Style Makes The Moment with Lindsay Olives

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When my friend Anita asked if I wanted to participate in a Lindsay Olives  holiday promotion I immediately jumped at the chance. With an opportunity to come up with our own idea of what makes the holiday season so special, the word “style” kept popping into my head for a variety of reasons. As much as I love entertaining (you’ve seen my backyard, right?!?), I think it’s best done with a light hand and free spirit but that shouldn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. In fact, identifying the things that you love and elevating them with care and attention is what I call style, and yes, it’s something that’s great for special occasions and the every day.

After all, every day should be a celebration, shouldn’t it?

When it comes to style during the holidays, my attention immediately goes to the table. From now until the end of December we plan on hosting several dinners, a cocktail party, a few last-minute gatherings and opening our home to friends and family. It sounds like a lot (it is!), but keeping your cool and being prepared makes it so much easier.  In fact, I’ve got this entertaining thing down and it’s really not that difficult! Here’s how style makes the moment for us.

Sips   I always keep a bottle (ok, 3) of really tasty, inexpensive bubbles in the fridge. It could be a great champagne, a prosecco, a bougey cerdon, anything that’s chilled and delicious. Come over and you’ll immediately be greeted with a glass as I believe it sets the mood and lets you know that I’m about to celebrate the hell out of ya. And it doesn’t have to be a fancy glass, mind you.

Music  I absolutely cannot exist without music, and this time of year it’s a happy blend of nostalgic holiday tunes mixed with Brazilian jazz classics and even some modern beats for energy.  Low and slow in the background, music is another texture in your pad that shouldn’t be ignored.

Table  Here’s where I geek out, and not just because it’s my day job. I’m not big on formality at all and prefer some irreverence and surprise when it comes to decorating, and that takes place in many forms. As a big collector of ceramics, anything mixed and matched works well when in the same color story, and vintage napkins and linens add color and charm. Heck, even a roll of butcher paper down the center adds texture, and branches and leaves from the garden can take the place of flowers. And since we’re in So Cal which means dining outdoors in December, every guest gets a fabric throw to wrap around when the temperature drops.

Ebb & Flow Sometimes style ain’t what you do but the way that you do it.  More than anything I want our guests to relax and feel at home, and I never micromanage the process. If a new guest feels out of place I don’t hesitate to ask them to join me in the kitchen while I get ready, or I pair them up with one of our closest friends and guests to welcome them into the fold. Entertaining should never be forced, fussy, or uncomfortable. I want to have a good time, too!

So what makes the holidays  for you? Lindsay Olives is running a delightful sweepstakes here, and all you have to do is share what makes your holiday special for a chance to win prizes. There are 4 winners, and each winner receives a $500 Visa Gift Card and an “Olive Entertaining Starter Kit”.

The sweepstakes is here, and they’re also accepting entries via Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag “#LindsayMoment”.  It starts today and runs through 12/22/14!

Happy holidays!

 This post is sponsored by Lindsay Olives.

My Hawaiian Moment: Loco Moco

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Please raise your hand if you love you some Hawaii.

See? That’s an image of every single person raising their hands. Probably both arms, actually.

And we all know why.

As a traveler, there are many places I enjoy visiting throughout the world, and each place has it’s unmistakable, unique quality that makes it a destination. When I think of my travels through Asia, I think of technology and food. Argentina? Wine and culture. And with Hawaii?

It’s One Big Giant Hug.

It’s One Big Giant Hug from your family and your grandmother.

It’s Love. This is the way of Aloha, the concept which transcends a physical state and manner to a way of life, a way of being with yourself and others. You feel it the second you land on any island. It’s in the generosity and smiles of those you encounter, it’s a sparkle in the eye, a loving touch from a local, and a feeling that you are welcomed, cared for, loved. It’s these reasons why we visit Hawaii when we can, and of course having a brother-in-law on the North Shore of Oahu always helps, too! (Hey Ryan!)

Our days spent in Hawaii are like no other, and for this I’m thankful. For starters, I wake up extremely relaxed, a million miles away from my everyday responsibilities. After admiring the view or starting with a run on the beach, I always begin to think about food. And it’s always a casual effort, eating as much local food as possible, and I’m not satisfied unless there’s a plate lunch involved. Or two. Or Four. I’m not keeping track. One thing I always seek out is Loco Moco. While there are many variations, its main components involve rice, a hamburger patty, eggs and brown gravy. Maybe there’s another food so filling and satisfying, but I sure can’t think of it right now.

Like any regional favorite (I’m reminded of my childhood favorite Frito Pie), its origin is debatable, but it’s clear that it’s a Hawaiian original, hands down. Rumor has it that it was first served at Lincoln Grill in Hilo, which is no longer there. Luckily living in Southern California means I can get this dish right up the street from me, but you know what? It’s just not the same. Nothing compares to filling up on this satisfying dish surrounded by locals, great friends, and tons of the Aloha spirit. When I’m on the big island, Blaine’s Drive­In in HIlo is fantastic, and I hear that Cafe 100 does the dish right, including dozens of varieties. Maybe one day I’ll have to work my waythrough all the variations. A guy can dream, right?

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Loco Moco

The beauty of this dish is that nothing needs to be terribly exact. Rice, patties, eggs, gravy. That’s it. If you can cook rice then you’re already there, as patties get fried in a pan with the drippings saved for gravy. Add beef broth to the drippings and season, then create a roux with flour. Too tricky you say? You could always use pre­-made gravy. Fry your eggs. To assemble, top the rice with the meat patty, top with the fried egg and then with gravy. Prepare to be in heaven.

Of course, if you are the type that needs a recipe, these are always good sources:

Food Network Loco Moco Recipe

Cooking Channel Loco Moco Recipe

WikiHow’s Loco Moco, with photos!

And since we’re on the topic of food, I do indeed have favorite spots throughout Hawaii for food, including Poke at Fresh Catch, Malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery, cheese and chocolate from Surfing Goat Dairy, and fish tacos from Coconut’s Fish Cafe. Let’s just say those fish tacos in particular rival anything over here, that’s for sure!

Brought to you by The Hawaiian Islands.

So tell me, where are your favorite places to eat in Hawaii? I’d love to know and start my list for our next visit!

A Quick NYC Trip

1475995_10152113122139510_946893226_nHappy holidays! We just returned from a week in chilly NYC, and let me just tell you what a fantastic time we had. Packed with food, friends, some work, more food, and even more friends, it was the best way to end the year and see all the pretty Christmas lights all over town.

We were in town for some work, a few meetings, a presentation, a radio show, and to check out the various prop houses and meet a few ceramacists along the way. I think I came back a few pounds heavier, and shopping damage was done. But put a beautiful handmade bowl in front of me and I cannot say no. But more on that later.

Armed with instagram, I took tons of photos. Let’s jump in, shall we?

 

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We arrived just in time to see the sun going down across the skyline from our view at the NoMad Hotel. And yes, you should stay there if visiting New York. It’s absolutely lovely.

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Monday we arrived to Good Light Studios bright and early. I can’t talk about the project we were working on and all the things involved, but I can show you this space. Soft, bright, gorgeous light that was diffused by snow flakes. Mother Nature was looking out for us!

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I ran with prop stylist Nidia Cueva to a few prop houses along the way and snapped some photos. As you might know, we have quite few props ourselves and it’s always great to see other prop houses and their magnificent selections. Our first stop was Good Light Props, and it was as amazing as I imagined.

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Back at the studio, sometimes a floor is a beautiful surface.

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Monday night we headed to Brooklyn to meet up with the delightful Grace Bonney of Design Sponge and her new wife Julia Turshen. That’s right, Grace and Julia are newlyweds and while I’ve know for a bit it has only been recently announced to the world! So much love, so much happiness and meeting Julia was a dream come true for me! We were there to record a radio show with Grace and Julia and my friend Kristina Gill, also in town from Rome. Grace’s show is called After The Jump and you can listen to it here. We talk about food, instagram, and pinterest, it was a blast! Afterwards I inhaled SOME OF THE BEST PIZZA IN MY ENTIRE LIFE at Roberta’s. Oh holy smokes it was delicious.

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Tuesday we woke up to light snow as we headed back to the studio.

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And then there was that view.

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I made a quick Okra Tree.

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On Wednesday I toured a prop house that exists deep down in a New York city basement. And that’s all I can say about it right now. It’s top secret. Sorta. Maybe later. However, I can show you one surface I found that made me weep with joy.

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Some various props on THAT SURFACE.  Yes oh yes.

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We also stopped by Prop Workshop, located on West 25th street. Can I just tell you how I wanted to stay there forever? Between beautiful props and the surface library, you really had to pull me away. Plus we were able to purchase new ceramic pieces from the owner Loren Simons who has started a new line with her daughter Aliza called Henry Street Studio. Beautiful stuff, can’t wait to get it home and start using it in photos!

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Then it was off to Mud Australia in Soho to visit with Shelley Simpson, Mud’s creator. She was in from Sydney and we were so lucky to be able to spend some time with her.  PLEASE don’t even get me started about my Mud collection.

But what did we eat?

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Sometimes there’s nothing better than a lobster roll and a glass of bubbles. Oh, and some Ipswich clams and some oysters and another glass of bubbles.

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Momofuku’s Bo Ssam lived up to its hype in EVERY.SINGLE.WAY.  It was the best way to celebrate the end of a great week and also Adam’s birthday. What a magical evening! Oh, and there were corn cookies (my fave!)

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Our last day was spent walking through the park and heading to ABC Carpet and Home with a quick trip to Shake Shack for a burger. And whatever you do, please don’t ask me to engage in the East Vs West debate of Shake Shack and In-N-Out. I must remain diplomatic about the whole thing. Perhaps one day you can shake the answer out of me.

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This spice display at ABC Carpet and Home was exquisite.

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This coffee and tea set is everythang and all that. So shiny.

 

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We also picked up some beautiful ceramics from our new friend, Marité Acosta. A chef, food stylist and potter, everything she does is lovely. And she’s so wonderful. A new lifelong friend, this Marité. We love you.

Dear NYC: Thank you for such a wonderful week. DP, thank you for being you. You make the world a better place.

Links and info for everything above!

Good Light Studio
ABC Carpet and Home
The NoMad Hotel
Henry Street Studio
Ed’s Lobster Bar
Prop Workshop
Mud Australia
Marité Acosta
Nidia Cueva



Williams Sonoma and Gifts With Taste

It’s that time of year, isn’t it? I had a blast selecting some of my favorite gifts from Williams Sonoma, click on over to check them out! And make sure to check out the offerings of others, there are some fantastic things to give and get.

P.S. Are you following their blog, Taste? You really should if you aren’t. It is packed with so many delicious recipes and ideas and it’s so robust. Truly a fantastic place to spend some time!

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Are you up for an adventure? It’s chocolate. Yes. Chocolate.

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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again. The time when I ask you to dust off that kitchen counter (not that it was dusty, right?), conjure up that sweet creativity, and put those thinking caps on.

Why?

Because it’s time once again for The Chocolate Adventure Contest!

As I’ve done for the past few years, I’m joining TuttiFoodie.com and Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker for one amazing contest, and this year I’m particularly excited about the category. Well, I’m always excited, but this year, well, yes. Bring it.

It’s all about bars!

You. Chocolate. And a special ingredient. Are you up for the adventure?

THE CHALLENGE
Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker and TuttiFoodie.com invite you to show your spirit of adventure. Combine Scharffen Berger chocolate with one or more of 12 adventure ingredients to create an original bar recipe.

So what constitutes a bar?  The category is large! Brownies. Blondies. Seven-Layer Bars.  Cookie-Based Bars. Ice Cream Bars. Handcrafted Candy Bars. Chocolate Bark. And so much more. You get the picture. The big giant delicious picture. And the magic happens when you incorporate the Adventure Ingredients, because, well, that’s the competition. But trust me, you’re gonna love them.

ADVENTURE INGREDIENTS
Bourbon
Turbinado Sugar
Fresh Pomegranate
Hibiscus
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Peppercorn (any type—black, green, red)
Pandan Leaf or Pandan Leaf Extract
Coconut Milk, Cream, Butter or Oil
Oat Flour
Carrot
Sesame Seeds (black or white)
Fresh Croutons or Crostini

This year I’ll be judging along with John Scharffenberger, Alice Medrich and Angie Dudley of Bakerella. OH MY GOD I LOVE THESE PEOPLE. And the fact that I get to eat chocolate all day and judge, well, it’s tough. See my face? Tough I say.
You can enter the Chocolate Adventure Contest here, and make sure you’ve entered by January 2, 2014. This gives you a few months to come up with your winning creation, because the grand prize is so worth it. The Grand Prize is $25,000 plus a copy of Seriously Bittersweet and Essence of Chocolate. There are also Culinary Honorees:  10 Honorees awarded an iPad Mini. So you can’t NOT enter, if you’ll allow me to use a double negative there.

I’m excited to taste your creations!

Visit chocolateadventurecontest.com for official rules and entry form.

Bar images by yours truly, styled by the amazing Adam C. Pearson.

Saeco Review + Easy Tiramisu!

The email landed in my box asking if I wanted to try the Phillips Saeco Syntia, a fully automatic espresso machine from Philips. I don’t even want to tell you the number of automatic espresso machines that have lived on my counter over the past twenty years, some good, some not so good. What begins as a promising machine usually ends up in gadget fatigue, re-packed and stored somewhere else while I go back to my French press, Chemex or Nespresso because functionality and convenience win out.

To say I was dubious would be correct, but I also didn’t want to miss the opportunity to try this machine out. It’s not cheap, but reading the specs interested me: the ability to use my own beans, grind it fresh, steam milk, and pour a variable length shot of espresso were all things I wanted. So the machine arrived, a bit larger than I thought it might be, and I got busy.

I made cappuccino after cappuccino, espressos in the morning, flat whites (or my sad attempt, I should say!) in the afternoon, and Americanos when I ran out of milk (it happens).  I waited for the moment when I’d glance over at it, the sheen of SHINY!NEW!DEVICE!TO!REVIEW! would fade away, and it’d get packed back up and shipped back out, like they all do.

But I dig this machine. As in, it’s staying.

It’s easy to review a machine for flavor, to judge the quality of the grind, extraction and steam abilities. It’s another to review it for its longevity, in a practical situation, and decide if it’s a kitchen device you’d want.  So I put off this review as long as possible, using the machine at home for a month and then another two at the studio, where it went through the ringer of shoots, clients, crew, and friends. It was well worth the terse emails from the account executive checking in on this posting ( “ASAP” was used quite a bit). What did I learn? It makes great espresso and it’s easy to use.

The Good Stuff
The fact that it’s a solid bean-to-cup process makes me rate this machine well, as freshness counts in coffee. It grinds with a ceramic grinder and conveniently dumps the grounds into a chamber that’s easy to empty. The one touch functionality is impressive, and there’s not much else to figure out. Simplified interface and limited buttons and a dial make it easy to use, and it cleans itself regularly (keep an extra cup handy for the water output).

The pannarello arm for steaming milk works well, much better than several automatic devices I’ve tried. This seems to be a losing point for most automatic machines as they never heat quickly or powerful enough, that’s not a problem with the Syntia. And the fact that it’s completely removable for cleaning is awesome. You’ll want to do yourself a favor and pick up a steam pitcher and thermometer for accuracy.

The Bad Stuff (and it’s not that bad, actually…)
It’s slightly temperamental when it comes to water levels in the chamber and error messages lighting up, at least on my machine. But making sure everything is emptied and supplied in the water chamber and bean storage is easy enough, and if that’s the most nitpickiest thing I can say about the Syntia then that’s pretty good. Oh, and you’ll need to give yourself some time to set it up, just a warning. And please remember this: it will never taste like a shot of espresso made from a manual machine but for home use and convenience it’s absolutely perfect.

 And now, something tasty for the holidays

I wanted to create something simple and easy using the Syntia, and the fact that this year alone I think I’ve photographed 15 to 20 different trifles, Eaton Messes, and other layered desserts made me think that a super quick and easy Tiramisu would be best. These gorgeous little kinda-tiramisus were created by Adam, and I love the fact that they are individual servings, for festive reasons, ya know. There is no official recipe here and yields might be tricky, but you’ll have to do your best to figure it out. And if you have any leftovers that don’t fit in individual glasses them that’s when you put them in a big giant bowl and grab a spoon. Very delicious, very trifle.

Easy Sorta Tiramisu I mean, it’s easy, it’s sorta Tiramisu

For the Coffee
1 cup espresso
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
¼ cup powdered sugar
For The Mascarpone
8 oz mascarpone
1 cup lightly whipped whipped cream
½ cup powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons of the Coffee Mixture

Ladyfingers
Milk chocolate for shaving

Mix the coffee mixture until well blended, reserving a few tablespoons for the mascarpone. Soak the ladyfinger cookies in the coffee until absorbed. In the meantime, lightly blend the mascarpone, 1 cup of whipped cream, sugar and 2-4 tablespoons of the coffee mixture in a bowl.

In your individual glasses, layer the ladyfinger cookies, blended mascarpone, and top with shaved chocolate. You might need to break the cookies to fit your glass, but you can eat any leftover pieces as you assemble.

The Legal Stuff We Must Disclose: The Phillips Saeco Syntia was sent to me for review. This post was not paid for nor sponsored, all opinions, photographs and recipe are my own.

Mattbites Gift Guide 2012

 

Iit’s that time! And since we’re all in Giftland this month I wanted to add my personal favorites to all the holiday gift guides that are out there.

However, I wanted to let you know one little thing: this Gift Guide is not entirely food-focused but made up of the things I love. As in absolutely adore. No kind of ‘meh, they aiight” kind of gifts here but all things that I personally use and would give as gifts. Heck, many of them have been given as gift, and now that I am looking at it I’m realizing it’s pretty darn tech-y, if I do say so myself!

1. Empire Mayonnaise Company
Um, hello, jars of mayo as gifts? If they’re from Brooklyn’s own Empire Mayo Co. than yes. I was given a jar as a gift and I’ve been a repeat customer ever since. Do yourself a favor and try the Black Garlic Mayo. Earthy, creamy, full of the umami goodness you get from black garlic. My favorite way to eat this stuff is with French fries or on a sandwich made of big fat slices of soft bread, pieces of roasted chicken and ample amounts of mayo. Heaven.

2. Piebox
Adam was on a CB2 shoot in Chicago when he met Adrienne Blumthal. She is the creator of PieBox and when I saw it my jaw dropped: gorgeous raw pine, handcrafted into the perfect pie transportation system! I love ours, it always elicits the best oohs-and-ahhs and just gets better with use. If you love pie, well, you’re going to love Piebox.

3. Further
A chance handwashing post-pizza at Mozza left me obsessed with this soap. In fact, I got up from my table and walked back into the restroom to find out more about it. And that’s how my love affair started. But the best part is Further’s story:  made here in Los Angeles from waste grease from restaurants where it’s refined, processed, scented naturally then returned to the restrooms of restaurants from where it came. Can you believe it? But if you’re a scenthound like me it’ll be the gorgeous clean, aromatic scent of olive, bergamot and grasses that’ll hook you. I love this stuff!

4. Whitelines Note Book
As computery-and-social-media-Mac-y as I am, I am a HUGE writer. As in penmanship and paper, I am forever a copious notetaker.  I get antsy if I don’t have a way to jot down my ideas as I travel, as a way to take notes during pre-production calls, and to remind myself of the things that I tend to forget. Yes, I can remind myself electronically, but I actually love writing and I’ve got the handwriting to prove it, too! That’s where Whitelines come in, as I’m a fan of the lightly ruled paper that doesn’t distract.  And the paper itself is tinted a light grey which is easy on the eyes.

5. Travel Smart Conair Adapter
I’ve got a bag of strange adapters with missing parts, broken prongs and empty travel cases that accumulates every time I travel. Every Single Time. However, I’m pretty happy about this adapter, which came very highly recommended from a friend. All in one. Which is great since sometimes I don’t remember what I need when I travel and I no longer need to do the “what plug will I need for Asia/Australia/South America” google search.

6. Roku Streaming Projector
Oh goodness, how much do I love this gadget? Part Roku-box, part projector, it’s so small and compact, allowing me to put it into my bag and take places. Places where I want to take it out, hop onto a wifi signal, and fire up Roku and Netflix for instant movie times.  A part of me still feels it’s a novelty gadget, but I’m fine with that. It’s fun.

7. Fireside Candle from Anthropologie
I’m not much of a scented candle guy at home but there’s something about this candle from Anthropologie that’s drives me wild.  Notes of patchouli and cinnamon live slightly underneath cedar wood and smoke, and it smells like the world’s best fireplace. Plus I love the colors of the candle tin, making it a welcome addition to my office and living room.

8. K-tor Pocket Socket Hand Crank Generator
I’m going to tell you one thing about me, and it’s embarrassing: I have this unnatural fear of not being able to charge my iphone.  I have a million chargers in every bag, in every place I work, not to mention a variety of battery packs tucked along the way. I purchased the K-Tor Pocket Socket Hand Crank Generator to add to my arsenal, and then something mighty awful happened called Hurricane Sandy. So many people were without power and unable to access their technological lifeline, and it made sense to me: I live in Earthquakelandia and this device will be added to my emergency supply kit. No, I’m not a Doomsday Prepper by any means, but I did grow up in Texas with hurricanes and it’s an easy thing to miss, that power thing. This handcrank generates electricity and can power a phone, ipad, digital camera, rechargeable light, etc. (but it does take work, fair warning). It could make a useful gift.

 9.  Joos Portable Solar Charger
Ok, so see item #8. But I swear I purchased this for that camping trip I have yet to take, but no matter, I love this thing. Especially here where it’s sunny, all it takes is 1 hour of sun to charge my iphone and ipad.  It’s so easy to use, constructed well, and I can use it just about anywhere.

10. The Strongheart Fellowship Program and the Akawelle Necklace
I met one of the founders of the Strongheart Fellowship Program on a photoshoot recently and was quite captivated by their mission. They identify the most resilient, brightest young people that have been affected and displaced by the world’s conficts and brings them together in a safe place to learn, heal, nurture and excel. I was given a necklace created by Lovetta Conto of Liberia, who creates a line called Akawelle Jewelry of leaf pendants made from spent shell casings that were fired during the war. To take something from such a violent act and turn it into a thing of beauty is to be reminded that it’s “possible for new life to arise from something as terrible as war”, as Lovetta says herself.

 11. Chevron Napkins from Pine Cone Hill
I am obsessed with these napkins. Bold and graphic with a wonderful weight, they photograph beautifully but of course that’s not why I plan on giving them to friends this holiday season. They’re just bright and cheerful, and the orange rocks my socks. Thanks to Pine Cone Hill for sending me samples!

12. Fifty One And A Half Ceramics
Full Disclosure: Yes, those plates in the photo actually say “mattbites” because the wonderful Monika Dalkin made them for me. She is the mother of my bestie Gaby of WhatsGabyCooking and a very wonderful artist. Her pieces not only photograph well but make superb gifts, for the plate-lover or ceramics-collector in your life. They make me happy.

13. X-Rite Photo ColorChecker Passport
There’s this thing in digital photography called Color Temperature, which is the scale in which light is measured. It’s sometimes blueish in color, sometimes yellow, depending on the light source and environmental conditions. This tool allows photographers to set their color temperature to a neutral point by snapping a photo of it and adjusting it in camera or computer. And when you shoot with natural daylight in a variety of conditions, it’s important. In fact, I never travel without this little hard case swatch of colors. It’s a great tool (and gift!) for photographers.

 14. Anything From American Spoon
First, this catalog. OH MAN THIS CATALOG. It’s beautiful. Second, their products. Their artisanal fruit preserves, spreads and condiments from Northern Michigan are so well loved and revered that you cannot go wrong sending anything from them to your friends and family. I love them. I love Michigan.

15.  Grado Labs SR 80 Headphones
It couldn’t only be the retro minimalist styling of these headphones that grabs me, it’s their sound, too. And I was on a mission to find a pair of great-sounding headphones for under $150 (because yes, they can be expensive!). Crisp treble, deep base, light and comfortable, these work great at home or on the road as their light and easy to store. Definitely a nice treat for a music lover on your list.

16. C Salt Gourmet’s Pistachio Cherry Chocolate and Pine Nut Pistachio Brittle
This hometown product from Long Beach, California, was a revelation the first time I tried it. As far as brittles go, it’s hands down my favorite these days. You can email C Salt for special orders or find it locally in Southern California at a handful of retailers. You’ll love it, trust me.

17.  Focus On Food Photography For Bloggers
Excuse me, could you pick up that Shameless Plug I just dropped? Right there, behind you. Thanks. Now, forgive me for saying so, but there’s this book that someone just wrote about creating food photographs for blogs. And the book, while aimed at bloggers, has tons of tips and examples that not only apply to the beginners but to everyone else. And it’s cute and little and was written and photographed out of love. For you. And for anyone else that might appreciate reading about food photography. I’m pretty sure the author will thank you for buying it.

 

 

Right On Target

This past summer I photographed some delicious holiday items for Target. As in that Target. As in one of my favorite retailers. And can I tell you something? Working with them was every bit as fun and exciting as I thought it would be. Such wonderful people. The signs are up now, if you’re in your local Target you might see them. And if you see the pie shot in store, please know that I ate an entire pie all by myself.

Happy holidays!

Food Styling: Susan Sugarman Prop Styling: Kate Martindale

Roasted Acorn Squash with Ricotta & Honey

You might remember we were on a slight squash kick recently. It coincided with a visit to one of my favorite restaurants here in Long Beach, Michael’s Pizzeria. I’ve said a million times that I don’t really “do” restaurant coverage because a) it’s overdone and b) it’s not my thing. I think the irony is that I get to eat in some of the most amazing places all over the damn globe and could probably have a blog over just restaurants alone, but again, it’s best left for others. Having said that, when I do write about a restaurant it’s because I find it pretty special and/or I’ve graciously stolen a recipe to inspire me at home. This is one of those cases on both accounts.

A few things you will not engage me on unless we are best friends and in the comfort of my own home: religion, women’s reproductive rights, politics, and who makes the best pizza. I’m no dummy. Each topic is loaded with sensitivity, opinion, and weighs a million tons. I’m better off just smiling and talking about pretty plates and napkins and puppies.

When it comes to pizza, I will not argue with you about what you like or who makes the better pie. Why waste my time? I will, however, tell you that I prefer a thinner crust, only a few high quality toppings, and fired quickly at a high temperature. See? How evasive was that? Truth be told, meet my few easy requirements and chances are I’ll enjoy it. Which is why I prefer pizza napoletana. Keep your deep dish, pal.

Wait. Why on earth am I talking about pizzas and birth control when I meant to discuss acorn squash? Oh yes, Michael’s.

This little pizzeria in Long Beach makes a really delicious Neapolitan pizza just the way I like it. A very nice dough that walks the line between chewy and crunchy, a perfect tomato sauce made in-house and wonderful mozzarella on top. We visit weekly, take friends, parents, and just anyone else we can drag along. It’s casual and right up my alley. And in an effort to break my MPOP Rule (that’s Margherita Pizza Only, Please), I decided to try a few new little appetizers on the menu, one which included this baked acorn squash.

One half of an acorn squash is baked in a small cast iron skillet and then topped with honey, ricotta, and nutmeg. It’s marvelous in its sweet simplicity. I mean, it’s damn near perfect. So perfect that I had to steal it and make it at home while we’re in the middle of winter and hard squash season.  We made one with ricotta, and another with burrata. We both fell in love with the burrata version but you really can’t go wrong with either. This makes a wonderful side dish, I’d pair it with something smokey or salty as it’s definitely on the sweet side.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Ricotta (or Burrata!) and Honey adapted from Michael’s Pizzeria

2 acorn squash,  seeds removed and cut into quarters (leave the skin on!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

10 oz fresh ricotta or 8 oz burrata.
2-4 tablespoons honey
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400˚ F.

2. Cut squash in half, remove seeds, cut each piece in ½  for a total of 8 wedges.

3. Place squash on baking sheet and coat with olive oil salt and pepper.

4. Roast in oven for 45-50 minutes until soft and toasty.

5. Let cool slightly, spoon on a dollop of ricotta or chunk of buratta, drizzle with honey and grate fresh nutmeg on top. Serve immediately.

Michael’s Pizzeria is located at 5616 East 2nd Street in Long Beach, California, 90803. Their website is here.



Talkin’ Turkey!

You certainly don’t need me to tell you that the Big Food Holiday is next week. Everywhere you turn you see tips, tricks and ideas for Thanksgiving so you’ll understand me when I say that I’m going to join the chorus! No, I will not be offering a turkey tip exactly, but I want to direct you to Cooking Channel where you’ll find a variety of recipes that I think you’ll like. And why would I do this? Because I photographed these recipes for Cooking Channel a few months ago and may just end up using one of the recipes next week for the big day.

What are your plans? I’m giddy just thinking about our week: my parents fly in Monday, my sister joins us Tuesday, and we’ll all be celebrating a giant Thanksgiving meal here at our home. Adam will do the bird, I’ll be in charge of music, decor and the hosting duties, while we’ll be joined with our friends, neighbors and extended family. We will toast a guest’s birthday, share what we’re thankful for, and wish my parents a 50th wedding anniversary all at the same time! While the exact anniversary isn’t until the end of December, I’d be a fool to not take the time to wish my loving folks the best of celebrations a bit early. When you make it to 50 Years you almost deserve to have those around you toast you many times over!

After the holiday I’ll be packing a small suitcase and heading to Australia to visit Hamilton Island for a few days, stopping off in Sydney before hightailing it back home to shoot a few assignments and work on my 2nd book. It’s a crazy time for all of us, remember to take a few moments for yourself but — MOST IMPORTANTLY — give thanks and lots of love to those in your lives. Tell them what they mean to you, even if they look at you crazy and tell you to stop. Trust me on this one: we all need to know how important we are to each other, it’s what makes this crazy life worth living. So do it. For me at least. And remember this: I am thankful for you and I love you. Each of you. I do. I really do.

Maple-Roasted Turkey with Sage, Smoked Bacon, and Cornbread Stuffing

This recipe is from Tyler Florence and hits all the right spots. C’mon, maple AND bacon ON a turkey? Yes please. The recipe is here.

Bay and Lemon Brined Turkey

I get rather obsessed with a lemon+poultry combo. Then again I get rather excited about lemon+anything combo. You cannot go wrong. This recipe from Dave Lieberman can be found here.

Jamie’s Christmas Turkey

Ok, so it needn’t be December to enjoy Jamie Oliver’s Christmas turkey.  We all know Jamie knows what he’s doing. Recipe is here.

Turkey Roulade with Apple-Cider Gravy

A lighter, smaller holiday meal can come from something as simple as a turkey breast. In fact, 2 years ago we decided to forgo the entire bird and just use the breast. This recipe was delicious and you’ll find it here.

Thank you to Adam C. Pearson for the gorgeous food styling and Dani Fisher for prop styling. Dani is ammaaaaaaazing.

All images © Matt Armendariz for Cooking Channel. Thanks to my friends at Cooking Channel for letting me share!