All photos by Donna

All photos by Donna

If you’d have told me four years ago that I’d be tweeting from a beach in Mexico, while at a blogger camp, discussing social media, SLRs and SEOs, twaudio and animoto, I’d have looked at you as if you were flapping your arms and hopping on one leg.

I wouldn’t have been able to respond—I’d have walked away, speechless, shaking my head and feeling sorry for you.

But there I was, in Ixtapa,  the Pacific crashing at my feet, a paloma in hand surrounded by people with cameras and laptops and boogie boards, talking continuously about this amazing new world of blogs and all they might have to offer.

It was both a really busy week (important given that it’s an open bar there from 9:30 a.m. till you can’t drink anymore) with intimate and fascinating seminars, but with plenty of time for relaxing and time to absorb it all, as well as a fishing trip (which was in fact a dolphin watching trip) and a foray into the fascinating market in Zihautanejo.

Skirt steaks and sausage, amazing fish and chicken feet are all available here.

Skirt steaks and sausage, amazing fish and chicken feet are all available here.

All these dried peppers! Can't find in Cleveland!

All these dried peppers! Can't find in Cleveland!

My favorite session of the whole trip was Adam Pearson’s food styling seminar.   Adam’s a professional food stylist (the fact that he can’t bring a blowtorch on an airplane anymore bums him out) and he shared not only tips and techniques, he demonstrated how he put together this dish on his partner’s blog, mattbites.com, stressing how one builds a dish for a photograph. That single idea will change the way I think about composing a plate.

Matt Armanderiz gave a great seminar in photography, Elise Bauer spoke on being smart about your blog, on internet mechanics and being more focused and successful, and Todd Porter and Diane Cu, whiteonricecouple.com got us up to date on all the opportunities for using all kinds of different media on my site—headspinning.

The extrardinary Diane Cu, one half of whiteonricecouple

The extraordinary Diane Cu, one half of whiteonricecouple

One of the participants, Lori Lang has written a useful summary of the important lessons from all the seminars on her site recipegirl.com.  Todd and Diane have done two summary posts as well.  Dianne Jacobs, who taught a food writing seminar also writes summarily about the event on her blog (if you’re a new or hopeful food writer, you can’t NOT buy and read her book, Will Write For Food).

David Lebovitz, who spoke on moving from blog to book with his fellow blogger/author Jaden Hair, has also posted twice on the events in his inimitable, hilarious way.  (If only he could cook….)

I expected to have a good time, sure.  Open bar? Beach? Blue skies and 80 degrees and tacos all day long?  What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with the people, and to leave Ixtapa so inspired.  When I write about food and cooking, one of the things I aim to do is to inspire, inspire you to cook, to write, to think.  This is what every single person I spoke with did for me.  Thank you all.

Cecile Odegard and Matt Armanderiz

Cecile Odegard and Matt Armanderiz

Cecile, above, came all the way from Norway—her blog, www.lekkermunn.blogspot.com is worth it for the photos even if you can’t read Norwegian. (Here’s Matt’s top 10 list from the week, starting off so aptly with tortillas.)

Lunch spoon@440Foodwise, what I loved best were the tortillas and salsas.  We had amazing tacos at the market (above) and at Club Med—two little old Mexican ladies fried them up daily. I loved their salsas so much, Donna and I weaseled our way into the kitchen and shot some video that I hope to post later. And at the market, carnitas, the pork tacos, plenty of belly; my favorite was pig’s head—different parts, jowl, tongue and shoulder—chopped together, covered in a spicy salsa, garnished with a cilantro-onion mixture, wrapped in a hot tortilla and washed down with a Victoria beer.  Heaven.

Special thanks to Kate Moeller of Club Med for making this happen, and the force of nature who brought it all together in Ixtapa, Jaden Hair, of steamykitchen.com.  What an extraordinary opportunity, and what a strange exciting world it is.

Ixtapa coast@440_2
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37 Wonderful responses to “Food Blogger Camp”

  • carri

    Thanks for posting about this! It was fun to follow through twitter and the other bloggers, but is fun to hear your take on the scene…I have a feeling the next camp is going to have to be a little bigger.

  • Live to Cook at Home

    Wow, sounds like a great time. We were in St. Martin, another great foodie destination, while you were in Mexico. Can’t wait to benefit from your inspiration!

  • DianasaurDishes

    It was so wonderful to meet you and Donna! Thank you so much for all you taught us, and for being so much fun. I’m working on a post from your session right now and it’s incredible how much I learned.

  • Lori Lange @ RecipeGirl

    Wow, what an awesome shot at the end there with those ominous clouds! I’m guessing Donna captured that one ;) Thanks so much for adding your expertise to the conference. I really gained a lot just chatting w/ you about your experiences in the food world & listening to your advice about writing. I’ll be working on letting go of the Twitter/email thing while I’m writing. It’s tough to do.

    It really was an amazing trip, wasn’t it? A week was perfect… just enough to get in a lot of learning, a lot of relaxing and a whole lot of food & drink too. Let’s do it again next year in another exotic location!

  • Calvistan

    I love Mexican markets, having lived in El Paso 30+ years and having had easy access to Ciudad Juarez (before it became the murder capitol of Mexico). Anyway, I was astounded at how (even more) Mexican my retirement city (Vista in northern San Diego County, CA) is than El Paso, TX, at least the part I lived in. The mention of chicken feet in the market picture reminds me of our local luck: I can name a dozen markets within 2 miles of my house where they are sold. I wrote Michael once touting them for chicken stock. I never make it without them. The result, I sense, has many of the qualities he attributes to veal stock. It is rich, very gelatinous, improves almost anything you use it in and, except when used just for itself in chicken soup, does not dominate other flavors in the dish it is added to.

  • Stephanie Stiavetti

    I’ve been dreaming of you all since I left – deliciously nostalgic dreams colored with sun, sand and little bits of pineapple. It’s good to be home, but I left a piece of my heart there in Ixtapa (probably buried in the sand right next to the bar).

  • Wendy

    One of the best foodie-travel tips I ever got was in Zihua–bring zip-lock bags (we hadn’t and spent hours tracking some down) and bring back bags of different kinds of mole sauces, which is sold in the Zihua market. Our friends still talk about the mole-taste-off we hosted upon our return, and that was at least five years ago. Of course you’d have to pack those pastes in your checked luggage nowadays, but it would be worth it.

  • marlene

    Sounds like a really fun and informative trip! Even though I run a food website rather than a blog, I’d love to be included next time. Some of those tips would apply to me as well! Ok, give it up on building a dish for photographing. :)

  • allen

    We spent our honeymoon there when I was young and dumb (back then I was with the don’t drink the water crowd). It was still paridise despite my sensless overly cautious nature at that time. Nowdays I eat octapus ceviche, dried grasshoppers and wash them down with mezcal, hoooyaaa!

  • Bob

    With the photos showing the bounty available in the local markets, how do you pack stuff back? Simply put it in your checked bags?

    Have you ever found a TSA ‘Kilroy Was Here’ note and damaged goods?

    I’m thinking of a recent news item where a small airport outside of Bakersfield, CA was closed because screeners found jars of an unidentified substance in a man’s luggage. The bag apparently tested positive for explosive residue, and two screeners claimed there was a smell that made them nauseous.

    The jars turned out to contain honey. No explosives, no mysterious chemicals, false alarm.

    And does Donna have advice on traveling with camera gear? (No big thing if you’re just carrying a digital camera, but some of us still enjoy using our older SLR’s as well.)

  • Bert Bacchus

    Looks like fun. What’s the deal with you and Lebovitz? You’re both making thinly veiled accusations of one another.

    Give us the scoop?

  • rockandroller

    Sure sounds nice, especially on this cold January day. I too would like to know if you encountered any problems with customs/bringing food back?

  • bob delgrosso

    “Foodwise, what I loved best were the tortillas and salsas”

    In other words, the food mostly sucked. Too bad, but food should never be a break point during a Club Med vacation. Although spending that much time with a bunch of food bloggers hardly seems like a vacation at all. I’ll bet what’s left of my molars that you were looking for the exit as soon as your feet hit the sand. Then again, maybe I’m projecting.

  • Jose Canseco

    Most food blogs, scratch that, most blogs, in general, are for lack of a better adjective, stupid. I believe that those who are not writers or photographers, should not publish writings or photos.

  • Amy Viny

    How do you so amaze and inspire us in so few words Michael? You’ve brightened my day–thanks!

  • Vicki Hvid

    Chiles! I’d've been figuring out what clothes I could toss out of my suitcase in order to pack pounds of chile instead.

    Thanks for the recap.

  • Nick

    Did they give out white linen shirts when you all got there?! I’m jealous!

    Seriously sounds like a great time. I hope this wasn’t a one time thing. Maybe I’ll try to make it next year.

    Oh and @Jose Canseco… I couldn’t disagree more. All writers were writing before they were “writers” and all photographers were taking photos before they were “photographers”. The only way to get better is to put your work out there.

  • Lyn Reid

    Great article, glad you had a wonderful time. There was a time when I would spend the entire month of February in Acapulco. The zocolo was my favorite place to shop and eat pork tacos made with carnitas & pig’s head parts, smothered in a spicy salsa. The best. I now make my own pork tacos every weekend, using the same ingredients, purchased from a great Mexican grocery store that I frequent. I use the meat to make pork nachos too. Pork rules !!!

  • human_ortolan

    Michael,
    I have been a huge fan for quite some time. I have also contemplated starting my own blog for quite awhile. This post finally got me to take the leap. The online community coming together in this way was incredibly inspiring. Thanks to you and all the rest of the gang.

  • Brooke @ Food Woolf

    I’m still having guacamole and margarita withdrawls. It’s raining like crazy in LA, so I’m doing my best to imagine that all the torrential rain is really just the ocean crashing outside my window. It’s a long strech of the imagination, but you do what you gotta do, right?

    Miss you and the FBC gang.
    Best, Brooke

  • Jen

    Oh man, I love Zihuatanejo. The mercado is a trip. I rented a little one bedroom apartment in downtown on vacation a couple of years ago, and I walked there every morning, ostensibly for breakfast and lunch supplies, but mostly just to soak in the atmosphere. I had great food at a couple of those stalls that all appear to be run by three generations of women, with the mystery fruit blend drinks and the tiny bowls little bowls of limes, flash fried peppers, and the local sea salt. Did you bring back a kilo or six of that salt that they’re famous for? It’s coarse and ever so slightly moist, and it melts onto August tomatoes like nothing I’ve ever tasted. My sense is that you can eat much better (and much more cheaply) in Zihuatanejo than Ixtapa. I noted that in Ixtapa, you can have Subway delivered to your room at the all-inclusive resort if you’d rather not venture out to Senor Frog’s.

  • jim

    Good information here. I enjoyed reading this and can’t wait for more. Keep up the good work.

  • Dianne Jacob

    Ah, such bliss. Back for a week now, and I’m still thinking about our trip, loving the beach, the talks, the fun, the Mexican food, the people. Thanks for capturing it so beautifully, and for the shout-out about my book.