Kneading and Greeting in Napa

Napa Valley has been the place to be the past few weeks. With two major food conferences taking place, you couldn’t splash your Chardonnay without hitting a foodie.

First up was the CIA at Greystone conference for professional pastry chefs—not open to the public but blogged live by Shuna Fish Lydon, a pastry chef and author of Eggbeater.

There is a camaraderie here … We’ve read each other’s news in trade press, local and national papers, glossy magazines and from the shelves of bookstores. But we rarely get out of the kitchen long enough to socialize, meet new pastry chefs, eat each other’s work, hear another’s ideas.

Imagine four days filled with sessions such as “Aromatics, Seduction, and American Pastry: Frontiers of Flavor” or “Of Italian Traditions and Frozen Desserts: Serving Up the Next Generation of Flavors and Ideas” and you can understand the intense focus on the topic.

Next up was the Taste3 conference held at Copia. Billed as an interdisciplinary conference, Taste3 brought together more than 40 food writers, chefs, winemakers, artisans, and other industry professionals for three days of presentations and schmoozing (no baking involved here). The sessions had more abstract themes such as “Power,” “Vision,” and “Origin,” and featured presenters such as San Francisco Chronicle journalist Olivia Wu, Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill, and filmmaker Eleanor Coppola (yep, wife of Francis, mom of Sofia).

The best play-by-play of the conference is here on CHOW (because how many bloggers are going to pony up the nearly two grand entrance fee?). Meredith Arthur and Lessley Anderson give the details on each conference session—they even share the funny stories, such as Coppola passing out goodie bags that included “a can of Sofia champagne from the family’s winery.” Many of the attendees assumed the small can was an energy drink, cracked it open, and pounded the contents.

For those of us who didn’t quite make it out to Napa for the conferences this year (ahem), it’s the next best thing.

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