Plum Pie from Mom

"If you can read, you can cook."  --My Mom

I always love it when my mom (Carol) visits us from Minnesota. She and I talk daily and I love hearing about her most recent adventures in the kitchen. Earlier in the week, she mentioned she would be bringing some fresh plums from her friend Terry's Toka Plum trees in southern Minnesota. When she arrived for a visit this weekend, we made a plum pie. 

My Mom is an amazing cook and pies are one of her many specialties. I had never tasted a plum pie before and, trust me, this is one for the books. The flavors are tart, but balanced with a subtle floral sweetness. The aromas in the kitchen were incredible too. It felt like I was cozying up to fall, my favorite season. 

In her recipe, she used a Vietnamese Cinnamon from Penzey's that really intensified the flavors. You can use regular ground cinnamon, but I highly recommend the Vietnamese variation since I could definitely taste the difference. Wheaties is another ingredient that my Mom has always used as her "secret ingredient" when she bakes a fruit pie. It's completely fool proof for making sure the bottom of the crust doesn't get too soggy from all the juices. After you've added the crust to the pie pan, simply sprinkle just enough Wheaties to cover the bottom before adding the fruit. No one will know they're there. It's pretty clever. 

Now another week is in front of me and my Mom has headed back to Minnesota. Weekends feel far too short, especially when she visits. Both Mike and I are very excited to visit her at the end of September and can't wait to see what new recipes she'll spoil us with... There's truly nothing better than a home cooked meal from Mom. 


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All Images © Regan Baroni 2015.

Stix & Stones


I know my posts have been few and far between the last couple of weeks. I've found myself wishing there were more hours in the day and yet relieved that there are not. It's busy times like these that challenge my ability to find a balance with everything, but it's also when I remember how important it is to take a step back and be happy with what I've accomplished. Sometimes I think we tend to focus on the few things we didn't do, and forget about the 15 other things we were able to check off the list.

As busy as things are, I am really excited about the next couple of months... photography is really picking up and I promise Up Close & Tasty will have more for you soon. In the midst of shoots, I'm also redesigning my portfolio, and I'll be eager to share it with you when it goes live. 

All this being said, I really wanted to show a sneak peek from a recent shoot I had with a new restaurant that I'm head over heels for. Stix & Stones, located in Burr Ridge, IL is a rustic-chic spot with a very casual and authentic vibe. When you walk in, you're greeted with their open kitchen that has a giant wood-fired oven used to cook all of their pizzas and sandwiches. It smells amazing. They make their dough and mozzarella from scratch everyday and have fridges full of gorgeous, fresh produce. From a variety of pizzas and sandwiches to several beautifully crafted salads, you really can't go wrong here.

Mike and I are heading there this week as a way to break up the week-night routine and practice the art of "calling it a day."  I hope you'll remember to take the time to reward yourself for all the hard work you're doing whether it's for your career, your family or following your dreams... 

So much more to come - stay tuned!

Pizzas in order from top to bottom:
Sausage and Broccolini with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, evoo
Speck and Egg Pizza with mascarpone, fresh mozzarella, speck, farm fresh egg, sea salt, arugula, evoo
Margherita Pizza with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, evoo

All Images © Regan Baroni 2015.

Grilled Shishito Peppers

I still remember the first time I tried grilled shishito peppers. Mike and I were living in an apartment in the Ukrainian village neighborhood of Chicago with a very small, shared backyard. We had just enough room for a small garden along the fence line, which happened to be my first real gardening experience. When we went to a local garden nursery, neither of us had heard of the shishito plants for sale there, but since we were limited on garden space, we thought we'd give them a try. 

If you start your garden in mid-May, they will probably be ready around August. They can have a kick to them - not as strong as jalapeño, but stronger than a poblano. They look really shriveled up with lots of curvy grooves. Some even twist into odd shapes. Once you try one, it's hard not to go back for more... just like your favorite bag of chips, but way healthier.

All you do to prepare the shishitos is toss them in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes, if you'd like a little extra kick. Throw them on a high heat grill for a couple minutes per side (using tongs to turn them), about 4-5 minutes total. That's it. 

Mike and I had a hard time finding shishitos to plant in our garden earlier this year, so we actually ordered them from Amazon. The plants came fully intact and we recently gathered our first bounty from our garden this weekend. Since it's later in the year, you can also find harvested shishitos at Trader Joes or your local market. 


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All Images © Regan Baroni 2015.

Secret Garden Tasting with Chef Charles Webb


Hats off to Chef Charles Webb...

When C Louise Public Relations invited me to shoot at the Secret Garden Tasting in the Goldcoast neighborhood of Chicago, I was thrilled. Chef Charles is a private chef from Chicago and is well known for his worldly travels that compliment his wide range of culinary flavors and expertise. The tasting was inspired by his most recent trip to Brazil and each bite had a unique sweet, spicy and savory element to it. I hadn't tasted flavors quite like this before. His food is not only delicious, the presentation is carefully thought through and absolutely beautiful. 

The event was held in the garden of a private home at 1442 North Astor street. It's not everyday that I get to hang out in a home that's selling for six million dollars... the details were inviting and gorgeous. It's safe to say that it's a hidden gem right in the heart of Chicago. 

One of my favorite aspects of the night was that we were free to explore or hang out in the large open kitchen and watch the magic happen. I'm a sucker for an open kitchen. Nathaniel Glossen and Amber James were the sous chefs helping Chef Charles throughout the evening, and they were so welcoming and sweet when we had questions. They were also incredibly patient if we wanted to get "one more photo" of the plated dish before it was served. DJ Madrid kept us all energized with his music and overall, it was a really fun gathering of old and new friends. 

The list of food included:

Grilled Palmito, Catalan Romesco, micro thyme
Catupiry, goiabada, black truffle honey
Linguiça de frango, pimienta bequinho
Frango, pequi crema, sal de salvia

Cachaça braised oxtail, garbanzo puree
Grilled swordfish, fava vovò, cupaçu gel

Filet Mignon, faroffa de oro, chimichurri
Amazonian carnitas, purple potatoes, malagueta aioli
Flourless chocoalte, doce de leite com morango

Cocado quemado com caju bolinhos
Bananada "simples"

Thank you so much, Chef Charles! I hope we meet again someday soon!  And, thank you for inviting me, Caitlin and India! It was a beautiful and delicious evening - you all did an amazing job! xo

All Images © Regan Baroni 2015.

Son of a Butcher Tavern


The name, Son of A Butchersparks an immediate curiosity. This sister restaurant to Pearl Tavern is owned by Adolfo Garcia. Nestled in the Chicago neighborhood of Logan Square, this place brings you a butcher shop experience, along with a "local" menu you might get in a butchers' home. It's definitely not a meat-only menu, although the carnivore in me wouldn't mind if it was. There is a wide variety to please anyone's palette. Chef Frank puts a lot of thought into his dishes and even takes the time to help serve so he can chat with customers and make sure they're enjoying everything. Check out their menu here

Whether you sit inside or out, the laid-back vibe connects well with the vintage details at this cozy spot. From the plates and silver to the antique butcher scale and old-school telephone at the bar, I couldn't help but want to hang out for hours. Everything has its own unique place here.  

As I mentioned, there is outdoor seating plus plenty of comfortable seats at the bar. The high top tables and booths near the floor to ceiling windows in the front fill up fast, but as you walk towards the kitchen and into the back of the restaurant, you'll find another area that almost feels "hidden." There's a bright red booth that expands the length of the room adjacent from a beautiful, hand-painted mural of a small town butcher shop in France that fills up the entire brick wall. It's stunning.

Mike showed up after my shoot so we could stay and enjoy some drinks and dinner together. We bellied-up to the bar and Elise took very good care of us. The food in order of appearance includes: the Duck Heart Nuggets with lavender BBQ and pickled cranberries, the Cochinita Pibil Hummus with pickled onion and charred pita, the Smoked Whole Market Fish with seasonal garnishes, the Roasted Bone Marrow with beet serrano jam and grilled baguette and the Rice Cracklings with salsa verde and pickled vegetables. 

Chef Frank and Adolfo, thank you for having me! I loved learning the story behind your newest adventure. Best of luck and both Mike and I are looking very forward to coming back for the cochon brunch


All Images © Regan Baroni 2015.

Grilled Oysters with Bacon and Cayenne Butter

When in doubt, add butter with some bacon and cayenne... Mike and I have been on a seafood grilling kick lately and this recipe has been in our hearts for quite a while. We've made it several times for friends and family and it attracts even the most skeptical of seafood eaters (including my own mom who wouldn't touch an oyster with a ten-foot pole).

The butter will make a lot and you'll probably have some left over. You can store it in the freezer and use it on chicken, pork, steak, seafood or even toast. It's pretty magical on oysters, though... you'll see.  


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All Images © Regan Baroni 2015.

Amused Baker Catering

Talia from Amused Baker Catering is a pastry chef with it all. She has the drive, the ideas, the talent and most importantly the passion. I truly believe when you have passion, all the rest falls into place. When she reached out to have me shoot for her catering business, I was really excited to work with a fellow entrepreneur... and hello, desserts!  

We decided to do the shoot at her condo where she could have full control in her own kitchen and we could use all the natural light pouring in from her windows. It's always fun for me to see a chef in the comfort of his or her home preparing the food for the shoot. The kitchen is usually full of their gadgets and tools, but there is always a method to the madness and the food is beautiful as it comes out. Being behind the scenes is such a cool part about being a photographer. I even got to meet the two men in her life; Scott, her boyfriend who had just come home from Isaacson Stein Fish Company (a favorite spot for fresh seafood), and JP, her talkative cat who reminded me so much of my cat, Ollie. There was a lot of good energy in her home. 

The shot list, from top to bottom, includes: Raspberry & Mango Macarons, Strawberry Ombre Cakes, Cheesecake-Swirled Brownies, Cheesecake Brûlée, Coconut and Mango Panna Cotta Verrines and Rose-Shaped Apple Tarts. Can you imagine having these at your next party or event? The variety and the attention to detail is truly amazing. One of the many perks of being a food photographer is that I get to taste what we're shooting. Not only did I get to taste these sweet delicacies, I actually got to bring some home to share with Mike. Needless to say, they didn't last long... and we were craving more when they were gone... We'll have to place an order with her very, very soon.

Talia, thank you for having me. I really enjoyed shooting for you and wish you and your catering business all the best!  Cheers!


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All Images © Regan Baroni 2015.

Grilled Scallops with Lemony Salsa Verde

I love scallops... but I really need to be in the mood for them. They are so incredibly rich on their own, and they always seem to be drenched in butter or paired with a tasty risotto. They're kind of like the friend who's the life of the party. You love hanging out and always have a blast together, but you're exhausted afterward and need a bit of a break for a while.  

When I read about pairing scallops with a lemony salsa verde in Bon Appétit, my interest peaked. Mike and I have been on a seafood kick lately and are constantly gathered around the grill, so I was really excited to give this a try. And, let me tell you, it's a game changer. The combination of the olive oil, chives and parsley work perfectly together while the cilantro and lemon shine through with so much brightness. Add salt and pepper slowly to your liking and you'll be surprised at how these flavors lighten up the dish... you may find yourself wanting to hang out a little more often. It's an absolutely perfect summer recipe. 


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All Images © Regan Baroni 2015.

Grilled Head-On Prawns with Garlic and Parsley

It was a great weekend for grilling and outdoor food shoots!  Even though we all want more sun on the weekends, overcast clouds are a photographers' favorite, with their soft, balanced and beautiful light. 

I have several easy and delicious recipes for the grill coming soon, and it all starts with this great one - head-on prawns with garlic and parsley

First things first, prawns are simply the larger versions of shrimp. Second, you don't have to use head-on prawns in this recipe. You can easily make it using shrimp that are already peeled and de-viened, if you'd like.

So, why use the head-on prawns? For me, there are two reasons: 

One, the flavors are much more complex and delicious because you have the meat and fat from the head cooking with the rest of the body. Fat always makes things taste better. You can even suck the head meat out, if you're feeling adventurous. It may just change your life. 

Two, I love getting my hands dirty. Peeling and eating shrimp is such a laid-back way to eat such a delicacy. I like to call it a casual luxury. 

I've never worked with head-on prawns before, so deveining them was a new experience. The first one was slow-going, but then I really got the hang of it. You simply use kitchen sheers to cut the back of the shell open, exposing the vein. It comes out easily, especially if you run the shrimp under cold water while removing it. 

The combined flavors of the crushed red pepper, garlic, parsley and olive oil are perfect for giving the shrimp a little extra kick without being overpowering. This truly is one of the easiest recipes I've tried. You'll have to give it a shot yourself and let me know what you think, especially if you leave the head on. Go for it!


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All Images © Regan Baroni 2015.


As you all know, I took some time off from the blog in May to travel but to also focus on finishing up an exciting project. Well, the time has come to fill you in on what that project was all about. 

I am very excited to announce that after getting several requests for prints through Up Close & Tasty, I have decided to open my first Etsy shop selling my food + travel photography!

You can find the shop here: ReganBaroniPhoto 

I would love it if you would favorite my shop and share with your friends! I will be adding new work regularly to keep the store fresh and interesting. So, stay tuned for those updates! 

There are a variety of print sizes available and if you don't see a size you need, you can request a custom order from me. The possibilities are endless! I have been working closely with two amazing print labs over the last few months to ensure that the print quality is amazing and the process is efficient. It generally takes 3-5 business days to get your print since I drop-ship my orders directly from the lab to your door step. It saves time as well as money, which is always a good thing in my book.

My prints are available on three different materials of your choice:

High-Quality Lustre-Paper
This means the photo has the color saturation of a glossy print, but with a matte-finish for no glare. It's beautiful. 

Canvas Prints (custom request)
This means the photo is printed on museum-quality canvas using archival inks and finished with a protective, lustre-coating. No frame needed. The depths of the canvas range from 3/4 of an inch to 1.5 inches. I recommend 1-inch depth. 

Wood Prints (custom request)
This means the photo is printed on wood. No frame needed. It's really unique and completely stunning. I love how the photo color is sharp, yet you can see hints of the wood through the image. It can be printed with no border or up to a 1/2 inch border on the print. Keyholes are in the back to ensure it's easy to hang on the wall. It's a rustic, yet beautiful display of the photography.

* All canvas and wood prints are custom requests.

If you have any questions or custom requests, please reach out to me here on the blog or through my store. Be sure to check it out, favorite it and share it with everyone you know! I absolutely love all of your support. 



All Images © Regan Baroni 2015.