The Secrets to Dazzling Food Photos Revealed

Are you as obsessed with food photography as we are?  If so, have we got a book for you.

The Food Stylist’s Handbook by Denise Vivaldo with Cindie Flannigan is such a fun read we almost decided to become food stylists on the spot. Their book has all the guidance necessary to begin or advance a food styling career. This how to manual explains exactly what the job entails, equipment needed, the different niches and of course, how to get started. But don’t overlook the fact that it also contains a ton of valuable advice for us regular folk looking to put out stunningly beautiful culinary masterpieces we want to shoot and eat.

We adore the Tricks of the Trade chapter that delves into topics as diverse as getting more height out of pancakes, which brand of egg to use for a flawless presentation and achieving the most gorgeous spiral cut from your ham. Above Cindie assembles the perfect Sundae, but this one’s made of Crisco not ice cream, so admire but don’t eat.

It doesn’t matter whether you want to configure fake or edible food, the tips in The Food Stylist’s Handbook help everyone present a better plate. Need some guidance in making that burger you’re about to consume more instagram friendly?  It’s in the book, showing how one can adorn with condiments found on the table, perfect for a restaurant blog post. Want to impress friends who come over for lunch? The magic to beautiful bacon for your club or BLT is in the cooking method, using skewers or foil to get just the right curl to your strips.

Edible flowers add a charming touch to any plate, especially white china laden with salad and chicken breast in need of a pop of color.

And a dash of just the right herbs and spices brushed around grill marks make shrimp irresistible.

Regardless of why you want a stunning presentation, the answers you are searching for abound in words and pictures throughout this sensational guide book.

And the ladies haven’t forgotten the importance of serving containers and utensil recommendations to insure that delicious courses get the best send off possible.

So take it from the women who have honed and mastered the techniques and get your own copy of The Food Stylist’s Handbook.  Who knows, you may become the next Picasso of the instagram world or at the very least of your own kitchen table.

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It’s Worth Investing Time in Historic Old Sacramento

I was born in California and never made it to the state capital, until now. One crucial part of that oversight is missing out on the Historic Gold Rush Town of Old Sacramento. For those interested in avoiding the same mistake, it’s a good idea to invest some time exploring this spectacularly preserved piece of California History. A good way to start is by moving right in, with a stay aboard the Delta King Riverboat Hotel. This gracefully refurbished paddleboat floats on the Sacramento River adjacent to Old Sacramento State Historic Park and is the ideal home base to immerse oneself in the slower pace of mid 1800’s California.

First and foremost, don’t rush. Give yourself some time to explore because there’s a lot to see and do. Two days would be the minimum and try to include a weekend which preserves the opportunity to experience the underground tour.

Established in 1849, Old Sacramento is alive and well with the spirit and fervor of the gold rush. Handsome turn of the century buildings are well tended and house a variety of businesses you can explore. Traipsing through the streets and shops is a full day excursion in itself.

Rest assured if you need to revive anytime during your wanderings, they offer the illusive pineapple soft serve frozen treat, Dole whip, also available in mango. Unlike Disneyland, it’s self-serve here, so you can crank out as much of the icy concoction as you can handle, baring a serious case of brain freeze.

And of course no self-respecting gold rush town would be complete without an assortment of saloons. The River City Saloon claims to craft the best bloody Mary’s in Sacramento, but you need be the judge of that.

And Fanny Anns has to be one of the most captivating memorabilia stuffed bars in California. Stopping in for lunch, a cold one or just to browse the wild collection should be high on your to do list.

But the absolute highlight of Old Sacramento, is the California State Railroad Museum. This is a must see appropriate for the entire family.

Start you visit  with the informative movie which explains the back breaking labor and dedication that went into building the North American transcontinental railroad system. If you time it right, call first to be sure, the movie will be followed by a free half hour tour of the museum. No matter how you feel about trains, the amazing dioramas, restored trains, exhibits, dining car, heavy china display and simulation of a nighttime traveling sleeping car, are truly momentous experiences.

Recognition is paid to the workers who slaved through bone-chilling winters and blistering summers from 1863 to 1869 in order to make the dream of connecting the east and west coasts a reality.

Guest can pass through glistening trains of the era that look ready to hit the rails, reminding us of the romance and ease the railway system brought to U.S. travel.

Many cars are manned by costumed docents eager to share how their particular train was instrumental in facilitating everything from delivering mail to providing fine dining for guests.

Mannequin run kitchens and period china recreate the rigors and necessitates of a continually operational system of public transportation.

Be sure to search out the night train sleeping car simulation which is rigged to feel precisely like the real thing.

You can also hone your skills driving the same simulator used to train bullet train drivers. See how well you do manning the helm, followed by the challenging maneuvering of a speeding trains glide into the station.

The California State Railroad Museum is at the top of its game, being both technologically advanced, while also preserving their unique vantage point in the history of railroad travel and California’s involvement in its evolution.

We have to say that Old Sacramento offers such an inspiring glimpse into the past that we wouldn’t mind falling back in time over and over again.

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Easy Fresh Bowls of Plenty

Meals in a bowl are all the rage.  It’s the new fast food model dedicated to filling a vessel with guests choice of their favorite ingredients for a personalized, satisfying mix that can be as healthy as one sees fit. Here in LA, it seems there’s a new poke bowl or ethnic bowl establishment on every corner. That makes Carolynn Carreno’s latest book, Bowls of Plenty right on point.  And if you’re a fan of this strongly established eating style, you can cut out the middle man and take charge right in your own kitchen.

Carolynn is a James Beard Award winning food writer and co-author of over a dozen acclaimed cookbooks. And now she has pulled together a collection of grain bowls that are completely customizable to suit ones taste, while being just as delightful straight from the undeviated page.

Chapters start with Equipment, Tools and Gadgets and evolve into an undeniably thorough exploration of grains, giving home cooks the basic information necessary to proceed with complete confidence. Starting with Breakfast Bowls, Carolynn delves into unique offerings such as Japanese breakfast or Pastrami and Rye Berry Hash, always showcasing as much diversity possible. What follows are salad bowls, main bowls and finally, yes, even dessert bowls,

We were treated to a buffet which allowed each diner to carefully choose their ingredients and we have to say we found it such a fun, with lots of suitable options for everyone. For those who don’t feel inclined to clean that many dishes, its absolutely acceptable to serve the bowls already assembled.

The key of course is fresh, quality ingredients prepared with care and love. And Ms. Carreno provides encouraging advice with that as well.

Bowls of Plenty is the book for bowl lovers and anyone who wants to simplify meal preparation.  Click through the red link above to go straight to Amazon. Bowl Appetite.

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Deborah Madison Shares From Her Own Cozy Kitchen

When searching for answers to life’s questions we like to defer to the masters, and Deborah Madison certainly falls into that category. She was cooking from an enlightened perspective long before it was fashionable or even acceptable in many circles. From the San Francisco Zen Center to Chez Panisse, Madison has taken every opportunity to engage in the deepest examination of vegetarian cuisine.  And now a lifetime of expertise has been condensed into her latest book, In My Kitchen, a collection of favorite vegetarian recipes she serves at home.

We must start by highlighting the mouthwatering Romanesco sauce inspired by a trip to Spain. This deep, complex, sunny blend is oh so satisfying. We added a big dollop to soup, but honestly we want to slather this winner on everything in the kitchen including the roasted cauliflower recipe she pairs it with in the book.

A crisp, sweet, spicy citrus and avocado salad with lime-cumin vinaigrette atop shredded greens is the definition of invigoration and the ideal accompaniment to heavier dishes of beans or animal protein. Deborah is not interested in pushing lifestyle choices down anyones throat and is thrilled that in this day and age one can choose to be vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or omnivore on any night of the week it calls to them.

That is not to say that vegetarian and vegan dishes can’t be supremely satisfying.  Their hardiness is clearly demonstrated in her potato and chickpea stew with sautéed spinach. It’s a memorable bowl sure to warm the hearts of all who dive in.

Deborah’s rubarb-rasberry compote couldn’t be easier and the tangy, tart, mildly sweet flavor is a winner served with cookies, over ice cream or as a side dish, transforming any weeknight dinner into a special occasion. It is beyond scrumptious and all we had to do was throw a few easy ingredients together, 3 to be exact. We made a triple batch and enjoyed it for a full week before finally scraping the bowl clean.

Worried Deborah’s healthy style will deny you sweet treats? No need, her walnut nugget cookies pair surprisingly well with the rhubarb and raspberry compote.

While encouraging readers to nourish themselves in the fashion that best suits their mood, Deborah makes the process surprisingly easy and we greatly appreciate that. Those ready to dive into a healthy dose of mother natures best would be wise to pick up Deborah Madison’s, In My Kitchen and transform their cooking with instruction straight from the cozy kitchen of one of the shining stars of the culinary world. Bon Appetit.


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Joan Nathan Sets King Solomon’s Table Beautifully

The award-winning “Queen of American Jewish Cooking”, Joan Nathan, has pulled together recipes from countries near and far in her latest book, King Solomon’s Table. This compilation celebrates the vast reach of both Joan and the Jewish people. Pages overflowing with explorations of culinary highlights from around the world, personal stories, historic insights, biblical references and health and wellness mentions, make this book a captivating read.

You can expect a delightful journey through Joan’s travels, insights, wealth of knowledge and recipes that guide readers to the heart of Jewish cooking. Local ingredients and produce from far flung corners of the globe add new twists and honor the core essence of these ancestral dishes. The book spans the spectrum from light and refreshing summer pleasures such as Herbert Samuel’s Tomato salad, to hardier dishes including Salyanka, a beef and vegetable stew from the country of Georgia.

Vegetarians, Vegans and Omnivores will all be nourished by the handsome photos, clear direction and comforting properties of recipes including Quinoa Salad with Squash, Feta and Pecans.

Don’t miss one of Joan’s favorites, Harira, a spiced Moroccan vegetable soup made with chick peas, cilantro and lemon that warms the body and soul.

There are treats in the book as well and we couldn’t stop eating the Pizza Ebraica, which is not pizza at all, but a fabulous Italian dessert made with nuts, dried fruit and wine.  These little slices of heaven will be gone in a flash when served at any happy gathering, which is its tradition.

King Solomon’s Table extols the virtues, blessings and warm embrace that Jewish food has always brought to the table. And Joan’s incorporation of a wide array of cultural influences, entices indulgence into the historic traditions and cuisine of the chosen people. To meet up with Joan, check out her book tour schedule and discover when she will be signing books at an event near you.


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Chefs’ Toys Rocks Kitchen Equipment and Gadgets All Over LA


We are always looking for ways to make our time in the kitchen simpler and more fun. We were beyond thrilled when we heard about the hidden warehouse called Chef’s Toys.


After receiving inspiration from their chef on how gadgets work, we ran right over. Chefs’ Toys is the place restaurants and caterers throughout Southern California rely on for honest and reliable guidance, restaurant equipment and supplies. Featuring all the major professional cooking appliances, smallwares, and clothing, they are open to the public as well as the industry. Keeping an appreciation for the importance of quality and value is paramount and with the volume they purchase they can offer the best prices to customers.


We were surprised to find a branch conveniently located on Sepulveda, just south of Olympic. We must have driven by there a thousand times and never saw it. They also have branches in Fountain Valley, Torrance, Anaheim, Corona and Van Nuys.


With over ten thousand products to choose from, on line and at the stores, especially the fountain valley super store, we were bound to find toys we liked.


Professional equipment not traditionally found in retail outlets is displayed at great prices, making Chefs’ Toys our kind of shop.


White is the color of the day for most ceramics, with a wide variety of delightful shapes and sizes.


Toys big and small for every budget and desire abound.


Or maybe just a little extravagance, because who doesn’t love waffles?


Whisks in every size from tiny to jumbo give us a new appreciation for those that crank out meals all day long for hungry Los Angelenos.


We fell hard for the little frying baskets, too cute.


And of course all their products make great gifts for our friends who love to play in the kitchen.


We highly recommend a stop at Chefs’ Toys for an in depth adventure though the culinary landscape that is usually reserved for professionals. We can’t wait to stock our kitchen with more of the toys that make cooking beautiful, easy and fun.


Chefs’ Toys, 2233 S Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone 310-477-7107          web site –


Chefs’ Toys, 18430 Pacific Street, Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Phone – 714-435-922


Chefs’ Toys, 1230 North Kraemer Boulevard, Anaheim, CA 92806
Phone – 714-683-2650


Chefs’ Toys, 20100 Hamilton Avenue, Torrance, CA 90248                                    Phone – 310-400-3550


Star Restaurant Equipment & Supply a Chefs’ Toys Company,
6178 Sepulveda Boulevard, Van Nuys, CA 91411
Phone – 818-782-4460          web site –


Chefs’ Toys, 231 Teller St, Corona, CA. 92879                                                                                                            Phone – 951-739-9222

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Diving Deep Into The Vegan Pool


We strongly recommend finding experts to guide the way when exploring new cuisines. We took our own advice and enlisted the expertise of Zel and Reuben Allen, the masterminds behind Vegetarians in Paradise.


They eased the way through the menu at the new Vegetarian and Vegan restaurant, Vegetable, in Studio City.


We were first struck by the official stamp proclaiming all organic produce, with a seasonal and local standard to boot. We jumped right in and were oh so pleasantly surprised by the intensely flavored meal that was delivered one small plate at a time.


Floored is the best way to describe our reaction to the savory, salty, sweet, spicy mix of flavors and textures incorporated into the butternut squash toast. Roasted garlic and butternut squash “butter” top grilled sourdough. And if that isn’t exciting enough, baby tomato, fried leek, crushed red chili pepper, flake sea salt, fresh oregano and a balsamic reduction sent us into states of ecstasy some of us did not know vegan food could conjure.


Moving deeper down the rabbit hole, a crisp edged saffron infused savory corn cake turned out to be a beautiful assemblage atop spicy chickpea sweet onion stew and a salty garlic lacinato kale. A kiwi and serrano pepper pico de gallo adds a bit of heat as does the smokey Sriracha aioli. While the drizzling of balsamic reduction incorporates just the right amount of sweet tang to the mix.


The meaty sautéed baby portobello mushrooms in a balsamic vinegar with sweet onion and chives are beyond addicting and we could make an entire meal of these with a loaf of grainy bread.


For comfort food, not much beats mac and cheese, which at Vegetable is made with Andean Dream gluten-free quinoa pasta shells, savory garlic cashew cheese sauce, baby tomatoes, and a garlic walnut crumble topping.  All we know is that it’s rich, creamy and satisfying. No cheese?  Really?


We finished off with a crisp edged, gluten free blondie loaded with shredded coconut and a vegan peanut butter ice cream that simply must be tried to be believed. No dairy?  Tasted like the real deal to us.


Thank you Zel and Reuben for the palate and mind-blowing introduction to Vegetable and the delights of a vegan diet. We’re on board with team vegan and are excited to make vegan and vegetarian cuisine a part of our health diet.


Vegetable, 3711 Cahuenga Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604
Phone – 818-754-1149         web site –

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Impressive Asian Cuisine In West LA


We returned to Asian Fusion to delve deeper into their Asian cuisine mix.  The Vietnamese owners have a way with not only Vietnamese food but also Chinese, Korean and Thai, no small feat.


The dining room is pleasant with steaming soup bowls carved into the seat backs.


The menu expresses the diversity available and we were beyond pleasantly surprised by the proficiency they have with all of it.


We began with the Japanese favorite edamame, these lightly salted soy beans were tender and warm, getting us off to a great start.


We couldn’t resist the hybrid cheese wonton appetizer of fried wonton wrappers stuffed with a dollop of herb infused cream cheese. Crispy skins erupt with creamy flavor that can be dipped in the sweet and sour sauce served alongside.


The flakey egg rolls come 2 or 4 to an order depending on what is requested.


Tender poultry mixed with greens fill the chicken dumplings that come with a ginger packed sweet chili sauce enhancing the mild crescents.


We love their banh mi and again had to heed the call of soft French baguettes cradling grilled meats with pickled and fresh herbs and vegetables.


The caramelized marinade is singed onto the edges of super tender chicken for a flavor pop that along with tangy radish and carrots, fresh cilantro and hit of jalapeño, meld in perfect unison inside freshly baked bread.


The pork version is also warm, moist, juicy savory goodness against the cool vegetable toppings.


The extensive menu covers 125 Asian dishes in all, plus sides and drinks.


Pan fried noodles are crisped brown under a riot of sautéed vegetables and protein of customers choosing.


While beef udon are extra thick, well cooked al dente soft noodles that can be served with succulent slices of beef and a flavor-filled array of onion and peppers.


Large portions and lunch specials make Asian Fusion an affordable and honestly one of the best Asian/Chinese/Vietnamese restaurants we have on the westside of Los Angeles.  We will be visiting his hidden treasure often for a delightful taste of some of the most well loved Asian cuisines available in Los Angeles.


Asian Fusion, 1710 South Robertson Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone – 424-298-8247          web site –

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Ethnic Diversity Is Celebrated Everyday At Jons Market


One of our favorite markets is Jons. The mix of ethnicities, products, produce, imports, and communities served, makes a trip to Jons an international adventure of epic proportions.


Every section is filled with fantastic bargains, unusual delights to taste and helpful staff to locate or explain whatever is needed.


We love the fresh produce aisles, not only for their wonderful sales but also for their unusual and exciting offerings that we seldom find in traditional American markets. Of course all the basics are here, but we also encounter humongous banana leaves useful in steaming and serving a number of South American and South East Asian dishes.


Nopales or cactus pads, are some of the typical produce found for those interested in making cactus salads.


Latin spices sell at just over a dollar a package and come in small quantities so we can use them at the peak of their freshness.


Middle Eastern and European goods abound. Such as the famous Turkish hot pepper paste supplied from a variety of companies, allowing customers to chose the brand that most suits their taste and needs.


Honeys from around the world come in an assortment of forms from nut filled to fruit infused to raw.


Even water is imported from all parts of the globe, offering an opportunity to taste some of the most exotic versions on the planet and we love those options.


A stellar meat, fish and deli department showcases cuts at substantially lower prices than we have seen in main stream stores.


USDA certified traditional cuts show beautifully next to more exotic ethnic slabs.


Italian, Argentinian and other Latin sausages provide a chance to spice up the dinner table in completely new ways.


Marinated chicken parts make dinner a snap to buy and cook.


Be sure to get on their e-mail list for weekly mailings about what’s on special, you don’t want to miss a Jons sale. A couple hours at Jons market is an exploration into the diversity that exists in numerous Los Angeles neighborhoods and gives everyone a chance to try new cuisines at prices that are surprisingly easy to swallow.


Jons Marketplace, 5311 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90029
Phone- 323-461-9382                web site –


Jons Marketplace, 3667 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Phone – 213-382-5701


Jons Marketplace, 3334 West 8th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90005
Phone – 213-383-6891


Jons Marketplace, 1601 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Phone – 323-660-0220


Jons Market, 6655 Van Nuys Boulevard, Van Nuys, CA 91405
Phone – 818-781-1772


Jons Marketplace, 18135 Sherman Way, Los Angeles, CA 91335
Phone – 818-758-3422


Jons Market, 20151 Roscoe Boulevard, Winnetka, CA 91306
Phone – 818-576-0477

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Southern MasterChef Winner Shares Her Favorite Recipes


Whitney Miller’s second cookbook, New Southern Table, lightens up the cuisine of Whitney’s childhood and adds her interpretations of global cuisine to the mix.


Her book launch, hosted by Melissa’s Produce, began with fresh fruit of the season including Christmas crunch grapes and cinnamon persimmons. Both sweet reminders of the glorious fruits and vegetables currently at their peak of fresh sweetness.


Whitney introduced us to her cookbook with Creole succotash salad. Corn, grape tomatoes, cucumber, green onion and feta cheese are doused in a light vinaigrette. A side of bacon crumbles adds some salty, smokiness if guests choose to toss that in as well. Whitney grew up on a farm in Mississippi, so fresh produce abounds in her book.


Chopped green beans and mushroom sauté, are covered with slivered almonds and dollops of goat cheese, creating an exhilarating combination of healthy, whole food bounty.


Inspired by Roy Choi’s sliders she sampled in Los Angeles, Whitney crafted her Mississippi banh mi using seared beef tips and a carrot and broccoli slaw. She doesn’t hold back on the heat either, adding both sliced jalapeños and a mighty tasty Sriracha spread slathered on a sturdy french roll.


Baked apple hand pies use the authors own olive oil pie dough recipe to insure the crusts stay flakey all the way around the cinnamon and granny smith apple filled centers.


And simply because everyone loves brownies, she regaled us with her brownie cookies. These addicting, crisp edged, fudge centered disks of joy had us eating more than we care to admit. At least they were calories well spent.


For guidance on healthier versions of Southern cuisine with a global slant from a 22 year old winner of MasterChef, pick up a copy of Whitney Miller’s New Southern Table and enjoy the ride.


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