Antica Tenuta Le Casacce

 

Jamie and Ilva found the most stunning location for our Tuscan adventure.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The Antica Tenuta Le Casacce is an agriturismo owned by Roman chef Enrico Casini, situated near Seggiano in the glorious landscape of the Val d’Orcia, whose timeless hills and valleys are deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage site. Enrico used to run six restaurants in Rome before settling down in his beloved Tuscany and his amazing four course meals every evening were a true highlight of our stay (we also did a cooking class with him – recipes appearing on the blog shortly, yay!).

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Linda Bass of Tuscan Muse offers a selection of creative workshops in conjunction with Enrico based at Le Casacce. Retired trial lawyer Linda is warmth and generosity personified – nothing was too much trouble – and a fabulous writer, artist and photographer in her own right. Her workshops include not only first class instruction but also a number of day trips to the small hill top villages which dot the surrounding hillsides.

However, with accommodation and surroundings like this, it was nearly impossible to drag ourselves away. Come and visit this little corner of paradise. Oh and meet Socrates, the resident manic depressive donkey and star of Le Casacce.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Not a bad view from the pool.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Not a bad view from the terrace.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Here’s Jamie coaching Deepa from One Small Pot.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And here are Linda and some of the ladies working hard.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The old stone buildings were charming inside too.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Here’s the ghost of a photo studio at night.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The Minx would have loved the wooden cats hanging out outside.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Here’s Chef Enrico presenting his incredible food.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com
Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com
Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And here’s Ilva being Ilva.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And a couple more of Socrates gambolling in the sunset. Life is sweet at Le Casacce.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Tuscany, I can’t recommend Le Casacce highly enough. And Linda’s Tuscan Muse creative workshops are pretty special too, as you’ve probably already worked out.

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Tuscan Churches and a Personal Revelation

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

You would be hard pushed to find a less religious person than me but I do adore a good church.  Particularly a good European church where the very stone has been engraved by centuries if not millenia of stories and ghosts, joys and sufferings. Even the air seems full of other peoples’ memories somehow.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

We were lucky enough on our Tuscan travels to visit a number of ancient churches and abbeys, whose spare, austere, stripped down beauty made a moving contrast to the overwhelming rococo splendours of those various cathedrals and duomos commissioned mainly to celebrate the wealth and prestige of that particular city’s inhabitants.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I also had a bit of a revelation on this trip, one that hit me with an almost spiritual force, the discovery – thanks to Jamie Schler’s patient tutelage -  that I can write, that I might even be a good writer, but it’s so much easier for me to hide behind a rococo façade of sarcasm and terrible puns. I learned that I’m scared of seeming pretentious and inauthentic when I write, but that good writing involves writing from the heart and making oneself vulnerable and for me that is difficult in the extreme. I don’t consider myself to be particularly emotional, and find delving even a little deeper into my own thoughts and feelings – getting down to the soft person beneath the hard, snarky carapace – to be almost completely terrifying.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this newfound knowledge. It’s currently percolating around in my brain. But expect some attempts at some more ‘writerly’ writing on this blog in the future. And even saying that out loud scares the bejeebus out of me.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

In the meantime, back to churches (this is all going to make sense soon I promise).

On our trip to the Renaissance town of Pienza we were given the task of thinking about a person, a colour, a sound, an emotion and a smell, and then for a quick fifteen minute assignment weaving them all into a small composition. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I chose to write about a church as they’re some of the places where, despite my lack of belief, I feel most emotionally responsive and vulnerable, yet also most comfortable and at peace.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

“I looked up at the stone walls of the cathedral – centuries old, they were a symphony of soft neutral colours – faded ochre stone, soft mushroom brown wood, the pale rose of ancient terracotta – which all combined to create that colour watercolourists know as raw Sienna, a colour which I finally found myself fully understanding, since these golden walls stood only a few kilometres from Siena itself.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Outside a tall, spare, white-haired man, in a neatly pressed black suit and a white dog collar, walked from the church towards the other side of the piazza. He unfurled a gigantic handkerchief as white as his hair, blew his nose extravagantly and glared at me, as if daring me to whip out my camera. Then he proceeded with hurried steps to the raw Sienna building across the square, opened the antique wooden door and disappeared into the shadowy depths of what I assumed was his home.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I, on the other hand, entered through the antique wooden door which led into the cathedral and was immediately assailed by the scent of old churches – that indescribably potent mixture of incense and beeswax, of flowers and damp, of the small homage of careful cleanliness and floral tributes, still somehow weighted with the dust of centuries.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I’ve only ever smelled that smell in Europe, never in America, and at once I was overwhelmed with nostalgia for a world full of old things and history, for tradition and timelessness, for stories stretching back century after century, for the Old World, for my world, for home.”

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

With many thanks to the Abbey of Sant’Anna in Camprena (location apparently for many scenes from the English Patient) ; the Abbey of Sant’Antimo; the Duomo di Sovana; the Church of Santa Maria, also in Sovana; Pienza Cathedral, the Church of San Francesco, also in Pienza for helping me illustrate this post.

Join me here for some Tuscan Street Photography.

I think I need a lie down after all that. I’m sure we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled snark very soon.

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Tuscan Stories

So, dear hearts, I’m back from two weeks away in Tuscany – and a few days getting over an epic forty-four hour journey across the world (involving only one lost bag containing all my camera lenses, thankfully recovered), my usual chronic jetlag and the most amazing creative high.

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Nonna Agata would like to inform you she doesn’t need yoga, she has a herb garden

I was attending the very first Plated Stories workshop, taught by Ilva Beretta and Jamie Schler, the two genius ladies behind the award-winning Plated Stories blog – and the combination of top quality food photography and food writing instruction, new and unbelievably talented friends, the stunning location of the agriturismo where we were staying, and our trips out to some of the most beautiful hilltowns in Tuscany, served to nearly make my head (and camera) explode.

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Guido and Silvia wonder where the heck they parked the Vespa

I’m still processing my thoughts and processing the exactly 2,000 photos I apparently took while I was there. If you’re not in the market to see hundreds of pictures of Tuscany over the next few weeks, I would quietly exit stage left now. Believe me I will understand.

When you think of Tuscany you think of dreamy landscapes and ancient buildings, and yes, we saw our fair share of those. What I hadn’t realised was the amazing scope it holds for street photography. Here are a few of the little ‘Tuscan Stories’ I encountered.

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

“Tell that bitch I didn’t want to be invited to the wedding anyway”

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Francesco and Lorenzo briefly consider not being gay 

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

You know what they say…. big camera… big ice cream

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antonella wistfully remembers that time she nearly got a part as an extra in La Dolce Vita

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

‘Hey Mummy, go faster, we can’t let her win again’

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

‘Tell those tourists that if they want anything else to eat they can flippin’ well cook it themselves. Stronzi!’ 

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Federica wistfully remembers the days when her husband still bought her flowers

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

‘Wonder if we’ll still be friends when we grow up’?

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

‘Isn’t it amazing that we’re still friends after all these years!’

Lots more Tuscan street photography (and more photography of every other possible description) to come!  I’m going to be milking this trip for MONTHS!  I bet you can scarcely stand the excitement.

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Textures and Shadows in Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

One of the main reasons for attending Helene’s workshop on Saint Simons’ Island last autumn was the chance to spend some time exploring Savannah, Georgia.

It had long been near the top of my list of places I wanted to go to in the US (together with Charleston, which I sadly didn’t get to) and I was so not disappointed.

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com 

It was the textures and shadows which struck me – and made me realise how much I crave, and can’t get, old stuff here in Seattle, where not much goes back more than a hundred years.

In Savannah, even the bricks and paving stones have antique stories to tell, history seeps out of the very fabric of the city, and it all made me dreadfully nostalgic for England.

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The area round the river, with its general piratical yohoho-ishness reminded me a bit of the Thames.

savannah-6

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And it was so lovely to encounter beautiful old churches once again.

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

We didn’t have much time to explore, but one of my very favourite places was the Paris Market – a gorgeous homewares store with a stunning small café and superb macarons.

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I stayed for a night in glamorously sexy Bohemian hotel, which had the tones and textures thing down pat and also featured a gorgeous roof terrace overlooking the river and excellent grits for breakfast.

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, I truly can’t wait to return.

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Panna Cotta with Candied Kumquats from Peasant NYC

Panna Cotta with Candied Kumquats from Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolthomas.com

Recognise that platter?  It was my purchase from dBo Home last seen gracing the wall here.

On the first evening on #BlogTourNYC – still reeling from visiting Michele Varian’s shop – we were led down some steps in NoLiTa and a wondrous sight met our eyes at Peasant NYC. Wineglasses and goodie bags. What else does a woman need?

Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The long worn tables were in Peasant – a wonderful subterranean Italian restaurant, full of atmosphere and candles (and fiendishly difficult to photograph as a consequence).

The food throughout was fabulous – an array of gorgeous salads and other antipasti served family style, followed by superb gnocchi and pastas – and the wine kept flowing in the most ridiculous way.

Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolathomas.com

This was the stage in proceedings when I realised that #BlogTourNYC might be a bit heavy on the liver.

The highlight of the evening though (aside from starting to really get to know all my new found friends, natch) was the stunningly good panna cotta with candied kumquats that we were served for dessert. As an Italian I consider myself something of an expert in the ways of panna cotta, but this was exceptional – the smooth, sweet creaminess marrying perfectly with the citrusy bite of the candied kumquats, which I had never tasted before.

Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolathomas.com

After we got back I idly asked Veronika Queen of BlogTour if it might be possible to get the recipe and Veronika being Veronika, the next thing I knew, the owners of Peasant were emailing the recipe to me.

And so dear hearts, here I am sharing with you. You guys, this is SERIOUSLY worth candying kumquats for. You can’t ever say we don’t spoil you on this blog.

Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

Candied Kumquat Panna Cotta
Serves 6
A delightfully smooth and creamy panna cotta with an intriguing topping of candied kumquats in syrup.
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For the Panna Cotta
  1. 2 gelatin sheets (I used 1 sachet of powdered gelatin softened in 2 tablespoons of water)
  2. 4 cups heavy (double) cream
  3. 1/2 cup baker's (caster) sugar
  4. 1 vanilla bean (split)
For the Candied Kumquats
  1. 1 pound kumquats
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 2 cups sugar
For the Panna Cotta
  1. Soften the leaf gelatin in 1 cup of cool water for 5 minutes and drain. Alternatively sprinkle a sachet of gelatin in the water and leave for 5 minutes until soft and spongy.
  2. Bring the cream to the boil in a heavy saucepan and remove from the heat before it bubbles over.
  3. Stir in the sugar and the vanilla bean and then whisk in the softened gelatin, making sure it is thoroughly mixed in.
  4. Discard the vanilla bean.
  5. Pour the mixture into six 1 cup (8 fl oz) ramekins, which have been lightly greased with a flavourless oil.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
For the Candied Kumquats
  1. Fill a medium-sized heavy bottom saucepan halfway with water and bring to the boil over a high heat.
  2. Drop the kumquats into the boiling water and blanch for one minute.
  3. Drain the kumquats in a colander and discard the blanching water. Clean and dry the pot.
  4. The little nubs on the kumquats where the stems were can be easily rubbed off at this stage.
  5. Put the sugar and water into the pot and bring to the boil over a medium high heat.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium and add the blanched kumquats.
  7. Simmer the kumquats in the syrup for 45 minutes to 1 hour until their skin is soft and translucent. Keep an eagle eye on them to make sure that they only just simmer. If they start boiling, they will collapse and get wrinkly (ask me how I know).
  8. Remove the candied kumquats to a glass jar.
  9. Simmer the candying liquid over a medium-low heat for another 10 minutes or so until it turns into a thick syrup (stop cooking before it browns otherwise you'll end up with a delicious citrusy toffee - again ask me how I know).
  10. Pour the syrup over the kumquats in the jar and leave to sit until cooled.
  11. Cover and store in the fridge for several weeks.
To serve
  1. Unmould the panna cottas on dessert plates and spoon the candied kumquats over each one.
To serve
  1. Unmould the panna cottas onto dessert plates and top with the candied kumquats and syrup. Eat greedily.
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Peasant NYC - photography by www.paolathomas.com

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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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New York, New York

So I’m back from two back to back trips to New York, New York – firstly to attend a food photography workshop given by Penny de los Santos (with the Minx and the Husband tagging along) and secondly for Blog Tour NYC and the Architectural Design Home Show. I am still processing all I learned, saw, thought and felt, though I will be blogging the bejeezus out of everything in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for sumptuous shops, stunning restaurants and sexy hotels.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

In the meantime, by way of an introduction, here are some of the sights and characters of New York City, which are still buzzing round my head.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

One day I AM going to start a Tumblr called ‘Hipsters in their Habitats’.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Loved this hardworking little guy down in the subway.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com newyorkcity-34

Love truly was in the air.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Pilgrimage to PurlSoho. Check.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Remember when we did a ‘Go Fug Your Room’ on Diane Von Furstenburg’s NYC penthouse? Well here it is, seen from the magnificent new High Line Park. I couldn’t quite see in to see if she’d taken our decorating advice.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Gorgeous chartreuse green tables and chairs on the High Line, and windows that look like makeup palettes.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Ladies in green.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Photogenic taxis? Check and check.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com
New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

For some reason people kept mistaking me and my Canadian friend Danielle – fellow foodie and street photographer extraordinaire, for British tourists. Can’t think why.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

But I forgave her wearing that scarf when she introduced me to Balthazar’s.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com
New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Fabulous street art everywhere.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Can anyone tell me how water towers work? Do they collect rainwater? They fascinate me.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com
New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Lots of neon.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

New York truly is a melting pot.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

And obviously many iconic tall buildings.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com
New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

I’ve never been a big one for street photography, but I could get completely obsessed by it in New York. We didn’t have a huge amount of time for it on this trip, but I WILL be back. I love this city so much.

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Menton Mon Amour

 

Did you know that around 80% of American tourists in France only go to Paris? Which is a crying shame as the rest of France is so spectacularly beautiful, so deeply fascinating and so incredibly varied from region to region. 

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Gelateria at sunset on the Menton waterfront

I was fortunate enough to be invited to lunch in Seattle last week by the France Tourism Development Agency and several regional French tourist boards, as they keen to spread the word in the US that France has much more to offer for travellers than just Paris.

As long time readers of this blog or followers of my Instagram feed know only too well, I have a very soft spot in my heart for Menton, the gracious old city on the very eastern edge of the Cote d’Azur, a hop, skip and jump from the Italian border.

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

The beach where we swam every day

We rented an apartment there for three weeks last summer and it occurs to me that, what with one thing and another, I never shared any photos with you. So these are for those of you who might be planning your summer vacations and may need some encouragement to get out of Paris.

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com
Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

It’s the colours of Menton that get to me most. The warmth of the coral, ochre, mustard and terracotta, punctuated by bursts of brilliant blue from shutters, sky or sea. And everything bathed in the most astonishing clear dancing light.

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

We rented an apartment full of antique furniture  in a cute residential neighbourhood just behind the casino, about fifteen minutes walk from our favourite beach.

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

The Minx learned to sail (it’s so useful that she’s at the French immersion school here as we can put her in cool French camps).

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

And we spent endless days just hanging out on the beach, and endless warm evenings watching night fall over the Mediterranean. That sea. It does something for my very soul.

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tomorrow we’ll be visiting Menton’s fabulous covered market. I have a lot of holiday snaps to inflict upon you get through. (What is a blog for after all?)

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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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