Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Some Bar Chef Cocktails

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2014 has been a fantastic year, cocktail-wise, thanks to the Bar Chef! These are some of the drinks we made with the homemade bitters, all following recipes in the Book.  Some of the recipes call for both homemade bitters and a homemade syrup, which, to some people, might seem like a lot of work, but they are well worth the effort.  We'll probably ring in the new year with a Balsamic and Lavender (bottom right corner).  From top left:

1. Scottish Breeze
2. Smoke and Mirrors
3. Elderflower
4. Antique Formula
5. Peat and Apricot
6. Lasting Impression
7. Start and Finish
8. Lasting Impression (again)
9. Balsamic and Lavender

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bitter(s) Valentine's Day

Best homemade Valentine's Day present ever:  three jars of homemade bitters for making artisan cocktails.  1) Maple, 2) cherry-vanilla and 3) apricot bitters from the book The Bar Chef.  Just look at all that herby, spicy and fruity goodness soaking in a full 750ml of Bulleit rye.  Too bad the bitters need 3 whole months to develop their flavors.  Can't wait 'til May 14!  Although I'm not looking forward to trying to top this next year.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

I need a bigger freezer

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I’ve been a little obsessed with making ice cream lately.  It’s the perfect activity to break up a day of staring at a computer screen editing images. I love finding unusual recipes, such as Secret Breakfast, or Ube, but I also like to make a better version of an old favorite, like this cookies and cream recipe.  Not to mention all those leftover egg whites that I can put to use in my new favorite cocktail (pictured below). There is just no end to the win. Here are the delicious creations, with links to the recipes.  I did end up making Humphrey Slocombe's Secret Breakfast--twice--but because of the bourbon, it didn't freeze well and looked mushy and weird in the photos.  Of course it still tasted good.

Top photo (from top left):
1. Thai tea
2. Buttermilk
3. Ube (purple yam and macapuno)
4. Chestnut

1. Rice gelato
2. Cookies and cream
3. Halvah
4. Pistachio

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Put those egg whites to use!  Cocktail with saffron-infused brandy, Islay scotch and a bunch of other goodness.  From The Bar Chef by Frankie Solarik.  Ian's friend Ray sent us the recipe for this drink, called "Saffron Meets Scotch."  Believe me, you'll want to attend that meeting.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Homemade Pralines and Cream Ice Cream

The only ice cream flavor I like as much as plain old vanilla is pralines and cream.  Sometimes in the store-bought versions, the ice cream is a little bland, or the praline/caramel-to-ice cream ratio is not ideal.  I'm so picky.  So I thought I'd find a recipe that had a ton of egg yolks and I would just double the amount of mix-ins.  It turned out to be a really fun way to spend a rainy afternoon--nibbling on all those little praline bits and dipping my fingers into the caramel.  Sometimes, you gotta make your own sunshine.  And just in time to serve with persimmon pudding for Thanksgiving dessert.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Adventures in food styling

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This recipe was absolutely delicious, though putting it together was a bit of a head-scratcher at first.  The yogurt "cheese" is just regular yogurt strained through cheesecloth overnight.  Then you mix in a syrup made from reducing apple cider and spices. The yogurt cheese has a thick, creamy texture and takes on a lovely warm hue from the syrup.  But with all those apples on there (top left photo), you can't see any of the goodness.  That wouldn't do.  So I took everything apart, rinsed (um, or maybe, licked) the apple slices clean and reassembled everything in some new bowls (bottom pic).  I like the syrup-drizzle, but that shot didn't make the cut.  Here's how it looks on the site:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Cinnamon rolls X 6

I got this assignment from Epicurious. I use their website practically every day trying to decide what to make for dinner, so it was exciting to work for them. Of course, it had to happen when I had half a dozen other projects going, so I had one day to buy props and supplies, then prep and shoot the rolls. That's cutting it close even for me! But don't you think cinnamon rolls would be a cinch to make? So did I. Actually, now that I've made them a total of 6 times, yes, they are a cinch. But those first three times were pretty painful. Due to general Lara-Hata-ness, the first 3 batches turned out, let's just say, less than perfect. That's over 9 hours of work down the drain (the dough needs to proof for 3 hours)! Finally I learned my lesson and made 2 batches at once, and they looked great. Then a couple days later, I tried it one last, triumphant time. Here's how it looks on the Epicurious site, baked, styled, propped and photographed by me. Awesome! And delicious.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Meyer Lemon Tart with Salted Shortbread Crust

 photo IMG_1389_zps4b864820.jpg People with meyer lemon trees always have a hard time using up all those lemons and I am more than happy to take them off their hands. I have a huge lemon tree in my backyard that is seriously in need of maintenance. And while the lemons taste ok, they are lumpy, thick-skinned and very difficult to pick off those too-tall, overgrown, super-thorny branches. I should really take care of that s**t. But for now, I'd just as soon leave it alone and rely on my meyer lemon hookups. Luckily, a pile of beautiful meyer lemons just fell into my lap so I made them into this tart with a salted shortbread crust.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sometimes Valentine's Day Doesn't Suck

 photo vadi_zps76003862.jpg I really like my guy, but I still hate Valentine's Day. I don't like to have to be 'romantic' when told. Besides, I'd make him a fabulous dinner any night of the week. And is it me or is the word 'romantic' a little icky? Nevertheless, it is our first Valentine's Day together, and it doesn't seem like the right time to make a stand. So the conventional approach wins.

Dinner for Ian on Valentine's Day:

I know that's only four items, but there were sub-recipes! And because I fell asleep right after dinner the night before, I had to get up and prep from midnight to 3am. Doh!! But when you realize you want to spend many Valentine's Days with someone, you want that first one to be perfect. So peeling brussels sprouts, making candied walnuts and mashing sweet potatoes until 3am seemed a small price to pay. It was so worth it. I didn't think I liked duck, but oh, it was good! He was in charge of the wine. The pinot carried the flavors of the duck and cherries seamlessly from one bite to the next. And the late harvest dessert wine was like sweet, silky honey with the figs and stilton. It was a perfect night; everything was sparkly, new, hopeful and enthralling, for no reason in particular. Not something I experience very often. As a bonus, the leftover duck breast, brussels sprouts and sweet potato made a hella tasty flatbread a few days later. Valentine's Day 2013 FTW.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Next Restaurant, Chicago
The Hunt

 photo nrsmt_zps54b2a299.jpg Schwa was Friday night. Saturday night: Next Restaurant's The Hunt menu. Robyn and I were a little apprehensive about it being too meat-centric, but they used the term 'hunt' loosely to include foraging. So the first course was a glass box filled with maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms and a few courses later, a preserved carrot, sliced and fanned out to create a lacy, fringey mini-sculpture. True, we were served some meaty things that I wouldn't have thought were edible. For example, the venison heart tartare, which was delicious, and squab brain, which we were instructed to suck out of a tiny squab skull. Oh yeah.  Most of us agreed that the Sturgeon and Caviar was the highlight, food-wise: a butter-poached medallion of sturgeon atop a bed of sunchoke, with caviar beurre blanc drizzled around the plate. But the quote of the night? When course #7, the Woodcock Jolie, was announced, Andra blurted out: "How much cock can a woodcock cock if a woodcock could cock wood?" I almost did a spit-take. I'm so classy. Even our server Jen couldn't surpress her giggles; it was like seeing one of the actors start laughing during an SNL sketch. We then had a discussion with the sommelier about California, Oregon and French pinots and then our photo op in the kitchen. Then, sadly, after 4 hours, another dinner at Next had come to an end.

Next: The Hunt
Full Course List
Hen of the Woods
Catch of the Great Lakes
Cellar Aged Carrots & Onions
Duck Tongue, Cider Vinegar
Sturgeon & Caviar
Woodcock Jolie (Ba-hahaha!)
Pressed Squab
Fallen Leaves & Kidney
Bison & Bearnaise
Marrow Brulee
Maris Otter
Tire D'erable

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Schwa Restaurant, Chicago

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"Put it in my mouth!" were Andra's first words when we got to our table at Schwa. Even with Jay-Z playing loudly in the background, her words hung in the air, like a challenge. I think we got a raised eyebrow from our server/chef/host/future dance partner. Schwa is one of the top 5 hardest reservations to get in America. In America! Yet, somehow Amanda scored us a table. This article in GQ explains a bit about the food and air of intrigue surrounding chef/owner Michael Carlson (he wasn't there that night). So after 10 courses, 4 bottles of wine, 8 shots of Jameson's and some beers we turned the dining room into our own private foodie nightclub. You can see from this tiny, embarrassing photo that questionable behavior is tolerated and perhaps even encouraged at Schwa. And that's one of the tame pics. Other people were actually still eating while we were donning aprons and getting our freak on. I got the feeling that wasn't the first time this happened, though probably not on the nights when Michelle Obama and Thomas Keller ate there. Then there was that quail egg yolk in my mouth. The four of us agreed: most fun dinner ever.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Retroactive First Date

 photo rfd4_zpsb24a6214.jpg After cooking ten pounds of pork for your guy, it might be a good idea to dial it back a little...and go on an actual date. Apparently, I do a lot of things backwards. My mom likes to tell people that when I started to crawl, it was backwards and upside-down, like a baby doing some kind of freaky crab walk. I'm sure that doesn't surprise anyone who knows me.

 So Backwards Date Night starts at Savoy Tivoli, in North Beach, drinks with colleagues. He arrives late. I'm chatting with fellow artists, then I see him and light up, like flood lights at a night game at AT&T park. Yeah, I'm subtle like that. We finish our drinks then cab over to Hog and Rocks in the Mission. A hot 'first' date with someone you're already seeing calls for a dozen oysters. Then four tequila-mezcal-lime-pepper cocktails. Hot. And spicy. So in between slurping and sipping brine and tequila you can trade stories about growing up in disparate parts of the world and then imagine what your sofa would look like in his living room. I love that feeling of being tentative and hopeful, not exactly sure what you're feeling, but liking it; not sure where it's going, but following it. Excited to be on the threshold of something unknowable that is, so far, rather good. Also good: the burger done just right, the heirloom beet salad, the molasses-cookie-and-beer-butter-ice-cream sandwich, all those flirty looks and...him.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Nothing says 'I kinda/really like you' like porchetta

 photo p1_zpsd7b93f92.jpg I could be better at expressing myself verbally. I'm an introvert and sometimes I just can't get the words out. Also, I grew up with grandparents who seldom said out loud that they loved me, but if there were steaks, sashimi or sukiyaki on the table when I got home, I knew what that meant. I learned this sort of culinary language and sometimes express affection with an upside down pear and crystallized-ginger cake, cherry almond trifle or beef tenderloin stroganoff. Sure, it gets the point across, but I'm really trying to get better with actual words. In the meantime, I made this porchetta: 3 lbs of pork rubbed in spices and then wrapped in 5 more lbs of pork. As a meal or culinary statement, it's huge and difficult to ignore. Just don't read too much into it...unless you want to.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Blood Orange Crostata

Photobucket I love working with blood oranges. I'm a little obsessed, and as soon as they are available I run to the store and buy a whole bunch, without even knowing what I'll do with them. They're just so graphic and evocative. The bright red sections are as eye-catching as traffic lights and the red juice all over my cutting board and counter top is beautiful, messy and sticky, like love. This crostata looks so luscious and sinful with all that that ruby red juice and pulp bubbling away. Actually, though, it's pretty healthy and full of antioxidants. So there, everyone wins!

Friday, January 4, 2013

I know it's already the 4th, but happy new year everyone! I like to hit the ground running, so while I'm working on my taxes and counting up every last receipt from last year, here's a new-year-themed pic. I shot this for Dolby Labs a few years ago, but I think it still holds up, not to mention it's so seasonally appropriate. I'm not bothering with resolutions this year; I know what I have to do. So, back to work and happy 2013!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dixie Restaurant, the Presidio, San Francisco

I was sent here on assignment for this restaurant review. The first shot: Crispy fried quail in the style of chicken and waffles, with a kale salad. The quail had a delicious and satisfyingly crunchy coating but was very tender on the inside. And that waffle'll just melt in your mouth. I try to keep a professional veneer when I'm on the job, but sometimes you just get caught gnawing on the last remnants of meat left on a quail bone. I thought it was delicious, but Chef Joseph (Humphries) explained that he didn't salt or season it because it was made for photography and not necessarily for consumption. Oops.


The next dish: Black cod, bourbon & red miso, leeks, faro, buttermilk. The black cod was silky, like buttuh, with the benefit of a crispy, briny skin. If this too lacked seasoning, it didn't stop me.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Some older blood orange shots


Some shots of blood oranges I've taken over the years. From left: a shot from the book Gather by Georgeanne Brennan; top right: blood orange cake I made and shot in the studio, just for fun; bottom right: the same cake at the cooking classes that Georgeanne used to have at her home in Winters, CA.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Izakaya Yuzuki

How luscious and tempting is this chawan mushi that they are serving at Izakaya Yuzuki? Savory egg custard topped with a very large portion of fresh uni. I went over there to shoot for last week's Eat review in SF Weekly. They also got rave reviews from chef Nick Balla as one of his food finds for 2011.

Izakaya Yuzuki, 598 Guerrero at 18th, SF (415) 556-9898

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

B Side BBQ, West Oakland

Photobucket Just photographed this place last week for an upcoming review in San Francisco Magazine. Just look at their 'Dark and Stormy' ribs! Can't wait to go back and give them a try. So far, they are only open for lunch, but I'm hoping they will extend their hours soon so I can mosey in after work.

B Side BBQ, 3303 San Pablo Ave. Oakland (510) 595-0227

Monday, December 19, 2011

Birthday dinner at Alinea, Chicago

Of course I always remember a great meal, but I even remember the small weeknight dinners with friends, somehow making note of their likes and dislikes so that I can make a special treat for them sometime later. I can't remember what happened last week, but I'll remember what everyone ordered at that dinner two years ago. It's my superpower. I mean, aside from my photography superpowers, that is.

Dining at Alinea offered up quite a challenge to my powers of recollection. I knew there would be over a dozen intricate and complex courses, a bit more than I'd be able to describe later, especially after the wine pairing took effect. Nevertheless, I was determined to have a spotless memory of it, even if it meant being one of those people who point their SLR right down at the plate while dining. Sorry, Alinea. They were really nice about it, even though they probably secretly hated me. Here are the 20 or so things that we ate, drank, scraped, slurped, exploded and gobbled. It was as if they took the entire world of autumn and shrank it down into its most pungent, flavorful elements and then combined the tiny morsels into bites whose flavors and textures would complement each other. Talk about a superpower.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Seven course cocktail flight at Aviary, Chicago

I know I have tasted delicious things before this, but I seem to have forgotten all about them. The Aviary cocktail and appetizer pairing was a journey that involved all the senses: flavors, textures, temperatures, colors, shapes and aromas, all perfectly balanced. We really had to concentrate and focus to get the full effect! The best part was looking across the table and seeing my lovely friends' reactions to each course. The looks of delight--as the each new cocktail washed over their palates or as each subsequent crunch of appetizer revealed something new--were priceless! I would do it again in a heartbeat, only I would just have pizza afterward instead of reservations at Next.


In case you are wondering, what the eff is all this? From top left:
1. Pumpkin gelee on graham cracker crust
2. Fig bite
3. Fig cocktail with star anise and prosecco
4. Cheering with the fig cocktail!
5. Sweet potato cocktail with smoked paprika, orange and tequila. That's a smoked paprika ice cube, bitches!
6. Bay scallop with ceviche, cilantro and sweet potato
7. Quince cocktail with ginger and pisco in plain brown wrapper
8. Crab bite with avocado, mango and almond
9. Snow cocktail with lemongrass mixing stick
10. 'A Moment of Silence' cocktail with aroma filled pouch, apry, averna, rye
11. Wagyu bite with smoked paprika, pumpkin seed, yogurt
12. Making the 'Oolong' with brown sugar, pistachio, pear brandy
13. Foie gras with pomegranate, gingerbread and charred onion
14. Concord grape cocktail with angostura orange, port, rum
15. Apple bite with tempura, brie, thai long peppercorn
16. Cold chocolate: ecuadorian chocolate, fernet, bourbon

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mission Chinese Food

Mission Chinese Food is getting so much national attention, I feel I have nothing to add but these spicy pics! Some recent press:
-New York Times Magazine
-Bon Appetit
-Food and Wine
and, finally, the article I shot these pics for.

From top left:
1) Fried chicken wings buried under dried red peppers
2) Szechuan pickles
3) Tofu with roasted chile and soybeans
4) Cumin lamb belly
The food really was as inventive, surprising and "addictive" as they say. Also infectious were Danny Bowien's charm and enthusiasm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Not too hard to take a photo of a beet, perfectly sculpted into the shape of a rose, resting on a bed of shimmering pink ice, framed by a lovely and understated Heath Ceramics bowl. Only obstacle was Daniel Patterson hovering over the scene, probably being polite and pretending to be mildly interested in the shot. Doh! DP soon went back into the kitchen, at which point I got to relax a little and got this pic. I didn't get to taste the beet, though--I guess I'll just have to go in for dinner to try it...maybe (see #19).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bar Tartine

Beautiful, rustic Hungarian-influenced food by chef Nick Balla. Here's Jonathan Kauffman's review.

Top middle: bottarga, grilled bread, butter, radish
Bottom left: meggyleves, sour cherry soup with sour cream
Bottom middle: dobos torte
Bottom right: porcini mushrooms, yoghurt, turnip sauce, carrot, radish

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I was sent to Plum for a review in SFWeekly, then again for San Francisco Magazine, only a couple of weeks later. I think they thought I was stalking them. Turns out, one of my friends has a crush on someone who works there, and keeps wanting to go for drinks. Now they are really going to think I'm a stalker. I swear I'm not. Here's some of the beautiful food they are making. From top left:

1. Sonoma duck with chanterelle, leek, turnip, chestnut
2. Chef Charlie Parker
3. Monterey squid with smoked lentils, artichoke, fennel, grapefruit
4. Making the Leeks Vinaigrette (with some big ass tweezers): fresh goat cheese, ash, radish, cress, radish and arugula flowers
5. Young carrots, New Zealand spinach, shallot, brown butter, hazelnut
6. Sous Chef Erik Harrelson
7. Graham cracker cake, citrus, buttermilk ice, toasted meringue
8. Pastry Chef Deanie Hickox
9. Cheesecake in a jar, sour cherry, almond-teecchino crumble

Dinner at Saison

This wasn't for a job; I just had dinner there. I'm still trying to figure out how to describe some of the things we ate, which were definitely interesting. Just difficult to describe. Sometimes when I dine out I try to memorize the flavors and textures of a dish so I can try to recreate something similar at home. I can tell you right now there isn't a snowball's chance in hell I could do that with any of these dishes. Everything was so complex and layered (and tiny) with miniscule bits of herbs and droplets of different flavors to change how you experienced each bite. That's about all I can come up with for now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cherry trifle for George's birthday then again for Memorial Day bbq

It's intimidating to cook for a professional food stylist, especially since he just had the birthday meal of a lifetime at Noma. Since not all of us could hop a plane to Copenhagen, a small group of friends got together to throw him a second, local birthday dinner. And I had to open my big mouth and offer to make the dessert. Way to go, Hata!  Luckily, it's that time of year--when fruit trucks randomly appear all around Oakland, overflowing with cherries for $1.50/lb. Is there a better way to share some birthday love than with sweet, ripe local cherries surrounded by almond-scented cake and custard? Probably not. The recipe: cherry almond trifle. I reduced the sugar by about 1/3 and doubled the amount of custard, because there's no such thing as too much custard.

Cherry Man does not judge. He doesn't care why I took his photo, nor does he ask why I buy so darned many bags of cherries. I think he also pretends not to notice how disheveled I look when I've been baking all day.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bouillabaisse at Bistro Central Parc

I got sent here on assignment to photograph the bouillabaisse, sweetbreads and trout amandine. Here's the review. At the end of the shoot, Jacques let me choose one of the dishes and I just had to have that bouillabaisse. What perfection. So delicate and light with a perfectly cooked scallop that was silky like a custard infused with saffron and fennel. I think I ate the whole meal with my eyes closed, because I'm weird like that. Try the bouillabaisse. And after trying it, you will want to friend them on facebook immediately, because who doesn't want a 'friend' who can make something that delicious? Bistro Central Parc, 562 Central, SF

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"The Sharing Table" appetizers by Cynthia Fung

My friend Cynthia hosts dinners at her home that are open to the public. There's usually some mix of friends, friends of friends and foodies who found out about it and purchased tickets online. She has formal dinners with assigned seating, but this one is a casual appetizer party where huge platters of delicious apps pour out of her kitchen and are instantly gobbled up. Heaven! Here Cynthia shows off the uni and abalone she just dived for up in Mendocino. Yes, you heard that right: she plucked this uni and abalone from the freezing cold waters off the Mendocino coast with her bare hands! Yikes.

Above, from top left:
roasted duck flatbread topped with mango salsa
soy-marinated salmon topped with creme fraiche and grated lime zest
steamed rice dumplings filled with pork and topped with fresh uni
a platter of nori and saffron rice that will be topped with more fresh uni

uni and saffron rice appetizer
(drunk?) friends of Cynthia's enjoying themselves (!)
Cynthia cranking out paper-thin slices of abalone
abalone app with ponzu and scallions.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy hour snacks

I went into Berkeley Bowl hungry, and wouldn't you know it, look what I came out with! Meat, meat, meat and pate! Of course I bought all the ingredients for the next two shots, but I must have scarfed down half a baguette before I started prepping.