My kind of meet up: A healthy mix of gourmet gossip courtesy of the food writing literati, intriguing story possibilities, and fascinating food folk from near and far. That proved the ingredients for five days spent at the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) annual conference, held this year in Portland, Oregon.
I’m a neophyte to both this organization and event, an annual schmooze fest for food writers, cookbook authors, agents, editors, food photogs & stylists, cooking teachers, and other edible enthusiasts.
To be expected at such soirees, it became clear early on that the real action happens outside the program agenda in hosted dinners, private parties, and impromptu chats held in cafes, bars, and restaurants around town.
I came home with a belly full of fine food, a head full of story ideas, and a heart full of new friends. There’s so much to share I’m going to dish it out in bite-sized chunks over three days. Up first, a serving of fun facts, then a second course featuring five PDX producers at their local, artisan, original best, followed by five global gourmet offerings to feast on.
A trio of tidbits to whet your appetite:
- I had dinner with the grande dame of food writers, ex-Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl. We sat at a table featuring some of the best of Stumptown’s locally grown and raised food, cooked by two of the city’s top chefs, Cathy Whims and John Taboada. It was a very long table in a very loud room. Ruth and I were at either end. No conversation ensued. But, truth-be-told, I was delighted to chat with fellow diners Laura Masterson, of 47th Avenue Farm, whose pristine produce was featured in the dinner, and wine maker Sam Tannahill, whose 2008 Rex Hill Jacob Hart Pinot Noir paired perfectly with a crazy good goat cheese called Up in Smoke from Rivers’ Edge Chevre.
- Despite protestations to the contrary, The New York Times food writer Kim Severson, could easily get a gig as a TV host. She’s fast on her feet, funny, and gave off an Ellen De Generes like vibe in her schtick both in breakout sessions and on stage with friend and mentor Ruth R, whom she called “the most famous unemployed food writer in America.”
- Carefully coifed Michael Ruhlman (has any other cookbook author received so much attention for his attention to personal grooming?) revealed his disdain for recipes, decried the ever-present excuse of no time to cook as “bullshit,” and urged an eager audience to make love while a chicken roasts in the oven. What about the vegetarians, Mr. Ratio Man?
Amusing asides aside, Ruth Reichl made an impassioned plea for the planet and food production, pointing out that the things that make fast food cheap – readily available fossil fuels, water, and predictable weather — are all in dangerously short supply.
There’s never been a better time to write about food, she reckons, or a more critical time to do so. Would you agree?
Check back tomorrow for part two of my IACP roundup, on the homegrown bounty courtesy of some of Portland’s finest food producers.