FeastPDX Day 3: Now We're Cooking!

WAIT!!! Did you read about Day 1 and Day 2? Oh good. Glad we're all caught up.

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Rarely do I put up the Do Not Disturb sign on my door. I like coming back to a bed that's made, a sink that's been wiped down, and fresh towels. It's like a visit from the Clean Fairy.  But when I wake up late and have to make a mad dash out of my room, leaving my tech gear and clothes all over the bed, I put the sign out. I looked back at the mess on my way out and thought, "Good thing I'm not bringing anyone back to my room!" 

This guarantees that you most definitely WILL bring people back to your room. 

But more on that later. 

On to the awesome events of FeastPDX Day 3 :

FeastPDX Day 3 Collage.jpg

I rushed over to the main stage at Director's Park for the event I'd been looking forward to: Whole Foods Best Butcher and Fish Monger Face Off.  I saw some people signing in at table and walked over to see if this was where I needed to be. When I gave my name, this absolute sweetheart named James complimented me on my blog, to which I answered, "Oh no... I think you have the wrong Sugar." Then he said, "Sugar Jones... Sugar in the Raw, right?"

And I died. 

Bloggers: You know... I mean, you KNOW what it's like to write and write and write and then wonder what people think. I mean, you have analytics that tell you people are reading, or at least showing up, but unless there is a random giveaway or a spammer from Bangladesh, comments are very rare any more. So when we get to meet people that validate you with kind words... bloggers... you know what I'm talking about. 

*sniff*

Okay, back to the Butchers and Fish Mongers. 

After James and "The Little Picklers" signed me in, I walked into a VIP viewing area off to the side of the tent where the contests would be taking place.

I met up with the other bloggers that I had made friends with (thanks to my on-line-now-IRL-friend, Brandie Kajino of Spoon and Saucer) and had the most interesting Bloody Marys ever. The Bloody Mary toppings bar was filled with foods that I thought were munchies. When I asked where the plates were, the bartenders said, "Oh those aren't to eat off a plate. You skewer them for your drink." Having never put meatballs, ribs, artichokes, or mussels in a drink before, the whole exercise made me go outside of my comfort zone with food.

FeastPDX Bloody Mary Toppings Bar.jpg

After three Bloody Marys and watching the first part of the fish mongering contest, I ran over to Le Cordon Bleu (which, if you're ever there for a cooking class, it's in the same building as Target downtown) to take my classes on condiments and salt block cooking.

Andrea Slonecker (author of Pretzel Making at Home) was the instructor for our class, Homemade Condiments, Sweet and Savory. Altogether, we made three condiments (tomato paste, mustard cream, and parsley butter with horseradish), a salty caramel sauce, and our very own pretzels. I enjoyed the class so much, I had to buy her book.

We used a special vanilla-infused salt in our caramel from a specialty salt store, The Meadow. Turns out, the proprietor of that store is the country's leading salt expert AND the instructor of my salt block cooking class. 

Mark Bitterman is as enthusiastic about salt as anyone I've ever met. He will tell you, unequivocally, NOT to use Koshier salt. I don't know why... just DON'T DO IT! In this class, we used beautiful Himalayan sea salt blocks. A natural chemical reaction occurs when you place food on salt blocks, causing the foods to absorb the flavors of these salt blocks. 

Salt Block Cooking.jpg

We sliced cucumbers 1/8" thick and placed them all over a block to sit for 20 minutes, then flip for another 20. I thought I might cut the time by 5 minutes on each side because those cucumber slices were a wee bit too salty for my liking, but as we talked about it, I thought about how good they would taste diced and tossed into a ceviche. 

While the cucumbers were absorbing the salt of one block, we worked on chopping a beautiful piece of Kobe beef into teeny tiny bits for Steak Tartare to eventually top on the cucumber slices, we grilled scallops on a block heated to 500 degrees, and then watched as Mark melted chocolate into a fondue in a salt bowl. We washed all that down with a mint julep served in a -- you guessed it -- salt cup. It was all amazing and I fully plan to add a salt block (and Mark's book on Salt Block Cooking) to my kitchen.

I made it to one last Speaker Series that left me wishing I still lived on my 1/2 acre with my chickens and fruit trees. The panelists of Beat the Devil: Create an Awesome Food Business Without Selling Your Soul were all business owners who found success simply doing things thoughtfully and ethically. 

Each panelist was asked about their early experiences in their respective businesses. Here were snippets of each of their responses:

Piper Davis (Grand Central Baker): "There was no plan other than to get up and do a job that we wanted to do ever day." She also added a bit of advice to "adjust your expectations about money when in a sustainable business."

Chuck Eggert (Pacific Foods): Their early goal was simply "to become the most respected brand in natural products. "We've never done anything to apologize for." 

 A.C. Gallo (Whole Foods Market): A.C. grew up in a family that had a market in NY. He read Chemical Feast when he was in college and decided to become a vegetarian. He left school to work at alternative bulk whole natural food market, which lost many of its providers when California passed a stricter "organic" law. His guiding principle then became integrity and always asks himself, "What is the right thing to do?"

Kim Maleck (Salt & Straw):  This panelist left the biggest impression on me. I don't have a direct quote (probably because I was enthralled by what she was saying), but the gist of what Kim was saying was that she just wanted a place where people come to hang out and get to know their neighbors while enjoying a little something in her shop.

Kim's professional career started at Starbucks when there were only 30 stores and eventually enjoyed a string of awesome jobs, including a project she worked with Bono on. She had a secret dream to open an ice cream shop, but ran away from it for years. Thankfully, her boyfriend and her cousin helped her make that dream come true and now she has a popular community ice cream shop that serves  

Steve Smith (Smith Tea Maker):  Didn't know anything about tea or blending when he started. Learned while working. Took time off in Europe. Saw how the artisans were doing it. Goals were not to open hundreds of locations, but to serve an artisan product. His goal was to "have a unique product and to rise above the noise in a crowded market."

Sugar with Twittter Pals Steve and Susan.jpg

That afternoon, I met up with some more on-line friends for the first time. I might have snuck them into the media lounge for some wine tasting and then might have asked them back to my room at the former gay bath house. Just as I walked up to the door of my room, I saw the Do Not Disturb sign and remembered the mess I left inside.

Damn that Murphy and his laws!!!!

Thankfully, we were all tipsy. I went through the bags of stuff we got from our visit to Feast and gave them as much stuff as I could so that I could fit the remaining items into ONE box of wine (and other tasty treats)  to get them on to my flight under Alaska Airlines' new Wine Flies Free program. So if I ever invite you to my messy room, just know that there will be food and drinks involved, so just ignore the towels on the floor, okay?

The last event I attended was High Comfort. I'd tell you all about it, but Irvin did such a great job of that over at my new obsession, Eat the Love. Go check it out! 

OH! One last thing... 

Do you know what else I learned while at Feast PDX? I learned to rely on Evernote. I used this amazing app on my Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy Camera from Verizon to collect my thoughts in several notebooks, attaching images taken with my devices right into the notes. And while I was connected, the notes synced with my Evernote account in the cloud and eventually back onto my desktop. It was like a lightbulb moment when I finally made myself use it. With as many gadgets as we have available, it's the ability to be connected anywhere on those devices that make life that much easier.

Whew... I'm hungry. I'm gonna go make something to eat...