27 October, 2010

Artistic Food Photography Workshop

This past Saturday, I taught a food photography class to 12 people at the Dish It Up store in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood. It was a new experience for me, as I usually teach camera basics and style/composition to newer photographers, not so much a particular niche. I often attend wedding and food photography workshops and so I was trying to figure what I could bring to the table that was unique from those of my colleagues. I realized that we really all do different types of work. I shoot a lot of restaurants' food, personal recipes, or action shots (food events, chefs in action, and so on). I don't really shoot cookbooks (only a small one so far, as a favor to a friend), magazine or book spreads, stock photography, or food product lines. Not to say I wouldn't (I would!) but just haven't much.

The class discussed mainly the elements of good food photos. We talked a lot about composition, lighting, and styling, but not much about the technical aspects of shooting, as there were people there with all kinds of cameras, not just professional-level dSLRs. We focused on the artistic side of things. We had a really fun time critiquing food photos, going to a great Greek lunch, then watching (and photographing) Chef Becky Selengut cook and serve up six different dishes. The lighting in the store was not ideal (overhead, flat lighting, and there wasn't room for me to bring in lights) but we did great with the light we had. We also got to sample great foods that Chef Becky created for us, and sample wine in the store. It was a really fabulous time, and I hope to do it again very soon. Thanks to all who participated, particularly Becky Selengut, Heidi Kenyon, and Karen Rosenzweig.

Here are just a couple of photos I took. I didn't take a ton, since I was more focused on helping others. But here are a few.

Update: Here's a great post by one of the attendees, Paola.

Ricotta agnolotti (before and after) with chanterelles,
fried sage, and shaved pecorino

White bean and sardine salad w/ poached egg,
pickled onions, parmesan and croutons

Chef Becky Selengut in action

Oysters on the half shell with (melted) cucumber
sorbet and a candied jalepeno

Chanterelles on the stove and Carol taking some 
shots of them

Attendees in action!

Squash soup with Amaretti croutons and browned butter

Wine and fruit/cheese

More attendees in action!

Provencal duck breast in beurre rouge with carmelized
fennel and candied orange

07 October, 2010

Guest Blog Post

Yesterday, I was the guest blogger on Andrew Wilder's "Eating RULES" web site, discussing his October: Unprocessed challenge, which is garnering national attention. It just dawned on me that my readers might also want to pop over there and check it out the accompanying recipe! To read the post, click HERE.

01 October, 2010

Vegan to Unprocessed (or How to Form a Relationship With Your Food)

Eating well ain't for sissies, lemme tell ya.

Exactly one month ago, I took a vow to not eat any meat nor any meat products for the entire month of September. Think of it as a "cleanse" or a fasting of sorts, much like observing Lent. My goal was to try out this new meatless craze that is sweeping the foodie world, as well as shed some weight, and force myself to replace meat with more veggies in my diet.

It was both easier and harder than I expected. I was taught to cook by placing carefully paired vegetables around a meat dish for dinner. Now, suddenly, the vegetable was Center Stage and dinner was all catawampus. That's like bringing a backup singer to sing lead vocals! I had no idea how to do this, but luckily, I figured out pretty quickly that non-meat dishes could be very satisfying and, in fact, just as filling and tasty as any meat dish I could throw together. So, a vegetarian diet became easy enough.

It was the vegan part that threw me for a loop.

First of all, vegans don't eat cheese. I know! My God! Seriously? And butter?! Get out! And my weekend breakfast omelet was obviously out. If that wasn't difficult enough, I found out that most veggie dishes in restaurants were accompanied by some sort of dairy --veggie pizza had cheese on it, bean burritos were baked with cheese and sour cream, caesar salad has cheese and eggs in the dressing, even the Dal Makhani lentils I like have butter/cream in them -- so that made eating out extremely challenging. And, let's face it. I love to eat out. So, I pretty much had to mostly stick to salads with no cheese. (I'm allergic to soy, which a lot of vegan menus have, in place of meat. Suffering cats!)

In essense, I had to cook and/or prepare most of my meals. I had to read labels and think about every purchase and every ingredient in those purchases. I ate a lot of fruit and made a lot of smoothies and salads at first. Then, I went through a soup phase. Then got a little more adventurous. By now, it's easy peasy. But make no mistake about it; I missed fish, butter, and sharp cheese. And yes, even meat, albeit not nearly as much as I anticipated. Something I always loved -- bacon -- seems unbelievably salty and fatty right now. I'm sure it'll grow on me again, but I'm just sayin' how I feel right this minute. But for all that I missed, I also fell madly in love with garbanzo beans, heirloom tomatoes, arugula, fresh corn-on-the-cob, leeks, fresh pineapple, homemade guacamole, wild mushrooms, and other fresh and amazing foods.

As I close the door on a full vegan diet, I'm opening the door to a new month: Unprocessed. I am embarking on a journey (with over 200 other people, I might add) of eating no overly processed foods this month. This is defined (for me) by whether something has ingredients in it that I would not have in my own kitchen (food stabilizers, chemicals, food dyes, and other additives), and I am going to be trying out my hand at making my own breads and pasta, as well as straight up cooking.

There will be fish. And probably some meat.

The irony was not lost on me that, during this vegan month, I photographed two butchers doing their work (a first for me). I also photographed the Herbfarm, and even had the chance to eat some of the food I photographed, but could not. Oh, the universe has a sadistic sense of humor!

In case you're wondering what a meat-eater such as myself could possible eat on a vegan diet, here are a few photos of some of my snacks or meals from last month.

Garbanzo salad with tomatoes and onions

Mushrooms sauteed in white wine with whole wheat pasta

Raspberry-blackberry-almond milk smoothie

Just plain ole fresh berries from the farmer's market

Bean and veggie soft tacos

Heirloom tomato salad

Fresh guacamole with varied corn chips

A variation of "Caldo Verdo" - Portuguese potato and kale soup

Mixed berries-peach-almond milk smoothie

White bean-garlic spread on multi-grain baguette

Penne pasta with tomatoes, red wine, fresh herbs, and garbanzos

Butternut squash and sage risotto

Kim O'Donnell at the Queen Anne Farmers Market
dishing up something from her newly released book