Originally from Brooklyn, Alison Arevalo moved to Berkeley for a change of pace. Her blog, local lemons, focuses on original, all-natural recipes. Of the recipes and ingredients she chooses, Alison says:
"I take advantage of as much local produce as I can in my recipes. I shop at farmers’ markets in Berkeley and Oakland, while making stops at Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market. Using organic, unprocessed ingredients is as important to me as shopping locally. When I was living in Brooklyn, Whole Foods or Fairway was my supermarket of choice. Now, even though I live a few blocks from one, Whole Foods is only an afterthought."
There are a few things that make her blog an absolute pleasure to read. First, those photos. Good lord. Alison has a brilliant eye for composition, color, and light and you can’t help but become enthralled with each recipe after taking a quick glimpse at each post. Second, her recipes are creative and varied. I was blown away by the 'Fast Food Makeover' series she did recently, where she took typical bad-for-us food that so many of us love and revamped them using organic and local ingredients. Who doesn't love a chicken nugget? Or how about a filet of fish sandwich? Yeah, that's what I thought. I remember when I first started blogging and I posted about how I was trying to find the identity/voice of my blog, struggling with how much personal information to include and where to draw the line. Alison wrote in, encouraging me to do what felt right—whatever I wanted. You can tell she follows her own advice. local lemons is the real deal: a genuine, likeable voice in an increasingly glutted food blogging world.
I'm not totally sure how, but Kasey's blog was one of the first local food blogs I discovered. We have similar taste in recipes and cookbooks and I often notice strange coincidences between what she covers on her blog and what I cover on my own--like how we both made Brussels sprouts the same week or fell in love with the Ad Hoc Cookbook around the same time. But, besides the no-fail recipes and clean site-layout, the concept of Kasey's blog makes this a must-read. She's paired up with her husband, Matt, who does the "Musical Pairings" portion of the site. I love thinking about food as a sensual experience--and obviously music is much the same way. So it makes perfect sense: when you think about the components of a meal, there's the food but there's also the lighting, the music, and the company you're with. So I've always loved the concept over at eating/sf, and I've discovered some great new artists by reading the blog.
No salad as a meal
Last week, my friend Anthony contacted me to ask if I'd heard about this blog, No salad as a meal. Anthony's flirting with the idea of moving to San Francisco, so he's been checking out our food scene, and apparently this was one of the first hits that came up on his Google search. Of course, I replied with a resounding yes. How could you not appreciate a blogger that doesn't fear lugging the ol' DSLR camera into dark restaurants and getting busy? There's even a post about shooting food in dark restaurants if you're interested in learning the ins and outs of setting up shop at COI. So essentially, No salad as a meal focuses mainly on detailed restaurant reviews featuring exceptional photos. The author also includes a supplementary section entitled "Entremets:" short stories in between meals. Recently one on airplane food caught my eye. This is a great site to explore when your mom's flying into town and you're drawing a blank for dinner ideas. There's a brief "NO SALAD RECOMMENDS" list with such favorites as churros at Contigo and couscous at Aziza. So all in all, it's a fun, visual feast that'll inspire you to try someplace new. The restaurant selection is tastefully culled and the posts are smartly written. What more could you ask for?
I can't say enough about 101 Cookbooks, the local food blog where Heidi Swanson writes about "the recipes that intersect my life, travels, and everyday interests." The inspiration behind the site goes a little something like this: Heidi turned around one day and realized she had over 100 cookbooks--it was time to get cooking. Most of the recipes are vegetarian and focus on natural and whole-foods ingredients. From baked doughnuts to pan-fried chickpea salad, I've whipped up some amazing meals from Heidi's site. And in addition to her growing recipe collection, 101 Cookbooks was my original inspiration to learn more about food photography. If you take a look at Heidi's blog posts or her book, Super Natural Cooking (of which she did all of the photos), you'll see why. They photos are actually quite spare without the use of a lot of fancy props, but they're absolutely stunning. She has a way of capturing the essence of each dish with the simplicity of a special bowl, the right light, and the perfect angle. When I'm struggling to think of how to photograph a certain dish for my blog, I often step back and think, what would Heidi do?