Mazzola's

A couple of weeks ago, Mike and I took a road trip out to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I had photo shoots out there and we decided to stay a few extra days to enjoy the mountains together. I never used to like to travel for work in my advertising days. I wasn't seeing much more than a conference room and glimpses of the city as I sat in a cab back to the airport. As a professional food photographer, travel is now one of my favorite parts of the job. I'm going to share more about our trip in another post, but first I really wanted to do a feature on Mazzola's, a delicious Italian restaurant right in the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs.

Mazzola's is a part of Rex's Family of Restaurants and has been around since 1970. Mike and I decided to stop in for a drink the night before my photo shoot so I could say hello and scout out the space and light. We weren't planning to stay for dinner, but... we did. The sights and smells of delicious food "made us stay." 

Located at 9th and Lincoln, the red awning and windows are very welcoming. As you walk in, you immediately head downstairs to the restaurant and are greeted by a very friendly staff of people. There are windows and warm lights throughout the space to give it a cozy and fun dinner spot ambiance. 

The bar is on the right and straight ahead are several hightop tables and additional booths that lead you to an open dining area in the back. Whatever your seating preference is, they have an option for you. As usual, Mike and I bellied up to the bar. We love the social aspect of being able to talk to the people who work there so we can get local tips on things to do and see while we're in town.

Chef Ricky's menu has something for everyone whether you're on a date night or out with your family and kids. The food is nothing less than phenomenal and they take Italian dining to a very creative level. The food "sneak peeks" from my photo shoot (in order of appearance) include: Lamb Bolognese, Chicken Piccata, Verde PizzaSicilian Mussels, Minestrone and Lobster Scampi

Is your mouth watering yet? You can see more of their menu here. Mike and I split the Bruschetta Pizza which was so fresh and tasty. However, I have big plans for myself and that Lobster Scampi next time we're in town. 

Whether you're living nearby or visiting Steamboat Springs, I highly recommend checking out Mazzola's. They have happy hour in the bar everyday from 5-6, so at least stop in for a drink like Mike and I did. You'll probably end up staying for dinner too.

Cheers!

Thanks for inviting me for the photo shoot, Mazzola's team! We can't wait to come back! 

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Are you enjoying the summer as much as I am? Despite the muggy weather we've recently had in the Midwest, one of my favorite things about summer is harvesting the goodies from our garden. We planted a lot of our usual stuff like rosemary, sage, basil and chives as well as a variety of peppers and lettuce. We also planted tomatillos for the first time and the husks have started to form. I actually didn't realize that the husks form first. When I saw one over the weekend and reached out to touch it, it felt like it could collapse in my fingers since the tomatillo itself hasn't grown into it yet.

Gardens remind me that there's a process behind most things. If you think about it, nothing is where it is today without a lot of patience, love and hard work. Sometimes when we think we want something and then realize how much work is actually involved with achieving it, it can be easy to give up or not finish what we started.

When I helped prepare our first garden with Mike, he did most of the work. I loved the idea of a garden, but didn't love all the steps involved. In the beginning, I simply wasn't sold on it since we were within walking distance of a grocery store and we had farmer's markets nearby every Saturday. But, I'll never forget the first time I needed a pepper for a recipe and how cool it was to walk out into the backyard to get it. The work involved with not only starting, but maintaining a garden, all felt worth it. I've been hooked ever since. It just goes to show if you stick through the growing pains that come with anything new, whether it's a new idea, goal or dream,  it can really pay off. It just takes some time.

In anticipation of harvesting our tomatillos next month, I decided to make Mike's Roasted Tomatillo Salsa this weekend. It tastes great with chips and tacos. It also gave me another excuse to use our Vitamix which has been a lot of fun for me. I love making soups, salsas and sauces with it. Everything gets mixed to your desired texture. Earlier this summer, I also made a Tomatillo Gazpacho with it. It was delicious, but after roasting the tomatillos for the salsa and loving the bold flavors, I may try roasting the tomatillos with the gazpacho recipe too.

What are some of your favorite tomatillo recipes? I'll need some more ideas when we harvest our first batch next month!

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Disclosure: This post was in collaboration with Vitamix. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep Up Close & Tasty up and running.

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Dairy-Free Frosty

I'm back! After having photo shoots out in Colorado, Michigan and Chicago, it feels good to be home so I can catch up with Up Close & Tasty. I have some fun posts coming up that will share what I've been up to the last couple of weeks. In the meantime, and in the midst of these high temps and gross mugginess, I wanted to share this really easy, cool down recipe that I discovered on the Healthy Recipe Ecstasy blog. 

Remember Frosty's from Wendy's? They were a staple of of my childhood. Whenever we'd go there, I'd order the same thing: a single burger and a frosty. As I've grown up, my tolerance for dairy has "lessened," so when I saw a dairy-free version of the Wendy's frosty, it quite literally made my day. 

This recipe comes together super easily and I didn't alter Michelle's recipe at all because she perfected it! I used my Vitamix to blend the three ingredients you'll need: So Delicious dairy free coconut milk vanilla ice cream, cocoa powder and almond milk. Think about it... in less than 5 minutes, you can go back to being a kid again. If dairy isn't your thing, definitely give this recipe a try.

Be sure to stay tuned for extra posts next week when I'll share more about our time out in Colorado, a restaurant shoot that took place in a basement and a Michigan brewery who's celebrating their one year anniversary. 

Happy Friday!
xo

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Disclosure: This post was in collaboration with Vitamix and they provided me with the Vitamix S55. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep Up Close & Tasty up and running.

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Sesame and Soy Watermelon Poke

It's no secret that I'm obsessed with seafood, so this recipe may come as a surprise to some of you. When I saw the Sesame and Soy Watermelon Poke recipe in Bon Appétit magazine, I wanted to give it a shot. But, why would anyone even consider replacing delicious ahi tuna with watermelon? 

A little over a year ago, I got pretty sick from eating sushi. I used to order it a lot, which Mike would say is "a complete understatement." But, ever since I got sick, I have eliminated raw fish... with exception to oysters, because I simply can't give up oysters. So, although it just seems wrong to avoid tuna poke, I figured I was a good candidate to try the watermelon version. 

One concern I had about this recipe was what the texture of the watermelon would taste like. Good ahi tuna is deliciously smooth and practically melts in your mouth, so I wasn't sure what to expect. The watermelon needs to chill for about 4 hours (or up to 12 hours) in the sauce. Then, you need to separate the watermelon from the sauce using a slotted spoon so you can cook the watermelon separately until it's slightly caramelized. This helps achieve a very similar texture that you would expect from tuna. I was really impressed and so was Mike. The garnish of scallions and cilantro pull everything together. 

This recipe came at the perfect time too, because it gave me a chance to try out my new Vitamix S55 from their personal blender series. The sauce is nothing less than magical and comes together super quickly! I can't get over how powerful it is... There are individual power settings that you can control and there are also four pre-programmed settings to take the guess work out of blending certain ingredients. I'm pretty much obsessed with my new Vitamix and needless to say, Mike is thrilled that we have one now. 

Give this recipe a try. Raw seafood eater or not, I swear you won't be disappointed. Bon Appétit knows what they're doing. 

Mike and I are going to be traveling to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for a couple weeks. I have a photo shoot out there and we're planning to take some extra time to explore and enjoy the mountains together. We haven't been out there in the summer since before we got married, so I'm feeling incredibly excited and so very lucky to be able to combine my work with my play. I'll be back in touch with updates and more tasty recipes soon!

Cheers!

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Disclosure: This post was in collaboration with Vitamix and they provided me with the Vitamix S55. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep Up Close & Tasty up and running.

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

June Recap

It's hard to believe we're already half way through 2016. My monthly recaps are really starting to sneak up on me, but as I take time to look back, I can definitely say it was a good month and a very good first half of the year. 

Over the last month, I tried something a little different. I started including a photography tip within each recipe post. Some may see it as "sharing secrets," but I don't see it that way. There are two parts to photography: the technical side and the creative side. There's nothing secretive about the technical side and learning how to use your camera. There are endless resources available to help you if you're willing to take the time to learn and practice.

The creative side, however, is the side that isn't as black and white. This side, much like the technical side, evolves with time and practice, but is more of an independent adventure. It's not that it's secret, but it comes from within yourself. If you put three photographers in a room with an apple on a table and tell them to take a picture of it, you will get three different images. How you see the world around you is a very personal thing and isn't something you can necessarily learn in a book. This is when it's so important to surround yourself with inspiration, ask questions, collaborate and as always, keep on practicing. 

Let's look back on the recipes - click the recipe name to read the full post.

Tomatillo Gazpacho
This soup recipe is perfect for summer and comes together in under 15 minutes. I also shared a tip on taking those ever-so-popular overhead food shots. 

Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes
After three failed attempts at making these little bundt cakes, I shared two rules to successful baking; as well as a tip on how to step away from your camera to be a part of the scene when you're shooting by yourself. 

Pesto Pasta Salad with Tomatoes & Fresh Mozzarella
I needed to spend less time in the kitchen and more time behind the camera and this recipe helped me do that because it comes together oh-so-fast! I also shared a tip on shutter speed and how to avoid camera shake. 

Greek Yogurt with Blueberry & Blackberry Sauce
After my blender broke, I had to get a little creative with my morning "smoothies" and discovered this super easy recipe - no blender required. I also shared a tip on getting that "dreamy" background that we all know and love in photography. 

The Lobster Roll
This recipe was a lot of fun to do at home. I talked about my Dad and also shared a tip on simplifying the photo shoot when you're in a creative rut. 

Strawberry Ruhbarb Pie
This flavor combination takes me back to being a kid again and was really easy to throw together. I recently collaborated with Old World Kitchen and shared their gorgeous Artisan Coffee Scoop Set as well as a tip on making your images more interesting.

I am going to be traveling to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for a photo shoot at the end of this week. I am so excited to get out there during the summer months since we're usually out there in the winter. Mike is coming with me and we're making a little vacation out of it. We're driving and I'm bringing a fancy pants camera, so stay tuned for updates and as always, thank you for sticking around to see what's going on with Up Close & Tasty! 

xo

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.