My friends were slightly confused when I told them I was going to BlogHer this year. Colorful stories abound about the conference, and given my reluctance to be known as a “mom blogger” or take part in many, many branded events and promotions, the highly sponsored conference was not exactly the most logical choice for someone like me. Still, I had to see it for myself. After all, one does not proclaim love for oysters without letting them slip past the tongue. (For the record? Except for the oysters Octavia at Jeffrey’s, the flaccid little things can slide on by.)
As soon as my plane arrives I’m off to The Hopping Pig with Robyn and her daughter Gillian. We walk in with high hopes, based on our online menu sleuthing and anticipation of seeing a few more friends. Amanda and Marie join us there, as did Kelly and Andrew, all four fresh off an olive oil tasting. We laugh over beer and poorly cooked pork belly. The time is over too quickly, but we’re all tired and the conference starts early.
Back in my hotel I light a fire in the fireplace (it’s there, so why not? Plus they have the AC set to 67), snuggle under my covers, and try not to think about the hordes of women I’ll be among tomorrow.
The first day of the conference flashes by quickly. Every person you sit next to says hello and digs out a business card. It’s exhausting by 11 a.m. I sneak off to lunch at Cucina Urbana with Jessi and her colleagues, loaded down with selective swag but not feeling like I’ve learned much. Aside from think that 3,000 other women are very, very peppy.
We eat our way through the menu at Cucina Urbana, delighting in each dish more than the last. I try to commit each flavor to memory, knowing there’s no way I will be able to properly translate them to words. Sherry marinated beet salad with fenacho cheese? Refreshing and unexpected. Dreamily smooth chicken liver pate with brown sugar shallots? No wonder the kitchen offers it in to-go jars. Goat cheese and mascarpone ravioli? Surrounded by fresh garden peas and carrots, it’s the epitome of cheese ravioli. I’m pretty sure I moan while eating it. If not then, it was certainly during dessert, as we close our eyes on each bite of strawberry tart with pistachio ice cream.
Leaving lunch, in that eclectic and comfortable space, is such a disappointment when thinking about the caverns of the convention center. But we return, for a humbling panel on the future of food for kids. “We need to defend the kids that don’t have access,” says Mrs. Q when speaking of fresh food. I write the statement down and underline it three times.
Robyn and I head to a party at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, eager to see the works on display and have some nibbles. We see no art, and eat no food. Sparklecorn, the official BlogHer party is next, and I force myself to eat a questionable hot dog because I’m starving and they gave me 20 drink tickets to use. We dance for two hours. You can’t say no to ‘80s music.
Saturday morning is a breakfast where we talk about menstruation. I’m not kidding. The breakfast, provided by the Omni, is good. It helps erase the memory of the cold eggs and sausage at the convention center the day before. Most importantly, there is coffee, and it helps me overcome the desire to ditch the convention, buy a swimsuit, and hit the beach. I accept that if the Padres had been in town, the day would have been devoted to baseball.
I make connections. I eat a forgettable lunch at the convention. I tease my husband via text about being able to look at all the new phones. I wonder if the Brazilian pedicab driver from the night before can tote me around the convention center.
Jessi comes through again and sends me recommendations for dinner. Robyn, Gillian, and I only get slightly lost trying to find Craft & Commerce. It’s worth it. The waitress gives me an honest recommendation on drinks, and we eat bacon-wrapped dates that must have sailed in from Atlantis, they’re so good. The caramel corn comes with Marcona almonds and crisped bits of pork belly. The macaroni and cheese might be the best I’ve ever had.
We head to the final BlogHer parties but don’t last long. I’m tired of people and talking and giving out business cards. We squeeze out of the sardine can and I gratefully fall onto the bed. I don’t even bother trying to look up all the people I’ve met that day.
Final morning. Everything fits neatly into my suitcases. I have amassed an astonishing number of packaged snacks. I check out, leave my bags, and head to brunch with Robyn and Kate.
At Searsucker, we accost the poor, adorable busboy (they’re all good-looking here, clearly brought in to match the decor and intended atmosphere) to find out what’s in the butter. “It’s whipped butter,” he says, and we all shake our heads. We’ve been tasting the butter for ten minutes, trying to place the flavor. When our waiter comes by we send him to the kitchen, and he comes back with an answer: whipped sweet cream butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. We still suspect some level of cream cheese to account for the tang, but we put the staff out of their misery and stop asking questions.
Tucking into our meal, we can’t help but notice how sad the bacon is, especially when it seemed so full of promise on the menu. Something described as “slab o bacon” should be at least bear some resemblance in structure, and not be a few paltry slices in a saucer. Still, Kate’s shrimp and grits was full of flavor, the hash brown potatoes were cooked perfectly, and the company was why we were really there in the first place.
My take on BlogHer? Everything you’ve heard is true. You’ll get out of it what you put into it, for the most part. Skip any “how to” panels unless you’re very green at blogging. Go offsite for food. Surprise yourself in some little way. Don’t be afraid to leave where you are and find some place better. Some place better might mean pinkberry with a friend. And really, who would pass that up?