Growing up in Southern California really ruined me for Mexican food. New York has a handful of restaurants that have game, but if you crave the consistent taste and authenticity of real California Mexican cuisine, you might be better off cooking at home. Even if you want the convenience of using a few packaged ingredients, it’s important to have a fresh-tasting salsa on hand, and what I call ‘restaurant style’ chips that are sturdy enough to stand up to the thickest guacamole. The problem is, which brands of chips and salsa taste the best? Obviously, other non-native New Yorkers have considered this situation, because fellow East Village resident Matt Bennett has created Dreams Aren’t This Good (DATG); a line of unique salsas and authentic tortilla chips that blows away everything else on the supermarket shelf. Seriously, this brand is a game changer.
Sweet Dreams Are Made of This Salsa
Inspired by and infused with the sights and sounds of New York City, one-of-a-kind DATG salsa flavors include The Original (which I received for review), The Fighter (garlic cilantro), Just Dance (jalapeno pineapple), Now or Never (avocado pepper), and Girls Girls Girls (blueberry coconut). All salsas and tortilla chips are gluten free, vegan and contain no preservatives.
DATG’s origin story goes back to Matt’s upbringing in Southeast Texas and his tenure as a student at Louisiana State University (LSU). “At school, I started making salsa by mixing Mexican style with a little Cajun spice,” Matt remembers. “As I experimented with different ingredients and flavors, the salsa was always a huge hit with everyone, and I knew I was on to something.”
Actress Jamie Chung once jokingly said, “If acting doesn’t work out, I plan to do food photography and just eat my way through the entire world! I’m a big foodie, and if I could make some career out of it, that would be fantastic.” She’s probably in good company. In a world that’s overwhelmed with smartphones and picture-apps like Instagram, you’d think everyone is a passionate food photographer! However, few are aware of just how difficult it is to sustain the drive. We’re giving you a few tips on re-igniting your passion and finding your food photography inspiration. Here we go!
1. Invest in a few renowned cookbooks and magazines
Where do the best food photographers ply their trade? Well in cookbooks and magazines of course! Granted, these resources aren’t free and you may have to shell out a couple of dollars to access these books, but its’ money well spent. Fortunately, you don’t have to purchase actual hard-copies which tend to be more expensive. The digital versions do nicely.
2. Dabble and experiment with other forms of photography
The world of photography is vast with numerous genres – wedding photography, product photography, fashion photography, aerial photography to name a few. What’s interesting is what you can learn from each genre. Lighting, composition, and editing are all done differently. The skills you learn by dabbling with other types of photography can give you the inspiration you’re looking for with your own food photography.
3. Study light, airy, bright photos to understand aesthetics
What makes one photo breathtaking and another bland? A quick scroll through Instagram and you’ll notice something remarkable. The most popular food photos are almost always light and bright. This is achieved largely by employing three concepts: white balance, neutral color filters, and bokeh. White balance, to quote Photography Life, is simply “adjusting colors so that the image looks more natural”. Neutral color filters help the images retain their natural look as well, while bokeh (from the Japanese word meaning ‘to blur’) is simply the technical term for blurring out elements such as the background in your pictures. Studying beautiful photos can invoke the inspiration you’re after.
4. Look beyond food images at what’s around you
Perhaps you need to stop looking at food images for a while. You see, inspiration can come to you when you’re not even thinking about it; when you’re simply out and about living life. It may be that the more you obsess over your food photos the less likely you’ll find pleasure in your own work. Instead, look beyond food photography itself. Go visit a museum, watch an old movie, and look at some classical art. You never know where you’ll find food photography inspiration
5. Join a few social media groups and follow fellow food bloggers
The tech-centric nature of our world and globalization means you can follow anyone from anywhere. You can join social media food photography groups such as Food Bloggers Central to connect with like-minded people. With plenty of food photography inspiration to be had and conversations with photographers from all walks of life, you’re likely to have your own fire re-ignited quickly.
I hope these tips will help you find inspiration for your food photography. Still, if you would like to find further inspiration, you can also check out professional food photographers portfolio websites.
One final word: don’t worry about every photo being perfect. As Henri Cartier-Bresson laughingly remarked, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” Just remember that with every photo you snap, your skills will improve!
Do you like yogurt? I sure do. As food trends adapt to changing diets, I’ve sampled and reviewed a variety of delicious non-dairy yogurts. While these yogurts are ideal for fans who are lactose intolerant, and also those who follow a vegan diet, the bottom line is that it has to taste great. With nut-derived milks becoming increasingly popular, it makes sense that an almond milk-based yogurt would hit the market. If you’re curious about non-dairy yogurt alternatives, let me introduce you to AYO, a delicious and healthy yogurt made with organic almond milk.
AYO was created by the Billings family, who have been growing almonds on their farm, based in California’s sunny San Joaquin Valley, for four generations. The Billings‘ are forward-thinking farmers who are passionate about introducing better-for-you foods with clear traceability, vertical integration and sustainable practices. Their commitment to innovation, and a farm-to-spoon philosophy, created AYO yogurt. From their almond orchards where everything starts, to picking, then churning, blending with organic fruits or organic vanilla, and culturing the yogurt — the result is luscious, probiotic-rich yogurts that taste fantastic.
Since I’ve been working from home, yogurt has been one of my go-to snacks, so I was thrilled to receive samples of all four flavors (Strawberry, Peach, Blueberry, and Vanilla) of AYO yogurt to enjoy. Each variety has only 150 or 160 calories per 5.3 ounce cup, so you can stay on your diet as well!
When I opened my first cup, what I noticed right away about this yogurt is its very smooth, almost drinkable consistency. No stirring is needed because the fruit is thoroughly blended with the yogurt, to guarantee that the first spoonful tastes as sweet and tangy as the last.
Peaches are one of my favorite fruits, so I enjoyed this flavor every much. You can see little bits of peach on my spoon. Yummy.
The Vanilla AYO is just sweet enough, but also has the distinctive tangy flavor that tells you that you are eating real yogurt.
You can snack and work at the same time!
When you peel back the lid of the Blueberry AYO Almond Milk Yogurt, guess what you smell? Blueberries.
AYO would be perfect as an ingredient in variety of recipes for healthy shakes and desserts, but today I’m going share with you the most delicious Granola Yogurt Breakfast Popsicle recipe, which they call Gro-Yo Pops. The whole family will love these, as they are great for the summer months and make an easy, nutritious breakfast!
Gro-Yo Pops (Dairy-free, Plant-based, Farm to Freezer Popsicles)
Stir yogurt, berries, 2 teaspoons coconut oil and almond extract together in a medium bowl. Divide among six 3-ounce popsicle molds. Stir coconut flakes, and ground almonds and the remaining 2 teaspoons of coconut oil together in a small bowl. Top each popsicle with 1 tablespoon of the coconut almond mixture. Insert popsicle sticks and freeze overnight.
Visit This Link to learn more, to find a store near you that sells AYO, and to get money saving coupons to use towards your purchase!
If you suspect that we are getting a little bit desperate to find Pink Things for featuring in this weekly space, you would be correct. Thankfully, the Pink Drinks of summer are not only keeping us refreshed, hydrated, and slightly buzzed, but they also make a nice post, don’t they? This tall cool one is the Watermelon Daiquiri offered at Bottino Restaurant in Chelsea. Bottino specializes in delicious homemade pastas and other Italian favorites, and it has the most insanely lush backyard garden / covered patio for a safe and relaxed dining experience. At this time in our lives when little things mean so much, we look forward to a future visit!
I recently enjoyed my first official cocktail-in-a-bar of the Covid summer and, fittingly, it was a Pink Drink! Pictured above is an enticing, frosty glass of Frosé (frozen rosé wine), which I procured at Versa; a cool ‘rooftop’ restaurant located on the fifth floor of the Renaissancehotel in midtown. While Versa is not literally on the hotel’s roof, which is maybe 20 stories higher up, its spacious patio emulates a rooftop experience, while also allowing for pandemic-compliant social distancing and other important safety guidelines. While enjoying the restaurant’s chill vibe, I happily discovered that if Frosé melts before you can suck it all down, it simply turns into chilled rose wine, as there is no diluting from added ice! Win win!
I will be the first person to admit that I am not the most creative home cook, so having seriously-restricted access to restaurant-prepared meals means I am fighting food boredom. While I’m relying more than ever on the amazing frozen food section at my local Trader Joe’s, I’m also exploring my ability to make tasty rice and pasta dishes with minimal effort. When it comes to pasta, the more cheese, the better, so Parmesan cheese is always in my pantry. Now, vegans and others following a dairy-free diet can also enjoy the cheesy, umami flavor of Parmesan with Parma! Vegan Parmesan seasoning.
See The Goodness. Left: Garlicky Green Parma, Right: Regular Parma
The folks at Sister River Foods, makers of Parma! recently sent me two different varieties of this versatile seasoning blend to review for the blog, and I can’t believe how much I love it. Parma is the original plant-based parmesan; a dairy-free, protein-rich condiment ideal for use on pasta, pizza, salad, vegetables, popcorn, avocado toast and most other main dishes and savory foods. Parma is made from only natural ingredients including superfoods such as nutritional yeast, Himalayan crystal salt, organic sunflower seeds (clearly identifiable in the above photo) and organic hemp seeds, among other healthy ingredients.
Garlicky Green Parma! – Distinguished by a cheesey umami Italian herb flavour complemented by nutritiously delicious kelp, pumpkin and sesame seeds. Ingredients: Nutritional Yeast, Organic SunflowerSeeds, Walnuts, Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Dried Garlic, Himalayan Crystal Salt, Organic Hemp Seeds, Organic Sesame Seeds, Organic Kelp Powder, Organic Dried Basil, Organic Dried Oregano.
And two more I would love try!
Better Than Bacon Parma! – Voted Favorite Bacon Flavored Product by VegNews and featuring a smokey cheesey umami bacon flavor. Ingredients: Nutritional Yeast, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts, Ground Paprika, Organic Dried Onion, Natural Flavor, Organic Brown Sugar, Himalayan Crystal Salt, Smoked Salt, Organic Hemp Seeds.
Chipotle Cayenne Parma! – Blessed with a smokey umami flavor akin to the most popular barbeque potato chips, with a slight cayenne kick at the end. Ingredients: Nutritional Yeast, Organic SunflowerSeeds, Walnuts, Organic Ground Chipotle Pepper, Himalayan Crystal Salt, Organic Hemp Seeds, Organic Onion Powder, Organic Ground Cayenne Pepper.
A generous dusting of Garlicky Green Parma!on hot pasta elevates the flavor of your favorite sauce, and creates an exciting contrast of textures as the crunchy seeds mix with the tender pasta. Absolutely delicious.
Here, I have seasoned my breakfast of a cheese omelet and a scoop of cottage cheese with Original Parma! The Parma! was especially helpful in adding much-needed flavor enhancement to the cottage cheese, because I had accidentally purchased the unsalted variety — which otherwise, honestly, tastes of nothing. Thanks, Parma!
Founded in 2004, Parma! has steadily grown to its current status as a leader in the dairy-free cheese alternative arena and a key player in the multi-billion-dollar global vegan food category. Looking back on the origins of the Parma! brand, Sister River Foods’ co-founder and CEO Shannon Schnibbe recalls that it all started as the result of her severe allergies and effort to find foods that might give her relief. Introduced to raw foods, she was soon inspired to begin making what is now Parma! for herself, friends and family. After moving to Oregon and becoming pregnant with her first baby, Shannon decided to combine her passion for healthy eating with her corporate experience and turn her hobby into an actual business. The vegan parmesan revolution had begun!
Find Out more about Parma! and Sister River Foods, plus get Delicious Recipes, at This Link!
I’ve been hearing about Pietro Nolita since it opened (a few years ago at this point), because it is an Italian Restaurant downtown that’s Pink on the exterior and interior. I’ve always meant to visit, of course — because: Pink Restaurant — but it’s not in my neighborhood and I’m lazy, so I’ve never see the pinkness before in person, until now.
The fact that Pietro Nolita had completely fallen off my radar made it that much sweeter to literally stumble upon it last week, as I walked home to the East Village from a doctor’s appointment in the Financial District and decided to shake up my route. Isn’t it adorable? Who wouldn’t want stop in and check it out?
I love the details they put into it, including flower boxes bursting with Pink Silk Chrysanthemums.
Popular street artist Hektad has even contributed a flourish of his signature heart art.
Located at 174 Elizabeth Street, Pietro Nolito is open during lockdown from Thursday through Sunday, Noon to 8 PM for Take Out and Delivery. I Promise that once it Reopens I Will Eat There and File a Full Report!