Ten Things: Cusco & Urubamba / Only In South America

Highlights from our recent trip to Peru with LAN Airlines. Today is all about Cusco and Urubamba.

Urubamba, Sacred Valley Of The Incas
The largest town in the Sacred Valley Of The Incas, Urubamba is only an hour away from Cusco and makes a great stopping point in acclimating yourself to the area.  Miles and miles of scenic pastures, blue and purple mountains, and sun and fog illuminate the ancient valley, which is nothing short of breathtaking. There’s not much to do here other than marvel at the views and visit with Urubamba’s locals, and that’s fine with me. However, we were lucky enough to stay at a new property run by Peru’s small boutique hotel group Inkaterra called the Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba. Built in the style of a traditional Hacienda, the main lodge has a few rooms with larger casitas nestled at the foot of the mountains out back. Having just opened this summer, we didn’t have a chance to visit the casitas but the elegantly tranquil lobby and restaurant and bar were absolutely perfect. It was a perfect place to rest once the altitude sickness took over. And it did.

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Saksaywaman
Located on the outskirts of the city center of Cusco, this Citadel dates back to the 1100s when it was started by the Killke culture and subsequently taken over by the Inca in the 13th century. Jaw-dropping stones of ungodly weight and shape rest in delicate grooves that make up the walls of the citadel, and yet know one know exactly how the large monoliths were fit together so precisely. A quarry in the area answers the question of where the stones came from, but the rest is a mystery that will leave you scratching your head. I can’t tell you how many “aliens from outer space” jokes were made. Definitely worthy of a visit.

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Plaza De Armas
Located in the middle of heart of Cusco, the plaza is surrounded by cathedrals, historic buildings, shops and restaurants, and is a vital center of Cusco. It’s a great stroll and apparently I enjoyed it so much I forgot to take a photo of it with my camera! At least I have my iphone. Trust me, it’s gorgeous.

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Mercado Central de San Pedro
I’ve been told to expect the unexpected at Cusco’s largest market, and I wasn’t let down! This open-air market seems to go on forever, filled with produce stands, baked goods, home items, soup counters, colorful varieties of corn, all sorts of quinoa, toys, souvenirs and potatoes. Lots and lots of potatoes! You can also find a variety of other things in the streets and alleyways outside of the market, and it just seems to go on forever. Colorful and lively, it’s easy to spend a chunk of time wandering around, and stop by the juice bars at the front for a Beer Smoothie. That’s right, fruit juice and beer, called Especial Con Malta. Delicious!

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Inkaterra La Casona
Located a few blocks from the main square in Cusco, you’ll find Inkaterra La Casona, a 16th century mansion that has been restored and outfitted with 11 suites done all done in traditional Peruvian style with modern touches. Quiet and elegant, the salon, dining room and guest rooms all surround a beautiful courtyard that makes this hotel feel open yet private. Hands-down one of the best properties I haven’t ever rested my weary traveling head on, and it easily makes my top five favorite hotels in the world.

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Qorikancha (Temple of the Sun)
There are Incan temples, then there’s Temple Of The Sun, which was the richest of all temples built. Covered in gold which represented the sun, this site was eventually looted and destroyed by the invading Spaniards who then proceeded to built a church and convent on top. Some of the Incan stonework remains, but no sign of gold is to be found, unfortunately. However, looking at Incan masonry up close and touching it leaves you with a sense of awe as to how such artistic precision was even possible without modern-day tools. I was told their work at this site specifically is studied by builders and architects and I can see why. My mind was blown.

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Tea
If the altitude introduced us to the consumption of coca leaf tea, then Peruvian culture introduced us to a whole variety of other types of tea for us to enjoy. So many different types of mint, fresh chamomile, lemon verbena and other plants were steeped in warm water, sweetened and sipped while enjoying the view, and trying to replicate it at home just isn’t the same.

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Train to Machu Picchu
There are a few different ways to get to Machu Picchu, and luckily for us we took the scenic route with Perurail. With curved glass windows, Perurail affords you with a phenomenal view of the passing scenery  which includes rivers, snowcapped mountains and an on-board fashion show. That’s right, a fashion show featuring local Alpaca wool apparel modeled by the crew. You can’t miss it. There are a few other surprises too.

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Llamas
What, you didn’t think I’d visit Peru and not catch a glimpse of these beauties, did you?

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Luciana
My entire trip to Peru would have been worth it if the only photograph I took was of Luciana. While walking around the market I instantly saw her from across the aisle, and spent most of my time at her stall while she graciously sampled juices and answered questions. “I would have worn earrings today had I known you were taking my picture!” she said, but if you ask me, nothing more was needed from such a beautiful woman like her. My heart be still!

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Up next: Visiting Machu Picchu!

Ten Things: Lima, Peru / Only In South America

Highlights from our recent trip to Peru with LAN Airlines. Today is all about Lima!

Central
Central dances within the top 10 of best restaurants in the world, depending on who you ask. Chef Virgilio Martinez’ creative use of local ingredients reflects the abundance of indigenous ingredients available to Peru, while the plates conjure up ideas from the forest floor all the way up to the mountains. The clean sleek room and glass-walled kitchen make for a modern multi-course experience, with a stellar wine list that veers a bit more global than the food.

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Astrid y Gaston
When the stars align and every sense is astonished and entertained, the concept of fine dining pays off for me. This would be Astrid y Gaston, Gastón Acurio’s sprawling restaurant located within a white colonial building that fuses old charm with modern flourishes. Under the healm of Diego Muños Velasquez (a man who’s worked in some of the world’s finest kitchens), the food is inventive, unexpected, joyful, and delicious. Quite simply one of the best meals and experiences I had in Lima, hands down. I love this place.

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Mate de Coca
Known as a way to deal with altitude sickness as well as put a little zip in your step, mate de coca, or coca leaf tea, really does improve one’s condition with a pleasant, herbal-y green taste. And yes, this is the leaf of the coca plant, and yes,you can chew on it and yes, that’s what cocaine is. I mean, cocaine takes a few additional steps to make or something like that. I’m no scientist. But I do miss it. DID I MENTION IT PICKS YOU UP!?!?

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Colors and Textures   
To say I was looking forward to patterns and textures would be an understatement. With my camera in hand I tried to snap as many beautiful moments as possible. In fact, I’m pretty sure that specific Peruvian pink has left an indelible mark on the part of my brain that processes color. It’s just so gorgeous. Not to mention the walls, trees, walkways and building. Sigh. It was so beautiful.

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Day Tour with Lima Gourmet
Visiting Lima? You’ll want to call on the fine folks at Lima Gourmet to show you around. With visits to markets, coffee shops and cafes, you’ll see the city through local eyes as well as get a few cultural lessons in the process. If you’re lucky, you may even take a ceviche-making class as well as learn to make a Pisco Sour. And if you’re not good at it like me, you’ll have to make another. Oh wait, that was no good either. Can I make another one? Well shoot. One more try.

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#DrunkAtLunch

 

Pisco Sours, Chilcano, Chicha Morada
Pisco, made in Peru and Chile, is a brandy made from grapes that’s distilled into something very delicious, very unique, and very strong. Indispensable in cocktails, it can also be added to ginger ale with a dash of lime juice to make Chilcano, which might just be the most refreshing cocktail in all of Peru. And if you don’t imbibe, not to worry, you can always order Chicha Morada, a drink made from purple corn that’s been boiled with pineapple, cinnamon, cloves and sugar. It’s utterly fantastic, but you haven’t lived until you’ve had sangria made with Chicha Morada. See? Always puttin’ booze in it, I am.

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Chifa & Nikkei
With a huge influx of both Japanese and Chinese immigrants to Peru over 100 years ago, you can’t miss the the ways both cultures have been blended into Latin America in such a seamless way. Interestingly enough, both groups have retained their cultural ties to their cuisine in the form of Chifa and Nikkei. Chifa, or Peruvian-Chinese, can be found everywhere, while Nikkei, or Peruvian-Japanese, features the unique presentation and use of Japanese ingredients in its food. Sure, there are a million blends of both cuisines all over the place, sometimes skewing a little bit more Peruvian or South American at times, but it’s refreshing to see the distinction has been preserved. And as a Latino who loves all things Asian, well, I had a hard time saying goodbye to this food!

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El Pan De La Chola
Give me a great bakery any day and I’m a happy man. Now give me that same bakery with beautiful design with hipness to spare and I might just never leave. I mean, if you serve fantastic bread and breakfasts that consist of avocado toast or roasted tomatoes with burrata and bread, I mean really. REALLY. Sigh. What a fantastic place from owner and baker Jonathan Day.

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La Mar
This restaurant from Gastón Acurio is an homage to the cevicherias of Lima, the places that serve the freshest fish in a no-frills setting for lunch. And you simply cannot visit Lima without enjoying the national dish, ceviche. It was an eye-opening experience for me, and certainly not the ceviche I eat in California. Peruvian ceviche is a God among dishes, it’s magic lives in the freshness of its fish and the simplicity of its ingredients: fish, lime juice, onion, some peppers, some corn. It’s mind-blowingly perfect, with La Mar featuring a variety of different types of seafood in Ceviche-style preparations. A killer cocktail list, too. Another one not to miss in Lima!

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The Markets! The Seafood!
I saved this for last when it could have easily been items 1 through 100 on a list. You see, Lima markets defy explanation when it comes to freshness, taste, and color. What appears as a basic avocado is anything but, and the same can be said for the peppers, the melons, the cherimoya, the passion fruit, I could go on. It almost feels like some strange daydream, where one bite tastes better than you thought it would, but hey, it’s a dream, right?. But in Lima, it’s not.

There’s an expanded flavor to these things, a subtlety I’ve never experienced before in items I thought I knew. An avocado tastes more like an avocado, a cherimoya is creamier, a pepper is sweeter, I could go on and on. And what about those potatoes? With over 3,000 varieties grown in Peru, you can see how they know what they’re doing when it comes to fruits and vegetables. THREE THOUSAND!

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And that brings us to the seafood markets, which were the most sparkling I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world (and I’ve been to dozens on almost every continent!). The tale that was told to us is that the locals do not eat seafood for dinner, with the reason being that anything past noon is too late when it comes to freshness. Talk about being adamant about their seafood!

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As a seafood lover this made me happy, and I’m already looking at my calendar trying to get back to Lima just for this alone.

Central Restaurant
Astrid y Gaston
Lima Gourmet
El Pan De Chola
La Mar

Up next: Visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu

The Magical Land of Peru with LAN Airlines / Only In South America

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Verdant hills as colorful as the textiles.  Miles and miles of coastline. Altitude that stops you dead in your tracks. Ceviche and pisco. And even more pisco. Of course I can only be talking about the magical land of Peru, which I was fortunate enough to visit last month with my partners-in-crime, Adam and Gaby. We were in South America once again with LAN Airlines on a mission to discover and explore the gastronomic capital of Lima before heading to Cusco and Machu Picchu, all the while taking in the sights, sounds, and tastes of everything we could. I feel like we only scratched the tip of the surface during this Only In South America experience!

Our trip began in Los Angeles with a direct flight to Lima in LAN’s Premium Business Class. LAN was everything I wanted it to be. Spacious cabins, courteous service, with a robust in-flight entertainment service that made the trip a breeze. And yes, there were mandatory bubbles enjoyed before take-off. Have you met me?

Waiting at LAX; on the flight to Lima. Always sippin'.

Waiting at LAX; on the flight to Lima. Always sippin’.

We arrived in Lima just in time for a quick night’s sleep before beginning our Only In South America adventures. Check back tomorrow for our highlights from Lima, Peru!
Thank you to LAN Airlines and all our wonderful hosts. My bag is still packed and I cannot wait to return.

Devour! Food Film Fest in Wolfville, Nova Scotia

devour-logo-550Brrr! And hello! We just returned from our second trip to Canada in a month, this time to the lovely East Coast to attend the Devour! The Food Film Fest in Wolfville, NS. We spoke about food photography and styling, watched a few movies, ate well, played in the snow, and met such lovely people all around.  It was our second visit to the area, and this trip allowed us to spend more time in lovely Wolfville than before. Also: NICEST PEOPLE EVER. But I suppose you could say that about Canadians in general right?

Before I jump into photos, I want to encourage everyone to seek out the film “Famous Nathan” by Lloyd Handwerker. It is the story of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, a NY institution for almost 100 years. Lloyd is the grandson of the founder Nathan Handwerker, and getting to know him made this piece of history all that much deeper. Whatever you do, please please please make sure and see this film! I can’t say enough about it. It’s culinary history, a family tale, the dream of immigrants, and a true American story all rolled into one. I actually consider it an honor to have seen it. You should too.

I also encourage everyone to attend the next Devour! Food Film Fest. This year’s keynote was Anthony Bordain, and I really don’t know how they’re gonna outdo themselves next year. But it’ll happen. I know it. Bonus points for me-n-Adam for being inducted into the Nova Scotia Order of Good Cheer along with Mr. Bordain! Now that’s not something that happens every day!

Photos, anyone?

(sidenote: as a personal challenge I left all cameras at home, determined to only use my phone. All images iphone 6.)

 

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The first thing I had to do was run outside and snap some shots of the beautiful fall scenes. And I’m glad I did because the next day…

 

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It was the first snow of the season, and all I wanted to do is play.

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Pre-snow and so much to see.

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Train tracks and branches with character!

 

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I’ll probably spend the rest of my life wondering why Americans don’t eat Ketchup Chips. WHY WHY WHY?!??!?! And now there’s this to contend with: Srirachup. Forward my mail and send me my puppies, I wanted to stay.

 

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Two words: Donair Pizza. I really can’t explain, you just need to visit Nova Scotia and try it.

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We fell in love with the sweetest little bakery called Slow Dough. Also: BUTTER TARTS.  Oh good lord yes. So Canadian, so perfect.

 

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Founded in 1606 (!), The Order Of The Good Time a/k/a Order Of Good Cheer is North America’s oldest culinary group and it was a delight to be inducted along with Adam and many other speakers and attendees. I like to tell myself the paps were there solely for me, but no, Mr. Bordain was standing next to us as he was inducted as well. Sidenote: I’ve always said I’m a good time, now I can officially prove it.

 

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Mr. Bordain signs autographs, Adam samples food.  This photo cracks me up on so many levels. Photo from Devour facebook page.

 

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There was a food truck crawl one evening and even through I was freezing my lil brown butt off it was magical to be a part of it. Thank you, Simon and Llloyd and Leslie!

 

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We spoke Friday morning and it was a blast! A wonderful group, so engaged and lovely. If reincarnation exists I want to come back as a Canadian.

 

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As a native Southern Californian, Adam is legally required to do this.

 

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The lovely Blomidon Inn covered in snow. Can you believe that? A 19th century captain’s mansion can be no sweeter than this. Such fun to stay here.

 

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Behind the mansion is a tiny trail, and I stumbled upon this view. IT WAS LIKE WALKING INSIDE A POSTCARD! Geez! So lovely.

 

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On the drive back to Halifax I took a shot from the car. So beautiful.

 

Giant hugs and thanks to Lloyd and Leslie, everyone who attended our talk and to Simon, Lia and Michael for a fantastic event! We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to be a part of it!

 

Visiting Belém, Brazil #OnlyInSouthAmerica

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How I love discovering and visiting new places, especially when it involves South America, a region of the world filled with culture, beauty, vast natural interests and a blend of languages and cultures.

This recent excursion would send us to Belém, Brazil for several days of eating and exploring around the entrance to the Amazon. My South American experiences have always centered around Argentina and Uruguay, so checking out Brazil had me exhilarated and giddy, not to mention that I’d be traveling with Aida and Gaby, two of my closest friends.

As guests of TAM Airlines, I was excited to learn more about their destinations, check out their fleet, and experience their business class cabin. But first, I must thank Blacklane Limousine for getting me to LAX in style, and with their app it made booking so effortless. Thanks, guys!

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Belém is the largest city in the state of Pará, located in the north of Brazil. It’s referred to as sitting at the entry gate to the Amazon River. Speaking with tour guides and locals, it became clear that we weren’t near Amazon territory — we were actually in Amazon Territory, a fact that many visitors to the area often ask about. But I could see how you’d reach that conclusion as it’s easy to overlook thanks to Belém’s sprawling urban center and population. However, just a quick drive out of the city quickly puts you amidst fields of low-lying trees that slowly become the jungle before you even notice.  And just like that you are in the Amazon, left with the feeling that you are far away from anything.

Contrasting the city-meets-jungle experience can be a wee bit hard for this photographer to grasp. One second you’re among skyscrapers, the next minute you are in a forest so dense, so thick that is seems downright impenetrable. To truly experience it, we boarded a ferry for a 3-hour ride to the large island of Marajo, known as Ilha De Marajo. Rustic and rich of texture in a way that only sun, sea and river air can affect, it felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere. One noticeable fact about Marajo: BUFFALO! They wander freely and also do double duty as transportation. They also supply milk for the local regional cheese called Marajoara. Lean and tangy, it so closely resembles a fresh cheese made from cow’s milk than what you might be inclined to think. It’s definitely Latin and Central American in taste and freshness, something I certainly love. Having visited water buffalo in Italy, these Brazilian cousins have a docility and ease I have never experienced. Approachable, friendly, and with distinct personalities,  you still have to be careful when approaching, especially anything with horns this big!

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We even took a ride! I chose the buffalo who was doing his own thing prior to saddling up, a mistake I later learned as he was more interested in exploring the thick brush for snacks than follow the rest of our group to the destination.

A quick riverboat tour allowed for some miraculous selfies on our way to lunch and to visit a local chocolate maker. This house business did it all: they grew the cocoa plant, nurtured it, harvested it, ground it and processed it, delivering a hunk of raw chocolate to chefs and restaurants in the area. All done by hand without the trappings of modern equipment, I imagined I was going to back in time and visiting my ancestors as they made chocolate.

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No, it's not easy grinding cocoa.

No, it’s not easy grinding cocoa.

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Back in Belém, our tour was organized by Paratur, the government-run tourism office for the state of Para. I was looking forward to trying local dishes and various offerings at Ver-o-peso, the largest outdoor market in the region. As much as I love to travel, I have to say that Amazonian ingredients and flavors did make me feel like I was visiting another planet: new, unique, and different to me. In fact, we all struggled a bit with how to share the flavors of Belém with you via a blog post as many things are unique to the area and grown nowhere else. Chalk this one up as a win for true locality and anti-globalization!

Let’s look at some photos!

 

Thanks to  TAM Airlines and Paratur for the adventure that can be found #onlyinsouthamerica

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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!

Travel camera gear and what’s in my bag!

Confession: I love when someone asks me what camera gear I travel with. It gives me a chance to geek out and talk cameras, which I can literally do for hours. Hours. It also allows me the opportunity to ask what others carry around and compare notes. I mentioned I could go on for hours, right?

As I was packing this morning for an upcoming trip to South America I thought why not snap a photo and talk about what I’m taking with me? I’ve long been mesmerized with magazine features of what photographers and avid travelers carry in their bags as well as sites like Shotkit. So here’s what I’m taking!

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Cameras
For this trip I’ll be shooting primarily with a Canon 5D Mark III and Mark II. I’ve put these cameras thru the wringer, and they never let me down! I’d love to take my studio set up and shoot medium format with my Phase One 645 IQ180 on this assignment, but because I’ll be in some pretty remote areas and constantly on the go I’ll use something a bit lighter.

Lenses
I’ll be using a Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L, and a Canon 50mm f/1.2L. I should be able to cover just about everything with these lenses, from detailed food shots to interiors and landscapes. And on-location portraits made with the 50mm? Oh so beautiful.

Light
I’ll be bringing my Canon 580 EXII Speedflash for any moments where I need to fill in some light. I don’t use flash much but it’s great to have on hand. And so that I may use it off of my camera, I’ll be bringing a pair of Pocket Wizard Plus III which will allow me to fire the flash from across a room or from behind the subject if I’m facing them. Basically wherever.

Power
Lots of extra Canon batteries, an international adapter, and a travel power strip. I always carry a power strip when traveling as so many hotels (and airports) don’t have enough. It always comes in handy. I also never leave home without my duo of Ankor Astro E4 batteries. These suckers will charge an iphone and/or ipad 5 to 6 times on one charge, and having 2 just means I won’t be caught without power.

Memory Cards, Cables, Back Up, Card Reader, Light Meter
All my camera’s memory cards go into my Think Tank wallet, and I carry two 500-gig Seagate USB portable drives as well.  Provided I have enough of a robust wifi signal, I also upload to DF Studio for extra safety. I also use a Lexar Compact Flash reader… it’s fast! Oh, and that orange cable from Tether Tools allows me to download images from my camera to my laptop or shoot tethered. I always carry it with me! And I’ll be taking my Sekonic L-358 Light Meter so that I can get accurate and proper exposures as well as balancing flash with available light.

Extra Cameras
For those moments where lugging around a big dSLR might not be ideal, I’ll shoot with the Sigma dp2 Quattro. Its unusual design is a joy to handle, and the Foveon sense always gives me fantastic images! This camera is on loan from my friends at Sigma, I promise to keep it safe!

Because there will be live updates of my trip and lots of hashtagging happening, I’ll be shooting with an iphone 5S and 6 plus. I purchased additional lenses from Phocus (it’s that camera-looking iphone case next to the phone) that will allow me to get some telephoto and macro action while out and about. And let me say this: those lenses make for some beautiful images! Go iPhone! Go Phocus!

Oh, and I’ll be using VSCO Cam and Snapseed to edit on my phone and a small remote to trigger the shutter for those very important selfies with my travel mates :)

Color Card
Color is always so important to me, so I’ll be using a very small little portable grey/color card that I can keep in my pocket for proper color balancing. I’ll be shooting lots of food, tropical fruits and vegetables, beaches and foliage so this will definitely help me get accurate color.

Bags
All of this stuff goes into my Think Tank Airport International V 2.0 bag. It’s durable, compact, gives my arms a break, and allows me to slip in my laptop, as well. I love this bag! And those red things in the upper right? Those are Think Tanks’ Red Whips, which make cable management (and life in general!) so much more organized! Everyone around me LAUGHS AT ME because I carry them around EVERYWHERE! But I can’t help it. They are fantastic!

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At the end of every day I download images to my Macbook Pro and do basic edits in Capture One. I also carry a Moleskine notebook and tons of Pilot G-Tec C4 pens in 0.4. Ok, am I obsessed and a bit picky about writing instruments? You bet! Oh, and all the little cables for everything go in their own bag so I didn’t show you, thankyouverymuch.

Also Not Shown…
You should really have insurance for your gear and any necessary carnets. I cannot stress this enough! Insurance, people!

Note: I’d love to ask you what you carry with you as you travel, but I’m currently having issues with comments as I move to a new set-up here. As always, you can reach me via twitter any time if you have questions or just wanna chat!

Workshops at Gulf Photo Plus 2014 in Dubai!

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My feeble attempts at putting words together will not convey the excitement bursting from inside me regarding this announcement. I am joining several world-class photographers and instructors this year at one of the most preeminent photography festivals ever offered. And folks, this makes me giddy!

Next month I’ll be leading a few food photography related workshops and talks at Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai, and my activities also happen to coincide with the Dubai Food Festival. I’m doubly excited about this!

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On March 7th, I’ll be speaking about creating delicious images with your smartphone. This is going to be so much fun for me as I’m never without my iphone, and working within the limitations of this technology can actually extremely liberating.

On March 7th, I’ll be takin’ it back to my roots and discussing writing, food photography, and blogging in this talk titled “All About You: Great Writing and Food Photography For Bloggers”.

On March 9th and 10th, I’ll be leading an in-depth, 2 day food photography workshop that is limited to 12 participants only. This is going to be intense, packed with hands-on activity and information and we are gonna work. I mean that! The level of festival attendees blows my mind and I know I’ll get as much out of it as I put in.

Also — and I’m not gonna lie — I’m a bit starstruck when I check out the list of photographers teaching workshops at GPP 2014. Zack Arias, Gregory Heisler, David Hobby, Joe McNally, Steve Simon, just to name a few. I’m thrilled to meet everyone!

Visit Gulf Photo Plus’ Festival 2014 page for all the details and if you are planning on attending any of my workshops please do let me know! I can’t wait to meet you!

And check out Dubai Food Festival, too!

GPP2014 Dubai | A Week To Remember! from gulf photo plus on Vimeo.

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