Tue 25 May 2010
My friends and I are dining at a restaurant, and my starter of grilled tomato atop garlic-rubbed grilled bread drizzled with extra virgin olive oil with a dash of sea salt arrives. I say something about the beautifully ripe tomatoes and note the perfect grill marks on the bread before whipping out my camera (cue collective groan from friends) for a close-up shot of the dish. I snap away, taking breaks only to rearrange the food on my plate to get the perfect angle.
This type of pre-dining behavior is not appreciated by my friends. They even have a nickname for me – Nikon (pronounced knee-con here) as I’m hardly ever without my camera. So imagine my absolute glee when I walked into the Bord Bia offices in Dublin last week and saw a room full of camera-toting foodies – I could finally let my freak flag fly! The event, sponsored by Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) and organized by cookbook author and fellow food blogger Donal Skehan was a day of photography, cooking demonstrations, lectures, and – of course – food! Needless to say, I felt I’d finally found “my peeps.”
Clockwise: Lorraine does vegetarian; Marie cooks up pork; Jacosta sets up the perfect shot; Pat works away at the bones;.
Food bloggers from all over Ireland came out to enjoy a day of education and inspiration courtesy of a team of talented chefs, culinary artists and Bord Bia. Things kicked off with Bord Bia’s David Owens, who gave a fascinating talk about the high-quality pork coming out of Ireland these days. I can personally attest to the quality and great taste of Irish pork; not only did I cook up a fantastic Irish pork rib roast recently; I also am a huge fan of Irish bacon and pork loin. The very funny and wildly entertaining Chef Pat Conway then demonstrated how to break down a huge loin of pork. Talk about mad knife skills! Pat sliced and cut and sawed his way through the meat and bones of this gigantic cut of meat and came out the other side with beautifully-trimmed chops, ribs, loins, fillets and more.
Donal introduces the next speaker; bloggers at lunch; Damien gives marketing tips.
The cooking demos were just as engaging. Lorraine Fitzmaurice from Blazing Salads baked up a beautiful Spelt Soda Bread that was unlike any spelt bread I’d ever eaten. In my experience, spelt breads tend to be very dense, almost overly so. But this was light and flavorful, and I broke my no-carbs week just to eat a small slice (yes, it was worth it!). Bord Bia Food Advisor Maire Dufficy was up next, creating a range of pork dishes that were quick, easy and delicious. Even though she was making numerous dishes, Maire was as cool as a cucumber as she stirred, tossed and grilled her creations. The pork belly she baked in the oven was absolutely divine, and I was thrilled when I saw it on the lunch menu.
Lunch – YUM!
After a quick and enlightening presentation on blog marketing by social-media maestro Damien Mulley (who reminded me of Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick), we all gathered for lunch in a conference room next door. It was a porky menu, which suited me just fine. I had some juicy pork loin, the aforementioned pork belly and a salad – all were absolutely gorgeous. There was a strawberry tart that was calling my name but I somehow found the will to resist (I’m trying to be “good” as I have been eating WAY too much lately!). The best part of the lunch was being able to chat with fellow food bloggers, many whom I have known via their blogs for a while now. It was great to finally see the faces behind the blogs! During lunch, freelance book editor Eoin Purcell gave a captivating talk about how to turn a blog into a book. Everyone was at full-attention during this talk as there were quite a few budding authors in the room.
Perfect pasta, styled by Jacosta Clarke and Erica Ryan.
The cherry on the cake was a food styling demo by Jacosta Clarke and Erica Ryan. From the basics (using colorful plates) to the imaginative (placing cosmetic wedges underneath food for height), their tips really opened my eyes to the possibilities. I’m always looking for ways to improve my food photographs so this session was a real treat for me. Speaking of treats, we were all gifted with a variety of goodies on our way out, including lovely teas from Barry’s, fresh herb plants from Living Flavour, smoked trout from Goatsbridge, salad “seeds” (for topping) from Good4U, chutney from Sheridans Cheesemongers, fantastic beef jerky courtesy of Biltong, and a lovely, home-baked cookie from food blogger Lilly Higgins.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day, and came home feeling inspired and energized. To be able to spend the day with people who geek out on food as much as I do (and take as many photos as I do!) really made me feel at home. Thanks so much to Bord Bia (especially Maueve and Klara), Donal Skehan and all the presenters and food bloggers in attendance. I look forward to our next meet up!