I always say this but it’s so true: the best thing about blogging is the friends you make over the internet. Back in April I had the chance to hang out with some of those friends in the Twin Cities. After meeting Abby from Heart of a Baker in person back in October, we talked about trying to go to one of the Pinch of Yum Food Photography Workshops together. Well that opportunity presented itself when they announced their spring classes and we were both free to attend their first (slightly more advanced) workshop focused on style and branding at the beginning of April. We were both ridiculously excited, texting each other frantically as we ordered our tickets in the first second possible so they wouldn’t sell out before we got to them.
The great thing about the workshop being in the Twin Cities is that it’s kind of a weird hub for food bloggers, so a handful of our other internet friends would be in the area and we could hang out with all of them. (I was doing so many happy dances about this trip – who ever thought I’d be so stoked to go to Minneapolis?) Amanda from Heartbeet Kitchen was kind enough to host Abby and me for two nights, and we were able to attend her special blogger event at Madewell the night we arrived. (This was a dream come true because half of my text messages with Abby are about Madewell sales.) We tasted Amanda’s snacks and tried on all of the rompers, but unfortunately none of them fit us.
We spent our last night with my other friend Abby, one of the Pinch of Yum employees I met back in November at the BlogHer Food Conference, and the dog she was dog-sitting at the time. He was my snuggle buddy that night since I was staying in the bed he sleeps in, which made me miss my own dog. Abby is responsible for a lot of the gorgeous photos of the workshop itself on the Pinch of Yum site. She’s so talented with the camera.
Aside from those two lovely ladies, we hung with Stephanie from Girl Versus Dough (whom I had also met in Chicago), and I was able to meet Melissa from The Fauxmartha and Sarah from The Vanilla Bean Blog. These meetings are so surreal for me because I used to read these ladies’ blogs before I started my own, and they were (and continue to be) a huge inspiration for my work. Also, when you meet internet friends IRL, it’s crazy how quickly you feel comfortable with one another. These are MY PEOPLE. We can just hop from one food place to another, chatting about blogging, photography, the business side of things, how to balance everything that goes into it, and just life in general. It felt good to get to know each other a little better. I even got to spend some time in The Fauxhouse! Melissa’s house is a true masterpiece, and her daughter is the cutest. When I buy a house at some point in my life I’d love to hire her for her impeccable design skills.
Clearly I had a fantastic time and I’m lucky to know these ladies. I’ll go a little more in depth now about the workshop itself, plus give you a rundown of everything I ate in the Twin Cities, broken down for Minneapolis and Saint Paul separately:
THE PINCH OF YUM TASTY FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE + BRAND WORKSHOP
Back in January of 2015 I released my husband Robert from his duties as the photographer for this blog and jumped head-first into doing it myself. I could not be happier with that decision because I’m enjoying the photography and photo editing for this blog so much these days. After a year of finding my footing, I was in a place where I needed to take the next step. It seemed like a workshop would be the perfect place to do that. I felt the need to be in the same room with other people as they were photographing so I could ask questions and see how they were lighting things or styling the food, etc.
I’ve been a fan of the Pinch of Yum blog for a long time, so once again it was kind of surreal to hang out with Lindsay in their gorgeous new studio and sit down at a table with her to talk about styling and the merits of Photoshop vs. Lightroom. This is what I needed! Lindsay is a former schoolteacher, so she was a natural when it came to teaching the workshop.
This particular workshop was for people who are already comfortable shooting in manual mode with their DSLRs, so we were focusing more on the styling and branding of our photography. It was great to have the chance to talk in depth about what all goes into “styling” a photo, and then go straight into putting those ideas into action by playing around with food and taking photos in the gorgeous natural light of the studio. There’s something to be said about having dedicated time like that to “play,” where you’re not stressed about getting that perfect Pinterest shot for your blog post. You can try something you wouldn’t normally do in a time crunch and play with new props and backgrounds that might be out of your comfort zone.
What I took away from this workshop was a greater understanding of the technical aspects of getting the shot I’m after, plus I learned more about Lightroom and some new editing techniques. Lindsay helped us to figure out what our photography voice is or what we want it to be. This part was crucial for me – It kind of reinstated what I already knew about my photography (at least deep down in me somewhere), but it gave me the permission to embrace it and run with it so I can hopefully continue to refine and perfect it.
So this workshop was absolutely a good investment for me at the point I’m at in my photography journey. I now feel more comfortable going forward with my styling and have a greater understanding of the message I’m trying to send with my blog and how I can relate that to you, the reader, through my photos. Oh, and the food was fantastic, so that didn’t hurt either.
Speaking of which, the illustration for this post is of the cupcake I had at the end of the workshop from The Copper Hen in Minneapolis. It was soooooo good, and I can’t resist the opportunity to illustrate a cupcake.
Now onto the food:
WHERE I ATE IN MINNEAPOLIS
What I drank: The El Diablo cocktail (Agavales Tequila Blanco, ginger syrup, lime juice, creme de cassis) and the 5 Foot Assasin cocktail (Tequila blanco, lemon, Aperol, Cocchi di Torino, cinnamon syrup, Ancho Reyes, Fig Cacao bitters)
What I ate: Pork and sweet potato arepas (roasted sweet potato, slow-roasted pork, tomato, citrus onions, green onion aioli) served with yucca fries – I asked for both side sauces per Melissa’s recommendation: the aioli verde and chimichurri sauce. Everyone also shared some chips with guacamole and salsa.
THOUGHTS: I went here with Abby, Amanda, Melissa, Stephanie, Sarah and Shaina. It’s a favorite of many of those ladies’, and I trust their opinions (plus I love Mexican food), so this restaurant was a must-visit. The meal was a highlight of the trip, both because it was fun to have that group of bloggers together for a twinkly cocktail-filled dinner AND because the food was exceptional. It was my first time eating arepas and it was basically life-changing. Thank the lord that Lindsay has reverse-engineered the recipe for what I ordered. I already have the special cornmeal in my possession to make these arepas, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. It’s high on my to-do list. If I make it back to Minneapolis I won’t hesitate to visit this place again.
What I drank: Stamps Fizz (barreled gin, egg white, orange crema, lemon, simple syrup, soda)
THOUGHTS: Amanda took me and Abby to this distillery because of our shared love for well-crafted cocktails. I was thoroughly impressed by the space itself – gorgeous natural light spilling in from all angles, with leather couches and industrial details. We came here right after our workshop ended that day, and I was so inspired that I ran back out to the car to get my DSLR and started snapping photos. Our drinks were fantastic and we had a great time there just chatting and having our own little happy hour. I’d love to go back one day.
What I drank: iced miele latte (with honey and cinnamon)
THOUGHTS: Melissa from The Fauxmartha was at the workshop for the second day with us and invited Abby and me back to her place afterwards to hang out for a bit. (She’s so nice and her house is lovely.) On our way she took us to this coffee shop because it’s one of her favorites. I was a huge fan of the decor inside because blue and yellow is one of my favorite color combinations, but my iced honey and cinnamon latte was also wonderful. I took a sip of Abby’s black coffee in the car and it had great flavor. I’m not normally a black coffee drinker but I could probably get down with theirs. If The Fauxmartha recommends it, you know it’s going to be good.
What I ate: Yum Yum Rice Bowl with Crispy Marinated Tofu (steamed rice, soft cooked egg, peanuts, crunches, secret sauce, charred squash, shiitake, Chinese broccoli)
THOUGHTS: Abby and I went here with the other Abby on our last evening in Minneapolis. I love to hit up places like this when I’m visiting a larger city because I don’t have much like this in my neck of the woods in Central PA. I think I was really craving a hearty bowl like this when we went, so it was the perfect dinner. The guy behind the counter was very patient with me and helpful as I figured out what to order. Sometimes I can be really indecisive. I ended up loving what I ordered, and it was a great spot for Abby as well because they have a lot of vegan options. (She eats mostly vegan.)
What I ate: Riding Dirty ice cream (oreo milk with oreo chunks and salted peanut butter) + Black ice cream (vegan chocolate) + Milkjam sauce (a dulce de leche kind of sauce)
THOUGHTS: This ice cream shop was one of the places on my list I was hoping to visit while in The Twin Cities. Thankfully it was right next door to World Street Kitchen, so the two Abbys and I hopped over there after our dinner to get some dessert. Pro tip: if you want a small portion but want to try multiple flavors, they offer “half scoops,” which are really whole scoops, in my opinion. I had half scoops of my two flavors and the portion was very generous. We had to wait in a line that went down the sidewalk, but it was worth it. This stuff is excellent. Melissa is such a huge fan that she recently posted a recipe for her interpretation of the “black” flavor, one of her favorites. It’s vegan (made with coconut milk), and I can’t wait to give it a try at home sometime.
What I drank: Easy Greens (kale, cucumber, apple, lime)
THOUGHTS: On our last morning in Minneapolis, Abby and I did a little mini food tour before heading to the airport and this was our first stop. It felt right after all of the indulging we had been doing to start our morning with a green juice. This place was very small, more of a pop-in shop with a counter and a nice little window bar. The green juice was great, and I wish I could have tried more like their spicy cacao cashew milk. Next time!
What I ate: the Bombshell (spicy Mexican chocolate with cayenne pecans)
THOUGHTS: After our green juice it was time to turn the tables and eat donuts. This donut shop had been high on our list both because of their positive reviews and because they serve vegan donuts. It took me FOREVER to decide which one I wanted, but I was super happy with my decision once I made it. I don’t always go for spicy things, but I love Mexican chocolate flavored items and the spicy pecans on this one offered a really nice contrast to the sweetness of the rest of the donut. Definitely go here with a friend and an empty stomach so you can try different kinds because they all sound amazing.
What I drank: Mocha Valrhona
THOUGHTS: After donuts it was time for coffee. Whenever I visit larger cities I try to find those specialty coffee shops because I love a good espresso beverage and my town is seriously lacking in them. Minneapolis has quite a few and this is one of the most popular ones. My mocha was excellent and it had me buzzing for the next several hours until I got home later that day. The vibe in this place was very warm with lots of wood touches and green plants, plus the obvious hipsters with their laptops.
What I ate: hash brown rancheros with chorizo (hashbrowns topped with eggs, black beans and poblano sour cream with a side of cabbage salsa)
THOUGHTS: We ended our morning food crawl here so we could get an actual meal in our bodies before heading to our respective homes. (I think we planned our food stops perfectly … we’re really good at this.) Huevos rancheros is one of my favorite breakfast foods of all time, and I loved the addition of hash browns to this one. The chorizo option brought this closer to perfection for me, and then I got extra avocado since Abby gave me hers. So good! They have lots of vegan and gluten free options here, which made it another great choice for Abby. This felt like the kind of hippie cafe you might find in Venice Beach, California or something. It really hit the spot for us.
WHERE I ATE IN SAINT PAUL
What I drank: Iced Vermont (cold press with maple syrup) with milk
What I ate: Nutella raspberry croisant (from Colossal)
THOUGHTS: Amanda took us here our first morning before we headed to the workshop. The iced coffee I had was out-of-this-world good (which reminds me I should start adding maple syrup to my iced coffee), and the croissant I had was soooo delicious. It changed the way Amanda feels about fruit with chocolate. (Nutella + raspberry really is a killer combo.) The space had tall ceilings with big windows, and there was a coziness in there thanks to wooden furniture and exposed brick. This would be the perfect spot for doing some coffee shop work on a chilly winter day.
What I drank: The Partridge (Cedar Ridge pear brandy, poached pear white balsamic shrub, Norseman vapor gin, toasted rosemary)
What we ate: Commodore Fries (russets, rosemary, toasted Parmesan, garlic mayo)
THOUGHTS: The Commodore used to be a fancy hotel back in the day, and apparently F. Scott Fitzgerald spent a lot of time there. Amanda took us here for drinks and appetizers before dinner because it’s another one of her favorites. It was very cozy inside with mirrored walls lined with liquor bottles and comfy chairs. If you look real hard you can almost see back in time and picture the girls in flapper dresses and bob haircuts sipping on cocktails at the bar. My drink was extremely strong (and delicious), but I remember enough to know that the fries were excellent and I left feeling very happy.
What I drank: Irish Diaspora (Irish whiskey, house ginger, house ginger-lemongrass liqueur, angostura bitters)
What I ate: spring rolls (shrimp, pork, organic greens, herbs, vermicelli) + shiitake mushroom ravioli (house made mushroom ravioli, tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, creamy “Red Dragon” cheese sauce)
THOUGHTS: We came here for our official dinner after The Commodore. This restaurant was also very cozy and I think there was live music? (I was still feeling that cocktail from earlier.) Their drink list was extensive with winners like the one I got with homemade ginger-lemongrass liqueur. My mushroom ravioli was one of the most delicious and interesting things I ate over the whole weekend. That “Red Dragon” cheese sauce was unlike anything I’d had before. The main thing I remember about this meal is just having a wonderful time with Abby and Amanda, eating good food and enjoying each other’s company. THE BEST.
So there you have it – That’s everything I ate in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. If you want to know more details about my experience with the POY workshop, feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to chat more about it. And if you’ve ever been to another food photography workshop and had a good experience, please let me know. I’ve got my eyes on the ones offered by Hugh and Sara of Sprouted Kitchen, as well as the ones Betty Liu has been doing. They’re seriously so much fun and a great learning experience.
Illustration at top created with Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations (plus other products with my work on them) are available in my Society6 shop.