If you have the lucky job of writing, blogging or posting about the food you eat or restaurants you visit, it’s worth putting in the effort to get A+ pics of your plate. Even though there may be a bit of a learning curve to master the lighting, you certainly don’t want to spend more time staring at your food through your phone than actually enjoying it. You know what they say, phone eats first. Here are a few tips for the perfect food photo opportunity:

Natural Lighting is Key

One of the most critical pieces of advice we can give you is to use natural light when taking a picture of your meal. Let’s be real; bright yellow lighting doesn’t do any favors for perfectly cooked fish and sauteed collards. Whatever you do, don’t use the flash! You’ll end up with a washed out picture that entirely doesn’t capture the meal how you want it to look on Instagram or your blog.

Close-up Frame

That beautiful piece of fish on your plate is just dying to be featured on your Facebook, and Valley Smoke would love a shout-out, too! In today’s day and age, it’s pretty standard to see our guests try to get the perfect shot of their delicious broiled oysters before taking that first bite. If you’re trying to show off the size of the meal instead of snapping a close-up, take a step back and maybe even fit in some of the pretty scenery!

Food Focus

We know it can be hard when you’ve got a great meal in front of you, but don’t lose focus. By this, we mean that your camera shot should focus solely on your food and none of the surrounding distractions. If you have a nice camera, try to get everything out of focus in the background, so the viewer’s eye draws right to the meal in the foreground of your snap. This will make your primary object, that delicious meal, really stand out.

Experience Exposure

Don’t just snap a photo and leave it at that. When you share your image on your social networks, tell your followers why! Was it the best meal you’ve ever had, was that salmon something special or was the soup just like your mom used to make? Tell everyone why the meal deserved a post, and don’t forget to tell your followers where you had that excellent meal!

Taking a picture of your food for social media can be a tough task, especially when your stomach is rumbling. If you spend this much time focusing on how to take the perfect picture, imagine how much time we spend perfecting the taste and quality of our food. Come to Valley Smoke, take some pictures, have a great meal and share your experience with your friends. We can’t wait to see you!


In a time where there’s a brewery on every corner and everyone is an IPA-expert, there are still two traditional varieties that are sipped the most: ales and lagers. Whether you keep it simple and only pay attention to flavor or you get fancy with the fermentation techniques, we’ve got the low-down on these two variations of beer and how they’ll play into your Super Bowl Party. With Jacksonville’s ever-evolving craft beer scene, it’s important stay in the loop about what’s brewin’ in the Bold City. Here are some important similarities and differences between ale and lager:


If you didn’t know already, the brewing process is the main difference between ale and lager. That means the first step to understanding these two beers is learning about the brewing process! Ales originated in England in the 1700s, where they created the idea of brewing at warmer temperatures (between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit). This distinct process results in a beer with very unique taste, smell and texture.

Ales are a craft brewery favorite, typically focusing on IPAs (India Pale Ales) and APA (American Pale Ales). Another common ale variety is a stout, which is typically an acquired taste reserved for seasoned beer drinkers. They’re dark, robust, heavy and certainly not for everyone.

When someone talks about an ale, “citrusy, robust and bold” are common buzzwords that find their way into the conversation. We have no doubt an IPA will make its way into your Super Bowl beer selection. At Valley Smoke, we’ll be serving up some of our favorite ales to keep the party going. From small-batch craft options to our rotating draft, there’s something for everyone to sip on during the big game.

Our Favorite Menu Items to Pair With Your Ale:

– Farm House Mini Sandwiches: Buttermilk Biscuits, House Cured Country Ham, Pepper Jelly

– Carolina Style Chopped Pork

– Smoked Chicken Wings: Alabama White BBQ Sauce or House Buttermilk Blue Cheese


The cooler temperatures used to brew lagers causes the yeast to settle at the bottom during the fermentation process. The result of this German process is a crisp, clean beer. Compared to ales, lagers are far lighter in color; often transparent. The most common crowd-pleasers are lagers. Lagers are a go-to choice for novices and experienced beer drinkers alike.

While ales may have more complex layers of flavor, “crisp and smooth” are good descriptors for a lager. Lighter beers typically fall into the lager category and are usually high in carbonation. Many casual beer drinkers prefer lagers because of their mellow flavors.

One of our favorite things about a lager is how well it pairs with pretty much all food, especially BBQ. The menu at Valley Smoke is right up any beer drinker’s alley. Here are our favorite menu items to pair with your cold lager:

– Crispy Chicken Livers with Red Pepper Jelly, Whipped Lemon Cream and Fried Shallots

– Valley Smoke Beef Brisket

– Local Shrimp & Chorizo Pasta


Thanks to the brewing and fermentation processes created by some old guys a couple hundred years ago, we now have the beers we love and enjoy today.While both of these beers are distinctly different, we have a great variety of both. Whether you’re sipping a cold beer watching the game or enjoying a private party at Valley Smoke, we recommend trying one of each to see what you prefer. We can’t wait to see you! Cheers.