Expect the Unexpected-Blogher Food ’09

Blogher food 09

Expect the unexpected is a great motto, but it’s a hard one to follow. Especially if you like knowing what’s going to happen next.

Blogher Food ’09 was—without a doubt—a thoroughly surprising experience. I enjoyed meeting my blogging heroes and a throng of fascinating blogging personalities. I learned technical lessons, had theoretical discussions, and listened in on inspirational ideas about blogging. But one thing I didn’t expect was bad frozen food, rubber gloves for a chocolate dessert tasting, processed frosting in a can, and the organizers’ overall misunderstanding of the culinary needs of conference attendees. Though the programmed conference programs were educational (I wish I could have gone to all of them), the most disappointing aspect of the conference was the food.

Box of Chocolate at Blogher Food 09
Bloggers snap on rubber gloves and wait to plunge their hands into a box of chocolate.

Picnik collage
Why am I smiling if really–deep down–I’m horrified?


I know. I couldn’t believe the organizers gross misunderstanding of their audience, either. Though food bloggers may share technological platforms with other bloggers, what sets us apart from other online publishers is our obsession over all things culinary.

Processed food at Blogher Food 09
Pilsbury Ready Frost products

Unlike most conferences where food isn’t even a consideration, a food blogging event requires an extreme amount of attention. For us food bloggers, every food item we encounter—from the water we drink, to the packaged nuts served to us on airplanes, or the herbs we grow in our gardens, to the pasta recipe we develop so we can make it from scratch, or even the 7-course tasting menus we travel around the world for—every item that passes our lips (or is passed before our eyes) requires in-depth study, photography, critique, and discussion.

Blogher food 09

Despite the detailed data collection concerning the Blogher Food conference attendees, the food portion of the event wasn’t given the appropriate amount of attention. In choosing a handful of process food sponsors, it was clear that the organizers of Blogher hadn’t taken into account the data they had collected. In the words of Use Real Butter, many of us felt insulted “that somehow BlogHer doesn’t know the difference between a mommy blogger and food blogger (oh, there is a huge difference).”

Bertolli @ Blogher Food 09
Bertolli’s multi-course “tasting” menu

In short, the conference let down the attendees and the corporate sponsors that ponied up the necessary funds to make the event possible. Regardless of how hard pretty-boy Rocco Dispirito tried, there was little he could do to convince a room full of hungry food bloggers that Bertolli frozen pasta was the best meal that San Francisco had to offer.

Luckily, after the conference was over, a handful of generous food bloggers (Elise of Simply Recipes, Jaden of Steamy Kitchen and Ree of The Pioneer Woman) threw a fun-filled party with plenty of great tasting morsels and refreshing cocktails. Hungry folks that skipped the frozen food lunch and all the processed food, happily drank margaritas and munched on bites of freshly made Mexican food. Leah from Spicy Salty Sweet and I gobbled from plates and sipped our drinks as we met a handful of wonderful food bloggers from all over the country.

Expect the Unexpected–Part II

The next morning Leah and I slept in at our Union Square hotel. We dressed, packed our things, and stowed our luggage so that we could head out on foot for a day of eating.

We started in the Mission at Dynamo Donut where we sipped our first Gilbrator (equal part espresso to steamed milk), read the NYT, and between photos we sampled three donut flavors: Maple-Glazed Apple Bacon,  Chili Chocolate, and Cherry Cornbread with Cardamom.

Dynamo Donuts

Dynamo Donuts

Two Gibraltors

Dynamo Donuts

After our sugar and caffeine driven breakfast, Leah and I walked several miles to the Ferry Building. For the first time, I allowed myself the freedom to explore and let the city dictate what would happen next.

Sweets in the Mission, SF

Frida in the Mission, SF

Mission fruit stand

Jimmy the corn man

SF outfits

Meat Cone at Boccalone

We never expected we’d encounter such incredible sights. This time it was wonderful to be surprised.


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.


  1. matt
    September 30

    LOVED your wrap up! Speaking of wrap up I do love how you snuck that plastic wrap in there.

    Truly the best Sunday in oh, FOREVER!!!!

    I mean that. Seriously.

    So glad we shared it 🙂

  2. Leah Greenstein
    September 30

    Okay, can I start off saying OMG you're photos came out amazing. I saw all the same things you did, but you even made that disgusting cupcake display look good. As for Sunday, I'm so glad we had that day to eat and hang out – spending that time with you and Matt and then with your family was really special. Thanks for capturing it for posterity.

  3. Kate @ Savour Fare
    September 30

    Was the chocolate box really awful? I was already feeling less than great at that point so I elected not to take the handful but I thought that the box was maybe the exception to the general rule about the available food. I did enjoy the Scharffenberger chocolate I ate, but that's not surprising.

  4. Diana
    September 30

    Wow, I'm totally shocked. Who would have thought?! But very cool that you got to meet (and eat with!) Elise from Simply Recipes! I love her blog! 🙂 I'd have been a little food bloggerstruck.

  5. Gastronomer
    September 30

    OMG. I can't believe the BlogHer powers that be served you guys frozen pasta?! That's absurd! I'm glad to see that you more than made up for it after hours 😉

  6. MyLastBite
    September 30

    Wow. Such a different experience from the one I had at Foodista's Food Blogger Conference. I guess there's always the lesson to be learned for next time.

    But I LOVE your photos! Beautiful (and FUN)!

  7. Gabrielle (aka Peanut Free Mama)
    September 30

    I couldn't agree more! I was sitting at a table with some gluten free bloggers and they got a pretty good meal for lunch (risotto for their main and a plate of ok looking, albeit sugary, berries for dessert).

    And I loved when Rocco asked the audience who had time to go to the farmer's market and choose their produce? And how we shouldn't feel guilty for buying bagged lettuce?


    i would have rather paid for a better lunch than had the one provided by the conference. or been given a list of food within walking distance.

    and one last thing: healthy choice foods? really blogherfood? ugh.

  8. Cheryl
    September 30

    The irony is that even though the food wasn't pretty this past weekend, your camera made even canned frosting and chocolate sludge look, somehow, beautiful. Bravo for that.

    As for the plastic wrapped man, I was walking back from the Ferry Building Sunday morning with a friend and saw a man in an entire red sequined get-up with red false eyelashes. Damn if I didn't have my camera for that.

  9. Angie Foodmuse
    September 30

    Wow…sorry the conference let you down. I was hoping to go to one next year. Loved your photos though!

  10. Gaby
    September 30

    O.M.G. Why wasn't I present for that man in plastic wrap. I would have died! It was so so so fabulous to hang out this weekend! Let's plan something soon! xoxo

  11. Sam
    September 30

    So happy you managed to get from The Mission to the Ferry Building via the Folsom Street Fair. Only in SF for these kinds of days!

    I don't think I was the only one who had a bad feeling about lunch before it even happened. Alice Q Foodie and I ducked out and nipped to the Ferry Building for a Boccalone sandwich and some Frog Hollow Farm desserts. It was the best thing we could have done.

    As Alice, who was visiting from San Diego, said to me when we made the split second decision: "I just can't risk wasting one meal in San Francisco"

  12. Adriana Velez
    October 1

    Thanks for your re-cap. I'm feeling a little less envious of the Blogger Food attendees now–though I'd still like to go next year!

    Interesting about the processed food sponsors. That's so tricky–these events require a lot of funding (no doubt hard to find this time of year), but it would be interesting to see if some local/sustainable companies could band together and match that kind of funding.

    Bertolli is all over the Foodbuzz conference, too…love the Scharffen Berger, though.

    Has anyone talked with the Blogher organizers about the choice of sponsors?

  13. Southern Grace Gourmet
    October 2

    thanks for the honest comments, now I am not so disappointed I could not attend, maybe they will get better in the future. Frosting out of a can? that's an insult. It must have been hard to get gourmet/fine food companies to participate. I am sure those big companies have much bigger advertising budgets.

  14. Unplanned Cooking
    October 6

    I loved your commentary — it was a bizarre weekend, wasn't it? But definitely worth the trip to meet the other bloggers and attend the sessions.

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