Last weekend was amazing! I got to go to my very first foodie conference! I spent the entire weekend at Mixed Con which was hosted by Paula of bell’alimento and Susan of Doughmesstic. The conference was held at the Mountain Lake Hotel in Virginia. In case you are wondering this is the hotel where Dirty Dancing was taped and I have tons of pictures to prove it!
I left Frostburg at 9am and stopped in Martinsburg, Wv to pick up Karyn from Pint Sized Baker. Karyn and I had met earlier in the year at an online blog conference but this was our first time meeting in person. We hit it off right away and spent the next 4 hours chatting about our families, our lives, and food of course!
Arriving at the conference I was again extremely nervous. I was meeting 5 girls from my online cooking board who I've been talking to for years but have never met. The six of us The six of us (Liz from Books and Cooks, Lynsey from Lynsey Lou’s, Maeghan from The Way to His Heart, Stephanie from Brownies and Blondies, and Amy from What’s Brewing in the Kitchen) hit it off right away and soon were talking like old friends. I felt like I had known the girls forever.
Our first night was pretty relaxing with dinner planned and then a mixer to get to know everyone. It was nice getting to meet everyone and putting faces to many of the blogs I read.
The real fun came on Saturday when our sessions started. My first session was with Marian from Sweetopia. Marian is a fellow food blogger who makes the most gorgeous cookies I've ever seen. We watched her demonstrate how to decorate a few Christmas cookies and then we tried it ourselves. I was pleased with my cookies and happy to have learned a few new decorating tips.
My second session was a cake decorating one with none other then Duff Goldman! Duff is the owner of Charm City Cakes and of course was on Ace of Cakes. With him he brought two of the wonderful women who work with him at Charm City Cakes, Elena Fox and Mary Smith. I can not say enough about the three of them.
When we got into the room Duff was all business. He told us to look at our cakes, visualize what we wanted on them, and to get to work. I jumped right in and immediately started making flowers. Duff came over and helped me make the leaves for the flowers. Mary Smith gave me some tips on covering the wires with fondant and Elena helped me with the glitter. After a whirlwind hour I had a completely decorated cake!
The cool thing about the session (besides working with Duff, Elena, and Mary) was working with fondant and learning about all the tools. There was an air brush, rollers, cutters, edible glitter, food color pens, wire hangers, and more! It was fun to see how everyone else's cakes came out as well.
After lunch I had a few other very helpful sesions. Bree Hester of Baked Bree spoke about food photography which was very helpful to me as I just bought a DSLR camera. She had tons of great tips for shooting food. Then Tami Hardeman from Running with Tweezers spoke about food styling. This is a weak area for me but she had some great ideas that even a novice like me would be able to use in the future.
Lenny Ferreira of Chez Us talked with us about videography. While I've never wanted to put videos on my blog I am now second guessing myself. Our final speaker was Heidi Larsen of Foodie Crush who spoke about creating an ebook. I hadn't really thought of putting together an ebook of recipes before but after seeing her presentations I now have all kinds of crazy ideas.
Finally I can't forget about the amazing sponsors for the weekend. So many of them sent representatives out to hang out with use for the weekend and they all sent us home with tons of swag. I was able to try some of the cheeses from Wisconsin Cheese and found a new favorite that wall made with espresso beans. Hershey's provided tons of snacks for us during the movies, Way Better Snacks provided snacks in between the sessions (their black bean tortilla chips are so freaking good-and healthy!), Dreamfields Pastas sponsored a macaroni and cheese contest, Attune Foods made treats for us with their healthy cereals (that taste fantastic!), and Captain Morgan provided us with more then enough beverages at the mixers.
There were many other sponsors too and each of them sent us come with goodies from the weekend! The two platinum sponsors were Oxo and KitchenAid who provided us with tons of prizes at the end of the weekend.
I'm so glad I decided to go for the weekend. I was finally able to meet all of my online cooking friends, I made new friends with many food bloggers, and made contacts with some awesome sponsors. I also learned a lot from the sessions and now I can't wait for my next conference!