Weekend Link Love

 

madmenseason6

 

Seems I’ve been a lazy Instagrammer this week – I’ve been feeling in a bit of a photography rut – so instead of my Instagram feed, here’s an absolutely gorgeous MadMen graphic. Wouldn’t mind this on my wall.

The return of MadMen is of course going to be the highlight of my weekend (though we might also make it out for a family photography/cycling trip to the tulip fields). Here’s a gently spoilerish review of the first eppy and an overview of the college course I’d love to do.

To try and get out of my photography rut I will be perusing #Photography – a fab-looking online photography magazine by two photography graduates in the UK and following these peeps for inspiration (one day I want to be on this list).

I know I still have to share with you the story of the Minx’s latest birthday cake, but we might need to try these amazing cupcake shoes next year.

And I would imagine that this article on how to beat procrastination might be useful for us all (I can’t tell you how many times I opened Facebook in the course of putting together this post). Fingers crossed I’m not the only one for whom it resonates.

 

On the blog this week, we’ve discussed flower arranging in NYC, a fabulous food photography workshop I attended, photographing donuts for Edible Seattle and I shared a recipe for chocolate truffles (which are currently sitting in my fridge singing softly to me).

All you creative people out there, what advice do you have for getting me out of my photographic rut? I just don’t feel that my photography is improving much anymore. All advice gratefully received.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Chocolate Truffles Inspired by Miele USA

Miele USA, manufacturers of some of the world’s best home appliances, and lovely sponsors of #BlogTourNYC, were very anxious that we should guess the new colourway that they would be unveiling at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show.

Chocolate Truffles Inspired by Miele USA photography by www.paolathomas.com

So anxious in fact that they had given us each a clue in the form of a little box containing two luscious Vosges chocolate truffles. One of my truffles was a subtly intriguing and very delicious smoked paprika flavour, so I somewhat embarrassingly guessed Smoked Paprika for the new colour. However, after discussions over breakfast we realised that we’d all been given different truffles and that the name of the new colourway must in fact be Chocolate Truffle.

Chocolate Truffles Inspired by Miele USA photography by www.paolathomas.com

And what a truly delicious colourway it is – subtle, sexy and smoothly contemporary and just as rich and glossy as the finest chocolate ganache.

Chocolate Truffles Inspired by Miele USA photography by www.paolathomas.com Chocolate Truffles Inspired by Miele USA photography by www.paolathomas.com

The above is the only picture I managed to grab at the Home Show that looks halfway decent – the Miele stand was crowded that day. But funny to see me, my comfy boots and some of my fellow Blogtourists reflected in its glossy finish.

Chocolate Truffles Inspired by Miele USA photography by www.paolathomas.com

What you are looking at is the state-of-the-art Miele Combi Steam Oven in the new Truffle finish. As someone who bakes bread with a cast iron pan of water steaming on the oven floor, there is a lot I would do to get hold of one of these babies. The water reservoir for the steam is cleverly hidden behind top panel so no oven capacity is sacrificed and the control panel has step by step cooking settings for around 100 different meat, vegetables, fish and grains, meaning I would never have to buy a cookbook again! Possibly.

Anyway, as a little hommage to Miele’s new colourway I decided to make some chocolate truffles.

Chocolate Truffles Inspired by Miele USA photography by www.paolathomas.com

Chocolate Truffles
Yields 30
Quick and easy chocolate truffles with paprika, coconut, pistachio, sea salt and meringue coatings
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Prep Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 275g/10 oz dark chocolate (minimum 60% cocoa solids)
  2. 250ml/1 cup heavy (double) cream
  3. 50g/3 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
Assorted Toppings
  1. Cocoa powder
  2. Coconut flakes/dessicated coconut
  3. Crushed meringue
  4. Finely chopped pistachios
  5. Hawaiian pink sea salt
  6. Smoked paprika
Instructions
  1. Break the chocolate into pieces (I used Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate Wafers) in an ovenproof bowl.
  2. Bring the cream to the boil (watch it like a hawk as it flares up quickly) and then pour it over the chocolate.
  3. Stir the mixture gently until the cream is fully amalgamated into the chocolate and you have a smooth chocolate 'sauce'. It will look curdled and scary to start but keep going.
  4. Leave to cool for 2 minutes and then add the butter in two stages, stirring gently until fully incorporated.
  5. When you have a smooth glossy ganache place it in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight until the ganache has set firm.
  6. Remove the ganache from the fridge about 15 minutes before you want to finish the truffles. Using a 1 tablespoon scoop form small balls and finish rolling them between the palms of your hands so the surface melts slightly.
  7. Dust with cocoa powder or use your favourite toppings. I used cocoa powder, cocoa powder topped with a touch of pink sea salt, cocoa powder with a dab of smoked paprika, coconut flakes, finely chopped pistachios and crushed meringue shells.
Adapted from Unwrapped - Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes
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Chocolate Truffles Inspired by Miele USA photography by www.paolathomas.com

I was curious to experiment with smoked paprika for these truffles. I coated some with cocoa powder and added the merest dab of smoked paprika on top and they turned out to be rather smokily beguiling.

Chocolate Truffles Inspired by Miele USA photography by www.paolathomas.com Chocolate Truffles Inspired by Miele USA photography by www.paolathomas.com

And don’t you think Smoked Paprika would be an AWESOME colour for kitchen appliances? MieleUSA please make this happen!

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Cover Girl–Edible Seattle

Talking, as you probably weren’t, of my burgeoning food photography career, there was much excitement in da house a few weeks back when I was asked to step in and shoot the cover for the late Spring edition of Edible Seattle.

Cover Girl-Edible Seattle photography by www.paolathomas.com

I worked with editor Tara Austen Weaver to realise her vision for the cover and the inside pages, and in the process we learned a lot about styling and preparing jam doughnuts (or, if you really must, jelly donuts).

Cover Girl-Edible Seattle photography by www.paolathomas.com

Cover Girl-Edible Seattle photography by www.paolathomas.com

For example, it’s quite tricky to style a tower of three doughnuts so it doesn’t look like a little nodding donutman.

Cover Girl-Edible Seattle photography by www.paolathomas.com

We ended up remaking the doughnuts and cooking them for slightly less time, so that they were softer and more pillowy.

Here are few more images from the shoot that didn’t make the cut.

Cover Girl-Edible Seattle photography by www.paolathomas.com

Cover Girl-Edible Seattle photography by www.paolathomas.com

Cover Girl-Edible Seattle photography by www.paolathomas.com

However if you’re looking for a recipe, it’s not mine to give. It’s from Beth Maxey and you’ll have to buy the more recent edition of Edible Seattle to get your mitts on it. It does make truly excellent doughnuts (it is possible I sampled one or two), and they’re not half as tricky to make as you might have imagined.

Believe me Tara and I know.

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Food Photography Workshop–Saint Simons Island

So while I was on blog hiatus I did yet another food photography workshop with the brilliant and captivating Helene Dujardin, Senior Photographer at Oxmoor House and of Tartelette blog fame.

Food Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

This time the focus was not so much on still-life food photography and composition as in the previous workshop I attended but instead gave us a chance to photograph food in action.

Helene had teamed up with the incomparable chef John Ondo of Lana Restaurant in Charleston, and while Helene talked about food styling and plating, lighting for food photography and gave us invaluable insights into her day-to-day working relationships with her styling team and editors; he whipped up fabulous gourmet meals, all the while discussing his cooking techniques, answering questions and letting us take as many photos as we liked.

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

Helene and John had rented a house by the beach on Saint Simons’ Island about an hour out of Savannah, Georgia,  and the workshop included a day in Savannah, a field trip to the cute and exceptionally photogenic Back in the Day Bakery and dinner on the outside terrace of a Savannah restaurant. I absolutely adored Savannah, of which more in a future post, while the Bakery also was a dream to photograph and also warrants a separate blog post. Chaps, I have so much pent-up bloggery to share with you!

John showed us how to make gnocchi with a couple of different sauces.

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

While Helene got us styling salads, pasta and bruschetta (please ignore the shitty prop styling and iPhoneography – the bruschetta below is just placed on a garden chair -  and look at the FOOD!  All of these sessions ran over as Helene had so much good stuff to impart).

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

Then John prepared one of the most incredible hunks of herb-encrusted lamb it has ever been my pleasure to experience.

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

Even the lamb though paled into insignificance against the fact that Libby was there again. Libby acted as the workshop’s sous-chef, photographer, general factotum and mother hen and is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people you’ll ever meet. Nothing is too much trouble for her.

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

She is also one of the funniest people I know and yet again had me weeping drunken tears of laughter well into the wee small hours.

In fact, despite the beauties of Savannah, the fabulous education, the gourmet meals, the lovely beach, excellent wine and exquisite lamb, it is the laughter and friendship which stick with me from this workshop.

Chaps, these people are utterly bananas. In a very, VERY good way.

Photography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.comPhotography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.comPhotography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.comPhotography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.comPhotography Workshop-Saint Simons Island photography by www.paolathomas.com

I was moved to write the post as I notice from my Facebook page that there are still a couple of spaces left on Helene and John’s next workshop in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. If you’re into food photography, want to learn a ton of good stuff AND have the most incredible fun time imaginable I can’t recommend this highly enough.

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The Markets of the Cote D’Azur

The Markets of the Cote D'Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

‘But where is the FOOD, Paola?’ I hear all two of you crying.

Well actually I don’t, though I have to admit we’ve strayed rather from the food porn in the last few posts. Unfortunately I’ve been travelling so much recently that food photography has had to take a back seat. I’ve hardly had time to cook, let alone take pictures of food. Things will change soon I promise.

But in the meantime, I’ve realised that I still have TONS of photos from my trip last year that I haven’t yet inflicted upon you shared with you, so come with me as we visit some of the local shops and markets of the Cote d’Azur. Summer is on its way!

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton has a wonderful indoor and outdoor market full of tantalising shops and equally tantalising characters.

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

It was such a pleasure to shop here every day, chat with the vendors and exclaim over the quality of the produce. When I bought a melon I was asked what I was planning to do with it, so that that the melon selected would be at optimum ripeness when I came to eat it. Another vendor slipped a small bunch of parsley into my bag full of courgettes, so I could saute’ them with the right herbs.

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

It goes without saying that the food was absolutely mouthwatering.

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com
Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

The  Marche’ aux Fleurs in Nice is an outdoor market that sells all manner of produce as well as flowers.

And the food here is equally mouthwatering.

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

We’re planning this year’s holiday as we speak. We were thinking that maybe we wouldn’t go back to France, but when I go through my images I can’t imagine going anywhere else.

More pictures of Menton here.

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Weekend Link Love

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It’s been a week of sunshine, showers, coming down to earth from #BlogTourNYC and a fabulous celebration of the Persian New Year, courtesy of my dear friend Nazila. Spring is a much more sensible time of year to think about renewal and reinvention it seems to me. I have made a few resolutions about blogging more frequently in any case.

In that spirit here are a few of my favourite tidbits from my Internet wanderings this week.

This gorgeous food video makes me want to take up videography and overdose on carbs.

These pics on the other hand make me wish I could draw.

This article about the effect of improving every single thing in your life by 1% really resonated.

Commenter Kristin kindly provided the following informative but truly disgusting article about New York’s roof top water tanks. Now I can never drink tap water in New York again.

madmenposter

And finally, it’s coming back! I saw this groovy poster in the New York subway and did a happy dance. Refresh your memory of the first six seasons in 2 minutes.

Update: Oh and Iris Apfel is having a sale.

It’s the Minx’s rollerskating birthday party this weekend. This bad mama couldn’t postpone things any longer after her January birthday. A cake is currently in the works, though there is more to do tomorrow morning before the party than I would ideally like. Pix next week.

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Heart Shaped Cake

 

Heart Shaped Cake photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

Dear hearts I am back! Had a bit of a recurrence of the health problems which plagued me last year – adrenal fatigue, I’ll write a blog post about it one day soon – but I’ve been resting up and feeling good again.

 

Heart Shaped Cake photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

And I need to get back to full blogging capacity because I’ve had some fabulous news that I’ve been bursting to tell you for some time now.

I’ve been chosen to be one of the featured bloggers on Blog Tour 2014 to New York City where we’ll be visiting the Architectural Digest Home Design Show and partaking in all sorts of fabulous shenanigans. Here’s the official announcement from organisers Modenus. Not sure how I managed to slip in among all those eminent interior designers to be honest.

I don’t know much about the itinerary as yet, except that we will be staying in a sexy midtown Manhattan hotel and spending a day at the Design Show. The last day of our tour will be organised by Tina and Sarah of NYC interior design studio Franklin Eighth.  You may remember Tina as a monthly guest blogger on this very blog, so I know it’s going to be good.

Anyway, all this means I have the best possible reason to boost up this blog and my social media presence again, so do stick around for the ride. I’ll let you know a lot more details on the itinerary as I get them. #BlogTourNYC is happening from March 18th to 22nd.

 

Heart Shaped Cake photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

In the meantime, here are some random pretty pictures of the chocolate heart shaped cake I made for my dearest best beloveds on Valentines Day.  I again used the deliciously tasty and extremely forgiving ‘Mom’s Chocolate Cake’ from the first Macrina Bakery cookbook and the heart-shaped pan I bought ages ago from Ikea.

 

Heart Shaped Cake photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

I frosted it with my usual buttercream (2 sticks/8oz/225g of butter to 6 cups of sifted icing/confectioner’s sugar) and added a little pure raspberry puree for both colour and flavour. I used a Ateco 825 icing nozzle, as I don’t have the rose tip that everyone else uses. Need to rectify that.

If you make and eat this cake please think of me. Due to the aforementioned adrenal fatigue I’m not actually supposed to be eating sugar. Ugh.

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Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

 

Baking cookies for Christmas isn’t really a thing in the UK  (we make mince pies instead) , so it took me some time to get a handle on just how gigantic a thing Christmas cookies are here in the States. Everyone here seems to spend the entire Christmas season buying cookies, baking cookies, decorating cookies, giving cookies and consuming vast quantities of cookies.

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies photography by www.paolathomas.com

And so I’ve finally got myself in on the action, albeit in a rather restrained way. These pistachio shortbread cookies from the second Macrina Bakery cookbook have a nutty sophistication and are not achingly sweet, just satisfyingly crunchy and very moreish. They’re probably more suited to an adult palate than a kid’s one, though the Minx doesn’t seem to have any problem hoovering up any she finds in her path.

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

 

 

Look guys! I’ve finally got myself a proper recipe card plug-in thingy! Oh WordPress I love you SO.

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
Yields 20
A buttery, crunchy, nutty, moreish shortbread
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
  2. 1/4 cup baker's (caster) sugar
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  5. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz) butter, chilled and chopped into small cubes.
  7. 1/4 cup sugar for topping
Instructions
  1. Pulse the flour, sugar, salt, pistachios and vanilla in a food process for 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture turns into a paste. Be careful not to overwork the dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a log about 2 inches in diameter and 10 inches long. Chilling the dough and a little flour will make it easier to work with.
  4. Tightly roll the log in Saran wrap (Clingfilm) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.The dough also freezes beautifully.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325F or 160C
  6. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
  7. Cut the chilled dough into 1/2 inch thick discs and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
  8. Lightly brush each cookied with water and sprinkle with sugar.
  9. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the cookies are golden brown.
  10. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Notes
  1. This recipe was not actually adapted at all, it's the straight recipe from the book (I just don't know how to change the recipe card!)
Adapted from More from Macrina
Adapted from More from Macrina
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Weekend Link Love

Here are some interesting tidbits from my wanderings around the Internet this week to keep you busy over the weekend.

We’re in full Christmas frenzy mode here. Tree is up, gingerbread dough is relaxing in the fridge and the Minx and the Husband have ballet and choir performances all weekend. So I think there’s going to be quite a lot of relaxing in front of the TV (not in the fridge) with wine and Christmas movies for me. Anyone else got any more riveting plans this weekend?

IMG_4468-simpleandcrisp

 
 

{This year’s traditional Christmas bokeh picture is revealing that we have a big ‘hole’ in the lights two-thirds of the way up the tree}

I was lucky enough to have a seat at the taping of photographer Chase Jarvis’s interview with social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk (Chase’s studio happens to be about 5 minutes from my house). I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone (especially a creative person) who wants to use social media more effectively. I’m reading his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook at the moment and it’s giving me much food for thought as I start reinvigorating and changing my online profile.

If you haven’t yet seen it,  this animation of an Ira Glass quote on storytelling, and perseverance and creativity and well everything, has REALLY resonated with me.

Rene’ Redzepi of Danish restaurant Noma – voted the best restaurant it the world in 2013  – visited Seattle and an amazing dinner, cooked by local star chefs Matt Dillon and Blaine Wetzel, and organised by the amazing Lara Hamilton of cookbook store, Book Larder, was held in his honour, OUTSIDE. IN NOVEMBER. WHEN IT WAS WAZZING DOWN WITH RAIN.

I was lucky enough to be there, and although everything was a little moist, the setting was magical and the rain careering in torrents down the see-through canopy certainly made for a memorable evening. Stupidly I forgot to bring the card for my camera, so couldn’t take photos. Fortunately for us all Shauna Ahern, aka Gluten Free Girl, was on hand to tell the tale. Redzepi’s cookbook A Work in Progress is stunningly beautiful and full of inspiration and ideas,

Wonderful photos of Philip Johnson’s Glass House, where the New York Times recently spent the night.

As someone who is trying to reinvent themselves as a photographer, this piece about reinventing yourself by author, entrepreneur and hedge fund manager James Altucher was also an inspiring read. His book ‘Choose Yourself’ is on order. I will report back. (I’m on a bit of a self-help book kick at the moment, all part of the massive mid-life crisis I’m going through. Cheaper than a sports car though.)

I am contemplating rewatching Love Actually . I saw it when it came out and found it unbearably schmaltzy, so have never seen it since. I understand that now there is an Internet-wide discussion as to whether it’s a good or bad movie. Where do you chaps stand? Should I rewatch?

 

UPDATE: So I rewatched ‘Love Actually’ and I think what really bugs is how utterly ridiculous all the stories are, with the exception of the Emma Thompson/Alan Rickman one. But the images of London at Christmas are droolworthy. I felt so homesick watching it. But what do you guys think?

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A Perfect Pairing from Simple & Crisp

 

Simple & Crisp photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

One of the fun things I did during my blog hiatus was attend the International Food Bloggers Conference here in Seattle, where I came across the Seattle brand Simple & Crisp.

Jane Yuan launched Simple & Crisp after she was looking for a healthy, gluten-free alternative to crackers. Her homemade, delicately dried, fruit crisps – they come in Orange, Apple, Pear, and, seasonally, Blood Orange flavours – are the perfect accompaniment to cheese, appetizers, cocktails and desserts.

Jane is also a marketing genius (as befits an ex-PR person) and has come up with the idea of challenging bloggers, photographers and foodies to come up with ‘perfect pairings’ for her crisps. If you want ideas of what to do with the crisps just search on the hashtag #perfectpairings on Twitter or Instagram, or anywhere really and you’ll be inundated with mouthwatering pairing ideas.

Simple & Crisp photography by www.paolathomas.com

The idea I came up with takes one of my favourite salads up a notch.

I paired the crisp, sweet, yet slightly bitter oranges (think your favourite marmalade) with a salty swirl of smooth, creamy goat cheese, and some succulently sweet roasted beets all topped with crunchy pistachio pieces, savoury thyme and a little rich balsamic glaze.

Simple & Crisp photography by www.paolathomas.com

The combination of bitter, sweet, savoury and salty flavours and crisp, crunchy, smooth and juicy textures made my mouth extremely happy. So much so that when the photoshoot ended I sat down in the the studio and ate  EVERY. SINGLE. ONE of the props. It was lunch. I was hungry. What can I say?

Simple & Crisp photography by www.paolathomas.com

Anyway, if you’re looking for ideas for appies for a holiday cocktail party, you could do a lot worse than try these. I’ve seen the crisps in the Seattle area at PCC and WholeFoods or you can buy them online at Simple & Crisp.

Full disclosure:  In return for getting a discounted ticket to IFBC I am obliged to write three blog posts about either my experience or the sponsors. Additionally I was sent some free fruit crisps by Simple & Crisp when I mentioned I would like to blog about them. However, the choice to write about the company was mine alone and I did that because these things are flipping delicious!

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