Welcome to Noel Barnhurst's blog. Noel is a food photographer based in the South Park neighborhood of San Francisco, California. He has photographed for a wide range of clients including Williams-Sonoma, Kashi, Haagen Dazs, Driscoll's berries, Sunset Magazine, and Burger King. Here you will find a plethora of recipes, tips, and news from a professional food photographer. Enjoy!

All photography is exclusively done by Noel Barnhurst.

Grilling Essentials in San Francisco

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Looking for places in the city to find ingredients to grill? SF Weekly just posted a guide to San Francisco’s grilling essentials. The list includes 4505 Meats (1909 Mission), Avedano’s Holly Park Market (235 Cortland), Fatted Calf Charcuterie (320 Fell), Boccalone (1 Ferry Building). Check out the rest of the list here, which includes vegan, produce, and sweet treat options!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. beef tenderloin
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 tsp. peppercorns
  • 9 Tbs. olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. whole-grain mustard
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped shallots
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 oz. mesclun greens
  • 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Maldon sea salt or coarse sea salt, to taste

Directions:

Place the beef into a vacuum-sealable bag. Add the wine, garlic, sliced shallots, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns and 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Using a vacuum sealer, vacuum and seal the bag tight according to the manufacturer’s instructions; be sure you have a smooth, airtight seal. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

Prepare a sous vide immersion circulator for use according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Preheat the water to 120°F, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Carefully place the bag into the circulating water and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Carefully remove the bag from the circulating water and let rest for 5 minutes. Open the bag and remove the beef, wiping off any large pieces of garlic or shallots. Season the beef with kosher salt.


In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil until just smoking. Add the beef and sear until browned on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and chopped shallots. Slowly whisk in the remaining 6 Tbs. olive oil. Season the vinaigrette with kosher salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine the mesclun, onion and tomatoes. Add the vinaigrette and toss gently. Divide the salad among 4 plates. Top with the avocado. Slice the beef across the grain and arrange on the salads. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Recipe courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

© Noel Barnhurst

How do you know what steak cut is right for you?

Two things to consider: grades and cuts. Grade is determined by the age of the animal and the marbling of the fat in the meat. In the US, grades are prime, choice, and select. Prime is at the top, select is at the bottom. Although marbled cuts do have more fat, they essentially also have more flavor than leaner cuts. Cuts can be broken down into three sections: rib, short loin, and sirloin. The least tender cut is the ribs, and the most tender cut is the tenderloin from the short loin cut. Chateaubriand, filet minon, and tournedos are all examples of tenderloin cut beef. Pictured above is a T-bone steak, also a cut from the short loin. 

Information courtesy of About

© Noel Barnhurst


If you keep trying to grill the perfect steak but falling through, John Stage from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que advises how to avoid a flop!

Five Most Common Grilling Mistakes and How to Fix ‘Em: John Stage

1. Lack of Flavor
"In order to build layers of flavor in your meat, always start with a rub and finish with a good BBQ sauce. For a basic rub, I use a combination of salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder, brown sugar, garlic and onion powders, but use your imagination and be inventive with additional add-ins. When the meat’s near done, the rub gives the BBQ sauce something to stick to, bringing out the flavor.

Always use the BBQ sauce towards the end of grilling, during the last 10 to 20 minutes, as BBQ sauces often have high sugar content, some more than others, and will burn off before your meat is done.

For a quick homemade BBQ sauce, grab some ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and honey - this combination will give you a sweet/savory/sour flavor combination.”

2. Meat sticking to grill 
Always keep your grill grates clean in order to keep the meat from sticking while you are cooking. A helpful tip is to take a wire brush and hit the grill grates once you are done cooking while they are still hot - this will prevent hardened build-up on the grill grates as they cool and next time you are ready to cook, you will be good to go.

When cooking fish, steaks or chops, a light brush of vegetable oil on the meat will keep it from sticking – chicken has enough fat in its skin and does not need to be brushed with oil. Finally, resist the urge to over flip meat - if it doesn’t easily flip, it’s not ready.”

3. Marinade mistake
"If you use a marinade, always be sure to pat your meat dry once you’ve removed it from the marinade. If marinated appropriately, the marinade will have already penetrated the meat with its flavor, sealing it inside. If the meat is too wet, you will create a steam effect and negate your grill efforts, not achieving that desired golden color.

Regarding marinade time frames, fish and shrimp need the least amount of time, about 1 to 2 hours, while beef, pork and chicken take longer, anywhere from 4 to 12 to 24 hours, depending on the cut. Place meat and marinade in a plastic Ziploc bag (with air removed) in the fridge.”

4. Gas taste
"I’ve never been a fan of a gas grill, always preferring charcoal in order to obtain that true blue, outdoor grilling flavor in meat. With that said, always use a chimney starter versus lighter fluid to eliminate a gassy flavor.

If you do use lighter fluid, never spray it directly onto the hot coals, this is dangerous and doesn’t help. Also make sure coals are almost a grayish white before you start cooking over them. You can achieve better results grilling on a traditional $100 kettle Weber grill than you can with any expensive gas grill.”

5. Flare-ups 
"You don’t want flames to engulf the meat as it will cause the meat to taste charred and bitter, and you can easily control flare-ups with a few simple techniques. Always set up two tiers of coals, a hot one and a warm/cold one.

If you flare-up, just move the meat to the cooler safe harbor until the fire dies down. Then, you can adjust it back to the hotter side when it is safe.

Too many flare-ups can mean your meat is too close to the flame. Try also raising the height of your grill grates in order to prevent flare-ups.”

Information courtesy of Eatocracy