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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