Food

Ooh La La, Pretty Pastries in Los Angeles


If you have ever been around me when I suggest places for lunch or it should come as exactly zero surprise I love my local bakery/cafe Gigis’ in Echo Park.

Gigi’s has a glorious assortment of Cuban favorites and Mexican staples (hello potato balls and cheese + guava empanadas…), a really bangin Medianoche sandwich and one of my favorite neighborhood breakfasts (beans + crema + plantains thank you very much) but on this particular day I was in search of a couple of pretty pastries for a portfolio picture (ok alliteration calm down) and knew they would deliver.

As I work on getting up to speed in the food and beverage industry one of the biggest challenges is what to photograph for my portfolio? I am not a baker. This is beyond obvious. I could over-bake air. (Meringue? Impossible! Who do you think I am? A wizard?) So I am relying on some of my favorite neighborhood spots to help a girl out in a pinch. I’m not getting anything by sharing this, just that I hope you all keep supporting your local food spots so they stick around in these messy gentrifying times. ANYWAY, so on this day Gigi’s got called into action in the studio. Here were some of the shots I came up with!

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***That bottle is a several hundred year old ceramic bottle that was literally dug up in England that I picked up on my honeymoon with the Mr who was patient enough to let me talk to a dude at a street market for entirely too long about antique bottles and historical dumping sites….***

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Things I learned

  • Meringue melts really fast and is super easy to mess up even if you are careful

  • It can be fixed in retouching which I did a lot of in these shots

  • Berries in a guava syrup look pretty erotic

  • I’m ok with that

  • Having a brush and tools are very useful for carefully moving accidental crumbs

  • The best part of shooting pastries is sharing those beautiful babies with my studio mates!

Hopefully this inspires you to all go out and grab a snack from a local spot! Until next time,

Happy snacking,

xoxo,

RP

Dried Oranges + Food Styling Adventures


 
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We are almost one month into 2019, how is your year going? Over here Los Angeles we have been seeing some uncharacteristically cold and rainy days that serve to remind everyone in Southern California that, yeah, regrettably it’s still winter (at least for a couple more weeks)! Since no one in LA likes to go outside in the rain (or mild cold) I’ve been channeling some indoor, wintery vibes for some cozy beverage shots to up my styling game.

Food styling experiment: Dried Oranges

As I explore the transition into editorial and commercial food photography I find myself experimenting with as many new aspects of the industry as I can manage. Since I am not as culinarily gifted as many of the chefs or bloggers turned photographers I’ve been mostly teaming with awesome cooks or snagging some special treats to play with that were not contaminated by my terrible cooking. The one area I usually can be counted on though is styling, but what would happen if I combined styling elements with actually TURNING ON THE OVEN? I wasn’t sure either but all I knew was I had been seeing some beautiful shots with dried orange slices and I was in the know on where to get some oranges so it was worth a try…

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The mission was simple, slice some oranges, put them on a bakers rack and toast them up low and slow over the course of a day. Since I had a full day of photos to edit and no place to go I figured it was my moment. These little guys went into the oven at 200 degrees F for their super long sauna.

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Midway through

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This was about 3 hours into the process- the orange peels were dried out and solid but the pulpy bits were still loads too sticky. Back in they went

7 hours Mark

After about 4 hours I started setting the timer for 45 min and gave these bad boys a peek to see if they had exploded or anything horrible, or if we were still smooth sailing. At about 7 hours in I decided they weren’t getting any drier and we had done the damn thing. Since it was such a low temp they were able to be handled right away and not too hot to the touch but I left them on the rack to cool down for the night before packing them away to take to the studio for the shot.

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I really love how the blood oranges dried out! I was worried they might loose some of their color but they stayed a nice shade of wine.

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After I was done oggling them the next day I loaded them up and brought them to my new studio space to debut in a warm, wintery beverage shot!

The Final Result: Mulled Wine Food and Beverage Photo with Dried Orange and Star Anise

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Ta-da! It’s a busy week for me with some exciting beauty + snack shots so that’s it for me but I hope you all enjoyed my baby steps into food styling!

Have a rad week and happy snacking!

xoxo,

RP

Vegan + GF Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies With Kiara


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This is it, the last food story of 2017!  I had no idea this year would have turned into the year of the food story but am so glad it did.  It has been a really amazing privilege to check out everyone's cool kitchens and play with their pets (and also snack I guess too).

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Last week as I geared up for Christmas I got to take a tiny break from the pressures of finding the perfect gifts, drowning in wrapping paper and thinking of the most decadent holiday snacks I would never end up making to go adventure to Pasadena to hang with Kiara. 

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Kiara Ana Perico is a musician, yoga teacher, chakra candle making extraordinaire.  She invited me to a much needed yoga class the morning of our food shoot where I arrived a little nervous, a little groggy (hi mornings are not my thing), probably parked in the wrong parking spot, but fully ready for some de-stressing exercise.  If you've followed my exercise journey you might know I have a love/hate relationship with yoga (mostly bc I never know if I'm getting in a relaxing session or a workout) but a love/love relationship with routine physical activity to maintain good mental health.  I always feel my best emotionally and mentally when I get regular exercise so I didn't need to be persuaded to check out Kiara's class.  It was an excellent journey into some tough poses but nothing felt impossible or excessive with her guidance.  Definitely check out one of her sessions if you get a chance.

I left for our food shoot feeling energized, rejuvenated and very ready for some of her famous Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies!

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As we found out the night before when I did a check in text, we both grew up in the glamorous 413 area code of Western Massachusetts.  Kiara hails from only about a 20 minute drive from where my parents still live, which is a pretty cool coincidence to find out 3,000+ miles away.  She even had a wooden bowl from the same guy who was vending at a tiny craft fair I went to, whose work I agonized over and then finally admitted would not fit in my suitcase.

Look at that attractive raw edge bowl. Such envy.

Look at that attractive raw edge bowl. Such envy.

Her choice to make Oatmeal Breakfast cookies hearkens back to those days of New England family breakfast duty, modernized for her adult life. From Kiara:

"Family traditions can take many forms.  My papa made me breakfast every day.  The meals rotated through oatmeal, french toast and scrambled eggs.  Oatmeal has been an incredible staple through my whole life.  It's warming, nutrient-dense and full of memories with my father.  Because I travel so much and even when I'm home, I'm on the move.  I wanted to develop a breakfast cookie made with the same ingredients as that favorite childhood oatmeal so I could have breakfast on the go wherever I am in the world!  These are 100% Vegan and gluten free so everyone can enjoy!"

Ushering me into the kitchen Kiara gave me one of her recent gingerbread breakfast cookies to sample (the recipe for those are on her blog linked at the end!) and got to work on measuring out everything she would need. Plopping the oats into her mixer, she chatted with me about life in this city compared to life back east, how to be healthy on the go and about redoing her kitchen.

The last of the ingredients go into the mixer and Kiara makes some special green tea for us that was indeed very special and I have entirely forgotten it's name.  Sorry tea.

With everything mixed up it's time for our oatmeal mix to get scooped out onto trays to become it's final glorious breakfast cookie form.

With our little cookie friends in the oven we hang out in the warm sunlight of the kitchen, play with Kiara's dog sitting charge, Mooch, and I get to learn about how life brought her from the east coast all the way to this house and all the cool ways she and her husband have started to modify it to really make it home.

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It's cookie time....

It's cookie time....

Finally we sit down on Kiara's brand new couch (it's awesome guys) with our mugs of fancy tea, some of her chakra candles lighting the way and these warm, perfectly crumbly oatmeal breakfast cookies.  She also brings out a jar of her homemade Meyer lemon marmalade to liberally top our bites of breakfast and little Mooch runs around trying to live up to her namesake and sneak a taste.  These cookies are incredible.  The not overtly tart marmalade plays off the hearty sweet notes in the oatmeal cookies and it feels friendly and substantial and full of good intentions.

Thanks Kiara for sharing your taste of home with me!  You can check out more of her recipes, yoga suggestions and general tips for a cool life on her blog at: kikisway.com

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Until next time, have a happy New Year and I'll catch you all in 2018.

Happy snacking,

xoxo,

RP

 

Rosemary Vegan + GF Biscuits with Rachael


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It's not often that I get the surreal and wonderful experience of photographing another photographer, but that is exactly what happened earlier this month for my latest food story with photographer turned baker extraordinaire, Rachael Lee. 

Like so many of us artists, Rachael has found it hard to stick to just one avenue of expression.  She often shoots portraits and weddings but has been exploring her passion for writing and baking recently through the release of her very first cookbook called "Flour for Thought", which is a collection of vegan and gluten free recipes and poems. 

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As I hopped over to her kitchen, she was working on the first of many batches of snacks for her book release party and I had the opportunity to see her rosemary biscuits in action and capture some snack making for a really important and momentous occasion.  If she was nervous about her book release, she never showed it for a second.  Ever the hospitable host, Rachael poured me a cup of coffee, introduced me to her tiny pup and got to work on the dough. 

One of my favorite parts of these food stories is seeing how people get started, how they arrange their ingredients and the way they use their hands.  I hear from so many people that they are nervous to be seen working a dough or mixing with their hands, as if it somehow looks unprofessional or messy.  To me, it's the sweetest moment, where one sees a person really interact with their creation and put a little bit of themselves into it.  Basked in the sunlight of her wonderfully vintage kitchen Rachael and I got to talking as the biscuits took shape.

Here's a little bit from her in her own words about the importance of these special biscuits.

"Something new woke up inside of me this year...my heart began to ache and long for things that it had previously given up on. Things like community, seasons, and being nourished. Food has a lot to do with history, legacy, and what is passed down from generation to generation. Our ingredients and recipes can be a deeply intimate record of who we loved and how we lived. That being said, my work on my poetry cookbook (Flour for Thought) led me to a newfound discovery that there has been a beautiful history of strength in the women of my family -- strength that came from pain. And while I adopted these powerful habits of independence and fearlessness, I had to become self-taught at what it means to be soft.

Living in a large city like Los Angeles doesn't always make the gentleness easy. It's massive and sprawling and makes us prone to disconnecting. In a world that has become loud and a culture with more noise than we can decipher, we have to become our own teachers, physicians, and spirit guides. It is crucial, now more than ever, that we learn to nurture ourselves and each other. It is our duty here.

These vegan rosemary buttermilk biscuits are one of my favorite ways to cut out the noise and create "home." This recipe is straight from my book and I hope it inspires you."

The biscuits get kneaded and patted out.

The new little biscuit shapes are popped onto a tray and prepped for baking.

We relax for a moment, sip some coffee and talk about the ever changing landscape of photography.  Though the world can certainly be stressful and heavy, in these brief little windows, in a bright kitchen on a lazy morning, it's so comforting to be just two women, doing what we love, sharing and hanging out.

The oven lets us know our biscuits are ready and it's time for their close up!

Seriously, look at those beauties!

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After a quick quality control taste test, it's confirmed- Rachael's rosemary gluten free vegan biscuits are a success! 

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You can find out more about Rachael on her blog at: rachaelleestroud.com or her photography at: rachaelleephoto.com where I hope you will snatch up a copy of her cookbook and poetry book for youself!

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Happy snacking everyone,

xoxo

RP