I'm headed to NYC, the Big Apple, for the annual IACP Conference (the first time it's ever been held in NYC -- it moves to a different city every year -- next year it will be in San Francisco). It will be like fantasy camp for foodies this weekend, culminating on Monday at the Awards Gala when we'll find out whether Pizza Quest wins for Best Food Blog of the Year. Thank you, all who voted for us. The voting closes March 30th, so there's still time. Just go to www.iacp.com and look for the big VOTE sign and click through. We are one of three finalists in the judges category but would love to win the People's Choice award too, which includes dozens of other blogs. I'll report more on this next week when I return.
But first I want to give a quick recap of last Saturday's Asheville Bread Festival, which was fabulous, as always. I did a demo from the upcoming "Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking," and made gluten-free chocolate pecan cookies and also a walnut, almond sweet bread for the 100 or
so people who sat in. Two of our wonderful Johnson & Wales students, Becca and Kelsey, assisted and we also had help from the students of the excellent culinary program at A-B Tech, our hosts, under the direction of Chef Vince Donatelli. Since this was the first public demo from the new book, it was heartening to see not only the positive response to the products but also the excellent questions and sincere desire for more understanding of gluten-free issues as well as diabetic and pre-diabetic issues that the book will address. It's a huge growth area, for sure.
The Festival itself was full of other presentations and demo's too, including a pretzel making workshop with Sharon Leader, of the famous Bread Alone Bakery in upstate New York. I really enjoyed talking with Sharon afterwards and hearing about the growth of this iconic bakery that she and her husband Daniel Leader (who has written two IACP Award winning bread books of his own) operate. If any of our PQ followers have been to Bread Alone, or to any of the bakeries involved in the Festival, please write in your comments below. We'd love to spread the good news about these Quest-worthy places.
Lionel Vatinet, owner of and master baker from Le Farm Bakery and Cafe in Cary, NC, also held a workshop on artisan bread techniques. Le Farm has emerged as a role model bakery for anyone wanting to open a classic, French-style boulangerie cafe. I snapped a photo of one of Lionel's country style miche loaves (big, round 2-kilo loaves) and I felt as if I were right back in Paris. There were many other workshops as well, for beginners as well as advanced bakers, both home and professional, and also a presentation on North Carolina Heritage Wheat and the Carolina Ground Flour Mill Project by Jennifer Lapidus and Stephen Jones, a plant geneticist from Washington State University, who took us deeper into the mysteries of wheat and preservation of heritage strains, especially matching the right strains to local climates and soils. The bread made from the NC wheat, by the way, was unbelievably good -- as good as any I've had in along long time (see photo). Emily Buelher,the author of "Bread Science," offered a workshop on "Hand Kneading for Beginners," and Thom Leonard, one of the most knowledgeable of the many baker and flour consultants in the country, was also present to answer questions. But the center piece is always the bread and food showcase, this year featuring over fifteen local bakeries and artisan food producers, including great cheeses, jams, spreads, and even a display of sprouted grain and bean flours from Peggy Sutton, of To Your Health, one of the two main producers in the country of this amazing product. In fact, my workshop this Sunday at the IACP Conference is on sprouted grains, which I call " the next frontier in baking." Last year, Joe Lindley of Lindley Mills (the other producer of this kind of flour) and I did a workshop at the Asheville Bread Festival, so we're repeating it this year on an even bigger stage in New York City before a very influential audience (the International Association of Culinary Professionals -- IACP--consists of influence-makers from all aspects of the food world, including media, writers, chefs, food photographers and stylists, restaurant owners, test kitchen professionals, and entrepreneurs). The demo will take place at the French Culinary Institute on Sunday and, or so I was told, it sold out very quickly. As always, it's fun to be on the cutting edge.
So, you can see, I'll have a lot to write about next week. But now I have to pack and get ready to head out. If you happen to be at the conference, come over and say hi. I may even try to visit a few of those great pizza spots that John Arena wrote about and that Brad English is trying to replicate in some of the other posts here on Pizza Quest. Thank you all for your continuing support and for your help in spreading the word -- yes, it's about the pizza but, really, it's even more about the Quest!