Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Food photography tips and tricks from the Fat Girl Food Squad

These days, we Instagram our lunches, snap photos of our lattes and set the stage for what we eat. But how do we do it well? Over reading week, I made my way over to Le Dolci Cupcake Shop with camera in hand for a photography crash course. The workshop was led by Brilynn Ferguson, the photographer behind the Rock Lobster Cookbook and Yuli Scheidt, Fat Girl Food Squad's resident photographer.  

Here's what I took away: 

Flashes are evil and natural light is king. If you’re shooting at a restaurant, it’s best to go during the day and jostle for a window seat. If the lighting is low, you can always use items on the table to stabilize the camera. Water glasses make great temporary tripods.

Humanize your photos by showing people in the frame. If the photo is flat, see what happens when you add your hand to the shot. If the burger is boring, take a bite out of it. The best food photos tell a story.

It’s easy to feel self-conscious staging a food shot in public. Someone in the workshop commented, “Maybe you just have to pretend what you’re doing is important.” To that Scheidt said, “No. Believe what you’re doing is important. Because it is.” Some may call it playing with food. She calls it photography.

I left the course empowered to get the shot I want. To move things around. Stand up and take an aerial view picture. Ask to sit near the window. Tell a friend to put their hand in the frame. The best food photographers do all of these things. So why shouldn’t I?

If you take photos of food, what are your tips? 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Sip on tiki and snap out of winter

I've been known to distract myself from old man winter through my cocktail column on She Does the City and lately I’ve been on a tiki kick. The tropical flavours and playful presentation instantly transports me to summer. I wanted to learn a tiki recipe from the best, so I reached out to Blair Reynolds, owner of Portland’s famous tiki bar, Hale Pele.

I visited Hale Pele last summer when I was eating and drinking my way through Portland’s eclectic food scene. The bar is a cozy hole in the wall where vintage kitsch reigns and the fantasy of a forgotten era has been brought to life. I ordered an expertly crafted cocktail presented with a dramatic flame.

The bar was covered in curiosities but my favourite detail was the light fixtures made from real blowfish from the 1950's. 

Beachcombers Punch

Blair Reynolds shared the Beachcombers Punch with me, a recipe that comes from the 1937 menu of Don's Beachcomber CafĂ©. The recipe calls for B.G. Reynolds Dons Mix, a tropical cocktail mixer containing grapefruit juice, cinnamon, and sugar. It can be ordered online or purchased at BYOB Cocktail Emporium in Toronto.

¾ oz Fresh Lime Juice
1½ oz B.G. Reynolds' Don's Mix
1½ oz Martinique Rhum
crushed ice

To make this cocktail, pour the lime juice, Don’s Mix syrup and Martinique Rhum in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake it and strain into a glass full of crushed ice. Garnish with a lime wheel, mint spring and straw.

The Beachcombers punch pair’s spicy cinnamon and tropical grapefruit with the fresh grassy flavour of Martinique Rhum. It’s perfectly balanced, complex and tastes like summer in a glass. Tiki cocktails have gotten a bad reputation for being sugary slosh but as Eric Felton wrote in the Wall StreetJournal, “The best tiki drinks are, like any good cocktail, balanced. They are also complex. Tart citrus leavens the sweetness of tropical fruits; island spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and all-spice add mystery; and rums of various weights, potencies and flavours are combined to create depth.”