I haven’t said much about BlogHer Food. By the time I was asked to be a panelist, the tickets were sold out. So it seemed rude to mention it then.

Too neener-neener-neener.

You know me. It ain’t fun if the homies can’t have none.

But now that I’m back, a lot of you have asked about the conference, so I’m ready to spill – about the panels, the people, demos, goodie bags, the cost – everything. If I don’t cover something here, feel free to ask about it in the comments.

(Oh, and if you DON’T want to read about BlogHer Food, just skip to the recipe for Light Loaded Potato Soup. Warm, indulgent, ready in 20 minutes – and no one will know it’s a light version unless you tell them. Ah, the magic of bacon.)

So I stepped off the elevator to check in at BlogHer Food, and …

They handed me my name badge, a conference guide and a canvas bag. The bag contained a few gift items from the conference’s sponsors, but it was really meant for collecting samples, coupons and promotional items at each sponsor’s booth in the hallway. The same booths are open all day during both days of the conference, hosting demos and giving away samples of their products.

Any new products or cool demos?

Absolutely! The Scharffen Berger chocolate booth had a mini cupcake buffet with an assortment of cakes, frostings and toppings. Kraft introduced a cream cheese product with the consistency of sour cream (scheduled to hit the shelves in early 2011). Nature’s Path had a rainbow of new organic snack and energy bars. We tried shots of Cascal, a new fermented all-natural soda. The Cuties California Clementine people passed out clementine-and-thyme cocktails. The Nutella folks shared a table full of samples and breakfast recipes. There were also healthier snacks from Athenos and Stacy’s Pita Chips.

What did they feed a bunch of foodies for breakfast?

Breakfast was basically the same both mornings – a light buffet with fresh fruit, granola, bran muffins, oatmeal, yogurt, milk, juice, tea and coffee. And, gluten-free folks will be glad to know that there was a separate buffet set up to avoid contamination.

What about the people? What’s it like to meet a bunch of food bloggers?

Overwhelming! The roar in the hallway during the demos was like being in a high school cafeteria. People were looking at each other’s name badges and exchanging business cards (which are on BlogHer’s list of things to bring with you). I assumed the other attendees would be food bloggers, too, but there was a broad mix of people. Some were gathering information before they started their blogs. Others were reps from PR firms, cooking stores, Food Network and food companies. There were professional food writers, photographers and stylists, chefs and experienced food bloggers.

Most people were extremely friendly. But some weren’t. Gird your loins!

And the panels? Any good tips?

Each session featured four panels going on at the same time. They were divided into Values, Visual, Vocation and Voice. You didn’t have to sign up for any particular track or panel. In fact, you could get up in the middle of one panel and walk right into another.

Here are some of my favorite tips from the BlogHer Food panels:

1. Ever wondered how food photographers get those really dark, artsy shots? Bounce the light with black foam core instead of white. Need to bounce light for a restaurant photo? Use your white napkin.

2. Want to add video to your blog, but you have no idea how to start? Use iMovie to “stitch” together some digital photos of the cooking process, and then record your voiceover using a microphone headset.

3. Interested in publishing a cookbook? You’ll need to bring something to the table besides recipes. Publishers are looking for cooks with a solid fan base, as well as their own media contacts. Who have you worked with? How do people know you? Who do you know?

4. Want to make your photos pop? Pair colors that are opposed on the color wheel, like blue and orange, yellow and purple.

5. Writing a recipe’s instructions? Keep in mind that some of your readers might not know cooking terms like “sauté” and “braise,” even if they’ve been doing these things for years. Consider adding information to your instructions about what kind of heat to use and for how long and what the cooked food should look and feel like at different stages in the process (e.g. what color the vegetables should be, how the cake should feel when it comes out of the oven).

Several people were taking notes via Twitter during the panels, so if you’d like to see more tips, go to Twitter and type “#blogherfood” in the search box.

How accessible were the experts at BlogHer Food? (Or, can I get close enough to goose Dorie Greenspan?)

Everyone is very, very accessible. You don’t have to stand in line to meet someone or buy a VIP pass or anything like that.

Any information on food trends?

There wasn’t a panel specifically on food trends, but everyone was talking about gluten-free cooking, as well as urban farming, canning and preserving.

How did my panel go?

I’m probably the worst judge of how my panel went, but I was on the Storytelling panel, and it FLEW by. Lots of questions. Lots of comments. Hallelujah.

What about lunch and dinner?

On the first day, there was a lunch buffet sponsored by Kraft, and dinner was party food at the welcome party. The next day, we were on our own for lunch at the Farmer’s Market, and dinner was party food at the closing party.

How long does each day last?

The BlogHer schedule is full, from 8:30 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m. If you want to see the city, you’ve got to schedule extra sightseeing days or choose to miss a panel or speaker.

What about the parrrrrrties?

Lots of food. Free booze. Goodie bags. People networking. Photo booths. Live music. Door prizes.

How do people afford to go?

Depending on your travel plans, BlogHer Food can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to well over $1,000. Many people save money by finding roommates and sharing hotel rooms. Some people are sponsored, privately or through their workplaces. Since I was a panelist, I’ll receive a travel reimbursement, but we paid everything out-of-pocket before the trip. How much it takes depends on your plans. Are you going to eat only at the conference or make reservations for a dinner out? Are you OK with staying at a budget hotel and taking public transportation, or do you want to stay within walking distance of the conference? Will you schedule an extra day or two for sightseeing, or do you need to plan as short a trip as possible? All of these things factor in.

STILL AWAKE?

If you have more questions about BlogHer Food, feel free to ask away in the comments section below!

Light Loaded Potato Soup

Adapted from “Cooking Light”

Makes 4 servings (about 1 1/4 cup each)

  • 4 (6-ounce) red potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 bacon slices, halved
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 teaspoons thinly sliced green onions
  1. Scrub and dry the potatoes, and prick them all over with a fork. Place the potatoes on a plate, and microwave them on high for 13 minutes. The potatoes should be tender. Cut them in half, and set aside.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add broth.
  3. In a small bowl, combine flour and 1/2 cup milk. Add the mixture to the pan with 1 1/2 cups milk. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in sour cream, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  5. Place a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate. Arrange your bacon halves on the paper towel, and cover them with a second paper towel. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Crumble bacon. Set aside.
  6. Scoop the potato pulp out of the skins, and mash the pulp into the soup. Discard skins.
  7. Garnish each serving of soup with cheese, green onions and crumbled bacon. Serve immediately.