Saturday, August 13, 2005

One of The Best: A Simple Cheese Sandwich!

photograph picture serena 3 sisters cheese on acme pain au levain with strauss butter

Quickly, before I get my 40 winks, I just have to share the sheer deliciousness of Acme Pain au Levain spread with Strauss butter and irresistable Serena cheese from Three Sisters Farmstead.
One of The Best: A Simple Cheese Sandwich!


  • At 13/8/05 18:30, Blogger LACheesemonger said…

    If you ever get up to D&D in St. Helena, spend the $$$ for the real thing---- Normandy butter. There is no better, no richer and more intensely flavorful, even if it's been at D&D for months---but going to Normandy and getting fresh butter is at yet another level higher of hedonism ;) . The name escapes me at the moment, but they have a Calif. fresh raw milk butter at McOrganic, not as good as Normandy butter, but decent enough.

    Hmm, I guess I should teach an online class for food bloogers on how to get better pictures from their Point N Shoot digicams. Always, a SLR digicam (they are coming down in price, but you still can't fit them into a pocket or anything smaller than Mr. Simpson's ---hehe, DL refers to Ms. LeShey, lol, Louis V. bags.

    For at home picts, always use a tripod, whenever possible, along with the remote control or self-timer, or if you have to handhold try propping the camera up against something steady like the top of a chair. (pushing the shutter release button with your finger will always induce some 'camera shake' in lower lighting conditions... resulting in less than optimally sharp pictures). Move camera as far away from subject as possible, and then zoom in on the subject. In the example of the bread, you might have been able to get the entire piece in focus using this method. If you have full manual control of exposure, set the "F-stop" aperture control to 5.6 or greater; and that along with putting the camera at a farther distance and then zooming in, will better insure the whole item is mostly in focus.

    Multiple exposures with -1 and +1 compensation, gives you 3 pictures to examine later for best exposure.

    I did my usual Q&A tweaking tricks with Photoshop and enhanced the picture as best I could. For some reason, I have not yet been able to convince DL of my magical fingers and experienced tongue... ;) You had a tricky lighting situation there, which the larger sensor of a SLR digicam would have likely worked a little better. The butter/cheese on the bread was completely washed out/burned out highlight area, but I was able to bring out some details. As well, I bumped up the shadow/darker area at the sides of the bread.

    bread small

    bread large

    See DL's blog Purple Reigns - Violet Restaurant comments post on how to download and use my enhanced versions of your picts.

  • At 13/8/05 20:58, Blogger Jennifer Maiser said…

    did that cheese come from cowgirl? i have never heard of it.

  • At 14/8/05 04:15, Blogger Monkey Gland said…

    Ah, I see the ceiling fan man in back.

    No pickle?

  • At 14/8/05 07:52, Blogger Sam said…

    Mr Monger - we used to buy French butter, but this month we are celebrating Eating Local which means Strauss. There are other local butters, but Strauss is the easiest to get hold of. The picture was not my best, it's true. We have terrible weather so there isn't much good light right now. I was in such a hurry to eat my delicious sarnie that I didn't spend too much time, thus a low F-stop to get a fast shutter speed (and therefore small dof). I didn't mind that the focus was on the 'bite' in the bread and that the cheese was very pale. That is how it looked in real life. It's not a very yellow cheese

    The pic was taken with a digital SLR, btw, and, no, I can't fit it in my pocket, it's huge so it has its own pride of place, slung over my shoulder, when it comes out with me.

    Btw LA-cheese - don't give up the day job. When it comes to colour correction - leave it to the professionals. Your version compressed the colour range, crunched the blacks and added unattractive green and orange pixels to the bread. Not what we are looking for in a natural food picture.

    Jen - yes it was from cowgirl. They tolsd me the cheesemaker is really young - like 21 years old.
    It's yummy.

    Monkey Gland - no pickle - it was an impromptu snack, not a planned one, and well, Branston doesn't really fit in with that local theme. I have to learn to make it.

  • At 14/8/05 12:28, Blogger Mona said…

    I'm just starting my own restaurant blog..for the NYC metropolitan area..I found a link to your blog off of accidental hedonist's and loved it.
    If you're in the mood to help a newbie out/give me some pointers, I would extremely appreciate it.
    I'm from California originally and have now added your blog to my favorites.
    Mine can be found at

    Thanks for your time.

  • At 14/8/05 19:00, Blogger LACheesemonger said…

    Oh sorry, you took the comments as negative criticism it seems. That wasn't the point at all. But I have seen sharper pictures from PNS digicams. I assume you've seen my terribly blurry shots before, yes? Again, not a criticism, just trying to help.

    Any way, you did see the notation Q&D. 'Crushed blacks' is not technically accurate for the post prod. image manipulation, btw. There is a reason Photoshop has a 'save for web', and of course you know why that is. Because you are limited in the color gamut that can be displayed on the net. LOL, doesn't matter if you have a top-of-the-line $8k Canon 16MP camera. I actually did NO color correction whatsoever. My impression is that the camera's white balance was not adjusted for the lighting available and that added a small amount of 'yellow' to the overall picture... Just a guess from looking at a highly compressed picture, I wasn't there to see it with my own eyes, obviously ;). Whatever you see is data contained in the image that the server sends out. Take a closer look, those orange and green 'pixels' are definitely in the original image displayed for the net. My manipulation may have made them more apparent, but sorry to say, it's already in the picture---Not my fault, but you're free to blame me, everyone else does, lol. It pretty much figures the cheese/butter was not as yellow as it appeared in the tweaked image, but you are the only one who could tell for sure. Had I known what it actually looked like, I would have been able to more accurately portray it!

    However, since you have a digiSLR, I would assume you can set it to auto bracket, and do -,+1/3rd or 1/2 exposure setting (full stops typically don't help much when there is enough light, just works for some very high contrast situations). It's always better to use your spot metering function. Then you could have avoided the dreaded blown highlights. Myself, a personal preference I guess; I would have exposed for the cheese/butter on top of the bread, as it would have been a more inviting picture, IMHO. That would mean loss of shadow detail in the 'blacks' areas of the picture, but you can bump those up post prod; especially easy to do that when you take the pictures in RAW mode. Playing with already compressed jpg images that come from the camera is inviting disappointment such as you have expressed---and we'll assume the images got compressed once again before uploading to the blog. It only gets worse the more times you pass it through another round of jpg compression; which is what I am stuck with, with or without any further image manipulation.

    You'll also find that in addition to compression artifacts, in darker areas of a picture (try this at night) the camera sensor has was is called 'noise'---same 'unnatural' colored pixels you are complaining about. Its film analogy is 'grain' for the higher speed rate films (see the link to full-size pictures at the camera review site, I linked to in my comments for DL about the Fuji PNS vs Nikon D70 digiSLR).

    If you want to send me the 'original' full size jpg compressed image, then I have something slightly better to work with... but then you should know that already, correct ;) ?

    Oh, about the butter, I had already assumed those points you made. Not a criticism again; just trying to point some 'other' possibly less knowledgeable people who read your blog about some rather tasty alternatives. Darn, I cannot remember the name of that small dairy up around Carneros Creek portion of Sonoma. The other 'local' I was thinking of, you should be able to find it at your 'local' McOrganic (which again may have not been convenient for you, I know). I will not say I'm not overly thrilled with this butter, but if you have not tried it once, you may find it to your liking. Eat at your own risk, it's not pasteurized; but then neither is the most flavorful of the fresh butters from Normandy. Organic Pastures Raw Butter

    Eek, I just noticed (too much wine yesterday?) that I had used the embedded profile that came with the jpg download, when I 1st opened the file w/PS. That caused a slight green tint to appear. Now that I look at it, that part is the most objectionable of all! (looks like the both of us are real sticklers when it comes to accuracy in color reproduction, which is kind of the antithesis of web publishing, lol).

    So quickly as before, but with keener eye this time; I opened the file but threw out the embedded profile. Ah, much better. The human eye has a much wider dynamic range, or exposure latitude; if you want to compare to what captured images/pics convey, the web is the worst of all in ability to render a broad color gamut and finer gradation of subtle color tones.

    Relevant PS operations,

    1. 'Unsharp Mask' @188% (anymore and it would look terrible), on 2nd thought, I did this over as you objected to this the most; down to 100% and there is a slight loss of apparent sharpness to the bread bite, butter, and cheese on top (notice I'm trying to accentuate, bring out, and contrast both the cheese and butter...who cares about the crust of the bread, hehe usrname spells out my bias!) Sorry, but my impression is that the in both of our initial pics the crust is rendered too much orange/brown intensity. Much like some wide faced women use that tint for blusher, which does make the face appear narrower, but wholly unnatural, IMHO.

    2. 'Curves': I slightly bumped up the shadow areas, brought the highlight levels down enough so you can actually see what is on top of the bread. No it's hardly perfect, all image manipulation is an exercise in compromise... but then you know that ;). I actually am surprised I was able to bring out that much more detail in the highlight areas. As you know, with digicams or digital video, when the highlights get blown out too much it is impossible to recover them in post, whereas it's easier (well maybe not so easy if you're doing ultra quick N dirty edits like I am ;) ) to recover shadow detail in post. 35mm film is currently vastly superior to any kind of digital image sensor in this regard. Oh sure, if I am not careful I can get full on 'solarization' effect with 'Curves'... want to see how just how exaggerated I can make those orange and green pixels in that are 'hidden' by the 'fuzziness' of the original image?!

    3. 'Saturation' function, looking at the original (again, this is the highly compressed net version I'm looking at when I refer to 'original') I decided to reduce the overall yellow in the picture by setting 'Saturation' at -10. I hope your not going to now tell me it 'sucks' cause I took too much yellow out of the picture. Cause if you do, I'm going to say I pity Fred... "high-maintenance" ;-).

    Given the shadow area next to the left of the bread crust, we can guess that there is light from the sun shining through a window (or you have a strong incandescent light bulb in that room?). Professional photographers always do a white balance calibration for the available light at the time of the shoot whenever possible. We of course know that the color of noonday sun is stronger in blue light, while morning/afternoon is 'softer' going into dusk where it is very orange/red. You hope that the auto white balance does it's job, but when you need to get the 'money' shots, you need to calibrate the white balance manually, or the colors will be lacking in accuracy.

    Fact of the matter is that all sensors have some trouble in rendering subtle shades of color. How would you like to take a picture of a pretty cymbidium like Showgirl-Audrey Hepburn

    and then see once you enlarge it, that the lip on the throat of the flower is slightly green tinged, when you know it's completely yellow like a ripe lemon! :angry:

    All I did was reduce the saturation; no color correction has been applied to this picture, lol!

    4. Final Q&D tweak: I used very minor +3 for 'Contrast'.

    Using PS 'History' window I can go back and forth until I'm delirious with boredom and look at how each step changes the image from the original. This Q&D I do in about 5, perhaps tops, 10minutes. Find me a 'professional' PS person you know who can do it faster and better... for free. Someone who knows what your preferences are, and also knows what you do not know about images, lol. Really, since I'm lazy and doing this on my brain dead time; I think you could do the tweaks yourself in just a few minutes, once you practice enough.

    For me at least, now I can see some texture and fine detail to what was once an indistinguishable 'blob' on top of that bite... who wants to bite into an indistinguishable blob? Not very natural if you ask me, YMMV, to each his own ;). I see a sharper image with more detail, which makes flaws in the original image more noticeable, lol. Just trying to make some suggestions that may help others take better pictures.

    I could have been more snarky, and replied "Oh you have a digiSLR! Wow you must have really been famished to get that kind of picture." Then you'd be justified in deleting such an antagonistic post. ;)

    But take another look here (you removed the larger pic, and I have already trashed that one) at the 2nd image where I have circled two of your shadow areas of great appeal. Note at about half the width of the arrowheads, we have pixel boxes showing up... put your eye up to the monitor, or use a magnifying glass. Using 188% or more of 'Unsharp Mask' only makes that worse, more defined. Start with a sharp image, of slightly greater DOF and exposed for the cheese on top; you don't need to make as many compromises, if any are needed at all in post.
    Let us see some examples of just plan degradation without doing multiple passes of jpg compression (remember, we've already had two passes just getting the image up on the blog).
    Still too yellow?
    These 3 images of the same example starting with a saved version of the ~76k file as a PS .psd file of 3.5MB size*,
    Save for Web: Mucho compression setting of 10(low quality)
    notice at 10% quality the ~26k file (near maximum compression... you don't want to see 0%), and how the red circle is full of the classic 'jagged lines' and the far more obvious pixel blocking occurring at the crust inside the circles. Also notice the green pixel halo effect around the circumference of the circles... yuck, but these artifacts are actually pretty much everywhere if you get out your loupe and look.

    Next at 60% much better, but file size is now beyond the original downloaded size of ~76k, @~84k. Want to get it back to exactly the same level as the ~76k downloaded file?

    Save for Web: 60(medium quality)
    At 100% (presumably no more jpg compression is being added, but you don't know this for sure) it looks like it's a match for the ~76k file! LOL, this is a ~220k file bigger than the large size file you had uploaded earlier.
    Save for Web: 100 (maximum quality)

    *Note, after I uploaded all of these pictures, sure enough they all darkened from how they appeared on my screen as I was working on them. I assure you the cheese was quite pale, the butter just barely yellow before I uploaded them. Is there a precise formula to use that will satisfy all when it comes to the sticklers among us???

    And finally, being really, really anal; I went back an did another pass on the already once compressed (by me) jpg--- docking the ‘Saturation’ down, way down, to –40; so there is basically very little color in what I’m seeing on my screen. Then as the French would say ‘et voila!’, do we have a pic that Sam can approve of as being a little better? The cheese still looks a little yellow/ivory in the center of the slice, but the bread crust looks to me to be more accurate of what I imagined the color to really be. Do we have a winner, can we do a poll? :P

    Never mind, now I’m really, really salivating for a slice or two, three, four, lol.
    Save for Web 2nd time at 80 (high quality/ “unsaturated”/low cholesterol –40) Again, no color correction (no, dropping saturation is not considered color correction in the traditional sense) has been done, just a simple Q&D. Pay a pro $$$ who can do 10 minutes per picture and I’m sure you’ll get even better results---these images do not lend themselves to batch mode processing, except you could do a Q&D batch with 75% sharpening, and –20 Saturation and get them all done in minutes,

    Of course, maybe I'm just like many of those CHLA posters (not DL I must add). I don't really know anything, just blowing smoke out of my a** pretending to be knowledgeable. A regular Joe Gourmand ;)

    And this ends our long lesson/dialog on techie talk for web photography.

    Sixy Sam has as much moxie, and sass as DL ;)
    Oh Mistress Samantha, what command of me, will more please thee? :-)

  • At 15/8/05 12:00, Blogger Jennifer Maiser said…

    I just had a snack of the piece of Serena that you gave me, and it was quite tasty. Thanks for introducing to me to a new cheese!


  • At 15/8/05 16:34, Blogger Sam said…

    Mr Monger - as I do this kind of stuff seriously for my day job, I don't spend too much time on it for my blog. If my picture isn't the best in the 1st place, i am not going to beat a dead horse. It's mass media, it's the web, its a quick tunraround, it's not art., It was an ok picture that told a story. I still preferred my rendition to yours (which looked overprocessed). There wasn't much more I could do with it which is why I left it in the state it was. It's here today, gone tomorrow. At work we can spend weeks colour correcting just one shot. Oh and btw - "crushed blacks" is a technical term that is used in real life by colour correction professionals. It means there is no detail in the black areas - all the pixels are clamped to 0.

    Jen - glad you liked the cheese. Maybe you had the scrag end a bit. It was great with the Acme bread!

  • At 16/8/05 12:01, Blogger Lex Culinaria said…

    I love a good cheese sanger. Just bread, cheese, mayo, butter and a little lettuce & I'm in heaven.

    Yours looks great.

    I'm always surprised to find there are so many deathly serious folks on the web. It must have taken hours for LA Cheese to write that.

    And here I thought food blogging was about fun.

    Good on ya Sam. Carry on.


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