April Recap

Can you believe May is finally here!? I am so excited because I've been anxiously awaiting our trip down to Sanibel where I'm going to do a couple restaurant shoots and spend the rest of the time relaxing on the beach with Mike, my Mom and my camera. 

I went into April thinking it would be a blog-focused month. I didn't have a ton of outside work lined up and I wanted to slow down and focus on Up Close & Tasty. But, before I knew it, work was coming in left and right. I was meeting with new clients and more outside shoots were scheduled. So, although this month wasn't as blog-focused like I planned, some exciting things have been going on.  

Here's what I've been up to this month:

Forager Brewery, Rochester, MN
...because my sweet little hometown now has breweries!

Zucchini Noodles with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Goat Cheese
...because sometimes eliminating carbs can be really delicious. 

ZZest, Rochester, MN 
...because their menu is unique and inventive and they're also located in my sweet little hometown.

Watermelon Water
...because this recipe gives water the extra love it deserves.

Fish Tacos with Mango Cucumber Salsa
...because fish tacos means summer! And, I shared some camera advice that all budding photographers should read. 

Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year
I'm going to be sharing the results from the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year awards in a special post this week. Stay tuned!

Edible Chicago
I also want to share that I recently partnered up with Edible ChicagoStandard Market and 3rd Coast PR to shoot Standard Market's newest cheese cave and the process of what goes into making and aging award-winning cheeses. It was a blast to be a part of this. The feature is being published in the Spring issue of Edible Chicago and comes out this week! I'll be sharing more on this very soon. This project was especially exciting for me since I've been wanting to work with Edible Chicago and Standard Market for a long time... and well, I love cheese. You can subscribe to receive seasonal issues of Edible Chicago here.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram to get some sneak peeks into our Sanibel trip this month. I am testing out the Olympus Pen F for our trip and who knows, it may just become my new travel camera. I'll definitely let you know how it goes. 

Thank you for sticking around to support Up Close & Tasty! See you next month!

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Posted on May 2, 2016 .

Fish Tacos with Mango Cucumber Salsa

A girl named Alex emailed me recently asking about the camera I use, whether it's high-end and if the investment is worth it. I love getting questions like these because I love to talk about photography and I want to help budding photographers with their questions. I remember when I was first starting out and getting answers that made sense wasn't always easy. The internet is full of information and opinions, but it's hard to filter through it all. Overall, it really boils down to what's best for you. 

It's important to realize that there are two sides to photography. There's the technical side (your camera) and there's the creative side (your vision). Your camera is simply a tool to help you execute your vision, so at the end of the day, it's not about what kind of camera you have... it's about how you see and capture the world around you. It seemed fitting to post my Fish Taco Recipe while talking about this. Some foods are simply more challenging to shoot. Tacos are one of those foods for me. It took a few frustrating shoots before I felt like I got it right for the blog. My plating and styling was just off. And, although I have a great camera to work with, my vision wasn't there. Without vision, it makes it incredibly hard to execute a shoot successfully. It ended up coming together, but it was a classic example of why I emphasize the importance of developing your vision.

So, now what? What kind of camera should you start with? 

My advice is if you really want to learn photography, and you want to upgrade from your smartphone, start with a beginner level DSLR. Buy a book specific to your camera model, so you can learn how to really use it. If you're just going to leave the camera on Auto, you're basically carrying around a much larger, heavier smartphone. Don't invest until you're ready to experiment and explore how your camera can help you. I started with the Nikon D3100 (it's no longer available, but it's comparable to the D3300). I also bought two books to get me going: Nikon D3100 From Snapshots to Great Shots and Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling

Today, I currently shoot with the Nikon D7100 and I recently rented the Nikon D750 from from borrowlenses.com since I'm researching my next camera upgrade. 

So, how do you know when it's time to upgrade? I like to tell people once you are comfortable shooting in Manual mode, you will discover the limitations of your beginner model and you will have a much better understanding of what to look for in your next camera. Do you need a model with better ISO capabilities? Do you want to shoot video? Do you want to shoot full frame? As you grow into yourself as a photographer you will be better informed to make the best decision for yourself and the type of photography you want to do. Until then, there's no reason to break the bank. 

Invest in your vision first and take the time to practice, practice, practice. Photography is an investment no matter what level you are, but if you really love it, it's totally worth it!  And, by the way, the tacos were delicious. 

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Watermelon Water

Do you ever find plain old water to be kind of boring? It's refreshing and hydrating, but it simply lacks in flavor making it more of an effort for me sometimes. 

Last year, when I went to Xoco to photograph Chef Rick Bayless making his Champurrado for Lucky Peach Magazine, they introduced me to Watermelon Water to keep me hydrated during the shoot. It was so delicious and I haven't been able to forget about it.

With the weather being so beautiful lately, I would normally infuse water with lemons or cucumbers to have on hand, but I decided to take an extra step and make Watermelon Water instead. I found several recipes online and they're all very similar using watermelon and water as the main ingredients. You can add a touch of sugar as well, but the key flavors for me was adding lime juice and using mint for garnish.

It tastes like spring is finally here.

You'll have to let me know what you think! 

View / Print recipe

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.


My Mom is a frequent bridge player. She plays with her friends who she refers to as her "bridge bitches." Whenever they're done with their game, if one of them isn't cooking, they will try out different spots in Rochester and she'll tell me all about it. When she told me about ZZest, I knew I had to feature them on my blog. She described the menu as inventive and different from what she has seen before... I was immediately inspired and intrigued. Growing up in Rochester, Minnesota was great and I wouldn't change a thing... but, every time I come home from Chicago to visit, I am always so excited about how far my sweet, little hometown has come. 

The very first thing I noticed about ZZest was that they have an open kitchen! I'm a sucker for an open kitchen. I love being able to sit and watch the magic unfold. Although the space is intimate, they do a great job of dividing up the seating areas so it feels like there's plenty of room to sit. You can sit in the bar area to the left or you can sit in the open kitchen area to the right. Joining the two areas in the back is a specialty cheese counter, which is how this place originally got started. I like this visual connection into their history - it almost feels like the 'hub' of the restaurant. You can read more about their impressive story here.

In order of appearance, the food I shot was their Sea Scallops with a cinnamon crust, popcorn puree, n'duja sausage and orange, their House Pulled Mozzarella with lamb sausage, hazelnut pickled salsify and turkish curry vinaigrette and their Parsnip Cheesecake with strawberry, mint, yuzu lemon and kiwi. Is your mouth watering yet? 

You can see more of their menus here. Be sure to scroll down where you can select from cheese & charcuterie, lunch, dinner, brunch, dessert, the bar and party platters. Pizza is coming soon! 

Whether you're living in or visiting Rochester, make a point to check this place out. I'm looking very forward to coming back this summer where I'm going to sit on their outdoor patio with a 'build your own' cheese board and glass of wine... or two. 

ZZest Team and LeeAnn, thank you so much for having me - I can't wait to come back! Cheers!

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Zucchini Noodles with a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

In one month, Mike, my Mom and I leave for Sanibel Island. It's a focus for me these days since April has started off to be much colder than March here in the Midwest. Sanibel is one of those beautiful places that transitions you from day-to-day life to beach life the second you cross over the causeway. 

It's one of my favorite places to explore and take pictures too. You can check out some of my travel photography of Sanibel in my Etsy Shop (Regan Baroni Photo) and see a couple of my personal favorites here, here and here.

I have shoots planned while we're down there as well as some much needed relaxing time on the beach. In an attempt to get "swimsuit-ready," I recently made zucchini noodles to ease off the carbs. I quickly realized that I don't make zucchini noodles enough. They are delicious and there are so many easy recipes out there! Do you have a favorite?

The first time I made them was in 2014 when I bought my Spiral Vegetable Cutter from Bed Bath & Beyond. You can see my first Zucchini Noodles with Shrimp recipe here. This time, I wanted to try a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce with the noodles. I loved it!

An easy way to get roasted red peppers (besides buying them in the grocery store) is to place them on top of an open flame on your stove top burner, or your grill, and turn them every minute or so until you get a nice dark char on the skin. Place the charred peppers in a bowl, tightly sealed with saran wrap and let them sit and steam in the bowl for 30-40 minutes. This helps the skin loosen and peel off easily.

I had to make the recipe twice for my shoot because I accidentally drowned the zucchini noodles with the sauce the first time. Although it tasted good, I think a little sauce goes a long way... not just for the camera, but for my taste preference. A lot of sauce will create more of a sloppy look and an overly watery texture to taste. My advice is to slowly add the sauce to your liking and reserve some for adding to individual servings later. 

You'll have to let me know what you think!

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.