Happy Cinco de Mayo!

It may have started out as a celebration of the Mexican army's victory over the french in the small city of Puebla, but for Americans, it's really just some sort of "Mexico Day." Fine by me! I've got a couple of quick Mexico related things to share.

I posted a picture of a really delicious chili pineapple popsicle from a bus stop in Mexico to my instagram today. It's a fun shot full of sunshine and summertime. Head over there and give me a like or a follow! 

A bunch of my Mexico City street food shots are featured on The Mija Cronicles! Some of those photos might be familiar but they have now been explained a bit by a Mexican food expert. Head over there and ask a question in the comments and you'll get a great answer.

Margarita time!


Eat Mexico Street Food Tour

Before heading to Mexico City, I did a quick google search for food tour companies. Eat Mexico popped right up and looked like a great group of people to work with. I got on the phone with them immediately and planned to photograph a their street food tour. It was a fantastic tour, but in hindsight, this was the most difficult shoot of the trip.

It was fast, with crazy light. Jackietara and I were working so quickly that most of the time I wasn't sure if we got anything before moving on. It was all on the streets on a very sunny day. Shoot for 5 minutes, grab a taco or whatever, and start walking to the next spot. Out of control.

When I finally gathered the courage to sit down and edit, fearing the worst from a set of images that I had promised to share, something great happened. They were raw, but the pictures represented who I was as a photographer.  I snuck up on myself. With no time to think or plan, my vision shone through and saved me. For me, that's how I know it's really mine.

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Birria and a Bullfight

On Wednesday I took a guided street food tour through a company called Eat Mexico (more on this in another post). It was fantastic, in no small part due to our guide Francisco de Santiago. Aside from his enormous knowledge of Mexican cuisine, he is also a former professional bullfighter. I have been curious about bullfights and the culture of food around them since arriving here, so when he offered to take me to a special fight that was happening on a thursday night, I jumped at the chance. It didn't hurt that in the same breath he said that we would meet up early to eat birria, from a vendor that only sells it on bullfight days, outside the stadium. He also said his father had taken him to the same place as a child.

Wait, how old is this place? What's birria?

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Birria is the single best thing I have had to eat in Mexico. It is basically a goat stew in which everything is diced very finely but I still don't understand exactly how it's made. I think the ingredients are all prepped in advance so that they can be combined and served up nearly instantly to hungry fight-goers who are eager to get to their seats. You can take big bites of meat and onion, slurp the broth, strain out the solids for tacos, add salsa for even more depth of flavor, or lime for more brightness to cut through the rich goat. There are a million ways to eat this stuff and none of them is really better than the others. You can't go wrong. This is an old school one pot dish but it is a chameleon of flavors.

About the vendor at Plaza de Toros. It turns out they the same family has been cranking birria out of this spot at basically every bullfight for the past 60 years. That is the same amount of time that McDonalds has been a franchise. But 60 years really just has to do with how long this bullring (the largest in the world) has been open. Apparently the family has been making it for well over 100 years. This bowl of soup is a national treasure. It should be in the museum of regional fast food that doesn't suck. Unlike McDonalds.

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Whatever your feelings about the institution of bullfighting, when you actually go to one, you see there is a lot more going on than the fight. It's like a baseball game. Do you go to watch baseball? Sort of. But it's equally about the experience of community. Everyone sits down together, grabs a drink, and breaks bread. On that level at least, it's pretty great.

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Regarding the killing of the bulls, all of the meat is butchered in the stadium as soon and the animal is brought out of the ring. Every bit is used. So I ask myself, is it really worse than the practices of industrial slaughterhouses?

Mercado de Medellin in Colonia Roma

I wish I could shop like this in DC. 

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I also wish I could eat like this in DC.

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But this place takes it up a notch. As in many markets around the world, you can have it both ways. Need groceries but don't want to shop on an empty stomach? No problem. Slide into a plastic chair over by the fish dudes and tuck into a healthy portion of octopus or ceviche. Or sidle up to the bar by the butchers for a steak and potatoes kind of affair. Then buy a pound of figs for a dollar or whatever because produce might as well be free.

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And who wants to shop sober? Along with the usual suspects they have crazy drinks like the Morenaza Cubana, which reminds me of a Baltimore Margarita (Natty Boh in an Old Bay rimmed glass) but packs a bigger punch. If you are playing along at home you will need the following: dark, light, or amber lager, lemon juice, salt (rim), mezcal, and some unidentified spice blend that tastes exactly like old bay. Served over a few ice cubes. It's messy and ugly but would be so good with blue crabs and corn on the cob in the summer. We will meet again, delicious brew.

Another good option, find the guys that just finished work at their stalls and drink mezcal with them.

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2000 Year-Old Pyramids

Taking a little time away from food today, we decided to see a very unique archeological site in teotihuacan and make a few photos for Jackietara's blog. Not only are these the world's second tallest pyramids, but they were also built around 100 BC  to 400 AD. They actually predate the Mayans and the Aztecs. Also the population of this city is estimated to have been around 150,000. Some of the first communal living buildings have been found here, which are essentially 2000 year old apartment buildings. All around wild place.


I've been told a lot of things around the park are overpriced but waiting for us at the bus stop was a man selling a cooler full of popsicles. This is a pineapple with chili pepper. $0.50 and a Total slam dunk.


A Reminder About Creativity

"I wrote a piano concerto in early 2010, and I didn’t feel like writing much else for the rest of the year. When I started writing tunes again, I was surprised by what came out — a lot of what I was writing didn’t seem to fit the mold of what I thought I should be writing. It took me a little while to realize that I had evolved as a composer, and that my previous ideas about what a tune should be didn’t apply anymore. The fact that one can surprise oneself as a composer is what’s fascinating to me: you are, in a way, divided in two when you write, and one part of you can sneak up on the other without it knowing it. Those kinds of moments remind me that our creativity essentially comes from the same place as our dreams — a place we just don’t control. Or, if we do control it, it goes stale, fast."

From Dan Tepfer's - All I heard Was Nothing

 Photo of Dan Tepfer by Philippe Marchin

Photo of Dan Tepfer by Philippe Marchin

At the end of the month I'm heading to Mexico City for a week to photograph food. I won't be able to have my full set of lights and tools with me and I've been worrying about that loss of control and familiarity. Reading Dan's words, I was reminded of how healthy it can be to take a step back from one's usual process and change things up. Even, or maybe especially, when you don't know exactly what will change.

Hoping to sneak up on myself in Mexico City and throughout 2014. Happy New Year!

New Portfolio Site, New Blog Under Construction

So I've got a new slick website and this new space for blogging (welcome)! Only problem is that my new slick website's blog and my old blog don't want to play nice, so I'm manually porting all of my old posts over to here. It's a pain but I'm looking forward to having everything in the cleaner format. In the mean time, feel free to leave a comment on this post about the site. Like the horizontal scroller? Wish that it would scroll with a swipe on your iPad (I do)? Miss a photo that was in on my old site? I'm all ears and would love to hear from you.


P.S. If you are a client trying to access some old images via a teddywolff.com/... gallery and are having trouble, try the same link but make it client.teddywolff.com/... Should take you somewhere familiar.

Horseback Riding @ 9000ft.

Finally getting to my last post from Colorado. For those of you who were waiting for the pictures of cats that I promised a couple posts back, here they are.

By our last day in the mountains we were seeing some diminishing returns from our lift tickets. Between our beat legs, the lack of fresh powder, and an depleted supply of half price lift tickets, it seemed like a good time to try something else out for a day. So we drove down into the valley instead of up into the mountains and saddled up at a local horse ranch for a trail ride. It was a great change of pace and a totally different way to see the beautiful Arkansas River Valley and the 14ers of the Collegiate Peaks. Also, there were a bunch of kittens hanging out. It was an adorable day.

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Get Your Bearings and Feel Better After a Flight

Taking a long trip by car can be disorienting enough, but when I come out of a series of airports and flights I feel totally placeless. Air travel has become like time consuming teleportation that involves a lot of bureaucracy. Quick fix. When you get to your destination, walk up a hill and look around.

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That's what I chose to do with my first day in Colorado. I was antsy to hit the slopes but It was a very busy Saturday at Monarch and I wanted a little time to catch my breath at 10,000ft. So I took off to a nearby valley with Jackie and Nate, asked for a trail at a local sandwich shop, and hoofed it for a while.

I've never thought about it explicitly before but I've been doing something similar for years and it always jumpstarts my connection to somewhere new. Part of traveling is understanding and creating your own story of a place and it helps me to first find an "establishing shot."

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I get to know the place, get a little exercise, and life is good again. Time to hit the hot springs. Nate has a post covering those magical places. Check it out.

Best Ski Run of the Year

Why would I choose to walk up the side of a snowy mountain, 12,000ft above sea level, in ski boots when there are perfectly good chairlifts? It pays to be different. In skiing, sometimes that means hiking. 

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Many big mountains have hike only back bowls and faces and if you've never loosened up those boot buckles and hoofed it up the last couple hundred vertical feet, you are missing out on one of the easiest, cheapest, and safest ways to experience backcountry skiing. Big open bowls above tree line, beautiful open glades, and super steeps can all be found on lift accessible terrain at most big mountains in Colorado. None can boast 3 feet of powder, days after a storm. Too many people have been there, skied that.

We had fantastic weather for our trip to Monarch. It dumped snow before we got there and continued as we arrived during the weekend. It was great to see the joy on the faces of locals who were there seeking the best snow in the state and getting it, but it was also a very busy weekend for the mountain. Despite the great snow, I took the extra crowded Saturday off in favor of a little exploration hike and soak in a hot spring (I'll put up a little post about it soon). By the end of the week, much of the powder was packed down pretty well on most of the mountain. But not in Mirkwood.

Mirkwood is over a ridge that no lift crosses. You have to walk over the ridge in order to get to that face of the mountain. 99% of people will never do it. But you should. As is so often true, a little extra effort at the right moment will payoff big. Not by getting you a little more of what everyone else has, but by getting you something entirely different, which they will never see.

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And in a few years time, what will you remember: a 15 minute hike or the best ski run of the year?

Back to Monarch, CO

This is the first in a series of posts on my recent trip to Colorado. Over the next couple of weeks there will be more skiing (details further down this post) and a surprise. All I will say about that is that it will be equally outdoorsy and beautiful... and there will be kittens. Let's get to it!

It's quickly becoming tradition. February is ski month and the routine is worked out. Fly into Denver, grab a car, and head through the passes, valleys and towns for Monarch Mountain. If you want to learn more about Monarch and why I fly out just to go there every year then check out my post from last year, Rocky Mountain Skiing for the Rest of Us, but also consider the fact that Monarch has some of the best tree skiing in the state.

This year I was again accompanied by close friend (and fellow photographer) Nate Ryan and my cousin Jens. New to the rotation was my partner in crime, Jackie, who gets major props for taking on learning to ski and being damn good at it. I spent some time showing her the ropes on the bunny slope but she didn't stay over there long. After a good first day of practice (without falling once) she was off exploring the big lifts. Just born a ski bunny I guess.

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But I didn't spend all of my ski days on the greens. The fresh powder on the ground measured in feet. It was some of the best conditions i've seen in 20 years of skiing. Only Monarch was getting the snow. Other mountains a few miles away were coming up dry by that's the nature of weather when you've got huge mountains all around; things get very local. We made the most of it. Check back in a few days for a post that shows our best run of the trip, how we made it happen, and how you can too.

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Rocky Mountain Skiing for the Rest of Us

Don't have the spare change laying around for a weeklong trip to Telluride? Me neither. That's why this season I took a trip to Monarch Mountain just outside of Salida, CO. 


There should be a sign, "Welcome to Monarch, CO, home of friendly folks, great snow, and lift tickets you can actually afford!" As you can see, there isn't but here's the secret. Lift tickets are only $50 something to start with but if you fill up your car at a local Shell gas station you can bring the receipt to the mountain and get 2for1 lift tickets! No joke. This place is just that local and great.


Minnesota Public Radio's very own Photo/Video guy, Nate Ryan. He's got a blog post on the trip as well. Go find it!


Our local guide and blogger extraordinaire, Rob Werge. Also happens to be my uncle and an all around good dude.


Cousin Jens floating through the trees. He's unlinkable and an enigma. Keep wondering ladies.


Extra secret! No receipt? No problem. There is usually someone near the lift ticket counter looking for a stranger to buy a 2for1 ticket with.  Seriously, it's crazy easy to get cheap tickets at this mountain. And there are hot springs and a good hostel! 2013? Yes, please.

Chefs Hitting It Out of the Park

Chefs and photographers share something interesting. We do a commonplace task professionally. We offer a supercharged level of performance - extreme consistency and ability under pressure. Everyone cooks and everyone takes pictures but we offer something special. Most people can throw a baseball but not everyone can compete in the MLB.

When I show up to a restaurant to make images of food it is like a playoff game for the chef. It is a very special sort of attention that a plate of food gets when the chef and I know that a picture of that plate will be seen by thousands of people. I'm going to just do a little recap of some favorite places I've been recently. All are seriously delicious and worth a little effort to get to if you aren't living around the corner.

I have a long relationship with the restauranteurs behind the inventive and whimsical restaurant Mr. Rain's Funhouse at the American Visionary Art Museum. It's over in the beautiful Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore and they have a third floor roof deck for your summer enjoyment. Fabulous food. Award winning beverage program. When I'm in town, I'm there. Don't miss it.


This past week I found a couple of places in Waldorf, MD, that I will be back to soon. Both are in strip malls and have bad websites and delicious, simple food. I got assigned to shoot these places for an article in the Post Express. Kodori is a Japanese/Korean restaurant the size of a small apartment. They churned out some fantastic sushi and bibimbap and everyone there felt like part of the family that runs the place, even though many weren't. This is a place I would eat at every week if I lived close enough. Nine bucks for a gal-bi bibimbap bowl and it's a feast that comes with soup, salad and tons of bahnchahn including a couple types of kimchee. This is the best kind of eating. Look at it, then go find it.


The other spot was a revelation in ribs. Lefty's BBQ. Cooked twice, the first is a secret, the second is on a wood fired grill inside the restaurant. I ate them for dinner two nights in a row and was sad on the third night when I ran out. That good.


Last but not least is a shoot I did for Scoutmob with Kushi on K St. here in DC. First of all, if you don't know what Scoutmob is then you are missing out big time. Long and short of it is that it is the best way to find new local spots to eat if you live in the city and you get 50% off when you go to one of those spots for the first time! I started working with them after using their app so much that their DC team noticed me and invited me to happy hour. Turned out they needed a photographer and I was one. Perfect.

Back to Kushi. This place has it going on and they are launching a brunch with local music acts and special cocktails. They turned to Scoutmob to get the word out about their new morning/afternoon deliciousness and Scoutmob turned to me for the pictures. Tastes as rad as it looks or your money back. Scoutmob is running a deal for brunch for two with drinks for $35 including everything you see here.

Eat up!