This past weekend I attended the Nourished Food Blogger Conference followed by the Gluten-free Expo in Chicago.
I do want to post a recap on the conference, but to be honest, I'm still reeling from the amount of information they provided. The expo on the other hand had some noticeable standouts so I wanted to take a moment to highlight them. My list (in no particular order) includes a mix of favorite authors, publications, products, and gluten-free bakeries. Feel free to let me know what your favorites were too!
1. Peter and Kelli Bronski of the Artisanal Gluten-Free Cookbook Series.
I knew Peter and Kelli (virtually) through the gluten-free ratio rally that we both participate in but am also a huge fan of their cookbooks. When I got the chance to say hello to the gluten-free duo I confessed to making their jerk chicken recipe twice in the last month alone. While at the expo I also got the chance to peek at their Artisanal Cupcake cookbook or bakebook as I like to call it. Let me just say I was kicking myself for not having the cash on hand to buy it right then! I shall be rectifying that very soon!
2. Karen Morgan of Blackbird Bakery.
Karen has a passion for both art and gluten-free baking that is infectious. She really spends a lot of time trying to understand the science behind how ingredients interact and considers her own journey into the world of gluten-free baking a chance to reinvent herself. Karen's recipes are meticulously tested before making the cut. Her cookbook is full of beautiful photos and easy-to-make recipes. Karen also recently set up a kickstarter project (which was fully funded!) to bin work on her next cookbook, a community-sourced recipe book aimed at recreating childhood favorites. Look for that early next year!
3. Vanessa Maltin Weisbrod of Delight Gluten-Free Magazine.
Not only do we subscribe to Delight magazine at the bakery, but I also follow Vanessa on instagram! I recognized Vanessa immediately and was thrilled to get a chance to talk with her. She was recently named one of the top 40 under 40 in the Foggy Awards but certainly doesn't let the fame go to her head: Vanessa is sweet and humble and has a wonderfully approachable nature to her. We try to stay current at the bakery and always love seeing new gluten-free recipes, reviews, and news in the magazine.
4. Mary Fran Wiley of Franny Cakes.
Another participant in the gluten-free ratio rally (and fellow instagramer), Mary Fran and I developed an online friendship through our baking adventures. Mary Fran is a super talented graphic artist, web designer, food photographer, and gluten-free blogger that has her own set of ebooks, aptly named Keep Calm and Bake On due out this May! And as was typical of her kindness throughout our trip in Chicago, she gifted a limited number of free download codes to leave at the bakery for our customers! Stop in next week to get yours!
5. Cumin & Clove Indian mixes.
I adore all things Asian food. Even more so when I can find them gluten-free. C&C formulated a couple tasty items that are peppered with Indian spices. Their goal was to make Indian food gluten-free and more accessible to Americans. The first product of theirs that I tasted was the quinoa and cardamon bombay breakfast which they served with coconut milk and cranberries. I loved the flavor combination and thought it was one that my picky, oatmeal-loving husband would even enjoy. The next item was a triangle shaped serving of their lentil and tumeric wrap topped with the lentil-based mumbai stew which is of course seasoned with Indian spices like cumin and cloves. Delicious!
While at the expo I got to assist my good friend Annelies of Attune Foods and the lovely ladies from Pacific Foods in a shared booth. Attune Foods makes gluten-free cereals while Pacific Foods is known for their tasty soups, broths, and non-dairy milk alternatives. The two companies partnered to host a contest for 6 months of free breakfast using their products. I got a chance to taste two of the milks they were sampling: a vanilla hemp and a hazelnut chocolate. Super delicious. They also showed a proof of concept that you could bake with the milks and offered delicious gluten-free, dairy-free cupcakes. Psst... the chocolate hazelnut milk also made a fabulous dairy-free cocktail when mixed with some whiskey.
We use sunflower seeds and even sunflower milk at the bakery so I was beyond excited to find this at the expo. As an added bonus, the sunbutter is gluten-free, peanut-free and even tree-nut free! I had high hopes for this new find and made sure to snag a sample before I left. Once I got home I chopped up some celery and then loaded the pieces with the sunbutter and some sliced prunes. It was amazing. The sunbutter tastes remarkably like peanut butter and has a very similar texture. At the expo they had a variety of different blends including creamy, natural, and even a crunchy version. I was pleasantly surprised by this one and can't wait to transform it into some nut-free "peanut" butter cookies.
As the expo was winding down, I was lucky enough to meet gluten-free company legend, and Bay Area native, The Pamela, of Pamela's Products. Little known fact is that Pamela's father started the flour mill where we get our flour today. Pamela started her own company in 1988 and went on to develop her own line of baking mixes and packaged gluten-free goodies. In fact Pamela's flour mix was one of the first we tried that actually came close to acting like a gluten-full flour mix. Pamela was down to Earth and super knowledgeable about gluten-free baking.
9. Crave Bakeshop (Lake Oswego, OR).
Months ago I watched as two Portland ladies from a little gluten-free bakery called Crave Bakeshop schooled their competitors on Food Network's Cupcake Wars. It was thrilling to see the gals outsmart and outbake the other participants. Since then we've bantered back and forth on twitter and I was thrilled to hear that they would be attending the expo. I had the good fortune to meet the Kyra and Jackie at a dinner following the conference. The two were just as friendly and sweet as they appeared on TV and I felt that instant connection that others "in the biz" have. Crave Bakeshop specializes in gluten-free cakes and cupcakes but also make other sweet treats like pie bites and cream puffs. Kyra even brought samples of their gluten-free beer brownies which freaking ROCKED. I only wish they'd brought them out before dinner so I had more room. :)
10. Sweet Ali's Bakery (Hinsdale, IL).
At the Nourished conference, Sweet Ali's had a delicious dessert spread that included three types of cupcakes: a lemon cupcake, a raspberry vanilla cupcake, and a caramel (or was it dulce de leche?) cupcake. All were moist and light and the frosting was creamy and not too sweet. I really liked their display too with the frosted sugar cookies serving as the back ground. Ali herself was there to great the bloggers and was lovely to chat with.
11. Andrea's Bakery (St. Louis, MO).
Andrea's Bakery is another bakery that sponsored the Nourished conference. They had a table with sweet treats like red velvet cheesecake bars. The following day they also brought more baked goods to sample at the expo. Andrea's website shows a wide selection of gluten-free products in addition to what they make themselves. If I'm ever in Missouri, I will be sure to stop by their shop!
Miss this month's expo? Check out the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo website for details on the next expo.