Comfort Food at Dressel’s Public House

Even though it hasn’t been super cold in St. Louis so far this winter, there have been a few chilly days. If you’re looking for some comfort food, take a trip to the Central West End to Dressel’s Public House. It’s a cozy pub (with a fireplace) that has some delicious cold weather food. In the evening, check out the second floor bar which is our favorite place to hang out.

Below are some outtakes from an assignment I photographed at Dressel’s for Sauce magazine last month. They have this amazing deconstructed Shephard’s Pie that is served in a skillet which you’ve got to try. Delicious and beautiful.

For more on Dressel’s Public House, check out the review from Sauce Magazine.

Blood & Sand

Last month I was given an assignment to photograph Blood & Sand for Feast Magazine. Unlike other speakeasy-style bars in St. Louis, you don’t enter this one through a back door in an alley by the dumpsters. Tucked away on a side street off of Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis is a small set of stairs which leads to a classy wood and glass revolving door. A small silver plate which says Blood & Sand is the only exterior adornment. Despite the fact that it is easy to find, the occasionally seedy atmosphere of it’s location adds the necessary clandestine feel.


T.J. Vytlacil, Mixologist at Blood & Sand in St. Louis, MO

Through the revolving doors you go, and enter a surprisingly large bar area separated from an even larger dining room area by hanging antique windows (a design element I aspire for my own loft). The feel of this joint is definitely that of a mixture of antique and modern elegance and style. And that is kind of the point. Blood and Sand is meant to make you feel like you’re in a private club, and indeed, you are. A monthly membership fee is required to eat and drink at Blood & Sand, currently a modest $15 per month.

Why member’s only? The idea is to give each and every customer a personalized experience and to develop a relationship with everyone who patronizes the establishment. From the Blood & Sand website: “We are members-only for this reason: we are deeply committed to providing unparalleled service and an extraordinary dining and drinking experience. The meaningful relationships we create with our members and their guests are the source of our inspiration.”

Behind the bar you’ll find dozens of varied and interesting glassware, may of them one-of-a-kind. You’ll also see a wide variety of liquors, bitters, tinctures, simple syrups and garnishes that mixologist T.J. Vytlacil uses to create custom cocktails. I’m a man of simple tastes myself (give me some Irish whiskey on the rocks if you want to make me happy) so I tend to gravitate towards the classics like the old-fashioned and the Manhattan. But whether you are plain jane imbiber or a bit more adventurous, T.J. will find the perfect cocktail for you


Scallop Ceviche and Fried Chicken at Blood & Sand in St. Louis, MO.


Chef Chris Bork at Blood & Sand in St. Louis, MO

I didn’t get a chance to try the food that I photographed (above) but I’ve been back in a social capacity several times and grabbed some drinks and food with several of my friends. Chef Chris Bork has developed a great menu of small dishes, and at this point I think we’ve at tried most of the menu. The hand made tater tots are a must have, and then I have one word for you: sweatbreads. If they have sweatbreads on the menue when you visit Blood & Sand: get the sweatbreads. And of course the cocktails are intense, interesting and inventive. Bottoms up!

Salsiccia Pizza with Egg at Mad Tomato in St. Louis

A few days before the Cardinals won the World Series, I was on assignment in Clayton at Mad Tomato photographing (among other things) their fabulous Salsiccia pizza for Sauce magazine. I am a huge pizza fan and have been making it at home for quite some time now. My version of a salsiccia pizza is pretty damn tasty but I don’t have a 700 degree oven to bake it in. And of course I learned the most valuable pizza lesson ever: much like bacon, an egg on top makes almost everything better.

Yes. In addition to the delicious crust, sauce, sausage and cheese, they break an egg onto the middle of the pizza right before it goes into the oven. I can’t believe I’ve never done this before, but it makes delicious sense. Pizza is delicious, eggs are delicious, so it should be no surprise that it is not only beautiful but rich and decadent and tasty as well. Yum.

Mad Tomato has a lot of other great dishes as well, so I’m sure it’s going to be a regular stop for us (although we aren’t in Clayton very often). For more photos and information, read the full review of Mad Tomato from Sauce Magazine

Review of Mad Tomato in St. Louis

You can find the latest issue at Sauce at your newstand in St. Louis. If you’re not in the St. Louis area you can also get a subscription on their website, either in hardcopy or electronic.

On Assignment: The Block in Webster Groves

I have been in St. Louis for just over a year now (where did the time go??) and while my navigational skills are getting better, I still have a lot to learn about the various neighborhoods in the area. I have enough trouble getting around these neighborhoods, let alone familiarizing myself with all of the restaurants in each. This is where my recent food photography assignments have come in handy: they force me out of my usual haunts and get me out into neighborhoods that I don’t normally get to, in this case, Webster Groves.

I photographed The Block in Webster Groves for Sauce Magazine on a hot and steamy Tuesday night in early August and despite the fact that it had only been open a matter of weeks, word was definitely out. As I photographed some of their amazing meat and fish dishes at a small table by the door people started to arrive in droves. By 5:30, the dining room was filled to capacity and the bar had standing room only, packed with people. I, for one, would happily wait in a line just for their milk chocolate ice cream with bacon and chocolate syrup. Yep, that’s right, chocolate and bacon. I realize that bacon has become perhaps a little too ubiquitous these days but still, it’s bacon. In this case, bacon on ice cream.

My shoot at The Block was pretty intense – there was another photographer there on an assignment from another magazine and as I mentioned, the place was slammed. I usually try to schedule my restaurant shoots for slow times, but it seems like there are no slow times at the Block. The owners and staff rocked it though, and were super helpful with me and the hungry patrons packing in the doors. I’m looking forward to going back on a night when I’m not working so I can enjoy the food even more! You can read the full review of The Block over at Sauce Magazine’s website.

You can find the latest issue at Sauce at your newstand in St. Louis. If you’re not in the St. Louis area you can also get a subscription on their website, either in hardcopy or electronic.

On Assignment: Dvin for Sauce Magazine

I recently had the pleasure of photographing Dvin restaurant in Webster Groves, St. Louis. Dvin is a tiny family restaurant run by the mother/daughter team: mom cooks and daughter serves. The interior really feels like you’re having dinner in a Ukranian grandmother’s living room filled with Eastern European tsotchkes and knick-knacks. The exterior windows are obscured with lace and houseplants giving the place a closed appearance even when it’s open. It was definitely a challenge to photograph but I had a blast doing it. Read the Sauce review of Dvin then get out there and support a great family restaurant.

You can find the latest issue at Sauce at your newstand in St. Louis. If you’re not in the St. Louis area you can also get a subscription on their website, either in hardcopy or electronic.

Website Refresh and PhotoShelter Integration

I usually try to update my website every year or so to adapt for the way that my career and life has evolved. Last year when I updated jonathangayman.com I was more focused on marketing towards my corporate clients, but in the past year my work has started to slide more towards the food and lifestyle side. I had two main goals when putting together this site refresh: simplify the design for a more professional look that would really focus on the images, and to have an overall light theme rather than a dark one.

I have been using a combination of WordPress and PhotoShelter for years, but with this iteration of my site I decided to integrate PhotoShelter a lot more. I have been a PhotoShelter subscriber for several years, but I have never taken full advantage of the website features that they offer. WordPress is a great content management system for blogging, and while they have decent image management for the casual user, they just don’t have the kind of image heavy processing ability that I need. So I turned to PhotoShelter to handle 90% of the image galleries, portfolios and image distribution/sales.

Give it a look, kick the tires, let me know if anything is broken…

On Assignment: Sauce Magazine – July 2011

As I mentioned in my previous post, I did some work for Sauce Magazine, a culinary magazine here in St. Louis. While the majority of my work these days is corporate, I have been exploring food culture and photography over at my blog Shoot To Cook, and it is always exciting to get food assignments.

My assignments for the July Issue included The Boat House in Forest Park, a recipe ingredient’s shot, and the vegan banh mih at Sweet Art. If you haven’t been to Sweet Art you should totally check it out, and I have to say that the banh mi tastes just as good as it looks. I am a dedicated carnivore, but I have to admit that it is a fantastic sandwich and shouldn’t be missed.

You can find the latest issue at Sauce at your newstand in St. Louis. If you’re not in the St. Louis area you can also get a subscription on their website, either in hardcopy or electronic.

The Boat House for Sauce Magazine

In the world of corporate photography, the summer is always the slowest time of the year. In my experience Memorial Day sparks the time of the year when companies face the challenge of dealing with vacations. I think that in a lot of cases, one or more decision makers for any given project are out on vacation, so if plans haven’t been made well in advance, decisions like hiring photographers for projects tend to slow down until the end of August.

Despite this slow down I haven’t been idle. In addition to my usual clients I had the pleasure of working on a few assignments for one of my favorite local publications, Sauce Magazine. Not only an excellent culinary resource, Sauce also sources great images from our pool excellent local photographers. I’m excited to be a part of it. If you haven’t seen Sauce you should definitely hit up your news stand now to grab a copy. If you don’t happen to live in the area, not to worry it’s available in a digital format as well.

One of my assignments was to make some photographs of the beautiful Boat House in Forest Park.In Sauce Magazine’s Reader’s Choice issue that just came out, the Boat House was voted Best Place for Kids, but it’s a pretty great place for the adults too. The Boat House is an popular place to hang out in the evenings, have a drink and watch the sun set. If you’re so inclined you can also rent paddle boats and canoes to troll around the waterways of the park. It’s definitely a great place for dinner and drink year round. Here are a few outtakes from the shoot:


Forest Park Boathouse – Images by Jonathan Gayman

As an interesting side note, this is the first project I’ve worked on that I have been bitten by a dog! I was stationed out on the far shore across from the Boat House just after sunset to capture a long exposure night shot when all of a sudden, out of nowhere a tiny ball of fur came running out of the darkness. It was a ferocious and very determined teacup poodle trailing a leash. This little Napoleon apparently thought I was the paparazzi and before I could move he gave my ankle a good nip. Luckily for me, his bark was definitely worse than his bite and I was unharmed.