International Food Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon

I’m not going to lie, since moving to Florida three months back I haven’t experienced temperatures below 90°F so the thought of a weekend in Portland with a forecast of mid 60′s and 70′s terrified me – I even went shopping for long-sleeved shirts the night before in preparation! The cold weather coupled with the fact that this was my first business trip representing my new company here in the USA  made me a little nervous in the tummy; nothing a *little* wine couldn’t fix though. I mean, it was the International Food Bloggers Conference after all, and nothing goes better with gourmet food than a well paired bottle (or two) of wine!

THE FLIGHT

I was to meet the boss lady at some unGodly hour at Orlando International Airport. We had a two-leg, eight hour trip ahead of us with a short layover in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since we were flying out on a Thursday, we had to use our time on the plane to get some work done. For a self-proclaimed nerd that develops an annoying twitch when having to disconnect for long periods of time, it is a little slice of heaven knowing Delta have in-flight wifi on their planes. I probably get way more excited about this than any regular person should. I just find it so amazing that I can tweet from 15,000 feet above the ground. I really hadn’t spoken to my boss all too much outside of work, so I’m not too sure what to expect, especially since we’re spending every second of the next four days together…

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Flying in and out of the city that is home to Disney World has its disadvantages. The biggest being children. Yes, snotty-nosed, gross, germ-riddled children. They are EVERYWHERE. We were lucky enough to have two sitting directly behind us. It was so much fun when they decided to kick the back of our seats for one entire leg. It was even more fun when the devil entered one, presumably through her mouth since she wouldn’t shut the hell up, and she turned all head-spinning, roaring, exorcist-style on us. Her mother gave up and left her. This is where we ordered vodka. I drank mine really fast. I found comfort in knowing that boss lady shared the same thoughts as me in regard to children, and she wasn’t afraid to express them!

THE HOTEL

We were booked in to stay at the Hilton Double Tree in Portland. Two things to note about this hotel:

1. BEST. COOKIES. EVER.
2. Possibly one of the most heavenly beds I have ever slept on.

The cookies. When we arrived we couldn’t check in right away so we’d check back every so often, and they’d forget that we’d already previously asked, so each and every time we’d go back to the front desk, they’d give us another cookie. I think we totalled three each by the time we were finally able to check in. I wasn’t complaining. One of them made for an excellent post-drinking breakfast the morning after.

The bed. Oh. My. God. Comforters as heavenly and soft as what I’d imagine an angels ass to feel like. Pillows so fluffy and inviting that I may have even turned down a Kelly Clarkson concert to spend the night drooling on one. Oh bed, you were perfect, don’t ever change.

That night, after a meeting with some prospective clients, despite our lack of sleep and the three hour time difference, we were feeling like a night on the town. Three bars, wine, vodka, jager and some other random shots later, I was feeling good… boss lady turned out to be a lot more fun than I anticipated. Actually, that whole night turned out to be a lot more fun than anticipated.

THE CONFERENCE

It’s always nice when you wake up hangover-free after four hours of sleep. I’ve said it many times before, but I think God gave me the gift of no hangovers. He knew what was up – thanks mate! My morning consisted of breakfast in bed thanks to room service and then working from bed before it was time to hit the conference.

Upon check-in, we were greeted by the conference organizer… “Ladies, would you like a free $60 wine gift card?” Would we like a FREE $60 wine gift card? Bahahahaha. Did he really just ask us that? What a silly question.

After an amusing introductory Keynote session by Bruce Seidel, we dipped straight into a live blogging/food tasting session which showcased a scrumptious variety of Oregon food and beverage products. This was a fun concept to take part in – each brand was given five minutes to serve us their product, give a short explanation and answer any questions while we live sampled, blogged, tweeted, instagrammed… you get the drift! After five minutes was up, another brand made their way to our table; it was kind of like musical chairs for adults because it involved vodka shots and beer! A grand, old time was had by all.

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The remainder of the day was broken up into workshops, we chose to attend the session on‘How Bloggers, PR Pros and Brands Can Best Work Together’. Throughout the panel discussion, a reoccurring, key stand-out was that PR companies expect bloggers to be professional and in turn, bloggers expect PR companies to reciprocate this – it’s a two way street. If professionalism on both ends is achieved, a beneficial relationship (for both parties) is formed and a successful campaign executed.

A Food and Wine Reception hosted by Oregon’s Washington County followed. We pretty much ate all the cheese and meat in a cup that our stomachs would allow. We also drank wine. Lots and lots of glorious wine. I wish I could have an endless funnel of wine to my mouth. It would be delicious. No doubt, I’d need my stomach pumped before too long, but the pre-pumping would be delectably scrumptious. Oh wine, you own my heart.

The night was young (and so were we… well, at least I was… hehehe) so we hit the hotel bar and had a few drinks with some lovely men who were out celebrating their mates bachelor party. They were rather amusing. They were also wearing leopard print mankinis. How do we know this? One of them was kind enough to pull down his pants at the bar and show us. So thoughtful, he was. After jager bomb chugging contests we bid the gentlemen farewell and pushed off downtown to hit up some bars and meet up with some new friends. Another night filled with awesomeness. Portland was just full of surprises.

Saturday was a new day. This could only mean one thing – more food and wine! And they call this work? Yes, really. Well, maybe only after the Career Fair & Industry Networking event because today we had to be on our best behavior while representing IZEA there! This hour and a half session presented companies like IZEA the opportunity to network with those bloggers interested in working with brands and monetizing their blog. Both boss lady and I had the chance to chat to some awesome foodie, wine and lifestyle bloggers; each one so different and unique from the next. We made some great contacts and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with so many different personalities from right around the country, some even from Canada, England and Australia – too much fun! It’s always a good thing when your job is something you genuinely love and are passionate about!

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Later that night everyone congregated for the Farm to Table Dinner. This was one of the conference highlights for me for two reasons: 1 – mouth-watering food and 2 – delicious wines. Yes, the wine is plural. Here’s a taste of what we were treated to…

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I’ve come to learn through working with bloggers both back home in Australia and here in the U.S. that no matter where you are in the world, food bloggers will always be food bloggers and won’t let you begin your meal until they’ve scored the perfect shot of it! Always amusing watching them gather round and shoot their food from various angles with their DSLRs. For now, I think I’ll just stick to my iPhone.

THE AFTER PARTY

After hitting up the MailChimp after party and drinking more delicious wine, we met up with our friends from the night before and ventured out to a small bar. While enjoying some quiet drinks surrounded by good company, a crazy girl decided to join our table. She was very excited by my accent, so much to the point where I think she was slightly turned on and admitted that she would sleep with me despite having a boyfriend. I think she was confused. This should have been the first indicator of her level of craziness, we shouldn’t have waited for a second, but we did. This came later upon leaving the bar. She decided to teach boss lady qigong in the parking lot. What is qigong you ask?

Qigong 氣功

The practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation. With roots in Chinese medicine, martial arts and philosophy, qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to cultivate and balance intrinsic life energy. Typically a qigong practice involved rhythmic breathing, coordinated with slow stylised repetition of fluid movement, a calm mindful state, and visualisation of guiding qi through the body.

Yes, that is exactly what boss lady did, guided qi through her body while I sat in the front seat of the car and almost suffocated from a plethora of uncontrolled laughter. Best. Sight. Ever. I wish I got this on video, it would have definitely been a viral sensation! Dear mum, if you are reading this, I am sorry that we spoke to strangers. You raised me to know better and for this, I apologize from the bottom of my heart.

Sleep was few and far between that night.

The morning after, we had to get our flight back home to an extremely humid (but warm) Orlando. I was sad to leave but glad to get back home to my bed and a decent night’s sleep. I’d had an absolutely blast in Portland surrounded by good food and great company – I only wish we had some time to sight see, but I have a feeling I’ll be back soon enough!

Boss lady, thanks for showing me a great first business trip as being part of the IZEA family <3

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