Photogra-foodie

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Iv been taking photos for a while now, I actually started my love of photography with Macro / floral photography and its still something I love doing.
In the past while however…..iv been investing into a new kind of passion, Food Photography!

(photo cred: Anna Chesalina)

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Iv written here before that it wont take you long from the time you meet me till you get to realize that im a foodie….I love trying out new places and I dont mean just the fancy ones, I really enjoy finding the ‘hole in the wall’
So as a photographer, when the opportunity of doing a professional shoot for a restaurant came, I jumped at it!

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Many of you have seen YouTube clips of how photographers stage shots by making plastic versions of their food or doing insane things to take photos of them in a way they wouldn’t look naturally. Well ill tell you a thing or two about that…..
1. Sometimes its unavoidable….We shoot using lights that get quite warm, taking photos of ice cream can prove to be difficult (not impossible, just very difficult)
2. Restaurants and businesses here in Oman generally can’t afford that.

So now that’s out of the way, I absolutely hate faking shots……My idea of food photography is that it should show the food in its best way, not its unnaturally perfect form! so until now I haven’t had the need to hire a food stylist, rather…I work with the chef’s to bring the dishes out in the best way they should look. (here is a shot of me during the shoot and of the shot I took, photo cred: Anna Chesalina)
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One of the fun things that I love about food photography is that you have to be precise….and hungry.
Im not kidding! you end up looking at food in a really different way when you are hungry so I try to skip a meal before my shoots.
Downside….you starve while being confronted with great smells and beautifully plated food
Upside……you get to eat it when you are done!!

Yes….. that’s the question I mostly get when I say that I do food photography…..although I must confess, I usually shoot up-to 15 dishes a shoot so I do bring along friends for ‘support’.

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Here is one thing that iv noticed though…..restaurateurs don’t really understand the business of new media, they don’t get that a good photo can make a customer come to you no matter where you are.
Most restaurants say that they can’t afford a food photographer or that they are fine with their phone-camera photos for social media.
To those who could identify with the above, do this….check the instagram account of a café called ‘passion café’…..these guys have brilliant photos and have create a buzz well before they opened just because of those photos!! (and no I didn’t take those beautiful shots).
Similarly….check out restaurants that have one dish highlighted with a professional photo in a menu, ull notice that particular dish selling more (The people who told me that wish to remain anonymous).

My last bit to add about that just happened last week.
We were at a restaurant that I had done the photography for (Anar at the Wave Muscat) and I had the photos on my phone. When my friends were looking at the menu and were confused, I pulled out my phone…that was the last time I saw the phone before all orders were done. Actually, the waiters noticed this so when new people joined our party (it was a birthday,so it was a whole bunch of people) the waiters just referred them to my phone! (which was just being passed around)

Food plays not only with your taste buds, but with your sight…..there are many studies done in the field of psychology that showed the huge difference in opinions in the perceived taste when the same dish was presented differently (don’t worry, I wont get all nerdy on you).

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So next time you see a great photo of a dish in a menu, take a moment to appreciate that you, and particularly the way you like to look at beautiful food made someone’s job possible 🙂

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A Latin affair

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Well….Where do I start?
When I got invited to have a meal at the newly opened Rumba Lattina at the cave complex, I brought just a macro lens expecting your average food review….

But when I got there I was so shocked! Instantly I regretted not bringing the rest of my kit to take photos of the place….

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My first experience was so amazing that I had to come back and take more photos and eat there again! which got me thinking, how do I cram my two experiences??

Ill start off with the place itself, when you head to the cave restaurant you see your reception and your typical just put chairs and a table kinda restaurant …but then you go down and you see an almost hidden place with a fancy looking door….open that door and you wont think you are in Oman anymore!! think i’m kidding?? look at the photos and see for yourself!

Your first view is the main bar (which doesn’t have its license yet…after ramadan i’m told) and the pool tables. Honestly, I don’t usually associate a pool table with a trendy up-class place, but here it really works in with the feel of the place. I was in Argentina last year and the music / decor / pool table really fits in…..its not just the decoration, its the vibe!

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The long bar is very impressive, the details and colors are outstanding, the decorations are all authentic and brought from Latin America which is why I felt so nostalgic!

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The Mayan lounge is lattina’s version of a VIP lounge, and its very impressive and offers a nice secluded privacy accompanied with a nice blend of Latin music.
gentlemen….if you mess up, this is the perfect place to make up for it!

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finally…..The dining area, its the authentic Latin way….its as simple as that, if you have been to Latin America you would see a version of this and feel like you are there! (that pic is nicked from their fb page)

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Getting impressed? There’s more!

The main bar is the station of a very impressive man….johnny!

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Johnny is a dedicated bartender who even has a tattoo “the bartender” on his arm! and he does not mess around when it comes to making a VERY impressive mocktail…well actually he loves having fun doing it as he juggles the bottles and his hat, throw in an apple or two….

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Johnny and his creations are one of the reasons why you will be seeing me here VERY often.

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Now for the food! its just as impressive as everything else!

We had two very unique horderves, a cheese stuffed date which as strange as it sounds I absolutely loved! if it was a regular dish on the menu I would have it every time!

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The second was tapioca chips and sauce (a root like thing)….again, this is something that I picture myself having with a drink and watching a game or chatting with friends over

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As I mentioned before, I was in Argentina last year, the food there is addictive! I don’t mind the ‘Latin’ places here but they are mostly Americanized versions of real Latin food…..so when I saw Empenada’s on the menu I was very happy! its what I use to have everyday in Argentina!

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They looked, tasted and felt like i was really back in La Boca with my Antarctic team chowing them down while we share photos and laugh about the crazy things we did….nostalgia overload!

they were so good that the next time I went I ordered them again!

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The Temale’s were very nice as well! the presentation was very impressive and if you have never had one before, this is a good place to start.

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The first meal we had was the chocolate chicken…..I didn’t taste the chocolate but my partner did. while I liked it, she didn’t….its one of those dishes that you either love or hate…..I loved it 🙂

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The next was the double cooked beef….while it didn’t look the part, it tasted absolutely amazing! iv also had this dish while I was in Argentina (even though it isn’t actually Argentinian) and actually…..this one tasted richer than the one I had there!

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The third dish was a Latin style schnitzel…..and that had a very unique flavor! i really liked the tangy bit mixed with the crispiness! chicken lovers would galoooore for this!

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My friend had the burger, and when it came out we both looked in wonder as that thing was as big as his face! it smelled absolutely amazing and he looked like he enjoyed it…actually he looked like he was on some kind of burger drug….at that point I was too full to try the burger so I guess its my next order 😉

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Now that’s it for the mains, but I was told about how the Argentinian grill is THE thing to come for….that it is by far the BEST steak in town (and this is coming from an impossible person to please when it comes to steak)….for now i’m building up the steak craving till I head to Lattina again!

For desert, the carrot cake was very nice but the flan was what got to me! to be honest I was hoping to see Churoz on the menu but hey….you really cant complain with your options!

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Seeming that the best time I had was in Argentina, this place feels like its where im supposed to hang out! everything is authentic….the chef is from the region and so are his staff, the ingredients too! and the vibe….that’s the best thing that the staff brought with them.

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A Turkish Getaway

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I absolutely love my job….so for those who know me, it wont be a surprise that Iv always cashed in my holidays…..This time I needed to take this because well….I cant cash it in anymore! So my family and I decided we would look for a new place to see…..and the dart fell on turkey!

Now half of Oman has been visiting this place since the advent of the new Turkish shows that have been showing up this side of the world, so we thought we wont go to the usual cities like Istanbul!

Our plane took off and I got worried to start with…..the people started rushing and crowding with no respect to ques or priority. …..but that faded away the second I saw turkey!  From the air its such a gorgeous place!
After 2 flights and no sleep at all, we got to Antalya, and it looked so green and mountainous…..my kind of place! I saw the glimmer of so many solar panels.

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The hotel is a really cool concept,  sea life resort provides its guests with everything free of charge!  Food drinks, ice cream…..you name it, its yours! And the view is just stunning!

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We went to the mall next as we just had a short time before we all were going to crash from the lack of sleep…but I woke up when I got there…..Barney Stinson would feel like he is in heaven! Suites are just gorgeous and very cheap! The quality is top notch too!! In a non related topic….I now have a suit pyjama and a suit swimming outfit.

Not much done apart from a walk later to see the city but the adventure is yet to begin…..we will follow the trail of waterfalls tomorrow and 4×4 through forest and water terrains the day after! Ill try to fit in an hour for jumping off the side of a mountain strapped to a kite at some point 🙂

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A Second Glance

After spending some time in Turkey, I have to say……I have mixed feelings about the place.

It has great potential and some really great places but there are things that completely ruined it for me; for one….im absolutely sick of haggling over everything! including the food prices at restaurants!

secondly, while we did have some good times at the adventure trips, some of them were complete scams….a 4×4 trip pictured bashing through waters and going up some mountains in interesting terrain……we got a 1628 suzuki that the 4×4 didn’t work and the places we went to were the guide’s cousins house and his grandmas restaurant which they asked us in every stop to pay for something or the other…….

It’s really the first time I decided, im not that interested in coming back……

Non the less! The place had some amazing things to offer……..for a photographer like me, the waterfalls there make you want to stay the whole day around them!

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Of course, you can’t forget Turkish coffee and the old Islamic architecture that has been made into shops! and the greek / roman ruins!

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While the 4×4 trip was a total scam, our happy silly family wasted no time in just joking around and having fun! the view was great at 2 of the spots!

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And you cant forget the food……If I were to ever come back here, I would make it a point to invest all my time having the clotted cream and natural honey for breakfast!

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If all else fails, then just relax in the woods on the mountain, get up there in a telefreak (and don’t forget the selfie) or enjoy a gorgeous sunset!

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Discovering Everest……In Oman

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How adventurous are you when it comes to food? would you try anything from most places? Well I would… The more local or exotic the dish is, the more I would like to try it!

There’s a hidden gem in Muscat that iv been going to for a while now and every time I bring someone there they keep questioning and wondering where im taking them….but after they try the food they always come back! The Everest cafe is a small and hidden cafe in Hamriya which serves my favorite dish….Momo’s …a Nepalese dumpling like dish which is completely different from anything you would have tried.

Why is it such a hidden gem? well for one…..it’s in an ally way in Hamriya….right by where the Al Fair was….you literally have to go through an ally in between buildings to find it, and for me…that’s part of the charm!

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Once you find your way in ull see a small few seater shop….I like to go upstairs, its roomier and mostly no one goes there 🙂

This is what the upstairs looks like 🙂

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I’m sure you are thinking after all these photos, why?  well simple….because it has my favorite meal in Oman…..I actually leave work sometimes, get stuck in traffic on the Hamriya rush hour which takes me an hour or so to get to Everest cafe to just eat and go back home!

Ull see a simple menu, with many different dishes, im going to discover a few more out of this place for the next time I blog about it, but for now…Ill just show you the one thing everyone comes here for….Momo’s

Momo’s are a dumpling like dish native to nepal, usually steamed or fried and served with a sesame sauce and a spicy chili sauce….your choice of filling, vegetable or chicken! my favorite is the chicken.

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They are served with a soup, more like broth…which i like to just add a spoon of to the momo’s to add that extra flavor.

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The beauty of Momo’s are in the sauce…..the sesame sauce adds a very unique flavor which iv not tasted before and its not spicy for those who don’t like spicy food 😛 …….The chili sauce however……well that’s going to blow a hole in your mouth (still an amazing sauce which I can never get enough of!)

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The vegetable Momo’s are brilliant as well, actually the first time I had them, I didn’t even think they were vegetarian…..they are very filling too!

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My usual order would include the steamed chicken Momo’s and another dish……Chili Momo’s

Don’t let the name scare you, they aren’t actually that spicy….iv had people who don’t eat much spicy food enjoy them 🙂 the sauce of the chili Momo’s is what makes them very unique, theyr fried so they have that extra crunch to them as well!

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There you go, ull find me there a lot….so if you want to get there, you can find the place on foursquare (iv added it there)……its in the building after HSBC in the main hamriya road…before cleopatra (the phone shop) where the old Al Fair use to be….just got to the HSBC building and its in the ally way behind the main shops 🙂

Or you can just take me for a meal there 😛

An experience with Alfredo Russo

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Im a foodie…..iv always loved everything to do with food! cooking it, watching people cook or going out for a meal! so when I heard that chef Alfredo Russo is coming to town I jumped up and calculated my salary to book my experience!

A good evening for me is enjoying a nicely cooked meal with good friends and I do love going to the fine dining establishments every once in a while….but fine dining and experiencing meals from a Michelin star rated chef are two different things!  When I wrote the first draft of this blog I thought….nah I cant publish it, I feel like I might have enjoyed this too much! but when I talked to the people who I went with, I heard the same words.

Chef Russo got it down to a science, each bite was a real experience on its own as each flavor mixed….see what I mean when I said that it felt like I was going mad?

We arrived at the Husn hotel at Shangrila…a place I haven’t been to yet and entered Sultana which I will go to again for sure!

overlooking the rest of the resort with a beautiful glass wall and an even nicer balcony….it was the perfect spot for chef Alfredo to show off his magnificent food.

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Lets start with the …well….starters 😛

The veal wrapped tuna was so refreshing and unique in taste….the tuna was so smooth and it mixed perfectly with the sauce and the veal! a very unique blend of flavors which I didn’t think should mix but it was a perfect match! it was matched by the royal service…..all the waiters came at the same time! a whole bunch of them! they all served the dishes like it was orchestrated… but you know….pictures speak louder than words!

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Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised! then the next dish came and it was as if Alfredo Russo knew my taste! it was a beautiful polenta, a north Italian dish that is crispy from the outside and soft on the inside, which was laid on a bed of mushrooms and a delicious sauce……i smelled the cheese before the dish arrived!

Cheese, mushrooms, crispy outside and soft inside……how can you go wrong?! well you cant and each plate was polished off as we all got some bread and didn’t waste a bit of the sauce!

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The next dish was the most unique in my opinion…..it was a zucchini lasagna with Parmesan cheese but oh wow how much flavor can be brought out from a zucchini!!! it wasn’t your typical lasagna and the hints of Parmesan cheese just complement everything, that sauce was just the perfect amount to not overpower the other flavors and give enough attention to the cheese and zucchini!

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Has anyone ever asked you: if you had only one dish that you are allowed to eat forever….what would it be?

well my answer came in the next dish; a roasted lamb shoulder with pink peppers and potato cream!

By far the best thing I have ever tasted in my life……the top of the lamb was so crispy and nice but as you dig through it falls apart….it melts in your mouth!

the cream was just the best sauce for the lamb so I was confused….I loved the lamb alone and I loved it with the sauce…I never ended up making my mind!

I have a thing where I look for the best part of a meal (the best mix of pepperoni and sauce on a pizza for example) and leave it for the last bite so I can keep that best bite for last……with this dish I couldn’t….it was all just perfect!!

At this point…..I would realistically pay 100 riyals just to have this dish again…..im not uber rich so ill have to live off instant noodles for the rest of the month but it will be worth it!

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Chef Russo couldn’t have hit the spot more if he had asked me for my favorite tastes before hand….but you know…there was dessert too!! A chocolate millefeuille with mint……now im not a huge fan of chocolate but this was nice, a good blend of chocolate and mint and that bit of ice cream in the middle was just right! chocolate lovers, this will be your heaven!

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The chef came to us at the end of the meal and he got the applause of a performer on stage! I wouldn’t have expected less!!

By far, this was the best dining experience iv had and ill be looking forward of seeing what the shangrila will bring next!

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A Ridiculously Romantic Dinner At Shangrila

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You know……I really wouldn’t have thought that a traditional Arab country like Oman would be a seriously ridiculously romantic country?? But you know what…..it really is!!

Don’t take my word for it, I went to the Shangrila hotel for their full moon dinner event…..It was one of the highlights of this year for me!!!

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We got there and we immediately were impressed by the beautiful lighting and setting… everything was just a wow factor…..we even had a table right in front of the band!!!

The service was really good, waiters came straight away and full of smiles! we even had a few interesting conversations with the staff there who were into photography!

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And then the band started setting the mood for the ridiculously romantic evening! soft jazz and some great vocals, many people couldn’t resist taking off their shoes and slow dancing on the sand under the full moon! ….want a little hint? next time they do this take a few moments away and step out behind the bar….you can hear the beach and the jazz and you will really feel like you are in some sort of movie!

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The food and drinks are what you would expect out of shangrila, nice and fresh but the my favorite by far was the steak with the mushroom sauce!! The deserts were really nice too!

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Oh and the waiters don’t skimp out on drinks……they keep coming to refill!

When the moon came out again it was just an amazing view…….food, jazz, a full moon….

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After the dinner we decided to go for a walk by the beach, it was a little humid but the slight breeze was nice 🙂

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I have to confess, I don’t usually go to the Shangrila because I often think that its too far, but after the full moon dinner, ill be making it a tradition to go there once every month on the full moon!

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