Huntsville has a new brewery!!! Let’s all toast Green Bus Brewery with a pint of Hop Bus IPA!!Back in 2009 craft beer in Huntsville was in its infancy. Prior to this beer with an alcohol content of more than 6% was banned from the state. Other prohibition era laws remained of the books and essentially stifled an industry that was thriving and benefiting other states throughout the country. In 2005, a group of passionate beer lovers started the Free the Hops movement to change the laws and bring more sophisticated beer drinking habits to the state. And once change started there was no stopping it. Throughout Alabama craft breweries started expanding, but no place took to it like Huntsville. Maybe it’s all of our out-of-state brew drinking transplants, maybe it’s our high populations of beer-loving engineers, but whatever the reason, Huntsville loves craft beer!Now that we’ve hit 2016 Green Bus will be the 8th brewery in Madison County. I had the pleasure of dropping into the Grand Opening.The Grand Opening lasted all day and I picked a time that I thought would be dead, but I would be wrong. There were tons of people, lots of beer, food, games, live music, raffles, and a guy in lederhosen. ‘Tis the season I suppose. They even had the infamous green bus! It was covered with stickers from all the other local breweries. I love how the craft beer industry in Alabama is so supportive of each other. I can’t tell you how many times brewers have told me ‘when one of us succeeds we all do’.I’d loved to have tasted the beer, but unfortunately I am currently under a strict gluten-free diet (doctor’s orders) so alas I could only photograph it. I will say it was quite pretty and the drinkers around me seemed immensely happy.
Last weekend I participated in my 4th food blog tour to celebrate a Restaurant Week. They are always fun and interesting, so I thought I’d give an inside look of this year’s tour.
The tours actually start out kind of awkward, especially if you don’t know anyone. You’re just eating with a bunch of strangers and though you’ve read their profiles you don’t really know much them. I’m always worried that I’ll do something stupid, because I usually do, this year I misplaced my shoes and may or may not have accidentally mooned someone when a gust of wind caught my skirt. I was fulling immersed in photographing a beautifully plated dish and didn’t pay attention to how windy it was getting. To that person walking by on the sidewalk I’m sorry.. or you’re welcome.
But in the end the bloggers all become fast friends, because we are brought together by food and the experience of eating 3 meals together. In the beginning we are so polite and proper, but by end we are sharing food off each other dishes, recommending places to get good photographs, and laughing and joking with each other.
And it always nice to read each other’s experiences on the blogs afterwards and I recommend you do the same.
We also risk life and limb to get a shot. As a photographer you get yourself worked up about ‘finding the right light’ and ‘making sure you captured the ambiance of a place’. You know that friend that is SO annoying Instagraming every piece of food that goes in their mouth, and then your food, and then the food of the people at the table next to you, well that is child’s play when it comes to a food blogger. I come to a restaurant with a full camera bag, I shoot with a reflector and sometimes a tripod. I climb up on chairs to ‘get the shot’. So obnoxious. The nice things is I am not alone on a food blog tour!
It is also nice because you have people who help aka egg you on to do something crazy.
Thank-you to the Huntsville/Madison County Visitor’s Bureau for hosting us and thanking to all the restaurants and bloggers for making it a great experience.
Make sure you check out their blogs!
Katie Actually: http://www.katieactually.com
Charles Hunter III: https://thesaltedtable.com
Jennifer Garvens: http://www.sweettmakesthree.com
Bo Williams: http://bowilliams.com
Stephenie Walker: http://www.rocketcitymom.comDid I get the shot? Yes I did! Thank-you to Charles from TheSaltedTable.com for making sure I didn’t break my neck or really embarrass myself by getting stuck in a chair and having to have firefighters cut me out or some nonsense like that.
Thank-you to Katie for letting me use your shot from KatieActually.com.
As any true Harry Potter fan knows July 31st is Harry’s birthday. He’ll be 36 years old this year. Now don’t you feel older.
Harry and his buddies were frequenters of the candy shop Honeyduke’s, where they would by Chocolate Frogs, Fizzing Whizzbees, Cockroach Clusters and Acid Pops. To celebrate Harry’s birthday I created my version of Acid Pops.
1/2 cup Light Corn Syrup
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Water
5 drops Lemon Extract
5 drops Green Food Coloring
3 packs Pop Rocks
Step one: Take your wand, flick and clearly state “Accio Acid Pop ingredients”. For muggles just collect your ingredients.
Step two: In a medium sauce pan combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Heat on high, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Step three: Prep your lollipop mold by spraying a small amount of oil in the area they candy will touch.
Step four: Boil the ingredients until the temperature reaches 300°F and remove from heat.
Step five: Add extract and food coloring and stir.
Step six: Carefully spoon the melted sugar mixture in the mold, immediately place the sticks in the candy and pour Pop Rocks onto the hardening lolli. Beware they Pop Rocks may shoot wildly around the room when they hit the hot sugar. Don’t put your face near the candy to hear the snapping of the Pop Rocks as you could lose any eye. I learned this one the hard way.
After 20 minutes the candy should be cool enough to enjoy. The Pop Rocks do lose there snap after time, so you want to enjoy them the same day.
Happy Birthday Harry!!
Over the Christmas holidays my husband, my sister-in-law and I jetted away for a whirlwind, two day trip to London. We were going to spend several days in the city, but (London Fun Fact) the trains shut down on Christmas Eve Eve (Dec. 23rd) so we shortened the trip.
Since we only had two days we hit the highlights and stuck to the most stereotypically touristy parts of London: Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, fish and chips, tea, etc., but it was still immensely fun.
Now let’s be honest, Great Britain isn’t exactly known for their culinary prowess. True they have tea, scones, and fish and chips, all of which are lovely, but they also have a mysterious, slightly scary, tar-like substance called Marmite, which I’ve gathered you eat on toast (Is it like jam or closer to peanut butter?) and Stargazy Pie, which maybe delicious, but honestly just looks terrifying. (Are you supposed to eat the fish heads?) My point being, I had very mixed expectations when it came to English cuisine.
I am happy to report that most of the dishes were wonderfully delicious and I would eat them again. That being said, I played it pretty safe and avoided the fish head pies and jellied eels (look it up).
In the morning went sightseeing, shot the obligatory photo at Big Ben, toured Westminster Abbey with an audio recording by Jeremy Irons (fancy), complained about the pesky tourists (Wow, Americans are SO loud! Sorry rest of the world), and in general enjoyed this wonderful, exciting city.
When we finally decided to stop for lunch we had no plan, so we picked the first interesting place we across: Westminster Arms. Apparently we picked well because in addition to being frequented by politicians and journalists, it has also been visited by Desmond Tutu, Angelina Jolie and Bill Clinton. All of this I learned after I got back to the States.We walked downstairs to the crowded restaurant portion of the pub and I fully expected to be turned away or a long wait.
“Are you here to eat?” asked a man brusquely. He definitely seemed like the owner, so from henceforth I will refer to him as such.
“Yes” I answered. I reined in my Americanness and said it with polite, deference rather than the exuberant, enthusiasm I’m used to in the States. Polite, deference would never fly at T.G.I.Fridays. They waitstaff would harass you until you faked absolute bliss to be eating artichoke dip. Being an American can be exhausting, who wants to be that upbeat and energetic all the time.
The owner walked up to a table filled with pint sipping patrons and said to the people “These people are eating, you need to leave.”
My husband and I were shocked, but the people seemed to take it in stride, got up and headed upstairs so we could take their table. I guess it is tavern protocol.
I ordered the most tourist dish possible, fish and chips, which was more for the mashed peas than the fish and chips. I’ve tasted canned Mushy, which I wasn’t a fan off, but it made me want to try the real stuff. As I suspected, real mushy peas are delicious! Of course the fish and chips were also wonderful. My husband went for the second most touristy dish, bangers and mash, which was also quite good. I’d like to visit again and try something less obvious, but overall everything was well-cooked and plated. The tavern itself was nice with booths, tables and a bar at the front. Everything was covered in wood and complimented with appropriate art and decor.
The ladies’ toilets were also an adventure. There was a sink with two facets: one for hot water and one for cold water, but none for comfortable temperature water. I’ve been told this is fairly common in Great Britain, but this was the only sink I encountered like this, granted I was only there for 2 days.The restroom also had charming wall art to keep you entertained during your visit. I’m not sure what ‘cor scrummy’ means but I take it to mean something good. ‘Sexy’ maybe, ‘tasty’, it’s possible. If anyone knows please feel free to educate me.
On this gloomy, rainy Autumn day nothing is more perfect than a lunch of warm heirloom carrot and ginger soup. It is especially perfect when paired with fresh rolls and garnished with chives and dill. Another great recipe for Chef Chris at The Bottle!
HEIRLOOM CARROT AND GINGER SOUP
(Serves 8 people)
2 tbs. whole butter
1 medium Vidalia onion
1 small clove of garlic
2 fresh bay leaves
1 tsp. salt and fresh ground pepper.
2 lbs. Chantenay carrots (any good sweet heirloom variety)
1 small piece of peeled fresh ginger (2 oz.)
6 cups vegetable stock (carrots, onions and celery)
1 cup heavy cream
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, sauté the roughly chopped vegetables in whole butter for five minutes. Add the vegetable stock, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Simmer for five minutes or until the carrots are tender. Puree and strain the mixture into another sauce pot and add the heavy cream. Bring to a light simmer and check seasoning. A few drops of lemon juice will help to bring out the flavor of the carrots. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, your favorite crusty bread and fresh herbs.
Alas, I could say that for the photos of this post were to pay homage to the photography greats Brassaï or Robert Doisneau, but that would be a lie. The truth is I was invited to a tea-themed cooking class and as an afterthought I brought my camera with me to get a few pictures. Much of photography is planning and I did not do that on this venture, so I ended up with dull, off-colored photographs. Oh well, it happens to the best of us and there are several courses of action when it occurs.
1. Spend countless hours attempting to color correct each image. Lame, who as time for that.
2. Use the off-colored photos and endure people telling you about how Instagram has really ‘professional’ editing features now. Also, knowing they are judging you for your bad photography, which is rarely fun.
3. Convert all the images to black and white and convince people it is because you are so artistic and deep. It helps if you say things like ‘The black and white removes all the distraction of color so you really SEE the image”, while rubbing your chin in an intelligent manner.
I went with a version of option 3 and converted to black/white… but admitted it was because I had taken crappy pictures. I guess sometimes honesty is the best policy. Please do notice the subtle influence of Brassaï‘s bar images reflected in the chaos of the tea party. You can’t see me, as this is text, but know that I am rubbing my chin intelligently as I type this.
I met CC last year at a blogging function. It was my first event with the group Rocket City Bloggers and every time I told someone I was a food photographer they would ask if I had met CC yet. Toward the end of the evening I finally did meet CC and he was worth all the hype. CC is a very talent chef that teaches cooking classes and has a food blog, in addition to his day job. Since then I have had dinner with CC and his lovely family several times, in addition to taking two of his cooking classes. Check out his blog and Facebook page. There is very premium and interesting information on both.
The class that I poorly photographed was his Downton Abbey High Tea Class.In addition to not planning my photo shoot, I should also mention that I showed up late and the class was well on its way by the time I finally arrived. I am a disaster. CC was mid way through making scones when I arrived. As he cooked and demonstrated the proper technique for each dish we sipped delicious teas, some of which he’d shipped in from Boston. After the scones were safely tucked in the oven he made pastry crisps and lemon curd. So delicious! My favorite desserts are alway citrus-based, so I was a huge fan of this portion of the tea.Whenever I take a cooking class I always feel like I am being shown the secret to a magic trick. Despite working in the food industry a lot of it is still a mysterious to me and I love when it is revealed. Photographing food and creating it are two vastly different things. We had more tea as the scones, pastry crisps and lemon curd cooked. Like a circus plate spinner CC added more dishes to the mix, salmon triple layered sandwiches and a cake. Whew! I was exhausted and I wasn’t even cooking anything, just sipping my tea and making the occasional comment. At this point the smells of the pastries and lemon curd were filling the kitchen. It was unbearable, like when your mother is making cookies but there are still 5 more minutes in the oven, plus cool down time. Finally we were able to have the pastries and more tea. The lemon curd, as I said was my favorite, but it was all very good. Next came the sandwiches, which I didn’t get a photo of, just take my word they were amazing.The last course was the cake, which was of course perfect. Even the Queen approved! And I imagine she is a stickler for good tea and scones.