Sunday, October 30, 2011

Food styling and photography workshop review and sneak peak of Sweet Paul Magazine spring issue

The workshop was held in a Tribeca sunlight studio. We were lucky to have a bright sunny weather to start a wonderful day with. Six attendees from all over the country including Dallas, Boston and Chicago showed up at 10am. And these people flew in just for the workshop. What a good surprise!! The photos and recipes of this workshop are actually gonna be used in the Spring issue of Sweet Paul Magazine. So students can have a taste of what it is like to shoot for a magazine.

First thing first. Paul and Colin briefly talked about the history and trend of food styling and photography respectively. Two important food stylists in shaping the food styling fashion--Martha Stewart and Donna Hay. Important trend of food photography--studio light to natural light.

When Colin was still talking, Paul set up the table for the first shot. Then he gathered students around the kitchen to show them tips of styling the first dish-spring salad with hard boiled egg slices. His tricks include covering greens with a damp paper towel until right before plating to avoid loss of freshness; applying lemon juice to sliced apple will prevent it from turning brown. Paul loves to use blue fabrics, dish wares and props in general to go with food because the color contrast will make food pop.

While Paul was busy with the students in the kitchen, Colin was setting up the camera and doing test shots. Then Paul brought the plate over and did more styling on site. Then Colin took photos and showed to the students on computer, explaining why this angle, why this aperture and such. Finally students took turns to snap their own pictures using what they just learnt. This is the basic procedure of all the dishes of the day. We then did pea soup, limeade, lemon custard, lamb chops, lobster and at last lemon pie.

student shooting lemon custard

It's overal a great workshop for food blogger who want to improve their photos, for people who want to get into a new hobby and for enthusiasts who wanna be professionals in the future.

Paul in the kitchen, cool apron!

Paul and his assistant Michaela studying the menu

student shooting limeade with an iPhone
Paul styling while Colin talking about photography

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pancake, fake it or make it?

I read an interesting article about whether making pancakes from scratch is worth the effort from bon appetit website. Being a pancake lover, I always considered making it from scratch a big pain, flour scattered on the counter, batter dripping over the stove, dishes stacking up the sink...... What a project! Store bought pancake mix is my saver, but does it taste the same as homemade? if you are a fan of pancakes, keep reading. I quoted the article here. 


The Contenders

Pancakes--defined as a wet batter cooked on a hot surface to create round, flat cakes--are probably some of the earliest and most widespread prepared foods eaten by humans. Today in France they're enjoyed as crepes; in, Russia, blinis and blintzes rule; English pancakes are made flat and thin, and traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday. But America is the undisputed king of the griddlecake, specializing in a version made with a thick batter containing leavening agents for a finished product that's fluffy and substantial.

Relative Costs
Similar. I used less than $3 worth of ingredients to make each batch of 14 pancakes.

Relative Healthfulness
About the same. Both versions are composed mostly of flour, milk, and eggs. The homemade recipe uses melted butter whereas store-bought calls for vegetable oil.

Time Commitment
It took me about 15 minutes to prepare the homemade batter, much of which was spent beating the egg whites into peaks. The store-bought mix took less than five minutes to put together.

Leftovers Potential
Just like the flour that forms its base, a partially used box of pancake mix will keep on your pantry shelf almost indefinitely. Batter of either sort is best used the same day, and pancakes will be most delicious eaten hot off the stove.

What The Testers Said
First let me introduce our panel.

A delicate eater, the health nut is calorie conscious but also likes to eat well

Calorie agnostic, our foodie judge has a sophisticated palate and a love of cooking

Ambivalent toward food trends and health concerns, this guy just wants to be fed when he's hungry

Between ages of 9 and 12 years old, not jaded, typically not into strong flavors

Testers sampled both pancakes blind, plain and then with syrup. Even before adding syrup, everyone found the two versions nearly indistinguishable in terms of flavor and texture. With syrup, no one could correctly identify which sample was which.

The Health Nut: No decision; "I can't tell the difference between the two of these."
The Foodie: Store-bought; "This one has a bit more salt, and I find it to be a little bit lighter and fluffier."
The Kid: No decision; "I love pancakes."
The Dude: No decision; "The Foodie can't possibly be serious. Especially once you add syrup, there's just no way to tell these two apart."

The Verdict
Fake it.

Assuming that you have the shelf space for it, pancake mix is worth keeping on hand to help you save a little time and effort in the mornings. These mixes really just consist of the same dry ingredients that go into a conventional pancake recipe, to which you add similar wet ingredients, so there's no real loss of quality in going store-bought (note: 'just add water' mixes are a different bag altogether). And that extra step of separating eggs and whipping the whites into peaks that some pancake recipes call for? Save yourself the arm workout, because it doesn't seem to make any noticeable difference in pancake fluffiness.

--Elizabeth Gunnison

Read More
Aha, I feel happy about their conclusion. And I suddenly had this urge of eating pancakes. I rode my bike to the nearby supermarket and bought Aunt Jemima's original pancake mix and fresh blueberry, the same mix as their test. I took some photos of them and enjoyed my breakfast! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Food styling and photography workshop on Oct. 15 Sat.

This is the workshop I am going to attend this Saturday in New York City. The stylist is Paul Lowe  and photographer Colin Cooke.  I have heard of Paul Lowe and am very impressed by his  food and craft magazine Sweet Paul, so I am really excited to see him and learn from him on site. Colin Cooke is a photographer I admire and respect. He has being giving me much much help since my move to New York. My gratitude towards him is beyond words. If any of my readers are nearby, I'd love to meet you there!!


P.S. I haven't had too much time updating my blog recently.:( I will post about this workshop after I go there.