Thursday, March 24, 2011

Big Man Bakes

You know how I've been (mostly) off sugar? Not so much this week, what with the arrival of Jen's irresistable Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars and White Chocolate Biscotti. And last week... well, last week I ate a bunch (read: all) of Stew's outrageous Sunflower Butter Blondies. And a slab of chocolate cake. So, yeah... I'm cutting back on sugar.

Anyway, today someone in my office brought in two dozen mini cupcakes from Big Man Bakes.

Heavens, are they good. I only sampled one, but it was perfection -- a teeny tiny vanilla cloud. Which, as it turns out, is exactly what this girl needs at 4:45 p.m. on a Thursday.

How did I not know about Big Man Bakes until today?! I adore "Big Man" Chip Brown's story. Watch out, Laird. I've got a bit of a crush.

Birthday Sushi

When I was a small child, my family observed a Japanese style macrobiotic diet about which my mom was enthusiastic and thorough. When I suffered from colic and sleeplessness as a baby, mom took me to a macrobiotic consultant whose written analysis and recommendations I still have (but don't follow). Mom even researched, wrote and illustrated a book manuscript about seaweed. And don't get me started on her homemade pan fried onigiri -- brown rice balls flecked with sesame seeds and dipped in soy sauce. Heaven.

Though my parents became more conventional and relaxed about our diet and lifestyle as we grew older, we never abandoned our love of Japanese food. I've always been partial to oyakodon, and mom loved vegetarian sushi rolls.

So, last week, in observance of what would have been my mom's 70th birthday, we went out for sushi. We wanted to go to Takami because the restaurant is donating 100% of its profits to the Red Cross Japanese Relief Fund, but for logistical reasons we ended up at our local favorite, Sushi Sei. Their sushi chefs are all from Japan, and we were relieved to learn that their families back home are safe and accounted for.

Given the situation in Japan, and that our meal was in remembrance of my mom, it was a somber celebration of life; of picking ourselves up and moving forward, stronger from (and never forgetting) our losses. Food is life, and culture, and place, and memory, all of which we are grateful for.

The meal was also an opportunity to play with my new (to me) camera for the first time. Though the following photos are rife with problems (Frankenfood, anyone?), it's remarkable that I was able to capture images at all, given the restaurant's dim green and red lighting.

My amazing husband.
Best. Tuna Tataki. Ever.

Crispy Rice Balls with Spicy Tuna and Avocado

Grilled Salmon and Scallops with Salt and Lemon
(Ack! Too much bokeh! Take a step back, Maggie.)

We made sure to leave room for birthday cake. We headed over to Zane's, which may as well be one of those restaurants that serves food in complete darkness. As you can see, mom's birthday candle was basically the only source of light.

We made a little birthday wish for mom, then devoured the most decadent chocolate layer cake on the planet. Warmed. With chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. Mom would have approved; even in her macrobiotics days, she always appreciated a treat.

Happy birthday, mom. We love and miss you.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Photo 101 by Nicole Hill Gerulat

For the past month or so I've been quietly (and obsessively) assembling a food and documentary photography outfit. This would not have been possible without the advice and tireless patience of my photographer friends Jake and Yuki. [Thank you both for putting up with me; I am an obsessive pain in the a--.] I've also been doing a lot of reading and research on my own, not only about equipment but about photography in general.

Someday I might do a post about what's in my kit (which is made up of new and used equipment), but as I learned at the Phototasting workshop and from subsequent practice with a $180 point and shoot set to as many manual settings as possible, equipment is worthless if you don't know how to use it, or how to style and compose a shot, or have a basic understanding of exposure and lighting.

Look, I'm hardly (and will probably never be) qualified to dole out advice about photography. What I am qualified to tell you is that a) I'm excited about improving the photographs on this blog, b) Jake and Yuki are awesome, and c) should you not be so lucky to have friends like them, I highly recommend the book Photo 101 by Nicole Hill Gerulat.

A photographer, teacher, writer, blogger, culinary school grad, and former food stylist and photo editor (what am I missing... ah, yes, she has a Pilates certification too), Nicole has a gift for demystifying technical/nerd stuff and presenting it logically and beautifully. Photo 101 has helped me get a handle on some concepts with which I've been struggling; I've had a lot of "aha!" moments reading and studying it. (It's taken up residence on my nightstand and in my hand bag. I read it daily, yes I do.)

So if you're at all interested in learning what makes a photo good and how to take one, and there's not a Phototasting workshop (or Jake or Yuki) near you, you might want to pick up Photo 101. Nicole also has a lovely blog, A Little Sussy, and offers books, online courses and in-person instruction at Nicole's Classes.

As Nicole advises, happy shooting! And please come back here soon for what I hope will be greatly improved photos. (And undoubtedly some funny stories about figuring out my new-to-me kit.)

*This is not a sponsored post. I randomly stumbled upon Nicole's Classes and purchased Photo 101 myself.*