andrea merrill photography

 

You may have noticed that I haven’t been as active on my blog these days.  It is partly due to the fact that I am back in residency full time (80+ hour weeks) and also because my side photography hobby has been growing!

Check out my new(ish) photography website/business:  photologo

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Food Photography Workshop with Cottage Farm and Betty Liu

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Last month I FINALLY got to take a food photography workshop with my favorite food blogger, Betty Liu!!!!  She was a guest host with Krissy O’Shea from Cottage Farm for a one day workshop in Boston.  I was re-entering surgical residency the next day but decided to spring for one more day of fun before going back!  The workshop started with a private dinner at Loyal Nine the night before where we were served a special menu of savory pea pancakes, reminiscent of scallion pancakes, topped with grilled freshly harvested peas and, baked cheese with rhubarb and homemade crackers, delicious roasted chicken paired with balsamic glazed onion and fresh peas, and finally to end the night, strawberry rhubarb pie…all of course washed down by a refreshingly crisp French white wine.

The next morning we were off to an early start at Warehouse XI in Union Square.  Luckily we had some coffee from No Six Depot along with buttery croissants from Forge Bakery and fresh berries, yogurt, and homemade granola by Betty to get us caffeinated and started.  And of course we snagged a few photos of the breakfast set up :).

After breakfast, we quickly got to work learning camera and composition basics with a brief lecture from Betty and Krissy before starting to learn the basics of food styling.  We used natural light and they really pushed us to take advantage of different lighting scenarios like using darker lighting for some moodier shots while using bright spaces near the window for sunny breakfast shots.  The first scene we shot was mostly from a top down approach- actually setting up the scene on the ground! Genius for anyone who is short with back problems- sure beats balancing on a high chair to lean over and photograph!  Krissy set up the scene with breakfast remnants, demonstrating how to add in little touches (like crumbs) but at the same time not making it look overstyled.

Next we practiced some action shots from the side of Betty and Krissy pouring coffee (we maybe drank a little more too).

From coffee we moved on to my favorite…cheese!!!! We had sooooo much cheese donated by Vermont Creamery but I was tortured momentarily when I had to wait to dive in so we could practice some food styling!  Betty and Krissy set up a beautiful table spread of cheese, honey, bread, flowers, and little utensils.  Then we all took turns photographing the scene from the side and up top on a ladder…and then finally it was time to dig in!!!!!

Of course after cheese there was more eating with some delicious salads prepared by Krissy for lunch.  Check out the beautiful rye berry salad recipe by Krissy on her blog.

Following lunch we were all in a food coma but there was no time for rest…it was time to practice what we learned!  We broke off into groups to create our own food setups to photograph.  I think we did a great job (and had great teachers!)!

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After all our hard work, it was time for some relaxation and cocktails made by Nic Korn, a local mixologist.  He made delicious aperol spritzes and cocktails with mint and gin.  I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos of the beautiful drinks!

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We finished with a brief tutorial on post-production editing in Lightroom and I picked up a few tips from Betty- including how to add my own filter which you see featured here!   Thank you to Krissy and Betty for an incredible and educational workshop!  I left the workshop with a new arsenal of photography, food styling, and editing skills and met some great people I home to stay in touch with!

 

Cooking Vegetarian with Alden and Harlow and Formaggio Kitchen

Almost 2 years ago I wrote a blog post trying to recreate the “ubiquitous kale salad” from one of my favorite Boston restaurants, Alden and Harlow.  While my version was pretty good, it still paled in comparison to Alden and Harlow’s creation.  Luckily, I finally got my chance to learn how to make it this past week at a sold-out vegetarian cooking class with Michael Scelfo of Alden and Harlow hosted by Formaggio Kitchen.

Normally vegetarian cooking doesn’t get me super excited.  However, Michael Scelfo takes forgotten or common vegetables (like kale, broccoli, or carrots) and turns them into star dishes, bursting with texture and flavor.  Trust me, you won’t miss the meat in any of these!

Scelfo started the class by talking about Alden and Harlow and his original concept for the restaurant.  At the time, he was trying to eat healthier and cook with more vegetables at home with his wife and three children.  He focused on making simple dishes with good ingredients and new flavor profiles.  He then took this concept of home cooking and elevated and refined it for Alden and Harlow.  If you follow his instagram feed (@mscelfo) you’ll see all the mouth-watering, restaurant-worthy dishes he cooks at home for his lucky family (#dinnerathome).

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His restaurant has been wildly successful and he’ll be opening his second restaurant, Waypoint, in a few months.  One of my favorite things about Alden and Harlow is how often Scelfo rotates the menu, creating new dishes based on what is available and seasonal locally.  However, there are a few old-standbys that have been on the menu since the early days and they just happen to be vegetarian!

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The first dish of the night was the highly anticipated “ubiquitous kale salad”.   First raw kale is mixed with raw, thinly sliced fennel.  The salad is then elevated by adding a rich, creamy dressing of creme fraiche, pistachios, lemon and honey and then topping it with crispy fried kale (everything is better fried, right?).  The outcome was as delicious as I remembered and I can’t wait to make it at home!

 

The next dish he taught us is a complete surprise to the palate: Pickled corn pancakes with buttermilk, maple, shishito, and popcorn.  This dish was based on corn pancakes his family made growing up but  elevated and punched up a few notches.

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This creation is the epitome of sweet and savory; the sweet corn pancake and maple is balanced out perfectly by the whimsical popcorn topping and shishito peppers.  He makes a sweeter version with fruit for brunch.

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The final dish he demonstrated was charred broccoli with butternut squash hummus, bianco sardo and smoked cashews.  The hummus is made with roasted butternut squash and smoked cashews as a base.  While it may be hard to smoke cashews at home (due to strict Boston area fire rules) the rest of the butternut squash hummus is relatively straightforward and versatile.  Scelfo encouraged us to experiment and change up the dishes depending on availability of ingredients or taste preference.

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By the end of the class I was surprisingly full from all the delicious vegetables…and maybe slightly tipsy from the plentiful Montenidoli Tradizionale wine (thanks Formaggio Kitchen!).  Scelfo really proved that vegetarian cooking can be both flavorful, innovative, and easy to do at home.  Kale salad anyone????:)

 

Cocktails and Cheese with Alden and Harlow and Formaggio Kitchen

Normally when people think of pairing cheese with alcohol, they immediately think of wine and cheese.  However, apparently we’ve been doing it wrong this whole time!  The tannins, in wine, especially red wine, dull the palate, according to Food52, and make many wines a less than ideal choice to pair with cheese.

So what should you pair with cheese?  Follow Formaggio Kitchen’s lead and pair with beer, cider….and COCKTAILS! (Check out their full listing of classes here)  The idea of pairing cheese with cocktails may scare you at first, but trust me, it is genius!  Especially when the cocktails are made by Seth Freidus, bar manager at Alden and Harlow (one of my favorite restaurants currently in the Boston area).

Seth started out bartending in high school, mostly because it looked cool and fun.  He continued to bartend in college, eventually landing a job at Eastern Standard after he graduated.  He learned a lot on the job and supplemented this by reading books about cocktails.  He’s now gained national recognition as the bar manager at Alden and Harlow and likes to focus on housemade vermouths and rotating cocktails utilizing seasonal ingredients (think turnips, eggplant, or beets!)

To create this class, Seth met up with Julia Hallman, general manager of Formaggio Kitchen, to plan the pairings.  While the selection of cheese often drives the pairings, this time Julia and Seth mixed things up a bit (no pun intended) and chose the cocktails first- I can imagine this was a fun planning session!

The final cheese plate is shown below:

Class started with a classic cocktail- the Green Fly- created in the early 20th century.  A stirred cocktail, it consists of gin, lemon juice, chartreuse (an herbal liquor), demerara syrup (similar to a simple syrup but using demerara sugar) and finished with a touch of orange oil from an orange peel .  This was paired with Ruggles Hill Ada’s Honor, a goat’s milk cheese from Hardwick, MA.  This farm is run by Tricia who milks all 14 goats by hand!  The cheese has a lovely bright, clean, and herbal flavor that was balanced out beautifully by the citrus based cocktail.

Next we moved on to shaken cocktails with a variation of a negorini.  This cocktail contained gin, cardamaro (a vegetal amaro), and a sweet vermouth (Dolin Rouge). This cocktail was described as “vegetal” and “nutty” and was paired with a Corsu Vecchiu, a sheep’s milk cheese from Corsica, France.  This region is known for its cheese-making traditions that never change and result in the same salty, bright, rich cheese every time.

This was followed by another stirred cocktail using Oloroso sherry, Applejack brandy, demerara syrup, lemon juice and a touch of salt.  The nutty, rich flavors of this cocktail lend itself well to “ripe” and “stinky” cheeses such as Rippleton, a sheep’s milk cheese from Casanovia, New York.  This cheese is a bright orange color on the outside from the wash-rind process, while the inside oozes with soft, delicious, pale yellow cheese.  I happen to love this kind of cheese but was a little skeptical about pairing it with a cocktail- but it totally worked!  This was one of my favorite pairings of the night.

Next, we went back to shaken cocktails with a mezcal based drink.  Mezcal is a delicious smokey agave liquor (similar to tequila) and it was shaken with dry vermouth, Manzanilla sherry, demerara syrup and finished with lemon oil from a lemon peel.  The smokey, sweetness of this cocktail was balanced perfectly by the savory, salty, richness of the Tomme Crayuese cow’s milk cheese it was paired with.  Tomme Crayuese…cleverly called “Tom Cruise” by the staff at Formaggio…is from Savoie, France and is produced via an aging process resulting in a layered cheese with a harder rind and soft, creamy interior.

By this point, we were starting to feel a bit tipsy with the generous pours but in the name of cheese and cocktails we persevered on!  Next we tried another sherry based cocktail with Oloroso sherry, Applejack brandy, Montenegro (one of my favorite amaros) finished with orange oil.  This was the perfect pairing for the rich, caramely Olimankaas cow’s milk cheese studded with bits of crunchy, salty lactose crystals.

Last but not least was another mezcal cocktail.  This one was shaken with Cocchi Americano, Oloroso sherry, green chartreuse and finished with orange oil.  The resultant cocktail was paired with a goat’s milk blue cheese- Persil Rambouillet from Ile-de-France.  The mild saltiness of the blue cheese lent itself well to the smokey notes in the cocktail.

I have to say, after this class, I am a definite believer in pairing cheese with cocktails.  I was surprised at how well every cocktail balanced out the cheese and fully enjoyed every single pairing!  And as if the night couldn’t get any better, we headed out to Alden and Harlow for a late night feast after class!

If you haven’t taken any classes at Formaggio Kitchen, make sure to check out their class listing here.

Full disclosure:  I am “paid” by Formaggio Kitchen in cheese and alcohol to photograph classes 🙂

Happy 2015!

2014 has been good to me:  I finished my third year of residency, started a research fellowship, and reclaimed by social life!  I picked up a new and exciting hobby (photography).  My little brother got engaged (and now I’m being FORCED to go to Paris for the wedding!) I made some new friends and rekindled relationships with old ones.  I cooked and baked A LOT of amazing food (and photographed the sh-t out of it!).

But now it is time to look forward to, hopefully, an even better 2015.

2015 will be the year I finally travel to Hawaii and return to Paris.  2015 will be the year I try to reduce my own food waste while also trying to cook more at home and eat out less (already failing this one).  2015 will be the year I finally gain some patience (maybe? I have a feeling this one will be a forever goal).  2015 will be the year I master Lightroom and improve my photography.  I could go on and on because there is always room for improvement, as doctors, daughters, sisters, bloggers, photographers, researchers, friends and people.  Happy and healthy new year to all of my readers!  Scroll below for a few of my favorite creations and photographs from last year.

 

8 Crazy Bites: A Kitchen Kibitz Hannukah Event

On any given night, Jeff Gabel can be found drinking craft cocktails at Trade, dining at Boston’s hottest new restaurants, or at home creating Asian/Jewish fusion dishes such as tom yum matzo ball soup or bagels with gochujang cream cheese and lox.  He may look young, but his name is rapidly rising in the culinary world of Boston, and beyond.  As evidence, he was recently named one of Zagats 30 under 30 which honors “gastronomic game changers” who are “redefining the way we eat, drink and interact with food and beverages across the U.S. – all before their 30th birthdays”.

This award comes from the success of his recent pop-up series called Kitchen Kibitz.  A former NYC resident with experience in the Jewish nonprofit sector, Jeff noticed a dearth of Jewish cuisine in the city of Boston and decided to do something about it…thus Kitchen Kibitz was born!  Kitchen Kibitz aims to put modern and new twists on classic Jewish food in different kitchens/restaurants all over Boston to help reconnect Jewish and non-Jewish locals to Jewish cuisine and traditions.  So far he has hosted several events such as ThanksGivukkah with Zagat 30 under 30 alum, Josh Lewin of Whisk, Southern Schmear with Hungry Mother’s Barry Maiden, and Land of Milk and Honey with Sofra’s Geoff Lukas.

This past Sunday was his 2nd Hannukah event where he teamed up with Stephanie Cmar (former Top Chef contestant, Zagat 30 under 30 2013, and owner of Stacked donuts pop-up) and Chef Steve “Nookie” Postal, of Commonwealth (formerly chef for the Boston Red Sox) who has his own plans to open up a Jewish inspired restaurant, Steinbones.

I had the privilege of being “hired” as the event photographer (will work for food!) and got to work “behind the scenes” as Chef Nookie and Stephanie Cmar prepared multiple variations of latkes and donuts.

The first latke was a purple carrot latke with carrot gel and persimmon.  The sweetness of the persimmon worked perfectly against the salty, fried latke, almost like a play on apple sauce.  And the colors were beautiful!

The second latke was sweet potato with smoked salmon and dill.  Again, this latke played on the sweet and savory combination, this time featuring the sweet flavor in the latke.  The smoked salmon was delicious with the perfect amount of smokey flavor.

Next came artichoke latkes with apple butter followed by my favorite latke of the night: potato latke with Nookie’s special Pastrami and whole grain mustard.  It’s not easy to find good pastrami in Boston, but this was perfection!  I can’t wait until Steinbones is open and I can eat this on a regular basis!

The last latke featured another specialty that will be a mainstay at Steinbones: brisket!  This was a smokey, perfectly tender brisket completed by  Dr. Brown’s black cherry bbq sauce and served atop a parsnip latke.

The meal was rounded out with ice cream sandwiches with hannukah gelt ice cream as well as Stephanie Cmar’s delicious donuts with Manischewitz jelly (yes Manischewitz can actually taste good!).

And of course the meal wouldn’t be complete without the specialty cocktail of the night dubbed “The Chosen One”.

Overall, it was a delicious event that redefined traditional Hannukah cuisine. Check out Kitchen Kibitz for upcoming events in the New Year and Happy Holidays to everyone!

A Spoonful of Lovin’ at Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ Ultimate Tailgate Fundraiser

As you may remember, several weeks ago I took 2 photography classes at the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE).  After the intermediate photography class with Chris Padgett, he mentioned that he may need an assistant to help with some food photography at an upcoming event.  Lucky for me, his assistant fell ill last minute and he needed a “pinch photographer”.  After learning about this amazing event, I was more than happy to fill in as amateur food photographer for the night!

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Ashley Stanley, Founder and Executive Director of Lovin’ Spoonfuls

Lovin’ Spoonfuls is non-profit organization founded in 2010 by Ashley Stanley to facilitate the rescue and redistribution of healthy, fresh food that would otherwise be discarded.  Lovin’ Spoonfuls works with many local grocery stores, produce wholesalers, farms and farmers markets to help provide hunger relief in the  Greater Boston area.  They have rescued over 2 million pounds of food to date!

The culinary board includes many big names from the Boston food scene such as Joanne Chang (Flour, Myers & Chang), her husband Chris Meyers (Myers & Chang), Michael Scelfo (Alden and Harlow) and Jamie Bissonnette (Toro and Coppa) amongst others.  This was the 4th year of their large fundraising event, aptly named “The Ultimate Tailgate”, consisting of multiple auctions, raffles, a DJ and delicious food from about 20 Boston area restaurants.

The event was held outside in a large, heated tent at Sam’s at Louis with a gorgeous view of the waterfront.

As you can imagine, I was in foodie heaven!  Not only did I get to sample appetizers from some of my favorite restaurants, but I also had the opportunity to meet many of the chefs and unabashedly take photos because it was my “job”…and all for a good cause!  Below are many of the food offerings from the night.

Tiffani Faison’s (Sweet Cheeks) shrimp boil was my favorite dish of the night.

Not only do I love shrimp (and corn, potatoes, sausage and butter) but the display was so fun and colorful to photograph…not mention that Tiffani is super nice and makes incredible biscuits!

The most interesting dish award went to Mei Mei for their Kung Pao Curry Frito Pie.  Warning: fritos and any food that accompanies them may be highly addicting!

The beet tartare pictured above from Fairsted Kitchen was a play on deviled eggs.  The simple combination of deviled eggs and sweet roasted beets was delicious and had me coming back for seconds!  I’m going to have to figure how to make these- they would be an excellent appetizer at a holiday party.

In between preparing food, socializing and eating, the chefs also did a little goofing around!

Beverages included beer by Peak Organic Brewing Company, wine by distributor M.S. Walker, as well as signature cocktails from Sam’s.

One of the more creative dishes was the chorizo, potato and squid quesadilla from relative newcomer on the Boston dining scene, La Brasa.

At one point during the night I was surrounded by the intoxicating aroma of fried chicken, only to find myself next to these mouthwatering duck drummettes with  red plum balsamic glaze from Sam’s at Louis.  If I hadn’t been so full by this point (it’s easier to eat and photograph at the same time than you think) I would have taken at least seconds…and maybe even thirds.

Bergamot served a deliciously tender brisket over a bright and acidic red cabbage slaw.

Nebo was so popular with their Italian sausage, rustic broccoli rage-pine nut pesto and provolone sandwich that they ran out of sausage by the end of the night!

Merrill & Co. served up large meatballs slathered in a robust tomato sauce and topped with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

And finally, no food event with Joanne Chang would be complete without dessert!

I’m not about to quit my day job but it was pretty fun being a photographer for the night!  (Hopefully I get “hired” for another gig soon!)

If you would like to learn more about Lovin’ Spoonfuls or donate to this wonderful cause, please click here.