Food Blog South Recap
Last weekend, the Deep South crew headed to Birmingham for the second-annual Food Blog South. With promises of delectable Southern food (there’s a huge pic of okra on their homepage) and guests like Virginia Willis and Helene Dujardin, the event drew close to 200 attendees this year, some coming from as far as California and Baltimore, Maryland. Birmingham is only a six-hour drive for us, and we’ll take any excuse for a road trip. Thanks to suggestions on Twitter, we stopped at Tabella in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for lunch. If you’re looking for huge portions of fresh Italian food, this is the place to go. Chef Robert St. John also owns Crescent City Grill in town, which would have been a better choice for Southern food. Just noticed they’ve got King Cake Bread Pudding on the menu right now!
We needed to save room for the FBS opening party at Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Que, so lunch was the last food stop before Bham. Our host hotel was the new Springhill Suites by Marriott downtown. We were able to park right in front for the weekend (gotta love Bham for that), check in easily and put down our luggage in a quiet, hip suite with a view. A few people at the party told us the new Aloft Hotel, a budget offering from W Hotels in SoHo Square, was the place to be, but we we had a great experience at Springhill Suites. A shuttle whisked us off to Jim ‘N Nick’s, and on the ride over we met Samantha Rivard from A Teenage Gourmet and Genet Hogan from New Orleans, who writes the blog Raised on a Roux.
The opening party included a spread of Jim ‘N Nick’s pimento cheese, various smoked meats and dips and of course their famous Cheese Biscuits. Representatives from Alabama’s Tourism Department were on hand to officially announce the state’s “Year of Food,” music to the ears of everyone in attendance. On Saturday, the shuttle took us over to Old Car Heaven, an entertainment space with a backdrop of antique cars. Jennifer Cole from Southern Living gave the official FBS welcome and detailed why she thinks Southern food is hot right now. Soul, stories and of course bourbon came up.
Other highlights throughout the day included:
- Hearing from Kara Nielsen with the Center for Culinary Development in San Francisco that artisan foods and poutine gravy will be food trends in 2012.
- Watching Southern Living food stylist Marian Cooper-Cairns style a watermelon and arugula salad in the “Food Styling and Photography” class.
- (Almost-all) vegetarian lunch from Shindigs food truck. Spaghetti squash with vegan meatballs and farro salad with butternut squash and truffles are officially the best thing we’ve eaten all year!
- Meeting chef and cookbook author Virginia Willis and learning how she goes about writing and testing recipes. (She’s as charming and funny in person as her cookbooks are functional and beautiful.)
- Hearing how food photographer for the likes of Garden & Gun and Elle and award-winning Tartelette blogger Helene Dujardin brands herself and stays focused.
- Meeting the guy behind Knoxville’s Biscuit Festival and learning why Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is the place for a “Southern Wake Up Call.” We hope to be visiting there soon!
Until next year’s FBS, be on the lookout for poutine gravy hitting a menu near you and for our list of “Where to Eat in the South in 2012,” coming next week!
See more pics on Facebook.