Jim ‘n Nick’s Pork Hot Links with Pimento Cheese on crackers, topped with Serrano Peppers
This past weekend I took a road trip with Nicki Wood, one of the writers for the Nashville Scene Bites Blog, down to Birmingham for Food Blog South. Friday night, the night of our arrival, we attended a pre-party at Jim ‘n Nick’s BBQ, where we mixed and mingled with other food bloggers from all over the South. Oh, and we ate. Because that’s what food bloggers do. And we didn’t just eat- we ate well. For example, there were those incredible sausage/pimento cheese crackers shown above. Note to self: love this idea for my next party.
Jim ‘n Nick’s Slow Smoked Pork Sliders
Of course you couldn’t have a gathering at a BBQ joint without some pulled pork! These little sliders were delicious, and I really wanted to go back for more. However, by the time I figured that out, the room had filled with people and navigating to that end of the table proved to be too difficult. Instead I opted for what was within easy reach- Catfish and Corn Muffins.
Jim ‘n Nick’s Cornmeal Breaded and Fried Catfish
Neither disappointed. In fact, I ended up eating 3 pieces of catfish and a couple of those wonderful little cheesy corn muffins. A food blogging conference is not the time to start counting calories, that’s for sure!
Saturday morning arrived and it was time for the actual conference to begin. We were greeted in the front lobby by Finer Grind Coffee Roasters, whose really fantastic coffee chased away any last sleepies we had, and Whole Foods, who nourished us with a huge spread of breakfast pastries.
When I stepped into the conference hall, I was excited to find the room lined with vendors showing off some fabulous new products. The first table I encountered was the aptly named Yum Brownies. As you can see from the photo below, they combine chocolate and ginger in one of their confections. I know you’re probably getting sick of my ginger obsession but I can’t help it! Besides, even if they didn’t have one with ginger, I would still be smitten because all of their brownies were just perfection. Dense, moist and rich. Too bad they aren’t sold in these parts. If you’re in Birmingham though, look for them!
Yum Brownies were yum! Especially the ginger ones
Now here’s a product you CAN find here in Nashville at Whole Foods- Indie Candy. I’m beyond excited about this one. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that my nephew has several food allergies, one of which is milk. That means that he has never had a chocolate heart for Valentine’s Day or a chocolate bunny for Easter. Sad, huh? Well, Indie Candy is going to change all that! They are an all natural, allergy free candy company that was started by Hanson Watkins, who herself has a gluten intolerance and an intolerance to milk and soy plus a child with multiple food allergies.
All products are free of the big eight allergens— wheat, dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, eggs, fish, and shellfish—as well as artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. In addition to the chocolate I’ve already mentioned, they have gummies, cotton candy, hard candies, marshmallows, plus experiment with lots of other products. One thing to note is that since they change their exact offering each season (for example: ghosts and witches and goblins for Halloween and bunnies for Easter), they are considered a seasonal candy, so they’re found in the bakery section of Whole Foods instead of the candy aisle.
Next I met Sallie, who has created one of the best lines of jams I’ve ever had. Her Peach Pepper Ginger jam had everyone in the room buzzing, including me. Of course, the Strawberry Basil, Blueberry Lemon Thyme and Blueberry Lavender were all unbelievable as well and would jazz up any party spread. Blueberry Lavender on blue cheese? Yes, please!
Sallie’s Greatest jams
Those of us that attended Food Blog South aren’t the only ones taking notice of this sweet lady’s jams. Back in December, Sallie’s Gourmet was on Garden & Gun magazine’s list of Made in the South Award winners. Currently Sallie doesn’t have distribution in Tennessee, but you can order through her online store, or if you’re in South Carolina, you can pick them up at a few retail locations listed on the website.
Someone else I thoroughly enjoyed meeting was Tasia Malakasis, the owner of Belle Chevre, goat cheeses I have used and mentioned in the past (in fact, their breakfast spread is in my fridge at this very moment). Towering over me by several inches in her very hot, sky-high booties, Tasia is not only personable, she’s absolutely stunning. A talented cheese maker and stylish too! Better Homes and Gardens seems to feel the same, because as I was flipping through my newest issue yesterday, there she was! They’re calling her the “Belle of the Stall” – how cute is that?
Okay, so those are some of the products that impressed me the most, but remember, this event wasn’t just about discovering new products. It was to learn more about blogging and how I could make this little blog of mine even better for you! There were sessions on marketing, social media, recipe development, Southern seafood, food photography, styling, and writing. Of course, between all of these we also had ample opportunities to enjoy some good food- like our lunch of shrimp ‘n grits, green beans, salad, and cinnamon bread pudding. One thing is for certain- Southerners definitely know how to eat!
The afternoon session on Food Photography & Styling was the one I’d been looking the most forward to since I’d gotten the conference schedule, and it did not disappoint. Jennifer Davick and Marian Cooper Cairns of Southern Living were fun to watch, easy to understand, and so very friendly! For those of us who really have no clue what we’re doing with a camera and struggle to learn how to get the right light, shadow, angle, etc, they did an amazing job communicating it all in simple terms. I’m now inspired to do some practice photo shoots this weekend (but please do not expect miracles any time soon!)
Marian Cooper Cairns prepping for Food Styling
All good meetings have an afternoon sugar break, and this one was no different. Instead of the typical cookies you might get in a hotel conference room, we got pie! And not just any old pie, these were from Pie Lab, which recently made Southern Living’s Best Pies in the South list. Sweet Potato, Apple, Chess….
Chess pie with caramel topping and blackened pineapple salsa
Thank goodness the pie eating binge (yes, I had 3 slices) was followed by the keynote speaker, New York Times food writer Kim Severson. She was flat out hysterical, so I know all that laughing I did burned off at least a few of those calories. I just know it.
As you can probably imagine, at this point, I was not the least bit hungry, and was so thankful that we had late dinner reservations. I mean, you’ve just seen everything I ate. There was no way I could take another bite of anything any time soon.
Then I heard the word TRUFFLES. Not chocolate truffles- I’m talking about the beautiful, earthy mushrooms. Susan Rice, the owner of a black truffle orchard in rural North Carolina, brought us a couple of her products to sample- some truffle popcorn and some actual shaved black truffles. The vehicle for delivering those truffles? Her “Oozing Truffle Grilled Cheese”, a unique blend of fresh gourmet cheeses gently layered on mouth-watering bread, grilled, and sprinkled with shaved black truffles. Now what was that I said about not being hungry?
Susan Rice Truffle Oil and Oozing Truffle Grilled Cheese