Canoe Hill Restaurant in the Hudson Valley

I recently visited the Canoe Hill Restaurant on assignment for Hudson Valley Magazine. The restaurant is owned by Michael DelGrosso and his wife, Lauren Lancaster. They are Hudson Valley transplants, via Brooklyn, where Michael helped create the aesthetic of many of Manhattan’s and Brooklyn’s most beautiful restaurants. I only wish he would bring his eye to Woodstock. I would be a regular.

Canoe Hill Restaurant bar

cherries at bar

homemade butter on toast

lemons in bowl canoe hill restaurant

whole fish on plate

canoe hill restaurant interior

Foraging & Cooking Wild Garlic Mustard Greens

I am learning to forage, and I am exploring garlic mustard greens. This green grows everywhere. I spot it on the roadside, along my driveway, and in disturbed areas of my garden. I used to pull and compost it as a weed, but this spring, I am pulling it and carrying it into my kitchen. So far, I have eaten it raw, as a pesto, and chopped up into soup. Word is, mustard greens are nutritious. They are also invasive. So, pulling them and eating them solves two problems.

wild garlic mustard greens

Below, patches of wild mustard greens thrive on slopes around my yard. And my girl, helping to prepare this weed for the kitchen.

foraging for garlic mustard greens

Wild thyme, which grows in patches around my yard, prepped for the soup.

bouquet garni wild thyme

An Italian-inspired soup of white beans, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, potato, wild thyme, orzo pasta, and wild mustard greens. The strong flavor of the greens mellows when simmered for a few minutes. They lose the bitterness that is strong when eaten raw.

garlic mustard greens Italian soup

For my Italian inspired white bean, pasta, and greens soup, I used a couple of sample bottles of a lovely olive oil grown and produced on an Italian villa, and sent to me by my friend who lives there.

Italian olive oil

Pesto made with roasted walnuts, wild mustard greens, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan. Full recipe by Ian Knauer, and more information about these greens, here.

garlic mustard greens pesto

The Food52 Piglet Award

Food52 Piglet Award logoLast night, the Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook took home the Food52 Piglet Award for 2016. It’s a huge honor to all involved. The judging happens through a bracket system, in which pairs of books compete against each other. Eventually, only two are left. Andrew Zimmern, of Bizarre Foods, made the final ruling. Yotam Ottoleghni helped it through an earlier round. Reading Ottoleghni’s review just about made my year. (Anybody who glances at this blog will know I am a huge fan of his recipes.)

The book was written by Jessamyn Rodriquez and Julia Turshen, and it tells the story of a bakery that is also a non-profit social enterprise. The women who apply to train at the Hot Bread Kitchen come from all over the world. They are taught artisan baking and business skills, to help them become successful culinary professionals.

Hot Bread Kitchen dough

Challah process NYC Food Photographer

stollen piglet 2016 winner

monkey bread piglet 2016

The bakers also share knowledge of specialty breads from their home countries. Things like Persian Nan-e Barbari, Moroccan Msmen, and Ethiopian Injera are baked and sold by the bakery. Between all of this hands-on knowledge, and the writing expertise of Rodriquez and Turshen, it’s no wonder reviewers and judges have been describing the book as a transformative baking tool.

Hot Bread Kitchen portrait

Tacos toppings

Injera Ethiopian

I spent two weeks photographing the bakery, bread, and the mostly-women bakers for this book. I worked with food stylist Erin McDowell, and prop stylist Barb Fritz. It took me about a year to work off the bread-pounds I gained from all of my snacking. And now I just want to bake more. One thing I know for sure: there is nothing so delicious as a buttery, flaky Msmen, hot from the griddle.

bakery at Hot Bread Kitchen
The retail space & cafe at Harlem’s Hot Bread Kitchen Bakery
Hot Bread Kitchen location
The Hot Bread Kitchen bakery & retail space is located under a busy commuter train in Harlem.

Food52 Piglet Award

Kelli Cain, Ceramicist

Today I did a studio visit with ceramicist Kelli Cain. I fell in love with Kelli’s work this fall, when I saw it at Field + Supply. She had invited me to visit in person one day, and I had been waiting for the right time. My dad is visiting from out of town this week, and what better than a long drive to show him more of the area. We drove deep into the Catskill Mountains. The traffic all but disappeared. The landscape became hilly farmland. The studio is located down a long dirt driveway, in a converted farmhouse. Kelli had made us tea and cookies, and we chatted while I picked through dozens of her beautiful handmade pieces. I love Kelli’s palette. I love her glazing techniques. Each piece is more beautiful than the last. It was a lovely day, rewarded with a bag full of beautiful treasures that I can’t wait to use in life and in pictures.

studio visit kelli cain ceramics
Ceramicist Kelli Cain in her studio in the Catskill Mountains

studio visit kelli cain ceramics

studio visit kelli cain ceramics

studio visit kelli cain ceramics

studio visit kelli cain ceramics

catskills road

Autumn Feast (Thanksgiving) 2015

The holiday spirit took over this November. We invited 14 people for a 3-course dinner at our cottage in the Catskills, and it was the most successful party we have ever hosted. I have so many memories of Thanksgiving pasts where frenzied hosts burn themselves on steam and pot-handles, curse over last-minute gravy and cold vegetables, and knock over piles of pans in the sink. This time, we accepted the offers of everyone who wanted to contribute. And, we cooked almost everything in advance. I am a list-maker, and I set to it.

NYC food photographer Manhattan
Mini-cocktails in lovely glassware keeps the party festive and the guests steady on their feet
lists NYC food photographer
My final notes, after a week of planning.

A week before the day, we built our menu around what we knew people would be bringing. One brought pumpkin pies & green beans, one brought a box of wine and a strawberry cheesecake from Junior’s, one brought home-made cranberry sauce and a tray of roasted vegetables, one brought 120 oysters & two sauces, one brought bite-sized smoked salmon & creme fresh blinis and a salad, and to round out the house-cocktail we had planned, another surprised us by showing up with his entire bar and bar-tending tools.

In the days leading up to the feast, Chris dry-brined two 12-pound turkeys in salt, rosemary and lemon, according to a recipe by Melissa Clark. I followed Mark Bittman’s recipe for make-ahead gravy (make a killer turkey stock, make gravy, store in fridge, reheat before serving and whisk in the turkey drippings = no stress and delicious). We had a vegetarian coming, and I made a vegetarian mushroom-thyme gravy from Food52. We made two vegetarian dips from Martha Stewart’s Appetizer‘s book. We made Alton Brown’s pickled beets. I stored it all in glass mason jars in the fridge. The morning of, Chris made a vegetarian stuffing (with all the bread, butter, mushrooms, apple cider, apples, and celery & sage, no one missed stock or sausage).

The day before, we rented bar tables, chairs & table cloths. The living room became the dining room, and the dining room became the bar. The bonfire in the forest became the oyster station. I picked a bouquet of dried flowers and berries from the yard, counted cutlery, chose serving dishes and stuck post-it notes all over them. I raided my boxes of pretty glassware, silver, and platters that I use on photo shoots. I boiled the napkins and ironed them, and at that point I knew I was about to go too far.

glassware NYC food photographer

The day of, guests arrived at 2pm, we started with oysters & cocktails. Dinner unfolded seamlessly. As hosts, we were able to enjoy the party with a minimum of last-minute details. Chris and I agreed on a bar-limit to adhere to before the turkey was carved.

NYC food photographer oysters
Uncle Ian shucked PEI Carr’s Oysters for hours beside the bonfire
NYC food photographer oysters
Fresh PEI oysters, with cocktail sauce, beside a bonfire, on an unseasonably warm day. It is an embarrassment of riches.
NYC food portrait photographer
I wish I had taken more portraits. At least Ro’s fluffy sweater, pink nails, and glowing smile stopped me in my tracks.
NYC food photographer negroni
Bartender Jon kept them flowing
turkeys NYC food photographer
Two smaller turkeys instead of one large makes for more succulent meat.
Thanksgiving NYC food photographer
One thing I learned from Chris’s grandmother: do everything you can in advance.

moon NYC food photographer

At the end of dinner, guests helped load the dishwasher and rinse for the next load. We had coffee and sweets, and went back out to the bonfire beneath the moon. The party was over by about 10 p.m., which served us well, because we did it all again the next day, and the next…. Oysters, and turkey sandwiches at Jon & Juliet’s house the next day, and on day three back to our house for turkey soup and bruschetta.

I snapped photos here and there. Mostly I seem to have taken photos of drinks. I was probably a little bit busier than I remember. But it’s a rare feeling after three days of hosting to feel more refreshed than tired, and I want to remember the keys, and repeat.

manhattan NYC food photographer
Tradition dictates we move the party to Jon & Juliet’s house for day two.
oysters NYC food photographer
Me and my girl. She is squeezing a lemon over an oyster. I thought she might eat it, but she preferred to prepare them for us.

 

 

Alliance for Downtown NY Annual Report

I don’t always shoot food! I also do a lot of portrait-based work. This spring I did 12 location portraits of New Yorkers for an annual report for the Alliance for Downtown New York. It was a blast running around Lower Manhattan, meeting all kinds of people in their environments. Here is a snapshot with some favorite pages.

The Alliance for Downtown New York photographs by Jennifer May

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

Butchers with Style

Two of my favorite people, Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura, have finished their internship programs at Fleisher’s and are moving to Los Angeles to open their own sustainable butcher shop. In the next few weeks they are signing the lease on their building, getting married legally in Connecticut, driving across the country, having a wedding ceremony on the west coast, and opening their new shop, Lindy & Grundy’s Meats. I will miss them, but it is California’s gain.

Check out Amy Scattergood’s post on the LA Weekly blog (with more photos of Erika & Amelia).

Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura of Lindy & Grundy's photo by Jennifer May

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

Oyster Farmer, PEI (Audio Slide Show)

On Prince Edward Island, Canada, oysters are harvested today much as they were 100 years ago. Oyster farmers float above oyster beds in dories, and they use long forked tongs to collect the shellfish from the red sandy bottom below. On board, they sort the oysters by shape and size, and pack them into crates. Here is a glimpse into one oyster fisherman’s morning on the sea, when the spring season opened this May.

Audio Slide Show – Oyster Farmer (1 min)

Philip Buote, oyster fisherman

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

Farm Stay – NYT

Stony Creek Farm in Walton, NY, offers tent style camping (complete with flushing toilets, indoor gas stove, a wood floor platform, and furniture) to people who want the farm and camping experience without all the roughing it. I shot a story about it for the New York Times.

Slide Show – Farm Stay

Stony Creek Farm in Walton, NY, shot for the New York Times

North Winds Farm

Obviously, I don’t shy away from meat. But like so many others, I was a strict vegetarian for almost a decade. Luckily, there are now sources to buy meat that comes from well cared for animals that lived decent lives. On a recent shoot with farmer Richard Biezynski at North Winds Farm near Tivoli, NY, he told me if he hadn’t become a farmer, he would have been a vet. On season, you will often find me visiting his booth at the Woodstock Farmers’ Market.

Farmer Richard Biezynski and his son, Russell, at Northwind Farms, where they raise pigs
Food stories in New York's Hudson Valley and beyond from photographer Jennifer May