Book Reviews: Paris

I’m off to Paris and am leaving you in the mighty fine hands of Kristina Gill. She regularly covers book reviews here and this week it’s all things Paris! Take it away, Lady K!

Despite my hourly contact with Matt on a daily basis, it was way after the fact that I learned that he and Adam would be taking a trip to Paris this September. And actually, I have been thinking about what books I could put together in a round up that would be a bit of a Parisian experience for people going and/or returning. What food is it that people love? What “institutions” do they love? Well, in the past year (and earlier) several books have passed through my hands and this round up is all on how to get your Paris on -before, during, and after. I know many of you will have other titles to add. I admit, France is in my “to build up” category on cookbooks. So please please please share all your recommendations!

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The Last Cobbler

In a few days I’ll be hopping on another plane to a place that promises lots of good food, relaxation, sunshine and wine. It’s a trip we’ve been planning for a while, but what I wasn’t planning on was real life enveloping the weeks before and after this excursion. In this case real life means work, and work means travel, and that means I’ll be up in the air and away from home for many weeks. When I return it will no longer be summer but early fall and I can’t help but feel slightly Rip Van Winkelish about the whole damn thing.

I’ve managed to cram quite a bit of summer in the past few weeks. Dinners outdoors with best friends, long walks in the muggy streets of NYC with my blogging family, even one last hurrah at our house just the other night dedicated to the bounty of figs. Summer is my favorite season and I just don’t like to see it ending, footstomp footstomp footstomp!

(But trust me, I’ll think I’ll be ok drinking wine in Nice with this man and indulging in rioja-induced tapas crawls of marathon proportions in Spain with the hubs)

As a symbolic gesture I picked up stone fruit at the farmers’ market the other day, knowing that it could very likely be the last peach or plum I would buy and cook with at home for some time. Of course I’m looking forward to what’s around the corner but saying goodbye to stone fruit always leaves me a bit melancholy. What better way to throw it a little party than by making a cobbler.  I am a Certified Cobbler Freak and it almost doesn’t matter what kind either. I don’t think anyone can go wrong with warm fruit, topping and the required scoop of ice cream. You just can’t.

I have my standard recipes for cobbler but we felt like doing something a bit different. A quick search online turned up Aida Mollenkamp’s recipe which sounded good. Little did I know it would actually turn out GREAT.

Do you know Aida? Do you watch her show on Cooking Channel? She brings a smile to my face everytime I think of her, and she’s even funnier and sillier in person. Not that I’m calling her silly, mind you. It’s just being around her makes me feel good. I do love that woman somethin’ fierce.

I’m glad that my last homemade cobbler of the summer went out with a bang. I suspect I’ll be making this cobbler for years, too. In my version I tweaked it just a bit, punctuating the wonderfully mellow peaches with tart dried cherries from my trip to Michigan. It was a match made in heaven. Speaking of heaven, those fluffy clouds of sour cream biscuits on top? Yea, they made this dish. It’s all about those biscuits.

Peach and Tart Cherry Cobbler with Sour Cream Biscuits adapted from a recipe by Aida Mollenkamp

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
¼ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons heavy cream

¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, seeds reserved
1 ½ pounds fresh peaches, pitted and cut into sixths
1 cup of dried tart cherries (you can find them here)

2 teaspoons sour cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375˚ F and arrange a rack in the middle.

For the Biscuits: Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk to blend thoroughly.

With a large box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture using the large holes and then toss to coat. Smear in the sour cream and heavy cream and knead until the dough comes together with your hands. Divide into six pieces and flatten into disks; cover and reserve in the fridge.

For the fruit filling: In a large bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt and vanilla seeds. Add peaches and dried cherries and mix until the fruit is evenly coated.

Put the fruit mixture into a 2-quart baking dish and top with the biscuit dough evenly across the top.

To Assemble: Brush the tops of the biscuits with sour cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until the filling is bubbling, the peaches are tender when pierces with a knife and the biscuits are golden brown and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool before serving. Serve with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Working at Jordan Winery

See that photo above? Can you believe how beautiful it is? That dappled sunlight through the trees is on a road at Jordan Winery in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, a place where I’ve spent a few days last week photographing almost anything and everything I could get my hands on. To say it’s heaven on earth is a putting it mildly; it’s an expansive working winery with view after view after view, delicious wine, olive trees, guesthouses, lakes, and some of the nicest people you could ever meet. And I’m not just whistlin’ dixie here.

While traipsing through vineyards can be quite a bit of fun, it’s also lots of work capturing the moments that make a winery like Jordan so special. There are the people that make the wine, the people that create the food, the people that tend to the garden, and the people that make the guests feel like family. Then there’s editing 40 gigs of images captured over 2 1/2 days — no easy feat!

Thanks to the generosity of Jordan I can share a bit about the past few days, some images, and what it took for us to create those photographic moments.

The Gear

I’ve been bouncing between Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City these past 3 weeks I can tell you that traveling with loads of camera equipment isn’t fun (and I want to thank my friend Misha for holding my hand and providing guidance here). But I knew what I wanted to capture at Jordan and how I wanted it to look; that dictated that I’d travel as light as possible. Lots of emails between Jordan’s Communication Director Lisa Mattson prepared me as much as possible about how much we’d be covering and what I needed to have on hand. I packed two Canon 5D Mark IIs (and a back up!), a tripod, two laptops, four external drives (I’m paranoid!), as well as one 100mmL lens, a 24-70mm L lens and a 16-35mm L lens for those wide moments.  When it came to light modifiers I crammed my suitcase with foamcore, reflectors, scrim material, clamps, plastic bags and my tacklebox of puddy, clips, pins and wooden blocks.

I’m not sure what I did to deserve such amazing weather which translates into amazing light but it was there, allowing us to take advantage of cool blue morning hues in the garden and ending with golden, warm tons of evening sun. During the harshest moments of the day when the light was too strong we moved inside to photograph food and people. Sometimes I shot to card, other times I was connected to my laptop so that I could double check my exposures.

The Extras

There were some moments indoors that required strobes as there just wasn’t enough light to photograph a person with the ambient light without them becoming blurry. But the two most important things to me during this photo shoot were a light meter and color checker. A light meter became invaluable as I figured out just how far I could go handholding my camera without a tripod out in the field, and also just how blurry or sharp I could get when photographing people. Would I have enough light to accomplish what I was trying to do? A light meter would tell me and eliminate the guesswork. The Color Checker Passport, a small folding passport-style card, allows me to have perfect color readings in each frame. I’m a stickler for color accuracy (that doesn’t mean I don’t like to play with color temperature when appropriate) and I never travel or shoot without it. Ever. Ever.

Now how about some shots?

Fruits and vegetables from Jordan's garden take center stage as I balance up above. Hipstamatic Photo by Teri Lyn Fisher.

Color Checker Passport in Action. It allows me to get an accurate color reading and maintain the proper color balance.

Todd Knoll, Executive Chef at Jordan Winery, prepares some food in the makeshift hallway "studio". I was loving the light and proximity to the kitchen.

A dining room also became a studio as we photographed wine and flowers. I kind of fell in love with the oversized doors. A scrim and reflector were my main tools. Photo on right by Lisa Mattson.

A test shot for exposure and color. The wine barrels were beautiful.

Getting to know Barney & Clyde, Jordan's show goats.

A collage of Jordan Winery images from the vineyards and garden

You can find Jordan Winery here. Make sure to add them on Twitter and Facebook, and check out their blog, too.

Meanwhile, over at The Cooking Channel…

Hi folks! I’m not sure I announced it here but I’m so pleased to say that I’m a regular contributor to Cooking Channel’s Devour The Blog.  I’ve had the best time creating recipes that focus on real flavor, great ingredients with a built-in element of fun and flare (and this is because I always have “party” on the brain, ya know).  This week I created a really simple Ice Cream Terrine with Sauteéd Peaches and I want you to go over there and check it out. For me, pretty please?

And a quick photo bonus for all us food photography geeks:

I took the photo on the left with a point and shoot camera. The right image was captured by my 5D. Never ever let it be said that you cannot take a good food photo because you don’t have an expensive camera. Just don’t. Your talent is greater than the camera you are using and you can make beautiful images with anything. Remember this!

Martha Stewart Bloggers’ Night Out

Well hello there everyone! How’s your summer? I feel like I haven’t been around here too much and I’ve missed everyone. I’ve been busy with projects and can’t wait to update you on them. Soon enough!

This past week we took a quick break to head to New York.  It was a week of amazing meals, visits with old and new friends, meetings, more meetings, and parties. On Friday night we headed to a beautiful roof-top gathering overlooking the beautiful skyline of Manhattan at a party hosted by Ree Drummond. You may know her as The Pioneer Woman and she’s always as gorgeous, warm and sweet as you can imagine. Scratch that. TIMES A MILLION.  Thank you, Ree!

This past Thursday we had the pleasure of being invited to Martha Stewart’s Bloggers Night Out held at her office in the Starrett Lehigh building in Chelsea.  Before the big soiree a few of us were invited to come a bit early, tour the studios, visit with her wonderful editors, and even say hello to Martha herself.

As one of the charter members of Martha’s Circle there was no way I was going to miss this party.  I haven’t been to the MSLO offices since my appearance on her show back in 2008 and I really wanted to catch up with the folks that have done such a great job making us blogger types feel like part of the family.  We arrived and waited in the lobby and I caught up with some friends and made new ones.

Olga Masov (Sassy Radish), Jordan Ferney (Oh Happy Day), Alice Currah (Savory Sweet Life), Vané Broussard (Brooklyn Bride), Aran Goyoaga (Cannelle et Vanille), some short dude and then Mr. Adam Pearson. Photo by Patrick Butler.

One particular highlight? Meeting Aran of Canelle et Vanille. Just as gorgeous as I thought she’d be.  Next time I must spend more time with her, it went much too fast.

Finally meeting Aran! Finally!

We were given tours of the entire Martha Stewart Living offices but photography was strictly off limits. With pages and pages of future magazine spreads on the walls, proprietary Martha material was kept under wraps and covered by paper until publication. Luckily MSLO provided a photographer and videographer during the tour to capture the moments.

Why do I look so serious? Photo by Patrick Butler

Beautiful offices and open spaces occupy the main area of the offices along with editing suites and digital bays for television and web. From these offices all of the Martha Stewart publications are created – Martha Stewart Living, Everyday Food, Weddings, and Whole Living.  My mind is blown by the amount of creativity here, it’s unreal.

I spent some time in the test kitchens of Everyday Food when they were located on 42nd, but now that everything is consolidated under one roof I was excited to get sneak peaks into the kitchens of the various magazines.

One of the Martha Stewart test kitchens. Photo by Patrick Butler.

In the test kitchen the recipes are written, tested, created, retested, made for photography, and just about everything else that needs to be done with food. I can only imagine how efficient the testers are in these amazing spaces.

We were lucky enough to pop into the studio where Everyday Food is photographed.  Part photo studio, part office, part kitchen and prop room, it was a model of efficiency where we were able to chat with Anna Last, the editor of Everyday Food. She answered questions about the publication’s production schedule while we fawned over all the props and surfaces in the studio. Photo assistants and a digital tech were working on computers and I am sorry if we distracted anyone with our endless questions. And after the tour Adam and I had the pleasure of chatting with Vanessa Holden, Editor in Chief of Martha Stewart Living, and to say this was the highlight of my night would be an understatement! VANESSA ROCKS.

I'm pretty sure Anna Last wants me to stop asking so many questions. Photo by Patrick Butler.

The party was originally planned for the building’s rooftop but windy conditions and blazing heat moved the party inside to the main photo studio. Which was fine with me because a) I didn’t want to be schvitzing and b) hello? In a photo studio? A Martha photo studio? Really.

Party in the photo studio woot woot! Look at those windows.

This is Eliad Laskin. He’s Martha’s right hand blog man and Director of Social Media Content for MSLO.  It’s always nice to see him.

Eliad Laskin

These are FIERCE SHOES as worn by Alexis Stewart, Martha’s daughter. Please don’t send me creepy email about photographing her backside, I couldn’t help it. THE SHOES WERE GORGEOUS.

People were playing ping pong as I had cocktails. Can you believe those windows? This is the photo studio, after all. My heart be still.

Martha provided most of the food and it came straight from the pages of her magazine. I was a very bad and drunk blogger (those cocktails were AMAZING) who did not take as many food photos as he should have. Will you ever forgive me?

I did manage to snap some shots of the view from the offices. Absolutely amazing.

The following shots will most likely get me kicked out of Martha’s Circle, never to be invited back to the offices. But you can’t really put me near props or a photo studio without snapping away, can you? You can’t.  It’s impossible. Martha did call me a troublemaker, after all.

That's right. Martha's Prop Room. Represent.

This is the view of the prop room. Everything is catalogued, inventoried and recorded. It’s a model of efficiency.

Wall surfaces, frames, doors, foam core, surfaces and tiles are kept neatly stacked outside of the studio. I wish I was this organized.

These images are strictly for photo set nerds, I realize.

Towards the end of the party I met Dawn Casale of Brookyn’s One Girl Cookies. I had no shame in reaching for multiple whoopee pies and cupcakes from her Bakery and I was so touched when she actually recognized me! I was kind of hoping she wouldn’t know who I was because it would have been easier to load up on her amazing treats without embarrassment. How I wish she was on the West Coast.

It was an amazing party and on a serious note I really do want to thank Martha Stewart for being open to the whole world of blogging and inviting all of us to see what she does in a very intimate setting. Special thanks to Gail Horwood, Mark Ganem, Eliad Laskin, Lucinda Scala Quinn, Anna Last, Vanessa Holden and every other amazing editor at MSLO.

Self-portrait taken with my G-11 that I'm still trying to figure out but I do love that little camera!