Prop Shopping for Special Fork

Sunday was like Christmas, as Steve and I went prop shopping in the East Bay for Special Fork. Shooting at least two food photos a week, we needed to augment my personal collection of dinnerware with fresh props. Fortunately for the budget, instead of buying place settings, we only required one each of any given thing.

I admit I’m no prop stylist or food stylist, but I’ve worked with many top professionals to produce mouthwatering food photography for clients. So I’ve learned a thing or two that I can apply to Special Fork photos.

We went to Sur la Table, the Seattle-based cookware store that has several San Francisco Bay Area branches, the Crate & Barrel outlet in Berkeley and the Ikea store in Emeryville. And we came home with shopping bags stuffed with goodies.

We purchased a range of placemats so we can have a variety of surfaces to shoot on – colors, textures and materials from slick plastic to textured woven reeds; and mats ranging from subdued, nubby beige cotton to magenta woven straw. We bought squat glasses for wine, since the bowl of tall stemmed glasses are always out of frame when photographed with a dinner plate, only their stems showing.

We found a few new plates in shapes and colors we didn’t have. Plates are a little tricky to buy. Full-size dinner plates are usually too big and food on it looks lost. Luncheon-size plates are best, but they are hard to find. Also, while a plate with a pattern gives it some style and flair, too much design detracts from the food. So it’s hard to find that middle ground.

I’m pretty pleased with the new stash of props we have to work with. You’ll see them in the Special Fork photos to come.

Bonus: While I was at Sur la Table, I found the cookbook, Gifts Cooks Love by Diane Morgan, published by Sur la Table and enthusiastically endorsed by @smithbites on Twitter. It was on special for $14.99 from its original $25 so of course, I scooped it up.

All in all, it was a productive Sunday afternoon. Now to make the food look good in the new props, I’m taking cues from Lori Powell, a veteran food stylist and former food director of major national magazines, including Real Simple and Ladies’ Home Journal. Currently food director of Prevention magazine, Lori blogs for Special Fork on Wednesdays.

So what’s for dinner after an exhausting afternoon of shopping? Did you know that Ikea offers recipe cards in the food department of the store to help you turn their groceries into meals?

Here’s an open-faced sandwich, Ikea style, that will do for dinner in a pinch, when you have no time to cook.

Flatbread Shrimp Sandwich
Makes 4 sandwiches
2 soft flatbreads
7 ounces bay shrimp
2 hard-boiled eggs
Lettuce leaves (optional)

Cut the bread into halves and spread with butter. Top with a lettuce leave (optional). Slice the eggs and distribute on the slices of bread with dollops of mayonnaise in the middle. Spread the shrimp over the mayonnaise, garnish with lemon slices and dill – Ikea Food Recipe Card

Variations: From a trip to Copenhagen in my 20s, I have always loved open-faced sandwiches. It’s easy to make a plateful of different combinations. Start with rye or dark pumpernickel – something thin and dense – and butter liberally. Top with veggies such as thinly sliced cucumber , lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes, pickled beets, onion rings and thinly sliced radishes, along with proteins like pickled herring, roast beef, pate, smoked salmon, roast pork , hard-cooked eggs, smoked fish, cold cuts or cheese. Garnish with such herbs as chopped chives, dill sprigs or lemon slices as appropriate to the flavors of the sandwich. And call it Sunday supper.

Special Fork bloggers blog Monday through Friday. For more recipes and ideas on your smartphone, check us out at Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @specialforksndy.

Posted: Mar 27th by Sandy_Hu