Foodie Friday

While visiting a friend yesterday, I was given a bunch of rhubarb from his garden. It has been awhile since I got to play with food, so the idea of making Strawberry & Rhubarb Pie came to mind.

First, you need 2 pounds of ripe, juicy strawberries. And 4 pounds of rhubarb stalks. Then completely remove the stringy skin off the rhubarb.

Once the rhubarb skin is removed. Slice the stalks into even thin slices. Do the same thing for the strawberries. I like thin slices because it looks better but more importantly; the filling will cook more evenly while the sugar and spices can penetrate into the rhubarb and strawberries easily.

Gently mix the strawberry & rhubarb slices with 2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup of corn starch, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper until it’s well coated. I use a 9″ spring form pan. Although you can use regular pie pan if you like.

For the crumble: In a bowl, mix 2 cups flour with 1 cup sugar and 1/2 pound of melted butter. Stir until mixed but still crumbly. Fill pie crust lined pan with strawberry & rhubarb mixture and evenly top with crumble until the filling is covered.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Baked for about 60 minutes or until you see the thick juice, oozing and bubbling through the golden brown crumble crust.

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The pie is really good as is. Although, a scoop of vanilla ice cream would definitely elevate the pie to a delectable sinful level — that you would be happy be devour without guilt. Bon Appétit!

The Perfect Lunch

I haven’t had much time to do any kind of quality photography for fun in months. My poor Nikon has been so neglected and was collecting dust —  as with my photographic skills. Finally with the tourist season winding down a little, I had some free time from managing duties to play with the camera. I thought it would be good to shoot some items from our menu to put on Big Bear’s Facebook page. The opportunity to do some foodie shots was a welcome relief for me. While I enjoy shooting all kinds of subject, Food Photography is still my most favorite. I find food photography more challenging to shoot than other subjects. There are many components that has to be just right to get the food to look appetizing: lighting, composition, styling, and presentation to name a few.  Luckily, I have a great chef at my service — not only can she cooks well but she has a good sense of presentation in putting the dish together, which is very important in food photography. And of course, the best part about food photography is that I get to eat the subject; in this case my perfect lunch.  🙂

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Nothing like chewy, gooey, chocolate chips cookies right out of the oven. Shannon, the chef makes these from scratch daily. Being a professional baker myself, I have to admit her chocolate chips cookies are the best I ever had — yes, even better than my recipe. 😀

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Here is the grilled eggplant sandwich with freshly made potato chips. This is probably the best veggie sandwich I ever had. Shannon makes her own secret sauce that elevates your taste buds to a level of sophistication that makes you want more. And the warm potato chips is unlike anything you will find in the stores.

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While I felt a little rusty with my photographic skills, it was a fun and tasty shoot.  As they say, practice makes perfect…  stay tune for more yummy dishes from Big Bear’s menu.

The Road To Big Bear

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A couple of months ago, I had my photography cover debut for 1859 Oregon’s Magazine. I am still in awe of my good fortune every time when I look at the magazine; which I have a copy on all the tables and shelves around the house. And today, I have another debut. Today I finally opened the doors to my grand project — Big Bear Rest Stop.

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A few months ago, after my long and winding road of employment rejections; a real estate developer saw my diverse work experience as positive qualities and he decided to hire me as the general manager to turn an old chalet into a rest stop that contains a restaurant, beer and wine garden, and a gift shop. It was the perfect project tailored for me. I knew there would be many challenges ahead to turn an old, dilapidated building into the grand vision I had in my mind. But it’s exactly those kinds of challenge that drives me — the kind that brings out my passion and creativity.

After countless construction delays, dealing with vendors, health department regulations, broken kitchen equipment, sampled more hot dogs than I ever had in the last 5 years but it was all worth it. When I see what I have accomplished in such short time I feel very grateful and proud — which is not something I usually feel about myself. However, with each challenge I overcome; I am learning to not be so hard on myself when things don’t work out the way I want. That’s why I was able to remain calm when I was driving up the beautiful highway 2 to Big Bear this morning, all excited about the grand opening when I got a call from my assistant, Billie. Right away, I knew from the tone of her voice that it was bad news. She told me the walk in refrigerator failed over night and while the fan is running, the temperature in the fridge reads 60 degrees (16c) Calmly, I told Billie we are going to open today regardless. Good thing the extra refrigerator that broke the week before had been fixed. I told her to throw away all the perishable foods, move everything else into the other fridge and work with what we have left that was usable. We might not be able to serve everything on the menu but I told her we will open and we will just have to deal with whatever that comes our way. In the end, all was well and we had an amazing opening day… my road to Big Bear is complete. 😀

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(These last four photos belongs to Billie Preston)

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Emily, Shannon, Malia, April and Billie

The Cook and The Photographer

How quickly time flies when you’re having fun. I can’t believe it has been five months since I became a restaurant owner. And what a challenging five months… hopefully, things will continue to work out for the better. Needless to say, the cash flow continues to be a challenge and dealing with the government is a pain — you wouldn’t believe the amount of fees I have to pay every month just to keep the door open. It’s almost like dealing with the mafia. I have to pay up or else…  😦

Well… at least the cooking part is easy. I am having a great time doing what I love and seeing the joyful reactions of the customers when they eat my food, made all the challenges worth it. I finally got the restaurant website up. http://www.alohagrille.me . Here are photos of some of the dishes from the menu. I think being a food photographer definitely have a big influence on the way I cook — my food is very colorful and the presentation had to be picture perfect. Which sometimes can make things a little difficult for my servers — such as when I see a bean sprout sticking out of place… and I want to fix it before I let them take the plate out… but it’s all good. In the end it’s the satisfied smile and wonderful compliments from the customer that lets me know I am doing the right thing.

Hawaiian Style Plate Lunch
Slow Roasted Pulled Pork
Hawaiian Carrot Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

Cook, Shoot, and Eat

I’ve been following Karen’s blog: Back Road Journal for some time now and what a world traveling blog it is. She has taken me on some amazing European trips, entertained me with her wonderful photos, stories and sense of humor; she also introduced me to many cuisines from around the world. Not only does Karen have a great passion for food, she is also a wonderful cook. I always look forward to see what recipes she would come up with. A few days ago, Karen posted a delicious looking recipe of Spaghetti alle Vongole; meaning in Italian, Spaghetti with Clams. I love how it sounds so exotic in Italian. Even though Karen had posted many yummy looking recipes before, for some reason this particular recipe stuck in my mind. While I was at the grocery store yesterday and saw a tank full of fresh manila clams — the idea for my 250th post came to mind. I decided to recreate Karen’s recipe and do a photo shoot to tell the story of making her dish.

The recipe is very easy. It would take less than 20 minutes to make the dish. However, it took me over two hours to make and shoot it. I had to stop and style each shot just right before shooting. Good thing my subjects were very compliant. Oftentimes in food photography, the dish becomes inedible by the time the shoot is over; but in this case, I was able to eat it. I had time it so that I knew when I was done shooting, the dish would make a great lunch. And it tasted absolutely delightful.

I love manila clams. Not only are they tasty, they provided me with wonderful memories of my children. When my boys were young, we used to dig for the clams at the local beaches. Oh… the joyful smiles and squeals of my children’s happiness were priceless.

One thing I discovered while cooking the clams — the sauce is actually really good as it is. The clams were really tasty coated with it —  much better than typical restaurants — of serving it plain with a side dish of melted butter to dip in. Boring… So… if you are looking for a new and flavorful way to eat clams, cook it with the sauce and just skip the pasta.

When buying wine for cooking, don’t just buy the cheapest. Buy the wine you would want to drink and that way you can have it with your meal. But since I don’t drink wine and mainly just using it for cooking and props, I do buy the cheapest.

The dish was a success!  And of course, it passed the stringent inspection of my personal foodie consultant.

Click here for the recipe: Spaghetti alle Vongole

Thanks Karen for the recipe. And no, I didn’t use cheese. 😉

I Only Read Picture Books

I love collecting cookbooks. Over the years, I have accumulated over a few hundred cookbooks. Before I started food photography, I used to buy a cookbook based on the title and recipes. It didn’t matter if the book is all text or  illustrated with only drawings. I was more interested in the recipes than anything else. That is — until I got interested in shooting food. It was probably about a year ago, I realized being a foodie photographer have changed my cookbook buying habit.  Now, I would only buy and read picture books. The styles and techniques of the photos are more important to me than the recipes as my deciding factor to purchase a cookbook.  😀

One of my favorite places to buy books is Goodwill. They have a large selection of new and old books priced at a fraction of the original price. It’s interesting and great learning experience to see the evolution of the photographic techniques and styles of cookbooks through the years. I have learned a lot of my food photography technique and style by studying the pictures of the past and present. It’s exciting when I look at a picture and I can tell what the settings the photographer probably used to get the shot. For those of you who want to improve your food photography skills, the picture books are great for learning about lighting, aperture, composition and other technical aspects of photography.

As I sat at the table this morning having my coffee and donut while looking through the new stack of picture cookbooks I bought yesterday. Something clicked and slowly… I could sense my creativity turning back on. The beautiful food pictures motivated me to play with my breakfast. And for the next hour, I came up with these shots. I experimented with different white balance, aperture, and exposure time. For the light, I used the natural lighting from the windows. One good thing about rainy day — it makes perfect light source for food photography.

With food photography, there are many aspects of technical details to keep in mind; however from my experience, definitely composition and lighting are probably the two most important factors to get a good photo.

For me, I am most attracted to images that show the food up close. I want to be able to see the details but sometimes I don’t need to see the whole thing. Also I like using objects in the background. If it’s done correctly, the background colors created from the objects can help make the food look interesting and more appetizing. From all the newer books, I noticed shallow depth of field has become increasingly popular in food photography.

 

 

 

The Belgian Waffle Maker

A few weeks ago, I added a new kitchen gadget to my collection — the Belgian waffle maker. I usually don’t like to buy these counter top appliances because they rarely get used and usually end up being a dust collector. Well… I love this little appliance. Not only does it make yummy, fluffy waffles in minutes, it’s also very photogenic. Since the weather is rainy and cold today, I decided to do a foodie shoot. I came up with this Strawberries & Cream Waffle Shortcake recipe. Enjoy! 😀

Recipe: Strawberries and Cream Waffle Shortcake
Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients: Waffle
1 Cup Unbleached Flour
3 Teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Teaspoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Canola or Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Large Eggs
1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Buttermilk

Directions for waffles:
Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix with a hand mixer until all ingredients are well mixed. The batter will have some small lumps. Follow waffle maker cooking direction as directed by the manufacture.

Recipe: Strawberry Cream Filling

1 Cup Chopped Fresh Strawberries
1 Cup Mascapone Cheese
1 Table Spoon Honey

Combine strawberries, mascapone cheese, and honey in a medium size bowl. Mixed well.

Recipe: Strawberry Sauce

2 Cups Chopped Fresh Strawberries
1/4 Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
1 teaspoon corn starch (mix with a tablespoon water)

Combine and bring to a boil in a sauce pan. Reduce heat and cook for another 5 minutes. Add corn starch to thicken sauce. Stir for another couple of minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.

Assemble:

Fill one side of waffle with strawberry cream and top with strawberry sauce. Place another waffle on top to make a sandwich. Garnish with whipped cream and a fresh strawberry.

Foodie Friday

While I love figs and have eaten them in many ways: dried, roasted, poached, in fruit preserves, pies, and fig newton cookies. I’ve never eaten them fresh before and was curious how it taste. The other day when I saw fresh figs at the grocery store, I decided to buy the figs to satisfy my curiosity but also for their photogenic quality. It has been a while since my last foodie shoot, I thought they would make a great subject. Although I was disappointed that the fresh figs didn’t taste like what I had expect; they were very photographable and I enjoyed shooting them.

Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂

End of a Busy Week

It has been a busy but productive week. I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere with my goals: to work as a life style & food photographer. A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of doing a photo-shoot for a local chef. He will be using the photos for his website and other promotional medias. The shoot went well and the food was absolutely delicious. I’m still processing the photos and will post about it with more details next week.

After the photo shoot, as I was walking back to my car; I noticed a big patch of California poppies in front of a little cottage. It was an amazing field of orange blossoms filled with busy bees collecting pollens. Of course… I couldn’t resist shooting them. 😀

During the processing in Lightroom3, I thought I would try something different. I want it to be less photographic looking. Not sure if this works but I do like the vibrant and high contrasting colors. I like the dreamy like quality…

Have a nice weekend everyone.

When Life Gives You Lemons

It has been a while since I’ve done a food post. Well, after promising Jean Yves for months that I would bake him something. I finally got around to making these Lemon Cookies w/ Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting.

So, when life gives you lemons… don’t make lemonade — make lemon cookies. Have a great weekend everyone. 🙂