Fun shoot last week for my friend and colleague Craig Johnson, graphic designer with Agency F and Spunk Design Machine. Craig is an active member of the Twin Cities design community, particularly in the areas of sustainability and green design. Dude’s up for multiple design awards, speaking at design events, and generally blowing up all over the place. Naturally, he needed some portraits.
We had a great time doing laps down Minneapolis’s historic Main Street, Craig on his swank ride, me flat on my belly in the back of my mini van, strobe clamped to the open hatch back, Craig’s friend Hunter doing an admirable driving job not crashing in to Craig or anything else. Best of luck to Craig on his award nominations!
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.
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.