Ringing It In

The images below don’t really apply to anything specifically, they’re just a still life series I did this week and I wanted to share them. Sending you love and well wishes for a fantastically wonderful 2014!

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Taste, Williams Sonoma Blog

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How much do I love Williams Sonoma? It’s immeasurable. Especially the washed linens they were carrying just recently, and yes I had to buy them in every color. But enough napkin talk. I’m super excited to share this, a very quick little Q&A/Blogger Spotlight I did with them last week. Please click on over to their blog to check it out, but make sure you stick around their site, it’s packed with delicious recipes and amazing content from this American gem of a store.

A Tour Of A Hollywood Prop House

(This is an impromptu discussion of All Things Props. Feel free to check out my previous post of my own prop section. Propheads, this one’s for you).

Folks, if your world doesn’t revolve around tables, plates, napkins and wall flats then this post might not be for you. But if you do share an interest in those things we call P-R-O-P-S then you might just wanna stick around and join me on this very intesting, dusty adventure.

What started as a quest for a rustic table for a project led me down the rabbit hole of Hollywood cinema, a crowded 101 freeway and only one hooker sighting on Santa Monica.

You can’t have everything.

After filling out my paperwork and dropping it off at the office, I wandered around the never-ending warehouses of Omega Cinema Props while pretending to know each piece’s rental pedigree. Is this fence from Bonanza? Was this jukebox on Happy Days? I know this banquette was from It’s A Living, right? I mean, this is Hollywood, after all, and this is a place where set designers, studio dressers and prop masters all head to when crafting their thematic magic. And while I’ve been to some prop houses, I must say that the scale of this place left me speechless.

So I took photos!

Wanna come along?

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I think about all the fake bars that are created for movies and television. And then I begin to cry thinking that these taps don’t work. So very sad.

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Fancy old timey tea signs. They were beautiful!

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Why yes, I will have a Sidecar. What? This is a set? Not real? Damn.

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SO. MANY. THINGS.  So very many things go through my head. First, angry children throwing fits. Then, angry mannequin children throwing fits. Third, angry mannequin children throwing fits coming to kill me in the middle of the night. And then I start thinking about the movie “Tourist Trap” where the guy turns people into mannequins. Lastly, I begin to think of Kim Cattrall and Meshach Taylor who played “Hollywood” in a movie called “Mannequin.” See? I told you so many things.

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After I shot this I got very sad. Why is that mannequin all dejected, sitting down? Did she say something wrong to all the pretty ones? And who lost their hand on the floor? Anyone? Anyone?

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FINALLY! An empty and quiet airline waiting room!

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I suppose if you need cosmetic bottles this is your place!

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I discovered the grocery store section of the prop warehouse and marveled at the signage systems.

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Anyone need any really beat up old pots?

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Three words: FAKE CHEESE WHEELS! Without the pungent smell, of course.

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Fake sausages always make me laugh. Get your mind out of the gutter.

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Old cans waiting to find a temporary home in a fake grocery store or market.

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What do you think is in here?

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Really great old wire baskets.

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Shelf stable milk. Just like Europe.

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If you have hospital phobias then this area is NOT for you. Of course I loved it.

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Please wait here while I grab your chart.

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Peekaboo!

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Just creepy! And fabulous! Freepy! Crabulous! I’ll stop.

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These awesome enamel pots were next to the bed pans, which will forever make me think that I’ve been using them incorrectly since the beginning of time.

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Really fantastic old surgery tools that are making my teeth hurt just looking at them.

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There’s everything one could need at this prop house, including a fake ATM. I wonder if they rent fake ATM skimmers, too.

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Bottles galore!

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If I ever need to open a fake herbal shop I know where I’m comin’!

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Is this for coffee? Or something scary? I ain’t gonna lie, it looks a bit creepy.

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So many dishes for instant restaurant sets.

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And baskets.

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And condiments.

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Well I suppose from far away…

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Rubber Baked Goods. You never know.

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Tons of seating and tables

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For a second it was hard to remember that I wasn’t actually in a restaurant or restaurant supply shop. There was everything you’d need to make a kitchen set.

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More coffee.

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THIS. Omg this. It’s like Logan’s Run Coffee Shop. It’s so freaking beautiful.

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A cute sign.

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Dogs would love this.

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Read all about it.

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Plastic meat which kind of freaked me out.

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Old grinders.

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Lots of pots and pans!

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Rows and rows of amazing tables, as far as the eye can see.

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A fake kitchen for those times when you need mauvish-features.

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Cute tables! I love them!

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Chairs in just about every style you’d need.

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I love this very sweet little chair.

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I found the Gnome Section!

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And lastly, I stopped by my favorite antique store on the way home and found something of my very own, this gorgeous old chest. After I stare and admire it for a bit, I’ll take it apart and put it back together as a surface to photograph on.

Or maybe stick a mannequin in it.

The end.



Winter Citrus, Revisited. Again.

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There’s really not much left I can say about citrus. Particularly, how I feel about citrus. I’ve talked about it for years via my annual citrus round-up, and if I had my way I’d probably write a whole damn cookbook on citrus fruit. I totally would.

Matt-Armendariz-Citrus-Ring-550I think I’ve run out of words to describe the fruits of the Rutaceae family; I’ve used all the zippy and zings, tangy and tarts to last a lifetime. Besides, do you really need me to tell you what a lemon tastes like? Um, no. I’m pretty sure just about everyone knows what they taste like and how indispensible they are to cooking.  In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a cuisine that doesn’t include citrus in one way or another.

To me, it’s that citric acid that makes food come alive, but it also doesn’t need to knock you over, either. It can add balance to a dish, cause a chemical reaction, preserve, intensify and enchance, and it’s also an equal opportunity ingredient, happy in both sweet and savory dishes. To me it’s one of life’s absolutely perfect things.

So how have we been enjoying these beauties at our place? In so many ways. I thought it’d be fun to put together a few suggestions for all those lemons and limes that are their peak right now. Oh, and grapefruit and tangerines. And kumquats and tangelos. And, and…

 

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MARGARITAS, ANYONE?

As luck would have it, one plentiful lime tree stands smack dab in the middle of our new yard. We moved just in time to become intoxicated by the lime flower blossoms (and if you’ve ever need proof as to whether miracles exist, lean in and smell that tiny mighty flower). The blossoms gave way to fruit, so much fruit! It seems like I couldn’t give the limes away fast enough, but being the resourceful guy that I am, I opted for a giant batch of margaritas. You can keep your neon-gree fake mixes, thankyouverymuch. A real margarita could not be easier, nor more satisfying. It goes like this: lime juice, a fantastic tequila, simple syrup or any orange-flavored liqueur like triple sec or Cointreau. I’ve been known to skip the last ingredient, which is just fine if you ask me.

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FRIED LEMONS AND POTATO CHIPS

We recently finished an assignment for Food & Wine Magazine, and one tempura recipe included in the shot list used tempura-battered lemon slices. We were all so collectively bowled over by what happens to a battered and deep-fried lemon – it’s more amazing than you’d think! Incorporating that premise into snacktime yielded these chips with fried lemon slices tucked throughout.  You’ll want beer to enjoy with these things (they’re simply dipped in tapioca flour and fried), and if you need more zing, simply spring with an equal blend of lemon or lime zest and salt. Easy.

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PALOMA

Oh my sweet Paloma, you are a beautiful thing, aren’t you? You make me wish I lived on a grapefruit plantation. And while this Mexican cocktail is usually served with Mexican grapefruit soda and tequila, I’m going straight to the source by mixing fresh grapefruit juice, sparkling water, along with plenty of simple syrup and crushed ice. And good tequila. Fly away, Paloma!

Update: About a day after this post went live a box of Texas Rio Star Grapefruit arrived on my doorstep. Can I tell you how amazing they are? I plan on remaking a batch of Palomas with the sweet juice of these grapefruits, which I learned are only grown in Texas. Thanks for sending, Kymberly, and hugs to everyone back in Texas!

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SWEET CHILI LIME SAUCE

Oh, this is cheating. Ok, let’s not be so harsh. This is doctoring.  Which I’m not opposed to doing if it’s easy, delicious, and let me bring more flavor to the party. In this case, a few teaspoons of fresh lime juice and garlic added to bottled sweet chilI sauce makes an excellent dipping sauce for grilled shrimp and squid. OH AND LOOK, THESE THINGS ARE ON STICKS! I wonder what gave me that idea. I really do.

Oh, and don’t forget squeezes of fresh lime before serving!

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STEAK & NUOC MAM

You may know the Vietnamese condiment made from fish sauce, sugar, chiles and lime juice as the umami-rich dipping sauce of spring rolls, bánh xèo and bánh bèo, among other things. But this FREAKING MAGIC SAUCE (yes, emphasis mine) makes an appearance at our house all the time. ALL THE TIME. Especially when meat like slow roasted pork, flank steak or grilled chicken are on the menu. I use Andrea’s recipe all the time, which can be found here.

But I don’t usually stop there. I’ll add tiny amounts to a bowl of beans, sprinkle it over pasta, and even add it to my guacamole. It’s my fave.

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CITRUS CURD

Juice + eggs + sugar + butter + heat = curd. And it’s fantastic on just about everything. Cakes, scones, cakes, you name it. In this case Adam made these beautiful little citrus curd meringue tarts and well, they disappeared. INTO MY MOUTH. A very easy little shell was blind baked and cooled, then filled with lemon curd and topped with meringue.  A quick torch to brown the peaks of meringue came next, and then some blackberries finished it off. Tart, sweet, buttery, berry, oh lord these things didn’t stand a chance.

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CANDIED KUMQUATS

Oh really, this cannot be easier. All you need is time and a few ingredients. And thanks to Pim for the inspiration for this: simmer covered kumquats in water and sugar and a little vanilla bean and a dash of salt for about 2 hours, then uncover and reduce so that you’re left with an amazing citrus syrup. That is all. Seriously. The fruit turn soft and delicious, losing any bitterness they may have had from the long soak. Enjoy the kumquats on dark chocolate cake, on a cheesecake, or along with the syrup over vanilla ice cream.

Alrighty my friends, what’s your favorite thing to do with citrus? I’d love to know! I’m thinking 2014 already!

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The Scharffen Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest!

Can you believe it’s that time again? That’s correct, I’m thrilled to announce the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest which launched this week! And if you’re up for the adventure, Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker and TuttiFoodie.com invite you to enter the fabulous, 6th annual Chocolate Adventure Contest.  So go ahead: invent, create, explore the boundaries of your own culinary imagination. This year the contest accepts entries in one category—Sandwich Cookies—for  the chance to win a $25,000 grand prize.

Sandwich cookies. As in HEAVEN. And I say heaven because again this year I’ll be tasting all the delicious entries alongside my fellow judges early next year.  And I happen to love sandwich cookies (alfajores, anyone?).

To be eligible, combine any Scharffen Berger chocolate with one or more of 12 select “adventure ingredients” (yerbe mate, coconut cream, tapioca flour, corn meal, pine nuts, sweet potato and other ingredients native to cacao-belt countries) in an original recipe. Whether whoopie pie, macaron, s’mores, ice cream sandwich, alfajores or any other sandwich cookie—you can enter up to 10 recipes total.  More information at www.chocolateadventurecontest.com.

So get those creative, cookie-minds started, folks! The $25,000 prize is nothing to laugh at, and you can enter up to 10 recipes.

I want to thank Lisa at TuttiFoodie and the folks at Scharffen Berger for including me again. And Alice Medrich. Because I love her. Oh heck, and Chef Elizabeth Falkner. And Angie from Bakearella. And John. Ok, I’ll stop now.

Get busy!

My new book! And a sneak preview from Bon Appetit!

Well, what do ya know…I wrote another book! I’ll spare you the details about sweating my butt off, missed deadlines, really creative strings of swearwords, and all those other things that happen when you are working on something you love. Keyword: WORK. But now, this? This is the best part. This is the part that it’s out of my hands, soon to be in yours (I hope!), and the part where I light that candle and pray to the gods that it’s well-received. Because when you put your heart into something like writing a book you just want people to respond appropriately, and in this case I want them to find it useful, engaging, and approachable. I really do.

But enough of my author’s song & dance. I want you to see a really quick sneak preview of my book. It’s not every day Bon Appetit snags the first peak at one’s book, and I couldn’t be happier about it. HELLO? Anyway, check it out.

My second book, Focus On Food Photography For Bloggers, is available for pre-order on Amazon. It hits the street September 15th and I’m sure I’ll be doing a giveaway. Because I love you! Seriously. For real.

 

In The Kitchen With: Dani Fisher’s Dark Chocolate Matzah

Hi everyone and happy Monday! It’s back to the grind for me after a glorious quasi-weekend off! Ok, when you run your own business you don’t really ever have an actual day off, but after a few hours of resetting the studio and cleaning up we did manage to sneak away here.

It really is the happiest place on earth. Plus it’s nice to walk around, enjoy some rides, and bask in some fantastic sunshine. Although, and I’m not making this up, I overheard a young child say to his mother “I just want to feel loved!”  I have no idea what that was about, however. Ok, so maybe it’s not the happiest place on earth.

We’ve been working on some cookbook as well as some Food Network & Cooking Channel projects, and you’d be correct in thinking that we’re having the world’s best time. I have to pinch myself sometimes. Especially when I think about the team that I get to work with. They’re all pretty fantastic. And the icing on the cake is getting to work with stylist Dani Fisher. You all know I’m so mad about her. When she asked if I’d work with her on a Design*Sponge In The Kitchen With feature I jumped at the chance. Mostly because Grace is a friend, and the column’s editor Kristina is my long-lost sister. I do think we were separated at birth sometimes.

But back to Dani’s recipe.

Her recipe for Dark Chocolate Matzah is like crack. You have a piece, then you need another. And while the coconut was my favorite, I’m pretty sure you’ll dig the orange version, too. You’ll have to head over to Design*Sponge for the recipe and the entire photos. Please make it. You will not regret it.

 

We also managed to sneak in a day of personal work, and even just thinking about me + Dani + Adam C. Pearson makes me giggle like a child. Talk about fun! Since we’re on the Passover theme here, we photographed a beautiful meal and I want to thank Dani for letting me share it here.

 

And yes, it was delicious. We ate it, all in the name of photography.  You’ll see what I mean.

 

 

Thanks to Adam Pearson for beautiful food styling and Dani Fisher for prop styling. And thank you Kristina!



10 Things

Yesterday morning’s beach run was the first time my feet have hit the pavement in running shoes in over a month. I’m looking forward to having some time to start my day with a walk or run as well as time to get back into the kitchen and cook. And yes, this is some Instagram humor.

 

Where do I even start?

1. Work has been a grueling, exhausting and simultaneously recharging endeavor as of late. We’ve been shooting since January 1st it seems, and the results of a very fantastic project will soon see the light of day. It was quite possibly one of the most fun I’ve had working, 12 hour shoot days notwithstanding.

2. I’ve just submitted the manuscript and images for my second book, something I’ll tell you much more about as its release date gets closer. And you always hear this, but writing a book brings the following thoughts and words to mind: exhausting, tired, beat, thrilled, having given birth, discombobulated, focused, thrill-a-minute, nervous, pensive, reflective, eye strain, wristguard, relieved. And we haven’t even begun the editing process.  Stacey, thank you more than I can say.

3. In the near future I will be on assignment in the middle of this place (see my oh-so-accurate map).  And while I was down under just 12 weeks ago, this adventure promises some very delicious and interesting moments. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.

4. Speaking of assignments, we photographed a campaign for the Southeast’s Publix Markets last year that is now out in their stores. Their creative team was a dream. Literally, a dream.

5. While I’m still dreaming, let’s talk about a burger I had last weekend at Roy Choi’s Sunny Spot in Venice. Fantastic interiors that reminded me of the Bahamas, smart cocktails and fun menu design, but their burger? Oh lord their burger. I must return. P.S. Happy birthday again, Aaron!

6.  Next week begins the Cookbook Madness, but I mean madness lovingly as we being photography work on Recipe Girl’s cookbook. After that we start on Gaby’s cookbook, and no doubt the studio will be filled with delicious food, tables and tables of props and new surfaces, as well as a battle between 80’s Pandora (me) and Adam’s Belle & Sebastian playlist. And if you haven’t stopped by, yes, we’ve expanded our studio space by double.

7.  Workshops will be happening. Very soon. Early registration will go to those on my workshop list but I will certainly make sure to let you know about it, too. And with the new additional space we’ll have room for even more creativity and shooting. And an extra kitchen, too.

 

 

8. I am loving Wayfare Magazine. Loving. I’m going to nag them until I can work with them. I’ll let you know how that goes.

9. If there’s no rain this Saturday (which might cause postponement), I’ll be speaking with authors and writers Jeanne Kelley, Amy Scattergood, Jenn Garbee and Joseph Shuldiner at LitFest Pasadena. The panel, Cookbooks In The Age Of Epicurious, promises to be extremely informative. I’m really looking forward to spending time with such fantastic folks.

 

10. Life gets crazy and we all try to do too much. Take a break and give someone a hug and tell them that you love and need them.