Tag Archives: Freelance

Faces of Globalization

April 2010

When I was a student, at Carnegie Mellon University, trying to add more film classes to my routine, my good friend Erin recommended The Film Festival Course.  “You watch films, you write a brief essay every few weeks and then you make a mini festival for the campus.  It’s easy.  It’s fun.”  I registered for the course, and what transpired was the complete opposite of Erin’s description.  There was a new professor, and she had a different vision- a gigantic vision- for the course.

We did watch films, and we did submit essays, but the class also put on a city-wide film festival with visiting filmmakers called The Faces of Democracy.  I hadn’t worked so hard or been so inspired since my freshman year architecture studio courses.  Creating a festival involved marketing, design, creative writing, film critique and much, much more than I ever would have imagined.

The following year, the film festival fell under the auspices of the Humanities Center, and Jolanta Lion went from being a professor to being the Assistant to the Director of the Humanities Center, with her main role being Film Festival Director.  As such, she reeled me into the project again even though I was in France working as a nanny at the time.

Faces of Globalization (2010) marked my fourth year of participating in the production of the Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival.  Throughout the various festivals, my focus was on text and image.  I wrote grant proposals, festival descriptions, film synopses, director biographies and opening night speeches.  I worked with the graphic design firm on image selection and used film stills to make individual fliers for specific film campaigns.

(click on the festival program images to enlarge and read my work)

No matter how hard I worked, Jolanta was always plugging away on so many more tasks, so when the Globalization festival overlapped with her birthday, I added a special surprise to one of the screenings:  a birthday cake!  The opera singer who was there as pre-film entertainment started the audience in singing “Happy Birthday,” as I walked down the auditorium to present Jolanta with a very special Face of . . . Cake!

Mocha Pound Cake


For the Cake

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup unbleached, pure cane sugar
1/2 cup local, wildflower honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 teaspooons Kahlúa
1 cup organic hot chocolate powder
2 teaspoons water at room temperature
4 teaspoons Brazilian coffee, finely ground
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup soured whole milk at room temperature (regular milk will work as well)

For the Buttercream

1 package of cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon local wildflower honey
confectioners sugar to taste

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 °F

Place the butter, sugar, honey and syrup in the bowl of a vintage mixer and beat on medium-high for 4-5 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the kahlua and cocoa powder.

In a small bowl, add the water and espresso powder until smooth.  Crack the eggs into the bowl and beat to blend.

With the mixer running on medium, add the egg mixture to the butter mixture, about 1 Tbs at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend before adding the next.  Scrape down the bowl about halfway through adding the eggs and then continue.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, hot chocolate powder, baking powder and salt.

With the mixer on the lowest speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and the soured milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Scrape the bowl, mix by hand and then pour into prepared pans.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

For the Buttercream

Beat ingredients together using a food processor or a stand mixer until creamy.

When The Gallery Gives You Lemons…

October 2009

When I decided to stay in Pittsburgh, my good friend Erin decided to take advantage of my quirky food presentation hobbies.  She was working as the Exhibitions Coordinator at the Carnegie Mellon Miller Gallery.  The gallery’s next show dealt with radical proposals for new ways of thinking about the world, the massive number of inhabitants and how the two combine in a sustainable way.

The official press release for the show:  In 1938, the visionary designer R.Buckminster Fuller wrote Nine Chains to the Moon, his radical proposal for improving the quality of life for all humankind via progressive design and maximization of the world’s finite resources. The title was a metaphor for cooperation–if all of humankind stood on each others’ shoulders we could complete nine chains to the moon. Today, the population of the planet has increased more than three times (we could now complete 29 chains to the moon), and the successful distribution of energy, food, and shelter to over 9 billion humans by 2050 requires some fantastic schemes. Like Fuller’s revelation from five decades earlier, 29 Chains to the Moon features artists who put forth radical proposals, from seasteads and micronations to floating cities, to make the world work for everyone.

A show stemming from Buckminster Fuller required a futuristic reception.  The opening night veered drastically from the typically, politically correct, vegan fanfare, and that’s where I came into play.  The gallery had purchased “miracle fruit” in the form of a pill.  The fruit comes from Africa, and when you let the pill dissolve on your tongue, it affects how you perceive flavors.  Bitter flavors take on an intense sweetness, or at least, that was the claim.  I was there to make a really awkward grouping of foods look appealing.

I made shots of tobasco sauce, a “punch” of red-wine vinegar with lemons, put swords in pickled vegetables and threw brightly colored gummy worms on everything as a garnish.

Most people’s reaction was still a bit of disgust.  The berry did alter the flavors but not in an overwhelmingly significant way.  There was still some bitterness.  There was also the normal course of bodily actions that follows eating lots of acids and fermented foods, even if they did taste better.

In the end, there were bags and bags of lemons, gummies, pickled vegetables and moon pies.  The only thing to interest me was the lemon supply.  What to do when the gallery hands you lots and lots of lemons?

Buy some chocolate. Melt the chocolate. And bake a cake!

“The sweetest way I think of you is when the day is done.” – Emily Dickinson

Life Gives You Lemon Cake

Wet Ingredients

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups pure cane sugar
1 1/2 cups local wildflower honey
1 cup olive oil
4 local, free-range eggs
2 Tbs Apple Cider vinegar
1 Tbs vanilla

Dry Ingredients

6 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 tsps baking soda
2 Tbs potatoe starch
2 tsps salt
1 1/2 cup soured raw milk
1 Qt whole lemon wedges (with peel), chopped in food processor


Ghirardelli’s White Chocolate
8 oz unsalted butter
6 oz cream cheese
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Icing/Filling Directions

Whip together in a food processor until creamy.


1 jar organic raspberry preserves
Local wildflower honey


Preheat the oven to 325ºF

Cream the butter and sugar.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Add the oil, vinegar and vanilla.

Mix the dry ingredients.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix.

Add the chopped lemon mixture and mix well.

Bake in two round pans at 325F for 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the cakes.


Cut each cake into two layers

Alternate adding icing+ wildflower honey, raspberry jam + wildflower honey in between layers.

Once cake is layered, ice the entire outside.

Read a poem and enjoy!

Panorama Looking In

Coming Soon… www.allegrohearth.com

June 2009

In between baking shifts, early, early, early morning shifts filling wholesale orders and running the retail side of the bakery, my boss at Allegro Hearth Bakery asked if I could squeeze in taking photos and writing the text for the future website.  Of course I could!  I was honored he asked me, and I couldn’t have been more excited to add my touch to the future Allegro Hearth web presence!  The following is a comprehensive preview of what is to come once the website launches.  Click on the thumbnails of the baked goods to see a larger image and a description.

Situated in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where commerce still carries a friendly face and “mom” and “pop” still have a retail space, you will find Allegro Hearth’s bakers mixing dough, shaping the loaves and loading the oven until the wee hours of the morning.  Allegro’s bakers bring culinary training and a family history of bread making to each and every loaf.  While putting taste and texture first, each baker adds an individual touch and design to the crusts.

At Allegro Hearth, you’ll find a variety of fresh traditional breads, new twists on old recipes and pastries baked fresh, seven days a week.  Venturing in and around Pittsburgh, you’ll find slices of Allegro Hearth bread on the plates of the finest eating establishments and in the aisles of trusted neighborhood grocers to whom the bakery delivers fresh baked goods seven days a week.

An Allegro recipe begins with pure ingredients, the base of which is the choice of unbleached, unbromated, hard, red, spring, wheat flour.  Allegro does not use artificial flavors or preservatives.  In the tradition of artisan bread baking, most Allegro loaves begin with a sourdough starter in lieu of commercial baker’s yeast.  Starter is a simple mixture of aging flour, water and wild yeast.

During the fermentation period, bacteria feed on the sugars in flour and produce acidic by-products.  This process results in a richer flavor, a more complex texture and a thicker crust.  At the end of each night, the bakers “feed” the starter more flour and water and monitor its nuances closely.

Thus each loaf carries with it the history and development of its mother dough, a bacterial complexity that cannot be created overnight nor can its yielded flavor be mimicked with shortcuts.  Reaffirm the tradition you trust or try a loaf for the first time.  The bakery crew looks forward to your patronage.  Remember to ask about a bread card when you visit- buy eight loaves and the ninth one is on the house!