Melty Goodness Monday: Pappa Rich, Pasadena

Pappa Rich - Pasadena

I decided to create my own theme for this post: Melty Goodness Monday (MGM). In honor of MGM, I thought PappaRich would be the perfect entry for today. A little background: PappaRich started in Korea in 2007, and they are most famous for their lightly crisp, mocha-coated buns with pillowy soft interior. The best part of the bun: the melting pat of butter in the center. For me -- a complete butter fanatic since childhood -- this is absolutely inspired!

PappaRich offers cookie sandwiches in addition to the ethereal buns
Currently, the only PappaRich bakery is located in Pasadena at the corner Green and Delacey, across from Buca di Beppo on one side, and the former Twin Palms restaurant on the other. It's tucked away from the street in a shaded, woodsy building that also features a sofa store.

PappaRich - interior view

Besides the buns, PappaRich serves small, but substantial cookie sandwiches, a variety of coffee drinks, and -- most interestingly -- clam chowder! I am not sure how clam chowder was selected to accompany sweet bakery items, but there's gotta be a good reason. I must try the clam chowder next time along with my bun. It might be a surprisingly good combo of savory and sweet. If you've tried the two together, please do leave a comment or send me a tweet about the experience!

The best part: the melting butter in the center of the bun!

When the PappaRich server handed me the bun, I thought it would be dense and tough. It looks like it would be at first glance. It is not, I'm thrilled to report. The mocha coating that covers the bun creates a very, very delicate crispy coating that shatters as you bite into the bun. The bun is very airy and soft inside, the perfect environment to hide the melting butter. The salty butter combined with the mocha shell form my favorite flavor experience: sweet + savory.

PappaRich exterior + tiny cups

There is a little cove in the bakery that displays an array of PappaRoti and PappaRich paraphernalia (try saying that 5 times fast!). Below are a few items to give you an idea of the PappaRich collection.

PappaRich paraphernalia
I give PappaRich a big thumbs up! Next time you are in the Old Town Pasadena area, drop by for a bun and some chowdah. :)

PappaRich paraphernalia

100 W. Green St.
Pasadena, CA, 91105
(626) 440-0009


A Jar-ring Experience

Jar's exterior
Finally going to eat at Jar! 

Anticipation of a great meal is often what makes me want to try a new restaurant. Throw in a Blackboard Eats (BBE) discount, and the want escalates to a need.

A few months ago I obtained a BBE coupon for Jar, Suzanne Tracht's upscale "modern chophouse" in Los Angeles. Jar was a restaurant I had wanted to try ever since seeing Chef Suzanne compete on Top Chef Masters in 2009.

With Mr. DG out of the country visiting relatives for almost one month, we weren't able to go to Jar until the day before the offer expired. Even though he had jet lag, Mr. DG was willing to come to Jar for a 9 pm reservation on a Tuesday. My brother, David, also joined us.

OPENER: Bread + Sweet Butter
Crusty loaf of bread w/sweet, smooth butter
Luckily, it's hard to mess up butter.

I will say that I thought a restaurant of this level would have its servers place a napkin in the lap of its customers. No, I didn't lose the use of my arms, and, no, I'm not a princess that expects the staff to treat me like the Queen of England. However, I've eaten at restaurants with . . . lower reputations that have provided this small gesture of gentility. That Jar didn't do this was a little surprising, but my excitement at eating at Jar excused the oversight.

Prix Fixe Options at Jar
The Blackboard Eats prix fixe menu at Jar
The Blackboard Eats prix fixe menu at Jar

When the restaurant called to confirm my reservation, they also asked if I had a BBE code. I said, yes, and that's why we were automatically presented with the Blackboard Eats prix fixe menu. There were a few appetizers that we could add to our menu, including crab deviled eggs, black mussels, oysters on the half shell, fried ipswich clams and tempura squash blossoms. For another $5, we had the option of a wine pairing to go with our meal. I opted to go wine-less.

FIRST COURSE: Jar's Wedge Salad
Jar's Wedge Salad
A plate of blue cheese dressing and a side of lettuce

The three of us each chose one of the appetizers: my brother ordered the wedge salad, Mr. DG got the soup of the day (tomato) and I got the butter lettuce salad. I expected these first courses to set the tone for the rest of the meal. They did, but not in a positive way.

FIRST COURSE: Butter Lettuce Salad w/Breakfast Radishes + Parmesan
Butter Lettuce Salad with Breakfast Radishes + Shards of Parmesan
Note: breakfast radishes taste just like regular radishes. They're just eggplant-shaped.

My salad was underwhelming, unfortunately. Honestly, it wasn't any better than a salad I or Mr. DG could make at home. With such simple ingredients (butter lettuce, breakfast radishes and parmesan shards in a lemony dressing), I assumed there would be some extra bit of "oomph" to elevate the salad. Not here. My brother's wedge salad was suffocating under a mass of blue cheese dressing. He said it was so strong, he couldn't taste anything but blue cheese -- overall, it was too overwhelming and unbalanced.

FIRST COURSE: Jar's Soup of the Day - Tomato
Jar's Soup of the Day: Tomato
A bowl of tomato soup - meh

Mr. DG's tomato soup was okay, but not, again, anything out of the ordinary. So now that we've had our first courses, we were still hoping that the mediocrity of this course would not be an indicator of the rest of our meal.

FIRST COURSE: Crab Deviled Eggs
Are you sure there's crab in there?

FIRST COURSE: Crab Deviled Eggs
Oh, yeah --almost forgot. We ordered the crab deviled eggs. I guess the dark little mass on top of the eggs is supposed to be the crab. Honestly, all I could taste was deviled egg (again, nothing special) and that was it.


ENTRÉE: Signature Pot Roast
ENTRÉE: Signature Pot Roast
Will it be mouth-wateringly tender? The suspense is killing me.

Onto the entrée. All of us opted for the Signature Pot Roast. I had read reviews of this dish where people waxed rhapsodically about how the pot roast melted in their mouth. Well, this I HAD to try. And, really, if this is the "Signature" dish at Jar, why wouldn't I get it?

The pot roast comes with a choice of two side dishes. We each ordered the mashed potatoes and the pea tendrils. Each side comes in its own dish for each person. So there were six bowls on the table, plus our entrees...it was kind of crowded, honestly. I can say that the mashed potatoes were absolutely delicious - fluffy, flavorful and decadent. The best thing I ate all night.

SIDE DISH: Sauteed Pea Tendrils
SIDE DISH: Sauteed Pea Tendrils
Does this look a bit messy? Or am I mistaking "rustic" for sloppy?

Presentation-wise, the pea tendrils looked as if they'd been tossed into the bowl from ten feet away. It was so messy -- tendrils were haphazardly hanging over the edges of each of the bowls. It made me wonder if the expediter had fallen down and tangled himself in a net of wayward pea tendrils that didn't make it in.

Back to the pot roast. No melting sensation, in the mouth or otherwise. It was like pot roast I could get at a family restaurant for 1/2 the price. After the reviews raving about this dish -- yeah, I was pretty disappointed. And annoyed, at this point. Maybe mine was the only one that was sort of tough? No, Mr. DG and my bro also felt the same way.

Soooooo, by this point my expectations for an amazingly awesome meal have been dashed. Utterly. Perhaps dessert will salvage the remainder of this meal? The options on the menu read butterscotch pudding, banana cream pie or sorbet. When we placed our orders, the waiter told us not to worry -- we can order dessert after dinner. At the time, this struck me as odd because the dessert is included in the prix fixe, and there are only three options. When you have a prix fixe, don't you order all three courses at once? At least, this is what I was used to. The little voice in my head thought, "They better not run out of that banana cream pie!"

DESSERT: White Peach Cobbler
DESSERT: White Peach Cobbler
The white peach cobbler with the ubiquitous vanilla bean ice cream

Well, I guess the kitchen didn't hear my little voice because they ran out of banana cream pie. My second choice: butterscotch  pudding (ordinarily first on my list, but because the butterscotch budino is so ridiculously good at Pizzeria Mozza, I didn't think Jar could beat Mozza). What do you know? They were out of butterscotch pudding, too! The server tried to put as positive a spin on the replacements as possible -- chocolate pudding and a white peach cobbler with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream -- but we weren't really buying it. Sigh. The cobbler seemed to be an "oh-crap-we're-out-of-dessert-quick-throw-a-cobbler-together" decision. I am not a chocolate person, and I didn't want sorbet, so I chose the cobbler. Mr. DG and David chose the same, too.

How was the cobbler? Okay - probably as good as something I could make myself. The "white" peaches? They were yellow. It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal. And by "perfect," I do mean disappointing.

My stomach's-eye view of Jar from our table
My stomach's-eye view of Jar from our table
The Service
Our server was friendly, but not overly attentive. The busboys and runners were not the most professional. Not rude, but there was nothing about this meal that made you feel you were having a spectacular culinary experience. At one point, a busboy removed our bread  plates along with the first course plates, and no one bothered to return with new bread plates for a good 10-15 minutes.

Honestly, I could have had the same level of food and service at my local family restaurant. And I wouldn't have been so disappointed because I wouldn't have dropped $50/head (incl. tax and tip) to get the same quality.

Ambience is intimate and dark. Really dark. The lighting was so low, it was hard for my lens to focus. This is why my photos have such a weird sepia tinge to them. I hate using flash, so these photos are as good as it gets. Also, it's not the most conversation-friendly environment -- it gets quite loud in the dining room.

I know there are plenty of people who have enjoyed Jar, and I was truly hoping -- and expecting -- to be one of those lucky patrons. With the passing of each course though, my hopes dwindled precipitously. I know kitchens can have "off" nights, but from reading other people's reviews, I don't think mine was an unusual experience. I would be willing to give Jar another shot, if I didn't have to shell out my own cash. For now, I will spend my money elsewhere.


Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie by The Salty Spoon: An Homage

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie
Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie by The Salty Spoon
When I attended the Food Blog Forum in March, I tasted this delicious chocolate chip cookie sprinkled with grey sel de mer. It was a fantastic combination of savory and sweet, with a back note that was reminiscent of rich toffee. Up to that point, I couldn't recall another cookie leaving such a favorable impression on me.

Along with several other food bloggers, Bria of The Salty Spoon brought tasty, homemade treats for the rest of the forum attendees. I will admit now that I took several of her cookies to hoard for myself. My favorite sweet treat, above all else -- above cakes, pies, even cupcakes -- is a warm, slightly chewy chocolate chip cookie that isn't too sweet and sans nuts. I didn't know that what I was really seeking was Bria's salted chocolate chip cookie (and a month later, Momofuku Milk Bar's Compost Cookie)!

The little sprinkle of grey salt on top was the veritable icing on the cake with this cookie. It added the perfect contrast and depth of flavor, elevating it far above the ordinary chocolate chip cookie. I pestered Bria over the months for her recipe, and now it is available to all of us on her blog.

The photo above was taken after I got home from the Food Blog Forum five months ago. Go check out Bria's blog and make a batch. You will love them!


Asian Turkey Burgers for Light Summer Meals

A New Twist on an American Classic: Asian Turkey Burgers It's been far too long since my last post! In a nutshell, I have been logging some heavy-duty hours at my new job. I also moved out of the desert and back to LA County (yay!), so there has been little time to catch my breath, much less blog, but now I'm back!

With the biggest barbecue holiday just behind us, I wanted to share my recipe for a lighter version of the traditional burger. The patties are smaller than the usual patty; I'm not sure why I prefer it like this. It may have stemmed from a dish my mom made for me about 15-20 years ago. I think she called them Korean hamburgers, and they were about two inches in diameter and sprinkled with sesame seeds. I haven't been able to replicate them exactly, so instead I did my own version of these mini patties using ground turkey.

Ginger and green onion with fish sauce flavor the turkey patties
My recipe incorporates green onion, ginger and fish sauce into the ground turkey. You can even add Thai sweet chili sauce to the ground turkey mixture if you like. It's definitely a recipe you can improvise with the flavors you like.

Turkey patties browning in a pan
Instead of a bun, I like to serve two or three mini-burgers wrapped in artisan leaf lettuce. I top the patties with Thai sweet chili sauce and garnish with some slivered carrots and cucumber for additional crunch. I love cilantro, so I like to add this, too, but, of course, don't feel compelled if you fall into the "cilantro-tastes-like-soap" camp. A sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds completes the dish.

Asian Turkey Burgers with Artisan Leaf Lettuce with Sesame Seeds and Slivered Carrot Bundle
Asian Turkey Burgers

1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
Couple dashes of fish sauce
1-2 teaspoons sesame oil (or to your taste)
1-2 Tbsps. Thai sweet chili sauce (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (I've used dry bread crumbs, and it's turned out fine, too)
1 pound ground turkey

2-3 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Washed artisan leaf lettuce (or your favorite lettuce)
Slivered cucumber
Slivered carrots
Cilantro leaves, optional
Thai chili sauce


Mix green onion with garlic, egg, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, Thai sweet chili sauce and black pepper. Stir until combined. Mix in bread crumbs. Crumble ground turkey and gently combine together with bread crumb mixture.

Wet hands lightly with water and make small patties, approximately 2 inches in diameter. Brown in pan until fully cooked. I use a meat thermometer to make sure the turkey has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can keep the patties warm on a sheet pan in the oven at 180 degrees F.

When you are ready to eat, place 2 or 3 patties on a large leaf of lettuce. Arrange strips of carrot and cucumber on top. Garnish with cilantro leaves and sesame seeds. Top with Thai sweet chili sauce.


Mexican "Grilled" Corn - A Great Summer Side Dish

Mexican Grilled Corn à la Cooks Illustrated
Summer is nearly here, and fresh corn on the cob will be beckoning us to enjoy its plump, sweet kernels. I love corn on the cob, and it wasn't until a year or two ago that I came to enjoy the splendor of corn fresh from the field. Madison Street Produce runs a farm stand just a hop-skip from our home, and their produce is picked fresh daily.

Madison Street's corn was a revelation! So delicate and sweet, with kernels that burst forth at the lightest touch. This was the complete opposite of corn that I grew up eating -- kind of tough kernels with moderate corn-fresh flavor. I dubbed Madison's corn, "crack from the field," not to be confused with "crack from the oven," aka, Momofuku Milk Bar's Crack Pie.

Fresh corn; cilantro, garlic and lime

Evidently, I have some sort of crack fixation... :)

In any case, I want to share with you my Mexican  "grilled" corn, adapted from Cooks Illustrated's fantastic recipe. I use quotes around "grilled" because I cheated and used my stove to attain the char marks you see. I will say that it's worth it to grill the corn properly because my attempt to imbue some flavor through this method did not work. The stove-top treatment made it look grilled (kind of), but it didn't impart any of the wonderful smoky flavor you would get from the coals.

Dishy Goodness Mexican "Grilled" Corn
(adapted from Cooks Illustrated )

1/4 cup Vegenaise (feel free to substitute regular or light mayonnaise; we just like Vegenaise a lot more)
3 TB sour cream
3 TB minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
4 tsp juice from 1 lime
1 oz grated Cotija cheese (it's worth it to find this cheese instead of substituting something like Pecorino)
6 large ears of corn, husks and silk removed

Cook corn per your favorite method -- boiling water; microwave; etc. Just don't overcook it.
**EDIT 7/29/13: If you plan on grilling your corn, you no longer have to PM me! Here are the recipes for gas grilling and charcoal grilling methods, which have a short additional step before you grill the corn.
**EDIT: If you plan on grilling your corn, the directions are a little different. PM me at donna {at} dishygoodness {dot} com, and I can send you the recipe for either charcoal grilling or gas grilling. Just let me know which method you prefer. :) **

In a large bowl, combine Vegenaise, sour cream, cilantro, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, black pepper, cayenne, lime juice and cheese. Check seasoning for desired flavor.

Place cooked corn directly over stove flame, turning regularly with tongs to achieve char marks. Remove to platter when done.

Add charred corn to mixture and toss to coat evenly. Serve immediately. I like to provide additional lime wedges with the corn.

Please let me know if you try this recipe or have any suggestions! It's so, so tasty.

P.S. If you are in the mood for real grilled Mexican corn, and don't want to make it yourself, check out Cacao Mexicatessen in Eagle Rock!


Dishy Goodness Home-Cooked Turkey Chili

Turkey Chili by Ms. Dishy Goodness
So I have these dishes that I've cooked and documented, just sitting on my portable drive. . . and I thought it was high time I got around to posting one. So here you are! My recipe for turkey chili with two kinds of kidney beans (yes, two!). I think I can *just* sneak it in before the weather gets too hot to think about chili (at least here in the desert!).

I usually don't stick to a recipe religiously. I like to see what I have in the fridge and pantry and then go from there. I'm sure many of you do the same. I usually have a lot of canned tomatoes and canned beans in my cupboard and ground turkey in the freezer.

On this day, I decided to use red and white kidney beans. I also had some "Kangaroo Cheddar" from Costco -- a nutty cheddar from Australia. We bought the cheese mainly because the logo is a boxing kangaroo, and it was too cute to resist. :) Fortunately, it's also a tasty cheese!

Diced carrots and celery

The base of the chili was the classic mirepoix - onions, celery and carrots. You can throw in some bell pepper if you like. If you have red bell pepper on hand, a tasty addition is roasted red pepper puree. It adds a great depth of flavor to your chili (or soup!), and it's so easy to do (please leave a comment or email me at donna [at] dishygoodness [dot] com if you want specific directions on how to make the roasted pepper puree).

After softening the onions, celery and carrots, I browned the ground turkey. The mirepoix was then combined with the meat. Sometimes turkey is a little "gamey" for me, so to cut that undesired flavor, I add liberal dashes of Worcestershire sauce.

Ground turkey with softened mirepoix

I like to add soy sauce, Maggi sauce and red wine vinegar to further create savoriness with a little bit of acidity. Of course, chili powder and a little cayenne provide spice and heat. Use to your desired spiciness. Or if you have jalapenos or serrano or other chiles, feel free to substitute as you like. I added a fine mince of serrano as a garnish on my chili. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice and simmer for twenty minutes.

The finished dish!
That's pretty much it! Taste for seasoning and enjoy with your favorite garnishes. It's really a dish that you can improvise with what you have on hand. I like to make a big batch so I have meals prepared for most of the week. It tastes great over rice, too!

Turkey chili in my Le Creuset dutch oven
P.S. Here's the turkey chili recipe I used as the foundation for my dish. I left out the cumin. (Link opens in a new window.)

P.P.S. Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by KitchenAidRed Star Yeast and Le Creuset.


Momofuku Ssäm Bar + Milk Bar, New York: Confessions of a Crack(Pie) Addict

It's been longer than I wanted since my last post. A lot of things have happened since I went to the Food Blog Forum seminar in March. For instance, I got offered a dream job that took me to bridal market in New York City for ten days. I love weddings, I love fashion and I love New York! How lucky am I?

Behind the counter at Momofuku Milk Bar

So to balance out the really LONG post about the seminar, I'm going to keep this as short and sweet as possible.

Momofuku Milk Bar's Crack Pie

Go get some crack pie at Momofuku Milk Bar, NOW! It is divinely buttery. The deceptively simple-looking pie filling resembles lemon bar filling -- until you bite into it and taste the caramel/butterscotch-like flavor. The oat crust tastes as decadent as the interior. It adds a nice crunchy nuttiness to counterbalance the richness of the "gooey butter filling."

Crack pie: up close and personal

I hoover-ed that piece of crack pie so fast, it's a wonder I didn't also eat my fingers. Wanting to share this with my family, I carefully flew back with two slices for them to try. Now my parents and my hubby are also crack(pie) addicts! :)

Compost cookie in display

The compost cookie with its melange of ingredients is inspired and heavenly -- a thin, chewy cookie with a surprising combination of potato chips, pretzels, coffee grounds and oats combine to make one rapturous taste experience with a depth of flavor unexpected in a "simple" cookie.

Milk Bar in neon; the compost cookie

If you want to try making these delicious desserts at home, check out this post from TheKitchn.com which includes links to recipes for crack pie and compost cookies. [UPDATE 12/26/11: You can also check out my own post on making miniature versions of crack pie!]

Momofuku Ssam Bar

I got so excited about the crack pie and compost cookie, that I almost neglected to share with you our mini-meal at Momofuku Ssäm Bar! It was a mini-meal so we could save room for the crack pie, of course.

We had the pork buns, natch, and the Fuji apple kimchi with maple labne, jowl bacon and arugula. A little salty jowl bacon, a sprig or two of arugula and a piece of kimchi'd apple speared together and dunked in the cool labne made for a beautiful combination of flavors and textures.

Fuji apple kimchi at Momofuku Ssäm Bar

As for the pork buns...the soft white buns cradled two slices of tender pork belly, resting on a few slices of cucumber. Scallions and hoisin sauce added herbaceousness and sweetness. The crunchiness of the cucumbers played against the soft chewiness of the pork. I could have easily consumed four or five more of these little bundles of fatty goodness (hmmm....maybe a good name for another blog? ;)).

Ssäm Bar menu; the famous pork buns

Below is a glimpse into the Ssäm Bar kitchen with the chefs hard at work.

Where the magic happens - Momofuku Ssäm Bar kitchen

And, finally, the incomparable New York skyline reflected in the window at Momofuku Ssäm Bar. If you go to New York, you must try the crack pie. It will change your life!

New York reflected in the window of Momofuku Ssäm Bar

Momofuku Ssäm Bar
Momofuku Milk Bar
BTW, now there are two Milk Bar locations! You can get your fix in the East Village and in Midtown.


Food Blog Forum Seminar, Los Angeles - by Steamy Kitchen & White On Rice Couple

NOTE: This is a pretty long post. I'm sure I'm breaking a blogger rule of some sort by the sheer length of this post. However, if you don't have the time or don't want to read this, you can just check out my slideshow of images from the Food Blog Forum. Thanks for visiting and I welcome your comments! If you are in any of my photos, please let me know as I'd love to connect faces to names. :)
I LOVELOVELOVE Twitter! I've had the good fortune to sign up for two amazing food blogger gatherings through Twitter in the past 6 weeks. The first was the food photography class taught by Helene Dujardin of MyTartelette.com, and the second was the first-ever Food Blog Forum's "Build Your Best Blog" (BYBB) seminar. BYBB was a one-day event put on by Food Blog Forum founders Steamy Kitchen, Jaden and Scott Hair, and White On Rice Couple, Diane Cu and Todd Porter. I was very excited about attending this seminar because I am pretty new to the food blogging scene, having just started in December 2009. A large part of why I enjoy food blogging and using Twitter is making connections with other bloggers I admire. I've been a fan of Steamy Kitchen and White On Rice Couple for quite a while, so this was my chance to learn from the crème de la crème of the foodie world and to establish new friendships with other bloggers.

Gallery 1018, LA: the site of the Food Blog Forum by Steamy Kitchen and White on Rice Couple
The event was held at the Gallery 1018 in downtown LA's arts district. Approximately seventy people attended the all-day seminar. There were six sessions designed to help food bloggers, well, build their best blog!

Upon arriving at the gallery, we were greeted by the lovely ladies, Diane, Jen of Devour the World, Rachael of La Fuji Mama, and Brooke of Food Woolf. They checked in bloggers and provided our credentials and a cute "Little White Book" business card holder. There was also a raffle to be held later in the day for cookbooks by Steamy Kitchen, Trader Joe's and Martha Stewart. One lucky Food Blog Forum member was going to win a dSLR camera!

Jen and Rachael welcome seminar attendees; Little White Book for business cards
Fruit, doughnuts and homemade goodies were enjoyed throughout the day. I need to rave about The Salty Spoon's chocolate chip cookies! First, chocolate chip cookies are my absolute favorite out-of-hand sweet treat in the world. Bria of The Salty Spoon made a cookie that had the perfect chewy texture for me  as I'm not a crispy cookie gal. There was a heady flavor that was almost floral (really excellent quality vanilla?) that melded with the butter and delicious chocolate chunks. A scant sprinkle of kosher salt on the top added the final taste contrast that I love -- salty + sweet -- in just the right proportion. Bria has promised to post the recipe and I am happily anticipating being able to make these myself. Thanks, Bria!

Behold the beauty of chocolate chip cookies by The Salty Spoon!
The first session was a panel discussion about multimedia by KCRW producer Harriet Ells, Good Food host and Angeli Caffe owner Evan Kleiman and Deep End Dining's Eddie Lin. I have been a huge fan of Evan Kleiman's for over ten years, and I love the Good Food show on KCRW. I remember when Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining was one of the earliest food bloggers -- he got his break when he was featured on Huell Howser's show. (For those of you unfamiliar with his name, Huell Howser is a Southern California legend, in my mind at least. He travels the state looking to find the extraordinary in the everyday. There is no one else like Huell because of his unbridled enthusiasm and child-like wonder about everything he encounters. I love him!) Eddie blogs about eating the less common, more exotic foods that aren't part of the everyday meal in the US.

Session 1: Harriet Ells, KCRW; Evan Kleiman, Good Food & Angeli Caffe; Eddie Lin, Deep End Dining
Evan's been hosting Good Food since 1998, taking over for the "Two Hot Tamales," Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. Her radio show has grown to include podcasts and video. She uses Facebook and Twitter to keep her fans informed of what she's doing and also to get inspiration from them. Evan stated that new media is a two-way conversation that "makes barriers of distance, language...disappear." Eddie related how his role in food blogging led to a job being an exotic food expert on "CSI: NY" which led to a three-second close-up on the show.  He also told us how his adventurous taste provokes disturbing death threats from individuals who don't agree with his eating habits. Most recent case: his visit to The Hump where he ate live lobster sashimi. The Hump is the sushi restaurant that was closed last month for serving whale.

Steamy Kitchen duo: Scott Hair looks on as his lovely wife Jaden speaks about building your dream career
Building your dream career was the focus of the second session. Jaden and Scott Hair tag-teamed for this lively and energizing presentation. Jaden emphasized the importance of diversifying as much as possible. She leads by example: Jaden describes herself as "a television chef, food columnist and award-winning food blogger" --and cookbook author. The keys to finding your dream career are three-fold: 1) define the passion that ignites your soul; 2) consciously make a decision to pursue your dream career; and 3) take steps, big or small, to reach that dream.

A rapt and attentive audience as Scott speaks.
Jaden's husband, Scott, was a former Tony Robbins seminar leader, and he is as dynamic a speaker as Tony himself. Scott used Cathy from Gastronomy Blog and Marian of Marian the Foodie to demonstrate two points of view on having your dream career. The three-step takeaway from his presentation: 1) get clear on what you want; 2) get clear on your reasons for wanting what you want; and 3) ask yourself what small steps could I do today to move me closer to that goal. Telling people what you want to do by honing a ten-second elevator pitch will help solidify your plan of action and make connections where you may not have thought possible.

We had a great lunch from Baby Blues BBQ and Pizza Next Door. I had the opportunity to meet Jimmy of Thirsty Pig, Javier of Teenage Glutster, and at long last --my Twitter pal -- Cathy from Gastronomy Blog, during lunch.

Photographer Matt Armendariz of MattBites.com teaches as food stylist Adam Pearson looks on

After lunch, Adam Pearson and Matt Armendariz of MattBites.com shared their tips for finding your visual voice in food photography and styling. Matt is an experienced art director for food shoots and food photographer, and Adam went to culinary school and is a food stylist. Both are self-taught! Matt's key components for great photos are: 1) good light; 2) fresh food; 3) visual delectability; and 4) sense of place. Adam's goal when styling food is to make each ingredient look its best. To that end, he offers the following tips: 1) know your food, inside & out; 2) build your plate for the camera (i.e., prop up the food if needed, so it isn't flat on the plate); 3) undercook the food or the food may lose its freshness and body; 4) bring out texture and movement; 5) know when to use tricks (and when not to); 6) have a vision of the story you are trying to tell.

Diane Cu and Todd Porter of White On Rice Couple

Todd and Diane continued the photography discussion with a session about workflow and gear. One of the examples that really excited bloggers was their simple illustration that broke down the direction of light in an image. They used a clock to illustrate the angles at which light can hit a subject. Twelve o'clock is backlight that hits directly from behind the object; six o'clock is the most direct light from the front -- this is very flat light. Shadows help create dimension and interest. Diane encouraged us to take a series of photos at the various "times" and see how it changes the look of the photo.

Gary Nicholson of Relevant Trafik explains SEO
Relevant Trafik's Gary Nicholson talked about the tools to increasing the traffic and searchability of your blog or website. In addition to using social networks like Facebook and Twitter, he stressed the importance of using alt tags for images, optimizing images for the web (max 72 ppi); using key words in titles and descriptions, and avoiding spammy text (like repeating key words over and over again -- Google doesn't like this!). He also stressed the importance of making your blog easy to navigate and to share. Pick your key words before you write your article and do not use the key words more than twice in each article. Key word examples are city names, blog names and book titles. Share the permalink to your blog on Facebook and Twitter as this counts as an inbound link to your blog, thus driving up your searchability.

Jaden concluded the day with her advice regarding monetizing your blog. She said that there are four ingredients to the monetization formula: consistent content + authenticity + diversity + community. Consistency in your blog content and posting frequency increases loyalty among readers. Authenticity refers to whether your blog persona matches your real-life persona. It's important to diversify the types of ways you can reach your end-user: television, print, radio, classes, etc. She advised the audience to have more than one skill. For example, Jaden is a food writer, a public speaker, and she can shoot and edit photos and video. Bloggers were warned not to depend on ad revenue as a sole source of income. She suggested finding a "rock star" in a totally unrelated industry and find out the similarities in their success that can be translated into the food community. And, finally, speaking of community, don't be afraid to divulge your "secrets" to other bloggers. This is how you become remembered by more people as people always remember those who are helpful. It is, indeed, better to give than to receive as a blogger.

If you've stuck with me all the way to the end, I thank you very much! I hope you've enjoyed this summary of last week's seminar. There were too many photos to include them all, but you can view my slideshow to see additional pics.

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