Trend Report // 6 unique food instagrammers

unique food // a little gathering

A few years ago a fell in love with a blog, the now defunct Luxirare. Honestly, it totally sucks that this website is down because it had some of the most creative cooking I have ever seen on a food blog. Like these potato crips + these edible crayons

Ji Kim ran this blog. She was also a tad controversial, but she always spoke some truth.

She also knew how to make oysters look dope.

The other day I spent some time scrolling through what exists of her work on Tumblr. It’s crazy how creative she was + how much her food spoke for itself.

I haven’t seen a food blog tackle recipe development and styling like her’s since.

Here’s the thing, food blogging has become very homogenous looking. recipe sharing sites and pinterest have defined specific aesthetics + they totally have their place.

But I’ve submitted my recipes to those websites + something is always “not ok” with them. From overexposed to camera angles, it seems like the only recipes that are actually on those websites fit into a certain, specific aesthetic.

There’s rarely room for moody light, close up images that show off texture or food props that haven’t jumped out of a catalog.

And here’s the thing, there’s a place for these photographs.

I’m way more excited about sharing my recipes that look like, well, my recipes. You have to embrace what you want, because ultimately it’s not how close you can copy someone that will get you to where you want to be. It’s about creating food that looks how you want it to look and showing up. And by showing up I mean staying consistent.

It’s crazy to see how far my food photography has come in the past few years. The only way I got from there to here is by working on my images and recipes. I spend time on the weekend to shoot and edit all of my photographs. It takes time to write the recipes.

But I love it. What I mean, there has to be some middle ground between what everyone is doing and what no one is doing. And that middle ground is you. what you’re doing.

bottom line: I don’t want to play your food blogging games.

So instead of continuing my mini manifesto, here are six instagrammers/recipe makers/really cool humans that aren't doing what anyone else is. and hey, it's kind of awesome.

@chefjacqueslamerde

This account is one of the most clever I've seen in the past year. It's a fun spoof on tweezered, expensive food. All of the ingredients used can be found at your local bodega. But the name might fool you, it's run by Christine Flynn. Shit, it's cool.

@andybowdy

OMG these cakes! They're perfectly imperfect, breaking the mold of what a frosted cake should be like. They are over the top + colorful. Crafted by the hands of pastry chef Andy Bowdy.

@grahamblackall

Graham Blackall always has a creative take on the classic sweet treats we all know. Sometimes his recipes involve cakes, other times it's all about King Cake flavored french fries.

@alanajonesmann

Holy surprises! Alana Jonesmann pulls from trendy + nostalgic influences to makes sweets that are as sweet on the eyes as they are in taste.

@imlauramiller

I found Laura Miller through her work with Tastemade, but I think her vegetable + fruit hairpieces on Instagram are the real stars. And she makes vegan recipes look devine.

@iamafoodblog

I mean, affogato with cotton candy people. Whimsy meets "wait, actually I want to make that". Stephanie Le is a creative force.

Well there you go! Some of my Instagram crushes lately. Do you have any of your own? Let me know in the comments so we can stalk them together.

50 Valentine's Day dessert ideas (+ a free menu planning printable!)

a little gathering v-day printable

It's almost Valentine's Day, so that means you'll need easy, delicious + chocolatey dessert ideas for the big night.

Today I'm excited to share something I've been working on for a couple of weeks now! A special feature page for Valentine's Day. The idea came about because I want to share more printables + recipes that I love. The solution? A page completely dedicated to just this.

You'll find:

  • 50 Valentine's Day dessert recipes curated by yours truly

  • Access to a FREE Valentine's Day menu planning printable

the recipes span everything from cookies to ice cream + poached fruit to whole layer cakes. there's plenty of restricted diet options for Valentine's day too.

ANd OF course I had to try baking a few of them too!

there's these lemon raspberry pie crust hearts from Joy the baker. they're filled with a punchy raspberry/lemon filling with a dough that's incredibly easy to pull off. 

joy the baker hearts // a little gathering

there's also these thyme + black cherry jam drop cookies from My darling lemon thyme. These are flavored with fresh thyme + then filled with a generous scoop of black cherry jam. They're also gluten-free!

jammy cookies // a little gathering

And another recipe is this showstopper of a cinnamon roll from the vanilla bean blog. guys! It's literally a cinnamon roll cake. I usually shy away from using yeast doughs (I should share my failures in this department some day), but I did it! This cinnamon roll monster is topped with a brown butter frosting, as if there wasn't already enough buttery goodness in each slice.

cinnamon roll // a little gathering

each of these recipes are killer! I'll be sharing more shots of them on my instagram in the next few weeks.

free valentine's day printable

for the printable I wanted to do something completely different than most I see. I wanted the printable to be hand drawn + collage like. it's slightly crazy because cooking isn't neat!

there are three sections: one for drinks, one for dinner + one for desserts, duh! It's also an adorable way to remember what you made that year you decided you wanted to cook an entire meal for your sweetie.

valentine's day free printable // a little gathering

If you download the printable or try out any of these recipes be sure to give a shoutout on Twitter! I'll be re-tweeting my favorites until Valentine's day.

20 menu items I was likely to order in 2015

20 menu trends in 2015

So here we are, the last post of 2015! 2015 was a transitional year for me + this little blog.

I started my full-time job in late 2014, so finding the time to figure out how this space worked into my life, while working full-time was definitely harder than I thought it would be.

I took a few months in the middle of the year to transition my focus from my Etsy business + focus more so on food content. I still run my Etsy shop, but I'm definitely going to spend more time in 2016 thinking about how I can create more content for people like me. You work full-time, you freelance on the side, but you love good food. That's the direction we'll be going in for 2016.

But that's for next year! Let's focus on a recap, shall we? Here are the 20 menu items I was likely to order in 2015. Warning, these aren't for those looking to detox + diet. Ha!


burrata 

burrata is like fresh mozzarella’s fancy cousin. It’s burrata's soft exterior that gives way to a creamy interior that puts it on the top of this list. it's freakin' good! burrata is often served alongside tomatoes, but it is best with a drizzle of balsamic, a sprinkle of salt + plenty of bread to dip straight into it. sign. me. up.

pork belly

OK. pork belly is tad bit like glorified bacon, but when prepared correctly you get the tenderness of smoked meat, creaminess of the melted pork fat + the crunch of the caramelized exterior. pork belly is often relegated to appetizers (a few cubes served with a beautiful sauce + shaved vegetables), but my go-to is the five-spice pork belly sandwich at Num Pang. I haven’t made pork belly at home, so maybe this is something to explore in 2016?

cubano

whenever I go to a new sandwich joint + I see that a cubano sandwich is on the menu I know to pounce. it’s kind of like a ham + cheese sandwich with the volume turned up. you have the ham + swiss cheese, but most cuban sandwiches also come with roasted pork, pickles + mustard or spicy aioli. my favorite by far is the one at Café Habana

ramen

impossible to avoid in NYC, ramen shops continue to pop up + I am a-ok with that. I slurped a lot of ramen this year, but all ramen isn’t created equal. This isn’t your college-style ramen out of a styrofoam  container. This is stuff of substance. My favorite ramen style is a tonkotsu broth (aka pork broth) with long, squiggly noodles. Ramen with super tender, thinly cut slices of pork is ideal. Ramen Zundo-ya + Ippuddo served up bowls I kept slurping this year. The tsuke-men (dipped noodles!) at Ramen Setagaya were also a gem!

soup dumplings

I had my first bite (+ then hundreds more) of soup dumplings this year + I’m never going back! soup dumplings are a bit different than the typical fried pork guys. they’re little pouches of pork filled dumpling skins with a soupy interior. you have to order more than you think is enough + slurp them up. sometimes you will burn the roof of your mouth, but it’s kind of worth it. The Bao is a fun spot in NY to try these.

bibimbap

basically mixed rice, bibimbap is a Korean dish involving warm rice, veggies, protein, sauce + tons of toppings (sometimes even a raw egg!). my favorites were those served in a warm sizzling hot pot! this is comfort food, but well-rounded so you get a taste of everything in each bite. it’s also a treat because typically I don’t want to prep so many components when I’m eating for one!

smoked meat sandwiches

there’s something comforting about a good smoked meat sandwich. I think it harkens back to my childhood when my family would go to jewish delis for pastrami on rye with plenty of grainy mustard + sour pickles on the side. restauranteurs have continued to preserve this tradition. some of my favorite smoked meat can be found at Mile End, where the spirit of the classic jewish deli is alive + well.

stuffed ravioli

i’ve only attempted to make ravioli once before. it took forever. but it was so worth it, because nothing is as delicious as homemade ravioli. this is why when I see it on a menu (+ I have a gut feeling that the restaurant makes their own) i know instantly what i’m ordering. fillings-wise, simple is always better. you can’t go wrong with a simple cheese filling or even a butternut squash filling. but if we’re being completely honest, my favorite ravioli is Mo Rocca’s My Grandmother’s Ravioli.

doughnuts

they’re not going away + I’m totally ok with that. I think we’re getting bored with standard doughnut flavors (move aside chocolate glazed), because more + more bakers are experimenting with unique concepts. one of my favorites was a café au lait doughnut from Dough. and while not a doughnut per se, I finally had a cronut (do i need to include a TM after this?) this year which didn’t disappoint. even my local bakery started making cronut rip offs so, cheers to me!

mac & cheese

i’ve never been able to make a solid mac & cheese myself, which is pathetic because it’s my favorite food in the entire world. my favorite noodles this year were shells + thick macaroni tubes. as far as the cheese, a mac & cheese has to contain some sharp cheddar. mix-ins aren’t really welcome, sorry! my trick for making the boxed variety more special? add plenty of butter + olive oil to the packet of dried cheese, then add red pepper flakes, black pepper + fresh parmesan cheese. toss in a few mushrooms if you have them around.

fried chicken sandwich

this is a trend that EXPLODED + I’m sure it’s going to continue into next year. I had my first bite of chick-fil-a (boo their politics, yay to their food) plus a try at Fuku, David Chang’s creation. the best fried chicken sandwiches were spicy, were served with a killer sauce + used thigh meat for moist sandwiches. for achieving this at home, make sure to mix in spiced to either the breading OR the binder so you fry in that flavor.

frito misto

crispy. hot. battered. fritto misto is a display of the best seafood fried to perfection. it always seems to be served with a creamy dipping sauce (bonus points for a spicy dipping sauce) plus plenty of fresh lemon for squeezing overtop. the easiest way to pull this off at home is to stick to one type of seafood, whether that be squid, shrimp or even baby scallops. fry up some basil alongside for some herby crunch. 

fried artichokes

now this is comfort food that you don’t really feel guilty about afterwards. fried artichokes are crisp on the outside, but the crust gives way to tender artichoke hearts. it’s time consuming to make, especially when you are using fresh artichokes, but if you see them on a menu you have to pounce. my favorite fried artichokes are the ones at Harvest on Hudson where they serve them with shaved pecorino + arugula pesto.

lobster roll

so i did a good stint at a lobster roll company + even so, I still freaking love the stuff. i was trained well to like lobster rolls with toasted buns + plenty of lemon butter. you can easily make these for yourself at home OR just have them sent to your house. a highlight this year was trying out the roll at The Lobster Roll (AKA LUNCH). It comes with fries people!

brisket

oh man, brisket HELLO. Mighty Quinn’s came in like a shining beacon this year + I continue to compare all other BBQ briskets to theirs. you’re never really sure what’s in the sauce (plus most BBQ joints keep their formula top secret), but my favorite is smokey, slightly spicy + definitely sweet. 

crostini

I made a joke this year that I would build a crostini empire + I’m still sold on the idea, tbh. open-style sandwiches are the bomb so I continue to test recipes + order recipes that involve a shiz ton of ingredients on top of crispy bread. one of my favorites was an open faced sammy from Little Skips featuring lox, avocado, red onion + goat cheese schemer. I have plenty of crostini-like ideas to explore in the recipes archives.

croissant

I’m still waiting for croissants to be like the next doughnut/cupcake trend, but for now I’ll just enjoy some good ones + wait on it. I feel like a broken record when I shout from the rooftops that I am obsessed with Lafayette’s croissants. The croissant du jour is switched up every day, but they’re stellar. my favorite has to be the banana, chocolate + coconut one. these aren’t your supermarket croissants though, they’re crisp + endlessly flakey. 

beet salad

2015 could be the year when if there was a beet salad on a menu, I needed to order it. i really love beets, but sometimes the effort to make them soft bores me. it just takes a lot of time + I usually don’t have the patience! but it’s a good thing that most restaurants make a great beet salad. you’ll usually see beets alongside a soft cheese like goat cheese plus a whole bunch of herbs or citrus. 

pizza slice

oddly specific, yeah, but the artichoke pizza slice at the aptly named Artichoke Pizza is killer. can I say that it was my favorite slice this year? actually, yeah, because it made it even easier for me to shovel spinach + artichoke dip into my mouth. thank you.

lechon

so for those unfamiliar, lechon is roasted pork, aka. suckling pig. this is one of the best ways to enjoy pork as the skin gets incredibly crispy while the meat becomes tender + falls apart. Asia de Cuba serves a sick spread. you get a nice bowl of the roasted pork with lettuce to enjoy with a few sweet + spicy sauces. they also serve it up with plantains, black beans + fried rice.


have very happy new year's everyone! i'll see you back here in 2016!

did you like this post? be sure to share it with your friends that might be traveling in NYC!

Trend report // Fall breakfasts

 
alternative breakfast trends
 

Pancakes, bacon + eggs are sadly no longer the stars of the breakfast table. Breakfast concoctions abound on social media, as food no longer just feeds, it's supposed to be pretty too.

Food is so accessible + plentiful in the United States that we don't just eat food, we can have endless conversations about food as well.

Part of that conversation is what is "trendy" in food. I like to think of trends as a form of fusion. 

We can take something that is familiar (the croissant) and turn it into something that is also familiar (the doughnut), but apply a technique that takes an original to a new place (the Cronut). When fusion stems from a unique, not forced, perspective it can drive a new trend.

What I find curious about this list is that it is a list of fusion; where you can clearly understand what is familiar about each dish, but there's a slight twist to each. Let's dig in?

4 breakfast trends for fall

strawberries! a little gathering

Smoothie bowls

Nothing is more perplexing for me than this one, but if presented in front of me I would without a doubt have to photograph my smoothie bowl.

The smoothie bowl's base is a, you guessed it, a smoothie. The consistency can be thicker than a typical smoothie since a smoothie bowl is served in a bowl + consumed with a spoon.

While a smooth texture is recommended for a smoothie bowl, the possibilities of the layers on top of the smoothie base is half the fun. Roasted coconut, almond granola, goji berries, plump raspberries--the combinations are endless. Each ingredient is assembled on top of the bowl like a fine mosaic. 

For those looking for a smoothie bowl fix:

quinoa! a little gathering

Alternative oatmeal

Creative cooks are applying the techniques we're familiar with for oats to other ancient grains. A few popular choices I have seen around the Internet + on menus include: quinoa, wheat berries, brown rice, barley + millet.

There are recipes galore that offer up each grain, slow-cooked in warm cow or almond milk, topped with accoutrement including pumpkin seeds, brown sugar, honey + roasted bananas. 

It's the kind of comfort food your mom used to force you to eat in the morning, but now you'll happily prepare + dive into a bowl. I start to crave warm oatmeal once the leaves start to turn bright orange, so I will be testing out a few morning oatmeal alternatives this Fall.

For those wanting to dive in as well:

honey! a little gathering

Nutrient dense bars

Busy bosses need nutrition fast. When executed properly, a nutrient dense breakfast bar can do the trick. This is not your boring, dry granola bar. Nope, I am talking about beautiful layered bars. These can be time-intensive to make, but they're worth it for a nutritional + flavor punch.

A great bar can be composed in various ways. The base of most bars is typically a mixture of nuts + dried fruits. The binder for the base can range from dates to cane syrup. Sometimes bars will also have a creamy top layer or include fresh fruit too.

Combinations can go many routes, but here are some killer ones to start out with:

tomatoes! a little gathering

Eggs poached in sauce

Shakshuka or eggs in purgatory--whatever you call it no one can deny the nirvana goodness that is this dish. 

Admittedly I was always intimidated by poaching eggs + I am sure many others are too. Nothing could be easier than simmering eggs in hot tomato sauce. It's a one pan dish too!

What's better, this dish works wonder whether you are serving one or an entire football team. Just make sure you have plenty of bread available for dipping into the tomato sauce + runny yolks.

BONUS

Let's chat about avocados prepared in all sorts of ways. Toast. Smoothies. Baked with an egg. Breakfast tacos. Breakfast sandwiches. Wrapped with bacon.

I love avocados, but let's all agree that avocado toast is so overdone. So try these instead:

  • Avocado baked with an egg (yeah man!)
  • OK this is an avocado toast, but with bacon-wrapped avocado slices, cream cheese + mustard. This one is a big deal.
  • Finally, Green Kitchen Stories combines quite a few of the trends in this post with avocado. Test out this protein boosted oatmeal topped with creamy avocado, raspberries + chia seeds.

There are so many other new kids striking my interest lately + I can't wait to create variations of each of these breakfast trends for this blog. SO, I need to know--which recipe would you give a shot?

 

Trend Report // Coffee Shops

 
Coffee Shops in the USA // a little gathering
 

It might be weird to plan your trips around food, but that's what I do. It's in my DNA to be curious about a culture through cuisine + decor of a space. Hospitality, done well, can make thousands of miles away just like home.

Clearly many of cities could be on this list, but these stood at for me at the moment. Not only do their coffees + eats look great, but I can just imagine myself fitting in with the design aesthetic. Designing a killer coffee shop is not easy, or inexpensive, so when the owners put in that extra work I notice it.

1 // Denver, Colorado // Black Eye Coffee Shop 

2 // Atlanta, Georgia // West Egg Cafe

 3 // San Luis Obispo, California // Scout Coffee Co.

4 // Chicago, Illinois // Heritage Bicycles

5 // Austin, Texas // Houndstooth Coffee

This post was inspired by one of my newest Pinterest boards, To Visit. It's a growing list of my places that I want to visit if only time + money was unlimited, my loves.