Thursday, June 21, 2012


To all my fellow popcorn-loving fans out there, this one's for you. Why do you love popcorn? For me, I suppose it's a nostalgia thing... 

Delicious, fresh, made-to-order gourmet popcorn from Orange County-based company, Popcorn Cravings
Every time I eat popcorn, it transports me instantly to the movie theaters of suburban Chicago where I spent Summers as a kid with my favorite cousin, Katherine. Katherine taught me the true meaning of popcorn-eating. She has always been a petite little thing - much smaller than I - but dang. When it comes to popcorn, that girl knows how to throw it down.

We're not talking measly kid-size popcorn bags for our movie outings - oh, no. Those would not do. We got the BIG popcorn buckets - I believe they could legitimately be called 'tubs'. Extra-Large. One each. No sharing. There was absolutely no sharing when it came to movie theater popcorn & my cousin. She had a system for buttering & salting it too... it involved layering... she'd instruct the guy behind the counter, "A little popcorn, then butter, then salt, then some more popcorn..."  And, of course, she'd ask for a to-go cup of popcorn salt for our in-theater salting needs. Not to be confused with the iodized salt that they had at the kiosk out in the lobby... no no no... popcorn salt. The superfine orange stuff that the popcorn guy had to reluctantly dish out to us upon request. Only the best for us!  I'd usually make it through about 1/3 of my bag and have to throw in the towel. Not Katherine. She'd finish hers and then be ready for some of my leftovers. I was mesmerized. She was my popcorn hero.

So, when the opportunity presented itself recently to photograph some gorgeous gourmet popcorn made by the Orange County-based company 'Popcorn Cravings', naturally I couldn't refuse.

It's over 20 years later now, though, and I must admit that the movie theater popcorn of my youth just doesn't do it for me anymore. So, it had been quite a while since I'd eaten popcorn. And thanks to Popcorn Cravings, it was absolutely worth the wait. Their amazing popcorn not only looks adorable when it arrives in its brown paper packaging with green & orange polka-dot accents, but it smells & tastes amazing too.  Made with 100% natural, real ingredients - no powder, no sprays & no artificial flavoring - and cooked-to-order from scratch in small batches.  

Popcorn Cravings' popcorn was a ton of fun to photograph - as a Food Photographer, it's always great to shoot food that's whimsical, colorful & full of texture. But, I must admit that the best part was after the shoot when I got to dive in. The taste is out-of-this-world - so fresh & delicious. And, the flavor combination that I had the opportunity to shoot (Caramel & Cheese) was a perfect mixture of sweet & salty - my favorite.

So, sorry about that movie theater popcorn... my tastebuds are all grown up and I'm afraid I'm all over you now. But, something tells me next time I get to see my cousin Katherine, she & I will now have the PERFECT thing to pair with a glass of wine while we're catching up! Bring on the Popcorn Cravings! (One bag each, of course.)

Below, feast your eyes on the simple, delicious, homemade beauty of Popcorn Cravings' Caramel & Cheese popcorn. And if you feel your stomach growling, you can satisfy your craving by visiting their online store and trying it out for yourself. Enjoy!

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Monday, June 18, 2012


I love France. In a previous life of mine I worked as a PR manager for seven years at a luxury automotive manufacturer and had the amazing opportunity to visit France on numerous occasions as part of my job. We would take groups of journalists overseas for ride & drive events - in our cars we'd start in Paris, winding through the back roads out to magical places such as Le Mans, Lyon, St. Etienne, Tours, Reims, Nice and everywhere in-between. I'll never forget the enchanting scent of the lavender fields that line the country roads of Provence, or the sight of the seemingly-endless, glorious vineyards of the Champagne region, and so much more. And then.... the FOOD. Oh, dear God. The amazing, wonderful, mind-blowingly perfect-in-every-way French food. It truly is a magnificent country.

So, needless to say I was thrilled to be commissioned as the food photographer for the all-new Pandor Artisan Boulangerie & Cafe in Newport Beach. The breads, pastries & dishes at Pandor are the most authentic I have ever encountered on this side of the Atlantic. And as I photographed away in the Pandor kitchen last week, my senses were overwhelmed by the beauty & the crunch of the bread, the scent of lavender, and the sounds of the chefs chatting in French - In my mind I was no longer in Newport Beach, but was instantly transported to France and all of its magic.

French Master Baker Julien Pietravalle oversees the breads
The name 'Pandor' was inspired by the French words 'Pain d’Or' - or, 'Golden Bread'. Pandor is owned by an incredibly warm & lovely couple, Raffi & Tiffany Sepetjian. Raffi & Tiffany created the Pandor concept after multiple visits to France where they developed their appreciation for the art of authentic French baking & French cuisine. And authentic it is, thanks to their team of talented French chefs: French Master Baker Julien Pietravalle who oversees the breads, French Pastry Chef Serge Bertrand who oversees the delicate pastries, and LA-based French Chef Eric Cuenin who oversees the café menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner items.

LA-based French Chef Eric Cuenin at work in the Pandor kitchen. Chef Eric oversees the café menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner items
Beautiful, vibrant, fresh Pandor salads. Pandor's menu focuses on delivering a culinary experience revolving around sustainable, local & seasonal ingredients, complex textures, and global flavors.
In addition to their first-class cuisine, Pandor will also be serving Orange County's finest coffee from Costa Mesa’s Portola Coffee Lab, offering quality, traceable, fresh-roasted coffee, presented in an artful context.

Pandor will also be serving Orange County's finest coffee from Costa Mesa’s Portola Coffee Lab
Today, Pandor officially opens their doors to the public - you can find them in the Westcliff Plaza at 1126 Irvine Avenue, Newport Beach, CA 92660, open daily from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.  And be sure to follow Pandor on Facebook and Twitter for all of the latest news.

To tempt your appetite, below is just a small taste-through-photographs from my recent shoot at Pandor... if you feel your tummy rumbling, then head over & pay them a visit today. Bon apetit!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012


Last Saturday, June 9th was an exciting day at the SoCo Farmers' Market in Costa Mesa as approximately 3,000 spectators gathered to cheer-on the competing chefs as they used farm-fresh ingredients to create unique, inspired dishes in 'The Farm to Food Truck Challenge III'. Six gourmet food trucks rose to the challenge in their quest for the title of "Top-Chop Truck": Taco Maria, Seabirds Truck, Barcelona OntheGo, Tamarindo Truck, Chomp Chomp Nation & Dos Chinos.

The Chefs from Taco Maria, Chomp Chomp Nation, Dos Chinos, Tamarindo Truck, Barcelona OntheGo & Seabirds Truck
Live steel drum music drifted through the air as the crowds gathered for the Farm to Food Truck Challenge III

A refreshing Blueberry-Lime Popscicle from the always-amazing Erin at Front Porch Pops
The beautiful, farm-fresh produce of the SoCo Farmers' Market - We love any event that supports our local farmers!
The chefs were given a list of 'secret ingredients' from the judges just minutes before the competition began - artichokes, brussel sprouts, pita chips, fresh-squeezed orange juice, sage honey & zucchini squash blossoms - all of which could be found at the stalls throughout the farmers' market. They then were given 60 minutes to dash through the market, collect their ingredients & prepare their unique dish to present to the panel of judges. 
The ladies of the Costa Mesa High School Cheer Squad kicked-off the festivities & rounded-up the crowds!
Chef Carlos of Taco Maria
The Chefs of Chomp Chomp Nation
Chef Stephanie from Seabirds Truck
The Chefs at the Starting Line
And, they're off!
The chefs dash through the market in search of farm-fresh ingredients
It was a fantastic cast of judges who had the difficult task of narrowing down the winners: Chef Andrew Gruel, winner of the Farm to Food Truck Challenge II & Chef/Owner of SlapFish; Mona Shah-Anderson, Owner of Moxxe PR; Pastry Chef Santanna Salas from Haven Gastropub; Kim Glen from the City of Costa Mesa; Priscilla Willis, food blogger extraordinaire & author of She's Cookin'; and Julie Lim of OC Wine Mart & Tasting Bar.

The Judges: (From Left) Mona Shah-Anderson, Santanna Salas, Andrew Gruel, Julie Lim, Kim Glen & Priscilla Willis
Left: Chef Andrew Gruel of SlapFish  |  Right: Pastry Chef Santanna Salas of Haven Gastropub, Haven Collective
Priscilla Willis, She's Cookin'
It was an intense competition with beautiful cuisine coming out of every truck's kitchen. In the end, the dishes were judged on three criteria: Utilization & creative use of farm-fresh ingredients (50 points), Taste (30 points) & Presentation (20 points). And the winners were:
  • 3rd Place: Barcelona OntheGo with octopus three ways over artichoke-brussel sprout hash, saffron carrot puree, orange beurre blanc, beer-battered squash blossom, and a jerez vinegar pita crisp
  • 2nd Place: Taco Maria with sage honey ricotta, apricot orange puree, black garlic aioli, artichoke scented with coriander, baby squash and squash blossoms
  • 1st Place: Seabirds Truck with an artichoke & cashew cream cheese-stuffed squash blossom over a salad of baby mixed greens, summer cilantro, California cherries, grilled brussel sprouts and pita croutons with a sage honey & orange juice vinaigrette  
I don't know about you, but my stomach is growling just reading the descriptions! Below, you can feast your eyes on a story-told-through-photos from what I captured with my lens during the event.  And, stay tuned to the SoCo Farmers' Market Facebook & Twitter pages, as talks of the Farm to Food Tuck Challenge IV that will take place this Fall are already underway!.... 

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Behind-the-scenes inside the Tamarindo Truck with Chef Pedro
Chef Stephanie of Seabirds workin' her vegan magic with farm-fresh produce
Chef Jennifer of Barcelona OntheGo
Inside the kitchen of the Barcelona OntheGo Truck
Chef Carlos of Taco Maria prepares a perfect artichoke
Inside the Taco Maria kitchen
Chomp Chomp Nation's outdoor kitchen that allowed the scents to waft through the market
The judges eagerly await the dishes
The ladies of Costa Mesa High School Cheer delivered each dish to the judging booth
Crowds gathered as the judging took place

Tamarindo Truck
Dos Chinos
Chomp Chomp Nation
Barcelona OntheGo
Taco Maria
Seabirds Truck
Chef Stephanie Morgan of Seabirds Truck: 1st Place Winner of the Farm to Food Truck Challenge III