Playing with your food – and eating it: IFBA in Dublin

Sharon and Donal at work

“He burns his nuts, I bake my rocks”

Sharon Hearne Smith on the tricks (and Donal Skehan‘s occasional mistakes!) of the food styling world.

Donal came out about his love for Cath Kidson, Sharon admitted that she was an OCD control freak and twenty food bloggers got tips on playing with their food at Saturday’s IFBA food photography and styling workshop. From being picky at the shopping stage, getting inspiration from cookbooks (for Donal: Donna Hay, Nigel Slater, Leila Lindholm) and online (Cannelle et Vanille, What Katie Ate, Tartelette), setups, shooting and composition, there was a lot covered in a short day.

The Sharon and Donal show – there was a lot of banter! – focused on how to get the best from food shots without rendering your dinner inedible. There was no mention of glycerine, just passing comments on padding, cotton buds and large tweezers – Donal’s choice, Sharon goes with the magic stick (a wooden skewer that she uses to manoeuvre ingredients and garnishes for final flourishes) – and actually taking the photos was all about natural light.

It was an intimidating place to be if you didn’t have a big Canon, seemingly the blogger camera of choice. My wee point and shoot Nikon Coolpix – the reason for the bad quality of my food photographs, or so I’d like to think – was getting nervous as I listened to talk of camera recommendations, f-stops and manual options. But in all fairness, my problem has been more about the lack of time, space and interest in doing proper food shots. Newly inspired, this may yet change. The idea of setting up a spot in advance, by a window, complete with wooden board background, tea towel flourishes and colour coordinated props all seems a little more achievable. Maybe then I could really justify getting a decent camera, ahem.

The day ended with seventeen for dinner, along a railway sleeper banqueting table at the back of L Mulligan‘s in Stoneybatter for the official Dublin launch of the IFBA. Blogger, lawyer and one-third of L Mulligan, ‘Neen of 9 Bean Row had put together a menu which ticked all the blogger boxes. Local Irish produce intelligently cooked? Yes. Thoughtfully matched with Irish and international craft beers? Yes. The BEST chips and Hoegaarden mayo, Murphy’s legendary sea salt ice cream and the darkest chocolate rice krispy buns to finish? Yes, yes and oh yes again. Plus a knowledgeable staff who managed to walk me through an aperitif of Dry Sack sherry, a Belgian Kriek beer as a digestif and a nightcap of the smoothest Japanese whiskey (as well as a few beer matches with dinner). Would I go back? In a heartbeat. L Mulligan. Grocer. – to give it its full and correct name – would be my new local if I lived anywhere within a radius of 50 miles. As it was I had to ring the Husband halfway through the night to rave about it. They do, after all, stock Harrington’s beer, all the way from our former home of Christchurch in New Zealand.

Thanks to all at L Mulligan for looking after us so well, Kristin for her superb organisation, Rob Roberts and Stagrennan Farm apple farm for the samples, Sharon (that mini blueberry pie made a fine train snack!) and Donal for making learning so much fun – and all you IFBA members for your enthusiastic participation, ability to eat’n’tweet and some very fine appetites.

DIARY NOTE: the next IFBA event, a Milk Market Meet will take place in Limerick on Saturday 20 November. More information here.



Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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8 Responses

  1. ha ha, lovely write-up, thanks caroline! it really was great fun. well done again on the launch of the fab IFBA and it was lovely to get to know you and all the other foodies a bit better! s x

  2. Caroline says:

    I had a lot to choose from, Sharon, but that line I just couldn’t resist! We all really enjoyed the day. Thank you for agreeing to do it, for coming out to dinner that night – and for giving me such a great excuse to increase stock of colourful tea towels, crockery and cooking dishes at the cottage. Roll on the next event!

  3. Caroline, what a fabulous write up on Saturday’s event. I am wincing over how amazing the launch meal at L. Mulligan G was…have been twice and loved it all, but really wished I would’ve been there to celebrate with you all! See you again soon. Imen xx PS love your Lyric stuff, really lovely.

  4. Caroline says:

    Sounds like you had an occasion of your own going on that night. Hope you enjoyed being a flapper!There’ll surely be other nights in L Mulligan so we’ll be able to raise a glass together then. Are you coming along to the Milk Market Meet? And thank you for the compliment on my Lyric work!

  5. Caroline,Great write up! Spent yesterday afternoon practising my set up shots! Had, of course, to stop at Cath Kidson on the way home too!Sorry I won’t make it to Milk Market…. rugby calls!Margaret

  6. TheGlutton says:

    Fabulous post – both events sound like such fun and I am so sorry to have missed them! I am looking at my poor old Fuji FinePix with a lot less love these days and hankering after a ‘proper’ camera when I see all of the amazing pics produced buy so many of the food bloggers. Glad to hear that it isn’t necessary to make the grub inedible – I don’t think I could bring myself to do that to my grub 🙂

  7. Lucy says:

    Hi Caroline was gret to meet you, was a fantastic day, I’m off to make a raid on some charity shops to increase my plate and cutlery collection. I’m dying to get some serious shots out in the next while, natural light ready. What can I say about Mulligans – it was a fantastic meal, loved the matching beers, and that mayonnaise is just incredible! Thanks for all the hard work in organising x

  8. Caroline says:

    @Margaret I heard you were having a great time in the Cath Kidson shop! Will be looking forward to seeing the results soon.

    @TheGlutton I feel your little camera pain. I haven’t been able to justify splashing out on a proper one up to this but I can see why it could become necessary. Of course, had I the time for actually styling and photographing I could justify it all the more…

    @Lucy had a great time meeting you and Lu last Saturday. Am loving that napkin on your French Onion Soup, beautifully styled! I’d go back to Mulligans just for that mayo and those chips – but I wouldn’t be able to resist lots of the other yummy things on the menu too. And some more sherry!

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