August 14, 2012.
I have always admired the location photo shoots in food magazines. You know the ones. Friends gathered at an up-and-coming chef’s weekend farmhouse in Vermont. Or at some California winemaker’s hilltop estate. Or the urbane rooftop gathering in, say, Chicago or New York City. The lighting just perfectly so, the table masterfully arranged, everyone dressed stylishly, laughing oh-so-casually. I’ve often wondered who are these people, how are they chosen and how fabulous it must be to participate in one of those shoots. The pinnacle of foodie success.
Earlier this summer when my friend Carol mentioned that a food photographer with whom she had become friends wanted to take some pictures at Carol’s farm and asked would I be interested in joining them, I think my response was somewhere along the lines of a nonplussed “Sure.” In retrospect, all I can think about that initial response is “I’m a dope.” But, it wasn’t clear at the time who was the food photographer or what exactly my involvement would entail, so I didn’t give it much thought. Actually, I forgot about it until Carol reminded me and asked me if I would like to make the desserts for the shoot. Learning more about the photographer, Margaret Elman, and knowing that my homemade goods would be involved, my curiosity was piqued. Yet, I still didn’t know what the appointed evening held in store nor did it occur to me that this could be one of those kinds of photo shoots. When I asked Carol what she would like me to bring her response was, “I love your style and think it complements mine so things will mesh well together.” How’s that for direction? (Just kidding, Carol, if you’re reading this.)
Since the shoot would be taking place at a waterside farm, I knew I wanted to do something simple, highlighting the summer’s offerings. Also, we would be outside, so I needed to make something that could stand up to the midsummer evening’s heat. I decided on a honeyed-thyme fig crostata and a rustic peach galette, recipes adapted from Food and Wine.
When I arrived at Pot Pie Farm, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Truly. From Carol’s weekly set up of her farm stand, I knew how talented her arrangements could be, but what laid before me was nearly breathtaking. Between the waterside backdrop and the amazing tabletops she had set up, it was a scene any food magazine would want on its pages. I could attempt to describe it, but I think Margaret’s pictures say it all.
So, you know who the people are in the food magazine photo shoots and how they’re chosen? Me either, but after the magical evening at Pot Pie Farm, it doesn’t really matter. Okay, sure, maybe you need to be a celebrated chef or a noted California winemaker or a big city mover and shaker to be featured in Saveur or Food and Wine or Bon Appétit. But, it’s also possible for regular Joes, like me (or maybe you), who are lucky enough to have good and talented friends, to be part of an evening worthy of the pages of any food magazine.
(Editor’s note: A special thank you to Carol Bean for arranging the photo shoot and to Margaret Elman for the incredible photography, but most of all, for inviting me to take part. All pictures were taken on location at Pot Pie Farm in Wittman, Maryland and are the property of Margaret Elman.)