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Food Photos: Mani Osteria and Isalita

We hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th.

While it was generally a quiet and relaxing week, we were busy with a delicious shoot for two prominent restaurants in town. Sister restaurants, Mani Osteria and Isalita were in need of some representation for their websites and we were happy to oblige. Actually, N went in and did all the work and I admired the results while my stomach rumbled. 

Mani opened back in 2011 to a bunch of buzz and was named one of the top 25 Italian restaurants in U.S. last year. It's one of our favorite places to catch a quick bite for lunch meetings or sit down to share a larger meal with friends. Previous diners include Mario Batalli and Bobby Flay. Chef Brendan McCall worked with owner Adam Baru to create a menu that pairs the traditional with innovative Italian flavors. With such dishes as their Taglietelle with Carbonera and bacon and Shrimp Spiedini served with lemon, pickled chili and mint, it's not difficult to see why they're one of the most exciting restaurants in the area. 

Isalita opened next door earlier this year and the reviews have been phenomenal. Lots of delish taco options like pulled pork and salmon ceviche complement fresh guacamole and refreshing drinks. 

Are we making you hungry yet?   Look on and we swear, you can almost smell the wonderful aromas. 

For more information about our food styling and photography, shoot us an email.  



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Good Times for a Good Cause: 826 Michigan's Annual Storymakers Dinner

Last night N photographed the 4th Annual Storymakers Dinner for 826 Michigan at Zingerman's Roadhouse. He shot the event last year and jumped at the chance to do it again. It's a really fun, laid back evening celebrating the literary accomplishments of students and the adults that help them. If you're not familiar with 826, you can check out their website here. This is their intro paragraph on the site:

826michigan is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students aged 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. 826 opened its doors in June of 2005. Since then, we have been blessed with students, tutors, and volunteers overflowing with enthusiasm.

We couldn't be happier to work with such a vital asset in our community. Last night's special guests included National Book Critics Circle Award recipient Deb Olin Unferth and former 826 student Saif Ghanem, whose essay "The Story of My Life" was included in the 826 National publication Be Honest, And Other Advice from Students Around the Country. 

If you're looking for an incredibly worthwhile organization to donate, volunteer or just learn more about, we urge you to find out more about 826 and visit The Robot Supply & Repair at 115 E. Liberty St. in Ann Arbor. Proceeds from sales of awesome robot goodies directly fund their literacy, tutoring and publishing programming. Can you tell we just love this place??

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Save the Date: Daniela + Josh

A few months ago Daniela and Josh approached us about doing a unique save-the-date card. They had met at a Starbucks near Daniela's hometown and eventually got a Starbucks! N photographed them in studio while they played with tons of fun ideas. They recently shared their ingenious and handy save-the-date magnet*. Congratulations to the beautiful couple. We wish you a lifetime of happiness!


*Details have been smudged for the sake of the couple's privacy.



Where's the Beef

We love food, and this post marks the beginning of how we'll show it. Once every two weeks (or more) we'll highlight a favorite food, giving us a chance to share some great recipes as well as showcase some amazing eateries. Below are two different favorites: barbecued beef ribs and potato skins.

Beef ribs can be found in most grocery stores with the refrigerated meats. I begin with a dry rub that includes brown sugar, dill, garlic and more. Then I stand the ribs up in a slow cooker with about an inch of water at the bottom. Then I wait six or more hours... When they're ready I have two options: pull the meat off the bone or BBQ them and throw them in the oven for twenty minutes at 400˚. Enjoy!

Potato skins are simple! Begin with a bag of potatoes, clean them and halve them. Bake them for two to three hours at 300˚. When they're soft and cool, scoop out the center to make "boats". Next, clean and dice your favorite vegetables. We chose bell pepper, onion, tomato, broccoli and... bacon! Start filling the potato skins with your selections, cover them all with cheese and bake them for twenty to thirty minutes at 350˚. Buon appetito!



Ramen, Tako and Kara-Age: Photo shoot at Tomukun

Tomukun Noodle Bar is one of the most popular restaurants in town and for good reason. With their diverse menu of Asian specialties such as pork buns, pho and green curry udon, it was hard to focus on shooting without gobbling all of it down. The owners, Noe, Tom and Victor were on hand making sure that their food was represented in the best light (no pun intended). We brought our equipment set up and got started right away, capturing some spontaneous shots in the front kitchen.

And an unusually quiet moment in the dining room.

We got warmed up with a few apps.

Then came the main acts.

We had a blast shooting. Thank you, Tomukun, for a successful and high-energy shoot. Make sure you check out their menu and their selection of Asian beers and sake. See you there!



Crafted Caffeine: The Espresso Bar

We had the pleasure of meeting Sandy and Foster, the owners of a new local espresso bar, aptly named The Espresso Bar, in the last couple days. My first experience there was a heavenly affogato, a delicious espresso topped with a dallop of Zingerman's gelato. But all of their drinks are carefully crafted with keen attention to the details. There's no rushing the experience here. And believe us, you wouldn't want to.

From the deliberate temperature of the steamed milk (if done properly, it lends a sweetness with no need for sugar) to the thoughtful designs of the froth, a visit to The Espresso Bar is to be savored.

If you're at Kerrytown, cross the street over to Braun Court and treat yourself. Thank you, Sandy and Foster. We'll be back soon!



Delicious Photography

Just a quick one today on a much loved aspect of our business for many reasons - food photos. We can't always eat what's stuck with toothpicks, sprayed or been sitting out for hours. But we do love scrumptious looking results. Food photography is an entire genre unlike product or editorial. Each crumb has its place and each noodle has to sit pretty. And we get to shoot some more very soon.



Challenge: Point vs Pro | Why Do You Need A Professional Photographer Anyway?

We've gotten a few photo shoots under our belt since the start of the company and we have to say, we're pretty happy with the results. From food to portraits, we've been able to offer a variety of takes on what the client wants while injecting our own flavor into things. Thing is, there's still some apprehension from time to time about what it is we do, why we do it and if it's truly that different than just picking up a camera and taking a point and shoot photo. The answer is "yes!" We don't strive for just good enough, we want exceptional. See for yourself.

People may not always be able to voice what it is about the photo that doesn't seem quite right until they see a proper example of how it should be done. You're probably wondering what we shot with and why there's such a drastic difference. The shot on the left was taken with our trusty Nikon Coolpix S4100. It's a great camera for fun, social gatherings. But if you're a business owner wondering why your mailers aren't getting response or why you can't achieve the results as we did on the right, it's because we pack and bring an entire studio with us.

Although a point and shoot camera is good for documentation it only offers one light source from a fixed point. For the professional shots, items were lit from the side with the assistance of white bounce cards to fill and highlight, making the item more robust. Every aspect of the shoot is in a controlled environment, much like the food campaign we shot a couple weeks ago. If you've ever wondered about professional photography, we're happy to answer your questions.

We look forward to working with you.



Good Eatin'.

In the mood for a sweet potato quinoa burger, with roasted garlic and fresh red onions on a hearty, multigrain bun? Look no further than Ann Arbor's own Jazzy Veggie, on the north end of Main Street. Owner and vegetarian, Ananth Pullela (Andy), was less than satisfied with the vegetarian options he encountered while dining out. So, he collaborated with Chef Kevin and together they created a menu that will satisfy all that prefer not to eat meat and even many that do.

We were more than happy to work with Anne-Marie Kim, the head designer of Genui Forma, and Andy, to capture images that best represent his amazing products. Below are some of the mouth watering results.

(Sweet Potato Quinoa Burger)

(Spaghetti and Veggie Balls, foreground; Mushroom Spinach Alfredo, background)

(Carrot Cake)(The Wolverine Burger - Marinated and grilled veggie patty, sautéed onions, roasted peppers, guacamole and tomato basil aioli)

(Bello - Marinated and grilled portabella mushrooms, sautéed onions, tomatoes, fresh basil, Italian cheese and chipotle aioli on grilled artisan bread)



Animating Life

It's not too often anymore that we stop and really engage in a commercial. So we were pleasantly surprised when we saw Chipotle's latest. Not only did it have Willie Nelson singing a great cover of Coldplay's "The Scientist", the stylized and whimsical presentation of our manufactured and pumped-up meat industry had us scrambling to watch it again. Irish graphic designer turned animator Johnny Kelly was the brain behind this great piece. [youtube]

A couple years ago we watched the documentary Food Inc. which gave us a quick snapshot of just how monopolized and manipulated our food is. Thanks to Chipotle for reminding us that what we put into our bodies is worth thinking about everyday.


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Edible Art: Sweet potato and beef soup with harvest blend

-N- and I love to cook. If we had cable again, the only thing we would watch regularly is Top Chef. This morning I made french toast - just for myself. Cooking is another art form that allows exploration, discovery and we're always looking for new things to try. A staple this cold season has been homemade soup. It's so easy to incorporate flavors, color and tons of nutritional value.  I felt stirred to post this entry with its great colors and textures, it's almost like building a composition for a painting. Here's my stab at culinary art. 

I don't believe that the base of soup should be new. Meaning, I'll bake an entire chicken for dinner one night and the next day I'll strip it of most of the meat and put the whole chicken in the pot for the base. Last night, we had two thick rib eye steaks and sweet potato and russet potato. Since I would've had a heart attack had I eaten the whole thing I saved it along with the leftover potatoes and stashed them in the fridge. Soup for us is comforting deliciousness and getting the combination of starch, protein and spice isn't always quite right. But today's soup made me smile as I scooped my second serving. I'm definitely adding this to my repertoire. Try my recipe for Sweet Potato and Beef Soup.

Prep time: 20 min.

Cook time: At least 45 min.


1/4 red onion, chopped fine

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 sweet potato and 1 russet potato cooked or uncooked, cubed small (any combination works but I highly recommend the contrast of the sweet)

4-6 ounces of cooked steak, cubed

1 cup Trader Joe's Harvest Blend - a mixture of red quinoa, lentils, cous cous, orzo

1/2 cup frozen peas (or any small colorful vege, corn would be great too)

beef or chicken bouillon cubes (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Put a large pot over medium heat and warm a small pat of butter or olive oil in it. As it starts to sizzle, drop in onions, garlic, frozen peas and cubed beef. Stir for a couple minutes until onions begin to sweat and become translucent. Add 2-3 quarts of water depending on your pot size. At this point, you can add a bouillon cube or two for taste. (I find that if you cook soup long enough for the flavors to marry, you don't need these. They work great, though, if you're in a pinch and can't cook the soup that long). If you're using uncooked potatoes, drop them in now. Bring the soup to a rolling boil and mix in the Harvest Blend, lower to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes. If you're using cooked potatoes, drop them in after the soup has simmered for at least 30 minutes as to not break the starch down further. Add salt and pepper to taste. I would suggest grinding fresh pepper and sprinkling parmesan shavings if you have it. Serve immediately with crusty bread. Bon apetit! Let me know what you think!


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