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Looks good enough to eat, right?

22 Apr

By Angela James

For notable restaurants like Birk’s in Santa Clara that focus on an exceptional culinary experience, highlighting food through photography is a must. I had the distinct pleasure of attending Birk’s Spring seasonal menu change photo shoot session recently. I should mention that I started out my career as a photographer and spent many hours in the Test Kitchen at Sunset Magazine striving to make a dish look as great as it tastes, so this was a particularly special treat for me.

Shooting food, like shooting anything else, can be rewarding when it goes well and frustrating as hell when it doesn’t. Taking a methodical approach, however, can yield excellent results. When you get right down to it, it follows the same concepts that apply to photographing people. Paying attention to lighting, background, camera angles, composition, exposure, and “wardrobe” can produce great portraits, but it can also produce mouth-watering results when carefully applied to food.

Oliver Danby from Pixel West Media and Alyssa Williamson from Design Flair Studio, both from Pleasanton, CA devised an efficient system for handling the non-stop procession of food and drink. It allowed them to position,  light, and capture about 20 dishes and cocktails reflecting a vast array of colors. It was a well-orchestrated production as Maurice Dissels, Birk’s Executive Chef and his restaurant staff  plated each of the new menu offerings, and the food came straight from the kitchen, camera-ready.

It was pure joy for me to watch the shoot in action. I was taught early on that “A successful image is when the customer sees your photo and says ‘I’ve got to have that right now.’” I sure can’t deny that the plated subjects and leftovers made me and the whole crew very happy!  The finished images will be published on Birk’s website soon and making their debut on their Social Media channels this week. We will let you be the judge, but from where I was standing, I think we met our objectives!

 

Chocolate-Covered Salted Crickets and Spicy Superworms, Oh My!

25 Feb

By Jackie Flaten

We had a great time exploring the businesses under incubation by the non-profit La Cocina at this year’s Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.

donbugiSuzanne (pictured) gave us an enthusiastic rundown of Don Bugito, a Pre-Hispanic Snackeria. Don Bugito has two new exciting products — Chocolate-Covered Salted Crickets and Spicy Superworms.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to chomp a grasshopper or the like, but I would have and definitely will when the next opportunity arises. You can get these tasty healthy treats at the La Cocina kiosk at the San Francisco Ferry Building; also check out: Don Bugito.

Learn more about the fine work La Cocina SF is doing to help fledgling food entrepreneurs, here: La Cocina SF.

The fascinating premise and mission of Don Bugito (from their website):

“Don Bugito, based in San Francisco and born at La Cocina, is a food company that offers tasty edible insects prepared as gourmet foods and treats. Monica Martinez was inspired by pre-hispanic and contemporary Mexican cuisine, specifically by the ‘bugs’ she snacked on as a child. This cuisine has been consumed by people in Mexico and within cultures throughout the world for thousands of years. Don Bugito is thrilled to be able to share new versions of these classic foods with an American audience as well as support a healthier world by providing a sustainable, ecological food.”

Elegant Brie wins Sofi Gold!!

1 Aug

Congratulations to Elegant Brie who has just won its first gold Sofi Award for their decadent Mushroom, Garlic, and Scallion baked brie! Media Owls first discovered Elegant Brie last year at Los Gatos Farmer’s Market one lazy Sunday morning.  I was in search of a special treat to bring to a housewarming open house. I, of course, had waited until the last minute to put together something special for a good friend’s party and needed it to appear that I had actually planned ahead and put lots of thought into it! Elegant Brie to the rescue.

I brought home a beautiful brie en croute (the brie’s rind is removed) loaded with sautéed mushrooms, garlic and scallions. I should have taken a picture when I placed it on the guest table. By the time I thought to get my camera, the guests had torn into it like hungry savages.  I should get some credit for saving my friends the embarrassment of photographing them scraping for the last, tasty remnants.

The creamy brie and delicious filling are wrapped in a flaky puffed pastry decorated with an elegant leaf design. It was not until it was all gone and I was asked repeatedly how it was made that I finally fessed up and said I hadn’t actually whipped it up myself and directed my pals to Elegant Brie’s website and the local grocer’s frozen section so they could get their own impressive brie en croute ready to bake at home. Here is a shot of Leslie (The Big Cheese) and Linda (Chief Cheese Officer) and what looks to be a trusted assistant, of Elegant Brie at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. They received the coveted Gold Sofi Award of excellence in the Frozen Savory Category at a red-carpet ceremony at the Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC. We wish you all continued success!!  http://www.elegantbrie.com #elegantbrie #brie #fancyfoodshow #sofiaward #sofi #FFS #mediaowls #appetizer #mushrooms #savorcalifornia

Elegant Brie booth at SF Fancy Food Show 2014. Crew includes of Leslie (The Big Cheese) and Linda (Chief Cheese Officer).

Elegant Brie booth at SF Fancy Food Show 2014. Crew includes Leslie (The Big Cheese) and Linda (Chief Cheese Officer).

Killer Trombones, A Transcendent Ukulele, and Tasty Drunken Nuts – Dispatch from 2010 Monterey Jazz Festival

20 Sep

By Jackie Flaten

 Silver Moon Desserts was selling their award-winning liquer-infused ice cream and sorbets at the 53rd Annual Monterey Jazz Festival, and so we offered to help out. And perhaps catch a few tunes.

Silver Moon CEO Sheri Tate and her right-hand woman Aliye Melton created a variety of gourmet sundaes especially for the event.

The Drunken Nut — Silver Moon’s Bourbon Vanilla ice cream liberally adorned with stout caramel and Bourbon pecan sauces, pralines, peanuts and whipped cream — proved to be quite popular. (People clearly enjoyed saying, “I’ll have two Drunken Nuts, please.”)

Never really considered myself a big jazz aficionado but thought it would be a hoot to scoop ice cream  and soak up the plentiful cool-cat vibes. Sundae-making actually turned out to be rewarding, especially when I was forced to eat a spoonful of hot fudge every so often. For quality control purposes, of course. When Sheri wasn’t looking.

It was also a genuine thrill to see the reactions of people who were getting their first taste of the Silver Moon Desserts phenomenon. Lots of “Wows!” and “Amazing!” and “Oooh, that’s GOOD.” And you could tell people meant it by their body language and big eyes; they weren’t just being polite.

But truly wonderful was the experience of being exposed to incredible artists who blew me squarely into diehard jazz fandom. Even in the food pavilion, we could hear – feel – the riveting magic of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his band Orleans Avenue.

Uncontrollable bootie-shaking and air-tromboning antics ensued in our little booth as Shorty’s fiery horn action mercilessly propelled us about. Mac McDonald at the Monterey County Herald review says it all:

“…From the opening blast of his trombone, the youngster from the Big Easy had the audience by the scruff of the neck and shook it for all it was worth. Andrews was on both trombone and trumpet and backed by a smoking-hot band. The rising star had a usually laid-back arena crowd on its feet, clapping, dancing and responding to his frequent call-and-response rejoinders.” More here.

And then there was Jake Shimabukuro and his transcendent Ukulele. I love music across the spectrum –rock, alt, folk, country-fried, Swedish techno-goth, yet never had really considered delving into the ukulele oeuvre.

By pure wonderful chance and having no idea what was on tap, we got a seat just as the Hawaiian legend took the stage. Jake introduced himself, talked a little about how he got his first ukulele when he was four years old, and his different influences. Then he began to play.

His music: beautiful, evocative, humorous, complex, intense and deeply moving. (Again, there are others who can recap it better than I – check out Blog Monterey for more.) Suffice to say we were stunned by this young man and his talent. The appreciative crowd of at least 500 was transfixed and utterly still as he played.

The first song hooked us, the second, “Blue Roses Falling” blurred my vision and then he completely sent me into quiet hysterics with renditions of the Beatles’ “In My Life” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” We could almost hear the late great Freddy Mercury in the uke’s expressive voice.

To frost the cake, he came back to encore with a ukulele-shreddin’ version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

And then, the huge crowd stumbled blissfully away into the night. – jdf

Above: Jake soaks up the crowd’s adulation after his wondrous encore rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

Vintage Internet Ads

2 Sep

(August 26, 2010 from http://www.designmom.com)
I saw these posters on Unplggd and they are fabulous. They were designed by a Sao Paulo ad agency called Moma. Someday it will be fun to be grandmas and grandpas and see vintage ads for things like the iPhone and feel nostalgic?

Ahoy from The Bay Lady: Notes From Our Silver Moon Sailing Adventure

23 Aug

By Jackie Flaten

Ahh, what a beautiful day for a sail on the shimmery San Francisco Bay, courtesy of our favorite liqueur-infused artisan ice cream and sorbet creator, Silver Moon Desserts. This past Sunday, Aug. 22, Silver Moon’s CEO Sheri Tate chartered The Bay Lady, the largest U.S. Coast Guard-certified schooner in Northern California, to host a party of SMD fans, associates and well-wishers.

We met under a perfectly cloudless azure sky at Rendezvous Charters, where the kindly Captain Steve and his crew welcomed us aboard, listed the maritime rules and then proceeded to guide our ship across (mostly) smooth waters.

Heading out from Pier 40 we passed under the Bay Bridge, sailed past Alcatraz Island and almost to Angel Island, the whole time enjoying gorgeous panoramic views of San Francisco’s skyline, the Golden Gate, and the East Bay hills.

We could also see, from a distance, the $300 million Russian Mega Yacht that recently floated to California and is owned by super-rich Russian guy 38-year-old Andrey Melnichenko (energy, fertilizer and banking concerns).

Anchored in Sausalito’s waters, Motor Yacht A looked spectacularly giant even from afar – it has a funny platypus-like front end and has been described as looking like a “submarine on steroids.”

The SMD party tossed around some ideas for getting the gazillionaire Mr. Melnichenko’s attention. A wet-suited Sheri Tate swimming up to the ship bearing a lovely pint of Pomegranate Martini, or perhaps a vigorous lobbing of said pint toward the leviathon? Alas, we never did have the opportunity to share Silver Moon treats with, nor offer an exclusive investment opportunity to the extravagant Muscovite yachtsman.


 

Youngest passenger, eight-year-old owlet MJ, was invited to helm The Bay Lady for awhile. She was, of course, thrilled, and under Captain Steve’s expert guidance even brought the sailboard “about” (I understand that term to mean “turn around”) and back to Pier 40. What a fantastic way to spend a sunny San Francisco afternoon! -jdf

Simply sweetly herbalicious

15 Aug

By Jackie Flaten

 

Inspired by the EatAtBurp site (great find, by the way!), I am compelled to experiment with simple syrups infused with herbs. The garden is gloriously overgrown and the herbs are in danger of going to seed. Trying to find creative new uses for basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, lemon balm and, my favorite, lemon verbena.

The basil is definitely being appreciated. We’ve been eating our favorite summer salad often practically ’round the clock – California Caprese — with the California being an ample layer of avocados. Also made Francis Lam’s amazing weapons-grade ratatouille and used plenty of thyme and basil. A blackberry sorbet with a basil-infused simple syrup — OH MY… Delicious.

The latest successful concoction was an amazing Lemon Verbena Simple Syrup. My dear neighbors have a gigantic lemon verbena shrub they regularly try to subdue with all manner of pruning and hacking, but that baby just keeps coming back stronger than ever. Thankfully. My many attempts at growing one of these shrubs have been abject failures.

So I’m always looking for ways to use this heavenly scented herb. The first time I smelled it, I almost swooned. I love lemon, lemon balm… But the Lemon Verbena struck me (and still does after constant almost-demented sniffing of the crushed leaves) as lemony-cotton candy-something-magical.

I keep leaves in a jug of water to inspire more H20 imbibing, and I’ve tucked a few leaves in a little covered jar of sugar for sprinkling here and there.

Next plan a savory sweet syrup for meat glaze… perhaps rosemary and sage? In any case, an herbal syrup is summer in a bottle. The Burp link tells you how to make it and I’m doing the 2:1 ratio so it keeps longer.

http://burprecipes.blogspot.com/2010/06/herb-infused-simple-syrup.html Continue reading

Silver Moon, California Country: Here’s to Spirited Partnerships!

12 Aug

Silver Moon Desserts, the San Francisco Bay Area’s hottest new ice cream and sorbet (liqueur-infused, intensely flavored with all natural ingredients and Real California Milk), was featured on California Country! Check it out, click on “Over the Moon” link below:

Over the moon for new ice cream.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

30 Apr

By Jackie Flaten

Growing up in the 1970s in a traditional small town I heard, over the howling North Dakota wind, the tantalizing phrase “Women’s Lib.” You don’t hear this anymore because the terminology is considered old-fashioned, embarrassing even. Probably because the words were usually spoken in a tone of disparagement with lots of eye rolling involved.

But, back then, I GOT it. It meant simply enough that girls can be whatever they want. It was now against the law to say: “That’s a boy’s job, you can’t do that!” (That was my admittedly limited understanding of jurisprudence at the time.)

In the intervening decades, girls have grown up with the understanding that the world is their oyster and they can pursue any career that interests them. Women are now represented in professions across the board, but there is still a serious lag in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.


Although it’s been proven time and again that there are absolutely no gender differences in math and science abilities, somewhere in middle school girls began to lose interest or have doubts. To be competitive, innovative and creative in the sciences, the United States needs bright young people of both sexes contributing their brainpower to the world’s many vexing problems.


We are incredibly fortunate here in the Bay Area to have the Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) Network programs that encourage young women to pursue STEM careers. Founded by San Francisco Bay Area women scientists in 1974, the EYH Network coordinates more than 86 hands-on math and science conferences in 33 states, as well as Thailand, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Brussels and Geneva each year.


Nearly 800,000 young women have participated in EYH conferences since its origins, and many participants are now professional women scientists working in chemical and civil engineering at places like the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,  Network Appliances and Elan Pharmaceuticals.


Next week the National Science Board will present the Expanding Your Horizon Network with its highly prestigious 2010 Public Service Award as an organization that has made significant contributions and impact in public understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The award ceremony will take place at the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C. on May 4, 2010.


Congratulations to the EYH Network, all of the amazing, inspiring role models who are sharing their time and expertise, and the young women, tomorrow’s leaders, who are participating in the EYH Network conferences. Actions speak louder than words. Learn more about this influential organization here:  http://www.expandingyourhorizons.org/


Winter Fancy Food Show: Tales from the Cornucopia

18 Jan

By Jackie Flaten

Resting my tootsies as well as my alimentary system after spending Sunday meandering through the almost never-ending aisles of the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. This is the premier national food and beverage showcase sponsored by the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade Association, a twice yearly event held here and in New York City (summertime) that has more than 1,500 vendors showing off their wares.

Last year was my first experience with this cornucopia of gustatory pleasure. I swore I’d be targeted and sensible this time around. I’d exhibit some restraint in the face of kindly people relentless in their sample pushing. Decided NOT to start exploring in the cheese and chocolate section as Angela and I did last year.

Somehow, though, upon entering the Moscone South Hall, I found myself instantly in that very section, surrounded by alluring piles of cubed, sliced, crumbled and chunked bleus, fetas, cheddars, chevre and more. The owners and creators themselves are more likely than not to be the person behind the table explaining their product, which makes for a lot of fun and interesting conversations. People are passionate about their products and know their stuff. Thought this cheese tower in the shape of an elegant cake was beautiful, courtesy of Cypress Grove Chevre from Arcata, Calif., maker of rich and delicious goat cheese. Their new  Truffle Tremor is velvety and earthy :

chevrecake.jpg

First stop (after cheese grazing) was Silver Moon Desserts Booth 304 in the California section, North Hall. We are so proud of our association with this San Jose-based top-of-the-line artisan ice cream & sorbet! Sheri Tate’s liqueur- and wine-infused concoctions are made with all natural ingredients, real fruit purees, Real California milk and laced with premium liqueurs like Cointreau and Prosecco. Silver Moon Dessert’s first retail line launched at last winter’s Fancy Food Show and immediately won accolades from industry and public alike.

They launched two new retail flavors at this show: Lavender Limoncello sorbet (oh my, deliciously unique and refreshing) and Real Bourbon Vanilla Bean, a lushly creamy classic aromatic with real vanilla beans and bourbon. Kudos to their outta site marketing firm, HellBent Marketing, that designs their gorgeous, evocative containers:

smd_boothffs.jpg

More adventures:

Being a huge fan of Hint Water, particularly their Cucumber, Watermelon and Mango Grapefruit, it was of course a thrill to meet its refreshingly down-to-earth and savvy CEO Kara Goldin. She launched Hint, a naturally flavored bottled water without sweeteners or preservatives in May 2005. The company has garnered a tsunami of press coverage and happy hydrated fans since its inception.

Also in the liquid categories, I found A+ Minari to be very interesting. It’s a unusually flavored but tasty “liquified tea” which contains 26 percent extract from water parsley, sourced from South Korea and other Asian locales. Extracted under a patent-pending process andpurported to “dissolve fat cells” – HELLO! — and support liver function, the drink has “no pigment, artificial flavoring or preservatives, tranquilizer (!), and carbonic acid.” A+ Minari is the only company to have this product, created at Yeungnam University, on the market. Unfortunately I could not find a website on their collateral or online, but I did learn that Minari means Korean watercress, Korean parsley, Korean dropwort, water dropwort and has many other names. Distributed by Sae Earl Bio Food Corp.

aplusdrink.jpg

I didn’t discover what is now a diet staple, sushi, until well into my fourth decade. But I had always liked cavier, herring, fish and shellfish. Cavier, of course, was never a diet staple but I’d had enough to know I like it. So it was rewarding to try Canadian product Aqua Gourmet’s Vegeterian Cavier, NO cholesterol, NO calories and YES tasty! It’s made mostly from kelp and it maintains what I think is a big attribute of real fish eggs, the delightful in-mouth “popping”:

vegcavier.jpg

And, for all you Baby Boomers who remember eating Flicks at the movies, the chocolate buttons that came in an easy to open and dump in your mouth tube, good news! Flicks are BACK! From their site:

Flicks Candy” is a chocolate flavored treat that has been around for over 100 years. It was originally developed by the Ghirardelli family in the late 1890’s, but wasn’t called “Flicks” until 1904. It was produced in San Francisco, and then later in San Leandro up until 1989. By that time, the machinery that produced Flicks had been continually operating for nearly 100 years, it had been damaged in its move to San Leandro, and replacement parts were no longer available, as the equipment’s manufacturer had been out of business since World War II. For these reasons, production of Flicks ceased in 1989.”

Until Jim Tjerrild changed all that. His family  acquired the Flicks trademark in 2004, and in 2005, acquired the original decommissioned production equipment that produced Flicks for nearly 100 years. After painstaking reassembly, Flicks are now being created again, this time in Fresno, California.

flcks.jpg

Then there was the GarLic it! Company. Delicious marinated garlic, sliced and ready to go, coming in flavors like Spicy Chipotle, Sichuan Pepper, Thai Peanut, Tomato Curry and Savory Basil. I can see these becoming a diet staple. Very fresh and tasty.

garlicffs.jpg

Many, many more wonderful finds: Kari’s Malva Pudding, Terra Sonoma Food Company‘s Saba & VerJus, Bacon Popcorn… Another dispatch to come from tomorrow’s explorations!

baconpopcorn.jpg

-jdf

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