Food News


PS022811 Fresh Fruits #221Here’s a piece I did recently for the Photography Issue for the Tampa newspaper, Creative Loafing, that I work for.

Local freelance food stylist and photographer Andrea Acailawen has learned to blend her love of photography and passion for food into a successful career, bringing food to life through her camera lens.

Working for a Northern California ad agency, she styled products and food for a variety of clients: home goods and kitchenware companies, department store and grocery chains, restaurants, wineries, a cherry grower — even a nut manufacturing plant. Now she’s opened her own photography and styling business in Tampa and is “starting from scratch in a new market.”

It’s not surprising that she ended up in this vocation. Her chef/photographer father taught her how to cook and bought her a camera at the age of 6 for a class field trip: a medium-format Hasselblad (one of those old-school, boxy-looking ones with a single lens and film-winding crank).
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First order of business: HAPPY NATIONAL PEANUT BUTTER DAY! I can’t believe my day is almost over and I’ve just found out about this! But thanks to Tastespotting and their drool-worthy peanut butter recipe roundup, I have been informed and will be celebrating. Well, I did start my day with a dollop of natural peanut butter in my breakfast smoothie. Maybe I’ll finish off more of those Reese’s cups left over from Halloween. (They don’t have a shelf life, right?)

Ooh ooh, look what I found today: a Molecular Cuisine Starter Kit on ThinkGeek! Because “nouveau-cuisine is so last year.” It includes 5 different food additives (Sodium Alginate, Xantham Gum, etc.), fun little tools (and a syringe in case you don’t already have those lying around) and a DVD with recipe demos. Like Marcel on Top Chef All-Stars, you too can now make all the foam that your little heart desires. Watch the video trailer for it here. FYI: This will be added to my half birthday (April 30th) gift list.
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IMG_1931Last weekend I was fortunate enough to indulge in Disney’s International Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT Center. This marks the 14th year of an event that promises the chance to eat and drink your way around the world without ever having to break out your passport.

After attending this event for the past few years, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a majority of the regional menus had changed (after being exactly the same for the past few go-arounds) and that they’d added a few new cuisines, now up to 25 different international marketplaces. There were also more culinary classes and wine tastings to attend this year, many involving well-known food and wine celebrities like Iron Chef Cat Cora (who has a new restaurant, Kouzzina, that just opened at Disney’s Boardwalk), Andrew Zimmern (host of Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel), the Deen Brothers (yes, Paula’s boys) and lying TV chef Robert Irvine.
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What is it about bacon that we love? It seems the food world has had an obsession with it lately, from bacon vodka, to Bacon Salt, to the infamous Bacon Explosion. But have you ever thought of pairing bacon with something on the sweeter side? What about bacon in candy?

I dared to go there when I purchased the Mo’s Bacon Bar. I had read about it before on the trusty food porn sites that I peruse and salivate over daily, but had never seen it in stores. “Bacon and chocolate?”, I thought, “What a great combination!” I love the pairing of sweet and salty in food – like SnoCaps and popcorn at the movie theater – and I am a bacon fanatic. This was also the item that spawned the idea for my Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes. I was bound and determined to find this candy bar.
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This week we discussed episode 2 of Top Chef Masters: The Lost Supper. Our special guest this week was Jeff Houck, food writer for The Tampa Tribune, who added a great dose of humor to the show and kept us in stitches.
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If you have been paying attention to all of the ads and the commercials on Bravo, you’ll already know that the Top Chef series is back (and we’re hoping you’ve watched). This time, there’s a twist: 24 well-known, seasoned chefs go head-to-head and compete in challenges just like they’ve put the contestants from past seasons through, all to win money for their charity of choice.

Top Chef Masters is a bit different than the original show, though. Instead of sticking all 24 of the “masters” in an apartment and make them eat, sleep, booze, and live together, four of them at a time compete in an episode. I was thoroughly surprised when I saw this – they didn’t mention that in the previews, but I can understand why this was done. (Do you really think these chefs are going to give up the reins of their uber popular restaurants and two months of their lives just for a TV show? Though I would liked to have seen a Hosea-Leah hookup scenario between, say, Roy Yamaguchi and Cindy Pawlcyn.)
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parkesdale_farms

Have you been to the grocery store and seen the prices on produce these days? No wonder people don’t want to buy fresh food that’s actually good for them, when they can save a buck by buying processed, pre-packaged food that is full of chemicals and fake ingredients. It’s also dejecting to think how far food travels before it reaches our tables — going from farm to processing and packing plants, then shipped off hundreds of miles away to grocery stores.
I am making a personal effort to buy more locally grown food. It saves me money and it keeps the local farmers in business. Last weekend, I ventured out to Plant City to check out some of the local farmers’ markets and found Parkesdale Farms Market. Parkesdale Farm has been in operation by the Parke family since 1956, growing an array of vegetables, fruits, and various plants and flowers over hundreds of acres. They are now the largest strawberry, citrus, and produce market in Florida. (more…)

tableside_guac

Forget tableside Caesar salad (so ’80s), it seems the hot new trend is tableside guacamole. Right in front of your eyes, your server will whip up a batch of fresh guacamole with your choice of mix-ins: onions, peppers, jalapenos, tropical fruit, cilantro, etc.

I’ve seen this trend at higher-end Mexican and Latin restaurants lately, like the renowned Boudro’s Texas Bistro in San Antonio, TX (read about my culinary adventure), and Cantina Laredo in Wesley Chapel, FL. But be prepared to shell out around 10 bucks for it, which seems to be the average. It’s all for the novelty and the show, I suppose. (more…)

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