Cookbooks & Bon Appetit

Last week was a hectic week amidst a hectic summer: Three trips to NYC in 5 days, twice to shoot popsicles for the Brooklyn based company, People’s Pops, and on Friday I shot my first feature for Bon Appetit magazine. Bon Appetit! What a great experience working with food stylist Simon Andrews, prop stylist Stella Yoon, and the amazing Bon Appetit creative team.

I probably shouldn’t take photos while driving, but what a dramatic entrance to the city – and totally inappropriate weather for the last day of shooting popsicles – I couldn’t help myself on the GW Bridge at 8 in the morning.

And finally, a scene from the apartment where we set up an impromptu studio for the People’s Pops recipe shots. For me, there is nothing better than their plum/sour cherry pop, although apricot/orange blossom is out of this world. Seasonal fruit + sugar + freeze: look for the cookbook in Spring, 2012, to be published by Ten Speed Press.

It takes 3 tables worth of props to photograph 10 popsicle recipe shots.

Susan Orlean’s Animalish Kindle Single

One of my very favorite writers (the kind of writer I wanted to be until I realized I tell better stories with pictures than with words), Susan Orlean, launched her Kindle Single, Animalish, today. I have photographed Susan several times – for the book River of Words, and for Edible Hudson Valley magazine – and let me tell you, she is so much fun. And she used one of my portraits of her with her brood on the cover of the Single! Read an interview with Susan in today’s New York Times. Order a copy of the essay here.

Mark Ruffalo & No-Fracking

This spring, I photographed actor Mark Ruffalo for the Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times. The story profiled both Ruffalo’s directorial debut and his mission to stop gas fracking in New York state. Ruffalo is a passionate opponent of fracking and speaks out often about the dangers to farms, waterways, and quality of life – in the newspaper, on television, and on his twitter account. Ruffalo requested we do his portrait on the Delaware River, where he goes fishing with his son. Read the story here.

Mark Ruffalo, no fracking, photo by Jennifer May

Ramp Foraging for the New York Times

Reporter Indrani Sen and I followed ramp foragers deep into the Catskill mountains, to write and photograph a story for the New York Times’s Dining section. Standing in the forest, surrounded by acres of the pungent wild greens, I did wonder if I was seeing something that would be legendary a generation from now. Read Indrani’s thought-provoking article on the danger of over-foraging to feed a populace with a growing passion for wild, local foods, and here are some of my outtakes from the shoot. If you have land of your own, consider planting your own ramps. Seed & bulbs available here.

Handfuls of very early spring ramps.
Forager Christopher Field, left, and farmer-forager Rick Bishop, right, in the Catskill mountains in early spring.
Forager Ken McGuire forages for ramps in Ulster County, NY
Young ramps, cleaned in the river.

Hudson Valley Dining Issue

In January, I visited 8 restaurants for the annual Dining issue of Hudson Valley magazine. Here is the cover and table of contents page I shot. The multi-item plate image was done at one of the most interesting restaurants where you will never eat: Damon Baehrel’s Basement Bistro – located in the middle of nowhere and yet has a 3-year wait list. Baehrel cooks what he calls “native harvest” cuisine which features meats cured in pine needles and root vegetables cooked in the soil in which they grew. Check out the caption below.

Photo by Jennifer May

Damon Baehrel's meats & vegetables plate at the Basement Bistro in Earlton, NY: Top of plate: Pineneedle Cured Pork Shoulder with sauce of Wild Burdock Root & Cauilflower Powder & Smoked Cedar-Berry Melted Cabbage. Center of plate: Left = Cold Frame Bordeaux Spinach with wild Dandelion Powder; Center = 2-Hour Slow roasted Brussels Sprout; Right = Baked "Dried Fava Bean Flour Battered" Sweet Onion with Frost Sweetened Chantanay Carrot Puree. Bottom of Plate: 6-Hour Sumac Chicken with sauce of "Rutabaga that was cooked in the soil it was grown in" & Carrot-Water Shallots.

Nose to Tail Cooking

For the February 2011 issue of Chronogram magazine, I observed a lesson in cooking offal from Chef Rich Reeve. When we had finished, there was a buffet of: beef heart tacos, roasted marrow bones, bbq pig’s tail, pig’s ear frittata, and cow’s tongue pastrami. For Peter Barrett’s full story – and an easy recipe for chicken and pork liver terrine – click here.

Marrow bones in nose to tail cookingOffal beef heart tacosnose to tail cooking offal

Distillers for New York Times

A recent cover shoot for the Dining section of the New York Times featuring two distillers in the Berkshires. Read the full story here.

Derek Grout of Harvest Spirits the still in his barn in Valatie, NY.
Infusions Derek Grout is experimenting with at Harvest Spirits.
Infusion experimentations at Harvest Spirits
Detail of the bottling machine at Harvest Spirits.
Chris Weld sits amongst his four fermenters at Berkshire Mountain Distillers.

Soup Kitchen

For the December issue of Chronogram magazine, I visited the Queen’s Galley, a soup kitchen in Kingston, NY that serves free meals three times a day, seven days a week, to anyone who asks. All the food is donated to the kitchen and most of the staff are volunteers. Diane Reeder, the executive director, says she doesn’t know what each meal will consist of until a few hours before it is served. There is one full time chef, a graduate from the Culinary Institute of America, and the rest of the kitchen and waitstaff are volunteers. On the Sunday in November when I visited, four CIA students had come to volunteer for dinner service.

Some diners have been regulars since Reeder opened her doors six years ago and some are first-timers to the soup kitchen. All the diners I spoke to said they wouldn’t know how they would eat when their food runs out at home. Read Peter Barrett’s full story, and visit the Queen’s Galley… they are always looking for donations of time, money, and food.

Prison Food

For a recent issue of Edible Hudson Valley, writer Lee Bernstein and I visited New York’s medium security Fishkill Correctional Facility for a tour of the kitchen, messhall, and food storage rooms. No food is actually cooked on the premises – it is prepared off-site, trucked in, and the packaged contents are heated in large stainless steel tubs and served by inmate staff. Meal names are often glamorized (“creamy chicken dinner” consists of bagged chunks of soy protein mixed with bagged white powder, plus water). For the full story see the Summer 2010 issue of Edible Hudson Valley.

Left, an officer makes sure each utensil is accounted for. Right, an inmate who works with the special dietary meals.
In the locked utensil room: Utensils are kept on a shadow board, to keep track of them.
An inmate cook prepares hot dogs for lunch. Hot dogs are one of the more popular items - along with pizza and chicken.
An inmate maintenance porter fills a kettle with boiling water, which will be emptied into buckets and used for mopping the messhall after lunch.
Signage in the hallway
A kosher meal, pre-heating
Left, tables and stools in one of the large messhalls, moments before inmates arrived for lunch. Right, creamy chicken dinner, before it is prepared for serving.

Artisanal Vinegar

For the July 2010 issue of Chronogram magazine, I met a Benedictine monk who makes artisanal vinegar at a monastery in Lagrangeville, NY. Read Peter Barrett’s full story here.

Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette a benedictine monk who makes artisanal vinegar
Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette at the monastery near Poughkeepsie, where he lives and works. Brother Victor is also shown in the garden where he grows and harvests herbs to flavor the vinegars.
Apricot vinegar and special reserve vinegar - produced, aged, and bottled on site at the monastery

Slow Pizza – NYT

One part mother starter, one part 00 flour, five parts resting time… writer Oliver Strand cooked 200 pizzas and rediscovered the beauty of long-rise pizza dough for an article in the New York Times. I photographed the comparison. Here is the full article, and here is a recipe for Radicchio Pizza with Gremolata… so good.

On the left, the crust of a dough that rose for 3 hours, on the right the crust of a dough that aged a day
Radicchio Pizza with Gremolata

Mojito Time

While wandering around Rhinebeck, NY, shooting a story on the town, I visited the Blue Cashew Kitchen Pharmacy. The staff was squeezing limes for the mojitos they were preparing for the annual Taste of Rhinebeck event that night. This shot probably doesn’t sum up Rhinebeck enough to make it into the magazine, but it is a reminder that summer is on the way.

A fresh lime simple syrup


At Mint Premium Foods in Tarrytown, NY you may trip when reaching for an obscure food product on the haphazardly stacked shelves, but it might be worth the risk for all the fine cheese you will sample while tending your bruise. Shot for the Spring 2010 issue of Edible Hudson Valley.

Owner Hassan Jarane used to be a photographer in Manhattan, until he got tired of lugging gear around
Maria and the rotisserie filled with spiced chickens
Shelf stable

Rabbits for the NYT

I was asked to visit a rabbit farm to photograph a rabbit for the front page of the New York Times’s Dining section. Of course, I gave them a bunch of options. Here is the one that ran, and if you click through you will see more of the Dining editor’s favorites on the NYT Blog. You will also read a lot of irate comments from readers. People canceled subscriptions they were so angry about this story. To paraphrase a poster with a different attitude, ‘It seems it’s only edible if it’s not cute.’

Outtakes from the rabbit cover

A March 2010 Dining cover story in the New York Times

Julie Powell

The ultimate food blogger, Julie Powell, author of Julie & Julia, on location at Fleisher’s – the butcher shop where she interned for her new book Cleaving. This portrait of Julie did double duty for a profile about her in Chronogram magazine, and it will also be included in my upcoming book, River of Words: Portraits of Hudson Valley Writers (SUNY Press, August 2010).

Julie Powell, photographed at Fleisher's
Food stories in New York's Hudson Valley and beyond from photographer Jennifer May