Delectable Food, Great Photographs from Rob Davidson

ROB DAVIDSON is The Epicure in Light

Sharing my passion for food, cooking and photography

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Hello and welcome The Epicure in Light.

Perhaps you’d like to know a little bit about me (or perhaps not in which case skip ahead). I grew up in a foodie family, Mom studied at Le Cordon Bleu school in London, England, and we traveled extensively, always planning our trips from restaurant to restaurant.  I learned to love food of all types, from French haute cuisine to a good street vendor hotdog.  Our family travels also led me to discover photography which I chose to pursue as a profession. Of course one of my favorite subjects to photograph is food, which I’ve been doing for over 30 years.

I also love to cook (it’s my second favorite way of making love), and I seem to be very good at it, judging from the responses I get.

And so now I’ve decided to combine my passions and share them with you. When I cook I rarely use recipes, preferring to combine flavors in my head, imagining how they will work together and then just going with it. Of course this means I can rarely create the same dish twice. So I’ve decided to start writing down my meanderings through the world of flavors, photographing the results and sharing both with you.

For those of you interested in the food itself, I’ll have recipes that you can download, print out and give them a try yourself. For those interested in the photography I’ll be sharing some behind-the-scenes info, photos and occasionally video.

I’ll also be telling you about anything that I run across that tastes really good… Neat restaurants, ingredients, stores, whatever crosses my path that I think you’ll enjoy!

Come to a Pop-up Dinner in my Studio!

I’m very excited about this.  I recently met Dale Fraser, an exciting young chef and food entrepreneur …. we got to talking….. and next thing you know…

We’re doing a one-night special event, pop-up dinner!

This will be a ten-course epicurean adventure featuring locally sourced fresh foods treated with Dale’s unique blend of classical technique, modern gastronomy and just plain crazy!

I think the best way for you to get a sense of what’s in store is to watch this:

Of course, I’ll add a photographic element to the evening!  I’ll shoot each dish as it’s prepared, so you’ll receive a visual travelogue of your evening’s adventure.

This will definitely be an evening to remember!  Here are the specifics:

Saturday, July 19, 2014… arrive at 6:30
My Studio, 19 Atlantic Ave
Cost: $100 incl. drinks and wine

If you would like to share in this unique event, contact me here to make a reservation.  A $50 deposit is required to hold a spot..

to pay deposit

 

Chocolate Fondue: A classic Valentine Day treat

Since Valentines Day is officially sanctioned for chocolate indulgence, here’s a traditional seduction item that any one can create to warm the heart (and libido) of their beloved.  Just get some really good quality chocolate… Soma’s Dark Fire would be my first choice to heat up the evening.  Melt it very slowly in a pot over boiling water (a double boiler) and dip in whatever comes to mind!

This shot was (obviously) fun to create… and I learned some interesting bits about making cinemagraphs along the way.  Find out about how to create these fun “motion stills” at

Epicure in Light Behind-the Scenes

Photo credits:
Food Stylist: Linsey Bell
Assistant: Nadia Cheema
Photography: Rob Davidson

A Bubbling Bowl of Bouillabaisse

With the first hints of cooler summer evenings, I start to yearn for rich hearty soups that are a meal unto themselves. Which brings me to bouillabaisse, a classic recipe that hails from the fishing docks of Marseille. The list of ingredients that go into this dish is hotly debated  among aficionados, but the real key is to select the freshest of seafood that’s available. The classic Provençal version calls for at least 3 different Mediterranean fishes, shellfish and Langostine  (Mediterranean lobster) all cooked in careful order in a vegetable and saffron flavored broth. Once all the fish are cooked, the broth is served in a bowl with toasted baguette and rouille (a saffron and pepper aioli). The seafood itself is served separately after the broth….. an elegant and delicious meal, especially for a large dinner party.

Here’s a link to the classic version of the recipe, and here’s a simplified version.

Now you’re probably wondering how I got this still photograph the boiling water and a little hints of moving steam. This is a new spin on an old animation format (.gif) that has recently become popularized as a Cinemagraph. They’ve been a big hit in the fashion world, and I think it’s going to be the next fun thing for food photography. Here’s a link to our behind-the-scenes look at how this was created.

And here are the ingredients that went into this beautiful bowl of bouillabaisse.

Credits: Photography by Rob Davidson
Food Styling by Linsey Bell
Assistant Nadia Cheema

A light late summer dessert: zabaglione and berries

I’ve been totally revelling in the wonderful variety of fresh berries at our local farmers market, so I thought I’d share with you my favorite summer dessert. Zabagloine (or sabayon to the French) is a very traditional Italian dessert made from egg yolks, sugar, and a sweet wine all whipped into a light frothy foam. In Italy it’s often served over fresh figs, but I love it over assorted berries.  For this particular recipe we used a sparkling wine, which makes it even frothier and more fun to eat. This makes a perfect dessert to finish off the Egg in Phylo Brunch.

Although this looks fairly fancy and intimidating, it’s actually a very easy dessert to whip together at the last minute (Especially if you happen to own an electric whisk). It’s a great way to impress your guests!  By the way, a “double boiler” can simply be a metal or glass bowl sitting on a pot with water boiling in it.  Here’s the recipe:

Zabaglione (Sabayon) with Berries

Ingredients

  • 6
    Egg Yolks
  • 1/3 cup
    Sugar
  • 1 Cup
    Sparkling wine, Ice wine or Marsala
  • Fresh Berries

Cooking Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients over a double boiler and whisk ingredients together.
  2. Whisk until the consistency resembles lightly whipped cream. Be careful to not over heat the eggs, as they will scramble.
  3. Remove from heat when it reaches a foamy whipped consistency and serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator.
  4. Place berries in a heat proof serving glass. Spoon sabayon over the berries and carefully torch (brulee) the sabayon until till its lightly browned.
  5. Enjoy!
This shot was also one that we did as part of my summer workshop...

You can read more about how the shot was created here.

Egg in Phyllo Brunch

Baked egg in PhylloWow, it’s been a busy summer so far, with shooting, teaching and running a workshop keeping me hopping…. which is why it’s been a while since my last post.  In fact, Linsey and I created this dish as a demonstration of food photography for my summer workshop.

It’s actually a delightfully easy yet elegant brunch item. The egg is baked in the phyllo at the same time as the tomatoes and asparagus are baking. It’s sort of an upscale egg in the hole. The asparagus spears are great for dipping into the egg yolk as well.

Before you get started with the eggs, slice some tomatoes in halves, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped herbs and coarse salt.  Put them in the oven at 350º and cook until they’re almost dried (they should be ready about the same time as the eggs).  Wrap the asparagus spears in prosciutto and spread them out on a baking dish.  They take about 15-20 minutes to cook, so they can go in as you pull out the phyllo for the eggs.

Here’s the recipe for the eggs:

Egg in Phyllo

Ingredients

  • 1 package
    Phyllo dough
  • 4
    eggs
  • 1/2 stick
    melted butter
  • 1 oz
    grated parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. With a pastry brush, coat a muffin tin with melted butter (a silicone muffin mould works very well!). Cut the phyllo into 6 inch squares. Lightly brush each layer of phyllo with butter and press it into the muffin mould. Build up 5-6 layers in four of the muffin moulds.
  2. Bake in a 350º oven until the phyllo just starts to brown (around 10-15 minutes). Remove from the oven. Crack one egg into a small cup, and gently pour it into the phyllo cup. Repeat for the other eggs. Return to the oven and bake until the white of the egg is firm, but the yolk is still a bit soft (let your finger tip guide you).
  3. Gently remove the egg and phyllo from the mould and serve topped with grated parmisan.
Here’s a shot of Linsey demonstrating for the workshop.

Linsey performing for a crowd

The Lemontail: a fun summer cocktail

Hot summer days and warm nights are just around the corner, so here’s a refreshing cocktail  to sip while chilling with your friends.

It’s a fresh spin on a classic martini…. using gin, Limoncello and a hint of basil to compliment the juniper flavour of the gin. We rimmed the glass with Pop Rocks, just for fun.  If you haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, this is a good one!  Here’s the recipe.

By the way, Limoncello is an Italian liqueur that’s very popular in the south, especially along the Amalfi coast and around Capri, where the lemons are grown.  It’s made by infusing liquor with lemon peel for a month or so, then sweetening with a simple syrup.  It’s often made at home in the region, so here’s a recipe if you want to give it a try.  It’s usually served chilled as an after dinner drink, and it’s very refreshing on its own or with a splash of soda.  In this cocktail it brings a fresh lemon flavor with a bit of sweetness to mellow out the gin.

Now you’re probably wondering how we got this big splash for the shot.

So check out the behind the scenes action HERE.

I can tell you that we had a lot of fun  and Linsey got very wet!

Credits: Photography by Rob Davidson
Food Styling & Throwing: Linsey Bell
Assistant & Splasher: Nadia Cheema

A Deceptively Simple Party Snack

Now that the weather is finally starting to warm up you’ll soon be getting invites to backyard parties and barbecues! And with them, the inevitable command to “just bring something”.  Here’s a quick and easy solution that will delight and mystify the other party guests.

The “recipe” couldn’t be simpler.  Just mix Mascarpone Cheese with Dalmatia Dried Fig Spread and spread the mixture into Belgian Endive leaves (how’s that for a pan-european mix?). I like the Dalmatia spread because it has a concentrated fig flavour, not too sweet, and it’s available in my local Metro grocery.  The intriguing thing about this recipe is the combination of the slightly bitter crunch of the endive and the smooth sweet of the fig and mascarpone somehow confuses the palate, and no one can quite figure out what they’re eating, although they’re certainly enjoying it!  It’s entertaining to see what people guess as they try to identify the flavour.

Whenever I take food to a party I like to make a pleasing presentation (so disposable paper plates are definitely out!), but not have to worry about reclaiming bowls or platters at the end of the evening.  One of my fav solutions, shown here, is the woven lids from Chinese bamboo steamers.  They make a great serving platter, come in a variety of sizes, and only cost a couple of dollars in any chinese kitchen supply store (my local haunt is Tap Phong in Toronto’s Chinatown).

So next time you’re asked to show up with a party platter, or just need a tasty snack for watching the Food Network, give this quick combination a try.

Have a look behind the scenes here!

Food Styling:  Linsey Bell
Assistant & BTS shots: Nadia Cheema

Miso Soup… my favourite fast food

This is a great way to transform whatever leftovers you might have in the fridge into a delicious and healthy meal in a bowl. I like to use chicken or beef stock (which I make in large vats and keep in the freezer). All I have to do is heat the stock, dissolve some miso paste into the hot stock, add a package or two of frozen Japanese noodles and then toss in whatever odds and ends I have laying about the fridge. For this particular dish we used the leftover pork tenderloin from this recipe. We added in some enoki  and baby shiitake mushrooms, green onions, sliced peppers, bean sprouts and fresh parsley. We also added a few drops of sesame oil for a nice perk in flavor. About 20 minutes to make from scratch, and it sure beats Ramen Noodles!

A few ingredient notes:
Miso  is a paste made from fermented soybeans, rice, barley or other ingredients. It comes in a variety of colors, from white through red and brown. It has a earthy, salty flavor and is used extensively in Japanese cooking. I like the darker red or brown variety for its rich flavor. You can purchase miso paste in any Asian grocery and it’s showing up more and more in regular grocery stores, partly due to its health benefits. It keeps very well in the fridge as long as it’s stored in a sealed container. Because it’s a paste, it’s hard to dissolve in a large pot of stock, so I scoop a small amount of the hot soup into a bowl and then mush in the miso paste until it’s dissolved, then I pour it back into the large pot. How much miso to add really depends on your taste and how salty like your soup. I usually put 2 or 3 heaping tablespoons in a pot of soup.

Udon noodles are the thick chewy Japanese noodles, and I love them in soups. I prefer to buy them frozen (they always have a large variety at T&T grocery), as they come packaged in meal size blocks. He just tossed them into a soup and warm them. I find the frozen ones retain the best texture and chewy tenderness when cooked. You could also use ramen or soba noodles which are widely available in dried packages.

I’m a big fan of making my own stock! For chicken stock I save the bones and carcasses whenever I cook chicken. I keep them frozen in bags until I have enough to make a stock. They usually pick up one or two “old chickens” to toss him as well. I prefer to keep my stock very simple, usually just adding an onion and maybe a few cloves of garlic. For beef stock I buy some beef bones very inexpensively at any grocery that has an actual butcher. I like to roast the bones in the oven until they’re browned as I find this makes a richer stock. I like to keep my stocks boiling at a very low boil for a long period of time, five or six hours at the least, so I tend to make stock when I have a quiet evening at home. After that I simply strain the stock into a large bowl and put it in the fridge to allow the fat to float to the surface and congeal so it’s easy to remove. Then I put the finished stock in plastic containers and freeze them. Few things give me such a sense of satisfaction as loading a big stack of stock into the freezer!

The other ingredients are totally up to you and your fridge!

See how this shot came together here!

Food Styling:  Linsey Bell
Assistant & BTS shots: Nadia Cheema

Maple Sugar Pie, a Québecois tradition updated

This recipe was inspired by a childhood memory of a trip my family took to Québec where we dined at a restaurant called L’Atre (unfortunately now closed) on the Ile d’Orléan. The restaurant was housed in an old farmhouse deep in a secluded wood, and we were actually taken there in a horse-drawn sleigh. The meal was traditional Québecois and the one dish that still sticks in my mind is the dessert of Maple Sugar Pie. Incredibly rich, sweet and gooey with maple syrup and heavy cream. So totally decadent.

Since winter seems finally to be coming to an end, and the maple sap will soon be running, this seems like a great time to revisit that childhood memory. Linsey has updated this traditional Québecois recipe with a lighter touch and the addition of roasted almonds to balance out the sweetness of the maple syrup.

Here’s Linsey’s Recipe

And here’s how we created this shot.

Photo Credits:  Photography by Rob Davidson
Food Styling by Linsey Bell

Assistant and BTS shots: Adriana Garcia Cruz

 

Venturing out of My Comfortable Studio

 

Chocolate Dessert at Tiara

I realized lately that I’ve been getting a lot of requests to shoot food on location for restaurant menus and websites. So I thought I would post a selection of some of the shots and talk a bit about what goes into them. Without all the tools, toys and tricks of the studio I find it’s best to keep the shots very simple and clean and resist the temptation to put too much stuff into them. I also find that restaurants tend to want very straightforward photographs of their menu items so that they can be used for a variety of applications.

Striped Bass at Crush Wine Bar

Beautifully Grilled Fish at Tiara

 

Crusted Rack of Lamb at Millcroft Inn & Spa

 

 

 

 

I love to find a bit of natural light to work with, and since most restaurants have big windows, this makes my job easier.  I also like to work closely with the chef, making sure that each dish is lovingly prepared for the camera.  I always remind them not to apply any sauces until the last minute as I’m ready to take the shot.

Grilled Tenderloin at Crush Wine Bar

 

Seared Tuna at Crush Wine Bar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, it’s always important to work quickly and efficiently, so as not to tie up space and staff in a busy enterprise!  Keeping these points in mind, it’s possible to create appealing food shots that really capture the essence of the restaurant’s menu.  And the best part is you get to eat the results!

 

Trio of Chocolate at Crush Wine Bar

Dessert at Escabèch

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