Welcome to Four Eyes Forum, a meeting place to exchange news and views on food, food photography, the word on food, food science, style and architecture. Join me, the blogger who wears glasses, in this world as I throw out engaging stuff that I think you'll find interesting, beautiful and delicious. As Charles Dudley Warner, American editor and writer, said,
"Lettuce, like conversation, requires a good deal
of oil, to avoid friction, and keep the company
smooth....You can put anything, and the more
things the better, into salad, as into a conver-
sation, but everything depends upon the skill of

That's my job.

(All photographs, unless otherwise cited, copyright
Kristin Halgedahl Photography 2016)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Money may talk, but chocolate sings." - Author Unknown

And nowhere does the chorus swell louder than St. Helena, CA at holiday time. I took a drive the other day, up Hwy. 128, the north-south artery between the towns of Napa and Calistoga, through northern California's Wine Country. Here, the long, straight highway is flanked by vineyards on both sides and, except for the towns of Napa, Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga, they flow into each other like pearls on a necklace of grape varietals. My destinations were twofold -- The Culinary Institute of America just outside of St. Helena, and Dean and Deluca, located in town. My intent was window shopping the year's finest chocolate offerings.

The CIA rises from the valley floor like a haunted Gothic castle in a Shirley Jackson novel. But Christmas decorations soften its stark exterior.

And once inside, a quick left puts you in The Spice Islands Marketplace & Campus Store, and several more steps and you're in the Flavor Bar. Here the angels are singing. Here "The Chocolate Experience" is supreme, sublime, beyond imagining. It is so grand the idea of eating any of it, for me, paled in comparison to taking out the camera and shooting it. I did, just for you, dear follower - look!

And on and on. I was surprised you could build your own box for $1.90 per, but there you are. Reasonable, I think, however fleeting the moment.  But to imagine sitting down leisurely, intentionally, with wine and chocolate, to savor each sip, each bite. Of THESE. Wow. A holiday gift supreme.

The only experience that can rival the CIA is driving into St. Helena to visit Dean and Deluca. A second Food Palace experience in one day could almost be considered sensate madness, except that I was intent on and ready for anything.  The Halelulah Chorus swells as the doors open. I turn into Eloise as I zimber past the cases of goodies, one by one. After the usual unusual, 

I spot something glowing in a case, the color so intense I have to shield my eyes. I approach and discover Christopher Elbow, a chocolatier from NEBRASKA, of all places. His chocolates win the 2011 Four Eyes 5-Star GASP Award. Can this be REAL? 
This? Cinnamon Black Tea.


Or this? Passion Fruit --

My god, give me oxygen!
Who IS this newcomer?
This one's called 'Champagne'

Where to go from here? Nowhere but to race home and Google his website. Do you believe this? Well, it is the Christmas season, a time of miracles. And his talent is miraculous, in my view.  I won't be surprised if he appears at the World Chocolate Masters Competition next year. That is, if he's into that kind of thing. And the price? Reasonable! I was amazed. Well, here, I took a screenshot from his website.

Money is just talking here, not screaming, and the chocolates are singing. 
May the holidays find you contributing a verse.
The very best in the new year to you and yours.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"To the alchemy that turns groceries into meals." (Anonymous)

It's that time of year again. The holidays are upon us and with them, this year's new cookbooks. And what a year! What a selection! There are SO many and they are all AMAZING. I always have to attach the disclaimer that I am neither a professional food critic nor a recipe writer. However, in the words of A.J. Liebling, "The primary requisite for writing about food is a good appetite." And THAT I have. And I know photography. So, I covered four different book venues in three days for variety's sake and the widest scope --  Costco, Barnes & Noble, an independent bookstore and a food website, and found ten standouts in a field of about thirty new holiday books. I'm telling you about them based on a rating scale of interesting categories, novel ideas, and stunning presentation. That's what struck me most, the variety of approaches to different subject matters. I'd be happy to receive any one of them, frankly. Although as a foodie photographer, I'll end my post by revealing my #1 pick. (hint, hint, relatives, this is your cue) 
Here goes. 

How tired are we all of hearing and using the phrase, "in this economy." Well, it's painfully true and the emphasis on family dining, family-at-table, cooking with the family, home cooking, local ingredients, continues to be a love-the-one-you're-with-at-home  kind of theme. The Food Network chefs are all over this one, of course, so let's get them out of the way by way of Mario Batali. The guy seems nice enough and good enough on Iron Chef and The View, but with nine restaurants to his credit, why is he even writing a cookbook? Because once you've gotten to the top you've got to stay there. And yet I think  his passion is genuine. The 'family' thing is the focus of his new book, Molto Batali.

Everything does look wonderful, accessible, doable. It's arranged by seasons, and the layout is like this. (pictured) I  like it. What does all this stuff look like on the table? This book answers that for Virgo hostesses and visual learners like me.

Todd English is a marvelous chef and his new book Cooking In Everyday English has that 'home' thing at its center, also.

Yes, yes, cook at home. Although we know They don't really want us to stay home and cook every day because then we wouldn't eat at their restaurants! Nevertheless, when the economy dictates we do cook in, Todd's book looks very usable, with unusual pairings of things, also -- this salad, for example. (I chose random recipes for this post) The pictures in this book are o.k.  (that matters to me)

Next we have Jean-Georges, my old friend. He just keeps getting better, and now, his son is all grown up and they're doing that celebrity family-chef thing together. Their book is a little thinner than most and I say, thank you! There's quite enough to digest in these pages. Why was I not surprised the book comes in his signature royal blue. It suits.

In CONTRAST, dear follower, we have Jacques Peppin's holiday offering. How many pages...600 plus! It's BIG because it spans his long and revered career. (he is 75, after all) This $50 book is a STEAL at Costco for $20 something. No photographs here -- illustrations. Comes with a CD.

This one I'm buying myself because it calls to my blogging soul to emulate Julie and Julia. How long
would it take me to cook my way through Jacques book?
Anyway, bravo to the Maitre! He looks so very well! A testament to healthy, tempered eating. He's truly a national treasure.

Now things start to get more interesting....

From RADIO food show to BOOK. If you know Lynn Rosetto Kasper's talk show on Saturdays on NPR you're probably pleased that someone has  snagged her for another book deal. And it's done so well. So, here's food with stories. I love that, the interdisciplinary food experience.

Website turned book with Food52. I didn't know their site, but I've looked at Food52 today and it's really beautiful. And comprehensive. Here's their holiday book. This is one big trend in publishing -- give tried and true bloggers a shot at a book.
Obviously, I think it's wonderful. I'd love to collaborate on a project someday...like, tomorrow!

Way to go, home cooks Amanda and Merril. 
And Congrats.

And you, too, Jekka and Nigel. Your books, in style and feel, suggest reading and cooking for the modern hippie, (there's something about her cover art that reminds me of the Moosewood Cookbook) the now generation, the twenty to thirty-year-olds. To be honest, I didn't even look inside either of these because there were scads more to consider and my time was running short.  But, given that so many restaurants have their own gardens now, these both had the feel of organic loveliness and locovore home runs. 

And then, dear follower, with the music of Zarathustra swelling in the background, I give you Eleven Madison Park!

Winner of the 5 "Whoas!" Four Eyes 2011 Award

This book is an art piece. Pure, unadulterated visual luxury. Can you make anything in here, you ask? Who cares, I answer. This is large format photography which raises the bar even higher than NOMA last year, and The French Laundry the year before that. Gigantic white books. What I applaud is that the photographer is a chef/partner and knows his way around a studio to this high degree. The title of this book is the address of the restaurant in NY, and, actually, many of the recipes look approachable to me. We could all do this chocolate or custard thing without being a Japanese food stylist, right? I've got my tweezers! Only criticism -- just when we swore not to buy another 5 lb. book....


There are portrait photographers and then there are inspired, wholly gifted portrait photographers. And the considerable gifts Melanie Dunea possesses rival those of Herb Ritts, Annie Liebowitz, Richard Avedon, you pick.

Here are compelling portraits of 50 chefs which reveal their minds and imagination. The person behind the food, reflected in fifty photographs as diverse as the chefs themselves. I include a couple of examples here. And THEN, the dialogue from each is equally absorbing.
I just can't say enough about how interesting this book is. It's the complete package!  Kudos to the person who formulated the concept. 

I say, give this one a James Beard Award! I say, give this to ME for Christmas!

Happy Holidays to all from Four Eyes Forum. Enjoy your upcoming days with reading and cooking pleasure.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Autumn = Apples, Apples And Apples

And apples,

and apples,

and more apples,

and more.

Apple cider, apple juice, apple strudel, applesauce, apple pie, apple turnovers, baked apples, apple tart tartine, apple fritters, muffins, crisps, crumbles, cakes, pancakes. apple butter as a topper, caramel and candied apples, apple chutney, dried apples. And on and on. 

Each autumn, especially, I love going to stores, farm stands and farmers' markets and finding all the varieties of the season. For me, they're as beautiful to look at as they are sweet to eat. No wonder, I've discovered, they are a species of the rose family. There are more than 7,500 known cultivars - as many as recipes for them, I'll wager, throughout the history of mankind.. And myths and legends in countries around the world are centered around the apple - eternal youth, fertility, food of the dead, Adam and Eve in the Garden, among others. (see Wikipedia for all that)

Me? As a photographer, I love to shoot them. They glow. And I love basking in that saturation.
It's another primal connection with the beauty of the earth. It's a reassurance that, no matter how challenging life's business, eating an apple is an act  that constitutes the best part of living, a promise that  we will find "reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." (Rachel Carson)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review - Ristorante Allegria, Napa, CA

Bad blogger, bad blogger, no post since last month! It's just that I've been so busy preparing my holiday cards (food images) to sell at the farmers market that I haven't been able to make the time! For eating out, either. Forget it. Until my girlfriend finally intervened and made me drive over to Napa for a lunch at Ristorante Allegria. I'm not a restaurant critic, but I DO know a fine dining experience when I've had one. It started with the road trip. It's harvest time in northern California, and the vineyards looked spectacular on the rolling hills of the Carneros Highway.  (note to self -- do NOT shoot from the steering wheel anymore, not even if you're at a red light!)

Almost as spectacular as the restaurant decor and  menu. If one has the occasional luxury of a lunch out, let it be at a place like this!

As an Italian, I'll go back and try the iconic dishes, but on this day, as soon as he said that swordfish was the day's special, I jumped on it. (after having consulted my Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch pocket guide...yes, I really do carry it around) I haven't had swordfish in years. What a treat!  And no toiling over other choices. No more work today, bring it on. While waiting for it, however, I tried the risotto cake appetizer, which was also a treat. Light and crunchy with a tangy balsamic sauce and crumbled blue cheese.

The swordfish was outstanding . Meaty yet  juicy on a bed of mashed potatoes, mushrooms and roasted summer squash. And a caper sauce. Each bite made me freeze with joy as the flavor in my mouth was the only sense I could feel. Conversation ceased; sighing commenced.

The pace of the service was even and pleasant. Additionally, sitting outside always seems to make it more amiable. And the price was reasonable -- lunch for two, wine included, was $67, including tip.

Ristorante Allegria
1026 First St. Napa, CA 94559
(707) 254-8006
Web: www.ristoranteallegria.com

Monday, September 26, 2011

"The Chew" Review

Four Eyes mostly agrees with David Hinckley's  same day review of "The Chew" in today's NY Daily News.

However, everyone needs to give today's blathering hosts a break. They just need some time to settle down. They'll find their rhythm. They'll find their groove. They have to. Otherwise one or all of them will hyperventilate. No, won't happen. It was just (we hope) that it was day one of the show. The hype and expectation were so great. Give it a couple weeks. 

Two other things impressed. The set goes beyond pleasing --it's stunning. Very beautiful and functional, of course. Kudos to the set designers. LOVED the gigantic wall sized recipe graphics. Loved the chic table for the audience tasters. Loved the little cubbies all over the place, and the pantry! Terrific set design! It gives the feel of intimacy without crowding the Fab Five II. 

And we made sure to have the computer on during the show and the recipes were instantly there. Good online support. Very important  for this viewer. Especially today when they were talking so fast! But it looks like a really good website that supports the show's tenants of family around the table. 

Four Eyes is genuinely delighted with "The Chew" and wishes everyone involved with the show much success and a long run, like Nate Berkus, Rachel Ray and Dr. Oz.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oh The Times They Are A Changin

We are truly witness to "Another World" when the "Days Of Our Lives" see that "The Young And The Restless" at ABC corporate,  are making daytime television history with "The Chew." It seems like the gamble to boot "All My Children" in favor of a cooking talk show 
has "One Life To Live," and that if "The Bold And The Beautiful" higher ups at ABC are wrong, "As The World Turns" they may all be doomed to be taken to a "General Hospital." 

"Huh?" you say. "Has Four Eyes been drinking?"

No, no. READ the NY Times article about the premiere on Monday. You'll find it in today's Dining and Wine section, title, "Throwing Out The Recipe For Daytime TV."
Life is a cabaret, my friend...or is it all just a SOAP?


Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumn Begins

Autumn begins today. And with it, a new atmospheric light. From the hard edge, the glare, of July and August to a softer, more saturated solar arc. The poets put it best.

God's World

O World, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with color! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, world, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all.
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,--Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,--let fall
No burning leaf; prithee let no bird call.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Four Eyes offers a pumpkin potpourri gallery as a nod to the new season and things aching, crying with color.

(all photographs copyright Kristin Halgedahl Photography 2011)