I'm headed out in a few minutes to our local Farmers Market in Matthews, NC, where today I am the head judge for a pound cake baking contest. Yes, every year about this time we do a baking contest of some kind. Last year it was biscuits; the year before whole grain breads; and we've done cinnamon/sticky buns, basic and fancy breads, and even corn bread. I've been marking the spring planting season ever since I moved here by this contest, so here it is again--it must be spring and time to get some vegetables in the ground!!!
Last week I was in Portland, Oregon for the annual conference for the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP)--one of the great food events of the year. It's held in a different city every year but Portland is special; it has really emerged as, quite possibly, the most interesting and progressive food city in America. Great new restaurants, interesting shops (I visited one, The Meadow, where they specialized in salt--over 60 different kinds!); we traveled to the famous Bob's Red Mill, where we were hosted by Bob himself, now well into his eighties but spry as ever--he even played some songs on the piano for our tour group, and showed us his new gluten-free building where they have really taken the lead in variety of products and concern for this growing demographic; and, most exciting, Portland is loaded with a multitude of some of the most innovative street food carts in the world. I would say that Portland's cultural identity is now definitely interwoven with food carts (along with coffee, micro breweries, and great pinot noir), but the food cart scene sets the benchmark for, I predict, what will be the next big food trend in North America. I'll write more on this in the future but, having experienced it in Portland, I'm more excited than ever about its potential on so many levels.
In addition to the conference I also taught two classes at Sur la Table--first in Kirkland, Washington (just outside Seattle), and then in Portland. As always, it was great seeing so many friends and bread enthusiasts. Even snuck in some pizza at Serious Pie in Seattle--wonderful!!!!
Which reminds me, I'll be in King of Prussia , just outside Philadelphia, in exactly two weeks, May 15th. The new Sur la Table (SLT for short) opens today, so I will be one of the very first chefs to teach there. I spoke with Angie yesterday, the director of the SLT King of Prussia cooking school, and she said there are still a few seats available so, if you want to attend, go to their website to register, www.surlatable.com and navigate to classes and then to King of Prussia. OR, call her at (484) 612-0046.
I believe there still may be a seats in Arlington on the 17th and Richmond on the 18th, but check the Sur la Table site to be sure--they were close to sold out the last time I checked.
Finally, a quick update on Pizza Quest: We are close to launching the website--I thought it would be up by now (I keep saying that, I know) but this time the delay is because of potentially good news--a major television production company is considering buying the show, so we're waiting to see the outcome of those discussions before we launch as it would affect the design and style of the site. It's not a guarantee--television deals are always iffy and can fall apart right up to the last minute--but it's very hopeful and exciting news for us. I showed some sample footage to media folks at the IACP Conference and everyone really loved it, so we're just waiting to find out from the television folks before we launch the website. Hopefully soon but, as always, you'll hear it here first.
Okay, I'm off to taste pound cake (what a deal: a pound of flour, pound of butter, pound of sugar, pound of eggs--how can you go wrong?). Then, tomorrow, off to the James Beard Awards in NYC to find out if Artisan Breads Everyday wins, then to Canada for a week of teaching in Edmonton, and then back here around the same time next week. Will post from the road if there's time; otherwise, when I get back.
Till then, may your bread always rise!