Saturday, December 31, 2011


I took a bit of time today to reflect on the past 12 months and came to the conclusion that 2011 has been a truly unprecedented year for ‘foodies’ in Orange County. We have witnessed an explosion across the entire gourmet spectrum with phenomenal new restaurants, bars, farmers’ markets, culinary shops, coffee houses and food trucks bursting on to the scene.

And as I look back over the year, I feel incredibly lucky to have met so many kind, talented people who have invited me behind-the-scenes and given me access to some of the very best culinary experiences that Orange County has to offer. 

Below is a Taste of 2011 - a small selection of some of my favorite Anne Watson Photography food photographs that I've had the opportunity to shoot.  It's been a great year - Thank you to all of you who have made it possible. Can't wait to see what 2012 has in store. Happy New Year!  

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SoCo Farmers' Market at The OC Mart Mix / SoCo Collection in Costa Mesa offers some of the freshest organic, local produce that Southern California has to offer. Open every Saturday from 9am - 2pm, this market has quickly become my weekly Saturday destination. Photo: Watermelon from Menos Farms
The most authentic, delicious Chimichurri around is made fresh daily by the chefs at Piaggio Gourmet on Wheels - the Argentine Gourmet Food Truck. Photo: Gallons of Fresh Parsley & Chopped Garlic by Piaggio
All Hail the Mighty Beer.  One of my favorite new Downtown Santa Ana haunts - Chapter One: The Modern Local has one of the best handpicked selection of beers from around the globe I've experienced. Photo: Green Flash 'Le Freak' Belgium IPA available at Chapter One
Shattering all preconceived notions of what 'Vegan' cuisine looks & tastes like - Stephanie Morgan and the ladies of the Seabirds truck know how to make vegan = delicious.  Photo: Vegan Waldorf Salad by Seabirds
The guys at 24 Carrots Catering opened the doors this year to their much-anticipated Bistro 24. Only the geniuses in the kitchen at 24 Carrots can make cheesecake crust look as appealing as the filling! Photo: Lemon Curd Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Crust at Bistro 24
This November, Chef Andrew Gruel & the masters of sustainable seafood in the kitchen of the SlapFish Gourmet Food Truck won the Farm to Food Truck Challenge II at SoCo Farmers' Market with this 'Flight of Seafood' dish using fresh ingredients gathered from the Market. Photo: Lobster Doughnut with apple & leek, Seared Scallop with almond butter & Brussel leaf salad, and Black Cod with a beet & carrot slaw by SlapFish

Some of the nicest people I've met in 2011 created one of the most delicious dishes I've tasted all year - Christie, Vinnie & Eddie of the Home Skillet Gourmet Food Truck make this beautiful Pork Belly Slider, a signature Home Skillet Dish. Photo: Pork Belly Slider
One of my favorite new shops of all-time recently opened in The OC Mart Mix in Costa Mesa - Savory Spice Stop offers one of the widest selections of spices from around the globe. A culinary enthusiast's dream.  Photo: Black Lava Sea Salt from Hawaii at Savory Spice Stop
This year, I had the opportunity to shoot the Grand Opening of one of Downtown Santa Ana's newest hot-spots - brainchild of Executive Chef Jason Quinn (of The Lime Truck), The Playground.  And, it was there that I tasted the BEST cheeseburger. Ever.  Photo: The Playground Burger
One of the newest Gourmet Food Truck's on the GFT Scene also happens to be one of my all-time favorite trucks - the amazing Taco Maria. Chef Carlos Salgado creates some of the most beautiful dishes I've ever seen out of this truck's kitchen - Michelin Star-Quality fare using the freshest ingredients that will blow your mind. Photo: Jardineros Taco (beautiful Roasted Pumpkin & Black Bean vegetarian taco) by Taco Maria
2011's best new coffee shop opened in Orange County in May - exploding onto the scene, Portola Coffee Lab's baristas create some of the best-tasting and most beautiful coffee drinks I've ever had (and, I lived for years in Italy - seriously, Portola's espresso is THAT good.)  Photo: Latte Art by Portola Coffee Lab

Thursday, December 29, 2011


It's just after Christmas, and just before New Year's - the 'in-between' week of the holidays when kids are still on their school break and my husband & I like to make a trip to the UK to visit his family here and spend some quality time with my step-kiddos. 

As is often the case in England, most days it's raining & cold outside - so, our quality time tends to be spent indoors. DVD marathons, Lego-build-a-thons, drawing, reading, and (my personal favorite) baking.  Today we baked what I dare say are the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER. Crunchy on the outside and ooey-gooey on the inside, these cookies go perfectly with a good cuppa' tea.

(Yields 2 Dozen Cookies)

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour, then chocolate chips. Drop by large spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned. 

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year - and Happy Baking! Enjoy!!

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Friday, December 23, 2011


As many of you know, I'm a huge supporter of the SoCo Farmers' Market at The OC Mart Mix / SoCo Collection in Costa Mesa, CA. The market, which takes place every Saturday from 9am - 2pm, offers a huge array of gorgeous organic seasonal produce & products from local farms.  And, to make it even more fabulous, each week they have an assortment of Gourmet Food Trucks on-hand serving up their delicious fare. Many of the trucks support the local farmers by incorporating Farmers' Market ingredients into their dishes - not least of which is one of my favorite trucks on the Orange County GFT scene - Taco Maria.

Chef Carlos Salgado of the Taco Maria Gourmet Food Truck performs a live cooking demo at the SoCo Farmers' Market

Last Saturday, the talented Chef Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria performed a live cooking demo at the market to introduce Taco Maria's newest dish - 'Salad of Avocado, Beets, Mandarin Oranges & Almonds with Charred Scallion Vinaigrette', featuring organic Farmers' Market ingredients. He charred, blended and chopped while sharing his enthusiasm for farm-fresh produce with the audience.

So, tomorrow why not finish-off your last-minute Christmas shopping at the SoCo Farmers' Market? Beautiful produce baskets make great gifts!  And, your family will thank you when you use their delicious, organic ingredients in your holiday feast. They'll be open from 9am - 2pm. Taco Maria, amongst other fantastic Gourmet Food Trucks, will be there serving up their delicious dishes.  And the market will even be hosting their favorite local rancher tomorrow, Dave from Da-Le Ranch. His grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, sausages, bacon & more are the perfect thing for your holiday table... I mean, doesn't bacon make EVERYTHING better?! Hope to see you all there!

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Charring the Farm-Fresh Scallions for the Vinaigrette
Chef Carlos blends the Charred Scallion Vinaigrette ingredients together using beautiful California Avocado Oil souced at the Farmers' Market
Fresh Mandarin Oranges & Vibrant Beets from the market add complex layers of flavor to Chef Carlos' salad creation
Eye-popping magenta beet puree sets the tone on the plate
Natural California Almonds from SoCo Farmers' Market add a richness & crunch
Farm-Fresh Salad Perfection by Chef Carlos of Taco Maria!  Introducing Taco Maria's newest dish - 'Salad of Avocado, Beets, Mandarin Oranges & Almonds with Charred Scallion Vinaigrette', featuring organic farmers' market ingredients. Yummm..

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I recently discovered one of my new favorite shops of all-time. A fabulous lil' place at The OC MartMix in Costa Mesa's SoCo Collection called Savory Spice Stop.  It is a culinary wonderland and a cooking enthusiast's dream (and a GREAT place to find that unique, customized, last-minute Christmas gift you've been searching for!).  I could definitely spend an entire day in this store, I love it that much.

From the moment you set foot in the door, brace yourself for wonderful, almost-magical sensory overload.  The scents of the spiciest curries to the sweetest sugars and everything in between hit your nose... the vibrant colors that make your eyes pop... and, yes, the tastes.  This ingenious shop understands the importance of getting to taste-before-you-buy. They have 'Tester' bottles of every spice - just put a tiny bit in your hand and you can taste 'til your heart's content.

White, Red & Green Peppercorns - perfect for getting your Peppermill into the holiday spirit
I recently had the pleasure of spending an evening with the lovely Laura Schute, one of the owners of Savory Spice Stop, talkin' shop & getting to taste and smell just about every spice in the store - I was in olfactory-sense-heaven!  And Laura's passion for what she does is contagious - you can sense it in the staff who work with her as well as in her customers.  From the casual home-cook to professional chefs, everyone is welcomed with open arms and encouraged to taste & try new things.  And, you can walk out with anything from a small 1/2-ounce bag to a large 4.5-ounce jar of whatever your tastebuds desire.

Who says salt is always white? Check out these amazing hues: from left: Soft pink Murray River Sea Salt from Australia; Red Alaea clay salt from Hawaii; Charcoal-rich Black Lava Sea Salt from Hawaii

This salt makes me wish I could capture scents with my camera... For a truffle-lover such as myself, this Black Truffle-infused Italian Sea Salt is mind-bogglingly delicious. Its scent instantly transports me back to the days when my husband & I were living in Italy and we visited a little restaurant in Bologna where we feasted on truffles so fragrant they made me wanna cry with delight. I want to put this salt on EVERYTHING.
Are you feeling in a French or Italian mood? Why not keep a bit of each of these classic seasoning herb-infused salts on-hand in a salt grinder to add some variety to your spice?!

Visiting Savory Spice Stop is like taking a virtual culinary journey around the world - without the bothersome jetlag.  You can find everything from hard-to-find spices & extracts from around the globe, to rare raw ingredients such as whole vanilla beans & cinnamon sticks, to bottled hot sauces & custom-made BBQ rubs, and so much more. Just about anything you can dream up spice-wise, they've probably got it here. 

And you will be blown away by how affordable everything is... far less expensive than what you're paying for the pre-packaged stuff at the supermarket.  Premium products, great customer service and affordability - what's not to love?!  Oh, and did I mention that EVERYTHING in the store is gluten-free?! This just keeps getting better...
Sweet Korean Black Garlic - fermented to perfection
Authentic regional BBQ rubs - what guy wouldn't love some jars of these for his Christmas Stocking Stuffers?!
So, check those last-minute gifts off your shopping list this week - pick up a pre-made gift set or build-your-own custom set.  Your friends & family will love ya' for it. And, hey, why not pick a little something up for yourself while you're at it?!...

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This vibrant Barrier Reef seasoning is a natural fit with pork or duck. Made from brown sugar, orange peel, lemon peel, chiles, ginger, citric acid, crushed red pepper, nutmeg, mace, cloves, Kaffir lime leaves and parsley.

Make your own Chorizo sausage... OR, get that Chorizo flavor to add to your next dish, just minus the meat & at a teeny-tiny fraction of the calories
Cocoa Heaven: from left - Black Onyx Cocoa Powder; Mayan (spiced) Cocoa Powder; Dutch Cocoa Powder; Vanilla Powder
Dark, rich, double-Dutched Black Onyx Cocoa Powder. Just IMAGINE the amazing brownies you could make with this.
From left: Indonesian Cassia Cinnamon that is most commonly used in the U.S.;  Native Sri Lankan Ceylon Cinnamon (aka 'True' Cinnamon made from the bark of a Cinnamon tree)
Grains of Paradise is native to the coast of West Africa. Also known as Alligator pepper, Atar, baking pepper, Guinea pepper, Melegueta pepper and Roman pepper, Grains of Paradise should be used as a finisher - a fun alternative for your peppermill
All-natural extracts... I love a place that offers more than just your usual vanilla extract - hello Coffee Extract!
Are you like me and hate wasting that entire can of tomato paste when a recipe just calls for a teaspoon or so? Then make this a staple in your kitchen in the same manner as salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. It can be made into a paste or sauce in a matter of minutes. No more waste!
All throughout the Mediterranean, Za’atar is commonly used as a table condiment. As a condiment, you can sprinkle it on chicken or fish, mix it with some hummus or just spring some into a bit of olive oil for a great dipping sauce. Made with sumac berries, toasted sesame, salt, cumin, thyme, oregano and marjoram.
With an English husband, this Vindaloo is now a staple in the Watson-home cupboard
Did you know that the term 'Curry' literally translates into "A Mixture of Spices"? So, throw any preconceived notion of what 'curry' spice has to be out the window... with hundreds of mixtures from around the world, the possibilities for making a delicious curry that pleases your palate are endless
A hot sauce rainbow - including the infamous Ghost Chili (aka Bhut Jolokia) Hot Sauce. Confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the hottest pepper in the world, Bhut Jolokia has a Scoville rating of just over 1 million units - this hot sauce is not for the faint of heart!
One of the rarest spices in the world, Saffron is the stigma of the Crocus sativus flower which blooms for only three weeks every fall in Spain. Each bulb produces approximately two to nine flowers per season which contain three long, red-orange stigmas. It takes the hand-picked stigmas of one hundred flowers to produce one gram of saffron.
Gift sets for Christmas (or ANY occasion!) are a must!
Get in the spirit with this holiday staple!  Fortify your wine or apple cider with this robust blend of Saigon cinnamon, allspice, Ceylon & Madagascar cloves, blade mace and inner cardamom seeds - and let the amazing smell of the spices permeate your house, warming you from the inside-out on these chilly winter nights.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


This afternoon was one of those magical, blistery Southern California winter days that was all-too-perfect for a Christmas Card session with my friend, Natalie Good of A Good Affair Wedding & Event Production, her husband Jason and their two adorable dachshund pups, Maggie & Piper. We had so much fun venturing down the canyon at Santiago Oaks Regional Park in Orange on a mission to capture some holiday-card-worthy shots (complete with hand-knit scarves that were custom-made for the dogs, of course!).  Below is a small selection of sneak-peek pics -- stay tuned for the full blog post with more photos coming soon!...

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