Saturday, April 27, 2013

I see a green drink in my future.

Midori Martini ad - Publicis SF

Life changes and when it does you can hit the green bottle..but which one?  I am considering doing a 7-10 green juice fast and not going for the green martini's.  All I need is a good blender / juicer and a few trips to stock up on chard, kale, cucumber and spinach for the basis for the mean green drinks.  It will be a challenge to keep cooking and feeding my boys but at least my wife will be up for it and share my bliss..or not!  I need a kick start to the summer and this will help re-align my taste-buds and get me away from the carbs and sweets that keep creeping into my diet.  I have done fasts before but never with the desire to pump up the nutrient quotient and do reboot to my general eating habits.  I don't need to loose a ton.. but would feel a lot better with 20 off, if I get in some regular aerobics that should be pretty attainable in the next month.  We shall see..but first to get an industrial strength juicer.    

Friday, April 26, 2013

Appetit Appeal

Now that spring is really upon us I am desiring some lighter fare and when I came across this shot from my Wine Lover cookbook it really hit me. First off, I think that it is a really good example of a successful food shot, George Dolese did a great job making the salad and the light I did really fits the recipe..but on a personal note.. it has real "appetite appeal", what all of us in the food image industry strive for when creating a food photograph.  It just looks good and makes you want it.  So that is what stopped me to look at this today.. it looks really good, my eyes like and my stomach wants it.  Making and viewing food photographs is a subject endeavor, besides good craft, beautiful ingredients, appropriate lighting and composition, the weather, the season and just your personal mood all have a play in the "appetite appeal" equation.
For today, it all adds up for me.

From The Wine Lover Cooks with Wine by Sid Goldstein, Chronicle Books.

Poached Dijon Chicken on Apple, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad

" This variation on Waldorf salad features chicken simmered in a mustard-
flavored poaching liquid, surrounded by sweet-tart apples, bitter walnuts and salty blue cheese.   Topping of the melange of flavors is a sweet-sour dressing similar to Italian agrodoice. Wine is used both in the poaching liquid and in the dressing. Enjoy with a fruity Riesling or a crisp Pinot Gris/Grigio.
To make the poaching liquid: In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 35 to 40 minutes.  Add the chicken breast, cover, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until opaque throughout.  Using tongs, transfer chicken to a plate and let cool.  Save the liquid for another use.
To make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the honey, water, vinegar, wine, shallots, tarragon, lemon juice and the mustard,  whisk thoroughly.  Whisk in the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.
To Serve:  divide the greens among 4 salad plates. Cut the chicken into slices.  Top the greens with the sliced chicken, apples and walnuts.  Spoon the dressing over.  Sprinkle with the blue cheese.  Serves 4 as an entree."

Poaching Liquid
2 cups water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup diced celery
1 onion, quartered
2 sprigs tarragon
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup Champagne or dry white wine
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

12  ounces mixed salad greens
2 red apples, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How do you take your bananas?

Back to the perfection question.. what is perfect to me is not even close to edible to others.  So, for the sake engaging the reading audience, how do you like your bananas?  For eating, not banana bread or giving to Justin Bieber's monkey when visiting your place, or for the photo shoot.  Is is an age thing?.. the younger the eater the more over ripe these become?  Perish the thought that I did not want to engage my readers..but I can not help notice how few comments come back to me. Just to be on record these bananas are absolutely least in my book they are.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Breaking the daily bread - habit

This is what a meal is about, breaking bread.  It has been going on forever.
Why is it that the really yummy things in life are not good for you?  When it comes to bread the saying " all things in moderation" just does not seem to apply.  When a food does not sit well with you just one bite can be devastating, a poison.  No, I don't need an Epi-pen if I have bread but I do feel better without it.. yet I really like bread.  Yeasty, wheatie, full of gluten, I love bread.  Flat bread, sour-dough bread, ... I feel like that guy talkn' shrimp in Forest Gump...except for over-the-top rye bread, I love it all.  Even the idea of Gluten free bread instinctively brings my hand up to cover my yawn.  The Gluten free industry is upon us and I may have to embrace the cause.. but not today.. I would rather go without any bread at this point. I will see how long that lasts before I succumb to the gluten-fee trend or just live with the consequences.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Leaving the comfort of cruise control

Chef John Ash & T bone steak

A few years back I was shooting for Bonterra /Brown Forman while Mr Ash was the culinary director, this shot of him with a nice T-bone steak was one of a few that day and reminds me of how my kids now see me.

The cook has had some feedback from the front of the house...
Where's the beef?  well this is not what I am hearing from those I cook for.. in fact they have had it with my simple meat, veg & potato wife asked me this morning if I could get a Jamie Oliver cookbook?  Alright, I have to admit the last year I have slipped into cooking cruise control, relying on the same old things to make my cooking job easier but at the expense of my family.   So, in interest of all and an attempt to change the house menu, I am off to the grocery with a recipe I pulled out of "Firehouse Food: Cooking with San Francisco's Firefighters".  I will start with something easy like Joe's Special..Yes it has ground beef but it is camouflaged in spinach, onions and scrambled eggs, I don't think they will really recognize it if I am diligent in breaking it down to bits.
 It has been almost 10 years since shooting this book with author and stylist George Dolese and of course the SFFD.  George told me recently that Chronicle Books has finally taken it out of print..a nice long run.

The recipes here are not fancy and do not require much prep or obscure ingredients from specialty markets.  I have eaten all that was shown in the cookbook but I have not cooked from it.  All the reviews have been good and many claim it is their "go to" cookbook..well I am going to it today.. we shall see if meets with approval.  Even though I have shot many cookbooks and we did follow those recipes, I am not wild about cooking from a recipe.. but I will put aside that and follow it to a T.. I can't promise precise measuring though..but it will be close.  I would love that T-bone steak with a Caesar salad tonight..but instead it will be Joe's Special scramble.

The Joe's Special was a hit.. I couldn't help but tweak as I went..and I did not have a stylist cutting and preparing the ingredients for maximum curb appeal but my picky son cleaned this plate and went back for seconds.  Yes, those are pan roasted potatoes but truth be told, I have not been doing roastie potatoes since the holidays. So this was a disguised meat&potato meal, but not the "same ole", this was a hit.  It looks like I have some cookbook reading to do in the coming weeks and expand my comfort zone.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Flawed Perfection

My theory on food photography is very simple - a few things need to be in play and working together  to have a good food or beverage photograph: beautiful food and styling, beautiful light & camera craft, props and set working together  in a supporting role and finally appropriate post processing.  Piece of cake?
Each of the above fundamental elements takes experience and aesthetics to achieve consistently, day to day. Sure anyone with a camera and a nice looking plate of food can stumble into a great food shot...the stars align and viola!, great shot.
Perfection is not part of the equation when it comes to the food and styling, or better put, perfection is found in the imperfections, the natural quality of food with some crumbs or here in the coffee cup shot where the crema and cup is not perfect.  It is beyond easy to remove imperfections these days,  with PS it is very easy to make a shot too "cleaned up". Showing the imperfections conveys a reality to the photograph, life is not perfect.   Speaking of crumbs, here is Birdbath's Maple + Bacon scone  which I used as the subject of my first blog post.. this is what they look like before being reduced to a few crumbs.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chops pretending to be roast

Another Sunday another roast.. well kind of.. I had to do some shooting today and I didn't have a roast in the fridge to roast so had to make do with what was buried in the deep freeze..lucky me, I found some 1 1/2 inch thick pork chops off the bone.  Once thawed, (90%) I did a quick dry rub and put them in a 350F oven as shown, pretending that it was an uncut roast again.  That was it..45 min later I shut off oven and covered and let them coast for another 20 in the cooling oven. Similar to slow cooking were you can just leave and do something else but this is a lot quicker to the table. I went and worked on editing from my afternoon shoot.
The rub was a combination of garlic powder, paprika, onion salt, sea salt and ground pepper. What I forgot to show here is what really set the pork off nicely, some Stonewall Kitchen Cranberry Sauce.. just as we were sitting down I remembered that I had gotten it out to use.  About 12 years ago I shot some of their product and I became a believer.  Costco sold large quart containers of their whole berry relish last thanksgiving and I froze about half for it was the freezer saving my Sunday roast.  You reap what you stock your freezer with good stuff!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

New Beginnings

Food is a staple to life, that is a given...Food as a way of life, that is less given... and Food as visual art is way down on the list, unless it is an ancient oil still-life by a known master is not a given at all.  My interest in food has been integral to my interest in photography, but I am a professional photographer, so I approached food from the visual aspect, as subject to transform into 2 dimensions..I am not a chef or stylist so this blog will show my roots and have a different angle than someone trained in the culinary arts.
 However..Life took a turn for me and I have been the sole food guy in my household for the past 6 years. This practical experience of food being first and foremost something to sustain my family and friends has given me a whole new perspective and appreciation of what food means to me.
I choose Nammet for the blog title for a few reasons.  It is something from my past.. my pre-colonial heritage in rural england..Nammet is fairly common word of that era in southern england... now its use limited to the natives of the Isle of Wight of which my wife is one.  Over the years  I have connected with that place..rural, seaside, land of Al Tennyson and Julie Cameron, dairy farmers and sheep herders, royal sailers and pubs...quite a mix.
This Nammet is not haute cuisine or fusion or any "ism", it refers more to basics...simplicity and what is on hand..or eaten with hands.  For me it references what food was prior to TV dinners and 64 oz big gulps.  I am no fanatic, vegan, or whole foods devotee...I crave baked gooey cinnamon rolls,  I will eat  fries off anyone's plate if allowed and when the opportunity arises, eat what I kill.
So, while I aspire to eat only local organic hudson valley produce, I will buy a bag of tangerines at costco shipped in from where-ever.  I have also loosened my "shoulds" in food photography, I am no longer bound to the 8x10 view camera and will shoot food with anything that captures an image, as this iphone shot of the onion.  The blog is my sketchbook of things that happen along the way, a sythesis of edible and visual.  This my take on food, the little I know of it.  Sometimes straightforward, sometime obscure, seemingly contrary to a variety of camps, I take, learn and share from all perspectives.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Starting with Crumbs

Maple + Bacon Scone remnants

Many years ago I came across a scone so good, so tasty, that I truly became addicted.  These were the buttery current scones from South Park Cafe, San Francisco circa early 90's..The chef left at some point before I could demand a recipe so I have been on a holy-grail-scone quest ever since.. along the way I have experienced the gastro-range, from okay scones to outright horrible scones, nothing coming close to South Park's.. until lately.  
The Maple + Bacon scone from Birdbath is the eptiomy of good nammet.  They are simply amazing.  For the same reason there are only crumbs left for me to photograph, so too, few words are available to convey how tasty and satisfying these scones are.  Just wow!  My wife's office is just a few steps from their Tribeca bakery and she got hooked, occasionally she gets one for me.  Even though this was all that was left on the counter today..and now almost a day old, I did a Gary Oldman Dracula-straight-edge-razor-licking take, devouring these crumbs in a nanosecond. They are a fantastic mix / balance of sweet and savory..intrigued?  If you live or work in NYC, get yourself to one of their locations and enjoy more than crumbs.