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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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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Zapien’s Mexican Delicacies


With Chef Marco Zapien presiding over the Grand Reopening of Zapien’s Salsa Grill and Taqueria in Pico Rivera, customers are guaranteed a delectable adventure through a wide variety of regional Mexican specialties. Named the best Mexican Restaurant in Los Angeles seven times, Marco has a lot to be proud of and he took time out of his extremely hectic schedule to demonstrate the steps that go into the creation of their well regarded chile verde. The dish of tender pork cubes braised in tomatillo salsa is crafted with a melange of chili peppers, herbs, spices and the distinctly tart tomatillos, often referred to as Mexican green tomatoes.


The restaurant’s menu is loaded with exceptionally flavorful dishes starting with a mildly spicy chipotle bean dip that is as addictive as any we have ever had the pleasure of digging into. And that’s just the beginning.


Freshly made guacamole satisfies brightly with its use of perfectly ripe avocado, tomato, onion, and cilantro.


The secret to the success of Zapien’s dishes is integrating only the freshest ingredients including the savory tortillas prepared throughout the day. Everything is made in house, so be sure not to miss the salsa ranchera which can be used to add a spicy dash of invigoration.


Their potato tacos burst forth with an abundance of shredded lettuce, cheese and a sprinkling of chopped tomatoes. We love this refreshing interpretation that elevates the staple potato tacos to a higher level of refinement and gusto.


The enticing artistry and scrumptious flavors of Zapien’s Enchilada en Mole, tantalize with chipotle braised chicken, freshly prepared corn tortillas, a slathering of their specialty mole poblano salsa and a creative drizzle of sour cream.  This rich and complex dish has us singing Chef Marco’s praises to everyone we meet.


The extensive menu highlights Zapien family recipes including chiles rellenos, fajitas, carne asada and sopes to name just a few. Your favorite Mexican dishes are sure to be found here with Chef Marco’s innovative spins and traditional interpretations. For those as taken with the cuisine as we are, Zapien offers cooking demonstrations, each with a different theme.  The price of these classes include techniques, tips, all you can eat tastings and drink specials throughout the evening.


When dining with the Zapien family, be sure not to miss the comforting and dense bread pudding with caramel sauce. It is a treat best savored slowly with coffee or tea for a satisfying end to a memorable meal.

Zapien’s Salsa Grill and Taqueria is located at 6702 Rosemead Boulevard in Pico Rivera.

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Mexican Culinary Magic


Pati Jinich introduces her new book Mexican Today by stating, “This is a book of recipes born out of passion: passion for my family; passion for my native Mexico and its ancient, modern and evolving foodways; passion for the changing Mexican cuisine within the United States, my home for the past eighteen years and the birthplace of my children; and passion for delicious, unforgettable, irresistible food.” And after sampling her recipes we definitely see, smell and taste exactly what she means.


Pati’s Simmered Shaved Corn with Chiles and Epazote, glistens with full bodied sweetest from the freshest corn enhanced by her unique spice blend. We went back for seconds and thirds and would have continued but for our engorged, happy tummies.


We were particularly taken with her Fast Track Chicken Pibil, a recipe that simplifies the cooking process without skimping on the smokey achiote essence or richness.


She recommends serving the chicken pibil atop crisp corn tortillas and alongside her refreshing pickled onion and cabbage salad, also found in her book.


We were tickled and surprised by the chewy sweet, salty and savory Everything in the Pantry Cookies which combine most of our own pantry staples including pretzel pieces.


Pati’s drink recipes also surprise and delight and we found ourselves thoroughly enchanted by her honey and hibiscus flower tea with its understated, sweet-tart core.


Mexican Today provides simplicity, as well as new and old twists, on contemporary Mexican cooking. The recipes reflect a long practiced fusion in the Mexican kitchen. Pati explores the way Mexican foods have merged and evolved on both sides of the border. A consummate storyteller, as evidenced by her five seasons as host of the PBS series “Pati’s Mexican Kitchen”, she shares not only the research but also personal experiences behind the making of this book. All her dedication and hard work unify into an inspired cookbook and a great read.

Link here Mexican Today to purchase Pati Jinich’s book from Amazon.

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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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Rainbow Acres Brings Health And Wellness Home


Always on the lookout for exciting options, we find Rainbow Acres, a local institution since 1981, to be a great education. They are a locally owned, full service food and lifestyle store offering healthy options for almost every area of life.


The body care section is staffed with trained team members to assist in sorting through products, ensuring customers choose the best remedies for their needs.


By purchasing from manufacturers and businesses dedicated to raw, vegan, gluten free, organic, healthy, wholesome and sustainable products, we are able to contribute not only to our own health but also the health of the planet.


A certified organic produce section beams with colorful fruits and vegetables.


Bulk items allow us to purchase just the amounts we need from canisters of grains, nuts, cereals, snacks, coffee, spices and more.


We are also excited by the concept of cleaning products that are all natural and do their job without harming us, our family or the environment.


A full service deli provides breakfast Monday through Friday plus a daily juice bar, salad bar, sandwich bar and hot food case. Everything is clearly labeled if gluten free, free range, etc, and lists ingredients so patrons can make informed choices.


We love the juice bar which is always busy cranking out wheatgrass shots, fresh juices, smoothies, milkshakes and non dairy shakes.

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We couldn’t resist a kale, green apple, ginger and cucumber juice that radiated hot and spicy from the ginger and pure refreshment from the organic greens.


For a serious immersion into the world of health and wellness for home and daily life, Rainbow Acres is a great spot to ask questions, try products, learn about healthy brands, eat fresh and nourishing cuisine and drink a shot of wellness in a cup. Not a bad way to spend an hour of our time.

Rainbow Acres Natural Foods, 13208 West Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90066
Phone – 310-306-8330           web site –

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Culture, Education and Food At The Skirball


Lara Rabinovitch, PhD, a specialist in food culture and history, has been leading inspired courses on cuisine at the Skirball Cultural Center. Her last series, Los Angeles Cuisines 101 and 102, focused on ethnic food and are currently being followed up by Cured, Pickled and Preserved, where guest speakers share their expertise on the subjects.


On October 13, we thoroughly enjoyed the class on Pickles, which introduced Kevin West, a journalist and author of Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving, who is also the creative director of the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. Kevin prepped vegetables and graciously shared his knowledge, tips and techniques.


Students devoured Kevin’s secrets to crafting great pickles as well as, preserving methods, nutritional benefits, procuring the best produce to achieve stellar results and information on how to can safely.


Future classes include:

November 10: Ceviche—Ceviche Project, founded and owned by Octavio Olivas and his wife, Shannon, is a Los Angeles–based pop-up concept that aims to bring together family, friends, music, and new tastes in a one-of-a-kind communal dining experience.

December 8: Jam—Jessica Koslow is the owner of Sqirl, a breakfast and lunch restaurant and jam company in East Hollywood. She has worked at celebrated restaurants around the world, from the James Beard Award–winning Bacchanalia in Atlanta, Georgia, to Dench Bakers in Melbourne, Australia.


For further information and to become a part of this or future food lecture series curated by Ms. Rabinovitch contact:

Skirball Cultural Center ·
The Skirball Cultural Center is an educational institution in Los Angeles, California devoted to sustaining Jewish heritage and American democratic ideals.
Address – 2701 N Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Established -1996
Phone -310-440-4500

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Thrive Market Offers An Education On What’s Healthy For Us And The Planet


We love buying organic, non-GMO, local sourced, sustainable, nourishing food and healthy products. However these goods are often expensive, difficult to find and we honestly don’t have the time to research and substantiate their claims. Then we saw an ad for Thrive Market, whose tag line is, wholesome products, wholesale prices. They believe nutritious food and sustainable items are a right and not a privilege and they are on a mission to make it easier for us to buy what’s good for us, our families, our communities and our planet.


By going directly to the leading brands, they eliminate mark-ups on the highest-quality products, and then pass those savings on to members. For every membership they sell, Thrive Market donates a membership to a low-income American family so we can all thrive together.


We love the concepts, and with the 30-day free trial membership and gifts offered, they made it easy for us to give it a try.  Membership offers access to natural and organic products at wholesale prices as well as special promotions, contests and educational content. The membership is $59.95 for the year, which comes out to just under $5 a month. Free trials begin upon placement of the first order and roll into a paid membership 30 days later.


Excited to get started, we went shopping online and were pleased with the accessible ways goods are presented.  We chose from categories such as gluten free, Moms, paleo, raw, staples or vegan. We were also able to scroll through food, beauty, bath and body, health, home, pet, babies and kids sections. We learned a lot just browsing the site, because each item showcases pertinent information including a description, ingredients, nutritional information and values each item possesses such as, fair trade, non-GMO, certified organic, etc.


Our first order came in just two days and was sustainably packed in alignment with their philosophies.


There is free shipping on orders over $49.00 and we took advantage of that little perk.


Our first order came with both a 25%  and a 15% off coupon. We used them both, one to stock our pantry and one to set ourselves up with green cleaning and household products.


Our free gifts for trying their service included a 15 ounce jar of Nutiva organic coconut oil and an Exo protein bar made with cricket flour. At least we know where the protein came from.  Haven’t worked up the courage to eat that one yet.


We just started our relationship with Thrive Market and are currently checking prices on goods and doing the math, but it looks like $5 a month to have access to wholesale pricing, easy online shopping, free delivery with $49.00 orders and daily updates on products, recipes, and advice on living cleaner and healthier lives is going to be a good investment for us.

Thrive Market –






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A Taste Of Japan in Mar Vista


We love ethnic markets and at the corner of Centinela and Venice is one of our favorites, Mitsuwa Marketplace.  The food court rocks with Santouka serving some of the westsides best ramen and Hannosuke plating wonderful tempura bowls.  We tend to sit down for a meal here before we shop.


Back in the store the produce section offers beautiful fruit and vegetables.


Including some exotics such as dragon fruit and horned melon.


They also have a small organic section for those who prefer that choice.


Traditional Japanese foods abound, from a wide variety of tofu to pickled plums and Asian snacks.


Stunning cuts of meat and fish entice customers with their bright, fresh sheen.  You won’t find tired looking anything in this store.


Packaging is important to the Japanese and most products come beautifully labeled and wrapped, making these imports all the more special. We recycle Japanese wrappers and paper in all kinds of decorative ways including as gift wrap and in art projects.


Large displays of Japan’s favorite mayonnaise, Kewpie, showcase the famous condiment that has now become a staple of local chefs for its use of strictly egg yolks, making it a creamier and richer version that American brands.


Quail eggs are always an option at Mitsuwa and can be prepared just like chicken eggs, except they are much cuter and make the perfect sized picked egg popper.


A wide selection of soju and sake are available in charming bottles that we rescue and reuse as vases, for single or a small smattering of flowering stems.


Rice of every type makes shopping for exactly what you need in Asian recipes a snap.


Our favorite section, is the prepared foods which go on sale in the evenings.  We were at Mitsuwa Marketplace around 8 PM and found an abundance of discounted Japanese bowls and dishes.


Tofu, octopus balls, fried fish and dumplings are some of the appetizers and meals that can be scored on sale in the evenings.


Unique deserts, are part of the array of exciting Asian sweets laid out and an easy way to sample Japanese delicacies at reasonable prices.


We noticed that the sushi and raw fish bowls were not on sale, but we think some gracious inquiring and offering to take the “needs to be eaten immediately” raw fish off their hands, will most likely lead to discounts. Although the prices for the quantity and quality presented are quite good.


For an exploration into Japanese culture and cuisine, a trip to Mitsuwa Marketplace is an inexpensive way to visit a Japanese market that may inspire a flight to Japan to see the real deal.


Mitsuwa Marketplace, 3760 South Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066
Phone – 310-398-2113          web site –

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Healthy And Delicious From A French Kitchen


We miss French food, there used to be more of it in Los Angeles at all price points, but now it seems to have fallen out of favor and we can’t understand why.  Susan Herrmann Loomis, the author of In A French Kitchen, believes it may be that people think French is too heavy or not healthy and she says that is not the case at all and then proves it with her latest cookbook.  Her story filled read explains French cuisine and why it’s so remarkable, while sharing the dishes she loves.


Our introduction to her book began with  herb infused ice water, always a restorative libation that we keep forgetting is easy and elegant.  We are up for making this traditional drink a regular part of our lives, thank you Ms. Loomis for the reminder.


Rosemary, lavender, basil, lemon, orange, cucumber, almost any combination, of fruit, herbs or vegetables will work.


We like simple and Susan introduces a delightful appetizer of breakfast radishes sprinkled with salt then placed  atop french baguette slices slather with thick layers of butter.


And not just any salt, but Fleur de Sel Guerande, a mineral heavy, grey salt that Susan finds superlative.  Based on how wonderful the radish appetizer is, we have to agree with her.


The melon salad with shallot vinaigrette (page 93), combines sweet and savory in the most refreshing of ways.  The citrus, mint, shallots and freshly ground Szechuan peppercorns give the juicy sweet fruit something to play off.  We could eat this salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner all summer long.


Mushrooms with chorizo (page 290) is another uncomplicated dish, requiring only that the mushroom cups be filled with Spanish chorizo, cracked pepper and herbs of your choice.  They are baked in the oven for about 5 minutes or until hot throughout.  Easy, attractive platters fly out the kitchen almost by themselves.


Braised broccoli (page 76) takes advantage of the vibrant color and flavor of the cruciferous gem by honoring its natural character with onion, garlic and herbs.


Sausages with tomatoes and golden rice (page 42) create a hearty dish that allows the spice of the sausages to incorporate with the tomato, onion and spices, the perfect match for turmeric scented basmati rice.


Susan informs us that every meal she has in France, which has been her home for two decades, ends with a big green salad and we were regaled with simple greens lightly tossed with classic vinaigrette (page 96).  The perfect ending to a healthy, well balanced and delicious dinner.


Of course we had to partake in her sweet pie pastry (page 208) filled with raspberries and creme.  The rich pastry shell is a wonderful base for the sweet-tart berries and the thick yellow creme which come together to form a sweet, tart, creamy, cookie crumble reminiscent fruit tart.


Thank you Susan for reminding us that French food can be healthy, makes the best use of seasonal produce and celebrates the flavors of the French countryside that we can all relate to even if we’ve never set foot in your beautiful village.  Until Los Angeles expands her French offerings we are happy to use your guidance to indulge in some time honored French principles from the kitchen.


In A French Kitchen by Susan Herrmann Loomis is now avaialbe through Amazon.





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