Archive for September, 2013

30th On 30th
5:00 pm – 10:00 pm, September 30
30th & University, North Park, San Diego

The monthly 30th On 30th event takes place on 30th Street in the North Park community of San Diego on the 30th of every month, with the exception of February, when this event turns into 30th On 28th (or 29th). On the 30th of each month, many restaurants, bars, and shops on & near 30th Street offer specials, often in mini sizes so that visitors can check out multiple locations. Many locations start their specials in the evening, while some offer it during the day. Specials range from food samples to drink specials, and sometimes even free food!

HopScotch Tavern & Bootlegger’s Brewery Pairing Dinner
7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, October 2
HopScotch Tavern, Downtown Fullerton

Indulge in a five-course dinner complete with Brash Brewing beer and beer cocktail pairings this Wednesday night at Hopscotch Tavern in Downtown Fullerton. Interested guests must RSVP by phone, and provided payment information for the dinner fee (unspecified, but past dinners cost $75), plus a 20% non-refundable deposit. Guests can find plenty of free parking options nearby, so avoid parking at street meters. No one under 21 may attend this dinner.

Orange County International Auto Show
4:00 pm – 10:00 pm, October 3
12:00 pm – 10:00 pm, October 4
9:00 am – 10:00 pm, Ocotber 5
9:00 am – 7:00 pm, October 6
Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim

For $12 entry, guests can check out the newest and latest cars, trucks, exotics, and more. Seniors and active military personnel can enter for $10. Guests looking for free street parking should locate Casa Vista St, west of the convention center, by Denny’s.

2nd Annual San Diego Comic Fest
9:00 am – 11:00 pm, October 4-5
9:00 am – 5:00 pm, October 6
Town & Country Resort & Convention Center, Mission Valley, San Diego

Much smaller and more intimate than the San Diego Comic Con, this weekend expo will feature artists, writers, actors, models, screenings, speakers, autograph sessions, merchandise, apparel, accessories, and more. Admission on Friday or Saturday costs $25 for adults, $12.50 for students, and free for children. Admission for Sunday costs $15 for adults, $7.50 for students, and still free for children. Parking costs $4 per vehicle per day.

56th Annual Tustin Tiller Days
4:00 pm – 11:00 pm, October 4
11:00 am – 11:00 pm, October 5
11:00 am – 7:00 pm, October 6
Columbus Tustin Park, Tustin

Bring the family out to this all-ages city fair this weekend. Free to attend, this fair has everything that a family can enjoy, from the rides and games for kids, to the entertainment and vendors for adults. Remember to check out all the fair food, drinks, and dessert too, since buying food here supports local organizations and businesses. Guests can find free street parking in the surrounding neighborhoods.

First Fridays
5:00 pm – 10:00 pm, October 4
Various locations
Long Beach:

This monthly artwalk occurs on the first Friday of every month. Each location offers different activities, but most will contain food & drink specials, art exhibits & displays, street performers, and more. Venice and Long Beach have the two largest gatherings of all First Fridays. Other locations include Westchester, Fullerton, and City of Industry. Most First Fridays locations cost nothing to attend, while the local businesses uphold their standard rules (e.g. bars 21+ only).

The Queers & Teenage Bottlerocket @ The Observatory
8:00 pm – 1:00 am, October 4
The Observatory, Santa Ana

Get your weekly dosage of punk rock with The Queers, Teenage Bottlerocket, The Copyrights, and more this Friday night at The Observatory. Tickets to this all-ages show cost $15. Arrive early to park in the venue’s parking lot. Arrive too late, and pay to park in neighboring parking lots.

The Secret Affair – 60’s Night
9:00 pm – 1:00 am, October 4
Alex’s Bar, Long Beach

Occurring on every month’s first Friday, this 60’s night at Alex’s Bar will play all vinyl music of motown, northern soul, boogaloo, 60’s pop, and more. Feel free to dress up too, as the bar staff will hold costume contests and dance contests.

Walnut Tree Festival
9:00 am – 4:00 pm, October 5
Paradox Hybrid Walnut Tree, Whittier

Enjoy family-friendly fun this Saturday at the Walnut Tree Festival in Whittier. Free to attend, participate in a walnut cookie baking contest, or check out all the art, shopping, food trucks, and more.

2013 Dana Point State BBQ Championships
9:00 am – 6:00 pm, October 5
Sea Terrace Park, Dana Point

Over 100 teams of grill masters will gather from around the country to serve up their finest BBQ and compete for cash, prizes, and titles. Free to attend for all ages, visitors can purchase sample tickets for $2, and use those tickets to exchange for samples from any of the participants. For the adults, catch the craft beer & wine garden, featuring some of the country’s favorite breweries and wineries. Small 4oz beer pours will cost $2 each, while large 12oz beer pours will cost $6, and visitors can walk freely around the festival with drinks in hand. Visitors may park for free at the Salt Creek Beach parking lot located within PCH and Ritz Carlton Dr, despite signs saying that parking requires a fee.

Manhattan Beach Hometown Fair
10:00 am – 6:00 pm, October 5-6
Live Oak Park South Field, Manhattan Beach

This free fair for all ages makes its annual return this weekend, featuring games, arts & crafts, food, beer & wine gardens, live entertainment, and more. The city will provide free parking and shuttle transportation at the Northrop Grumman Building at 15092 Aviation Blvd near the intersection of Aviation Blvd and Marine Street in Manhattan Beach.

5th Annual Taste of North Park
11:00 am – 4:00 pm, October 5
30th & University, North Park, San Diego

Explore the many restaurants, pubs, and bars in North Park this Saturday afternoon at the 5th Annual Taste of North Park. Presale admission costs $35, while admission on the day of the event costs $40, and admission comes with unlimited tastings of food and drinks from all participating businesses until they run out, so arrive early to get the most out of the taste! No one under 21 may receive any alcoholic drink.

L.A.F.D. Fire Hogs Annual Hogs Breath BBQ & Biker Games
11:00 am – 7:00 pm, October 5
Long Beach Police Officers Association Park, Long Beach

Support your local firefighters at this all-ages charity BBQ this Saturday. $40 gets you in to this fundraiser, complete with BBQ, live music, beer, and more. Guests should park on the back side of the nearby Walmart, closest to the actual park.

Patchwork Indie Arts & Crafts Festival – Edible Edition
11:00 am – 8:00 pm, October 5
11:00 am – 5:00 pm, October 6
SoCo Collection, Costa Mesa

From the creative minds behind Patchwork Fest comes this food edition of their popular indie arts & crafts fair. This two-day food summit brings together Southern California’s top sustainable chefs, restaurants, caterers, bakers, food trucks, bars, mixologists, and more for an outdoor weekend of food, arts & crafts, vendors, music, cooking demos, hands-on workshops, speakers, and more. Always all-ages to attend, guests may park and enter the fair for FREE, so find your favorite time to visit the SoCo Collection this weekend and explore the local food & beverage scene.

BAM Fest: Beer, Art, Music
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm, October 5
18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica

The legendary BAM Festival returns this Saturday. BAM stands for Beer, Art, and Music – exactly what this fest celebrates. In addition, guests will find wine samples, food trucks, live DJ’s, dancing, and more. Tickets cost $50 and comes with a souvenir glass and unlimited beer pours. Guests can find free street parking in the neighborhood on the other side of the freeway by crossing over on 17th Street.

Los Angeles Burning Man Decompression Arts and Music Festival
1:00 pm – 7:00 am [sic], October 5
LA State Historic Park, Los Angeles

Los Angeles’ version of Burning Man, this event starts in the afternoon and continues until morning the next day. Experience 18 nonstop hours of music, dance, rituals, live DJ’s, theme camps, art cars, green technology, puppetry, circus, marching bands, and more all in the name of FIRE. Entry starts at $20 and actually rises as the event progresses.

Blacklight Run – Los Angeles
4:00 pm – 12:00 am, October 6
Fairplex, Pomona—los-angeles/cu5j#!blacklight-run—los-angeles/cu5j

At 96% sold out at the time of this post, this event looks to fill up very soon! The fun run madness continues with this nightly run through the Fairplex in Pomona. This run takes place at night, and requires participants to wear all white while getting splattered with neon powder throughout the blacklight-filled course. By the end of the run, all participants will glow with many different colors and enjoy seeing a sea of glowing runners at the afterparty. Registration costs $35 by Wednesday and $55 afterwards, and comes with an event t-shirt, a glow pack to throw at other runners AFTER you have crossed the finish line, and a goodie bag full of items from the event sponsors.

Zombie Fashion Show & Creature Art Exhibit
8:00 pm – 2:00 am, October 5
Lot 613, Los Angeles

It returns! Dozens of Hollywood makeup artists will transform models into the undead at this Saturday night fashion & art show. While the models strut their deathly stuff, attendees can check out zombie-themed artwork from dozens artists from all over the country. The $10 admission grants access to all these exhibits, plus all-you-can-eat pancakes courtesy of the Pancakes & Booze Art Show that just occurred last week. No one under 21 may enter.

10:00 am – 3:00 pm, October 6
Downtown Los Angeles

The streets of Downtown Los Angeles close to bikers this Sunday afternoon. Cars may not enter the designated areas during this time – only bikers and pedestrians may roam the streets.

7th Annual International Chocolate Salon
11:00 am – 5:00 pm, October 6
The Pasadena Center, Pasadena

Chocolate lovers will want to attend the International Chocolate Salon this Sunday afternoon in Pasadena for an all-you-can-eat chocolate bonanza. Admission costs $20 presale and $30 at the door, while children can get in for $10.

On a weekend where I traveled to Seattle, Washington for the 5th Annual International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC), I felt vastly overwhelmed by traveling to another city for the first time. Prior to this trip, I had done extensive research on Seattle, looking up various towns & cities in the area, sights to see, locations to visit, restaurants to dine at, breweries to drink at, etc. I arrived in Seattle with an already-full list of places to go to, and I would continue to add to that list as the weekend progressed, meaning that I could not visit every place I wanted to in this short weekend. In order to cover all of the places to go and things to do, I would very well have to return again sometime in the future. With minimal free time available this weekend due to the conference, I knew that I had to settle in right away in order to make the most out of this weekend getaway.

As mentioned during my recap of the 2013 IFBC, my plane got delayed three hours, so I arrived in Downtown in the early evening, meaning I could not attend any of the optional conference sessions taking place that day. As I rode to downtown on the Link Light Rail, I passed by the Old Rainier Brewery Complex and Safeco Field, pictured above. Once I reached my hotel, I had plans to meet with Meagan Davenport and Gary House to share a drink locally before venturing off to explore the nightlife of Seattle. Following that Happy Hour break, I returned to my hotel room to decide which restaurant to have dinner at.

My decision landed me at Local 360, a gastropub in Belltown that fully utilizes locally grown ingredients in their food and drinks. I fully support restaurants using sustainable ingredients, and Local 360 lives up to its name with their mission statement. For dinner, I ordered the unoriginally named Fried Chicken. Where its name lacks creativity, this dish more than makes up for it with bursts of flavor in every ingredient. Unlike normal fried chicken, this one gets stuffed with a bacon mousse chicken roulade, so you have the sauce inside the chicken, which then gets deep fried. Add on top of that a sunny-side up egg, then place it all on a bed of cheesy grits and collard greens. This dish not only satisfies your savory taste bud, but it hits every single taste bud in your mouth. Surprisingly, the collard greens tasted tangy and slightly sweet, so I ate that up like a salad soaked in chicken and cheese drippings. For dessert, I went with their S’More Sundae – vanilla ice cream with graham cracker brownie (more a blondie than brownie), salted chocolate sauce, and bourbon marshmallows. On its own, the bourbon marshmallows tasted strongly of bourbon, but together with the rest of the bowl, it adds a nice hint at the finish. If I did not get full so fast, I would have stayed here longer for more food and drinks.

In order to walk off all this food, I took a bus down to the Seattle Space Needle in an attempt to visit the top for a bird’s eye view of Seattle. Unfortunately, the Space Needle had closed earlier that day at 3:30 pm for a private party, so I could only just walk around the immediate area.

Friday morning started with a visit to the historic Pike Place Market. An open market unlike any other, Pike Place Market combines the concepts of a farmer’s market with a swap meet, then escalates it to a brand new level. For breakfast, I visited The Crumpet Shop, an old shop making fresh crumpets daily for over 36 years. Craving something more savory than sweet, I ordered a ricotta, pesto, and ham crumpet.

The open market contains dozens of diversified shops and stands, selling many different products from prepared hot food to fresh seafood to fresh flowers to fresh produce and more. Technically, a person can find every item necessary for living all in this market, due to the great variety of goods & services offered here.

Across the street from the open market, plenty of historic shops called this busy street their home. A local Seattle staple, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, caught my attention with not just the giant cheese-making contraption visible through the window, but with the scent of fresh cheese wafting from their storefront. Beecher’s sampled a variety of their cheeses, but nothing compares to their Flagship cheese. A cheese unlike any other, this unique blend tastes much better cold than cooked, and if you try it with their cheese crackers, you have an irresistible snacks that you cannot simply put down. Wanting something to munch on in my hotel room, I bought a small wedge of their Flagship cheese, as well as a bag of their cheese crackers.

On the next block, I visited the Le Panier Boulangerie Française French Bakery, which had a huge crowd of people inside already on a Friday morning. I strolled inside to behold a wide arrangement of pastries and treats, a lot of which I would normally have to hold myself back on. However, as a vacation, I opted to order a few items to try out, so I obtained a Normandie Feuilleté, a puff pastry with chicken and cream sauce, and a mille-feuille bar.

Continuing down this road, I stumbled upon the first Starbucks ever opened. With a line this long for a Friday morning, I opted not to attempt to enter the store. Just a few spaces down from Starbucks, I discovered Pear Delicatessen & Shoppe, a quaint deli & market that sold mainly products of higher quality. I saw that they sold Beecher’s Cheese here for about the same price – not surprising, as any customer could visit the actual Beecher’s just down the road. Pear Deli not only sold, prepped, and cooked food of substantial quality, but they sold craft beer as well, carrying a handful of California beers in their cooler. I appreciate seeing California beers make their way to other states, as that shows the prowess and impact of craft beer in today’s market.

Fast-forwarding to Friday evening, I met up with Meagan again, and together with Jonathan Piercy, we took a bus to Elysian Brewing in Capitol Hill for a beer prior to our dinner event. Each of us got to try one beer before the rain starting to just dump it all out on us. We originally had plans to visit Bluebird next door, but decided to push that to another time, due to the rain influencing us to return to the conference.

Moving on to Saturday evening, prior to the Urbanspoon Dine-Around Dinner, I met up with locals Madeline Moy and Bee Tangsurat, and we drove over to Bluebird Microcreamery & Brewery in Capitol Hill. This funky ice cream shop serves ice cream, craft beer, and craft beer ice cream. You do not see this often in Southern California, and if you do, it does not last year-round like this! With craft beer on tap, and some ice cream flavors made with local craft beer, any beer fan would love this place. In fact, I wonder if they will ever open a shop in Southern California, home to hundreds of micro breweries, and home to warmer weather throughout the year? Anyways, I loved coming here, and I loved my Theo Chocolate Milk Stout & Elysian Stout Float even more. Thanks to both the gals for bringing me here to try a Seattle treat.

On Sunday morning, I returned to Pike Place Market in order to meet up with other conference attendees to walk through the market with them. Unable to locate any of them initially, I strolled through the market on my own, observing all the goods available, and watching the workers set up shop for the day.

I eventually discover Storyville Coffee, a hip coffee shop with a steampunk look to the interior. Although still operating under a soft opening, the staff allowed me to enter after I recognized some of the conference attendees here in Storyville. I met up with Dr. Jean M. Layton, Erica Dermer, Kate Neschke, Michael Wangbickler, and more as they discussed the modern culture of food. Storyville allowed each person here to receive a complimentary pastry and drink – I selected their Ham & Cheese Croissant and Café Mocha. I have no idea how they made the croissant, or who made it, because the ham resembled kurobuta pork. They also brewed the mocha to the most perfect temperature I could ask for – not too hot, but still hot enough to enjoy leisurely.

On my way back to the hotel, I stopped by Cupcake Royale, whom I had sampled ice cream from on the first day of the conference. Those who know me personally know how picky I get in regards to cupcakes, as few bakers can get the cake moisture and/or buttercream flavor right. I swear by Suite 106 Cupcakery in Southern California, as they get the moisture right and the cream right. Ordering two cupcakes, I sampled a piece of each to get a feel for the cake and the cream. I shall cut to the chase – you will get your money’s worth or more, since these cupcakes measure wider in girth than other cupcake places. If you seek a quality cupcake, I would still recommend Suite 106 over Cupcake Royale.

Once I conference had ended, I still had the rest of my day to venture out and seek some of the spots that I wanted to visit. I received a reply from Suki that they planned to head to Fremont, where I had five places in mind to visit. Together with Ryan Valentin and Mary Cowx, we drove up to Fremont, unknowing that we would all travel into an afternoon of exploration and excitement. The three planned to have lunch at Paseo; however, they do not open on Sundays. They decided to join me instead as we made our way to Uneeda Burger. As one of the restaurants on my list of places to visit for over a year, I had greatly anticipated this visit ever since I decided to travel to Seattle half a year ago, and boy did they exceed my expectations. Appearing as a shack on the side of the road, Uneeda Burger crafts some of the funkiest tastiest burgers this side of Oregon. In addition, Uneeda Burger pours a great selection of local craft beer, and serves refreshing craft sodas.

The burgers in order: Crispy Emmer Veggie Burger, BBQ Smash, Crimini Mushroom Burger.

Now that we had visited the main place I wanted to seek out, I joined them as they visited a nifty shop called Book Larder. This cookbook store sells a variety of cookbooks, and frequently hosts classes on cooking and food knowledge, similar to Hipcooks. If I had more room in my luggage, I would have bought a grilling cookbook or two. For now, I will have to wait until I can potentially return here again.

The three had the rest of their day open, while I still had a few spots to check here in Fremont, so they decided to stick with me for the meantime. Driving down south through Fremont, we end up in a small neighborhood of local businesses, with the streets full of parked cars, which strongly reminded me of Belmont Shore in Long Beach, CA. Once we parked, we visited a Bluebird Microcreamery location here in Fremont. Unlike the Capitol Hill location, this smaller shop did not serve any beer. They also appeared to carry less items overall than the Capitol Hill branch. The staff mentioned plans to renovate and expand, which relieved me of the no-beer thing.

As we finished our ice cream, we could not help but notice a strangely strategically-placed sign on the sidewalk. Curious as ever, we followed the sign down through an alley, and discovered this Russian Dumpling shop in the bottom of the building we just exited. This hole-in-the-wall restaurant serves dumplings and only dumplings. Customers can order beef, potato, or both in their dumplings. After boiling them for a good five minutes or so, the staff coats it in spicy oil, sprinkles curry powder, dollops a type of cream that resembles either sour cream or yogurt, dashes it with cilantro, and serves it with rye bread. I would not rate the quality that high, but what makes this concept work appears on their sign. They open until super late night, sometimes closing at 4am, so they cater well to late-night crowds. Also, everyone knows this food, so they will not question it, much like how Southern Californians know about tacos.

Across the street, we finally found 9 Million in Unmarked Bills, a whisky bar I had wanted to check out with my prior research. Having just had lunch, we sat at a table here just for drinks. Many people wonder how this place got that name. If I remember the story correctly… Sometime during the prohibition era, a robber made off with a large sum of money during a heist. He attempted to escape via a plane, but the authorities pursued him ruthlessly. Knowing he could knot evade capture, he tossed all the money out of his plane to the world below. These 9 million in unmarked bills would all land near what would turn into the current location of the whisky bar with the namesake here in Fremont. Anyways, Ryan and I had a local beer, while the gals each ordered a Southern Baptist cocktail.

After this stop, we drove back to downtown where I got dropped off back at my hotel, and we all went our own ways. Thanks so much to the three for allowing me to join them on this exciting adventure through Fremont. I appreciate meeting such awesome people whenever I travel, and hope to see them again soon, possibly in Seattle again next year.

I had less than 24 hours left in Seattle, and I still had not gotten the chance to eat foie gras, since we can no longer legally buy it in California. Determined, my research brought me to Capitol Hill to check out two restaurants that served foie gras. First, I visited Tavern Law, a speakeasy-themed pub, from the same chefs over at Spur Gastropub, where I had dinner the night previously. Two items on their menu stood out to me, so I ordered the Foie Gras Terrine and the Natural Beef Burger w/ Pork Belly. The word terrine jumped out at me, as I recognized it and knew immediately how I would receive the foie gras: raw. Much like rillettes, you eat this by spreading the terrine onto the crostini, and taking small bites. The foie gras comes off as so intense that you truly cannot handle eating too much of this delicacy at once. As for the burger, the burger tasted best after removing the top bun and eating it open-faced. The top bun drowned out the flavor of the rest of the burger, so removing the top bun allowed full absorption of the meat.

Recall that I mentioned a speakeasy theme above – this restaurant pays homage to the old times of speakeasies. Visitors may notice an oddly-placed giant door on the wall. This door serves a greater purpose than just decoration! By picking up the phone on the wall by the door, a visitor can ask to come upstairs to a hidden upstairs lounge, as long as a staff member can answer the call from upstairs to buzz the visitor in.

Having just had foie gras in terrine form, I craved something more, as I can have terrine whenever I want. I craved cooked foie gras. I wanted that seared fat tasted to resonate all over my taste buds. Luckily, right around the corner, I would find Quinn’s Pub, a location I had wanted to check out thanks to my research. Without hesitation, I immediately ordered the Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, an emulsion of foie gras that sits on a plum cake, coated with an Italian plum compote. Finally a foie gras I can feel proud of, this reminds me of what a lot of Southern California chefs used to make prior to the ban of foie gras sales. Every ingredient on this dish works out so well for each other. Nothing else provides a meaty or savory flavor, allowing the foie gras to take center stage. The plum cake adds a smooth texture to each bite, while the plum compote balances the flavor with its sweet and sour flavor.

On Monday morning, before taking the train back to the airport, I made one final trip to Queen Anne to Toulouse Petit, a French restaurant best known for their breakfast Happy Hour. I recently discovered this location this past weekend after receiving a suggestion from another conference attendee, and I could only visit this place for breakfast on the last day here. I got to try both the Duck Confit Hash and the Snake River Farms Kurobuta Ham Benedict, both with unique tastes, and both oh so good.

That concludes my intense weekend in Seattle! I hope you enjoyed my photos, notes, and memories all this past week, and I hope this motivates you to make a difference in either your own life or other people’s lives. Remember that you have the power to make change, and never feel smaller than normal. Want to attend the conference next year? I highly suggest starting a blog, even if you only plan to post pictures. With 50% of Generation Y referring to themselves as “foodies,” the trends in food will shift drastically only a short period of time. For example, remember Cronuts? Everyone raged about them in the early summer, but now everyone has gotten over those in favor of Ramen Burgers. With food trends constantly shifting, having a solid online foundation to keep track of information will not only benefit all of your readers, but yourself as well. The new food movement shifts from bad foods like high fructose corn syrup and GMO’s to safer, healthier alternatives, namely the local and sustainable foods. Look into everything going on in the world of food, and decide for yourself if you will continue to drink the Kool-Aid, or if you will stand up and support local growers.

The 5th Annual International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) brought about many different activities and opportunities for all attendees. While a majority of the conference took place at the W Hotel in Downtown Seattle, attendees would find a few activities that took place outside of the hotel. One such event, the Urbanspoon Dine-Around Dinner, provided attendees an opportunity to have dinner at a mystery location with a pre-selected group. This Surprise Supper, as they put it, covered dozens of restaurants over various towns/regions in & around Seattle, and placed attendees at these locations, mainly based on dietary needs if necessary (i.e. vegans went to a vegan restaurant). Each group would depart the hotel to the location via shuttle at various times depending on the group, leaving as early as 7:00 pm to as late as 8:30 pm. No one in charge divulged any information about any of the locations until Saturday, when attendees could trade their positions for other groups. For example, I got originally placed in the Downtown 2 group, which ended up at RN74, but I traded that spot away for Belltown 2, which I later discovered would land me at Spur Gastropub.

Led by chef/owners Brian McCracken and Dana Tough, Spur Gastropub pays homage to the local area’s pioneer, fishermen, and outlaw roots. Sourcing only local ingredients, Spur’s menu changes frequently based on availability of products in the season. With an eclectic and modern American menu, Spur takes traditional cuisine and applies modern techniques to preparation. For our dinner, Spur served us a five-course meal with one complimentary drink, which I exchanged for a local beer on tap. I shared the table with ten other individuals, including Jessica Tupper, Carrie Trax, Bordeaux Wines, and more.

For our starting amuse-bouche, we received a Sockeye Salmon Crostini with mascarpone, capers, and pickled shallots. Available year-round on their menu, Spur sells these two-bite starters individually for $4 each.

Spur served us their Chicory Salad as our first course. A simple chicory & sorrel salad topped with Gorgonzola cheese and candied pecans, the lack of dressing allowed us to taste the ingredients’ real flavor without the heavy saturation of dressing found in corporate restaurants. This salad sits on Spur’s seasonal menu for $10.

We received a plate with Venison Tartare next. I have eaten venison and tartare previously as separate preparations, but I have not tried this combination yet. Spur tops the venison tartare with compressed yogurt, sliced cucumbers, and dark berries. Olive oil crostinis accompanied this dish to help break down the intense gamey flavor of the venison. Finding its place on Spur’s seasonal menu, you may order this for $18.

For our third course, our servers brought out this plate of Seared Gnudi. If you can picture gnocchi, then you can envision gnudi, made with ricotta cheese and flour instead of potato. Served with sharp cheddar, soubise sauce, and radishes, this course carried the best comfort food feeling so far, as it reminded all of us about gnocchi. Only available this season, you can try this amazing twist on a classic for $18.

The fourth and main course of dinner came out in the form of Slow Cooked Pork Cheeks. Sitting on a bed of red cabbage, crispy spaetzle, and compressed cider (the cubes on the plate), Spur has reinvented this dish from their menu. Although it currently appears on their seasonal menu for $26, Spur plated this dish unique just for us, using spaetzle in a creative manner to accompany this pork cheek. Like any slow-cooked meat, this pork cheek fell apart so nice and smooth when biting into it. Spur got this dish right, and I feel sad for seeing it on their seasonal menu, knowing that it will not linger around for much longer.

After the main course, our servers brought out a palate cleanser. Deceiving me at first glance, these large spoons held something icy and cold, not grainy like it appeared to me. I cannot accurately describe this, but it tasted sour and slightly salty… like a margarita.

Finally closing out the evening, Spur plated for us this White Peach, Jasmine, and Leatherwood Honey dessert, a mixture of various desserts. A scoop of peach sorbet sat on a layer of plum powder, providing the tart taste for this dessert. A piece of sponge cake and slice of white peach accompanied the sorbet, plus two pieces of meringue. Guests can order this off Spur’s regular menu for $10.

We all wrapped up fairly quickly following dessert, while I still had a drink to chug. With no shuttle to bring us back, we all walked back to the hotel collectively; luckily, the weather did not give us any problems, save for a bit of wind. On our way back, we spotted this oddly-placed ice cream statue on the corner of 4th & Blanchard.

Thanks so much to Urbanspoon for the dinner and opportunity to explore a fine local establishment. Can you believe that Urbanspoon covered dinner and a drink for all of this year’s conference attendees? Not every conference attendee could make it to the dinner due to its start late in the night; in fact, we did not leave Spur until about 10:30 pm, three hours after the shuttle left the W Hotel. So far, everyone that attended a dinner has reported great success in the event, but everyone had something to say about the late dinners. More likely than not, Urbanspoon will rectify that issue next time, should Urbanspoon redo this dinner special at next year’s conference. In the meantime, check out the local eats around Seattle, as they have lots of unique cuisine that I have never seen nor heard of.

The 5th Annual International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) came to a close this past Sunday late morning. Located at its new home at the W Hotel in Downtown Seattle, this annual conference brings together food bloggers from around the world to gather for a weekend of information, education, networking, exploring, food, and drinks. The conference itself provided lots of informative sessions, so much so that some blocks in the weekend’s schedule consisted of three unique sessions that the attendees could freely choose to attend. Among all the food, writing, and technology sessions, any individual attendee did not have to stick to a particular session, and could switch at will, or not attend a session at all. Although the conference officially started on Friday, many of the out-of-town attendees had arrived days earlier, which allowed them the opportunity to explore the town, or attend the optional sessions that took place on Thursday: an excursion to Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, and a screening of the documentary GMO OMG, complete with a special guest appearance by Chef Tom Douglas. As my plane got delayed three hours, I arrived in Downtown in the early evening, so I could not attend either of these sessions; however, I still could meet Meagan Davenport and Gary House to share a drink locally before venturing off to explore the nightlife of Seattle.

For any of my adventures unrelated to the conference, I will cover that all in the near future.

The first official day of the 2013 IFBC started with a luncheon provided by Chipotlé. In addition, local specialty Cupcake Royale scooped up creamy delights for all of us.

I casually walked around attempting to meet people, but my shyness overtook my mind. Eventually, I see Jane Evans Bonacci and Dr. Jean M. Layton approach me to welcome me to the conference. Feeling much better, I enter the Great Room for the conference welcome, meeting Sam Henderson along the way. Inside the Great Room, I observed dual projector screens scrolling a live Twitter feed.

I propped myself on a table with a vantage point of the entire room, and met the others at the table, including Adriana Martin. Following an introduction, keynote speaker Dorie Greenspan took to the stage to speak to us all. Not pertaining to a particular subject, she spoke about various subjects, such as her background, the food & technology industry today, and what to expect in the future. During this time, I shared some amusing tweets with Veronica Grace.

Once Dorie concluded her session, the Live Blogging event took place. Click that link to read the details of that event. Next we broke out into our first set of sessions, where I attended the Elements in Building Traffic SEO/social media session, meeting Alice Mizer while waiting. I have yet to organize my notes from this session, so feel free to comb through my jumbled notes:

SEO Hygiene
URL structures
Page titles/meta tags
Site maps/Webmaster tools
Site performance
Quality Content
High quality: rich/dense, spelling/grammar, user engagement
Volume – less about more
External followed
Internal structure
Social media
Use Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, G+, LinkedIn, YouTube
Follower count: Facebook, G+, Twitter, Pinterest
Distribute content/amplify message
Listen for trends/what’s hot
Experiment/test headlines
Engage in conversations
Build real relationships
Make your blog a hub to connect Twitter, G+, Pinterest, Facebook
Use the tools: ifttt,, TweetDeck, Hootsuite
If necessary, hire someone to blast your content, like from Odesk or Fiverr
Use tools to measure traffic: Google Analytics, Twitter Counter, Simply Measured
Content Strategy – Art vs Science
Editorial calendar – planning vs winging it
Frequent short posts
Repackage your own content (round-ups, like Top 5 of the season/year)
Round-ups of others’ content (link it)
Weekly newsletter
Create a Daily Habit
Meatless Monday, Chicken Tuesday, etc
Attach hashtags to those posts that are relevant and consistent
Pay attention to food quotes and food trends
Schedule “Did You Know” tweets
Share the love on Pinterest – your shares increase your traffic
Publish content you’re passionate about for people who share that passion.
Know the key words- beverages vs drinks
Keyword clusters: main dishes, desserts, baking, Thanksgiving
What keywords are more likely to rank on search engine results?
Google Ad Words: average monthly searches, variations on a tern or phrase
Google trends
Insight to the seasonality of a term
Compare the popularity of various terms
Isolate terms by region
Related terms or phrases
Be different, not better
Make your keywords less specific to drive traffic, or more specific to cater to a niche
Who are you writing for?
Know your audience
Is your blog a diary?
Are you sharing with your readers?
Does your blog fill a niche?
What’s useful to readers?
What can you add to the food story?
What specialty can you own?
How to become a good writer
Read articles everywhere
Write lots of drafts, and rewrite if time permits
Join a writers group
Take writing classes
Understand grammar and punctuation
Polish tweets
Volunteer to write for local publications
No negatives
Read liked blogs weekly

Following that session, all attendees had a break that lasted over an hour until the night’s last event. I met up with Meagan, met Jonathan Piercy, and traveled together to Elysian Brewing for a beer prior to our dinner event. Once back, we returned upstairs to the Taste of Seattle & Gourmet Fair, a two-part event consisting of a tasting event that allowed us to sample eats from local restaurants, bars, and caterers, and a food fair where everyone went “shopping” for various food products, many of which we sampled during the event. I walked away with two bags full of food & drinks, and returned those to my hotel room before heading into the Great Room for the tasting.

Like any “Taste of ____” event, attendees could browse all the tables in the area, where a local vendor would set up to serve their delicious eats or sips for all the attendees to consume. From restaurants to bars to wineries to caterers, a great variety of food & drinks awaited us all. During this time, I stumbled upon local Long Beach blogger Gerry Speirs. Having heard of him prior to this weekend, we chatted for some time about life in the LBC and shared some great tips, which I hope to share with you sometime soon. I also bumped into Beau Raines, an attendee who also listens to punk rock. This exciting night ended promptly at 9pm, leaving everyone to form their own plans for the night. A handful of attendees continued their night at Boka Restaurant, while some continued their wine & champagne sipping in a hotel room, as discovered by some pictures posted that night. Personally, I turned in early to prepare myself for a long Saturday.

Pastry Smart greeted us in the morning with this humane, organic and sustainable breakfast layout. They opened the day not only by feeding us, but with a seminar detailing the significance of leading a humane, organic, and sustainable diet. Much of the food most Americans eat daily poisons us because of the artificial ingredients involved with processing the food. Over 79 million people exist in Generation Y, and 50% of them call themselves “foodies,” a term that, just like the word “gourmet,” no longer holds special value due to its overuse in interpersonal communication. By learning about what humane, organic, and sustainable means for the future, the new generation can form a better understanding of the direction that food and agriculture will move in the near future.

Following breakfast, a group session involving cooking and photography initiated. First, Chef John Mitzewich of Food Wishes led an educational yet entertaining cooking demo utilizing salmon and the many ways to prep it. Sitting down at a table with Linda Eaves and Katharyn Shaw, everyone laughed and observed as the gentlemen on-stage prepared the salmon, yet tossed jokes out every minute or so. Many of us in attendance documented the lines on Twitter, and thanks to Nicole J, Zest Bakery, Jeska Dzwigalski, Colleen, and many more, we collectively managed to make #SexyBacon trend on Twitter.

Immediately transitioning after the cooking demo, The New York Times food photographer Andrew Scrivani delivered a lecture/session about food photography, and the tips & tricks to capturing the best photos. Reminiscent of photography classes in college, much of the information gained from this session mainly refreshed my photography knowledge. I took notes during this session via Twitter, and I retweeted notes that many others also tweeted out. I would like to thank Julie Angelini, Lori Rice, Erica Dermer, and Mark for a majority of these notes, plus some more notes I will post from later sessions. Some of the highlights from this session:

  • Turn the flash off on your camera, but bring a flashlight for consistent light, such as from a cell phone.
  • Food always looks better in daylight.
  • If you’re blogging food, you want to grab your audience at the top of the page before they even read a word.
  • What makes us respond to a food photo? “Combining sensory overload in the viewer when it comes to food.”
  • Taking barbecue pictures? Photograph non-food items like hot coals in grill or crazy flames. Evoke memories.
  • Steam shows up great when you have a dark background.
  • The drips and the pours = lusciousness is primary.
  • Hands are always nice to include in the pictures, it makes it seem real.
  • Southwestern light is “absolutely the best” light for food photography.
  • Most bloggers shot horizontal – but it’s good to be versatile. Book publishers like vertical.
  • Downsize your propping so you can fit more in your frame.
  • Use a macro lens for beautifully detailed photos.
  • When shooting glassware, ask yourself, what does the glassware see? See yourself? Move.
  • What you put in your photos is as important as the food. Get versatile props.
  • Salt glazed pottery does not have shine and doesn’t fight you.
  • Toothpaste on silverware makes it look older and tarnished and more photogenic.
  • Find someone using your pics? Insist on a photo credit or ask to take it down. There are plenty of ways to shame people on internet.
  • Sometimes the prop saves the food.
  • A utensil can make a huge difference in a photo.
  • Don’t photograph spinach.

For lunch, we all got treated to a Discovery Expo, a combination of the previous night’s event. At this expo, we got to sample eats from local establishments, as well as take some products to-go. I met up with Alice again, and got to meet Adriana as well. As I took my products back to my hotel room, I met Jacqueline Bruchez, a Californian baker from Solana Beach.

Following lunch, I attended the Food Photography Workflow session. At this session, I met Donna Turner Michaels, Cari Garcia, and Donna Dang, distinct bloggers with delicious posts on their sites. For this session, I actually did take notes, so you may observe them below:

Workflow – Professional Food Photography – The routine and ritual you follow each time you have a shoot
Have repeatable steps to achieve consistent results. Observe the following list:
1) Read recipes completely whether you are cooking the food. Picking up subtle hints as to styling or garnish or photographable cooking techniques are found here
2) Plan your gear/equipment. Each shoot may be different.
3) Pick out your propping possibilities ahead of time.
4) Plan a shooting order. Dishes come out of the kitchen at different paces, and you should make that call as the photographer when possible.
5) Explain your plan to everyone helping you on the shoot so everyone is on the same page.
6) Keep a steady pace. Allot a certain amount of time for each dish. Don’t get bogged down on one shot.
7) No matter how you shoot (SD cards or tethered), as soon as you finish shooting, back up your files and keep them in separate places.
8) Label your files and keep your computer organized. Modify the meta data in the image using Photoshop. Keep the images’ original numbered file name. Rename the folders they are stored in.
9) Create separate subfolders at each step of editing and post-production (CR2, DNG, JPG)
10) Back up your final edits and processed images three times.
11) Edit widely and discard outtakes.
12) Keep a folder of who you send files to and their preferred method of transmission.
Business of Food Photography
Starting price of selling a photo: $10,000 (if you took a photo of the Gerber baby, that’s chump change)
1) What is your budget? If too low, look elsewhere
2) How do you want to use my images? If for profit, charge higher
3) How many days & shots do you need with variations?
4) Where are you shooting? Space costs money. Is daylight available? Do I need liability waivers for customers present? Food costs?
5) Who is cooking? How much will the chef cost? How much will the ingredients cost?
6) Who is styling the food? How much does the stylist cost?
7) Who is propping? How much do the props cost?
8) When do you need the final images?
9) What file format do you prefer?
10) How would you like the files delivered?

Following that session, I chose to opt out of the last session of Saturday. Instead, I took a stroll down to Pike Place Market before returning to the conference for the Alaska Seafood reception. Everyone got to try seafood east like smoked salmon, buffalo cod quesadilla, halibut corn dogs, bacon-wrapped scallop sliders, and bacon-wrapped scallops.

The conference had officially ended its sessions for the day, leaving everyone to get ready for their individual Urbanspoon Dine-Around Dinner, a surprise dinner where each attendee goes with a pre-selected group to a mystery restaurant. Each group departed at different times, and mine would depart at 7:30, leaving me time to chat with other attendees. I got to explore a bit with Madeline Moy and Bee Tangsurat, but I will cover this and the dinner in the near future, where I met Jessica Tupper, Carrie Trax, Bordeaux Wines, and more.

Sunday morning kicked off with a self-guided tour of Pike Place Market. I arrived late, and could not find anyone until I ventured to Storyville Coffee and located Dr. Jean, Erica, Kate Neschke, Michael Wangbickler, and more. Upon returning to the conference, one last session awaited us. I decided to attend a Writer’s Block session, but in hindsight, I should have attended the Google+ session, which appeared to contain significantly more vital information to any blogger. Some of the highlights I spotted on Twitter, most of which came from Julie and Mike:

  • As a social media site, Google+ will fail. As a social media platform, Google+ will win.
  • Facebook is the AOL of social media. A walled garden.
  • Pages with more +1s tend to rank higher.
  • More people will click the google + button if it shows a number, even if it says 0.
  • If you can, make the Google+ button sticky on your website. Also, always list the count (even if it’s zero)
  • Set up REL=Publisher – a brand page, and link to your site. Add a link your site back to your brand page.
  • Your email address has to be on the same domain as your site for authorship. Or you can use linking.
  • In depth content – content that has accumulated credibility over time. 50/50 chance of hanging around.
  • Anything with 2000+ words has a greater chance of becoming in depth content.
  • Google has stopped providing key word information for your metrics. You will now see “not provided” in your metrics.
  • Post blog links to your Google+ personal profile page, share from your Google+ brand page.

With that, the 2013 International Food Blogger Conference came to a close. They announced the details for next year’s conference: September 19-21 at the Westin in Seattle, $95 for bloggers, and $395 for non-bloggers. Registration has already opened, and spots have filled up quick, so if you want to attend next year, register your spot today! If you ask yourself, “Should I go?” I cannot disclose a definite answer, as it depends on the individual and their knowledge & passion for food and technology.

In no particular order, I would like to thank Erin Penor, Kristin Price, Sara Lundberg, Stephanie Jensen, Timothy Gast, Annalise Thomas, and Annelies Zijderveld for their interactions with me this weekend, and for helping me feel welcome while overwhelmed in a new city. I would also like to thank Suki, Ryan Valentin, and Mary Cowx for allowing me to join them on a rainy adventure following the conference Sunday afternoon. I met so many wonderful people here, and I really want to return next year, so I will do my best to clear up my schedule around that weekend again!

On the first official day of the 5th Annual International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC), Grocery presented 16 different food products for all the attendees to try as our first official activity. Complemented with a representative from each company to speak about the company and their products, this rapid-fire session allowed all attendees to sample the products while learning about the product, company, and the movement to better eating. Most of these products followed similar traits – vegan, gluten-free, no sugar, not fat, or any combination of these and more.

First, we tried an all-natural strawberry fruit strip from Stretch Island Fruit Co. This strip of puréed fruit (middle row, second from left) comes with half a serving of fruit in each strip, and has no added sugar. This vegan and gluten-free snack goes great in a child’s lunch box.

Second, we sampled a chocolate truffle from Lindt (ball under the jar). Pro Tip: how to use a Lindt truffle – when you brew your cup of coffee in the morning, place a Lindt truffle in your coffee mug before brewing for a chocolate-inufsed coffee.

Next, we received a bag of Annie’s Homegrown Organic Fruit Snacks (middle row, left). Launching in 2008, these fruit snacks have become one of the nation’s top vegan & gluten-free fruit snacks. Consumers can find these fruit snacks commonly at most Costco warehouses.

We now get to try the biggest bag from Sahale Snacks (above the jar). Founded ten years ago based on a backpack, the founders created these gluten-free products with a focus on fresh flavors. Unique to this product, they store the seasoning in a small jar attached to the main bag. The bag contained pecans, walnuts, and cherries, while a pouch attached to the bag contained cinnamon.

Bumblebar presented their JunoBar snack next (middle row, right). I rolled the lucky bad and received my favorite flavor, Peanut Butter. This gluten-free and dairy-free fiber bar makes for a great between-meal snack, and it also does not taste as dry as other conventional fiber bars.

Brookside Chocolate brought their Dark Chocolate-covered Açaí & Blueberries (top left). They combine dark chocolate with unique fruits to create wonderful pairings. Due to the nature of their factory, these may contain gluten, so this did not get gluten-free certification.

Navitas Naturals brings superfoods from around the world together to create tasty vegan gluten-free organic snacks, such as the Dragon Fruit snacks (magenta bag). These fruit slices simply get sliced and dried with no added ingredients other than what already comes on the fruit.

Manuka Doctor delivered a dosage of a Bio Active 10+ Manuka Honey. This jar of honey from New Zealand contains antioxidants and other natural healthy minerals, like peroxide. Starting off thick and crystallized, this honey goes great as a sugar or syrup substitute, such as in coffee or french toast.

Moving on, Happy Family presented their Happy Squeeze Fruit & Veggie Twist (bottom right). This all-organic company started on Mother’s Day in 2006 making baby foods. Since then, they have expanded to include products for adults as well, delivering optimal nutrition to everyone. These gluten-free juice twists contain a half cup of fruit, providing 150% of your daily Vitamin C. It also makes a decent topping, as it comes out like applesauce.

Following Happy Family, we heard a presentation from YumEarth Organics Fruit Snacks (top right). The fruit snacks have almost every healthy label: organic, gluten-free, fat free, soy free, dairy free, peanut free, vegan, and no artificial dyes.

Found in the mid-90’s, Scharffen Berger, now owned by Hershey’s, uses certified cacao to craft gourmet dark chocolate bars. This single-origin bar uses ingredients from San Juan De Cheni in Peru to create a bold dark chocolate bar with hints of fruits like pineapple, citrus, banana, and cherry.

Moving on to the drinks, Zico Coconut Water delivered refreshment to us in the forms of natural, chocolate, or latté coconut water. With zero fat, zero added sugar, zero gluten, and kosher-certified, coconut water makes for a terrific hydration alternative to water, providing essential vitamins and minerals vital to the active lifestyle. The chocolate flavor tastes like chocolate milk, while the latté tasted slightly watered down.

Drink Chia presented their background prior to us opening the bottle to drink it. This company originated after a running event, where a need arose for drinks without all the added sugar. This drink contains organic chia seeds and contains plenty of omega 3s, vitamins, and minerals, all without gluten.

Fever Tree presented a glass bottle of Ginger Beer. Using three natural types of ginger from India, Africa, and the Ivory Coast combined with lemons from Sicily, this ginger beer comes with a light spicy and works extremely well as a mixer in cocktails.

Juice drink manufacturer Bai served us their Bai5 superfruit-infused beverage. Using the shell of standard coffee beans, this antioxidant-heavy drink comes with intense nutrients without added sugar, soy, or gluten. It contains only 5 calories and 1 gram of sugar, but tastes very sweet thanks to the stevia used to sweeten this drink. It has 35mg of caffeine, so keep that in mind when consuming this drink.

Our last presenter came from Suja Juice, serving us a bottle of their 3-day Cleanse. Certified organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and kosher-ready, this green juice starts off tasting like typical greens, but finishes with a fruity aftertaste.

This session barely scratches the surface of this year’s conference. Expect to see more coverage in the next few days!

LA Beer Week
September 19-29
Greater Los Angeles Area

This 11-day beer celebration covers Los Angeles through Orange County, culminating in a beer fest on the last day in Downtown Los Angeles. During this period, virtually every restaurant, bar, gastropub, and any other craft beer establishment will host some sort of beer event. Literally hundreds of beer events will take place over 11 days in the Greater Los Angeles Area, so for an abridged list, visit the website linked above. Even the website cannot contain every single event! Check with your local favorite brewpub to find out how they will participate. For the purposes of condensing this list, I will not include any event that directly relates to LA Beer Week, as their website will list them all.

Taste of Arcadia
5:30 pm – 9:00 pm, September 23
Los Angeles County Arboretum, Arcadia

The annual Taste of Arcadia returns TONIGHT, so for those planning to go, buy the $60 presale tickets now, or pay $70 at the door. More than 40 food vendors will serve samples, while over 30 other vendors will keep guests occupied between eats.

AleSmith Brewing Tap Takeover @ 38 Degrees
6:00 pm – 10:00 pm, September 23
38 Degrees Ale House, Alhambra

Join AleSmith Brewing’s brewmaster Bill Batten as he stocks the taps at 38 Degrees Ale House with plenty of refreshing AleSmith brews, and share a drink or two with him. Guests can park for free in the restaurant’s small parking lot, or in the parking structure to the east.

Dirty Little Secrets Rock Burlesque – End of Summer Strip Down
9:00 pm – 11:00 pm, September 25
One-Eyed Gypsy, Downtown Los Angeles

Enjoy a fun FREE burlesque show courtesy of the Dirty Little Secrets this Wednesday night in Downtown Los Angeles. Guests may park on the street for free after 8pm. No one under 21 may attend.

Title Fight @ The Glass House
6:00 pm – 12:00 am, September 26
The Glass House, Pomona

Punk rock band Title Fight headlines this show this Thursday night at The Glass House in Downtown Pomona. This all-ages show costs $15. Tickets have officially SOLD OUT, but you may still find after-market tickets available on sites like Craigslist or StubHub.

Middle Class Rejects CD Release Party
7:00 pm – 12:00 am, September 26
House of Blues, Downtown Disney, Anaheim

Old school punk band Middle Class Rejects will celebrate their latest album release with an all-ages show this Wednesday night at House of Blues in Downtown Disney in Anaheim. In addition to them playing, guests will also get to see Duane Peters Gun Fight, Slime Kings, Tyranis, and False Prophet. Tickets to this show cost $15. Guests can park in the Downtown Disney parking lot for free for up to five hours, so plan your trip accordingly.

Stair Climb for Los Angeles
11:00 am – 10:00 pm, September 27
YMCA, Downtown Los Angeles

On this day, the city will shut down Hope Street as thousands attempt to race up the stairs of the US Bank tower in Downtown Los Angeles. This all-day fest also includes food trucks, live music, a beer garden, rock-climbing walls, and more. Even if you cannot participate in the climb, the actual festival requires no fee to enter.

Feast of San Gennaro
11:00 am – 11:00 pm, September 27-29
Hollywood & Highland, West Hollywood

Hosted by Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel, the Feast of San Gennaro makes its annual return this weekend just south of Hollywood & Highland. This street festival celebrates Italian culture in America, and will feature Italian food, desserts, drinks, music, entertainment, and more. Admission costs $5, while parking will vary.

5th Annual Surf City Surf Dog Weekend
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, September 27
9:00 am – 12:30 pm, September 28
8:00 am – 2:30 pm, September 29
Huntington Dog Beach, Huntington Beach

Catch a weekend of surfing and dogs this weekend in Huntington Beach. On Friday, visit the Shorebreak Hotel for an opening reception and a dog fashion show. On Saturday, participate in a dog yoga class in the morning, spectate various dog contests, and visit the Canine Expo at The Strand on 5th. The expo lasts until Sunday, when the Surfing Dog contest also takes place. Events vary in price, so check the website for a price for each individual event.

The Vex Fine Arts Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
7:00 pm – 12:00 am, September 27-28
The Vex, East Los Angeles

Check out this art exhibit and local music showcase dedicated to Hispanic Heritage starting this Friday night at The Vex in East LA. On Friday, experience local musicians playing their smooth songs. On Saturday, exhibit local art and a fashion show. The site does not mention an age limit or entrance fee, so bring cash just in case. Guests should park in the alley behind the building, but avoid parking too deep into the alley, or risk getting blocked by cars arriving afterwards.

14th Annual Cruisin’ For A Cure Car Show
7:00 am – 3:00 pm, September 28
OC Fair & Events Center, Costa Mesa

This all-ages charity car show returns to the OC Fair this Saturday morning. Admission costs $15, and includes free prostate testing for men. Parking costs $7 for general and $10 for preferred parking.

12th Annual Irvine Global Village Festival
10:00 am – 6:00 pm, September 28
Bill Barber Park, Irvine

This international cultural festival occurs this Saturday in Irvine at Bill Barber Park. Free to park and enter for all ages, this multicultural fest features international cuisine, live entertainment, a kids village with crafts & activities, cultural & religious exhibits, and an international marketplace.

32nd Annual Adams Avenue Street Fair
10:00 am – 7:00 pm, September 28-29
Adams Avenue between 32nd & 35th Street, Normal Heights, San Diego

This FREE and all-ages music festival takes place over two days this weekend on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights, between the 805 and 15 freeways. Ten blocks will close to traffic to make way for over 90 music acts on seven stages and over 350 vendor booths. Guests should take public transportation to Adams Avenue, as traffic will remain heavily congested all weekend, and parking will not exist in high numbers here.

3rd Annual Los Angeles International Tea Festival
11:00 am – 5:00 pm, September 28-29
Japanese American National Museum, Downtown Los Angeles

Sample teas from around the world, and sample Japanese cuisine at this tea festival. General admission to this all-ages festival costs $15. Guests can park for free on the street on Sunday. On Saturday, all lots and meters will operate normally.

Hangar 24 Oktoberfest & Beer Festival
11:00 am – 6:00 pm, September 28
Sylvan Park, Redlands

Celebrate Oktoberfest like how a brewery should celebrate a beer festival! This seasonal beer fest brings out over 30 breweries, over 10 food vendors, and a handful of cultural music acts representative of the Oktoberfest background. General admission costs just $5 and simply provides entry to this all-ages fest. From there, attendees will have to pay for everything on their own. Admission with ten 4oz beer tasters cost $35 presale and $45 at the door, and includes a souvenir tasting cup. VIP admission costs $60, allows early entry, and comes with five additional beer tastes. Guests can park for free on the surrounding streets.

Bottle Share #8
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm, September 28
38 Degrees Ale House, Alhambra

Brew your own beer? Got an interested craft beer to share? Bring it to 38 Degrees’ monthly bottle share event, taking place this Saturday afternoon, and discover other great beers too. Free to attend, guests should bring approximately 40-50 ounce’s worth of beer. The restaurant has its own free parking lot.

2:00 pm – 6:00 pm, September 28
LA Center Studios, West LA

America’s answer to Oktoberfest, this American spin on Oktoberfest will feature over 150 craft beers, food trucks, live bands, and more. Where Oktoberfest celebrates German culture, Septemberfest celebrates America and everything great about it. Presale tickets cost $40, while tickets at the door cost $50, if any remain.

Glow Santa Monica
7:00 pm – 3:00 am, September 28
Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica

This free all-ages nighttime art gala brings artists from around the world to illuminate the sky with brilliant & bright works of art. This all-night outdoors art exhibit covers multiple blocks in Santa Monica, the pier, and the beaches. Similar to Autumn Lights, guests can walk around and interact with some of the exhibits. Guests should take public transportation to the beach, as traffic will remain heavy in this area all night.

Whitekaps, Sick Sense, The Penetrators @ Sports Zone
9:00 pm – 1:00 am, September 28
Sports Zone, Fontana

Catch old school punk band Whitekaps as they headline this show out in Fontana with Sick Sense and The Penetrators. Admission to this all-ages show costs just $8.

Orange County Children’s Book Festival
9:30 am – 4:00 pm, September 29
Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa

This FREE all-ages fair caters to families as it presents thousands of children’s book available to read or buy. The fair will also host multiple stages complete with family-friendly entertainment.

29th Annual Abbot Kinney Festival
10:00 am – 6:00 pm, September 29
Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice

This free all-ages street fair showcases the best of local businesses in food, drinks, merchandise, apparel, accessories, art, crafts, local music, and more. Abbot Kinney will close to traffic to allow the thousands of visitors to freely roam the streets and explore all the vendors.

Sederra, Assuming We Survive, Versus The World, Rick Thorne @ Loaded Hollywood
2:00 pm – 7:00 pm, September 29
Loaded Hollywood, Los Angeles

Local rock bands play a matinee show this Sunday afternoon. The event page does not mention an age limit, entry fee, or parking information.

GFP @ Gaslamp Long Beach
3:00 pm – 10:00 pm, September 29
Gaslamp, Long Beach

General Fucking Principles headlines a hardcore punk show this Sunday at Gaslamp in Long Beach with Luicidal, Hemlock, Long Beach All Day, and more local bands. This all-ages show costs $12 to enter.

2013 Thai Food Festival
3:30 pm – 6:00 pm, September 29
Paramount Pictures Studios, Los Angeles

Sample food from some of Los Angeles’ top Thai food chefs at the Thai Food Festival this Sunday. General admission to this all-ages tasting event costs $50.

The Auld Dubliner Irish Pub in Downtown Long Beach has brought a taste of Ireland down to Long Beach, as they threw the first ever Long Beach Fleadh Irish Music & Oyster Festival. Pronounced ‘fla’ in its native language of gaelic, this traditional summer festival celebrates Irish culture with music, oysters, other Irish food, beer, whisky, and more. Now finding a place here in Long Beach, all visitors to this festival could sample a bit of Irish culture at this two-day all-ages festival that took place this past weekend at The Pike in Downtown Long Beach. A handful of activities awaited all visitors, such as a kids’ area, an Irish film tent, multiple music stages, and plenty of food & drinks.

In the main oyster tent, a handful of local restaurants catered fresh oysters from local sources. This tent also included champagne, beer, and whisky from Tullamore Dew along with acoustic music performances.

This festival featured three stages: a main stage, an acoustic stage, and a traditional/storytelling stage.

Visitors could find some of Southern California’s more prominent Celtic/Irish bands here at the Fleadh, such as The American Wake and the California Celts, shown below.

For as much as they marketed this festival, the organizers could have done a lot more to make this fest as grand as they made it sound. Take into consideration that it cost $20 for adults to enter this festival. Compare that with other Irish festivals that cost no more than $15 and comes with much more content. This Fleadh surely felt underwhelming, as it only featured exactly what they advertised and nothing more. We only ever saw the music, food, drinks, and film session that the website mentioned. They could have expanded this festival to contain more Irish culture and traditions, but then they started to dabble into Scottish culture with all the bagpipes. At that point, I could tell they did not obtain all the content they originally wanted for this festival. The organizers also left a lot of empty space around the festival that they could have filled but chose not to because they assumed a larger capacity of visitors. This festival has lots of room to grow, and plenty of potential to live up to the original Fleadh festival found in Ireland. Hopefully they can pull off a complete rework of this festival for next year, as Long Beach truly deserves its own Irish festival after housing so many Irish pubs for the longest time.

The nation’s top conference for food bloggers moves from Portland to Seattle this year, as the 5th Annual International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) returns this weekend, starting Friday afternoon. This highly-acclaimed conference focuses on prime aspects to any writer that creates content related to food, beverages, cooking, and anything else in the culinary field. Covering a broad diversity of educational topics to choose from, each attendee may devise their own program of sessions to attend. Sessions/workshops will cover anything from food & cooking to writing skills to technology. I still have yet to formulate my full itinerary, but I get to pick one from each of these groups:

Friday, 4:30pm:

  • Making your blog work for you – how to design your blog to cater to your audience
  • Building Your Food Blog Media Business – how to turn your blog into a successful media business
  • The Elements in Building Traffic – how to utilize SEO and social media to increase site traffic

Saturday, 2:15pm:

  • Artisan Olive Oil Tasting – learn about different types of olive oils
  • Live Blogging: An Exercise in Writing with Bordeaux Wines – taste wines and write about them on the spot
  • Food Photography Workflow From A-Z – how to take your photography to the next level

Saturday, 4:00pm:

  • Food & Wine: Unexpected Pairings – how to rethink food & wine pairings
  • Story Telling: The 7-Part Structure of Stories – how to keep your audience wanting more
  • Sous Vide Cooking Demystified with Seattle Food Geek – everything you want to know about sous vide

Sunday, 9:45am:

  • Low Salt Living – how to maximize flavor without the need for more sodium
  • Snap Out of It – how to escape writer’s block
  • Google Plus, AuthorRank, and Where Search Is Going – the importance of SEO and key words

All weekend, attendees will get treated to many other exciting tastings and activities, such as the Taste of Seattle, a photography demo, an expo to discovery new products & ingredients, a Taste of Alaska Seafood, a dinner crawl (pub crawl for restaurants), and more! Want me to cover/write about a particular session? Post a comment here or on my Facebook page, or tweet me. I will post something Saturday morning detailing my first day at the IFBC.

During any downtime this weekend, I can freely roam the city, so if you have any suggestions of places to visit, please do send me your suggestions! I appreciate all of the suggestions so far, and the following places have caught my eye.

For the longest time, I have wanted to visit Uneeda Burger, just north of downtown. This burger shack proves that you cannot judge a book by its cover. For a small place, they pack punches in their burgers. I definitely have to try their BBQ Smash burger.

As a craft beer enthusiast, wherever I travel, I always check out the local craft beer scene. Up in Seattle, no other micro brewery stands out more than Elysian Brewing. Elysian has crafted quite a name for themselves since opening 18 years ago. With the increasing popularity of craft beer in the nation, Elysian’s reach into other states would only take a matter of time to manifest. I first tried one of their beers as a collaboration between Elysian, Stone Brewing, and The Bruery – a 5.0% pumpkin ale know as La Citrueille Cèleste de Citracado. Elysian loves their pumpkins, and they even throw a Pumpkin Beer Fest every year. Unfortunately I will have already returned to California by the time that fest rolls around. In the meantime, I will gladly enjoy a nice pint of any Elysian beer.

Moving on to more recent discoveries, Quinn’s Pub appears similar to Haven Gastropub here in Southern California. Unlike in California, restaurants can serve foie gras here in Washington, so I will likely chow down on this calorific delicacy.

Another gastropub-like restaurant caught my eye because of its name. The restaurant named 9 Million in Unmarked Bills operates similarly to URBN in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, with the craft beer, craft cocktails, and the gorgeous presentations of their cuisine, such as this Caprese.

Seattle also contains a handful of “firsts” businesses, such as the first Starbucks, the first Crossfit, and the first bikini coffee shop. Coincidentally, Seattle will see its first ever International Food Blogger Conference this weekend. I will also set foot in Seattle for the first time later today. How many more “firsts” will occur this weekend in Seattle? Only time will tell, and we will find out in a few days.

With all these big beer fests going on around this time of year, we tend to overlook the smaller crowd. A beer fest comes with a handful of objectives: provide lots of beer for attendees to drink (quantity), or invite micro breweries that need exposure (quality). Oktoberfest provides a prime example of the former – attracting thousands of people to one location to guzzle bad overpriced beer. When you want to find good beers but have no idea where to start, a beer fest makes for a great place to start, as it exposes attendees to a variety of local beers. Some larger beer fests get dominated by larger companies like Budweiser or Corona, so in order to seek out the locals, we have to look at smaller fests. In terms of any type of food & beverage festival, size does not always mean everything, and The Factory’s Drink Good Beer Fest proves just that.

The Factory Gastropub in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach has always had a penchant for supporting the local beer scene. Everyday, customers will find taps stocked only with craft beers in the dining room. Every month, they host various beer-related events, such as tap takeovers, bottle shares, beer pairings, and homebrew meetings. The Factory strongly supports the homebrew movement, encouraging locals to take up brewing beer at home. This notion to support homebrewers activated the invocation of the Drink Good Beer Mash-Up & Homebrew Competition. This event combined a homebrew contest with a small beer fest, which saw the launch of Ohana Brewing‘s flagship beer last year. Now running for the second year in a row, the 2nd Annual Drink Good Beer Fest has grown to include more homebrew entrants and micro breweries in this event. Following last year’s launch, Congregation Ale House launched their new beer at this fest. For as little as $25 for presale admission, attendees received up to four hours with ten 4oz beer pours at this fest – plenty of time to get through it all. I even bought more drink tickets since I had exhausted my original allocation with an hour left to go.

Breweries in attendance: Figueroa Mountain Brewing, Noble Ale Works, Dudes’ Brewing, Kinetic Brewing, Firestone Walker, Sierra Nevada, Cismontane Brewing, Strand Brewing, Congregation Ale House, Stone Brewing, The Bruery, Smog City Brewing, Pizza Port, Latitude 33, Iron Fist Brewing, Golden Road Brewing, Ohana Brewing, Los Angeles Ale Works, Eagle Rock Brewery, New Belgium, Monkish Brewing, Epic Brewing, Karl Strauss, Hangar 24, Ritual Brewing, Bootlegger’s Brewery, Valiant Brewing, El Segundo Brewing, Tenaya Creek Brewery

Of particular note, Los Angeles Ale Works decided to not only bring beer like everyone else, but also to bring craft soda. I have seen homebrewers and micro breweries head in the direction of craft sodas, so to see it in fruition here makes the vision appear more real. It also helps that, for an outdoors festival, they carried the only free non-alcoholic beverage. To sample at this fest, they brough Ketsara, a Thai Tea soda.

Nearly every brewery brought up to two different beers to try. For a small fest, one would expect to see standard beers available instead of the fancy stuff found indoors at popular establishments. However, a few of the breweries decided to man up and bring strong stuff. A handful of the beers floated around the 9% range, but Firestone Walker wins the strongest of the fest for bringing their §ucaba, a 12.5% barleywine. Other beers I got to try:

  • Hangar 24 Brewery – Kirschen, a 3.9% Berliner Weisse (not pictured)
  • Epic Brewing – Santa Cruz, a 5.8% brown ale
  • Eagle Rock Brewery – Unionist, a 5.4% Belgian ale
  • Monkish Brewery – Seme Della Vita, a 9.8% Belgian Tripel
  • Smog City Brewing – L.A. Saison, a 5.8% saison
  • Karl Strauss – Peanut Butter Cup, a 5.8% porter
  • Firestone Walker – §ucaba, a 12.5% American barleywine
  • Tenaya Creek – Old Jackalope, a 10.4% barleywine
  • Iron Fist Brewing – Dubbel Fisted, an 8.1% dubbel
  • Golden Road Brewing – Hudson Imperial Rye Porter, an 8.5% strong porter
  • Kinetic Brewing – Saison Été, a 6.6% farmhouse ale
  • Dudes’ Brewing – Grinning Face, a 6.2% American porter

At the start of the beer fest, The Factory’s owner Natalie welcomed Congregation’s owner Travis as he blessed the beer and the day for everyone to enjoy.

At the end of the beer fest, the homebrew contest organizers finally announced the winners of the competition. Their homebrew will receive limited distribution in the South LA/Orange County area for a limited time.

Who said size matters? We have not seen so much content in so little space since Slater’s 50/50 held a beer fest in the parking lot right outside their newest location. All the breweries brought so much beer, and most of them brought their strong stuff too, a rarity in small-size beer fests like this. A giant canopy provided enough shade for any attendee wanting to escape the hot sun, as well as the snacks table where attendees could purchase snacks, water, or food from the restaurant. Also, how often does a small beer fest last four hours? Most beer fests nowadays last only three hours, or four with a “VIP admission” that costs more than general admission. The Factory went in the right direction with this beer fest, as it serves multiple purposes, such as exposing people to new beer & breweries, and exposing people to The Factory, a gastropub in an otherwise family-friendly neighborhood. Stay tuned for this fest next year, and start thinking of beers to brew to enter into this competition!

OC Weekly‘s annual tasting event, Decadence, returned for its tenth year running this past Friday night. This annual nightly gala features some of Orange County’s top chefs, caterers, bakers, mixologists, musicians, and more for a night of sipping and savoring in the wilderness. Taking place at Rancho Las Lomas in Silverado, guests will walk among random animal exhibits around this wildlife reserve. As a wildlife reserve and event space, this venue hosts events all the time of varying scale, from small parties to large events like this. Perhaps the word large comes off as an understatement in this case, or that too many people anticipated or overrated this event.

Upon arrival, all guests could spot the night’s most glaring issue – the abundance of attendees. For some reason, people tend to believe that more people usually means something good. When it comes down to the source, this means something or someone at the front cannot expedite the group of people. In addition to the long line to enter the venue, once inside the venue, even more lines existed for every table and booth. Just to convolute things further, guests had to navigate lots of narrow paths in the darkness. For example, I could barely see what Slater’s 50/50 and Smoqued served until I used my phone’s light. At other locations throughout the venue, vendors had to operate with little space and contort around the twisted paths, since the venue’s architects decided not to craft straight paths or walls. But apparently, most of the attendees love to wait in long crowded lines in the dark for samples of food and drinks.

As another issue that manifested prior to the night, OC Weekly once again botched on the parking information. Last year, they said that guests could park for free, but at the last-minute announced that parking would cost $5. This time, they made a last-minute change to the parking location. They originally announced that guests should park at Saddleback Church and ride the shuttle from there to the venue. I arrived there an hour prior to the event’s start time, and circled the church campus for a good 45 minutes, and never saw any shuttles or signs of Decadence attendees. Finally fed up, I decided to drive to the venue to discover the parking situation, since OC Weekly does not list any sort of contact phone number for anyone to reach with questions. Along the way to the venue from the church, I spotted a shuttle turning from a cross street. I turned onto that cross street only to discover that the Decadence parking lot existed in a totally different location unrelated to Saddleback Church. OC Weekly’s negligence to announce correct parking details to the attendees caused not only myself to arrive late, but hundreds more, as I discovered during the shuttle ride to the venue.

What happened to the quality of the food and drinks? Sure OC Weekly invited some cool restaurants like Slater’s 50/50, Chapter One, and Scott’s, but Decadence this year came nowhere close to the amount of food vendors that participated last year. As another huge bummer, OC Weekly did not bring on any micro brewery this time, opting to stock Corona as the only beer available throughout the entire venue. Craft beer reigns in the overall beer industry, so why not bring ANY micro brewery at all?

A VIP area existed and carried lots of exclusive bites and sips that everyone outside could not obtain. With the right timing, anyone could enter the VIP area, as security apparently did not do a good job of keeping the area closed, especially after someone inside the VIP area opened all the doors marked DO NOT OPEN, allowing everyone else to enter.

Clearly I do not work for OC Weekly, but clearly too many people have drunk their Kool Aid. Decadence this year cannot even compare to Decadence last year, when they had lots of food, lots of space, and lots of light. This time, they put us outdoors in the dark, with fewer choices for food and drinks. Okay, we can look at animal exhibits… but we came to a tasting event, not a zoo! With the way the attendees swarmed in the narrow paths, it totally felt like a zoo with this many people. OC Weekly had the audacity to claim that everyone had a good time at Decadence, and their photos show it. People need to stop believing everything they say and start to realize the opinionated nature of OC Weekly. After all, OC Weekly exists as a publication, not a newspaper. If you seek credible sources of information, read a local newspaper, like the OC Register. Just stop taki

Orange County, you confuse me.