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Valentine’s Day Photo Shoot

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. It started in grammar school with those colorful mass-produced cards we stuffed in the decorated class Valentine box. Later my kids gave me treasures made from construction paper and lace doilies with “I love you, Mommy” in their best writing. Today Beyond Wonderful is decked out in full pink and red splendor with lots of fabulous chocolate desserts for your Valentine’s celebration.

We’ve been busy these last few weeks perfecting recipes and photographing them for the website. My favorite photo shoot was for Baking Expert, Catherine Christensen’s Valentine’s column, Ooh la la… chocolat! Trust me, her decadent Mexican pots de crème and mousse au chocolat are close to aphrodisiacs, and will become favorites in your culinary repertoire.

Photo shoots may seem glamorous but they are hard work and often take several days to produce. I meet with our amazing food photographer, Windsor Andersen, to go over the schedule and decide what flowers, props, dishes, silverware and linens are required. Will we work in the studio or take advantage of the natural light in the garden? Once that’s determined, I start cooking, prepping food, buying flowers and gathering props.

To get in the mood, I headed to several flower shops for armloads of long-stemmed roses—both red and multi-colored bouquets—plus fragrant pink lilies and white narcissus. My favorite purchase was three bunches of the most beautiful pink tulips to herald the coming of spring.

Then it was back to the kitchen to prepare the two desserts. I piped the chocolate mousse in to an assortment of Spanish sherry wine glasses, and spooned the pots du crème into pretty bowls and festive red ramekins. All were refrigerated for the shoot.

Early the next day, Windsor arrived and started setting up. She surveyed the desserts and props and went for the chocolate mousse (her own favorite dessert). “Let’s use the red cake stand and the pink tulips. I want natural light so bundle up, we’re going to the garden.” As she worked, I piped the mousse with whipped cream and topped each with tiny red candy hearts.

In between shots I found Windsor in the kitchen eating spoonfuls of whipped cream over the sink. “Ooooo, this is so good.” So much for the tofu and bunny food she brought for lunch.

Shoots always have people circling the food table asking, “Are you done yet?” No one eats until we have our final images. When Windsor yells “done! you can eat now!” I hand out spoons and everyone grabs their pleasure and digs in. Silence for a moment, then appreciative moans and exclamations. Then, inevitably… the sound of everybody reaching for a second serving. Now that’s love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!