September 2, 2014

Kathleen Kent's Guest Blog From Southwestern France

Kathleen Kent, former copy chief of Martha Stewart Living, shares her experiences at a food styling and photography workshop in southwestern France. Enjoy this revisit.

Last winter, while reading The Martha Blog, I came across a link to Cannelle et Vanille, the blog of Aran Goyoaga, announcing a food styling and photography workshop she was teaching in the Dordogne in September.  As a major Francophile and an aspiring food photographer, I thought this sounded like the perfect opportunity.  As I settled in on the plane to Paris, I opened up the latest issue of Whole Living and discovered to my great surprise a feature story all about Aran and her cooking.  I took it as a sign that I had made the right choice when I decided to go.  There were just eight participants, but we were a diverse group, coming from the United States, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, and Jordan, with backgrounds as varied as food blogging, wedding and interiors photography, and investment banking.  And we all quickly became friends.  We also got to spend quite a bit of time getting to know Aran and her co-organizers, Stephanie Brubacker of Stephmodo and Nadia Dole of La Porte Rouge, all three of whom are talented in so many ways.

The workshop was based in the Manoir de la Malartrie, a magnificent French manor house turned B&B.  The Manoir is located in La Roque-Gageac, classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France.   Aran guided us in cooking the foods we were to photograph, using her own gluten-free recipes.  We were mesmerized watching her work, selecting the right dish, placing the foods on the plate with care and adding garnishes just so, situating props, and then working with the light and camera angle to get the perfect shot.  She also showed us her postproduction techniques and provided valuable feedback on our photos.  Though the workshop was demanding, in such a setting it never felt like work.  And we had plenty of opportunities to explore the region.  On our first day, we visited the Jardins de Marqueyssac, a huge garden in Vézac renowned for its intricately carved boxwoods.  It provided an ideal backdrop for photographing the desserts we had prepared.  We also took a break to enjoy delicious local ice creams in such unusual flavors as daffodil and poppy flower.  Though I was unaware that daffodils—or jonquilles as they’re known in French—are edible, I loved the ice cream, which was sublime and floral.  On our second day, we picnicked and photographed in the walnut grove at the Ecomusée de la Noix, in Castelnaud, where we learned about how the region’s famous walnuts are grown and processed into walnut oil.  Geese, chickens, and a dog graced us with their presence and had us all chasing after them with our cameras.  We spent another morning at the farmers’ market in the charming town of Sarlat.  The selection varied widely, with such tempting treats as walnut tarts, foie gras, sausages of all kinds, cheeses - both pungent and mild, the freshest fruits and veggies, and crusty breads.  On the last day of the workshop, we toured the Château de Beynac, which has been featured in several films, including Ever After and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, and strolled along a nearby road that was used in the movie Chocolat. And we had lunch en plein air: quiche, creamy yogurt, salad, and chocolate.  Below are some of my photos from the classes and activities that were part of the workshop.

August 29, 2014

Touring The Seal Community Near My Home In Maine

On yesterday's blog I asked if you knew the largest and second largest islands off the east coast of America. A few of you took a shot at it, but only two - Tarp Sanderson and Rosanna - stated definitively, the correct answer: New York's Long Island and Martha's Vineyard, also known to me as "Aunt Martha's Vineyard" by my confused, little darling nephews!

One exquisite feature of the Maine coast near Bar Harbor, where I have a summer house, is the vast seal community. By the hundreds harbor seals fish, swim in the neighboring waters  and sunbathe on the warm rocky coast near my home. I love to take guests out on my boat to tour the nearby rocky outposts and islands to view these magnificent creatures. Seal Harbor really does have a population of real seals! Enjoy my seal tour in the photo gallery below and don't forget to comment!

August 28, 2014

The Final Week Of My Maine Vacation

The past two weeks of August in Maine were absolutely beautiful! My daughter, Alexis, and my two grandchildren stayed the entire month. They enjoyed the hikes, the lakes, the beaches and the mountains.  We all ate very well, enjoying foods from the local fisheries, the farmers’ markets and my garden.  We cooked, we gardened, we decorated, we hiked, we ate, and ate and ate!  We also did yoga with my longtime yoga instructor Roseanna. We entertained, we went out to Islesford Dock on Little Cranberry, we went to Havana in Bar Harbor, and we dined at friends homes. We took the boat out to see the seals and visit neighboring islands. We also worked on an upcoming shoots for Martha Stewart Living! I will be sharing more about that with you in the coming weeks and months. It was a relaxing, fun and event-filled vacation! Please enjoy a bit of what I enjoyed in my photo gallery below! And don't forget to comment - I love to read your remarks!