Saturday, June 30, 2012

Q&A | Bill & Pam

For June's Q&A session, I'm featuring my cousin Bill and his wife Pam. Bill and Pam are what I would call the ultimate "foodie couple" -- they both have an immense love for food, particularly the artisan and exotic. They're probably one of the most adventurous couples I've ever met, with food as well as in the outdoor activity arena -- junkies for adventure I would say!

I grew up with Bill (crazy to think he's twenty years older than me!), so he was always like an older brother to me. We may not have always seen eye-to-eye during my formative years, but as I got older, we both found a wonderful common ground that we both hadn't noticed before -- food, cuisine, cooking, and the like. This paved way for endless conversations about our collective experiences, and once he met Pam (I swear she's his other half :P), the conversations only evolved in all sorts of dimensions. So while I've only known Pam for the last few years, the three of us always have so much to talk about, as if we've known each other forever. This phenomenon was explored even further when Marcus and I embarked on our trip to San Francisco last year to visit them -- they showed us so many of the Bay Area's culinary facets, adding so many new adventures to the annals of our gastronomic experience. What I love about Bill and Pam is that they're not necessarily into the "scene-y" places, but rather, they like to take the "insider's view" and somewhat "underground" approach to finding new haunts at which to dine and explore.

Thanks again to Bill and Pam for participating in this month's Q&A (and Four Tine's first joint session)! Looking forward to visiting you guys again very soon!

Bill and Pam snorkeling underwater together in Jamaica.

Bill & Pam

San Francisco, CA

Bill: Bouley in early 2000s, Outerlands for its great food/people, simple menu, comfort, and no pretense.
Pam: Outerlands, for its relaxing atmosphere, fresh ingredients, and creative and constantly evolving menu

both: Outerlands as our regular go-to place; Ino or Sebo for omakase indulgence; Hog Island Oysters for fresh oysters & happy hour; Tartine Bakery for pastries and people watching

Bill: mineral water mixed with juice, simple drip coffee, good ginger ale (not too sweet with intense ginger), wine/beer depending on the food
Pam: tea, wine, good ginger ale, pomegranate juice

Pam: Coca Cola. Not a secret, but I also like to indulge in oysters and chocolate.

Bill: I make only two things -- bread and chicken stock. Bread wins. It is about the process and the relationship.
Pam: Mom's recipes

Bill: Two dishes -- Mom's salted fish with minced pork and her chicken wings.
Pam: Mom's soups. Sorry Bill, you make a mean chicken stock, but she has so much variety, and they are all good.

both: Any busy open stall market. We can't wait to eat what is made with the wonderful ingredients as well as interact with the the people behind the ingredients and the different people that consume them.

Bill: Pam, Chan Ngan (our family's beloved cook)...learned from reviewing books from Thomas Keller, Marc Bittman, Eric Ripert and Cook's Illustrated
Pam: Didn't realized it until recently, but my mom has been a huge influence on the way I cook. Way before farmer's market got popular, my mom was already out farmer market hopping to find the freshest and bestest ingredients. It didn't matter how busy she was, she would always cook everything from scratch. My mom built the foundation, and cookbooks from Thomas Keller, Mark Bittman, Eric Ripert, and Alice Medrich have kept me inspired.

Bill: That describes just every meal that I have enjoyed. I wouldn't want to repeat it if I didn't enjoy it. Every meal is pretty unique -- the ingredients, the cooking environment, the dining environment, the people at the table, the conversation, etc. They are all part of the experience.
Pam: 2011 meal at WD~50... I would like to try replicate what we enjoyed, but time, patience, equipment, and resources all get in the way.

Bill: Someone in the kitchen using the "3-second rule."
Pam: Heavy sauces that hide the true flavor of good, fresh ingredients.

Bill: My dream of having a wedding cookie.
Pam: Mine is molten lava cake.

Bill: Stefie's cookbook omakase -- i.e., the cookbooks that Stefie has added to our library as gifts over the last three years.
Bittersweet -- the book I have used the most.

Bill: "You, donkey!" from Chef Gordon Ramsey -- ONLY KIDDING, LOL. But in all seriousness, mine would be
bon appétit and enjoy.
Pam: fresh ingredients, savor

Bill: If we are invited to be regulars -- The Wide Fork, aka Six Tines and a Napkin. If not, Four Tines, of course.
Pam: Four Tines

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dinner | Russ & Daughters

After hearing so many wonderful things about its "bagel and lox" from some friends, Sam (an old college buddy) and Kris (a family friend) and how it's probably the best in the city, Marcus and I sought to verify this bold claim.

Russ & Daughters is housed in a former tenement building which is listed onto the National Register for Historic Places. I love how the shop's storefront sign is still reminiscent of the time period around which it was opened.

Joel Russ, the man who opened Russ & Daughters (a different name back then) back in 1914, apprenticed to be a baker at the age of nine back in Poland (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). He emigrated to the United States in 1907, and after marrying another fellow immigrant, Bella Speier, the following year, they have a daughter five years later (and two more daughters later on). Mr. Russ opens his first shop on Orchard Street, expanding his wares to include salt-cured herring and salmon. Six years later, he moves around the corner onto East Houston Street (where the shop is currently located today), naming the "new" shop J. Russ National Appetizing Store. His daughters begin learning the business from their father beginning at eleven years of age, helping out after school and on weekend. Despite the Great Depression, the Russ' get by with the help of the shop staying afloat during tough times, and Mr. Russ renames the shop to Russ & Daughters in 1933. It is believed to be the first business with "& Daughters" in its title (as opposed to the common "& Sons" seen a lot more frequently. The grandchildren and great grandchildren of Joel Russ gradually take over the business when one of his daughters retires in 1976. It has been in the family ever since.

"Appetizing as a noun is a Jewish food tradition that is most typical among American Jews, and it is particularly local to New York and New Yorkers. Used as a noun, “appetizing” is most easily understood as "the foods one eats with bagels. Its primary components are a variety of smoked and cured salmon, homemade salads, and cream cheeses. Appetizing also originated from Jewish dietary laws, which dictate that meat and dairy products cannot be eaten or sold together. As a result, two different types of stores sprang up in order to cater to the Jewish population. Stores selling cured and pickled meats became known as delicatessens, while shops that sold fish and dairy products became appetizing stores." Though one of the last of its kind (there used to be at least thirty appetizing stores in the Lower East Side!), Russ & Daughters is committed to preserving and promoting this important food culture. With that being said -- the shop does not wish to be referred to as a delicatessen.

When we walked into the shop, we were floored by how many types of smoked salmon that it carried. Ultimately, we just wanted a really good bagel with some cream cheese and lox, but there were all kinds to choose from. It wasn't as simple as we had anticipated.

Given the smoked salmon's description, Marcus decided we should try the Irish smoked salmon, which was organic with a silky texture as well as a delicate and mild smoky flavor. While the bagel wasn't as soft was we both would have liked, the smoked salmon told a whole other story. It was silky as promised and was not overpowering in smokiness at all. The amount of cream cheese schmeared on the bagel was perfect (no excess needed to be wiped away). If you like the simplicity of a bagel and schmear with some lox, this is the way to go.

I wanted to make sure we tried something different, so I ordered the pastrami-cured smoked salmon which is seasoned with a special pastrami rub of 14 different herbs and spices. This smoked salmon is aimed for its eaters to enjoy two iconic New York specialties, i.e., smoked salmon and pastrami, at the same time without the cholesterol! I predicted this to be either really, really good or not very good at all. The verdict? It's always great to be pleasantly surprised by an unlikely flavor pairing. We absolutely loved the pastrami-cured smoked salmon -- it had a whole other dimension of flavor that most bagel-and-lox combinations lack, i.e., those heavy herbs and spices from the cured rub. This combination will undoubtedly tease your palate, having it go back and forth, wondering whether you're having a silky pastrami sandwich or a smokey lox and cream cheese bagelwich. It's the best trick to play on your taste buds, and I'll almost guarantee it'll be the next regular sandwich in your repertoire.

Findings: It was so fun learning about the extensive history behind Russ & Daughters -- so crazy to think that it's been around since the beginning of the twentieth century. Certainly, this "appetizing store" has garnered a respectable reputation when it comes to specialty seafoods like smoked salmon and caviar, just to name a few. So it was no surprise that the bagelwiches that we had with cream cheese and lox (including Irish and pastrami-cured) were amazing. While I can't speak about the bagels on which they were served (they were kinda hard to bite into), the quality of the fish was spot on. So if you're looking for arguably the best bagel-and-lox in town, this surely may be it!

Thanks again to Sam and Kris for their awesome recommendation!

Price point: $10.75-11.25 for each lox-bagel sandwich.

--June 13, 2012

Russ & Daughters
179 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Food for Thought | Virginia Madsen as Maya

I love how wine continues to evolve, how every time I open a bottle it’s going to taste different than if I had opened it on any other day. Because a bottle of wine is actually alive -- it’s constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks – like your '61 [Château Cheval Blanc] -- and begins its steady, inevitable decline. And it tastes so f#$%ing good.”
--Virginia Madsen as "Maya"
from Sideways, 2004.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lunch | food cartin' along

As of late, I've been checking out a few food carts over the last couple weeks -- after all, that's what warm weather encourages -- so I thought I'd amalgamate them all here in one post, though I'm sure there will be another installment this summer of some new carts I will have checked out!

I started a new job back in November, so ultimately my go-to lunch spots, formerly in the Midtown/Times Square area, became wiped clean now that I work downtown in the Financial District. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of inexpensive lunch spots to go around (many of which include food carts of all kinds of cuisines and gourmet levels. So much territory to explore and eat my way through, so lots of potential write-ups in the making!

Phil's Steaks is a food cart that parks its wheels in FiDi on Thursdays, usually on Water and John. Notice the graphic logo of the cracked Liberty Bell to pay homage to the cheesesteak's place of origin, Philadelphia.

Phil's Steaks boasts as being New York City's first authentic Philly cheesesteak truck.

The menu offers two sizes (a full hero/hoagie of 10 inches or a half hero/hoagie of 6 inches), the classic options of cheese (white American, provologne, and yes, cheese whiz), "wit'/wit'out" onions (vernacular in play, of course), and various toppings (i.e., peppers, mushrooms, extra cheese, and marinara sauce).

Given how hungry I was that afternoon, I got the full-sized cheesesteak wit' onions, American cheese, and mushrooms. I really like that the "steak" part of the hero is thinly sliced and chopped (brand being Steak-EZE), which made bite easier to eat. Only thing I regret was bringing this back to my desk to eat because it became just a bit soggy. It didn't matter too much because everything else had the qualities of a classically delicious Philly cheesesteak.

On a separate occasion -- i.e., one of my date nights with Marcus over in Union Square -- I went to checkout Coolhaus Sandwiches, an ice cream sandwich truck that was founded in Los Angeles by Freya Estreller, a real estate developer, and Natasha Case, a designer/architect. This is the duo's first project under their brand, Farchitecture (which is derived from fusing "food" and "architecture"), back in late 2008 and early 2009 (read more at LAist). Farchitecture's aim is "to basically explore how design can enhance your eating experience, whether it can be through product development, event planning or real estate development." The roots for both Farchitecture and Coolhaus are academic -- while Ms. Case was at UCLA for grad school, she came up with this concept and studied it for an independent study class. She also came up with the ice cream sandwich and the signature edible wrapper. With all of this, the two women were "exploring the relationships between food, waste and sustainability." Today, they have locations in Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Austin, and Miami. Additionally, while Coolhaus doesn't really stop by me (instead, mostly in Tribeca and World Financial Center), it was giving out free ice cream sandwiches out last week as a promotion! Perhaps, this means they might be stopping near me during the week?! Let's hope so!

Coolhaus's name is just up our alley, i.e., given how much Marcus and I love wordplay. The name is essentially a "triple entendre" -- a play on three of the founders' favorite concepts/things: (1) Bauhaus, an influential modernist design movement of the 1920s and 30s; (2) Rem Koolhaus, the famous Dutch architect and theorist who challenged the mantra, "Form follows function"; and (3) a "cool house" or what the founders say when you're eating one of their ice cream sandwiches -- i.e., an ice cream sandwich deconstructed into a cookie roof and a floor slab with ice cream walls. Additionally, the sandwich "size descriptions" go hand-in-hand with this "architecture" theme -- one scoop between two cookies is a one-story sandwich, two is a two-story sandwich, and multiple scoops (which I believe to be four stories -- gasp!) is sandwich skyscraper.

Coolhaus goes even further with some of the classic ice cream sandwich flavor combinations:
  • Frank Behry - a play on architect Frank Gehry for sugar cookie with strawberry ice cream)
  • Mintimalism - a play on minimalism for double chocolate cookie and mint chip ice cream
  • Buckmintster Fuller - a play on architect Buckminster Fuller for chocolate chip cookie and mint chip ice cream
  • Mies Vanilla Rohe - a play on architect Mies van der Rohe for chocolate chip cookie and vanilla ice cream
  • Richard Meyer Lemon Ginger - a play on architect Richard Meier for ginger cookie and lemon ice cream
  • I. M. Peinut Butter - a play on architect I. M. Pei for chocolate chocolate chip cookie and peanut butter ice cream
  • La Courbus-tea-er - a play on architect Le Courbusier for snickerdoodle cookie and earl grey ice cream
  • Oatmeal Cinnamoneo - a play on Rafael Moneo for oatmeal cookie with cinnamon ice cream
  • Ri-Chai Rogers - a play on architect Richard Rogers for a cookie (not sure which kind) with chai ice cream
  • Peter Cookies and Cream - a play on architect Peter Cook for a cookie (not sure which one) and cookies and cream ice cream
  • Tea-do Ando - a play on architect Tadao Ando for a cookie (not sure which kind) with matcha green tea ice cream (I think?)
  • Renzo Apple Pie-Ano - a play on architect Renzo Piano for a cookie (not sure which kind) with baked apple ice cream
I went the simple route -- the Mies Vanilla Rohe with chocolate chip cookies and Tahitian vanilla ice cream, cleverly wrapped with an edible wrapper. Very sustainable and waste-friendly -- all in tune with Farchitecture's mission. But because the weather was quite warm, the ice cream was melting quicker than I could eat it and the messier it got. I kind of wish there was a container from which we could eat these so I wouldn't feel like it was getting wasted as it continued to melt. Nevertheless, it was really good, bringing me back to those childhood days of the Chipwich ice cream sandwich. Just be wary that it's bigger than you might think, so sharing might be the best way to go. Oh, and eat it as quickly as you can -- you'll want to savor every bite before it melts away.

Another food truck that has won over my heart is the Morris (Grilled Cheese) Truck, which parks its shop downtown on Mondays at Water and John Street (same spot as Phil's Steaks on Thursdays). Alice was the one who had heard about it, so when we saw it parked down here in FiDi, we were all over it. It is now my "new Monday lunch" -- though, I've only been there twice so far! :P Please note these shots were taken from multiple visits, whether during what I describe or during an occasion after that.

The menu at Morris Truck. Minus a few favorites that appear on the menu every week, I believe some rotate in and out because I noticed the menu slightly changes each time I'm there.

On one occasion, I indulged and got the Delicate Cheese sandwich -- a grilled cheese sandwich with truffle cheese, truffle butter, and caramelized shallots. What's so awesome about Morris Grilled Cheese is that it totally grills its array of grilled cheese sandwiches to a heavenly toasted, nicely browned crisp, so that when you first bite into it, you got that scrumptious, savory crunch following that first bite. There is no sogginess at all from the cheese or its contents -- the integrity of the sandwich's toastedness is never compromised. This particular sandwich seems the most intense of all the menu items, especially with the overloading of truffles (which I do not mind one bit) via rich cheese and butter, only to be well complemented with soft, caramelized shallots. It's not something I would advise getting every week, but treating yourself once in a while won't hurt! :P

On two separate occasions, Alice and I each tried the Gouda sandwich -- a grilled cheese sandwich with Gouda cheese, bacon, and ramp butter. Another rich sandwich, this is an instant favorite -- the winning combination of Gouda and bacon along with the aptly pungent, garlicky ramp butter sends you to a place where I can only refer to as the cloud nine of grilled cheese. It really is as delicious and delectable as it sounds.

A look inside the sandwich -- look at those thick bacon and ramp bits! Only thing that could make this better is a warm cup of creamy tomato soup (which is also sold at the Morris Truck)!

Findings: It is nice to know there are some quality food carts down by my work place because going to Chipotle (no matter how much I do enjoy burrito bowls for lunch every week) and Hale & Hearty isn't going to cut it all the time. Phil's Steaks gives a pretty good respite from the occasional craving for a Philly cheesesteak right here in the big apple -- the chopped steak meat and really soft hero bread are key!

Aside from making very solid ice cream sandwiches, Coolhaus brings an additional dimension of cheeky esoteric wordplay when it comes to really fusing food and architecture. Where else would you ever be able to think that architect Frank Gehry could ever be used to describe a frozen confection? :P Only at Coolhaus can one really embrace his/her inner architecture geek and enjoy an inside joke just because you're into that kinda stuff.

Last but not least, Morris Truck arguably makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches in town. Sorry, Melt Shop -- my loyalties are quickly shifting in the direction of this awesome food cart. A cart that seemingly somehow just knows what I'm looking for in a grilled cheese sandwich (hot, well-browned bread for starters), and that by adding truffles and ramp butter to them, you've got one committed customer that will be back every week.

Looking forward to exploring more food carts, so watch out for more reviews!

Price point: $9 for a full-sized cheesesteak, $6 for one-story sandwich, $8.50-10 for each grilled cheese sandwich.

--June 7/8/18, 2012

Phil's Steaks
for daily locations, follow Phil's on Twitter

Coolhaus (NYC)
for daily locations, check website and follow Coolhaus (NY) on Twitter

The Morris (Grilled Cheese) Truck
for daily locations, check website and follow Morris Grilled Cheese on Twitter

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Feasts & Affairs | La Tartine Gourmande food workshop

For the past couple years, since Four Tines was founded, I've been on the lookout for a food photography class/workshop so that I can work on my photography skills when it comes to food. I had come across one class at the Institute of Culinary Education, which had quite a hefty price tag at $525 and required a three-day time commitment -- something that wasn't super feasible for me at the time. Then, as luck would have it, food photographer/stylist/blogger, Béatrice Peltre, announced she'd be in the New York City area over one weekend in June -- for a two-day collaboration of events (including a full-day food photography/styling workshop and a cooking class dinner) with food stylist/photographer, Karen Mordechai of Sunday Suppers in Williamsburg. So before I knew it, I took a leap of faith and signed up for the workshop in a matter of minutes. I found out shortly after registering that the twelve coveted spots for this intimate workshop became sold out in less than two hours. I felt so lucky to have been able to sign up in time and to finally have the opportunity not only to meet Béa in person but to interact and learn from her. I had also been trying to make it to a Sunday Suppers loft dinner for the past couple years, so that was also a big win, too! The workshop included materials, produce at the market, as well as lunch.

At 10 AM on Saturday, the class met up first at Union Square Greenmarket, where Béa wanted to walk the entire class through the season's best produce and pick up the necessary ingredients for the full-day workshop (which would go until 5 PM) before heading back to the Sunday Suppers loft.

Some of my shots captured through our meticulous stroll through the farmers' market: {1} fresh bunches of lavender / {2} a wide array of (heirloom) tomatoes / {3} multi-colored radishes / {4} baskets of red and white cherries / {5} barrels of squash / {6} crates of radishes / {7} berries in green dry-pint farm baskets / {8} bouquets of sunflowers

Prior to this weekend, I had never really been to the USGM, especially on Saturdays when it is certainly the busiest, and what a treat it was! I still can't believe what I'd been missing out on for the past year of living in the city -- I will definitely have to make it back more frequently this summer as the season's bounty is so alluringly delicious.

Something I've never seen before -- rainbow carrots!

Béa, picking up all kinds of colored carrots.

One of our favorite stops that morning was this stand (I need to find out the name!) that offered all of these micro greens -- perfect for our food styling and plate dressing later that afternoon. Though be wary -- a quarter pound of these assorted greens is for sale at a whopping $12! Heavy hands at this stand can be dangerous! :P

Another vegetable/herb stand.

Once we finished up at the farmers' market, we all took the L over to Williamsburg in order to begin our workshop at the Sunday Suppers loft run by Karen. Karen founded Sunday Suppers as "class-cooking-dining experiences, pairing friends and food." Its space is located in a waterfront loft in Brooklyn, and classes are taught by local/visiting chefs. The food is always "market fresh, local, and organic" where "the approach is to create seasonal and fresh meals together."

Upon entering, the entire class was left speechless at how open, beautiful, clean, and lit-up the space was. It was every food photographer's dream - - a space with such an open floor plan in the city is so hard to come by, and we'd be the lucky ones today to play around with food, kitchenware, and our lenses.

The assistants at Sunday Suppers were unpacking our gathered loot in the kitchen, while the workshop members settled in with some exploring, rehydration, and shutter-clicking.

The workshop allowed all of us to prepare, prop, and style food for our cameras, learning how to best use natural light to create photographs that reflect our own styles. Whilst doing all of this, Béa would be our resource, guiding us through understanding the composition details behind creating a good photograph.

{1} All the goodies available at Sunday Suppers' arsenal of fun kitchen/table props, which {2} Béa snuck some shots of once we arrived!

As everyone was getting settled in, cameras were pretty immediately taken out to begin our survey of the space.

While we were waiting for lunch, the twelve of us went around, introducing ourselves and expressing what we were hoping to learn and improve during the workshop. Here are some of the topics we discussed, as an introduction to the rest of the afternoon:
  • In the industry, food-styling and food photography are professions that are usually separate -- but at the same time, they are very dependent on each other. Awesomely enough, Béa has been able to fuse the two together in her career.
  • There are many specializations in the field of food-styling (e.g., chocolate, cheese, etc.).
  • Béa is self-taught and has relied a lot on her intuition over the years. Growing up in France, she has found the importance of food culture there has influenced her life and career quite a bit.
  • Different bloggers/magazines/etc. use different styles of photography/food styling (e.g., light vs. dark).
  • Always consider STYLE and COMPOSITION when styling and photographing food.
  • Béa always starts styling/shooting with a minimalist approach, followed by whatever choices made aesthetically in the frame.
  • Think about what kind of light you desire and consider what's available.
  • Easiest to start close to a window with natural light.
  • Many times, you'll only get one good shot from hundreds of initial shots.
  • Sometimes less is more -- too much in the frame can overcrowd the food. Given how much you may love a prop/item/ingredient, sometimes it might be best to not to use it for a given shot.
  • Fresh herbs are key -- can be an easy-fix for brightening up some shots.
  • Don't forget you can always crop items in a given photograph/shot for composition.
  • Must be really detail-oriented in all aspects of food photography/styling.
  • Playing with texture with props in a frame can add another dimension to a shot.

Shortly after, lunch was served, and they were all made at the kitchen at Sunday Suppers!

Loved this vase with wildflowers.

Roasted asparagus!

Red and golden beet salad with hazelnuts -- loved this combination!

Onion frittata!

Béa took some shots for lunch, too.

Lunch was absolutely delicious, and it was nice to just get to know everyone before the workshop shooting began.

On the island in the kitchen, the staff at Sunday Suppers laid out all of the ingredients for the three of Béa's recipes we'd be assembling, styling, propping, and shooting: two tartines (smoked salmon with ricotta, spring vegetables, and basil oil; prosciutto with tarragon-flavored slow-roasted cherry tomatoes and goat cheese) and strawberry tiramisu en verrine (i.e., in a jar). We split into four teams of three -- two groups were assigned to the dessert, and the remaining two did each of the tartines.

Some of the ingredients laid out: {1} rainbow carrots / {2} tarragon-flavored slow-roasted cherry tomatoes / {3}pistachios, eggs, and sugar in the raw / {3} thick-sliced prosciutto / {4} artisan breads including Italian loaves and baguettes / {5} some yellow micro greens / {6} fresh strawberries and baking tools / {7} multi-colored radishes

My fellow workshoppers split up in teams gathering ingredients for their assigned recipes.

Team Tiramisu assembling their desserts in glasses/jars.

I was on Team Tartine Prosciutto, so I gathered a slice from the Italian loaf, two slices of prosciutto, and three slow-roasted cherry tomatoes. I started with spreading some goat cheese on the slice of bread then laying out the prosciutto like folded ribbons and lastly topping it with the three juicy tomatoes.

The next few shots show my evolution of styling with my tartine first. My first few shots were shot on the Aperture and the "Food" scene setting. I didn't know much about manual mode until later in the afternoon, when I realized my camera's "Manual" mode had its meter set all the way to the left, where its shutter speed was on a slow setting, washing all of my photographs out. Luckily, I had some amazing tips and advice from my fellow class members and Béa to improve my camera settings.

I added some basil leaves and some yellow micro greens for some eye-popping color. I added an orange tomato on the side for good measure.

An aerial shot, sans tripod. I didn't get a chance to use one of the tripods in the workshop (now wishing I had), but now I'm very much thinking about investing in one very soon!

I found this white plate on the prop table, thinking the white would make all of the elements of the tartine pop. I also added some more yellow micro greens in a kinda "quotation mark" format, just to see.

Side view -- I like that you can see the crinkly-ness of the tomatoes here!

I also tried putting a glass filled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar next to the tartine on the plate. Wish I had moved the glass over a little more to the right, so there'd be a more definitive gap between the two plated items.

Here's a view of the entire plate with the oil glass. Definitely would've looked so much better if I had used a tripod.

Just the tartine and fork on the side. I like the clean look of this.

I saw someone whip out this brown paper bag of wooden utentils, and I loved how it looked on the table, ripped open like that. Really played against the wooden table nicely.

I was going through some of the drawers in the kitchen, coming across this bronze-tinted spoon. Thought it'd go well with the organic wood of the table and pop against the white of the plate.

I even tried to add a little artistic, culinary flair to the plate by spooning some balsalmic vinegary oil in a curve on the plate. You have no idea how many attempts I had to do in order for the oil to take shape like this -- one of my favorite shots of the day!

A shot after I discovered how to use "Manual" mode properly.

Béa saw me struggling a bit on how to change my composition, so she suggested that the white plate might have been a little restrictive, which then led her to suggest putting the tartine directly onto the table, with my glass behind it. I liked this approach very much.

I changed up the backdrop a little by moving over to a drawer on wheels that happen to have wooden cutting boards for slicing bread. Loved the crumbs and the checkered cloth I added for color. I ever moved the tartine to a new plate that I had filled with the raw ingredients I had used earlier to create the tartine.

Béa assisting a workshopper with shooting.

I stole a shot of one of the tartines styled by one of my fellow workshoppers -- certainly one of my favorites that I had seen all afternoon, especially with the raw radish cut that way!

Most of the strawberry tiramisus had already been plated, so I just took whatever ones were unused and experimented on my own.

I especially liked this one because I just placed the glass of tiramisu over a cutting board used to chop the pistachios, strawberries, and ladyfingers. The resulting crumbs, nut shells, and other bits were totally natural.

Another dish styled by a workshopper that I really admired.

Béa helping another workshopper on the tripod with a cakestand shot.

Another lovely creation by a fellow workshopper.

Someone's styling station -- really great colors!

Watching the Sunday Suppers staff work!

Found this already styled on the table! Aren't those baby strawberries so adorable?!

Takin' a break and talking to Béa whilst snacking on some cherries.

Black raspberries -- very ripe and sweet!

I placed some mixed cherries in a ceramic farmer's basket -- love this look!

After a couple hours of shooting, Béa gathered us all around her laptop and had everyone submit a photo or two for a friendly group critique. She walked us through some basic features of Adobe Lightroom (now officially on my wishlist!) and how she would normally use it to touch up her photographs.

Béa demonstrating how letting crumbs/shells/herbs fall naturally onto a styled/propped shot can look a lot better than if it's too deliberately styled.

After critiques, we cleaned up a bit, and everyone was getting ready to head out.

The Sunday Supper staff with Karen, tidying up.

Before I left, I was able to have Béa sign my copy of her new book, La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life. Normally, this would be the extent of my interaction with a food icon like her, so it was so spectacular to be able to spend virtually the entire day with her, learning loads about photography and food styling. So awesome!

Findings: I had such an AMAZING time at this Sunday Suppers food photography/styling workshop, especially as it was headed by Béatrice Peltre and organized by Karen Mordechai. It was such a treat to learn from the best in the industry, as her work, especially through her blog and cookbook, certainly illustrates that she has a keen eye for capturing the most dynamic and liveliest of moments even from the literally stationary plated/styled dishes and props. There couldn't have been a more perfect spot like the loft of Sunday Suppers to put these styling/photography skills to the test with our group of twelve workshoppers. I really went into it with no expectations (mainly because I didn't really know what to expect other than delicious and quality ingredients with a well-renowned stylist), and I left, enlightened with so much yet with so much more to learn on my own. I sometimes forget how powerful digital SLRs are (especially when equipped with the right knowledge and know-how), and I was certainly reminded of this on Saturday afternoon. We had so much talent in the room -- from amateur hobbyists, experienced stylists, and professional photographers -- that everyone had something to share and to learn. It was such a pleasure to be in the company of such talented individuals -- it was both inspiring and motivating.

What I really admired is how incredibly friendly Béa is -- she is so warm, welcoming, and so very patient. She is so knowledgeable, yet she is not pretentious at all, and I felt comfortable with asking questions, even when mine were the most basic of them. I now look through my viewfinder with a little more confidence and with a little more technical competence that I think I'll be able to frame some better shots and moments of my adventures with food here at Four Tines. It was definitely the best money I've spent all year.

Lastly, I want to thank Béa for being such a great teacher and Karen for being such a lovely host. I'm so happy that you two were able to collaborate this wonderful workshop. Looking forward to more events at Sunday Suppers!

Price point: $350 per person for a 12-person food photography and styling class with stylist Béatrice Peltre.

--June 23, 2012

Union Square Greenmarket
north and west sides of Union Square Park
open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 8 AM to 6 PM

Sunday Suppers
Brooklyn, NY
check website and follow Sunday Suppers on Twitter for details on future events/dinners

La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life
Béatrice Peltre
available here at
read more about Béa and her recipes over at her blog, La Tartine Gourmande


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