Old Friends, New Faces, and a KitchenAid Lunch

by Shawnda on March 6, 2012

in Blog Events,Travel

Orange County

Last week, I jetted off to Orange County for a bloggers’ luncheon hosted by White on Rice Couple and KitchenAid. I was on the ground for 23 hours. In that short time, I discussed former-Presidential-candidates/current-Texas-governors with the cashier at Trader Joe’s, hoarded PoundPlus chocolate, chatted with 39 other bloggers, ate way too much of the best chocolate frosting I’ve ever had, and knocked back some seriously addicting Sriracha White Bean Dip. (You need that dip in your life.)

(You’re welcome.)

Trader Joe's

And I hugged Joy the Baker. Twice.

Joy the Baker

But it wasn’t weird, I swear.

Vegas, Baby!

Vegas, Baby!

I did manage to throw together my travel reservations so sloppily that I had barely an hour to inhale an airport lunch and slot machine-away the $3 I had on me in Las Vegas before finding myself in a hotel room in which I’m quite certain that [dramatization ahead] every “dead hooker scene” that has ever been on CSI/The Mentalist/Law & Orders I, II, III, and IV was filmed. I was bolted-in by dark and out the door super early, killing (ha!) time at the emptiest, quietest Chick-fil-A that this suburban mom of a chicken nugget lover has ever seen.

It was kind of nice. And I had such a memorable conversation with the nicest old man, a retired Naval pilot, who beamed with pride as he told me about his 3 children who’d followed in his footsteps as Naval aviators. All over Spicy Chicken Biscuits.


After juicing oranges for mimosas and chatting, we sat down to listen to Todd & Diane do the second thing they do best: talking about capturing life and telling stories through photography. It’s not the first time I’ve listened to their story – and it probably won’t be the last – but it’s still just as inspiring as the first time. They always project such a creative energy, and I (and sometimes Jason) always leave refreshed, renewed, and inspired.

Diane & Joy

I was super excited to get to have a mini-Food Blog Camp reunion and catch-up with Nancy (A Communal Table), Marie (Meandering Eats), Sally (A Food Centric Life), and Todd & Diane.

And I was giddy to get to chat with some blogging and cookbook heroes: Joy the Baker (long-time reader, first-time meeter), Cristina Ferrare (author of one of my favorite cookbooks from last year, Big Bowl of Love), Jenny (Picky Palate), and Naomi (Bakers Royale).

KitchenAid Lunch

After stuffing my suitcase so full of Trader Joe’s goodies that I had to literally sit on it to zip, wouldn’t you know it… my name was drawn out of the jar for some shiny KitchenAid goodies. I picked out a gorgeous red KitchenAid food processor. Because after seeing that beauty in action, I had already decided that I was going to cash-in my St. Patrick’s Day/birthday/Christmas present early this year :)

KitchenAid Food Processor

It’s beautiful. It’s powerful. And I nearly fainted when I saw that it had this fantastical adjustable width slicing control. I seriously cannot wait for it to arrive so I can put it to work.

Thanks to Rachel of KitchenAid and Todd & Diane for the invitation and for hosting such a fun event. Can’t wait ’til next time :)



Food Styling Workshop

43 hours on the ground
6.5 in the air
2 trips to Trader Joe’s
1 trip to In N Out for a cheeseburger – animal style
12 hours at Todd & Diane’s faaaaabulous studio

Food Styling WorkshopFood Styling Workshop

2 big servings of Nancy's wonderfully addictive kale salad
207 photos
4 spring rolls
19 awesomely talented people
1 Kitchen Sink cocktail
1 suitcase half empty on the way in, completely full on the way out (see Trader Joe's mention above)

That was last weekend, in numbers. And this was last weekend, in pictures.

Food Styling Workshop

I had the opportunity to attend a food styling workshop led by Todd Porter & Diane Cu, the White on Rice Couple. There are few better ways to spend an entire Saturday than in a beautifully lit studio talking food styling and photography with two of our very, very favorite photographers. I absolutely love the passion and creative energy that Todd & Diane bring to a room. They love what they do. And Jason and I love what they do.

Food Styling Workshop

We spent a full day discussing the ins & outs of photography and food styling, shooting, working on styling techniques, learning how to build the perfect shot, and connecting. An entire room dedicated to prop storage, a large sliding garage-style door, a group of talented people eager to learn more, and beautiful southern California weather. Not exactly uninpsiring conditions :) I spent most of my hands-on time working on an area that I’ve wanted to improve on: backing away from the bright & happy whites and incorporating darker colors and mood.

Food Styling WorkshopFood Styling Workshop

Food Styling WorkshopFood Styling Workshop

And I’d be silly not to mention the food. Nancy, Rene, and Alex helped prepare some pretty outstanding food. The lunch spread was terrific: Red Rice Salad, Edamame salad, a dreamy Kale Salad with a super garlicky vinaigrette, Vietnamese-style pulled pork served with sesame crackers, and Katie’s Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Food Styling WorkshopFood Styling Workshop

And then there was dinner, a family-style Vietnamese spring roll celebration complete with table-top grills, fresh Asian herbs and vegetables straight from Todd & Diane’s garden, bottles of sparkling rose, and plenty of laughter and conversation. I’d actually never had a spring roll before much less cooked, built, and rolled my own right there at the dinner table. A little tutorial from Diane and we were all off and running. And cooking! And drinking! And laughing.

I came home renewed, recharged, and reinspired. With a new set of goals and a broader understanding for the art of styling.



Food Blog Camp: The Round-Ups

by Shawnda on January 10, 2011

in Food Blog Camp,Travel

Yep. I’m putting up our work-cation pictures on a slideshow. Sorry there are no margaritas and guacamole to pass around while you watch. Next time, man. Next time.

I wrote plenty about our experience at Food Blog Camp. Fantastic focus on photography by the White on Rice Couple, Matt Armendariz, and Adam Pearson. A very honest discussion about blogging by Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen. Excellent advice on how to build the blog of your dreams by Elise of Simply Recipes. And good, solid, and as always witty advice from David Lebovitz.
Continue Reading…