17 November 2019

Saveur Blog Awards 2019 & Cincinnati

Never did I think I would be be attending the Saveur Blog Awards. I started baking and blogging about three years ago. Constellation Inspiration existed before then but it was a DIY blog that had blog posts about adding metal studs to your favourite denim jacket, creating a floral infinity scarf, and putting together the ultimate outfit for Coachella. Then the blog slowly made the transition to being a baking blog that you know today. Even before I started baking and blogging, I attentively paid attention to the Saveur Blog Awards — I would nominate and vote for my favourite bloggers and get super excited about checking the results the night of the awards. The first year I started blogging about my cakes, I asked all my friends to nominate me for the Best New Voice category. I did not get shortlisted and looking back now, I feel kind of silly for thinking my super infrequent posting would land me that title. Since then, I never really considered myself Saveur Blog Awards material because all the nominees and winners have always been people I looked up to with skills I strive to one day have. So I was completely shocked and in disbelief when Jenn of Two Cups Flour and Karlee of Olive and Artisan DMed on Instagram a few weeks back congratulate me. I had no idea what they were talking about and then I found out I was nominated for the Best Baking & Sweets category of 2019. What. Exactly.

Fast forward a few weeks and I found myself getting off the plane in Cincinnati, Ohio to attend the 2019 Saveur Blog Awards. It still feels surreal. The three days I spent in Cincinnati have been so wonderful. The Saveur team put together a jam-packed itinerary filled with activities that showed off the food culture of Cincinnati and workshops and panels with speakers like David Lebovitz, Deb of Smitten Kitchen, Creative Director Kristen of Food52 Genius Recipes, and more. We also got to hang out and learn more about food writing with the Saveur editorial team. But one of my favourite parts of this experience was getting to meet many bloggers I have been following for the longest time and bond over our love of blogging and creating. I also made a new friend (a very good friend), Erika of Pancake Princess. Erika and I were roommates on this trip and I could not have asked for a better Saveur buddy. Erika is so talented and her dedication to what she does is very inspiring.

I did not win my category of Best Baking & Sweets, but I am extremely grateful for this experience. Everyone that I met is so talented and truly an inspiration. I would also like to say the biggest thank you to everyone that nominated and voted for me — Constellation Inspiration would not exist without each and every one of you.

Instead of just telling you what happened in Cincinnati, here are some photos of highlights of my trip from my phone — of Saveur events I attended and places I snuck off to before and after a panel or a workshop. I do not want to call this a ‘city guide’ because there is so much of Cincinnati I still have yet to explore, but these were some of the memorable things I experienced:

The American Sign Museum. The blog awards were held at the American Sign Museum and we were lucky enough to have the entire museum to ourselves. The museum is dedicated to the art and history of commercial signs and sign making. My favourite wing of the museum was "Main Street USA", which features many storefronts of Main Street with shop windows full of sign-related objects and curiosities.

Collective Espresso (Northside location). A very cute little cafe tucked inside a back alley (it is very easy to miss!). The cafe looked like a little green house, with glass walls and a glass roof. I had a super smooth cortado and a Guatemala pourover (I think it was made with Deeper Roots beans) that was bright and delicious. 

Findlay Market.  A public market and one of Cincinnati's most cherished institutions located just blocks from downtown in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The market is the home to 40 indoor vendors selling farm fresh, locally-sourced, artisanal and specialty foods.

Mercantile Library. A membership-only library located in downtown Cincinnati. We had a panel inside this library and both the space and the collection of books were so impressive.

Deeper Roots (Findlay Market location). Really amazing roaster and cafe. I went twice on my three-day stay because the coffee was so tasty. Whoever runs their social media is so lovely and took the time to write a full list of recommendations for me for the rest of my trip.

Brown Bear Bakery. I knew I had to visit when I came across their Instagram account and saw photos of trays of amazing cinnamon buns. I went right when they opened at 7:30am and shamelessly ordered one of everything they had because I could not decide on just one treat. Of all the treats I tried, my favourite were the pumpkin cake slice (so ~moist~), the savoury scone, lemon bar, and of course the cinnamon bun. Erika loved their chocolate chip cookie.

Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey. We visited this spot for our last Saveur team brunch. The food can be described as southern comfort with an Asian twist. The Best. Grits. Of. My. Life. They were topped with lemongrass shrimp, coconut chili gravy, and country ham. The Oregon Trail was another great dish with sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, crispy kale, carrots, poblano, and a bulgogi glaze. I was more than happy to consume three-days worth of calories at 10am on a Friday. I wanted to eat e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Sotto. This was my very first stop of the trip. I went to Sotto within an hour of landing in Cincinnati. I tried to make a reservation after I saw Cincinnati Magazine list Sotto as their restaurant of the year. Reservations were all full until the end of the month but I was able to snag a seat at the bar right at opening. Tasty kale caesar and an extremely creamy cacio e pepe (the pasta was tonnarelli) with a generous amount of pecorino and black pep.

A few clothing stores I loved: The Native One, Continuum, Idlewild, Wolfpack

21C Hotel. We stayed at 21C Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. The hotel is also home to an art gallery on its second floor. Pieces of the gallery change yearly and you see art pieces and installations all throughout the hotel. Super cool bathrooms in each hotel room.

Until next time, Cincinnati!

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