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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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



Have you entered the Chocolate Adventure Contest yet? Hurry!

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Surely you’ve entered, right? I mean, it’s $25,000 Grand Prize for the wining recipe! And you can read all about how to enter the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker contest as well as this year’s adventure ingredients here. And this year it’s all about bars, which I’m pretty excited about. I’ll be judging the contest again this year and absolutely cannot wait! But remember,  the contest ends January 2, 2014, which is right around the corner. Since we’re all in our kitchens baking and making sweet things this is a perfect time to enter!

Visit chocolateadventurecontest.com for official rules and entry form.  See more about the contest here, too. Hurry! Enter!

 

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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Santa Barbara Wine Tasting at Foley Food & Wine Society at Bacara

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A few weeks ago I jumped in the car with my wonderful other half and our best friends Gaby and Thomas and headed to Santa Barbara for a very quick weekend getaway. Or maybe it was a day-and-a-half getaway, which at any rate is easy to do when you live in Los Angeles. We were heading to Bacara Resort & Spa to sip wine, check out the resort, and experience their new Foley Food and Wine Society Tasting Room, located on the property. I’m pretty sure heaven is this: a gorgeous resort, sunshine, a spa, and a world-class tasting room all on property. And did I mention the fantastic food, too? Yep. That’s there, too.

After arriving and toasting with a bottle of sparkling rosé, we walked around Bacara’s 77 acres, taking in classic California coastal views and snapping photos before heading to the newly opened Foley Food and Wine Society Tasting Room. A new concept in wine tasting, the space features wines from Bill Foley’s portfolio which includes Kuleto Estate, Chalk Hill Estate, Sebastiani and Lancaster Estate. It was a fantastic afternoon of great wines with great friends.

We ended our day with a fantastic dinner at Bacara’s Miro restaurant, headed by Chef Johan Denizot. I’m going to be completely honest with you here: sometimes hotel restaurants are, well, hotel restaurants. This is not one of those places. It was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve had lately, and I’ll go so far as to say the sweetbreads on the menu were the best I’ve had. It was a stellar meal from beginning to end, and I’d hop back in a second to dine there again. Everything was fantastic. This is a destination.

Now it’s photo time!

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These two: my life.  Even with Gaby’s Fashion Blogger What-I-Wore-Today pose.

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A special thanks to Bacara Resort & Spa for hosting us, and to the staff at The Foley Food & Wine Society for such superb service. Please read more about them here. Also, to Jenna Galloway at The Barn Group for being so Jennaful. We adore you.

Secret Message to Jenna: new zealand new zealand new zealand new zealand

Kale Salad with Ricotta Salata, Pine Nuts and Anchovies

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Historically, there are a few things you will never see me turn down:

1) A glass of champagne.

2) A ripe juicy heirloom tomato during summer.

3) Anchovies or Sardines, In Any Format, Any Time Of The Year, No Matter Where

About number three, yep, it’s true. My lifelong love affair with those salty, powerfully fishy flavors of the sea no doubt originated with my dad, who was happy to keep tins of sardines in the house, and when I think back we kids must’ve been a sight to see, eagerly inhaling sardines in mustard or sardines in olive oil with crackers, toast, or just by themselves. As an adult I was happy to learn that there’s actually a whole world of variety when it comes to anchovies and sardines (two completely separate fish), but it’s a group I’m quick to lump together just because, well, they belong in THAT category. To me, at least.

If they’re on a menu — FRESH — forgettuaboutit. If I’m in Spain, they will be consumed daily. If they’re layered on a pizza (we’re talking anchovies here), I’m in. And my eyes eagerly seek the fine print of menus for the “Our Caesar Is Made With Anchovies, Please Inform Your Server If”, which, of course, I never seem to finish that last sentence.  I am so down.

Then there’s the matter of a few weeks ago when the lovely Melissa Clark professed her fishlove in the NYTimes. And it was her recipe of Anchovy Toast that has been a regular dinner for me lately. Thank you, Melissa!

Anyway, stay with me here. I promise I’ll make a point.

Book-CoverWhen my friends at Food & Wine sent me a copy of Best New Chefs All-Star Cookbook I knew I’d hit the jackpot with amazing recipes. The only problem was, well, where do I start? A random flipping through the pages took me to Nancy Silverton’s Kale Salad with Ricotta Salata, Pine Nuts and Anchovies and my mind was instantly made up for me. I’ve given kale a slight ribbing lately (see my quick story about it over at Food & Wine), but this time around I was earnest, eager and ready. Why? Because of those fantastic alici,  the vinegary pickly white anchovies that rock my world a few times over. Slightly milder and fresher in flavor than the salt-packed variety, they always lend a sweet, tangy taste to dishes and salads. And this is a full-flavored salad that boldly satisfies. And because it’s Nancy. Who doesn’t love her?

Oh, and about the book? It’s a treasure. It’s filled with 25 years’ worth of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs, highlighting recipes from each year. I went for 1990, and I’m pretty sure you’ll love this and the book, too.

Kale Salad with Ricotta Salata, Pine Nuts and Anchovies

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 small shallot, minced

Finely grated zest from 1 lemon

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon Champagne or white wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, grated

Pinch of crushed red pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 ounces ricotta salata cheese, coarsely grated (3/4 cup)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch kale, preferably Tuscan (6 ounces)—stemmed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces (8 cups)

8 marinated alici (white anchovies), drained

 

1. In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring them frequently, until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the shallot, lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic and crushed red pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of the ricotta salata and season with salt and pepper.

3. In a large bowl, toss the kale with half of the vinaigrette; add more vinaigrette if desired. Transfer half of the kale to a serving platter and scatter with 2 tablespoons of the remaining ricotta salata. Top with 4 anchovies and half of the toasted pine nuts. Repeat with the remaining kale, ricotta salata, anchovies and pine nuts and serve.

Recipe kindly reprinted from the Food & Wine Best New Chefs All-Star Cookbook. Photo by Matt Armendariz for the blog.

Behind The Scenes Of A Shoot (a/k/a It Takes A Village)

If there’s one topic on this blog that generates the most interest and comments (all of which I am thankful for!) it’s behind the scenes of photo shoots and my day job. Quite often I can’t really instafacetweetpin a darn thing from photoshoots for my clients because, well, it’s their shoot and we all do our best to wait for whatever it is we are shooting to hit the streets first. I actually have several cookbooks in the queue that won’t come out until 2014, and they are some titles I am super duper thrilled about, too! But this shoot? It’s all mine.

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In an effort to add some variety to my portfolio, I self-assigned a party scene at home. The story? Some friends get together for pizza, some wine, some treats, with lots of laughing and maybe some more wine, keeping it all very So-Cal in spirit. Assigning a story for yourself, producing it and paying for it isn’t easy, but as a photographer I find it imperative to keep working and trying new things. So let me take you through the process of a photoshoot!

The Producer

On some of my larger shoots I’ve learned to appreciate the role of a producer. They are the glue that holds the entire shoot together, acting as the keeper of the job. They bring art buyers, art directors, clients, prop stylists, make-up and wardrobe stylists, set designers, caterers, models and talent, photographers, photo assistants, studio folks, digital techs and vendors together, all the while managing the shoot’s location and shot list. An important position, don’t ya think? For this job I turned to my friend and wonderful producer Ellen Herbert of Neat Productions who helped me pull it off. She is a dream, an angel. Literally.

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After an initial casting notice, we narrowed our list down to around 30 to 40 models we’d see at my studio (a huge advantage of living in LA is that there’s SO! MUCH! TALENT!) Casting is a blast, as you get to see the models in person and see how you vibe with each other. Since I was shooting this at my house, it was important that we got along. And get along we did! Such great smiles and talent.
The Stylists

Now that I had my selection of models I wanted to work this, they also needed to be styled. Since I had a very specific idea of how I wanted people to look, Ellen put me in touch with stylist Elwira Miezal. There were emails, phone calls, pre-production sessions and lots of images sent over with ideas of how I wanted the models to look. Of course, when you work with professionals you give them space to do their jobs and perform their magic, and Elwira had everyone looking amazing from head to toe. Plus she’s gorgeous and stylish, which always helps :)  My driveway became the wardrobe closet as tons of beautiful fall items appeared. Oh how I wanted to go shopping so badly!

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And how to keep the models looking gorgeous and fresh as I MADE them eat pizza and drink wine? With make-up artist Aunny De La Rosa, of course! Can I just tell you how much I love this woman? LOVE.  LOVE.

As the models arrived and got dressed, we started with food beauty shots that would eventually become food props for the models. Of course when it came time for them to eat and drink we gave everyone fresh pizzas, and I managed to sneak in a few bites as well. But it was a race against time, as I only had 2 solid good hours of sunlight to get it all done.

So how about some photos?

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Our kitchen became the prep space for the food stylists. There’s really nothing happening in this photo, but I’m running it because a) Alexis looks gorgeous and b) I know it will irritate her to include it. SCORE!

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Adam, Food Stylist Extraordinaire, became the impromptu pizzaiolo.  But I must say that ever since we installed a wood-burning pizza oven in the backyard we really are practicing our pizza chops, ya know. And you already know how crazy I am about making pizzas, right? Also, Alexis you better not be Grindring in those photos.

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We kept the styling to a minimum. After all, backyard pizza party shouldn’t be overly fussy, right? Here I am contemplating the shot while trying not to fall over.

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My assistant Crystal checks out some shots while I try to peak over. Also, when I stand on apple boxes I’m almost as tall as a normal man.

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Speaking of tall, here I am on a ladder trying to get an overhead-ish table shot. I’m also apparently really confused about something. I have no idea what it was.

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Part of the story I created involved the hosts getting things ready for the partay. Bring on the beautiful people!

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I could have photographed her smile for another 8479273898 hours if I had the time.

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I just let them do their thang while I moved around photographing them.

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Adam made more pizzas…

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…while we review the images on the computer in the midst of very dramatic smoke

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The lovely stylist between scenes

 

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Oh Lord Jesus It’s A Fire!

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Time for another set-up, you can see some of the crew behind the models. For realism I wanted everyone to stay put, after all this was a party! Except for the big computer cart, which has no place at a party.

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Even while working 10 feet in the air I still have time to Instagram. I have priorities, damnit.

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Quick touch-ups before moving to the next shot.

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Speaking of Aunny, what a smile! ALSO:  Stretch-Tite has a way of sneaking itself into photos and you cannot blur it enough! UGH THAT YELLOW!

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More models in different areas, and please, avert your eyes from that bit of sneaky flesh I’m showing if you know what’s good for you and your ocular health.

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Another shot of food for a close up.

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Because I had the models, I also wanted to get quick portraits. I love working with professionals! And there’s that magic smile again!

 

Many thanks to the crew, and big giant hugs and kisses to Ellen! Please visit their links!

Ellen Herbert of Neat Production

Elwira Meizal, Stylist

Aunny De La Rosa, Make Up Stylist

Adam C. Pearson, Food Stylist

Leslie Armendariz of Pixies Petals for the gorgeous flowers

A special thanks to Niko Misafiris for the behind-the-scenes photography!

Four Seasons Maui and an experience of a lifetime

If you know me, you know I’m not really spontaneous. Not that I don’t want to be, it’s just, err, um, sometimes responsibilities take over. Or I let them, rather. So sitting around one night and flipping through a few friends’ instagram feeds, I turned to Adam (who just happened to be scrolling insta as well) and said “Let’s go to Hawaii.”

We had just celebrated 10 years together, and all the cliches apply: where did the time go? could it really be TEN years? how does it feel like 3 months ago? I suppose those are all great signs, and while we previously celebrated the event with a fantastic evening out, we needed something else. Something warm, tropical, and far away. After a few clicks on the laptops, we threw caution to the wind and were Maui bound.

It had been about 15 years since my last visit to Maui and I was excited to experience it again. Having worked with Four Seasons in the past, it was a natural that we’d book our stay at Four Seasons Maui, and my mind is still blown by the levels of service we received while there. I realize I tend to speak in hyperbole, but this experience was one of the best of our lives.

First, let’s talk about the property, specifically the views.

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Can you believe it?

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This is the view from the serenity pool. And yes, we managed to do our fair share of lounging around here, peppered with a little swimming up to the bar along with dunking our heads underwater to hear the music. As in, yes-there-is-music-underwater. Pretty amazing. Also amazing? The Missoni-designed cabanas.

The rest of the hotel is simply stunning. Expansive open air corridors comprise the main building, with lush greenery and artwork at every step. In the center is the main pool, one of three.

But man, something about that serenity pool. And the service. It must’ve been the mists of water and cooling cucumbers that are brought to you as you recline.

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Ok, so enough relaxing already!

Four Seasons graciously offered to plan a few culinary tours for us during our stay, so we joined Executive Chef Nicholas Porreca and Crissa Hiranga, Marketing and Public Relations of Four Seasons, on a day of sightseeing and exploration. With a strong and vibrant local food scene, it was nothing short of fantastic to see first hand what’s happening on the island to promote good food.

Our first stop was Kihei Elementary School to check out the garden from Grow Some Good, a non-profit community program that creates hands-on experiences for kids by teaching them how to grow food. Of course it’s so much more than just learning how to plant a carrot, as the students learn about nutrition, cooperation, food sources, history, science and agriculture. On our morning visit, kindergarten kids were learning about watermelons and planting seeds. I can’t even tell you how adorable it was watching co-founder Kirk Surry interact with the inquisitive students in the garden.

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After the school we stopped by Surfing Goat Dairy, located on the slopes of the Haleakala Crater in lower Kula. We sampled their delicious goat cheeses (which are also served at Four Seasons), but it was the goats that stole my heart.

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Friendly, playful, sweet and loving, they are all hand-raised from birth and treated with the utmost care. I wanted to sneak one home so badly. Adam said no. So I ate more cheese.

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Next we drove further upland to Waipoli Hydroponic Farm and immediately noticed a the drastic climate difference. Cool, foggy, wet, this garden grows lettuces and greens that are pristinely perfect. What’s grown here ends up on the tables of many Maui restaurants, and I can say they’re delicious. That’s Chef Nicholas Porreca of The Four Seasons looking over lettuce that is soon to be his.

After Waipoli Hydroponic Farm we headed to Alli Kula Lavender Farm for a quick tour through the terraced garden that ended with tea and a lavender scone, naturally. The views were breathtaking, and I don’t need to tell you how wonderfully fragrant the terraced gardens were. Something else I was excited to learn was that there are dozens and dozens of varieties of lavender. I had no idea!

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Our last stop was to see David Fitch at Malama Farm on Maui’s North Shore. They are Hawaii’s first providers of 100% Berkshire Pork, also known as Kurobuta. I had heard Malama Farm was doing great things and to also be prepared to see something unlike any other pig farm I’ve seen. Let’s just say that was an understatement.

This is it.

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These pigs are born and raised here, lush pastures included. Once they’ve grazed all they can they’re moved to another area that’s had time to renew and regrow, minimizing the impact on the land.  Amazingly serene pigs in a setting full of air and light, Malawa is creating a new standard for humane livestock farming that has to be seen to be believed.

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After a day of running around and discovering so many things about Maui’s food scene, we wrapped up our stay with an amazing sunset dinner from Chef NIcholas Porreca that was tailored to some of our favorite flavors. The meal, the sunset, the service, and the 10-year celebration was perfect. PERFECT. More on that later!

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I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.

A very special thanks to my friends at Four Seasons Maui, and also to Jane Corrigan of Four Seasons Costa Rica. Also many thanks to the farmers and growers and the delightful crew at Ali‘i Kula!

Full disclosure: Ain’t nuthin’ to disclose about this post. Accommodations and airfare were paid for by author.

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.

September Food & Wine Magazine

food--wine-magazine-september-128957l3  Well whattdayaknow, there’s me in this month’s Food & Wine magazine and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be included in such great company! A huge thanks to Sara and Food & Wine for the inclusion, I now have something to send to my parents to show them I am actually home every now and again (Thanksgiving is calling you, mom & dad, please come!). Also, such giant happy thanks to Christian May for the interior design of our home( you can see his talent in the breakfast nook shot). More about our home soon, I promise! And about the backyard, just as soon as I stop making pizzas in the wood fired oven EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

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