Thursday, May 26, 2011

A story about Eat, Write, Retreat with Honey & Sage Biscuits

I'm craving comfort again. This time let's switch pasta for full-fat, filled with butter, biscuits. I'm not scared or nervous. I just can't get this #@%* post to go quite right.

I never said I was anything but honest.

A week ago at this time, I was filled with butterflies. I was worried that I'd get to my first blogging conference, "Eat, Write, Retreat", and I'd be shunned like the leftovers in the back of your fridge.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

I came, I saw, I ate, I drank, I learned, I was inspired, but most importantly, I left with a whole lot of new friends.

Not bad for three days' time, eh? (Yes, new-found Canadian friends, that's for you.)

I tried this post about three different ways. Finally, I did what Monica Bhide suggested we all do in her writing workshop this weekend. I let the resistance go and I let all the assumptions go. There are some days where I can wax poetic about the extreme softness of the sage I picked from my garden for these biscuits. They slipped through my fingers, slightly damp from the morning, caked with just a little dirt from the rain the night before. This isn't one of those posts, this one needs to be straight up, and honest, like bourbon or a good scotch.

Things Eat, Write, Retreat taught me:

1. For the love of all things out there, talk to people.

Look at those faces. Are they scary, intimidating or look like they'll snub you? Nope, not going to happen. I was so worried that other food bloggers would think I'm not worthy enough, being the newbie that I am in this world. However, from the first moment I stepped out of the shadows and extended my hand, everyone was more than happy to chat and be friendly. Now, I've read all the stuff about other conferences this past weekend, and boy I'm glad I landed in D.C. Co-Founders Robyn Webb and Casey Benedict made sure we all mixed, mingled, and they tossed in a few glasses of wine to take the edge off.

2. Learn from each other.

We had a litany of people from every aspect of this business to chat with, which was amazing. However, some of the most fabulous (as Robyn would say) tidbits I soaked in, were from my fellow Eat, Write, Retreat attendees.

- Meet Mike from Verses from My Kitchen and Dan from Dan's Good Side. They were my partners in cooking at our cooking classes at CulinAerie and my partners in crime for a good part of the weekend. I have horrendous knife skills, they have amazing ones. Mike, especially, took the time to teach me.
- Ethan from Tastes Better with Friends truly taught me things *do* taste better with friends.
- Maisha from Girl Born Hungry gave us a beautiful look at her city at night.
- Kelly from Way More than Cheesecake, Isabelle from Good Food, Good Wine, and a Bad Girl, and Lara from Good Cook Doris, gave me a lesson that strong, confident, and dare I say it, fierce women are simply awesome.
- Chatting with Wendy from Celiacs in the House while waiting to head to airport, made me really think about where this whole blogging things is going, and I applaud her efforts to get it all there.

There are so many more, it would take me forever to mention every single writer that touched my heart and mind this weekend. I hope you know who you all are. I learned something from every, single, one of you.

3. Learn from the people who are "there".

When I say "there", I mean those who are well-known. Maybe they've published a cookbook or are working towards some major high-profile projects. You see Domenica Marchetti, Jennifer Perillo, and Shauna James Ahern above. They spoke to us about loving what you do, to be protective of our brands, and pay attention to our voices. They, along with several other amazing speakers, had so much knowledge to offer, but their biggest strengths was their approachability. All weekend long, they joined us at events, chatted with us, and offered their immense volumes of knowledge to all of us. Now, that we're home, they've continued the dialogue. I thank you all for that.

4. Let your expectations go.

From a lunch at McCormick & Schmick's (with that fabulous group of ladies on the left) that exceeded all my expectations to how much I love endive, I was constantly surprised this weekend. I was amazed by food writers who were more sweet than I could ever imagine to sponsors who really gave a damn. Sponsors can be about way more than just swag, people. I saw them at every panel, at every event, trying to learn how we work. They knew we were looking for quality people and products to work with, and ideas in which to engage. They did not fail in that mission.

5. Make friends.

Food blogging is about community. If you're not getting that message, figure out what you're doing wrong and fix it, you're missing the boat. Maybe it's just me. I'm not in this to get famous. If something bigger grows from this endeavor, so be it. It will be an organic process. However, along the way I'm happy to meet like-minded people, people who really love food and all that it means. I walked away from Eat, Write, Retreat with friends I hope I'll have for a lifetime, not just a weekend in D.C.

There are so many more photos. I realized I took far too many of food, and not enough of people. If you want to see more of our adventures, I'm OK with that. You can click here to see a few more. 

An offer for you, my dear readers:

I took so much away from Eat, Write, Retreat. Apparently, the fine folks over at Calphalon want to give us all even more. Readers of Lighter and Local can receive 10% off on online purchases* at Calphalon between now and June 6th by using promotional code C95926

*Clearance Items and Gift Certificates do not qualify. Excludes John Boos & Co. Cannot be combined with other special offers or applied to previous purchases. Terms subject to change. Offer valid through June 6th, 2011.

Honey & Sage Biscuits
Yield: 9 biscuits
Adapted from: The New York Times

I know this is a marathon post. I just don't want to give background without something yummy to nibble on. These are addicting. Don't say I didn't warn you in advance. The honey is from a local beekeeper. Use local honey if you can, it helps with allergies as well! The sage is from my backyard garden, how I love how it comes back every year with a vengeance.

2 cups all-purpose flour (250 grams)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon honey (preferably local)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk (I made my own, 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar, fill measuring cup to the 1 cup line with regular milk, allow to stand for 5 minutes, use as much as you need)
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

Over a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. At this point, you can either transfer to a large food processor or continue in the large bowl to cut the butter in. Add your chilled, diced butter to the food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. If doing by hand, cut butter into dry ingredients using two knifes or a pastry blender. Again, you want the consistency of coarse cornmeal here. 

Next, stir in your chopped fresh sage leaves (if using a food processor, transfer mixture back into the large bowl). Create a well in the middle of the mixture and add in your honey and your milk. Stir until combined and you can create a large ball of the dough with your hands. 

At this point, lightly flour your work surface. You have choices here. You could shape the dough with your hands into a 7x7 rectangle about 1/2 an inch thick and cut it into nine rectangles. Alternatively, you can roll the dough out on that floured surface (with a piece of plastic wrap on top) and use a biscuit cutter to make rounds with the dough.

Whichever way you choose, transfer the pieces to a baking sheet and brush the top of each with your melted butter. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Serve warm.

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Isabelle said...

I had such a blast meeting you this weekend, Kimmy.  You are, if anything, more bubbly and adorable in person that you are online... and I mean that in the best possible way.
And for a post that wouldn't go quite right, this is a pretty damned awesome recap. Actually, it's an awesome recap even for a post that DID go right. You nailed it.
PS - Nobody's ever referred to me as "fierce" before. Golly. *blush*

Life on Food said...

I love this post.  I am so excited and nervous and scared to go to my first food blogging conference.  I cannot wait to learn and soak it all in. 

You biscuits look marvelous!  My favorite are just plain buttermilk topped with honey.  I will definitely try to incorporate the honey next time around.

Betty Ann said...

Kimmy, love this second post! It is a delight to read and relish over and over again. You're so right, the friendships we made are priceless. Thanks for this recipe. Can't wait to try it!

Melinda A. Wilson said...

I found you through Tastespotting and am so glad I did!  I planted a sage plant this year, not sure how I would use it.  Now I know.

Ethan Adeland said...

Well, my new friend, well said. As we've already discussed amongst ourselves, it was great to finally meet you and yes, you are officially as Canadian as it gets without making any changes to your passport!

Christina Rodriguez said...

It was great meeting you this weekend, even though we didn't get to chat that much. This weekend was definitely a great weekend for us foodies who never have been to a food blogger conference before!

And those faces in the pictures definitely don't look like they'll bite! Especially my own, why on earth was I holding onto that knife for dear life. Note to self: keep cooking and do less "modeling" for pictures :)

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

You are fierce and fabulous. Thanks for the props. I kept starting this one, scratching it, and starting again. I hope I captured it all ok!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

Biscuits are addicting. No matter what the kind, I devour them. I was scared too before this one, I'm so happy I got over it and went. You learn so much!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

Betty Ann - you are a delight. So sweet, so approachable. I can't wait to try your recipes out, every single one looks fabulous!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

You can use sage in everything! I stuff chicken breasts with it and ricotta, so tasty!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

You get nothing but ((hugs)) and my overused :-) .

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

I wish we had gotten to chat more. I agree. It was such a nice way to get our feet wet on this whole conference thing! As for the photos - ditto. I keep seeing photos of me and wondering what the heck I was doing.

Biz said...

That sounds like such an amazing event - glad your fears were not validated!  And now I am adding sage to my grocery list to make these biscuits.  Thanks!

bellini said...

It was such fun to meet you over the weekend as well as your partners in crime, my fellow Canadians. It was such a fun event wasn't it!

Lora @cakeduchess said...

Your biscuits are making me hungry! Such a great recap of a wonderful event. It sounds and looks like you all really enjoyed. Amazing talent on the panel and fun friends:) said...

Great post, Kimmy... love your straight forward approach! I wish I had made it to the conference... fingers crossed for the next one! 

Those biscuits sound so yummy-good! Can't go wrong with honey and sage.

Bonnie Deahl said...

Kimmy, Nice post.  I like your clean writing style.  Last weekend was such a marvelous high!  Blog on..Bonnie

Jael said...

Kimmy, such a pleasure to share the Radish table with you, and so glad you enjoyed The Kitchen Daughter! An open mind and a sunny smile do wonders at conferences, and you brought both of yours to Eat Write Retreat. Wonderful. 

morethancheesesteak said...

I'm a late-comer to this post, but I loved it for so many reasons.
1. I always buy sage and use about 1/4 of it and then wonder what the heck to do with the rest of it.
2. It was so reassuring to know that other people had butterflies about EWR11. Though I have to admit, you didn't strike me as being nervous at all! You were definitely confident and super friendly! I was glad to finally get to meet you in person :)
3. I rarely get called confident, strong or fierce (fiesty/sassy, sometimes, yes. but the other three, not so much). I'm so glad to be a part of such an encouraging community of bloggers who are fun and true to themselves. It's refreshing and something I was not expecting at all!

Joan said...

the biscuits looked good until i read your self important mastebatory story. I want to vomit now, god don't you have anything better to do?! The only people who care are the other dweebs who went to this stupid thing with you.

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

And don't you have anything better to do than post negative comments on people's blogs? I'm sorry you aren't a fan, you're missing out on the biscuits. Have a nice day.

Joan said...

Yeah, I guess it was a little negative: I'm just so sick of the eat pray love shit.  Hope I didnt ruin your day enough to make you eat yourself into another pantsize. Have a good one.