I’ve had the good fortune to work with Rachel Sherwood, Minneapolis food stylist extraordinaire, on a handful of projects over the past year – my Rest Stop Gourmet and Ice Fishing Gourmet among them. Earlier this summer she emailed me about a personal project she and her friend and colleague Anna Kevile Joyce were working on, inspired by various farm-to-table dinners sweeping the nation these days. Rachel and Anna had an event of their own in mind, and wondered if I would be interested in documenting it. Are you kidding?? I said.
The oppressive temperatures were defeated by Rachel and Anna’s chilled dishes: fried polenta squares with savory tomato relish and onion straw, peach and tomato salad, raw corn chowder, basil and lime sorbet, chilled pork roast with arugula and mustard sauce, chocolate truffle cake – topped off with a homemade limoncello. All delicious, and beautiful wildflowers and place settings to compliment the rustic backdrop. Great times, and beautiful and delicious food.
Ahhh, summer! Thanks so much to Rachel and Anna for including me in the good times and artistry.
It’s been a few years now since a friend and I took up home brewing, and I’d recommend it as a hobby if you fit in to one of these categories:
You like to cook.
Chemistry holds some appeal.
You’re pretty sure drinking beer is fun.
Find a friend with overlapping interests, and you’re in business.
Conor Lawrence and the gang at 514 Studios/Callahan & Co. have been brewing for longer than I have, and for years they’ve been brewing up a house recipe – Dirty Larry Brown – giving bottles away to clients and friends. When Conor told me the story of Dirty Larry Brown over coffee recently, I thought it would make for a fun photo shoot, documenting the making of a signature calling card of their business, while at the same time giving a sense of 514 Studios as a place. And a project was born.
If you’re unfamiliar with the beer brewing process, it’s a pretty simple deal. The alcohol is created by taking the sugars from roasted and dried barley and other grains, boiling them in water for an hour or so with hops for bitterness and floral taste and smell characteristics, then cooling it down to room temperature and storing it for a while with some special yeast. The yeast eats the sugar and releases alcohol. Voila!
Of course there are countless variations of grains, hop varieties, and yeast strains to choose from – not to mention enough gear to keep any guy with his face in a Northern Brewer catalog for hours at a time. And for the OCD crowd, there’s the lingering danger that one small bacteria could get by your fastidious cleaning routine and skunk the whole 5 gallon batch. Ask any home brewer about any one of these nuances and you’re liable to be roped in to an hour and a half conversation. With any luck you’ll get a beer or two out of the deal, but just be warned.
In the brew pot the day I swung by was a recipe by the name of Ferocious, modeled after a certain aggressive local IPA favorite. The beer called for what some might consider a ridiculous number of hops, which Conor models in a few photos in the gallery. But the fun – and my favorite photos from the shoot, from a brewer’s perspective – came when it was time to transfer the wort (the raw liquid that will be beer after it ferments for a while) from the boil kettle to the carboy. Since there are always hops and other things in the wort, the boil kettle has a screen over the spigot to keep the non-liquids out of the carboy. But our boy Ferocious had so many hops that it clogged the screen and wouldn’t let any liquid through. Problems. So then Conor and his friend Dave tried bypassing the spigot and pouring through a strainer and in to a funnel. Then that clogged! Finally, other options defeated, the rest of the whole hoppy stew was poured straight in to the carboy.
And you know what? It’ll be delicious.
Thanks to Conor and Dave for sharing space, time, and brews. Looking forward to bottling.
One of the things I love about professional chefs is that they’re often up for an adventure. Take Hakan Lundberg, Chef de Cuisine at Cosmos Restaurant in Minneapolis. When I first approached him a couple months ago about helping me put together a food photo shoot on top of a frozen lake, he put up about ten seconds of indecision, then jumped squarely on board. I did luck out a little bit, though; his first ice fishing experience happened after I made the request. If things had happened the other way around, I’m not so sure I would’ve got the same answer.
This shoot definitely had more variables to contend with than installment one of the Worldly Gourmet series last summer with Asher Miller. Variable number one goes by the name Lake Minnetonka. I went out to scout the shoot location a week prior to our chosen date, and temps had been in the upper 30s for several days. The foot of snow sitting on top of the ice had been turned to slushy puddles. Not really what I wanted to see. Then a good news/bad news kind of thing happened: first, a big cold snap froze the puddles, which was great. Not so great was the 14 inches of snow that came a couple days before the shoot, making travel across the lake much more tricky.
A very busy week leading up to the shoot meant that dialing in the location would have to happen the morning of the shoot, which certainly provided a couple anxious moments (that’s code for nearly driving in to the lake, then getting stuck for 15 minutes), but in the end we found a great spot and hit our schedule perfectly. Hooray for local knowledge, trusty assistants capable of taking turns at pushing a stuck vehicle, Google Maps, fallback options, and fallback fallback options!
Once we got to our spot, a magical thing happened that I find often happens when it’s time to take photos: the thick gray clouds parted, the wind died down, and the weather turned about as nice as you could expect on a late-February day in Minnesota. Hakan’s son Isaac had a great time ice fishing (although the highlight of his day seemed to be when the fish heads were removed – he kept asking if it was time, and when it finally was, he ran around screaming, TIME TO CUT THE FISH HEADS! TIME TO CUT THE FISH HEADS! Clearly the son of a chef – plus, check out the photo of him cutting carrots), and we did exactly what we had set out to do: have a great time, and take some fun quirky photos.
In case you missed it, earlier this week, The Culinary Mistress, a cookbook I photographed last November and December, was successfully launched into the world. For Geri Wolf, the author, the book is a tribute to some of the Twin Cities’ top chefs, and the quickfire completion of a long held dream. For me, it was the perfect opportunity to combine two of my core photographic specialties – portraits and food – and a chance to spend a little quality time with some of the most creative, gutsy people in town. Now that the book exists and is ready for sale, I’m SUPER excited to be able to show you some of my favorite images collected for the book.
To kick things off I thought I’d start with Stewart Woodman, in honor of the opening of his latest creation just yesterday, Heidi’s Minneapolis. Since Heidi’s was weeks away from opening its doors, we used Stewart’s dining room for the shoot. Led Zeppelin was on the stereo, the living room was wallpapered with various restaurant opening-related lists scribbled on white butcher paper, and a team of four chefs churned out the sea bass recipe Stewart contributed to the book.
Stewart, aka Shefzilla, has a certain reputation around town as a man whose passions for his craft sometimes spill over onto the spicy side of the thermometer. But sadly, I can’t add to the legend; true, I was only around for a few hours, but what I experienced was a confident, friendly, cohesive bunch of people. And the sea bass? Holy crap, it was delicious.
Since wrapping up the Rest Stop Gourmet shoot a few months back, I’ve been working with videographer Ryan Wheeler on the behind the scenes video below. Ryan did an incredible job capturing footage and stitching it together in a way that really captures what it’s like on a location photo shoot.