Field trip to a food photography studio

Farm to Table

For students that clamor over the latest issues of Edible Boston and weigh their dinner choices on “how it will look on the blog”, a field trip to a food photography studio is pretty much a dream come true. The trip last week was put on for my food writing class, where photographer Nina Gallant and her food stylist partner, Meridith Byrne, taught us the tools of the trade. They offered nuggets of wisdom on how to style food (tweezers and small dishes are a must), how to find food that is out of season and ripe (shop at Russo’s!), and how to get the best photograph (it’s all about the lighting).

Field trip to Nina Gallant's food photography studio

Our class split up into teams of three. Each group was given a tray of food and a concept to portray (ours was “Farm to Table”), reflective of the type of project that a professional food photographer might get assigned. We then worked together to style the food and compose the shots. Nina has photographed for cookbooks, food packages, and everything in between, so the advice that she and Meridith offered as they floated from group to group was indispensable.

So, what’s the secret to getting the perfect shot? Take several photos! As Nina likes to say, “Pixels are free”.

Food styling

Want to learn more? Nina Gallant is giving a food photography class here in Boston that meets four times this April and May. For details and pricing, see here.

– Kelly

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Gastronomy Course Spotlight: Food and the Senses

DSC01788Food and the Senses is one of the 4 required core classes for the Gastronomy program, and is the best one that I’ve taken yet.  Classes always had a small sensory experiment, which included everything from blind taste testing to dark chocolate and red wine pairings to molecular gastronomy demonstrations. The hands-on, scientific aspect of the course was a refreshing change of pace from other classes in the program, which are often very focused in anthropology.

Like most gastronomy courses, the final project was open to pretty much whatever we wanted to study. We just had to write about a food topic and how it related to the senses. I wrote about improving the sensory appeal of vegetables, while my classmates covered topics as diverse as the rise of popularity of comfort food, and the sensory aspects of Jewish culinary traditions.

nettaThe class was taught by Netta Davis, who graduated in the first class of the BU Gastronomy program when it was created. From living on a vegetarian commune to working as an assistant to Julia Child to being a food writer in Spain, Netta has an entertaining anecdote for every culinary situation, and has the perfect personality to teach such a hands-on course. Admittedly, I am a little too Type-A for her free spirited teaching style, but I can’t say that I didn’t love the class.

– Kelly

Image via BU

Evy Tea: Local, Luxurious, and Undeniably Healthy

My tried an true shopping spots are the bulk bins in Whole Foods Market, so needless to say, packaged goods aren’t really my thing. It is a rare treat to find bottled beverages that are delicious, natural and healthy… much less ones that are “Kelly-approved”. Most flavored teas have sugar, or (possibly worse) artificial sweeteners. But not Evy Tea. Evy Tea is simply cold brewed tea layered with various complimentary flavors. No sweetener necessary.

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I was recently introduced to Evy Tea in the Fall 2013 issue of Edible Boston. Then, upon my good fortune, I got to sample all 3 flavors (Amber Oolong with Rosemary and Orange Zest, Moonlight White Tea with Apricot and Jasmine, and Decaf Green Tea with Fig and Pomegranate) at the pop up Farmers Market at the Harvard Square Anthropologie. The Rosemary flavor in the Oolong tea was unexpected in the best way possible, so that’s the bottle I came home with. This flavor also placed first in the 2013 North American Tea Championship. I knew I had good taste!

Anyone that knows me knows that I love tea. But this isn’t your average 4 o’clock brew. This tea is thoughtfully crafted, healthy, and, dare I say it, sexy.

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The slender, chic bottle is reminiscent of a fine bottle of liquor or wine. But unlike liquor or wine, Evy Tea is calorie free and loaded with nutrients! I have a soft spot for companies that make health foods desirable and fun, so of course, this is right up my alley. And I can’t say I’m not a sucker for the gorgeous bottle. Just look at it!

DSC01507Evy Tea (“The World’s First Premium Cold Brewed Tea”) is available at fine food purveyors in the Boston area, and is also available online. To learn more about Evy Tea, pick up the current issue of Edible Boston!
– Kelly

Gastronomy Course Spotlight: Lab in the Culinary Arts

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The summer culinary arts lab is an abbreviated version (5:30-9:30pm, 2 nights a week, for 6 weeks) of the semester-long culinary certificate program. While the summer culinary lab doesn’t cover as much ground (due to time constraints), I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to participate in the culinary arts program, but doesn’t have the flexibility to give up their day job.

The BU Gastronomy Culinary Arts program is unique, because in addition to getting a hands-on culinary education from our instructor (Chef Christine Merlo), chefs from famous Boston restaurants visit as guest instructors. Over the summer, Chef Jonathon Taylor (Blue Ginger) taught us Asian cuisine, Chef Dante de Magistris (II Casale, Restaurant Dante) taught us how to make handmade pasta and pasta sauce, Chef Cara Chigazola (Oleana) taught us Mediterranean recipes, and Chef Jeremy Sewall (Lineage, Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, The Hawthorne) taught us seafood dishes.

Below is a peek at the dishes we prepared in class:

food pics

  1. Gazpacho & French onion soup (sanitation, knife skills & stocks)
  2. Macaroni & Cheese with Bechamel sauce, Chicken Pie with Biscuit topping and veloute sauce, & Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce (sauces & emulsions)
  3. Roast Pork with Mustard Herb Crust & Apple Cider Reduction, Sauteed Baby Vegetables, Seared Scallops with Thyme Brown Butter Sauce, & Farmers Market Cobbler (blanching, saute, and roasting)
  4. Coq Au Vin, Ratatouille with Egg and Cheese, Rice Pilaf, and Plum Granita (butchering a whole chicken, braising and stewing)
  5. Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs, Haddock in Parchment, Cheese Souffles, & Poached Pears in Wine with Whipped Cream (poaching & steaming)
  6. Grilled Steak with Chimichuri Sauce, Pommes Frites, Onion Rings, Broiled Tomato & Brownie Pudding Cake (grilling, broiling, & deep fat frying)
  7. Guest Chef (Jonathan Taylor): Pork & Ginger Pot Stickers, Thai Beef Salad, Shrimp & Mango Summer Rolls, Clams with fermented black beans and fresh udon noodle
  8. Guest Chef (Dante de Magistris): Orecchiette, Ravioli Ignudi, Basic egg pasta, Gnocchi, Traditional Tomato Sauce
  9. Guest Chef (Cara Chigazola): Hummus, Kisir, Imam Bayildi, Chicken Schwarma
  10. Partner Challenge (3 course meal using the ingredients corn, cream cheese, and pork): Corn fritters, Beer marinated Grilled Pork with Homemade Tater Tots, Carrot Fries, and Ranch Dipping Sauce, Cheesecake Brownies
  11. Guest Chef (Jeremy Sewall): Lobster Bisque, Beignets, Lobster Ravioli, Baked Oysters, Grilled Fish, Summer Produce Salad
  12. Practical Final (3 course meal using the ingredients shrimp, chicken, zucchini, & blueberry): Grilled Shrimp & Zucchini Roll Ups with Goat Cheese and Herbs, Lavender and Honey Roasted Chicken with Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Crispy Mustard Brussels Sprouts, Blueberry Crostada

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^^Jacques Pepin and Julia Child co-founded the Gastronomy program, which is why Pepin’s work is largely represented in our course materials. He is still involved with the program to this day, and I even had a chance to see him speak earlier this year.

The most notable assignments were the market basket challenges. For the US regional challenge, each group was assigned a different region of the United States and told to prepare a 3 course meal that represented that region, using 3 ingredients given. My partner and I got assigned the central plains, and the ingredients we had to incorporate were corn, beef, and cream cheese. We made corn fritters, beer marinated grilled steak with homemade tater tots, carrot fries, and ranch dipping sauce, and cheesecake brownies. It was only minutes after we plated and presented our beautiful entree when our instructor came rushing back into the kitchen after us exclaiming, “This is not your fault, but…”

Apparently, she accidentally pulled pork from the freezer instead of beef. And since medium rare pork is frowned upon in the culinary world, back on the grill it went. Oh, well…

For our final, we simply had to prepare a menu that showcased our new culinary skills using the ingredients corn, shrimp, zucchini, and blueberries. So for my meal, I prepared grilled shrimp & zucchini roll ups with goat cheese and herbs, lavender and honey roasted chicken with garlic mashed potatoes & crispy mustard brussels sprouts, and a blueberry crostada. For each of these challenges, we were given an hour for the appetizer, an hour and a half for the entree, and an hour for the dessert. Unlike on the show “Chopped”, we knew our key ingredients a few classes ahead of time. Additionally, we could only use one online and one magazine recipe. The others had to come from cookbooks.

Have you ever taken a culinary class?

– Kelly

Sustainable Aquaculture Interview with Fishmonger and Gastronomy Student Noel Bielaczyc

New Deal Fish Market

This week I met up with fishmonger and fellow Gastronomy student Noel Bielaczyc at his place of work, New Deal Fish Market (622 Cambridge St). Noel gave me the inside scoop on sustainable aquaculture, and also expanded my knowledge on the different varieties of fish available. Check out the interview below…

New Deal Fish Market

Kelly: How did you first get interested in seafood and aquaculture?

Noel: When I moved to Ann Arbor for college, I saw a fish market and I knew I wanted to work there. I love fishing and the water, so it’s a natural mix of interests.

K: Can you tell me a bit about organic seafood certification and how valuable that is?

N: I’m kind of skeptical about the organic seafood label. It only applies to farm raised fish and just means that plant portion of their feed (soybeans, corn, etc.) was organically raised. But fish like salmon are primarily carnivores, so how can you say that the fishmeal (wild anchovies, sardines, etc.) component of their diet is organic? This label only makes sense for fish that can be raised on an entirely vegetarian diet, like tilapia and catfish. Your best bet is to look for wild, domestic seafood.

K: Can fish be farmed sustainably, and if so, how would we know?

N: I have heard of a few cases of fish being farmed sustainably, but that is not the majority of the farmed fish on the market. It can be done well, but it’s not enough to feed the world.  Because salmon are carnivores, you must catch fish to grow fish, which leads to a net loss. [Salmon farms] are not really doing anything to increase supply.

K: How can consumers help support a sustainable aquaculture system?

N: If the only fish you eat are shrimp, cod, and salmon, you’re missing the point. If you want to be a responsible seafood consumer, you’ve got to branch out. Additionally, shellfish is some of the best stuff you can get. Shellfish aquaculture (like clams, mussels, or oysters) is almost like planting seeds, and it’s not nearly as intensive as salmon farming.

K: A February 2013 New York Times article reported that approximately 1/3 of the fish on the market are mislabeled. How can consumers avoid getting duped? Is there anything that should raise red flags?

N: You are most likely to run into that [deception] at a restaurant, because there’s less seafood expertise, the supply chain is longer, and there’s lots of pressure to control costs. If you are eating an $8.99 platter of scallops, snapper, and haddock, there’s a good chance it might not be what you think it is. [In order to avoid getting duped,] find a fish market you trust and fishmongers you can develop a relationship with. Over 80% of our seafood is imported, so one of the safest things you can do is buy domestic seafood whenever possible.

K: Do you know of any restaurants in Boston that source fish responsibly?

N: Bergamont gets their fish from us, and they do a really great job. East by Northeast buys from us as well. I’m sure Legal Seafoods is doing something right, but I’m not really sure what their practices are. Smaller, independent places are going to be your best bet.

K: Many home cooks are intimidated by the prospect of cooking fish. Any tips?

N: The most important thing to remember is that it’s actually quicker than cooking almost anything else. Let your fishmonger do the dirty work (scaling, gutting, filleting…)! My favorite way to eat fish in the summer is actually raw. Just throw together some dry scallops, good olive oil, onions, and grapefruit juice, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful crudo. If you are unsure about which fish can be eaten raw, you have to ask, and not all fish markets are like that.

New Deal Fish Market

Looking for the best catch in Boston? Then visit the team at New Deal Seafood! Noel helped me pick out some excellent Striped Bass from right here in Massachusetts. Do you have a favorite type of seafood to cook? Do tell!

– Kelly

FREE Outdoor Fitness Classes in Boston

That’s right, FREE! The summer is going by quickly, so don’t let these opportunities pass you by.

Yoga on the Boston Common:

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Come to Frog Pond on Tuesday nights (6:00-7:15 p.m.) for a FREE expert-led yoga class (power vinyasa flow). Participants are encouraged to bring their own mats and blocks, and all ages and levels are welcome. For more information, read here. Classes run every week June 4 – August 27.

Healthy, Fit, & Fun at the Esplanade:

The Esplanade Association is hosting FREE Healthy, Fit, & Fun classes this summer (through August 30). All abilities and ages are welcome to participate. For more information, read here. See schedule below:

  • Mondays: 2.5 mile Community Power Walk (meet at the Hatch Shell at 6:00pm)
  • Tuesdays: Zumba (meet at the Hatch Shell at 6:00pm)
  • Wednesdays: Sunset Yoga (meet at Fiedler Field at 6 p.m) & Run Club (3, 5, & 8 mile options, meet in front of Marathon Sports Boston, 671 Boylston St., at 6:30 p.m. warm-up begins at 6 p.m.)
  • Thursdays: CrossFit (meet at Fiedler Field at 6 p.m)
  • Fridays: Boot Camp (meet at Fiedler Field at 7 a.m.)

Hope to see you there!

– Kelly

Gym Rat

Gym rat

Exercise has never been my strong suit. While I go through spurts of motivation every now and then, for the most part, it is difficult for me to motivate myself to work out. I am no personal trainer. And now that it’s warm outside (and inside, thanks to the lack of AC) the last thing I want to do is work up a sweat.

So I joined a gym. A temperature controlled paradise with group fitness classes, towel service, and an outdoor pool. Maybe all of the amenities will lure me into going frequently? At least it’s worked for the past week or so. When I work out alone, it is far too easy for me to call it quits early. But in a group fitness class, I can’t just quit in front of everyone. So I keep going, and end up pushing myself to have a tough yet rewarding work out. And best of all, at only a 5 minute walk from my apartment, the location of the gym is hard to beat.

I know what you’re thinking. This sounds expensive. And I’m not gonna lie, the payment stings. But physical activity is the component of my health that has always needed the most help, so it only makes sense that it’s where I choose to invest. Wish me luck!

How do you stay motivated to exercise? Do you belong to a gym?

– Kelly

SOWA Open Market

Looking for a lovely way to spend your weekend? The SOWA Open Market is running in the charming South End neighborhood of Boston on Sundays from 10am to 4pm, May through October. The SOWA (South of Washington) Open Market consists of an Art Market, a Farmers Market, and a round up of Boston’s best Food Trucks. I believe there is also an indoor antique market, but I haven’t ventured there yet.

Art Market

SOWA crafts market

Farmers Market

SOWA Farmers Market

SOWA farmers market

SOWA Farmers Market

In addition to fresh produce, the Farmers Market offered a seafood CSA through Cape Cod Fish Share, as well as a selection of pasture raised meat from Brookford Farm in New Hampshire.

Food Trucks

SOWA food trucks

SOWA

So far, some of my favorite healthy food truck bites are the Green Smoothie from Mother Juice, and the Crispy Turkey Crepe from Paris Creperie.

SOWA

SOWA

For a full listing of the food trucks at SOWA, see here. Have you been to the SOWA Open Market? Who is your favorite SOWA vendor?

– Kelly

Gastronomy Course Spotlight: Understanding Food (Theory and Methodology)

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Understanding Food: Theory and Methodology is intended to be the introductory course to the Gastronomy program. The purpose of the course is to introduce Gastronomy students to the landmark works that have influenced food studies, as well as learn the different methods that scholars use to study food. I took it my second semester in the program, because it filled up too quickly during my first semester.

Despite the course being called “Theory and Methodology,” it was much more heavy on theory (particularly social theory) and kind of skimped out on the methods. The class has a reputation for being tedious due to the heavy emphasis on social theorists such as Karl Marx and Pierre Bourdeiu, dense reading list, and rather intense writing component. Despite the dense articles, the books assigned for class (pictured above) were rather enjoyable.

rachel blackRachel Black, the director of the Gastronomy program, taught the course. Rachel has a reputation as being a tough grader, but her stories from living in France and Italy during her twenties won over our travel minded and curious class. Rachel stressed the interdisciplinary aspect of gastronomy, and I liked that each class was based on a different branch of food studies (anthropology, nutrition, geography, etc). As an added bonus, our class went to a guest lecture by Janet Poppendieck just one week after reading her book for our class.

This class had the greatest number of assignments I have encountered in the program thus far. We were assigned two short essays, a spotlight presentation, a midterm, a literature review, an outline, a final research paper, and a couple of homework assignments. Despite the tedious reputation of the course, I was pleased with what I learned. The topics covered in this course set a good foundation for the rest of my learning experience, and the required reading was both challenging and enriching. The authors we were introduced to are referenced time and time again in the food world, so it was good to get a handle on the different theories that food scholars draw upon.

Image via Rachel E. Black

– Kelly

Real Beauty

My first year in Boston has been quite eventful so far. Thankfully, myself and my loved ones have been out of harm’s way, and I very much appreciate those that have reached out and expressed concern. The events that unfolded this week were tragic, and such circumstances are a great opportunity to reflect on real beauty. All over the city, people showed their real beauty by coming together and supporting one another. Despite all of the hardship, I am thankful to be surrounded by such loving neighbors and citizens, as well as such hard working law enforcement officers. #bostonstrong

If you haven’t seen the Dove Real Beauty Sketches that came out recently (see video below), you should definitely check it out. Thank you to Hitha, Sally & Molly for alerting me to this awesome video!

More real beauty…

Image via Body Love Wellness

Image via Pinterest (original source unknown)

For anyone looking to improve their relationship with food, mind, and body, I highly recommend Intuitive Eating. If you’re not game to go through the entire book, at least check out the 10 principles. These RDs are onto something life changing!

Image via Barnes and Noble

Up next on my reading list? A recommendation led me to Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters. I’m interested to learn more!

Image via Amazon

Lastly, I couldn’t mention real beauty without recommending this documentary film. America the Beautiful is an incredible film, and I can only imagine that the sequel is just as compelling.

america the beautiful

Image via America the Beautiful

Thanks again to everyone that showed their real beauty and compassion this week in Boston! I’m lucky to have landed in such a caring community, and I’m excited to continue my New England adventures. #bostonstrong

– Kelly