Category Archives: À table

7 Quick and Simple Tips for Instagram Food Pics

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At this point we’re all familiar with the power of a community brought together by a common love or goal. Instagram harnesses the power of community extremely well; people are naturally drawn to images that elicit emotions. And people feel strongly about food! There are two kinds of food pictures on Instagram: those that make us drool, and those that make us gag.

Don’t be *that* Instagrammer. Follow a few simple tips for Instagram to post great food pictures that will have your audience drooling and growing.

Simple Tips for Instagram

1. Post Good Photographs

It’s obvious and yet somehow still needs to be said. The latest mirrorless or DSLR camera is not necessary for great food shots. A clean, up-to-date phone camera lens is more than up for the job. Take a few minutes to plan the photo and its angle(s), take a few shots, make any necessary edits in a 3rd party app, and save.

2. Pick A Style

What’s your game plan? Do you want to be known for posting pretty, pastel pink cake photos, or are bright colours and textures more your thing? Whatever option you choose, make sure it reflects your vision or story and try to keep the style, tone, and edits similar so your followers know what to expect.

3. Think Formatting

Instagram food photos do best when people can see the food or setting (if that’s applicable). The original square format works well, but don’t forget about the extended size too, especially if the photos are in portrait mode. Landscape food images don’t grab the viewer’s attention as well as portrait or square images.

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4. Save the Words

Don’t hide food under text! What works for other social media channels (think headlines on Pinterest) won’t fly on Instagram. IG is visual storytelling so let the visuals speak for themselves.

5. Build A Community

Followers need to feel engaged by you and by what’s cooking in your kitchen. For that to happen, they want a sense of community, creative and fun content, useful and trending information or images, and visually appealing photos that draw them in. The more you engage with your followers and with the accounts you follow in a genuine manner, the more your community will grow.

6. Don’t Diss the Tags

As annoying as hashtags are, they’re a valuable tool in your Instagram arsenal and will help you connect with your audience. Use them judiciously, research hashtags appropriate to your subject matter, and find new accounts by following the trail. Include hashtags in the first comment underneath your image so viewers aren’t bogged down by tags in your photo blurb.

7. Be Original

Provide original content without crossover from your other social media channels and let your voice and personality come through. As a general rule, regurgitated content from other sites or channels does not do well. This does not apply to reposting with attribution, which is a legitimate way to spread the love for what you love.

Like all forms of social media, if we’re genuine, it comes through and people are attracted to the end result. Food is more than the ingredients we throw together to create a dish, it’s a means of communicating with family or friends and we can extend that to our communities as well.

Check out a few of my favourite Instagram accounts that do food well!

Delightful Adventures

What to Cook Today

Jennifer Bartoli

John Whaite Bakes

Liv for Cake

A Macaron In Vientiane

It began with a love for French pastries.

Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is a city that seems comfortable embracing its French colonial past, traditional Lao roots, and the current headlong push into modern times. The residents face challenges living with such a tumultuous past, but the impression is of resilient people who value their unique heritage. For the visitor, it means being able to just as easily step into a Lao restaurant for a traditional tam mak houng (spicy, green papaya salad) as a French café serving real croissant. Or even a teahouse with macarons delicious enough to rival the biggest names in Paris.

Soujata Inthavong, whose family owns the Dhavara Boutique Hotel, and who runs the Suksavanh River Hotel located on the banks of the Mekong River, is the master behind this delicious French secret tucked into the heart of Laos.

I stayed at the Suksavanh River Hotel during my recent visit to Vientiane. Inthavong and her partner recently took over management of the hotel and have exciting changes planned that will take nothing away from its current charming and unpretentious vibe. It’s a surprising find—tucked across from the Mekong River down a quiet lane—considering how close it is to the heart of the city, major historical and Buddhist sites, and its proximity to the Mekong. There are grander hotels, but the Suksavanh suited me perfectly.

Suksavanh River Hotel, Vientiane, laos, hotel, travel writing, travel river, Mekong, photograph

Each evening began with quiet time sitting on the banks of the river, watching a sunset that never grew old. Once night fell, I made it my goal to taste dishes from different roadside vendors, always on the hunt for the tastiest food I could find. And then I’d walk and walk and walk. Sometimes to busier sections of the riverside, passing bars with live music and vendors hawking more food, traditional Lao skirts, and kitschy, tourist geegaws (made in China). Other times I’d walk in the opposite direction, to a section of the riverside that still falls quiet at night, where fishermen come out with their nets as they have for generations. Then I’d make my way back to the hotel to sit and talk and listen to stories, or to listen to Teng Sihapanya—Inthavong’s partner and one of my distant cousins—sing melancholic Lao songs and 1960s French ballads while picking at his guitar.

Mekong River, Vientiane, Laos, sunset, photograph, travel writing, family, travelling, river, holidays

Mekong River, sunset, Laos, Vientiane, travel, travels writing, sunset, river, travel

Fisherman's dock in Vientiane on the Mekong River.

Mekong River, Vientiane, Laos, sunset, fisherman, fishing, photograph, travel writing, travel, family, holidays

It was during one of those evenings that Soujata Inthavong and I discovered a bond beyond our family ties, the love of pastries. Inthavong loves macarons, admittedly not my favourite because I usually find them sickly sweet. She scoured books and websites for recipes to try and tweak to her liking. After many attempts Inthavong found the perfect combo of ingredients that blends local Lao flavours with less than half the sugar content of traditional recipes.

Because I’m family, or maybe because I’m so obviously a pastry fanatic, Inthavong invited me back to see the making of her macarons, which she sells out of Dhavara Macarons and Tea. The kitchen is tiny. I will in the future curb my complaints about lack of counter space now that I’ve seen this kitchen, and those of other restaurants that are still (obviously) able to make the most amazing food. This, despite the lack of conveniences we’re spoiled with in Canada.

Once in the kitchen, I promptly and completely freaked out her young pastry chef when she told him I’d be watching and taking photos. He looked to be about sixteen (though he wasn’t) and had a dexterous hand with a pastry piper that I will likely never have. Once he got past his shyness and I assured him I was there to admire, and hopefully steal a macaron or two, he agreed to the photos. While I was at the teahouse patrons came and went, some were tourists, but many were locals on their lunch break, coming to treat themselves to a little piece of France.

I’m still undecided about which one of the many flavours is my favourite: taro, green tea, or tamarind. Between my indecision over macarons and the Mekong sunsets it might be time for a return trip.

macarons, Vientiane, Laos, French, France, pastries, food, family, travel writing, photographs

macarons, Vientiane, Laos, French, pastries, France, travel, Laos, travel writing, food, photographs

If you’d like to read more about Laos, I recently wrote Five Surprising Things About Laos for Life In Pleasantville. And while you’re at it, learn to make Lao Coconut Chicken.

100 of my favourite things.

Several months ago a friend wrote a post about 100 things she loves. I loved the idea and the post. Today calls for more focus on the good. So, in no particular order, and with some repetition from the About page on this blog, here goes:

  1. The first bowl of café au lait in the morning.
  2. Ucluelet, British Columbia. If you haven’t been…go. And stop in at Jiggers and Ukee Dogs.
  3. My family. And that means more than the four of us living under our roof. It encompasses brothers, parents, in-laws, nieces, cousins and aunts.
  4. Second-hand bookstores.
  5. My husband’s biscotti. That’s not code for anything.
  6. The way dark chocolate with sea salt melts in my mouth leaving the perfect combination of sweet and salty.
  7. Standing in a forest and taking deep breaths.
  8. Horses.
  9. Friends with whom I can be open and uncensored.
  10. Miss Vickie’s Sweet Chili & Sour Cream chips. I love them too much.
  11. Our dog, Juno.
  12. My son’s easy smile.
  13. Cheese as a food group.
  14. Hockey. It’s the most beautiful team sport. Don’t argue.
  15. Loyalty.
  16. Random text messages from my nieces. “Hi Tata. I love you.”
  17. Chausson au pomme. I can’t express how amazing these are when bought straight from the bakery.
  18. Amber lager.
  19. Road trips.
  20. Red wine, but not ones made with Syrah/Shiraz because those just make me sick.
  21. Running.
  22. Seeing my daughter’s happiness when she rides.
  23. When my shelves are spilling books on the floor.
  24. Laotian rice paper wrapped spring rolls. This would be the food I’d choose if forced to give up everything else.
  25. The scene in Elf when Buddy the Elf rides an escalator for the first time.
  26. The smell of spring when everything thaws.
  27. Eating vegetables from our garden.
  28. Boot camp with fun women.
  29. Citroën 2CVs.
  30. Having breakfast with D almost every day.
  31. The days leading up to a vacation departure.
  32. Coyote songs late at night as my daughter and I leave the barn.
  33. Humour.
  34. The stories my grandfather told.
  35. Saint-Pierreville, France.
  36. Crème de marrons (sweet chestnut spread).
  37. Canoeing.
  38. Stone ruins. If there’s one to explore I’ll find it.
  39. Ignoring maps and directions.
  40. White peaches.
  41. Smart-asses. I know a few.
  42. Lampeter, Wales and the friendship it brought.
  43. The sound of cicadas in Provence.
  44. The chateau of Vaux le Vicomte.
  45. Photo albums.
  46. Murder mysteries.
  47. The dance numbers my daughter and nieces put on every time we’re together.
  48. Love Actually.
  49. The Cone.
  50. Taking pictures.
  51. The misty rain that fell almost daily while I lived in Wales.
  52. Highland cattle. C’mon…they’re cute.
  53. Docks.
  54. People who don’t take themselves too seriously.
  55. Hobnobs
  56. Anything by Tolkien.
  57. When my son rolls his eyes at my corny jokes.
  58. Christmas lights.
  59. The take me or leave me feeling that comes with being over 40.
  60. Postcards.
  61. Big snowflakes.
  62. Boots.
  63. Old keys.
  64. The orange 1970s VW Camper my brother drove.
  65. Travelling with family.
  66. Hats.
  67. Pottery studios. I’m sorry for all the detours, family.
  68. Asterix le Gaulois.
  69. Planning a trip.
  70. The burgers at Mile One Eating House in Pemberton, British Columbia. OH. MY. GOD.
  71. Goat cheese.
  72. Writing again after a hiatus of years.
  73. The bouquinistes along the Seine.
  74. My super comfy studio pants that I don’t use at yoga studios.
  75. Going to the cottage.
  76. Driving, because navigating is beyond me since I’m easily distrac…oooh look at the mountains!
  77. Mountains.
  78. Anything my mom cooks.
  79. Bakeries in France.
  80. The apple orchard down the road from us that doesn’t cater to crowds.
  81. Small hotels.
  82. The ocean.
  83. Early mornings by the lake before bringing my daughter to school.
  84. Wearing skirts during the summer.
  85. Algonquin Park.
  86. Grocery shopping by myself.
  87. The smell of a campfire.
  88. Serena Ryder.
  89. Watching the Olympics. Go, Canada!
  90. Wood floors.
  91. Most variations of blue.
  92. The quiet when the kids are finally in bed. I love them, but go to sleep already!
  93. Hoodies.
  94. Loud music in the car.
  95. Restaurant patios.
  96. The idea of knitting something. The reality is that I’m useless at it.
  97. A clean house. I just don’t like the cleaning part.
  98. Archaeology.
  99. Real fireplaces.
  100. Cheesy sci-fi TV shows.

Now it’s your turn.

Ucluelet, British Columbia, Canada, Pacific Ocean, water, dock, boats, mountains, fog, mist, ocean, favourite things

Highland cattle. Scotland, Scottish, cow, cute, humour, photograph, humour

cheese, red wine, wedding, France, Saint-Pierreville, drunk, photograph, humour

Vaux le Vicomte, France, Louis IVX, Fouquet, basin, chateau, gardens, statues, photographs, summer

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