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.
Earlier this year I had the chance to help Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation tell a couple success stories from their past year for their 2011 Annual Report. PCNF does incredible work providing housing to a wide range of at-risk populations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and it was an incredibly rewarding experience spending time with some of their clients, as well as those who serve the underserved.
Story one was a new mixed use building housing 40 or so young people transitioning out of either foster care or homeless situations. I really had no idea what to expect, but what I found were people at ease and empowered, taking control of their lives after coming out of difficult circumstances. On-site job coaches talked of dedicated kids, and the residents who let me in to their rooms obviously took great care of their spaces.
Story two was a building that PCNF took over last year and completely renovated, serving low income adults. I spent the morning with one resident who had just moved in to a unit a couple months earlier, after a number of years with no permanent address. He still had plenty to work out when we talked, but imagine the stress lifting from your shoulders, knowing that you have a safe place to stay.
At the adult residence I also got to spend some time with the building manager, a woman with a history in law enforcement, who is the resident fixer-of-all-problems in her current role. So fun to talk to people who love their jobs: as we toured the building and she pointed out all the improvements that had been made, person after person stopped us to get her help on transportation issues, government agency red tape questions, building things. . . all kinds of stuff. It seemed like an exhausting position. But she told us, ‘I love my job. I can’t walk down the hall without meeting someone I can help. How many people can say that?’
Congratulations to Steven Brown on the successful opening of his new restaurant, Tilia, in Linden Hills. Andrew Zimmern posted a stellar review yesterday on one of his blogs, which I’m sure will be followed by more praise from the other critics in town.
Photographing the chefs and food that went in to The Culinary Mistress, we ended up setting up our roving photo studio in some. . . nontraditional spaces in order to accommodate the schedule of a chef: dining rooms during service, kitchens, back hallways crowded with ladders and spare 4-tops. My favorites were the chefs we photographed who were in the process of developing their next restaurant: Stewart Woodman prior to the opening of Heidi’s, Stephen Trojahn during the Gastro Truck off-season, and Steven Brown during the lead up to the newly-opened Tilia. Since these chefs didn’t have restaurants for us to invade, they opened their homes to us. And since there wasn’t the crush of responsibilities generally pressing down on an executive chef in the restaurant, we were able to have some great conversations.
Steven talked about the gastro-pub trend of the past several years, and about how the public’s growing embrace of craft beers has mirrored his own shift toward a cuisine that is much more approachable and affordable, but still well thought out and crafted. Based on Zimmern’s review, it sounds like Tilia is a perfect realization of Steven’s latest food thoughts, as well as exactly what tons of people (me included) are looking for these days in a restaurant.
Chris Damskey is one stylish dude. Maybe it was because he was on vacation, in town for the weekend on his way to a friend’s wedding, but what impressed me photographing chef Damskey was his cool and ease. I guess another factor could’ve been that we got to roam outside for his portraits, since the weather had yet to turn over to winter, and being out in the world always helps a person feel more natural in front of the camera. In any case, Chris was great to hang out with for a few minutes, and a great portrait subject.
Chris’s recipes, prepared by Sea Change Executive Chef Erik Anderson, reflected his cool, and went perfectly with author Geri Wolf’s art direction: vivid reds and oranges in all three of his dishes, giving a very contemporary, saturated look to each plate. The carrot broth in particular, being poured from above in the book photograph, photographed beautifully.