Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Not Your Momma's Take-Out Menu

Recently, Dana Harrison (an uber talented designer and all 'round swell gal) and I collaborated on a take-out menu for Frida Restaurant. Our challenge was to create a menu that stood out from the piles of typical take-out menus that we so often find taking up space in our mailboxes. We needed to create something simple and eye-catching that would instantly have you running for the phone. 

I asked Dana about her inspiration for this project, and how she pulled all the elements together. This is what she had to say:
     "My inspiration for the menu came from Frida Kahlo's life and work. I decided to take the opportunity to watch the movie Frida (2002) again and found that the art, animation and colour in the film were amazing. The colourful culture and food of Mexico that Chef Jose and Steve have brought into Frida Restaurant, as well as one of the plates we sourced for the photography (shown in the guacamole shot) were also places I drew my inspiration from. Reena and I worked closely to style the images so that they would showcase the family-style nature of the items on the menu. I love Reena's 'deconstructed' way of styling food and wanted to feature one of these on the cover of the menu. The 'before and after' taco shot just makes you feel like running in and grabbing that last one before someone else does! The way she lights everything to create a really intimate, comforting, homey feel inspired the idea to shoot everything from above. That way the images would have the feeling of being laid out on a table, passed around and enjoyed. We wanted to create a menu that really communicated that this is restaurant quality food made with fresh ingredients, the same as you'd enjoy during a night out at Frida Restaurant."

Creatively, the biggest challenge I faced with this job was shooting a take-out menu for a fine-dining restaurant, without making it feel like an entirely different place. The most important elements we used to tie the two faces of Frida together, were colour and plating. We started with colour, which, for me, is essential in setting a tone and conveying mood through photography. We paired Frida's existing colour palette of vibrant oranges and punchy blues with a casual wood surface and mismatched dishware, creating images that felt warm, friendly and inviting without straying too far from the restaurant's fine-dining roots. Most importantly, we wanted the food plated in a more rustic manner but didn't want to lose Chef Jose's artful touch. 

As with most of my photography, I'm always itching to tell a story, no matter how simple it may be. I wanted these photographs to draw people in and make them feel like they could pull up a chair and be a part of the meal. For me, when food tells a story, it instantly becomes more inviting and more appetizing. The more inviting a photograph can be, the more people will want to be a part of what you have created. In this case... the more people that want to pull up a chair to these tables, the more take-out orders for Frida, right?

When I asked Dana what her favorite part of the project was she simply said "drawing the sketch of Frida for the cover...and eating the food at the shoot."

Thanks to Steve and Jose for trusting in our vision of your food and for letting us tell your take-out story.

Friday, August 5, 2011

An Epiphany in Burgers

It's moment's away from the weekend and I'm sure many of you are already psyching yourselves up for the drive to cottage country along good ol' highway 11. Well friends, that drive just got a little juicer and a little more burger-y.

As a child, Webers was always a sign that we were finally getting close to the lake. Webers Burgers is a staple and a tradition for the zillions of cottage goers that flock to the water every summer. With constant lineups, 50-100 people deep, I've never quite understood the draw. Admittedly a bit of a burger snob (but not in a foie gras kind of way.. just a home-made with love kind of way), I've never really understood the appeal of flavorless pre-frozen tasting patties.

Well my friends, I present to you my latest discovery: Burger Pit! Zac and I have been driving past this place for years. Every time we zoom past, we talk about stopping in for a burger. The giant mom-and-pop-vintage-American-style-burger-shoppe-sign advertising charbroiled burgers has been beckoning us to pull over. How come we never stopped before? The Burger Pit is just down the road from the cottage institution, Webers. Chalk it up to crowd-mentality, but we just figured that Webers was better. And sadly, Webers isn't really all that good. Last weekend, we decided to break free from the flock and let that awesome sign lead us. This was not a mistake. The Burger Pit serves up simple, juicy, homemade, perfectly charred patties. My drive to the cottage had been forever changed. Now instead of yelling out WEEEEEEBERS as we hit the three quarter mark to the cottage, I'll be yelling our BUUUUUUURGER PIIIIIIIIT!

The address is listed as 5 Booth Street, but it's right on Highway 11 between Oro-Medonte Line 10 and Line 11, just south of Orillia. Trust me, it's good. Go to there.