Camp Blogaway isn’t so much a conference as it is an experience, and a wonderful experience at that. I’ve dilly-dallied on writing about it in part because I don’t quite know how to capture the experience in a few measly paragraphs. I don’t want to give it short shrift, but nor do I want to go on ad nauseum and bore the poor folks who didn’t attend. So it’s a tricky balance I am trying to strike and you will have to forgive me if I am not entirely successful. But I didn’t want to let any more time pass before I wrote a little about it and shared a recipe inspired by the friends, the food and the good times.
First, the location. Um, wow! Driving up the steep, curvy road into the San Bernardino mountains was an experience unto itself. Simply stunning, and camp really is CAMP. Rustic cabins surrounding a main lodge, and we had to bring our own sleeping bags and flashlights. I used to be an avid camper when I lived in Arizona (how else do you escape the merciless Phoenix summer?) and it was a real treat to be up in the mountains, with the scent of sun-warmed pines on the breeze. That alone meant I was bound to have a good time.
Second, the people. Oh the people! For obvious reasons, Camp Blogaway has a limited capacity and it was on a much more intimate level than any conference I’ve ever attended. And although I didn’t even meet everyone in the room, I felt like we were all old friends, talking and laughing and enjoying the company. It was so nice to meet people who I’ve been following for a while, like Laura (Family Spice), Rachael (La Fuji Mama), Krista (BudgetGourmetMom), Diane (CreatedbyDiane), Priscilla (She’s Cookin’), Dara (Cookin’ Canuck) and Gerry (Foodness Gracious). And to make so many new friends, like Shawn (I Wash…You Dry), Natalie (The Devil Wears Parsley) and Nathan (Gotham Home Table). We congregated in the main lodge almost the whole time, talking and eating, learning and teaching. What a group.
Thirdly, the presentations. You honestly couldn’t beat them. I learned so much in the span of 48 hours that my mind was buzzing and I could barely keep it all straight. I could hardly wait to get home to implement it all. One of my greatest take-aways was the realization that I need to make my blog more user-friendly for my readers. I know I am pretty good at what I do, and I love it, but I also know it can be much more accessible and enjoyable for the reader if I get a cleaner design with greater functionality. So that is something I am working on (with help!) at this very moment, and I hope to roll out the results in a few months’ time.
I was unaware that there would be a comedy hour on the first night. Okay, not really, but if you ever get the chance to see renowned food stylist, Denise Vivaldo, in action, you are in for a treat. She had the rather uncomfortable task of critiquing people’s food photography, and I have never laughed so hard in my life. I don’t know how on earth she can be so blunt and so funny at the same time, but she pulls it off and no one’s feelings got hurt.
Finally, the sponsors. I don’t go to a food blogging conference for the swag, but I will say that the swag at Camp Blogaway was worth the price of registration alone. It is a DAMN good thing I brought a big duffel with me on the way out, because it was jam-packed on the way back, full of Cutco knives, Scharffen Berger chocolate, OXO and Wilton kitchen gadgets, and Paper Chef cooking parchment. And the on-site sponsors did fantastic presentations on their various foods, along with a great panel on what PR folks look for when working with bloggers. I thoroughly enjoyed the tastings and the discussions, including mixing up our own veggie dips with Gourmet Garden Herbs and Spices. I sadly had to miss the Kerrygold cheese presentation on Sunday morning so I could catch my flight, but that didn’t stop me from eating huge slabs of their amazing grass-fed butter all weekend!
And of course, I have to once again thank my own sponsor, Safest Choice Eggs, for sending me!
And my recipe today is based on the tasting presented by The National Mango Board. I don’t think I ever would have thought to pair mango and chipotle, but they did and it went over so well. Mango isn’t really a diabetic’s best friend, since it’s pretty high in carbs. But as I may have mentioned before, alcohol tends to lower my blood sugar. This is not something I take advantage of very often, but I thought it might be nice to take that mango/chipotle pairing and make a margarita out of it, so I too could enjoy the huge shipment of mangoes they sent to all of the attendees.
So, to friends, laughter, good food and good times, Salut!
Mango Chipotle Margaritas
2 tbsp Swerve Sweetener (or other granulated erythritol)
1/4 cup hot water
1 cup chopped mango, partially frozen
1 cup crushed ice
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 oz tequila
1/8 to 1/4 tsp chipotle powder (depending on how hot you like it)
Combine Swerve and hot water together in a glass measuring cup and stir until dissolved.
Blend all ingredients together until smooth (unless you have a high-powered blender, I recommend using a food processor. This is thick stuff!).
Garnish with 1 slice of lime and 1 slice of jalapeno.