A bigger barn, different speakers, a few new faces, and another great event. It's hard to explain Big Summer Potluck to someone who hasn't attended. Yes, it's a gathering of food bloggers. Sure, it sounds kind of like a "conference." But it's something else, and I feel so lucky to have attended two years in a row. If I made a mistake, it was trying to compare it to last year. To paraphrase Brooke, I needed to be mindful of the moment. Well, maybe I had a hunch that would be what I remembered most from the conference this year. I didn't bring my camera along to the opening night party. I didn't bring it along to the closing breakfast either. I did have it with me on the main day of the event, but when I looked back at my photos after getting home, I was pleasantly surprised by how few shots I'd taken. You see, usually I'm snapping photos all the time. I caught a few images for Instagram of course, but for the most part, I wanted to soak it all in (and I'm not talking about the rain, which we got plenty of). I wanted to see some familiar faces, and a few not so familiar. I wanted to appreciate the beautiful space, indoors and out. I wanted to cheer on friends as they won prizes from amazing sponsors like Musselman's, KitchenAid, Kerrygold, Analon, and Green Mountain Coffee who make the event possible. And I wanted to enjoy good food and wine. So don't look here for a complete recap of the event. I'm not sure anyone could do the event justice with words. Don't expect to see portraits here either because I'm sure more than a few of my friends took better shots like that anyway. But do know that Big Summer Potluck is something really extraordinary, and we have Maggy, Erika, and Pam to thank again. I don't know how they do it and still have time for big smiles and hugs.As much as I enjoyed sitting on bails of hay last year, I loved this year's venue, Silver Buttons Farm, even more.Every time you peeked around a corner, you noticed something special else about the place. It makes you wonder who ever got the crazy idea of holding those other food blogger conferences in hotels and convention centers. I'd much rather see a vegetable garden on the other side of a stone wall when I'm taking a break between speakers.And I'd also much rather have room for a pig smoker like this. That dark skin scared me the first time I saw it, but let me assure you this guy turned out perfectly and fed us all on Saturday night.I mentioned the rain, right? There was a lot of it, but if you were there, you understand why it was such a good thing. It got us moving indoors and out, feeling fresh and energized when the skies cleared up again, cooling the air down just when we needed it most. You could hear the thunder rolling in each time, and at least once we played a game of chicken with the weather which resulted in 75 or so food bloggers running for cover all at once.Special thanks go out to the speakers -- Brooke (above), Joy, Molly (I had no idea she'd be there!), and of course Pam.But the biggest thanks go out to the Andersons for their hospitality. Big Summer Potluck starts here at their beautiful Pennsylvania home, and it ends here as well. I guess they could make the conference bigger and hold the whole thing somewhere else where they don't have to worry about hosting all those people in their house, but I'm so glad they've kept it the way it is -- intimate. I'd love to give a shout-out to all my friends, old and new, who I spent time with at the potluck, but that would take a long time. I've got the memories, and for me, that's what Big Summer Potluck is all about.
The first time I met Lisa Fain came as a bit of a surprise, standing outside the door of an apartment building in Brooklyn about a year ago, on my way up to a potluck where I'd go on to meet a lot of amazing people for the first time. Deb and Jaden were there, but I'd met them both before. Silvana, who I was also meeting for the first time, was throwing the party for the publication of Shauna's new cookbook. The interesting thing was that even though I'd been working with Shauna on her cookbook for more than a year, this was our first time meeting face to face. She was there with Danny and Lu, and it was the start of something amazing. I met Jennie and Mikey that night for the first time. Erika, what a sweetheart -- it was my first time meeting her too. And of course Maggy. What can I say besides that I'm so happy Maggy lives here in NYC, because I'd go into withdrawal if I didn't get to see her regularly. But this post is about Lisa and her amazing new book, The Homesick Texan Cookbook.She calls this Carne Guisada. Now I have to talk to Lisa because mine, though it turned out wonderfully, doesn't look much like the photo in the book. Basically the meat shredded, and it was too tough to eat before that happened. My suggestion if you buy the book is to cook it for however long it takes until you're happy with the texture. The juices will cook way down, and the meat will be perfectly juicy.These are Mexican Chocolate chewies, spiced up a little with chipotle chili powder and cinnamon. I'd go a bit more heavy-handed on the chili powder next time, I boosted the salt a bit, and something tells me you can't go wrong. They're loaded with pecans and chocolate chips, there is no flour, and they're made mostly from egg whites, but I wouldn't compare these to meringues. They're more like a praline, but still something different and awesome.I brought both the guisida and chewies to another potluck, this time in Long Island City, thrown by Jess and Lon. Jackie, Mark, Jen, and Jacquie were there, along with a few new friends. The ribs were outrageously good. So was Jackie's dish with the okra on top. In fact it was a perfect assortment of food, not to mention enough for at least double the number of people we had there. Food bloggers take their potlucks seriously, and my stomach is very thankful for that.