Sunday, November 30, 2014

3 tips I learned on food photography from Milano Torino

“Too many good restaurants put up bad photos”, Dario Milano, our instructor, food stylist and photographer says to us at a food photography class I attended on Saturday morning at his newly opened restaurant, Milano Torino in Rosebery, NSW. That’s true. I know when I’ve done ‘not too bad a job’ at my food photography when my readers leave comments on my Instagram posts like “Your pics make my tummy rumble” (Instagram: @mattng) or one follower recently left a comment that left me glowing, “Your photos look sooo delicious that I literally want to take a bite out of my phone every time I see one (Instagram: @matthewjphotos)”.

Dario Milano, with his Northern Italian background and a chef has a new creative concept of food photography. Dario conducted his food photography classes in his new restaurant just opened in Rosebery to share not only his love for food photography but also his love of his food straight from the kitchen of his establishment. I attended Dario’s class as I wanted to refine my food photography skills to ensure consistency. I find restaurants that are not well lit the most difficult locations for good food photography. That’s probably why some photography posted on social media don’t do justice to some good restaurants. This is something that I definitely have room to improve on. After attending Dario’s classes, I also learnt new tips on taking photos during daylight.

Located on the busy Epsom Road in Rosebery, Milano Turino is both a restaurant and a studio for food photography. As you walk in, you will notice it is a well lit open plan space, with the kitchen area to the right and the bar and dining area to the left. You can also see well manicured gardens at the back from the entrance with a fish pond containing carps that are also ‘foodies’ as they will follow you as you stroll up and down the pond. By the windowsill facing south near the kitchen space is a rustic table set up along with vintage and antique homeware utensils that can be used as props to beautifully display and style the food we were to photograph. Dario sources these props for food styling all over the place around the world from flea markets and antique stores. Using good props for food styling always adds a little bit more character to the food, letting you imagine the setting in which you are dining in.

3 tips I learnt to create exceptional food photography include:

#1 Good lighting is everything. The food should be positioned by a window sill facing south to create soft even light that’s not harsh.

#2 If you are in a restaurant in the evening that is not well lit, use a spot light to create the equivalent of natural light. Don’t shine the spot light directly on the food otherwise you will have one side that is bright and another side with shadows. Try and find a wall (preferable white) where the spot light can bounce the flash light onto the food, creating softer lighting.

#3 Carry a grey card (which you can get from camera stores) so you know where mid grey is to ensure your whitebalance of your photos are correct.

It pays to get your photos right the first time and minimise post photo processing time. Food photography should be appetising and make your stomach grumble the second you glance at it, shouting out “eat me”. It is also a lot more rewarding where you have posted a photo you have taken rather than regramming someone else’s photo (with appropriate credit of course). Your followers will appreciate you for it. This will shine through in the number of people who are engaged with your posts.

Dario Milano, Photographer & Food Stylist
0411 566 264

Milano Torino
2/33 Epsom Road
Rosebery NSW


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bastille French Dining | Sydney

Bastille restaurant under new management offers a simple, yet elegant and modern French style fine dining experience in the heart of Sydney’s Inner West. Even if you don’t live near Drummond, you should try and visit this restaurant at least once. Ideal for a first date, a small group of 3 or 4 get together or a quiet night with a loved one, Bastille offers modern haute cuisine cooked using traditional French techniques and an exhibition of creative flair thanks to Head Chef Kay’s beautiful art of plating.

The décor in this establishment is understated with a soothing grey-green scheme. We were seated at a dressed table against a backdrop of tall windows. There was a small bar area opposite to where we were sitting. We were given a glass of champagne which sets the mood whilst you contemplate entrées. The setting is elegant, with a slight air of formality, but not intimidating allowing you to relax and go with the flow. There is even a chauffeur service for diners if they live within a 10 minute radius from the establishment.

I am greeted by Head Chef Kay following a busy period on a Saturday evening which generally is around 6.30pm to 9.30pm. Chef Kay tells me he has been trained only in French traditional cooking techniques for many years and Bastille, being under new management for only two months, brings a fresh, elegant and modern experience to French dining with Australian hospitality. You won’t find escargot or beef tartare in Bastille’s menu…some of you are probably thinking ‘phew’ with a sigh of relief, mainly because the Australian palette is not really accustomed to these types of dishes. Chef Kay wanted the menu to comprise only 5 mains, 6 entrées and 3 desserts so that each dish is prepared consistently and to high quality standard. With a small dining menu, you can rest assured that any dish you order is handled with confidence, delicious and with beautiful artistry on the plates in which you are served. You will pause a second to admire the beauty on your plate before the aroma of freshly made French cuisine hits your nose, signalling to your stomach to look to no further and to lunge into your’s time to eat.

The wine list is of a calibre to match the food and includes a high quality selection of wines and cocktails. I generally have a preference over French wine as the taste is subtle, dry and woody. I had the 'Fat Bastard' Pinot Noir 2013 from Languedoc, France.

As we were sipping our champagne, we browsed through the entrées and chose Sydney Rock Oysters with lemon, mignoette sauce and 3 Scallops each with iceberg, cauliflower puree, finger lime, almond emulsion ($16). Like good seafood, there is no other way to have it other than ‘fresh’, which these were. The marshmallow sized scallops were fresh and soft which were served on top of a celery slice. When eaten, they were cool and refreshing, ensuring you devour each piece in your mouth. It’s the perfect palate cleanser. The oysters were delicious with the lemon mignonette sauce.

Entres: Scallops each with iceberg, cauliflower puree, finger lime, almond emulsion
The main dishes present broader flavours. Though dish descriptions run long, you’d be hard pushed to find a flavour out of place in the impressively executed French dishes. When you ask Chef Kay what his favourite pick would be from the menu, it would be the swordfish without hesitation. Chef Kay told me that the meat of a swordfish allowed him the versatility to embellish the dish with his own unique sauces. The saffron infused tomato sauce added a beautiful tang to the swordfish meat.

Mains: Swordfish with scallop tortellini, capsicum, crushed potato, white fungi, saffron infused tomato
I had the swordfish which came with scallop tortellini, capsicum, crushed potato, white fungi, saffron infused tomato ($32). It is rare to see swordfish on any menu in a restaurant probably because it is such a large fish. Swordfish is meaty and dense. It has a similar texture to a snapper. We also had the Smoked Duck Breast with white chocolate, king brown mushroom, pear and pea cream ($36) which I believe took centre stage. The texture of the duck meat with wonderfully tender, infused with a delicious sweet - savoury juices.

Mains: Smoked Duck Breast with white chocolate, king brown mushroom, pear and pea cream
Though you may be quite full after entrées and mains, it would be hard to say ‘non’ to Blood Orange Cake with pistachio sauce, vanilla ice cream, mango sorbet, cherry sorbet ($16) and the Meringue chocolate brioche, strawberry sauce, pineapple sphere, raspberry crisp $16. Beautifully presented plate of fine desserts. The Blood Orange Cake had a delightful hint of a popping candy which you can hear go 'pop' in our mouth, in a similar way to the sound of effervescence in drinks.

Dessert: Meringue chocolate brioche, strawberry sauce, pineapple sphere, raspberry crisp
Bastille offers an accomplished range of flavours and textures of traditional French cuisine. The beautiful artistry of each plate is simply astounding. Thumbs up from me, go and try it!

Dessert: Blood Orange Cake with pistachio sauce, vanilla ice cream, mango sorbet, cherry sorbet

Location: 105 Victoria Road, Drummoyne
Contact: 02 9819 7713

Bastille Dining & Terrace on Urbanspoon