Tag Archives: conferences

Healthy Living Summit 2012 – Part Two

A quick FYI for my CT readers – one of my favorite spots for unique cocktails and tasty small plates in the Hartford area, Cuvee, is holding a special third-anniversary party at 7PM on Thursday 8/30 at their location in West Hartford’s Blueback Square. But there is ALSO a special VIP event with complimentary drinks, champagne tastings, apps, and more from 5-7PM. If you want to win a chance to attend, text BUBBLY to 37798! Maybe I’ll see you there!

I’m so glad you guys have been enjoying my HLS ’12 stories so far! When we last left off, I’d had a great Friday evening at the Cocktail Party, but was ready to hit the hay at my usual earlier hour.


I woke up after a bad night’s sleep (I never sleep well in hotels) and was STARVED! Heather and I headed down to breakfast and quickly encountered a problem…nothing vegan, except fruit. Fruit does not a fine breakfast make, so Heather had to spend money at the hotel’s overpriced little shop to buy a KIND bar to add some staying power to her fruit. I felt so badly that she wasn’t able to enjoy a yummy breakfast, and disappointed that HLS hadn’t considered that they may have some vegan attendees. In fact, I’d consider it to be MOST likely at this kind of conference! Heather did a good job of holding her head up high though and we made plans with a bunch of girls to go to Whole Foods for lunch later…something to most definitely look forward to.

Flash fruit photography.

I felt almost guilty that there were in turn so many options for an everythingarian like myself. Wild Harvest did indeed provide a delicious spread incorporating the five finalist recipes from their Breakfast Showdown. The winning recipe was announced as well, and I literally yelped in delight (and got some confused looks) when I saw that my roomie, blend, and fellow sometimes-CT resident Kelly had won!

I’m totally not surprised – after all, her recipe was Greek-inspired (she sends me Greek treats…love her), and Greek is always a WIN to me.

Umm, SOO freaking good, OMG! Definitely my favorite recipe too – Wild Harvest made a good choice!

I sampled all but one of the other recipes – a yogurt parfait, a potato/veggie hash, and maple turkey sausage. Black coffee on the side, le duh. My hunger monster was raging this entire weekend. It was hard to honor it – I am used to a much smaller breakfast. However I ate slowly, tried to enjoy and tune into my body, and gobbled every last bite of my meal below.

And cheered for my friend’s win!

Giant plastic gift card WHAAAT!

In the morning I attended a session on Hosting a Virtual Challenge with Amanda. I didn’t intend on holding any challenges on my blog, but thought I would get good info about “spreading the word” about my blog, what I write about, and me in general. That was certainly true, but I also got inspiration to perhaps do a challenge someday – maybe a more official take on #AmazingMe! Is that something you guys would be interested in?

I also got to spend a lot of time hanging out with REEBOK! It was great to see Kathryn and Johnice again and show them that I was rocking the gear I’d received at the Reebok event I attended in May at their HQ!

Lisa, me, and Heather showing the world that the sport of fitness has arrived!

Kathryn was doing a great job manning the booth and as usual was a multiple-camera-using maestro. She’s clearly used to being around bloggers!

I received Reebok Crossfit socks and have been wearing them for my workouts the last couple of days (not the same pair – ew). They’re so soft and stretchy!

They pair perfectly with my RealFlex Transitions!

Of course socks are small potatoes compared to the other gift every HLS attendee received – a pair of Reebok RealFlex Fusions!

Me (left) and Heather (right) reppin’ the neutral shoe colors with the bright accents!

I can’t believe how generous Reebok has been to me since I received my first pair of sneakers from them (the black ones pictured above) in May. THANK YOU REEBOK!

My collection 😀

I can also thank them for another chance to try Crossfit! We received black Crossfit headbands, lined up, and listened to the Crossfit coaches explain to us what Crossfit is, why it works, and some of its basic moves.

Me with the lovely Katie – I’m rocking my headband!

We did a 5-minute WOD (Workout of the Day) complete with 7 air squats and 15 jumps AMRAP (as many reps as possible). I didn’t count my reps because it was interfering with counting each squat/jump, but during the WOD my row’s coach came around and showed me how I could get lower if I just pushed my knees out a bit more. REVELATION! I seriously am excited to do squats in my group fitness classes now (I know, did I just say that?).

Photo courtesy of Meg – look at me air squat!

After the WOD I couldn’t help myself – had to personally thank the coaches for their services 😉 and get a private air-squat lesson from AJ!

Prom pic?

AJ helping me learn how to do wall squats. Sneaky blend photography!

After Crossfit I hung out with its champion, Rich Froning. He was way shorter than I’d pictured.

The other morning session, Blogging with Brands, was especially fun because it was another chance for me to see Fitfluential CEO Kelly Olexa serve on a panel! And hang with her after 😀

Aunt Kelly, you rock!

Skipping out on conference lunch to visit Whole Foods was so worth it, especially to see how happy it made my love Meg, who doesn’t have Whole Foods back home in Canada.

As usual I filled a big container to the brim with millions of ingredients, including falafel, curry potatoes, sesame tofu, PICKLES, mounds of grilled veg, and way more than I could ever remember.

Good lunch, great friends. Photo from Heather.

After lunch we attended a couple of other sessions, including I Am the Blogger in Your Neighborhood (with Meghann, Clare, and Holly), which reassured me that I am definitely on a good path with my local CT involvement and that it will continue to bring me many opportunities (in fact, I have a special announcement for you all tomorrow that falls along those very lines, dun dun dun…). We also caught the tail end of The Fuzzy Grey Areas of Blogging (which had a great hashtag, #HLS50Shades).

In between those two sessions, Heather and I hit the hotel gym for a 20-minute workout. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t experience anxiety at HLS from being away from my normal workout routine. The Crossfit WOD was way less intense (due to the short length) than I’d pictured, and I just felt like I needed to sweat and get moving. Sometimes it’s hard for me to differentiate between whether or not I get these feelings because I WANT to work out or because I feel like I HAVE to. I completed 20 minutes of varied inclined treadmill running (a little over 2 miles) while watching some kind of SportsCenter-style show (the machine had five channels…) and called it a day. I did feel quite amazing afterward and woke up with sore quads the next day!

Coupon Caitlin

After the Chobani dinner that night, I came back rocking a lovely wine buzz. The photo above is courtesy of wine and Coupon Cabin‘s BlogHer sponsor booth.


I woke up after a better night’s sleep feeling completely indecisive over whether or not I should go to the hotel gym for a workout before Heather and I hit the road. I felt as if I should work out and that if I didn’t do it RIGHT THEN, I wouldn’t later when I got home. I got up to get ready, and was dragging ass the whole time. Let’s pack this bag, let’s gather these toiletries. Finally I realized that I didn’t want to go to the hotel gym. I wanted to wait until I got to my home gym later that afternoon and do my beloved sweaty StepMill routine and have an arm day. So I listened to my wants, not my shoulds. And later that day when I had a kickass workout at my home gym, it felt great!


Heather and I had the unfortunate task ahead of us of saying goodbye to all of our friends 🙁 our time together was so short! Meg has promised to come visit CT. She has always wanted to come here apparently! And CT has always wanted to see her visit!

Lisa, Chelsea, Heather, Meg, me, Linz

Heather and I visited a Boston cafe, thinking cup, that had been recommended to me on Twitter. We took our heavenly pour-over coffees into a park to enjoy and spotted two bloggers we hadn’t said goodbye to (or really met well) yet – Teri and Holly!

Teri is sooo J. Crew.

Heather and Holly made connections over journalism, and Teri and I bonded over our love for the South (she lives in NC just 20 minutes away from my relatives!) I only wish the four of us could have spent more time together during HLS! After the fortuitous meeting, we departed for a heavenly vegan brunch (but that’s a story for another post) and bid goodbye to Boston…that is, until I go back this Sunday 😛

Have you ever tried Crossfit and/or any Reebok products?

Have you ever been stuck in a situation in which your dietary restrictions were not accommodated?

Are you Whole Foods-deprived?

My Very Own BlogHer Food ’12

Finally we have come to my last recap of my 8/2-8/5 weekend in NYC for BlogHer ’12. I saved the best for last (obviously…would you expect anything less from me?) and you can catch up below:

You know me. I’m all about the restaurants. I like to experience new places through food (among other fun activities, but eating/drinking tend to take priority :-D). So how could I go to NYC and not try as many restaurants as humanly possible?! Folks, prepare to get hungry. I may not have been able to make it to BlogHer Food this year, but I turned BlogHer ’12 into my own BlogHer Food.

Josie’s East:

I had my first ever blogger meetup (with Katie and Danielle) at the Westside location of Josie’s, which was recommended to me via Twitter back in the fall by Web Girl Kathleen of the Elvis Duran Show. After falling in love, I knew I had to go back to try more fresh, healthy food and drink from their menu.

Enjoyed a glass of pinot grigio throughout the meal (quite a generous pour), and a couple pieces of bread (including cornbread) with homemade HUMMUS!

My long-time friend (we go back to middle school…and dates to homecoming freshman year of high school) Hong met me at Josie’s Eastside location for dinner in between working his crazy banker’s hours. It was wonderful to see him again!

Grilled Gulf Yellowfin tuna with wok sauteed julienne veggies, baby bok choy, shitake mushrooms, and a miso-wasabi sauce. Also had unpictured side of pinto beans.

Hong got a salad with the same tuna and we both appreciated the way the chef had gotten the outside to be crispy and the inside to be that lovely shade of rare-red. I ended up being too full to finish my side of Josie’s pinto beans, which I ordered last time and adored, but I of course cleaned my plate of all seafood and veggies.

So Hong clearly hates me, but what are ya gonna do?

Newbie Breakfast & Fika:

I was concerned that Friday morning’s BlogHer Newbie Breakfast would be a donut-and-muffin fest. While there were no egg whites or turkey bacon present (breakfast items I enjoy both because they make me feel good and energized, and because they don’t have too much of that darn guilt associated with them), I was still able to put together a nice plate for myself…once said plates were finally replenished (chunks of time passed during which several essentials, like plates and fruit, ran out).

Photo taken while awaiting my plate 😛

Eggs, fruit, mini croissant, and potatoes. I’ll admit the croissant had me anxious but I finished almost all of it, and cleared out everything else!

Since I’m a coffee snob and former cafe manager (and currently am cafe obsessed), I of course turned my nose up at the Hilton‘s provided coffee and took a quick walk from the hotel to a spot recommended to me by New York blogger Meg of Harmonious Belly during a brunch we met at last fall. Coincidentally, Hong had also mentioned it at dinner the night before and called the cafe, Fika, a “very Caitlin” place. Sold, and such a short distance from the hotel too!

I went with my usual black coffee and wasn’t disappointed; each sip was savored during my sessions that morning. I do wish the staff had been more friendly and appreciative of my enthusiasm over visiting their shop, but hey, it’s New York on a Friday morning. Most of the patrons were regulars and seemed to just wanna get to work and get the day over with.

The small space allocated to most NYC cafes served Fika’s atmosphere well.

I like that they drink stoppers. Never seen anyone else aside from Starbucks have those. Interesting that theirs are green too.

FreeFoods NYC:

The line for Friday’s conference lunch and keynote with Martha Stewart was ridonkulous, and I was starving. Wait in line with a rumbling tummy for most likely only-OK conference food? It didn’t take me too long to decide to take matters into my own hands. With Yelp‘s help, I found FreeFoods NYC, a nearby mostly-take-out spot with a Whole Foods-like salad bar of epic, creative proportions.

This is what $18 looks like.

Deciding between any of the pay-by-the-weight bar’s options was NOT happening, so I picked up a little bit of it all. My favorite was a small slice of raw/vegan pizza on a spelt crust. I felt very New York as I sat in the cafe eating my salad and working on my summer school paper on my laptop.

Agave NYC:

I’d already mentioned that after our Well and Good Physique 57 event, we had margaritas and Southwestern fare at Agave NYC in the Village.

We were starvin’ Marvins after that workout and Sabrina had the fab idea to order two of these bad boys for the table. GUAC ME.

Watching blogger reactions to food being served never gets old. Despite what Cat appears to think.

I had my usual indecision anxiety over this margarita menu…

How to solve such a problem? Order two drinks. 

Agave Nectar (tequila, fresh lime juice, agave) on the rocks, extra salt. My all-time favorite kind of marg.

I honestly can’t decide which was my favorite. Both were very Caitlin AKA not at all sweet.

Cucumber Uno! margarita made with cuke, basil, fresh lime. Oops, sucked down half of it before I remembered to take a pic.

I’m not vegan, but damn do I love vegan food, and that love seems to grow with each vegan dish I put into my body. Again, a fantastic menu of many choices had me indecisive, but I ended up selecting the vegan tacos (tempeh with both wild & tame mushrooms) served with black beans, pico, and plenty more guac.

I polished off everything. The tempeh’s texture was amazing and I love the restaurant’s choice to use corn tortillas. Excellent black beans (made even more excellent when I dipped the leftover blue corn chips into them) and I welcomed the fresh pico and guac.

Hello, plate as big as my head.

Of course there had to be an eyebrow-raising photo taken.

What a meal. I’d go back to Agave again in a heartbeat. Too many dishes I haven’t had yet. And my two margaritas had me feeling fine enough to not go into a TOTAL and COMPLETE panic when my phone died before I could even get to the subway station after leaving dinner. #fail

Zibetto Espresso Bar & Conference Lunching:

I used my Yelp app to scout out another cafe just a couple of blocks from the hotel for Saturday morning’s caffeination. Natasha confirmed for me that my choice, Zibetto Espresso Bar, wouldn’t disappoint. I walked in and felt I was truly in Europe! The barista wore a bow tie and the shop was laid out as a long rectangle with standing room only for those who wanted to stay and sip espresso out of tiny mugs on saucers. Zibetto is certainly not a cozy study cafe, but it is one that will transport its patrons farther than they ever thought they’d go when they left their homes on a given day, that’s for sure.

The menu’s and cup’s simplicity really fit well.

No coffee to be found here…just espresso. The barista was jovial and glad to help me decide on a simple Americano. No dairy or sweetener needed! I enjoyed the espresso’s pure taste and wish it’d lasted longer. Another NYC cafe win!

Wish I’d ordered a bigger size!

Thankfully Saturday’s lunch line at the conference was practically non-existent. I’m not sure what made the difference…were more stations set up? Were there just more Friday-only attendees? I was actually quite impressed by the food offerings, and also thought it was pretty funny that almost every tray of watermelon & feta salad set out was almost completely depleted of watermelon, but had plenty of feta cubes remaining.

Clockwise from top left: BBQ chicken sandwich, watermelon/feta salad, wheatberry salad, curried seafood sandwich, fruit tarts.

I didn’t finish all my sandwich buns (they were just blah to me – sandwiches always are made with too much bread at these kinds of events!) but gobbled up everything else. Man I loved those fruit tarts! So fancy shmancy!

Super psyched! These tarts were so yummy!

Plunge at Hotel Gansevoort, The Standard Plaza, and 5 Ninth:

My most fun foodie experience of the trip spread itself across three spots in the Meatpacking District on Saturday evening. Hong and I love feeling like classy New Yorkers, so we met up at a special destination he’d suggested, the Plunge Rooftop Bar & Lounge at the Hotel Gansevoort. During my commute there, I found out via tweets that Kim Kardashian lived at that hotel with Kris Humphries on “Kourtney and Kim Take New York”. YES, that got me excited. #sorrynotsorry

View from our hightop.

We miraculously found an open hightop table with a gorgeous view immediately after grabbing drinks at the bar – #jadorelavie, my friends!


See that drink? That’s a Manhattan. It cost $18. When in Rome, my friends. Or when in Meatpacking?


What a beauty. Oh, the view is OK too.

How could I not drink at least one Manhattan while in Manhattan?! How could I not drink it while on a rooftop bar being sooo New York?! Yes I’m aware that I’m a tourist. I’m as far from authentic Carrie Bradshaw as it gets. But at least the bartender was heavy-handed with the bourbon in my expensive drink. I probably only finished about…$15 of it though? It was so strong that I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy a cocktail at our next location if I’d sucked down all $18-worth 😛

Which is prettier Meg, the view or what’s on my plate?

I decided to be a responsible foodie/drinkie and order an app to go with my alcohol. Plunge had some really cool and unique items on its menu! I obviously went with the funkiest dish I saw – the BBQ eel sushi. This was my first time having eel. Jeff has raved about it for awhile now and I’m glad I finally got the opportunity to try it. I will be ordering it again!

See the avocaaaado?

We walked around to check out our many, many dinner options and decided on The Standard Plaza, which met all the Caitlin Criteria (interesting drinks, unique dishes I’ve never tried before, outdoor seating…you know the drill…I am so high maintenance). The menu consisted of small tapas-style plates, many of which contain seafood! The decor was also quite beautiful.

For drinks we got the Rose Sangria (Hong) and the Cava Fresca (me). Mine was vodka muddled with berries and mint, topped with cava. Loved that ever-so-slight fizz.

Oops Hong, way to order the girlier drink 😉

This is the only way I can get Hong to look like he enjoys being in photos/likes being near me…feed him drinks.


Unfortunately by the time our food came it was way too dark to take any photos that wouldn’t be a) impossible to make out or b) ugly due to flash. So I opted to go camera-less for the meal itself, and that was actually quite enjoyable.

We ordered three tapas, then realized that four would be way better. The online menu doesn’t have them all but does include these two that we ordered, both of which were fantastic seafood sensations:

  • Pez Espada – grilled swordfish, summer squash, peas, castel vetrano olivada
  • Gambas – grilled sweet shrimp, chorizo, zucchini, meyer lemon

My usual dessert craving – a delectable sweet something paired with a not-sparkling dessert wine – struck hardcore. We decided to search for a third restaurant for course three, because like I said at the beginning of this post, when in NYC I wanted to experience as much as possible.

Awkwardly posed in a beautiful indoor/outdoor patio. I felt like I was in a Shakespearean play!

After sitting down at one restaurant and immediately getting right back up and leaving once I saw they no longer had any port or sherry (poor, baffled waiter…and Hong), we found a whimsical spot called Five 9th and continued the trend of dining al fresco. Hong and I narrowed down our choice to one of my favorite cakes…coconut! And I got my tawny port. Maybe I’m a grandpa, not a grandma, after all 🙂


The cake itself was a bit dry but the heavenly icing made up for that. I think  Hong let me eat more than my share of this and for that I am grateful 😉 I’m so glad I got to spend a second evening with him absorbing and experiencing the magic and energy of NYC!

I’m sure now you can definitely see why I was so proud of myself for handling the weekend well. I surely went outside of my comfort zone with drinks and eats, but I also know that I missed out on nothing. I’m someone who enjoys the experience of a meal, and exploring a foodie city in that manner was completely appropriate, despite what my pesky brain was trying to tell me. I can look back at all these photos and the fun I had and feel grateful and fulfilled. I can excitedly share all of this with you and not let the guilty voice be triggered into action by doing so. I think that a major factor in helping me to lose myself in all these moments and take risks was the inspiration I felt being around all the bloggers that were teaching me or have more to teach me about myself and what I am capable of. Not only did BlogHer inspire me to be a better blogger, but it inspired me to appreciate all I have accomplished and allow myself to feel my passions – even if that passion is for dessert wine and coconut cake.

Have you ever been to NYC and if so, what is the best dining experience you’ve ever had there?

Have you ever eaten meals at a conference of any kind? How were they?

What is the most you have ever paid for a cocktail? Was it worth it?

Wesleyan Foodstock 2012

Please enjoy a recap of a fun event I attended that completely deserves its own post…despite the fact that it was over a month ago. Check out more of my latest adventures here and here!

For the first time ever, Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT hosted a brand-new (and free!) event called Foodstock. Take one look at the list of speakers and you’ll see why I was so excited to attend – and learn.

Props to whoever designed the event logo…very hippie-esque.

You also may notice that this event took place back on Saturday 5/5…oops. That was right around the time of my Fitfluential adventures, and life has been go-go-go since that week, so I haven’t had a chance to share my Foodstock experience! But despite the fact that it’s been over a month since that educational day, I want to write about this because I left campus feeling truly thankful to Wesleyan for putting on the kind of event I never dreamed I’d be able to attend after just a fairly short car ride.

Ruth Reichl and Faith Middleton

I attended with Bethany of More Fruit Please (she lives about 5 minutes from me!) and we arrived just in time to catch WNPR’s Faith Middleton interviewing Ruth Reichl, the highly accomplished Editorial Adviser to Gilt Taste (and former food critic and Gourmet Magazine Editor-in-Chief). She’s also written four memoirs, which have gone on my Goodreads to-read list, of course. Despite the fact that I am an NPR fanatic as of this past winter, I had never listened to Faith’s show before. I really loved her conversational, laid-back interview style and the way she carried herself, with such confidence, grace, and intelligence. She and Ruth discussed the great inequality that exists between classes in America when it comes to the way people eat. A story was told of a woman Ruth knew who lived on food stamps for a period to see what it was like, and reached a point at which she was crying in the middle of the grocery store, weighing a sweet potato and realizing that despite the fact that her body was craving its nutrients, she simply did not have enough money to buy it. I don’t remember everything Faith and Ruth talked about, but I certainly remember that.

Eric Asimov and Faith Middleton

Next, Faith interviewed Eric Asimov, chief wine critic at The New York Times (and a Wesleyan alum). This was one of my favorite sessions of the whole day (hello, wino). Eric has such a passion for wines and a lot of his conversation with Faith resonated with me. I wanted to just jump on stage and join in! He spoke of local neighborhood wine shops and losing them and the associated experience to the big box liquor stores (hello, I love you, Sonoma), and savoring wine and food pairings, and how some people out there are way too snobby about wine and scare others away from drinking it and trying different kinds.

Luckily, I got the chance to speak with Eric about all this after the interview wrapped up! I also was able to walk up to the stage after the session’s end and shake Faith’s hand. She has a whole show about food called Food Schmooze and is even hosting a Martini Competition at the end of this month! It looks like an amazing event, with tons of CT restaurants and their mixologists participating. I like how there is a lower price for DDs!

Some of the students on the planning committee thanked us for coming before we broke into our “lunch break”. There was a designated period during which no sessions were running, so that local vendors and food trucks could serve up lunch and patrons wouldn’t have to worry about missing any speakers. Bethany made the local vendors gathered in Wesleyan’s student union, Usdan, our first stop.


Cutest magnets!

Adorable kitchen goodies.

These vinegars and oils from The Kitchen Store were so tasty.

I sampled some of the olive oils on bread and purchased a baby bottle of the garlic-infused flavor, of course!

Check out this amazingness from Nora Cupcake Co!

Sticky Nuts were there. As in an edible kind. Is it sad that I didn’t get the innuendo behind this company’s name until Rachel responded to something I tweeted from the event about them? I was a bit afraid of what would happen when I Googled them just now to get their website’s link.

The PB Fig flavor was so amazing!

There was the smallest farmers’ market in the world going on outside the student union (I believe it was an awkward between-spring-and-summer-season weekend), but there were still a few troopers out there.

Perk on Main had a crepes station set up.

They also offered breakfast burritos for those who wanted savory.

Some really talented musicians serenading us, and the pastries under that tent.

Urban Oaks Organic Farm of New Britain, CT.

They sold edible flowers!

In one of the campus parking lots nearby, a bunch of food trucks had gathered – it was such a cool concept, like mixing a food truck fest into a food learning fest! Hmm..what to choose?

Mamoun’s of New Haven (I’d had their turkish coffee before while waiting to sober up…but hadn’t had their food, ha)

The Whey Station had a huge line!

Loved the colors on Lucky Taco‘s menu.

Munchie’s of New London, CT

An oven that looked straight out of a restaurant!

Aw! The Good Humor man! #throwback

An option I seriously contemplated, Ethiopian from Lalibela!

I was having a hard time deciding between the Ethiopian food (above) that I’d never tried before, and the famous falafel (a food I already know and love) of Mamoun’s that I’d heard so much about. I ended up going with a falafel pita, and Bethany got a gyro after The Whey Station line proved to be moving too slowly. Oh man it was amazing – the best falafel I’ve ever had! Bethany put together the below “montage” for me 🙂

Bethany enjoyed her gyro as well!

Legit, the wrap was as big as my head.

Totally dripped tzatziki sauce on my $13 Wal-Mart shoes while waiting for the next session to begin – fail! Good thing they were, well, $13 from Wal-Mart. Oh, the shopping I did at 1AM at the 24 hour location near campus in my UConn days.


Bethany decided to attend a different session than I did after lunch, so we parted ways and I sat in on a lecture/Q&A called “Writing So They Can Taste It” (do you see why this one jumped out at me?) with Molly O’Neill, a food writer and online food writing instructor. Molly’s sassy personality and to-the-point advice made the session so rewarding to me. I raised my hand and commented that I feel like I use the same adjectives over and over again when I’m blogging about restaurants, events, and meals. Molly laughed and said she’d heard that before – and that I’m right, I need to stop using adjectives like “delicious”. I so wish I had the extra cash to spend on some of Molly’s virtual courses – or in my dream land, cash to spend and vacation time to use on Cook n Scribble’s retreat to Alaska.

Throughout the presentation, photos from One Big Table, a book project to “create a portrait of America at the table”, flashed in the background.

Molly passed out a handout titled “Why Write About Food?”, which listed quotes that answered that very question. Some of my favorites:

  • “‘What’s good to eat around here?’ tends to go over better than ‘Had any good sex lately?'” – Matthew Amster-Burton
  • “The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a new star.” – Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (um, I agree)
  • “Food makes it possible to tell stories that can be difficult to tell (especially family ones).” – Anne Bramley
  • “You can write about anything while appearing to write about food. You can change the world…” – Molly O’Neill herself
  • “I feel powerless when I read most stories about the environment and politics and the economy, but when these subjects are framed by food, they still touch a raw nerve, but they can leave me energized and convinced that I can make a significant contribution.” – Simona Carini

Her lecture was extremely helpful and had several main messages:

  • It’s essentially not possible to make a living as a food writer right now, so if you’re going into it, be prepared to do something else as well. Be prepared to keep trying, to get rejected a LOT, and to constantly have to put effort in to even make a partial career of it. (May seem bleak, but I like her honesty.)
  • The world of new media (blogs, Twitter, etc) creates amazing opportunities and outlets for food writing. But again, the revenue is the problem. It works as a hobby, and is nearly impossible as a full-time career.
  • All food writers had to work another job to start. A lot of them still do. Accept that you will have to! And try to make the other job(s) somehow useful toward the food writing career, even if they give you something as nearly-unrelated as negotiating skills or plenty of free corporate lunches at fabulous restaurants 😉

Kashia Cave kicked us off.

After Molly’s wonderful presentation, I met up with Bethany again back in the student union to learn about The Business of Food from people who have made food their business, but in different ways.

Arturo Franco-Carmacho, one half of a restaurant-owning couple.

  • Kashia Cave founded My City Kitchen and even brought two of her students with her that day. She started out as a businesswoman, and still is, though she ended up creating a non-profit organization due to financial constraints. Her aim is to help kids learn healthy eating habits, channel creativity through cooking, and take pride in the food they eat.
  • Arturo and Suzette Franco-Carmacho ran restaurants in New Haven and currently run Tacuba Taco Bar and Swill Wine Bar, both located in Branford, CT.
  • Josh Goldin, a Wesleyan alum, co-founded Alliance Consumer Growth. This investor group finances healthy food and drink products from aspiring vendors, like the ones I’d spoken with earlier that day and the ones at CT Veg Fest.

Josh invests in the kinds of products you see in Whole Foods.

I can’t imagine being a restaurant owner, let alone being one with my husband! Suzette had some stories to tell and insights to share on being parents and running a restaurant. Imagine explaining to your daughter that a day in NYC for her birthday likely wouldn’t work because it’d have to be on a Saturday, due to school, and the restaurant just cannot be left on those kinds of days. These are the little things that we as consumers do not see! Josh’s job sounds so interesting to me. I’d love to help passionate people that just want to spread their healthy products to others, like the folks I spoke with at the Coventry Farmers’ Market and CT Veg Fest. Of course Josh also has to look for those who can make a profit, but it’s hard to make that balanced call. For example, his company passed on Zico! Oops! They’ve still had success with Plum Organics and Evol, both of which I’ve heard of (except Evol’s burrito was listed as the “not that” in Women’s Health’s “Eat This, Not That” feature – oops again!)

As accomplished as all the above mentioned speakers are, I was honestly most impressed by Jacob Eichengreen, the manager of Wesleyan’s student-run cafe, Espwesso, and a current Wesleyan student.

Interior of Espwesso.

The non-profit cafe is NOT run through Wesleyan Dining Services, and as a result the university does not allow them to be open during “peak” hours, so that all on-campus cafe needs are forced to be funneled into Wesleyan’s cafes. Therefore, Espwesso is only open from 6pm-12am, but they get packed! I can totally see myself studying there in the evenings during my college career.

Now that is a right price!

For Foodstock, Espwesso was able to make a rare appearance in the world of daytime operations. I’m so very glad because that meant I got the chance to try a cup of their locally roasted drip coffee – for only $1! Since the labor is provided through work study, Espwesso can offer high quality coffee at a low price.

I asked for my coffee with a splash of steamed skim milk, and Jacob himself (acting barista for the day), happily provided me just that – except the milk was anything but “splashed” into the cup.

Beautiful! Espwesso trains all its baristas in the art of coffee-making. They all receive a coffee education and go through training and tutorials to foster a true appreciation for the drink.

Jacob, about ready to get things going.

Attendees of “The Laptop and the Coffee Cup” had the chance to receive a similar coffee education from Jacob; he used a modified version of the training Power Point shown to his new baristas.

Added bonus – he also set out two different kinds of coffee for taste testing/comparisons. I drank both black and it was honestly some of the best coffee I’d ever had. I couldn’t get over it and had to go back for more. This occasion called for the breaking of my one-cup-a-day rule.

My favorite, from Supreme Bean Roasters in LA. Boo, I wanted to go buy this coffee somewhere local and take it home!

Darker roast from Klekolo World Coffee, right down the street.

I sat back and learned more than I ever thought possible in 45 minutes about my favorite bean (yes, I will declare coffee my favorite bean, even above the beloved black bean).

Just like all other food and drink, coffee seems to be LOADED with certifications and symbols. Some are legit, some are purely profit-driven. Just look at them all!

Did you know coffee is one of the most highly traded commodities in the world, right after oil? And that when coffee is decaffeinated, a LITTLE bit of the taste is sacrificed? But not so much that someone would really notice…and check out all the different stages of the coffee bean!!

A bit of a heated debate broke out after an attendee would not stop arguing against the points (good ones, in my opinion) Jacob made regarding why Espwesso doesn’t roast its own beans. I mean…they’re a student run cafe in the corner of an academic building, only allowed to be open 6 hours a day, opertaing on a limited budget and with a restricted amount of work study hours for staff. I’m not really sure why this man expected Espwesso to not only sell locally roasted coffee and improve coffee education among its employees and patrons, but also roast their own coffee and change much of their current operations to do so. I raised my hand several times during the exchange and defended Espwesso – I just wanted them to know how much I appreciate what they’re trying to do on the Wesleyan campus! I certainly think that a huge school like UConn could use a cafe like that. Trying to take on too much by adding coffee roasting would probably hurt the small cafe more than help. This entire session and discussion definitely made me miss my days as the assistant manager of a cafe at UConn.

Of course we got a photo in Espwesso with our coffee!

Bethany and I met up after our last sessions (she’d attended “Writing the  American Road”, about a couple that hit the road to tour restaurants and wrote about it) to walk back to our cars. It was a great day and I learned so much! I’m really grateful to Wesleyan for putting on Foodstock for free and educating CT residents on food writing, eating local, the business of food, coffee, and more!

Would you have been interested in attending any of these sessions?

Am I the only one who missed the innuendo behind the product name for Sticky Nuts?

Are you a Faith Middleton fan?