The rain started pouring down – so I was very excited to be staying in the hotel where the gala dinner was being held. Bloggers were coming through the front doors with dripping umbrellas. A group of us made our way down to the cocktail reception and were welcomed with big tables full of Alexia fries. I had my fill at the tasting pavilion, so I just grabbed a glass of wine and tried to find some familiar faces. I ended up having a fabulous conversation with Devaki Das – who blogs over at Weave a Thousand Flavors. Devaki has lived in some amazing countries and I’m excited to have a new blog to follow. As the fry fest went on, I spotted Kara at a table with a group of girls. I’m so glad I ventured over in her direction – such a fun group and great company for the rest of the evening.
Sometimes I wonder if I secretly would be a better home decor blogger… because the flowers and table setting interested me more than the food.
Typical hotel banquet style tables and set up. Lots of glasses, dishes and flatware.
We started with wine and family style appetizers. Butternut Squash Risotto Bites w/Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Vegetable Samosas w/Tamarind Dipping Sauce and Veggie Sushi.
I tasted small bites of each thing – but wasn’t really a fan. I was more interested in the entertainment for the evening.
My foodie boyfriend – Tyler Florence hosted a live cooking demo for Alexia. He first introduced four new “Reinvent a Classic” flavors from fellow bloggers:
- Bruschetta Waffle Fries (created by Farihah Ali of Spice’s Bites)
- Classic Dill Julienne Fries (created by Angela Williamson of Fab Find Foodie)
- Thai Spiced Sweet Potato Julienne Fries (created by Marla Meridith of Family Fresh Cooking)
- Herbes de Provence & Garlic Sweet Potato Julienne Fries (created by Chrystal Baker and Amir Thomas of The Duo Dishes)
We were encouraged to go vote for our favorite flavor on the Alexia Foods facebook page – voting is from November through March.
Tyler then started cooking. The demo was broadcast live on Alexia Food’s facebook page. He let us know that he would be cooking brined and pan roasted pork chops over braised red cabbage with chive spaetzle and a mustard and crème fraîche sauce. Yes please!
Tip from Tyler – A nice caramelization is a very good thing. “Color = Flavor”
Kind of hard to engage a roomful of chatty food bloggers, but his enthusiasm for food and technique made me want to listen. Plus… he’s hot and I’m a huge fan of “The Great Food Truck Race” and he dished a bit about team Korilla and the cheating scandal (them adding $2000 to their cash drawer) and getting kicked off the show.
My table was really far from the stage, so I could only see the details of what he was doing and the final plating on the big screens.
Then it was our turn to enjoy dinner…
The salad course was a bibb lettuce salad with honey roasted pears, glazed pecans, bleu cheese and bleu cheese vinaigrette dressing. I really liked it, but I’m not a huge bleu cheese fan, so I wasn’t jumping out of my chair with excitement. I felt bad for Elise, it took our server over 20 minutes to bring her an alternative salad and dressing. She requested a special meal when she signed up for the festival – she has a dairy allergy.
Our entree course was Brandt Beef Farms filet mignon with a peppercorn demi-glaze and Meyer lemon roasted prawns, asparagus, heirloom carrots and celery root puree. Not bad at all, but not incredible like the meal we had last year.
Dessert was a San Francisco Trio – Cowgirl Creamery Cheesecake, Sourdough Bread Pudding and Scharffen Berger Chocolate Mousse.
The cheesecake was my favorite on the plate.
The chocolate mousse was also pretty good, but the bread pudding was “hockey puck” hard – not sure what happened there. You pretty much needed a steak knife to cut through it. All in all it was a very nice evening. I got to see my foodie boyfriend in action, I got to share stories with my fellow bloggers and the bonus is that Kara, Elise and Julia all live in Northern CA. I’m hoping there will be some future meet-ups.
We all parted ways – Elise had a 1/2 marathon to run the next morning, Kara headed home to her kiddos and I ventured back to my room. A very drunk wedding party crashed my floor at around 2:00 a.m. – yelling, screaming, singing… it lasted FOREVER. Hotel guests were telling them to STFU, and finally security came…but I had trouble falling back to sleep. I ended up checking out around 7:00 a.m. – The Hyatt made it right upon checkout, great customer service. I skipped the farewell brunch and headed straight to my niece’s soccer tournament. It was a great decision… I didn’t hit any traffic and I got to spend the rest of Sunday with my family.
I’m very happy that I braved the festival for the second year in a row. It’s always major anxiety going into a situation where you basically don’t know anyone very well. I have a small blog compared to some of the ones I read. I plan to change that. This won’t mean me making a single change to my blog, it will mean me thumbing through the stack of cards I got at the festival and finding new blogs to enjoy and new bloggers to connect with.