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.