Thursday, February 23, 2012

I've written about Instagram before; it was almost a year ago, when the platform was new and you could post an image almost nobody would see. Much has happened since those days. It's become a bonafide social network, and, well, a verb.  

My buddy Ryan (Pacing the Panic Room) and I were recently asked to speak at the Blissdom Conference in Nashville about this very thing. 

Here's the description from the conference website:

Join Ryan and Jason to discuss all aspects of mobile photography, from composition and consistency to editing-on-the-fly. We’ll show you how social media can successfully bridge the gap between your formal blog posts. Because while your awesome sandwich or an “OMG check out this gorgeous dress!”-photo might not constitute a dedicated post on your site, the things you encounter on any given day are sure to be interesting to your followers.

Explore the full range of your “brand” by capturing a behind-the-scenes look at life beyond your blog. Mobile photography and social networking (using sites like TumblrFlickrFacebookTwitter and Instagram) will drive traffic to your blog and, in the process, become a separate outlet for your creativity. Share all your half-baked thoughts and stand-alone images while increasing your web-presence. Keep readers engaged and allow them to connect with you. Make mobile photography work for you.

Riveting, right? Let me know if you're attending the conference.

The last year-or-so in my life, through Instagram. Click to enlarge.

Follow, if you please: @jeffstagram, @thepanicroom, @teeejers, @sevenspoons, @timrobisonjr, @foodfaceash, @paulmichael, @nickatef, @natashagrossi, @jorydayne, @danieljosef, and @markneilbalson.

This is a REBLOG. Originally posted in January. Today I leave for Nashville!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In case you've been anxious for an update, Sofia continues to be adorable. She's at that magical 6-month mark, recently climbing onto her haunches, preparing to blast forward on her chubby little knees. For now, though (maybe for just a week or two) she won't gain any forward movement, she'll just get used to the weight on her shoulders and her new vantage point. She'll do that rocking thing that babies do, urging their little muscles and bones to propel them. Which means I can still catch a photo of her before she becomes a blur of excited travel. 

Courting the Marshalls (January 21, 2012)
Eight Weeks Later (October 14, 2011)
Baby Crazy (August 22, 2011)

Monday, February 20, 2012

I like my flavours in constant competition. Hot peppers in my chocolate. Chocolate with my popcorn. That sorta thing. So when our dear Natasha first made this pork tenderloin, she got me right where I like it. 

It's no secret that I love pork, in all its iterations. A roast or a chop, good in the summer or winter. With apples or peaches or laden with heavy aromatic herbs, pork can do me no wrong. But how about crusted with toasted cumin seeds and brown sugar and served with a cognac cream sauce with dijon mustard. How about all those flavours? Yes. Sweet, smoky, and when served with only-slightly-bitter Chinese broccoli (Kai-lan) and a roasted garlic parmesan risotto, all your flavour-desires can be met in one meal.

Cumin and Brown Sugar-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Cognac Cream Sauce
(I made twice as much as this recipe will detail.)

Olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and loosely ground
1 tablespoon crushed black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2lbs of pork tenderloin

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, spread your cumin seeds and roast at 400°F for just a couple of minutes. It'll be done when everything starts to smell like cumin. Crush along with the peppercorns, mix with brown sugar and salt and evenly press into your tenderloin. Cover and set aside to amalgamate for a while.

Sear your pork in an oven-safe pan (Do you all have pans that can go from your stovetop to your oven?) until nicely browned on all sides and then cook for 30 minutes or so (until the internal temperature is approximately 135°F) and then tent under foil. The temperature will continue to rise and the meat will remain moist. In the meantime . . .

Cognac Cream Sauce
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup cognac
2 teaspoons grainy dijon

Whisk together these ingredients. Combine and boil until reduced by half. Add the pan juices from the pork and serve over the meat.


Roasted Garlic and Parmesan Risotto
2 large heads garlic, whole and unpeeled
Approximately 4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups arborio rice
2 cups dry white wine
Maldon salt
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, leaves picked
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup freshly grated parmesan

Risotto has a reputation for being difficult. It's not. It's just time-consuming and requires constant attention. Like, literally, you can't leave the stove for a full half-hour. So stretch your stirring arm before you get to it.

Hack the top off your whole garlic, douse in salt and olive oil, and in a covered pan roast at 400° for an hour or so until super-soft. Set aside to cool a little. When you can handle it, squeeze out the soft, sweet garlic and, with a fork, mash into an even paste. Set aside. 

In a sauce pan, set your chicken broth to an almost-boil. The key to risotto is cooking the rice with hot liquid. 

Soften your shallots and minced garlic cloves in a large, oiled heavy-bottomed skillet. When they are just translucent, jack your heat to high and dump in the rice. Continually stirring, allow the rice to get hot and fry for a minute or so. Add the wine and lower the heat (to medium-high), continually stirring, and allow the alcohol to burn off. It'll smell super.

When the liquid absorbs, add your first ladle of hot stock. Keep stirring and allow to incorporate. Pinch of salt. Toss in your fresh thyme leaves and your roasted garlic. Stir. (This seems like a boatload of garlic, but remember: it's sweet from the roasting, so it doesn't have any of that usual garlic burn.)

Continue to add hot stock, stir, and allow to cook away. The goal is to add stock, stir, and cook at a rate that the rice is done by the time you run out of hot stock. TIP: If you run out of stock but your rice still tastes a bit firm, go ahead and add a bit of hot water and allow to cook a little longer. No biggie. 

When your rice is 99% done (TIP: Your rice should be 99% cooked, but still kinda wet, so don't allow the last bit of liquid to fully absorb) pull from the heat and loosely stir in the butter and parmesan. Cover your pan and allow to sit for 5 minutes. It'll get super creamy and delicious. Serve right away.

I dig fruity Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand's Marlborough region, so tend to try them all when they make their way into our liquor store. Tonight we had two bottles (T.J. was here!) - The first was Mount Riley (LCBO, $16.95) which was a bit -- green. Flavours that hinted at an unripe banana. Not altogether unpleasant, but not sure I'd buy it again. We then moved onto Alpine Valley (LCBO, $14.95), bright and crisp, but felt a bit too summery with no earthy notes to keep it winter-appropriate.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

So often, when you work in an artistic field, you need to create work for yourself. Not only to make a living, but to stay inspired and connected to why you want to do it. This is something I need to remind myself of a lot. I hope to do more creative work this year, put myself out there to collaborate with others and just keep my head in it. My friend Paul (a designer, screen printer and all-around creative brain) is trying to do the same, giving himself projects in his basement workshop. Soon, right here, you'll see some of his handiwork.

Heather Buchanan, an artist out of Alberta, has directed herself to paint A Portrait a Day, and puts it perfectly here: 

I love painting.
But I paint slowly, sloppily, sloth-like. 
I want to learn to leave brushstrokes, to paint with a sense of immediacy, to quash my tendency to overwork my paintings. 
If you want to be talented at something, you’ve got to work hard and put in the hours of practice. So I’m documenting this to see just how much better I can get by painting one portrait a day for a year.

I'm very honoured to be part of this project and salute Heather for setting this goal and committing to invest in her own creativity. Please check out the ones she's completed so far, and keep an eye on her progress this year. 

No Doubt (January 13, 2012)
More Inspiration (May 30, 2010)
White Culture (April 11, 2008)

ONE MORE THING:Tweet about this on a fairly regular basis, but have never mentioned it here. Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) gave a TEDTalk a while back on the subject of creativity. It's a fascinating watch, and I highly recommend taking a few minutes with it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

This work/play adventure to New York has been . . . mostly play. Jeff and I (with our lovely host, Kelly) have, for the most part, been eating, drinking and singing the first 3 bars of every Whitney Houston song ever recorded. In terms of Fashion Week, I've been laying pretty low.

I did, however, get a bit of work done on Sunday morning. I shot the Jeremy Laing show for Toronto Life, both backstage and out front at the lovely Metropolitan Pavilion. Jeremy is a Canadian designer and something of a wunderkind at home. His stuff is always textural and layered, making you want to get in there and touch it. His collection was muted, where colour's concerned, but all big shapes and exaggerated proportions. This go-round the clothes were more mature and moneyed, elegant without losing any of his trademark flounce. And it's always fun to be in a room full of Canadians in the middle of Manhattan.

Visit Toronto Life to see runway shots of the entire collection, and even more behind-the-scenes.