Photo Purge: Scenes from the California Bay Area and Beyond

Gateway Market, Emeryville: Adorned with a fantastic mural alongside its parking lot, the Gateway Market is tough to miss on San Pablo Blvd. The artwork has a definite graffiti vibe, but the details are fantastic. Luckily, it hasn't been tagged over. The "W" in Gateway is pictured above (each letter has its own theme). Click on the photo to reveal all of the great flourishes.

Most of these pictures have never appeared on this site, although a couple did appear a few years ago, long before I sharpened my photo-editing skills. Many readers have emailed me about my approach to photography, and I must confess, my only real secret is to simply seek the best lighting possible. Truthfully, I’ve never had any formal photography training, but I did develop an eye for proper lighting while I was working (briefly, almost 15 years ago) as a grip in Los Angeles. Any moviegoer who has bothered to sit through the credits may have wondered what function a grip serves. In a nut shell, the grips help to manipulate the film set’s lighting, based upon the director of photography’s instructions. The “key” grip is the lead grip, while the “best boy” grip is second in command (I was never either of those, obviously). Much like cooking, gripping is long, laborious work with odd hours. However, if you pay attention on the job, you can also learn a few things along the way. Who knew that a summer of gripping would’ve ever become useful?

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Uni with Caul Fat on Crostini @ Marea, NYC: Long before Anthony Bourdain developed his upcoming show, The Layover, which premieres November 21st, I used a four-hour window at JFK to jump onto the subway and eat a seven-course lunch at Marea (top that, Tony). David Koon, my old CIA roommate, was in the kitchen at the time, so I received the VIP treatment, and fast. Coincidentally, Dave opened up his own restaurant, Chuko Ramen, just two days ago in Brooklyn. He said the 35-seat dining room turned out more than 200 covers on its first day, which is an insane number.

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Highway One, Near Salt Point State Park: I was driving up California's North Coast to forage porcinis when I spotted this old fellow gazing out over the Pacific Ocean. He was laying near the edge of the grassy cliff, apparently in total zen mode. Unfortunately, he stood up when I approached to snap a picture. After a two-minute stand-off, I gave up and left him to his meditations. Sorry, buddy.

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Philo Apple Farm, Philo: This large painting adorns the small shopping area at Philo Apple Farm, which is owned by Don and Sally Schmidt, the original owners and founders of Yountville's French Laundry. All purchases are based upon the honor system (at least every time I've visited), and the farm itself is Demeter-certified.

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Nopalito Restaurant, San Francisco: I really like the artwork on this ice-cream freezer outside of Nopalito.

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Five-spice Pork Belly over Rice: This is one of the very first pictures I published on this blog, back at a time when I was publishing recipes. My format has evolved over the years, and at this point, I save all my recipes for the annual Project Food Blog competition, which is coming up again this year (I finished in the Top 12 out of almost 2,000 contestants last year -- just saying).

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Mandina's Restaurant, New Orleans: My sentimental favorite in the Crescent City.

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The Strip District, Pittsburgh, PA: This mural was a work-in-progress during my visit to Pennsylvania a couple years back. I'm sure it's completed by now. I liked where it was headed.

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Boonfly Cafe, Napa Carneros: I spotted this little VW in the parking lot of the Boonfly Cafe one morning. I'm not sure if it belonged to a purveyor or to a guest. Pretty cool whip, regardless.

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Cookie Fortune @ China Village Restaurant, Albany: I think.

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