If there is any food that typifies the mundane made special, it’s fresh, handmade pasta. It’s plain, whole food: soft grain & fresh eggs. Little more. Making it isn’t glamorous. It’s manual labor, messy hands and spatters of flour, kneading down through your forearms. Simple kitchen work, good & grounding. For years I found making fresh pasta daunting. For reasons unknown to me it seemed mercurial, untrustworthy. Like a raised eyebrow might send my pasta into a fit causing it to fail. Blessedly, these were all lies. It’s easy. It’s something your hands will just know. Forget the box. Flour & the loyal egg are all you need to create a silky canvas for whatever seasonal produce comes your way. Today, we have fresh pasta with a bit of ground fennel seed in it serving as the medium for a creamy celery root & Noble Spring’s herb de provence crusted goat cheese filling; shiitakes; and a bright yet earthy brown butter, Meyer lemon, and parlsey pesto. Every now and again, every so rarely (I’m one of those “own worst critic” sorts but aren’t we all) I create something I want to pat myself on the back for. This is one of those times. It’s a little stupid how good & comforting these agnolotti are, how refined a gnarled celery root can taste. Meditative to make and warming to eat, it’s the perfect dish for this time of year when stress runs high and worlds collide.
Yes, you read that right. I have a very, very special item in stock at Sweet Gum Co. now: tickets to our workshop in Portugal! I couldn’t be more excited to be partnering with Sanda of Little Upside Down Cake to teach a food and lifestyle photography & styling workshop in Portugal this coming May. We’ve been secretly plotting this four day retreat for months from finding the perfect spot (Uva Do Monte: Bluberry Farm— a beautiful, completely renovated farm house turned inn where Sanda & De Alma e Coração just did their most recent Kinfolk workshop) to planning activities like an on-location beach picnic shoot and trip to a local fishing village. Keeping my mouth shut has been difficult to say the last,
and now that registration is open, Registration closed! I can finally share! With only 8 spots available it’s going to be an intimate, hands-on affair, and it will be as much about building new relationships and the camaraderie of shared passions and curiosity as it is about learning a craft.
We’ll be covering all of the bases from camera basics like aperture/depth of field, exposure/shutter speed, and ISO & film speed to composition and working with varying natural light to post processing in Lightroom. In the end, however, technical skills are a means to an end. You master them so you don’t have to think about them. It’s like teaching someone to drive a car; the goal is the destination. We want to impart to you what we’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, so that you can realize your own style & creative vision. The goal of the workshop is not to teach you how to tell your story, but rather to teach you how to master the tools of camera, light, and composition to create photos that reflect you. That’s why our focus will be on both mastering technical skills as well as thinking about & discussing the creative process—about mood, narrative, and creating photos that are vital, alive & imbued with your personality.
I get a lot of emails asking for photography advice, and it’s some of my favorite advice to give (as those of you that have asked me know…I’m usually inclined to respond at length!). I firmly believe that a passionate, hard working person can teach themselves to do just about anything, but I also know that having someone teach you expedites that process exponentially. I’ve spent countless hours studying, reading, and, of course, shooting, and I’m so, so happy to have this opportunity to share the fruits of that labor with you!
We’ll have the farm all to ourselves, and it will be a weekend of leisurely cooking & baking, photography, building new relationships, exploring the local culture & landscape, and, of course, gathering around the table to enjoy beautiful food and each other’s company.The house is a leisurely walk from a Praia da Aberta Nova, a pristine, near deserted beach with white sands & breathtaking blue sea where we’ll enjoy the on location shoot & picnic during one of our workshop days.
The workshop is a come one, come all affair and everyone from all walks of life are welcome from the beginner to more advanced students, from the curious to the passionate. So if you know someone who’d love to join us (it would make a most excellent Christmas gift!) or will be joining us yourself, I can’t wait to meet each and every one of you. Spots are limited so don’t miss out! Details below.
When: May 7-11 2014
Where: Uva Do Monte: Blueberry Farm (about 130 km, an hour and a half, outside of Lisbon, the nearest airport)
How Much: fee is $1930 (to be paid in two payments of $965); single occupancy; does not include airfare and getting yourself to and from the airport and includes:
• 4 nights stay in your own private room at Uva do Monte, a beautiful & completely refurbished farmhouse in the Portuguese country side, which we will have exclusive use of
• 2 full days of hands on workshops: cooking & process shots, food & prop styling, camera basics & mastering your tools as a photographer, working with variable natural light, post-processing, and exploring the creative process behind finding your voice & creating a sense of narrative in your visual work including on on location beach picnic shoot
• 1 day of sightseeing in the surrounding area including a trip to a local fishing village as well as lunch, dinner, and wine on the town
• all meals as well as lunch & dinner out on our site seeing day
• wine & tapas upon arrival
• snacks & refreshments during workshop hours
• transportation to all workshop activities & sightseeing (ticket does not include airfare & getting to and from the airport)
• the workshop is open to 8 people
A labor of love & collaboration with friends has finally come to life: I’m so happy to announce that my little pop up shoppe Sweet Gum Co. is now open for holiday shopping! It’s a carefully curated collection of vintage & handmade provisions for the home and kitchen from Tennessee and the Southeast. Everything you’ll find there is either handmade or found in the South, and the artifacts are by and large one of a kind, completely unique works of art unto themselves. The pieces are designed to be more than just tools. They’re items that tell a story and are more than just a means to an end. When we’re mindful of the objects we use day to day, we enrich our lives at every turn. From a napkin to a tea cup, a cutting board to a skillet, these objects are the fabric of the everyday.
This is one of the cocktails we served at this past weekend’s Kinfolk Herbal Infusions workshop here in Chattanooga, TN. I created it to be not only appropriately festive for the understated & elegant flutes and gorgeous quartz crystal votive West Elm gave us for our fete, but also to be a mindful, refreshing blend. One befitting this time of year not only in it’s flavor profile but in it’s meaning as well. The base of this cocktail is a simple syrup infused with feathery sage & piquant ginger, a bright and earthy concoction that’s equally refreshing and festive in a glass of sparkling water for those of you who, like me, abstain for whatever reason, as it is in a crisp glass of Prosecco. Plants being more than plants but being rather our symbiotic cohabitants of this mortal coil, this bubbling drink is more than just a palatable way to sling back enough alcohol to feel comfortable with your family. Instead, we can think of it as a tincture, as a potent medicine that lends itself to mindful savoring & promotes strength, prosperity, and cleansing. Heed the metaphysics of the holidays & the delicious foods and drinks we create and enjoy a whole new dimension of experience.
I remember one year when I was living out in California, taking meager solace in the sea & more substantial solace in a dear, brilliant neuroscientist shortly after my divorce, I caught the red-eye back home for Thanksgiving. Just for Thanksgiving. I remember walking in the front door. It smelled wonderful, and all I remember, truly, is my mother smiling. She was, against all reason at the time, happy to see me. I wasn’t in good shape. But there everything was, just as it had always been. My father was making his famed deviled eggs, my mother had the much revered “Coca-Cola butt ham” & her pumpkin pies ready to go, and we packed it all up in a wicker picnic basket and drove up Lookout Mountain to my Aunt Brenda & Uncle Jim’s house, for their house is the province of the feast. My Aunt Brenda is the one who orchestrates the affair—she makes the dressing & smokes a turkey out on the deck in their little Weber (it’s a skill). She also makes all manner of other treats—pecan pie & gravy not the least among them. There are usually no less than 5 pies at our Thanksgiving: buttermilk, pecan, chocolate, pumpkin, and usually something else…apple? I don’t know. I lose count. So much pie. Glorious.