Category Archives: Media

Tips on Photographing Food

Douglas Merriam shared his secrets of great food photography.

Douglas Merriam
Douglas Merriam

If you read glossy food magazines, you’ve probably seen Douglas Merriam’s work and drooled over the dishes he photographed. The Santa Fe-based food, travel and lifestyle photographer gave a presentation at the Society of American Travel Writers Western Chapter meeting on his secrets on how to take great food photographs. He shoots in situ, not in a studio. I’ve figured some of these trick out myself, but my trusty little Panasonic Lumix, which I operate on automatic, isn’t the equal of his SLRs. And I photograph food that I and any dining companions are about to eat, not between meal service times with dishes that the chef has specially prepared.

Doug Merriam shooting a plate of tall food. He has natural light angling in behind him. I had to shoot toward a window, which he would never have to do.
Doug Merriam shooting a plate of tall food. He has natural light angling in behind him. I had to shoot toward a window, which he would never have to do.

Some his advice is impossible for the likes of me. I can’t rearrange the furniture or stand on a chair to shoot down at dish, nor do I travel with white sheet, an iron, reflectors and even a spare plate in case the restaurant’s crockery is too busy.  With those disclaimers, I write that if this blog has better photographs in  the future, the credit goes largely to Doug Merriam.

Here are some of his tips that most of us can use:

  • Wear neutral-color clothing.
  • Use natural light. No flash!
  • Eliminate extraneous garnishes. Simple is best.
  • The eye is drawn to the brightest color, so the peel on the lemon wedge becomes the prominent element on the plate
  • Photographing food at a 45-degree angle most closely mimics the way diners see food.
  • Pizza and other flat foods can be photographed from directly above. Food with height should be photographed at an angle the shows  the height.
  • If a beverage is included in the frame, use a short glass instead of  stemmed wineglass,
  • However, the base of a stemmed glass, the rim of another plate, a piece of flatware or other element on the periphery can add compositional interest.

Photographing food via the “Merriam method” can improve ever so many food images.

Ski Tip Praised but Placed in Nowheresville

The Daily Meal just doesn’t get the middle of the country.

DailyMeal-logoOnce again, a New York-based dining authority may know lots about food but seems to know little about Colorado. It includes Keystone’s Ski Tip Lodge in a list of worthy if remote eateries. Worthy it is. But remote? Not really.

This historic building is now part of the vast Keystone Resort that includes six lodging pods that stretch for miles along US 6. Except arguably in mud season, the resort throbs with activities and can be crowded visitors. It is an hour give or take from Denver, the largest city in a 600-mile radius. Interstate 70, a prime east-west route across the country, is just 6 miles away — and those 6 miles are hardly through wilderness but increasingly developed.

Still The Daily Meal included Ski Tip in its restaurant roundup called “Get Lost: 20 Must-Visit U.S. Restaurants in the Middle of Nowhere,” writing:

When the snow isn’t falling and the tourists aren’t touring, Keystone, about 70 miles west of Denver, is a town of only 1,000 residents. However, the local Ski Tip Lodge —within an 1800’s stagecoach stop that was once the home of Keystone’s founding family — has a restaurant that makes a trip here worth the trouble. Executive chef Kevin McComb offers a four-course meal daily that constantly changes, with dishes like porcini mushroom and potato purée with truffle whipped cream, hoisin cured crispy pork belly, braised and glazed al natural beef short rib, and bourbon marinated Colorado lamb chop. The romantic dining experience is enjoyable and slow-paced, which is possible because the restaurant only offers two seating times per night.

The photo caption perfectly summarizes the site’s ignorance. It reads, “This Ski Tip Lodge meal can be yours! All you need to do is travel into the middle of a forest in the Rocky Mountains.” Not exactly.

Tomorrow, Chef Hosea is on ‘Today’

Boulder chef doing Super Bowl foods on TV.

TodayShow-logoI’ll be watching “The Today Show” tomorrow (that’s Friday, February 4) starting around 9:30 a.m. That’s because Boulder chef/restaurateur Hosea Rosenberg will be on a Super Bowl snacks cook-off against a still-unidentified Carolina cooker.

Rosenberg has said that he plans to prepare two Broncos-inspired dishes. He’ll do “Super Nachos” with blue corn tortillas, shredded cheese, smoked pork green chili, crisp Blackbelly bacon bits, and roasted tomato salsa. Also, “Broncos Sliders,” Bison patties topped with strips of green chile, Blackbelly bacon and melted smoked provolone on a bed of Fritos.

I’m putting my money on Hosea to win the cook-off, no matter whom Carolina comes up with. Not only do I know and like him, but after all, he won “Top Chef,” Season Five and is therefore accustomed to televised competition.  It gives him a chance to put the Blackbelly name in front of a national audience. He carefully parlayed his renown, his winnings and the gigs that followed into Blackbelly Market, Blackbelly Catering, and Blackbelly Farms, all in Boulder.

The Renaissance of ‘Nibbles”

John Lehndorff’s food column now in the Boulder Weekly.

BoulderWeekly-logo“Nibbles” has been part of my local food consciousness –I think since I moved to Colorado nearly 27½ years ago and if not that long, shortly thereafter. John Lehndorff wrote a column by that name for the Daily Camera for 15 years, then moved it to the late Rocky Mountain News when he reviewed restaurants for that paper, then took it first to Yellow Scene Magazine and then to the Aurora Sentinel. It has found a new home at the Boulder Weeklyand I for one am happy to read it again. Click here for the latest.

NY Times Reviewer Slams Per Se

Boulder’s Frasca an heir to what Thomas Keller’s restaurants once were.

NYTimes-logoLike many foodies — even a low-key one like me whose only snobbism is that I won’t go to big national chain restaurants — I always had a secret wish to dine at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Yountville, CA, or Per Se, his over-the-top restaurant in New York,

Pete Wells, the New York Times dining critic, has experienced the cuisine and service at Per Se on an expense account, of course, and still he found the restaurant lacking and demoted it from four to two stars.  His review is scathing and the comments enlightening because they reflect the thoughts both of people who have dined there and those who are appalled by the price and would never spend that much.

This review is obliquely germane to Colorado. Celeb chef Thomas Keller has often appeared at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, about which he says, “The Classic is in a class by itself. You can’t compare it to other culinary events. This is it. This is the superstar. This is the place to come.”

But beyond that, Frasca Food & Wine, the highly honored Friulian  restaurant that more than any other has put Boulder American culinary map has its roots in Keller’s world. Frasca is owned by chef Lachlan McKinnon-Patterson and Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey, who met while working at the French Laundry in its heyday as the country’s best, and then came to Colorado to open their own fine dining restaurant.

We go there now and again for special occasions.  The food has always been exceptional, and the service flawless — at least when Bobby Stuckey is in command of the dining room. We went there once for my birthday when he wasn’t in the room,  and I felt a bit of the surprise that Peter Wells did at Per Se.

Most of the tables at Frasca are set with elegant crisp white linens. The two flanking the kitchen door were bare, and instead of comfortable chairs, seating was on a curved banquette. We were seated at one and at the other was a VERY LOUD party of five. The man at the end of the banquette was dressed in a T-shirt and shorts. One of his butt cheeks hung over the end of the bench, so he stuck out his hairy leg to keep from sliding off. They spoke at a volume usually reserved for sports bars. Other than placing us or them in such proximity, none of this is Frasca’s fault — but it did nothing to enhance the enjoyment of the evening.

What did surprise me was that we did not receive the customary Tajut, a small glass of apéritif wine. Had the restaurant stopped presenting this to every diner? I don’t know, and I was too distracted by the obnoxious group to our left to ask. We’ll be back for another birthday or anniversary or other occasion, and when reserving, I’ll make sure to ask whether Bobby Stuckey is on the floor that evening.

In Praise of Michael Pollan

PBS special on food and the food biz worth watching.

PBS-logoMichael Pollan is one smart man — and he writes well too.  His keen observations about American health, diet fads and the  dreadful food industry ring very true. I like fine dining, exquisite baking and the occasional chip-and-dip snack, but by and large, I believe in eating well and responsibly both for the health of myself and my family and for the environment. I buy organic and local whenever I can, and I am a from-scratch cook.  I avoid chains, especially fast fooderies.

When I read or watch Pollan, I’m part of the choir that he is preaching to, and yet I learned something each time. I read his eloquent In Defense of Food some years ago and watched the PBS version last night. If you missed it, pour yourself a glass of wine (red) or whip up a wholesome smoothie and watch:


Guard & Grace Top Thrillist Steak List

Troy Guard’s steak place selected as Colorado’s best. created a list of the best steakhouses in every state (plus the District of Columbia). For Colorado, the site picked Guard & Grace in Denver. The write-up:

Colorado takes steak seriously. Its biggest city, Denver, was once a “cow town” that hosted a huge Livestock Exchange. Today, Denver (not to mention Fort Collins and Colorado Springs) supports a ton of top-notch, upscale steakhouses like Elway’s and Shanahan’s, and other steak palaces not owned by Broncos affiliates.

Guard and Grace hits all the right modern steakhouse notes — a vibrant feel that doesn’t recall a funeral home, in-house charcuterie, and a raw bar with sashimi; plus barrel-aged Manhattans, an eclectic wine list, and side dishes like handmade truffled gnocchi and chipotle-lime smashed potatoes. Steak-wise, there are grass-fed filets (including a filet “flight” with 4oz prime, Angus, and grass-fed cuts), plus the traditional assortment of prime and Angus selections.

Meanwhile, only one Colorado restaurant, The Buckhorn Exchange, squeaked in at #48 on the recent Daily Meal selection of “America’s 50 Best Steakhouses.”