Un Bacio in Cucina

a photographic exploration of Italian food, culture & wine

Tag: commercial photography

New Photo Studio for Food and Product Photography in Biddeford, Maine

What a difference a day, or should I say a geographical life change, makes. I made a bold move recently from New York City to Maine, spending the winter in New Hampshire’s White Mountains in the interim. It’s been several months since I’ve settled into a lovely mill town between Portland and Kennebunk, Maine. I have found the food and product scene here to be very creative, diverse and incredibly healthy given the abundance of organic farms, fresh seafood and the passion behind the creations of beautiful and delicious food products and packaging.  As a food photographer, I see Maine in the same way as having a big chocolate cake in front of me, highly irresistible to say the least. Lobster and seafood, blueberries, maple syrup…the list goes on. Most of the restaurants here serve wild harvested and organically grown foods from farmers, fishermen  and foragers from all over Maine and other parts of New England. You haven’t eaten lobster until you’ve eaten Maine lobster, no doubt about it! As a product photographer, the majority being food products, I have seen so many creative, organic and rustic packaging that is in alignment with the deliciousness of the food inside.
This has a been a busy week as I have several food and product photography shoots confirming through the summer months. Product photography is one of my niches and given I have a passion for lighting in my studio I lose myself in the process. I tend to get a little obsessed with getting rid of reflections on bottles and other highly reflective materials, which so many food products utilize.  Let’s face it, it’s easier to get it right in the camera than have to manage it after during the post production phase. I’d rather be eating a delicious meal at a local restaurant than working in Photoshop at my desk. Although I do love Photoshop. :). My website has a lot of examples of the types of food and product packaging I photograph. So happy to be a part of New England and all it has to offer. There is a reason the official slogan for Maine is Vacationland.

Winery Images Hang on Walls in Themed Hotel Rooms

There is a very hip hotel in Portland, Oregon called Hotel Vintage Plaza and they recently renovated their rooms so that each is named after and represents an Oregon Winery. A selection of images of the wineries including the vineyards, bottles, views etc.  are hung in each room. I just found out that five of my images of Methven Family Vineyards were chosen to hang in that particularly themed room. These are the images they chose:

Wine Splash-IMG_0119

This image was taken in my studio when I first started photographing for Methven Family Vineyards. I used a very high shutter speed and had a lot of patience as I shot this wine pour over 40 times, cleaning up, cleaning the glass and resetting the shot after every take. These glasses are the very fragile Riedel glasses specifically designed for Oregon Pinot Noir. Reidel calls them “the perfect Oregon Pinot Noir Dream Glass“. Luckily it didn’t break because it was the only one I had! Finally, after all that, I got this one image that worked. Once I have a full day free again I’ll try doing more of these but with different backgrounds and maybe with a Rosé.

Reserve 2004-IMG_7092

Since bottle photography is one of my specialties, I personally wanted to create this group image for them. The year 2004 was the first vintage for Allen and Jill Methven as wine producers and new owners of the vineyard. There aren’t any of these left to sell but I’m sure there are a few hanging around. Also, these glass bottles aren’t really used anymore in the industry because they are very heavy and very big  which isn’t practical these days. One nice thing is that they have a very deep punt, which feels nice when you’re pouring the wine because it feels like an expensive bottle, which it was. You can see in the image how deep the punt is compared to a bottle you may have at home. It was a very good year!

View of the Vineyard-DSC_0067

This image was taken on a beautiful summer day once you turn off the main country road. The road is long and winding and leads up to the tasting room and vineyards which you see in the distance.  The shadow made by the tree proves that clear days and sunshine do exist in Oregon! I do a lot of winery photography partly because the atmosphere is so beautiful and it just feels good to be there.

Entrance to Tasting Room-IMG_1608

This is the entrance to the tasting room which resembles a Tuscan villa with the cypress trees and all. You can see the vineyards in the reflections in the glass. There is also a Bocce court on the property which is always busy in the summer months. The interior is just as beautiful with all natural materials and a huge commercial kitchen.

Wine and Chocolates-IMG_1080Lastly, in this image I wanted to show a scene that is all too familiar with Oregon Pinot Noir, wine and chocolates. These two go extraordinarily well together and there are certain varietals that, when tasting at the vineyard, you will be handed a chocolate truffle in order to get the full experience. They’ll even explain the proper way to have the two together. Combining my food photography with wine always makes a nice scene

If you want to see more images like these I have a portfolio called ‘Wine and Olives’ on my website as this is one of my specialties and passions. Follow me as I continue to photograph wineries in Oregon, New York and Italy. One of these days I’ll get myself out to California to explore the wine scene there. If you find yourself needing a hotel in Portland and stay at the Hotel Vintage Plaza make sure to ask for the Methven Family Vineyards room.
Thanks for reading and if you have any suggestions for beautiful wineries to visit anywhere please leave a comment.  More of my winery and glass images can be found on my website.

Classic Italian Risotto

Classic Italian Risotto

Classic Italian Risotto. Photo by Leslie Brienza

I learned many things about cooking good Italian food while spending the summer with my relatives in Italy. The way they simply prepare the meals, the high quality, natural products they use and the conversations and good times that evolve around the dinner table are all part of every day life there.  These are things we rarely see or have time for anymore in the U.S. 
The one thing I remember most from cooking with them is that they don’t measure or weigh hardly at all. It’s all about ‘a pinch of this’, ‘a bunch of that’, ‘about 20 of those,’ or ‘a handful of these’. Unless it’s a specific dessert where precise measurements are required it really isn’t that important. We tend to complicate things by using recipes that have 30 ingredients which, to me, taste just as good when using only six. Of course the quality of ingredients used is why they only need a few.
I made this risotto without any measuring because I only watched what they were doing but didn’t write it down. Nonetheless I was so happy with the results. It also allows for a more relaxed way of cooking.  A lot of it is in the method of preparation which Italians make so simple. The following recipe has simple guided measurements otherwise It wouldn’t help you at all. Just keep in mind these are approximations and the most important things are the quality of ingredients and the way the ingredients are prepared.
Since I can remember I’ve always made risotto with arborio rice and some will argue this is the king of rice for risotto. Well, I discovered that many use carnaroli rice as well and when I asked my relatives it was split down the middle. I decided to try it with carnaroli for the first time. What I found was that the risotto seemed a lot creamier and also absorbed more of the broth than I remember when using the arborio, lending it more flavor. Even with more absorption of the liquid the rice still held it’s texture and firmness. Carnaroli will now be my rice of choice from now on.  I wonder how it would be for rice pudding, hmmm, that’s another post! If you’ve tried it or have any tips for your own risotto post a comment below.

This recipe made enough for four as a first course.

Classic Italian Risotto
Serves 4
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Ingredients
  1. Carnaroli rice - about one cup
  2. Chicken broth- I used about one quart
  3. 1/2 onion, chopped fine
  4. Extra virgin olive oil- enough to soften the onions
  5. 2 generous pinches of salt
  6. White wine - I used about 1/2 cup
  7. 2 pats of butter
  8. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese- freshly grated-I used about 1/2 - 3/4 cup
  9. Truffle oil, to drizzle on top
  10. Black pepper, freshly ground
  11. Fresh basil leaves, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat chicken broth in a saucepan to almost boiling
  2. In another larger saucepan cook chopped onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent
  3. Add rice and cook until starches start to release
  4. Add white wine and salt and cook until wine is evaporated
  5. Add broth, one ladleful at a time, stirring constantly until evaporated after each addition
  6. Once rice is al dente turn heat to low and add butter and cheese stirring until incorporated
  7. let rest for about five minutes before spooning into bowls
  8. Top with truffle oil and crushed black pepper to taste
  9. Garnish with fresh basil
Un Bacio in Cucina http://www.unbacioincucina.com/
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