Entries tagged with “Food Photography”.

Thanksgivukkah: What’s not to love about eight festive days of turkey (sandwiches!) and pies? The last time these holidays converged was 1888. But, it doesn’t feel that out-of-sync. On both holidays we enjoy gathering with family and friends for a thoughtful, warm occasion marked with feasting on favorite traditional foods. And, event the purposes of both holidays are related:

“The concept of Hanukkah is a concept of thanksgiving. Hanukkah marks the first victory over religious persecution,” explains Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of Baltimore’s Beth Tfiloh Congregation (who married me and Marty there). In a story about Thanksgivukkah in The Baltimore Sun, he observes, “On Thanksgiving, we’re celebrating living in a country that has allowed us to have that freedom.”

USA Weekend Magazine always gives readers holiday recipes. This year, they also consulted several pie-baking experts and published their tips for making the best holiday pies (featuring my photos and food styling by Lisa Cherkasky). If you find pie-making intimidating, the article offers this comfort in the words of pie expert Kate McDermott: “I think people are so concerned their pie should be perfect. They should throw that out the window. A good pie looks like it was made with love. Don’t strive for the perfect picture of what a pie ‘should’ look like.”

The classic-looking holiday plate above shows recipes from the new The Founding Farmers Cookbook, which I shot (with food styling by Lisa Cherkasky). These traditional dishes are: “Roasted Turkey with Sage Gravy,” “Roasted Chestnut-Corn Bread Stuffing,” and “Cranberry Relish.” You can find recipes for all of these in the book—but, if you prefer to not cook the feast yourself this year, you can also find them on the special Thanksgiving menu at their three restaurants.

A variation on the traditional Thanksgiving dessert might be this spicy, earthy “Sweet Potato Pie with Candied Ginger,” (below) from The New Jewish Table.

I shot the recipes for this cookbook, by Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray of DC’s Equinox Restaurant (written with David Hagedorn). It celebrates the complementary blending of Ellen’s Jewish family favorites and Todd’s New-American cuisine point-of-view. There are sections for each season and special menus for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Passover and Hanukkah. Some of the great recipes in their Hanukkah menu are “Chopped Liver with Sweet Marsala Onions,” “Matzoh-Stuffed Cornish Game Hens,” and “Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Latkes.” If you don’t care to cook on/over the holidays, their restaurant, Equinox is offering special menus for both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!

Happy Thanksgivukkah to all… Enjoy—it won’t happen again for approximately 77,000 years!

This project really did sing! Happily, most of my work does go well, but shooting the brand new Founding Farmers Cookbook was the kind of project that made me feel as if I could keep shooting for the rest of my life. I came to love everything about Founding Farmers—the food, the restaurants, their mission, and all the people I worked with. With three related locations in and near Washington DC, they are a collective of farmers and restaurateurs who offer “…a place where true, sustainably farmed, grown and harvested American foods are brought to [their] guests.” The fitting, full book title is: The Founding Farmers Cookbook: 100 Recipes for True Food & Drink from the Restaurant Owned by American Family Farmers.

We shot 109 photos, and they all came together easily and beautifully. Prepared recipes were styled by Lisa Cherkasky and shot in my studio, including Benedict Arnold (their unique take on Eggs Benedict), above (and Peach-Blueberry Crisp, at top). Everyone in the group connected immediately, with Jennifer Motruk Loy and Riva Warrilow of VSAG paving the way efficiently so we could focus on creativity. Aside from the actual recipes, the book was written by wonderful (and highly prolific) Washington, DC food writer, Nevin Martell, so it has to be good!

Prop stylist Audrey Weppler selected the backgrounds and props after we visited the restaurants. The eclectic materials in these shots really help to communicate the aesthetic of the restaurants—classic rusticity combined with a modern sensibility, as shown in the images above, Farm Bread with Brie, Onion Preserves and Sliced Apple, and below, Fish and Chips; and…

Southern Pan-Fried Chicken and Waffles, and…

Butternut Squash-Mascarpone Ravioli.

We also spent three days in each of the group’s three restaurants to capture action shots. It was THRILLING shooting there!

The energy, visuals, people and vibe were fantastic. I loved capturing it all, from the blizzard of sugar-coating Uncle Buck’s Beignets in the kitchen, to the bustle in the front of the house, with its colorful decor, including this display of preserves.

In some instances, as with this Skillet Cornbread, it was fun doing shots of the same items: the individual skillets of flaky, sweet cornbread, hot from the restaurant kitchen; and, shot in my studio, presented as it is served in the restaurant, with honey butter and sea salt.

Founding Farmers has a terrific mission, and they express it well on their own website: “The Founding Farmers name represents a combination of ideas: it is a celebration of the land and the American family farmer; it is a nod to the founding fathers of our country, many of whom owned and farmed land that surrounds Washington, D.C….” That Presidential-farm theme is very close to my heart, having spent so much wonderful time photographing George Washington’s Mount Vernon—the historic garden, recipes and mansion for various publications, including their cookbook, guidebook and annual report.

The book was designed by award-winning Washington DC firm, The General Design Company. I especially love all the playful-yet-streamlined (and data-packed) infographics by Creative Director, Soung Wiser. In addition to the great recipes, this type of useful, interesting information really adds value to this book. Check out a couple of my favorite graphics, below.

Being launched by Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC on October 29, the book’s press release includes the recipe for that fantastic Peach-Blueberry Crisp, shown at top. You may order their book online; or attend one of these scheduled book-signing events. Or, just make a point of dining at one of their three DC-area restaurants to sample their fantastic menu—and pick up your copy of the book there!

I need to touch dirt. When I consider photographing a subject, it’s not just cerebral. I’m grounded and can really focus when all my senses are engaged: Touch, smell, taste, sight and sound all together, move me to a creative response. That is a synergistic cycle which informs, and is reflected in, all of my work. My own garden always refreshes and inspires me with the gritty powder and musky scent of the soil, the different color palettes, the crispy crackle of the dried leaves, the sharp spice of the radishes, the lush juiciness of the figs.

Those figs just kept coming. But, we had not even one big, fat, vine-ripened red tomato this summer. The culprit…the squirrels. They were so brazen, eating right in front of me, and then leaving a tomato mess on the patio. I finally picked all the green ones while a small gang of squirrels perched on a fence and just screeched at me. Now they are moving on to the pumpkins… Ah well, it’s all in the circle of life…

From squash blossoms, beets and swiss chard, to thyme and sage, my little garden was busting with treats. All these seemed like the perfect match for the makings of my latest character, “Ms. Sagé,” an eccentric Southern heiress in a ballgown. Our family started saying “sa-gay” for sage while visiting Stanford University. The surroundings were so posh that, surely the sage growing in the garden was no ordinary sage…it was sagé. And this kooky belle just seems like Ms. Sagé to me, wearing her ruffled leafy gown over a big pot of sweet tea.

I feel like a kid again, playing dress up with food and kitchen gadgets to make these characters with their own personalities. And, I’m always inspired by the beautiful things growing in my garden…

…like the golden squash blossoms that make up Ms. Sagé’s chapeau.

I can’t resist digging up a few beets on my way to the studio….

So, after assembling Ms. Sagé, I made a couple of quick portraits of her (and then, I boiled the beets and ate them with olive oil, salt and thyme). Edible art comes in handy at lunch time.

From from panini to po’ boy, from bánh mì to bocadillo, from gyro to grinder, from chivito to shwarma… Washingtonian Magazine’s food and dining editors judged DC’s highly diverse sandwich offerings, and picked 25 favorites for their “Ultimate Sandwich Guide.” I shot them all, collaborating with food stylist Lisa Cherkasky (who’s also a sandwich expert and writes a very cool blog, “The Lunch Encounter: All Things Sandwich”).

Their “#1 Sandwich in Washington” (shown at top) is the sumptous Steak and Cheese from Ray’s to the Third: The editors rhapsodize about it: “It starts with beef—tender, buttery strips of rib eye and top sirloin…Sweet grilled onions and a thorough coating of American and provolone cheese mean every bite is sweet and salty, crunchy and lushly soft. The roll…keeps this drippy indulgence together without distracting from the deliciousness inside…Decadent? Good God, yes. But it’s well worth the penance a proper calorie fest requires.” All true…

Included in the feature package is a fun timeline of “Sandwiches of the Century…Washington’s most iconic Italian subs, cheesesteaks, lobster rolls and more” (running along the bottoms of pages). Beginning at 1901, it includes the 1939 icon, “Corned Beef and Roquefort Crema Cheese” from Wagshal’s; 1960’s icon, the “Teen Twist” grilled ham and cheese at Hot Shoppes; and, it continues through to this year’s representative, “The Luther—a glazed doughnut with bacon and fried chicken—at GBD.”

There was such variety in the group of 25 winners. It was fun to shoot (and to try) so many different types of sandwiches. I can honestly say: We tasted them all—and we’re still stuffed!

Tomatoes… Peaches… Nothing says “summer” like their fresh juiciness in peak season. This recipe for  “Tomato and peach salad with feta and red onion,” which I shot, is shared in USA Weekend Magazine from Peaches, by Kelly Alexander. It’s a creative way to combine them for a seasonal, sweet and savory dish. USA Weekend features a cookbook each week for their Cookbook Sweepstakes giveaway, and I’ve shot the recipes for most of them, with styling by Lisa Cherkasky, including all of the photos in this post.

This recipe for “Summer three-bean and potato salad with fresh herbs” from Flour, Too, by Joanne Chang, offers another opportunity to use the season’s freshest ingredients in the farmers’ market or grocery store.

“Mexican Shrimp Cocktail and Pico de Gallo” is another refreshing dish. This cool, yet spicy hot recipe is from The Hot Sauce Cookbook, by Robb Walsh.

“Fish en Papillote,” a recipe for a classic cooking technique, is interpreted here with fennel and mushrooms, by Susan Spungen in What’s a Hostess to Do?. 

“Candied Bacon Slices.” Because… Bacon. This recipe is from Bacon Nation, by Peter Kaminsky and Maria Rama, who say, “There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love bacon, and those who haven’t tasted it yet.”



Thanks for this guest post go to my friend Carol Corillon, one of our traveling companions in Italy. We had a fantastic visit to the Grazia ceramics factory in Deruta. She shares her impressions of it here. I think her words nicely complement my photos to fully capture the feel of our experience.

Have you ever dreamed
that you pass through a door,
into a murky maze of rooms,
seemingly never-ending?

It is late in the day.
You move along gloomy hallways.
Climb ancient staircases.

Mysteriously, you are pulled from room to room—
some ghostly dust-white,
others dark and forbidding,

—inhabited by long abandoned objects,
unfamiliar contraptions and
who dares know what else.

One door, ominously, is tied shut,
another opens to a seeming middle-kingdom
—objects the color of dried bone, or,
in another room,
chalky blood orange.

Everything shelved and so quiet,
waiting, waiting. Waiting for what?

You glimpse a blackened brick furnace,
massive and somber and menacing.

An enormous bath-like tub.
Bottles labeled Mineral Oxide.

You realize your dream
may now be a nightmare,
yet you are powerless to pull away,
compelled to move on and on,
following the voice of a stranger.

But then,
another door reveals sunlight
streaming through the crack beneath.

As it opens, there comes into focus,
hundreds of magnificently shaped ,
multicolored objects, of all sizes and shapes,
ancient, modern, classic,
humorous, historic, and quirky,
reaching to 20 feet above,
standing on tables and shelves and floor.

The dream suddenly becomes glossy,
multichromatic, kaleidoscopic, technicolored.
A dream to be told at the breakfast table.
Cafe Macchiato, served in a majolica cup.
A cream-filled brioche on a majolica plate.

You stand in a sunlit window,
in Umbria, in the town of Deruta.
Rather than a hidden, lugubrious
something of nightmares,
you are witnessing the step-by-step
process of the creation of majolica ceramics,
a 13th-century craft,
handed down from one generation to the next.

Color blessed ceramics,
shaped by magical hands,
Deruta artisans using local clay,
formed with the aid of a potter’s wheel,
fired twice in a kiln at 1050 degrees centigrade, and
bathed in mineral oxide between firing.

They use:
Ancient and original designs
traditional majolica forms
deep glazing
unique colors
steady hands
an assortment of brushes
and a keen eye for perfection.

You are inside the Grazia Ceramics factory—
a family- owned-business,
learned well and passed on,
generation to generation,
in the same town, since the 1500′s.

The original factory still stands in the ancient walled city of Deruta, and the quaint family home is directly across the narrow street.

The current factory, also very old and authentically restored, faces the main street in town, along with dozens of other ceramic businesses, all different, each rather unique. You enter through a door framed with yellow and blue majolica tiles.

Mr. Ubaldo Grazia exports to the US (Tiffany’s, Neiman Marcus, William Sonoma, and now—to Renée and me) and elsewhere from orders written in his large, ceramic-filled office.

As has been done for a dozen or so generations before his, Ubaldo trains the next generation—his daughter, Chiara. She tells us that, in their company’s 500-year history, she is probably the first woman to learn its business operations.

We learned so much about the time-tested materials and processes that go into making these beautiful wares, and were excited to learn that these old-world masters have have developed a new, modern line of more durable porcelain, “Sette24.” As their website explains, “Sette24 uses technology that combines all of majolica’s decorative tradition and glazing, on traditional porcelain. Porcelain harder than majolica, it is non-porous, light weight and is stronger resulting in less chipping.” Sounds like they could even stand up to restaurant use.

Renée, Marty, Mara and I visited the factory together during our vacation in Italy. By the time we got through the enormous factory, a private tour conducted by Mr. Grazia himself, and finally reached the showroom, we were too busy buying plates, with names like Grottesche Baraffa, Pavoncella, and Foglie Frutta, for Renée to take photos! Just take my word, there are thousands of shapes and colors and designs and objects to choose from.

We chose what vegetables we want the artist to paint on our plates and now are anxiously awaiting their delivery before trying out our newly purchased pasta making accoutrements. More on that in the fall.

Sweet dreams!

Food is fascinating! Of course I love it from an artistic point of view (and for the delight I take in eating). But, I also love being reminded of food’s basic purpose of nourishing, and for its’ cultural, political and historical aspects. Foreign Policy magazine focuses on some of these intriguing angles of international food issues in their most recent edition with a package of excellent essays, including, “How Cookbooks Explain the World,” by economics professor/author Tyler Cowen. I was excited to shoot the illustrations for three of these stories (with styling by Jenn Crovato).

These essays are all great reads. Several of them bring the power of a unique, personal point of view to complex issues. In “Recipe for Living: Add Rice. Stir.”, war correspondent Anna Badkhen tells moving stories about sharing similar, humble meals of rice with families in a range of impoverished, war-torn countries, from Afghanistan to Mali: “…no recipe can convey the elation of sitting down to eat with one’s family after making it through another day during which the world did not kill you outright, of watching between bites as shooting stars slide down an enormous ink-black sky.”

In “Austerity Lentils,” Joanna Kakissis, a writer and NPR’s Greece-based correspondent, reflects on her Greek family’s multigenerational recipes with touching personal memories. She also sees lentils as a symbol for the current economy in Greece: “The postcard image of modern Greek pride is a rich, full table of grilled lamb, sharp cheeses, eggplant casseroles, olive oil-drenched tomato salads, and honeyed desserts — of happy families toasting each other. It’s not people fighting over free cabbage, staring into bare refrigerators, or gathering throwaway oranges at open-air produce markets. It’s not free lentil stew. The future, all of a sudden, has started to look a lot like the past.”

I love how food can be a lens that helps us see the world, and am always happy for the challenge of illustrating some aspect of that. Last year, I really enjoyed shooting a rocket of flaming corn for their “New Geopolitics of Food” issue (with styling by Lisa Cherkasky). Thanks again to Foreign Policy magazine for the fun, creative assignments!

One of my joys in life is being absorbed in my work. Each photograph is composed in numerous stages, like layers, and every layer is an opportunity to explore and enjoy that moment of visual problem-solving. Individual layers contribute to the  finished piece and to the whole creative experience. I try to make the most of each layer in the project—which doesn’t end after I “get the shot.”

“Layering” also describes how I think of the steps of conceiving and building the composition of a shot. First layer is collaborating with my client and stylists to plan project details, determining technical aspects of the shoot, and deciding on the feeling we are trying to evoke. Once in the studio, I enjoy the next layer: finding the best camera angle, lighting and props for the food. That layer of work involves literal layers, from the shooting surface up, as demonstrated in the montage below (and in a previous post). …

I experiment with layers, sequentially adding/subtracting elements for the right tactile feel. I select the most evocative background and props, and when static elements are set, more ephemeral items are added to the shot (such as toppings, juices, sauces, etc.). I love being absorbed in seeing, slowly looking and thinking while layering the complexity of textures.

Another layer, though not in sequence, is my ongoing collection of props for my studio. While the stylist gathers props specifically to suit a given project, it is great to have an extensive, lovingly gathered inventory of stray gems (that I constantly collect). Worn wood, table linens, rusty metals and vintage kitchen implements can really lend unique expressiveness to an image.

And then there is the workflow layer made of digital imaging “layers” in Photoshop. Post-production photo processing itself adds yet another opportunity for creative choices that can refine (or define) a shot.

I have real affection for the final layer: Leftovers! You either love them or hate them. My upbringing must have fostered my love of them. (“Make something out of nothing; Nothing should go to waste.”)

I think it really started when I was a teenager with an insatiable appetite. At 2:00 a.m. after my waitressing shift at Le Pauvre Papillon, I would polish off all of the leftovers in my parent’s fridge. I still eat Marty’s leftovers for breakfast or lunch, and if he’s not home, my favorite dinner is a smorgasbord of leftovers. (Of course, Thanksgiving leftovers are a highlight of the holiday in themselves!) When I have the time, the leftover food from a day’s shoot becomes a fun shot to take.

It’s like practicing… And, it’s an unexpectedly pleasing culmination to that creative experience. That is a new level to my leftover love—and another layer in the cake of my creative process. Or, is it the icing…?

Foods that kids will really love eating—that are also healthy and super-easy to prepare…That is Mom Made Foods: appetizing, nutritious frozen foods, created just for kids. I collaborated with founder/CEO, savvy “mompreneur” Heather Stouffer, shooting these packaging images for Bites, the newest items in her product line. The healthful freshness of the product itself inspired me to use fresh-feeling, open lighting. Lisa Cherkasky’s food styling and the fun, whimsical package design really add to the appeal. And, after just a little cooking, the Bites brown very nicely. I can see why kids really like them—they are simply tasty morsels of familiar foods that are fun to eat.

They appeal to parents because they’re healthy and allow flexibility: quick to cook, they can be entrees or side dishes, or can be combined with spaghetti. Or, they can even be served as kabobs, skewered with vegetables or fruit (a fun idea inspired by Heather’s young kids, following in their mom’s enterprising footsteps)! Mom Made Foods’ all-organic product lines include Mom Made Meals,  Mom Made Munchies, and the new Mom Made Bites: kid-sized meatballs made with antibiotic-free meats. Bites come in three varieties: Turkey, Chicken & Apple, and Beef & Cheese.

Both a mother and a busy manager in the tech industry before starting Mom Made Foods, company CEO Stouffer explains that she started her company in 2006 because, “What I didn’t realize was how challenging it was to prepare family dinners from scratch every night, and that sometimes it wasn’t possible at all. I needed a break from cooking, and when I went looking for a store-bought alternative, I couldn’t find one.”

The real truth is that it can be a challenge to figure out what young kids will eat—unless they are like Dov, who ate everything. Mara was so picky, we thought it would be more efficient to just make her lunch and put it directly into the trashcan—just skip the whole routine—the packing of the lunch box, carrying it to school, carrying it home—only to be thrown away! But then, when she was a teenager she ate everything.

When my kids were young, my feeling was: don’t sweat it—put healthy food out, and see what takes. Great products from Mom Made Foods make it so much easier for parents to exercise that philosophy! Find them in “the freezer aisle of leading national retailers and local natural food stores.” Look for the new Mom Made Foods Bites this summer in SuperTarget, Whole Foods stores and many others.