Easter, for some, is a sacred and religious day. For me, not so much. Like Thanksgiving, I see Easter as being a day to bring your family together, enjoy a good meal and reconnect.
What I remember from childhood was a house bursting with children and adults, family and friends. “The Red House”, as it was coined many years ago, is a two-storey red farmhouse built by my great-grandfather in the early 1900’s. Generations have come and gone, and when I was a child, my grandmother and her sister lived there together. This was the site of many Easters and Christmas Eves, and as I was making strawberry cupcakes for my own Easter this year, the luscious smell of fresh strawberries took me back to those gatherings gone by.
Every year my grandmother would pile fresh strawberries on a glass cake pedestal, all surrounding a small bowl of powdered sugar. That was it. Strawberries and sugar. So simple, so enough. Small hands and faces would be dusted in powdered sugar all day long, as the pile of strawberries seemed to be magically endless.
I also remember hunting Easter eggs before any food was consumed. There were nine of us grandchildren for most of my childhood, and after hunting all of the eggs, my grandmother would have us line up out the front door in an orderly fashion, and she would come along and take two eggs from each of us for deviled eggs and potato salad. We were never happy about this, after all, we just worked so hard to find them! But it was Grams, and you didn’t argue.
So it’s been about three days since I returned from the IFBC (Interntional Food Blogger Conference) in Seattle, WA. Once again, Foodista.com and Zephyr Adventures presented a well organized, fun-packed, and super tasty conference for us crazy foodies. Immediately I felt a kinship with the other bloggers. Food truly does bring people together, so we always had something to talk about.
For me, photography, particularly of food, is where I am drawn first. It must be the visual part of me as a designer — that instant gratification of seeing something beautiful. Last year during this same presentation, the hotel was able to setup stations around the room fashioned with light boxes, directional lighting, and props, and we were free to roam around and shoot while Andrew Scrivani was available for tutoring. This year, that option wasn’t available, and because of the size of the audience, it was decided to draw five names from the attendee list, and we were lucky enough to get a hands-on experience. So when I was called first in a lottery of 5 people (out of 300) to be able to photograph dishes created by Chef John from FoodWishes, and under direction of Andrew Scrivani, photographer and food stylist for the NY Times Dining Section, and author of Making Sunday Sauce, I was both humbled and ecstatic.
Luckily, I had 3 cameras with me that day: my adjustable Olympus Pen, iPhone, and my new little baby, the Olympus Tough TG-820, which I handed off to my new friend Liz Heldmann from India Tree Spices so that she could take photos of me taking photos! Here are a few I was able to make…
And this last one I took just because I love the lengths we as foodies will take to get an shot. The plates were down on the floor, on seats of chairs, window ledges, and serving trays—whatever interesting backdrop or angle we could find. We were also blessed with a clear, sunny morning in Seattle so the natural light from the large windows at the W Hotel helped make our photos that much better.
My only disappointment was that the lottery left 295 people sitting with nothing to do but watch us take photos, and I can understand that would get pretty boring pretty quickly, so instead of being available for mentoring, Andrew continued to address the audience and show slides of his amazing and inspiring work. I have to admit, I did miss the potential for some one-on-one Q&A with Andrew, but I did learn from watching the other four bloggers as they snapped away — the angles they chose, how close or far away from the subject, how they moved the plates around until they found the right light or backdrop, even what types of cameras they used, from high end Nikon or Canon to iPhones — all of this was valuable. So in the end, this was a very positive opportunity, and I’m happy to have been able to come home with new knowledge, inspiration, and some lovely photos.
So here we are at the IFBC: International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle, speed blogging with Amazon.com Grocery. Pardon the rambling, I’m going to pound out these mini reviews in under 2 minutes, which is part of the fun of this event. Here we go!
First item up for perusal is Stretch Island Fruit Company fruit strip. Brings back memories of Aunt Louie’s “junk” fruit leather that she always dried in the back window of her Pontiac. Sweet, fresh, and fruity.
Lindt Chocolates!!!! Do I need to say more? This company is a world leader in chocolate, and never fails to satisfy. Creamy, decadent and luscious!
Annie’s Homegrown Bunny Fruit Snacks. “Doing well, by doing good”. They support school gardens, which is an awesome endeavor! Wow, those are some smooth and creamy gummy snacks. Organic, gluten free, and vegan.
Sahle Snacks: woohoo! I’m already a huge fan of Sahale. Their thai pineapple cashews are a staple for quick, paleo snacks. Today we have Maple Pecans with walnuts, cherries and cinnamon. Just sticking my nose deep into the bag makes me think of cool October Sunday mornings and hot french toast with fruit compote. We are also blessed with a little container of Yenbay cinnamon.
BumbleBar: organic, gluten free facility. The JunoBar peanut butter cookie is high in fiber, made with no GMOs, and reminds me of PowerBars of yesteryear. This is a high protein, slightly sweet bar that could be a small meal replacement. “These bars are dedicated to your kids” All iterations are date bars primarily with various other flavors. Nice.
Next, Brookside (owned by Hershey) Dark Chocolate Acai Blueberry bites. Oh. My. God. That’s all I have to say. They say it’s the “Eighth wonder of the candy world.” I would have to agree. So sweet, so chocolatey. I know I could come up with better descriptors, but honestly. These are just pure, pure, goodness, and the chocolate is rainforest sourced, so good for our planet.
Navitas Naturals is the “one-stop shop for super foods from around the world.” 100% organic, gluten free, vegan, no GMO. These terms are very popular today, and that’s all good with me! They’ve given us some dried Dragonfruit. Hmmm. Have to be honest, not my favorite. High in fiber, and probably shouldn’t follow the chocolate from before.
This one’s for my friend Vicki from New Zealand. Manuka Doctor Bio Active Manuka Honey originally used by the Maori people. This is like no honey I’ve ever tasted. It’s yeasty, balanced in sweetness, and has hints of vanilla and tea flavors. This could get really addictive! “Take a spoonful of honey a day.” Agreed!
Next is Happy Squeeze with their Fruit & Veggie Twist. Interesting, it’s like applesauce in a squeeze packet. I can see this being great for kids. The Apple Mango Pear & Kale is pretty tasty, but I was expecting more of a liquid, and it’s actually more of a pureé.
More fruit snacks, now from YumEarth Organics. Nothing artificial and sweetened with brown rice syrup, organic sugar and pectin and real fruit juice.
Ooooh, more organic chocolate! This is from Scharffen Berger (also owned by Hershey), containing Rainforest Alliance cerfified cocoa. Whoa! Dark chocolate overload! This is a spicy, bitter 78% cacoa bar. Notes of pineapple, papaya and banana with a tart cherry finish. A unique chocolate experience, I must say.
Yay, drinks! First we have ZICO coconut water. I have the Latte flavor. Coconut water has never been a favorite of mine. This one definitely has a coffee flavor. Tastes like a watery latte, with definite coconut after linger. Not sure. They say it’s a good base for smoothies, so I can definitely see using it as a blender mix. — ooooh, great hangover cure, you say? May be worth it just for that.
Wow! Fever Tree Ginger Beer. Burns your throat going down and you enjoy every minute of it! Wow. again. I’ve never had anything like it, but all I can say is, where’s the tequila?! That’s a match made in heaven, I’m sure.
We’ve been waiting 75 minutes for this one: Suja Juice! The Honey Cinnamon Nutmeg Vanilla Cloud drink. What a mouthful! Hmmm, reminds me of that Mexican almond milk drink… don’t remember the name of it… ah! Horchata, with fresh ground spices added. The Carrot Apple Celery Cucumber Beet Lemon Purify drink (whew!) tastes like it just came out of a juicer. Add a bit of ice or chill well before drinking, and it’s a winner.
Been thinking a lot about Italy lately, and how much I miss it, and my dear friend who lives just outside of Milan. Strangely, when I think of our trip to northern Italy, the food that comes to mind isn’t pasta or wine or even risotto — it’s chocolate croissants and cappuccino. Each and every morning began at a coffee bar, usually at Milano Centrale train station, where there were no tables or chairs — something we are acutely unaccustomed to here in the states. The ritual began as we lined out the door to wait to order and pay, then…shuffled to the next line for our pastry…shuffled to the next line for our cappuccino…squeezed our way up to the bar for an uber-quick consumption, then we were on our way as the next coffee monsters pushed their way up to the bar. It’s one of the most efficient processions I’ve ever been in!