had I known it was gonna be this good! I’m a sucker for bananas so that dessert made my mouth water. OK, searching for the Nashville F&W fest…

    • By the way, CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I didn’t get to tell you on FB (I saw it in passing when I didn’t have time to type). I’m so excited for you!!

      Have fun at the Nashville fest – I can’t wait to hear all about it!

  6. Stephy_B says:

    Ok, that took all of 5 seconds… looks like the “Taste of Music City” is merely weeks away on June 2… and guess who’s going as a late anniversary date! *Disclaimer – no alcohol will be consumed by the pregnant party!

  7. Ummm, I think you should take me next time as your independent food taster. I can be the one to give you the thumbs up or thumbs down bc I would not care one bit what anyone thought!!!! How fun and so glad you got to go!

  8. I think it is brie. Brie is strong and soft. It’s the one cheese I’ve tried that I don’t like. Maybe you could ask at your local deli. All that food looks so delicious!

  9. That looks like such fun! I am by no means a foodie, but I never order the safe option at nice restaurants. I always try to order what the chef or waiter recommends. Sure I have been burned by a few dishes that weren’t great, but I’ve had many more memorable ones that way. So glad you stepped out there and enjoyed it.

  10. Kitty Engle says:

    I would read this when I have been days without food. Looks like a wonderful time and a great experience. I would go just for the cheese. Now I want to go to Kyma and let you order.

  11. Bethany says:

    I asked my Mom and she said it was Brie before I blinked! haha So, you’re right. :) Those cheeses look delicious, now I’m hungry!

  12. Roxaline says:

    Looks like Brie to me. We LOVE Brie at our house!! I have to get two because the girls can eat a whole one by themselves!!!

  13. Looks wonderful and I agree, def move away from Tilapia. I have had wonderful food having ventured from my comfort zone. However, I have to say, I have had octopus and how you feel about oysters, I feel about octopus! No thank you…suction cup/suckers whatever they are called-ewww! You can have them! Glad your experience was better than mine.

    • The first Octopus I ever had was in Greece and …. raw. And surprisingly, not too bad. Therefore, any Octopus since has been delicious.

  14. That looks like so much fun! I love octopus and people are always shocked to hear that. Like they think it will taste slimy or something. I won’t eat oysters anymore, either. My husband got me to try them a few times and they did not grow on me! He asked just Saturday night for me to try them again and I declined.

    • There’s something about all oysters that taste like the dumpster behind a seafood market. Then again, I’ve only ever had them raw. Maybe cooking them takes the dumpster out?

  15. Lindsay says:

    Definitely looks like Brie. :)

  16. Looks like it was fun! We are at Fort Rucker right now so I really wanted to go to this, but just couldnt swing it. So glad you were able to go, and great job on going by yourself. I would be nervous to go by myself:)

    • Thank you!

      Sometimes going by yourself is less nerve-wracking than going when you know one or two people – because then you feel like you should latch onto that person and you have all this angst about whether they’re trying to get away from you or not.

      Then again, maybe I overthink things.

  17. great thanks. now i’m starving and i have no special food to eat! and i thought my leftovers were gonna be good! sorry i don’t know the cheese. have you read Hunger Games? did you wish you had a special drink to empty your stomach so you could eat more? haha, jk jk.

  18. Definitely looks like Brie. Possibly Goat Brie if it was a bit different from what you identify as Brie?

    Looks yummy, but why no more mussels?

Speak Your Mind

*