Monday, March 19, 2007

The Legend of Painters

Painters-Larry and Kelly and Erin and Dianna and Matt and Steve

This Brookhaven Hamlet restaraunt was one of the first places I ate at on Long Island way back in 1998. Very little about the place has seemingly changed in that time and the eatery functions as not only one our favorite restaraunts but (more importantly) as a source of comfort and familiarity. The fact that it is less than five minutes from our house makes it the rare place that is both geographically approximate and gastronomically desireable.

Typically, we eat at Painters about twice a week. We are fond of the entire staff who are attractive, hardworking and relaxed to a man and woman. Our greatest fondness is for
Kelly and Erin the hardworking bartendresses. Erin and Kelly function with a sort of yin/yang-Ginger/Mary Ann dynamic and both of their respective styles complement each other. They often The waitstaff is unfailingly polite and courteous. Diana and Matt are first among equals in this department as they make the difficult tasks associated with waiting look easy. Diana is especially good at sensing "our" needs and always knows when we require another drink, dessert, or the check. She also remembers our preferences with Uri Geller-like skill and a nod to her is often enough to ensure she will be bringing the sublime flourless chocolate cake in a moment. (More about the chocolate cake in a moment).

Which brings us to Painters' food and drink. Chef Luis ranks not only as the most underrated chef on Long Island but is a strong contender for the best and most inventive chef in Suffolk County. Mainly he does this with a kind of Zen that divorces himself from the self-conciousness of many other restaraunts in Suffolk county traffic in. (You hear that World Pie in Bridgehampton? Yeah, Nic and Toni's I'm talking about you!). His way with the simplest of food like calamari, tuna, steak, mussels and salads bring out dimensions that one might never believe they possessed. Steak for instance, the most male and American of foods is almost always screwed up these days in American restaraunts. Why? Many reasons: Chefs think about it too much, try to do too much to the thing, make it too much of a showpiece. The truth is steak is too fundamental a food to try to make it a dazzler. Many chefs are stuck in a 90's cigar bar mentality where this is concerned and Luis, for instance, avoids this and his flat iron steak (the only place in Suffolk to serve it on a regular basis, if at all) is simply prepared and presented and manages to be the best steak to be had in a restaraunt on Long Island.

(A quick word about the Flourless Chocolate Cake. I am too proud and disciplined about my waistline to give into so base an impulse as devouring dessert or sweets on anything like a regular basis. Pastry Chef Serena should be credited with my undoing in this regard as her flourless chocolate cake is the only dessert I have truly fallen for-There are you happy now?)

As for the drink: Painter's has the best happy hour on Long Island with great Bohemian tasting wine and drinks for half off. You can pretend you are Rodolfo in La Boheme and are trying to save on the rent while nursing a happy hour drink or glass of wine that costs less than a Starbucks. Painter's also obtains the newest spirits such as Grey Goose's Pear infused Vodka which we had previously had no luck finding elsewhere. The wine list is solid and not marked up to criminal proportions and the beer selection is the very definition of eclectic featuring, among others, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Harpoon, Guiness and local favorite Blue Point.

Now, last but not least let us turn to Painter's works of art. Painters fashions itself as an artists bar or at least a bar with great, idiosyncratic art. One of the more striking is an acrobatic figure suspended midair as one enters the main dining room. Other portraits, pictures (Prince Charles, Ghandi) line seemingly ever space on the wall. The effect is casual, but somehow not pretentious. The overall effect is that the interior is one of the most memorable and striking on Long Island done with genuine creativity and not just by throwing a lot of money for an indoor waterfall or the like.

A couple of more things: Speaking of works of art the owners Steve and Larry are both pretty colorful guys. Steve is a kind of Felix to Larry's Oscar-Larry careens all over the restaraunt in a manner that might lead you to believe he will soon be asked to leave by the hostess if you didn't know he was the owner. At heart, Larry is a great host, however, and he has always been very appreciative of our patronage and has bought us drinks on more than one occassion.
It is also worth mentioning that the restaraunt has great accomadstions for kids. Most notably, a nice, easily visible pool table that can keep children entertained for hours on end while their neurotic parents can eat and fret about them for no reason whatsoever. Finally, my mother and father in law consider this their favorite restaraunt (and the staff are considerably considerate with regard to their needs) and they are both in their eighties. In my mind this makes painter's the odd hipster restaraunt with cross-generational appeal. For more about Painters check out the website at

Sunday, March 11, 2007

TERRACE 5-MOMA's Secret Weapon

Terrace 5
-(Feb. 24 2007)

We were truly famished and in need of an oasis. If this sounds overly-dramatic, well so was our mood-We had just gotten out of the Comic-con and needed to kill at least two hours. The weather was far too cold to walk around, and having been pummelled by fanboys all day, we felt no need to challenge our physical courage or endurance. So, we cabbed it up to the Museum of Modern Art where we figured we could basically cleanse our palate aesthetically and perhaps simply sit down. Ironically, MOMA was just as bloody crowded and we found ourselves to be in line yet again (for our coats, then for tickets, then to eat). As with everything, our need to eat and imbibe was the priority, so we whizzed by the priceless and sublime artworks to the 5th story where we found Terrace 5 (also known as The Carol and Milton Petrie Cafe) one of three dining options available to museum patrons (the others are the less formal Cafe 2 and the more formal The Modern. Terrace 5 is an excellent in-between choice, chic enough to take a date to, but not so formal as to be off-putting or to scare one off from getting an impromtu bite or drink. The spare interiors are somehow inviting, perhaps because the acoustics are so exceptional that the pleasant murmur from the patrons is almost like a hymn. We had an excellent drink and an excellent gin concotion made with ginger ale. The service was great and hospitable (in contrast to some of the surly guards and docents in the corridors of the museum).

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Saturday, March 3, 2007

Memory in Chelsea-(Red Cat Restaraunt)

Red Cat-Memory of chelsea

Red Cat is first among equals in Food Rich Chelsea. The Restaraunt has the feel of a neighborhood haunt combined with the majesty of a destination eatery. Lynn and I first discovered it on the way from La Luncheonette in 2004. We had just experienced the excellent French accordian player and soprano Nicole Renaud performing. We immediately noticed the Red Cat banner and took note of the menu after stepping inside. We promised ourselves a return visit at some point in the near future. A promise fulfilled the next year. The experience was perfect from the start as we were impressed by the innovative menu and the great wine list. Among the highlights of the menu were Green Beans with a Light Tempura coating. This dish was such that it enters our food pantheon in a moment. The wines were great as well, although I can't recall what we had in particular.

Most recently, Lynn and I and my stepdaughter and her boyfriend dined there after (shamefully) attending the NY Comic Con. Our basic needs for relief and sustanence were more than fullfilled. Interestingly enough, the restaraunt had changed hardly at all. The same billowing "Red Cat" flag beckoned and the same items that we remembered were on the menu. Best of all, the same courteous service was in place. The hostess took our overloaded cargo from the Comic Con and shopping with good cheer and we were seated promptly. We had the pleasure of a Spanish waiter who had the wry touch and professional efficiency of a Hemingway supporting character.

As for our drink orders: I ordered the Ian Fleming creation "Vesper." This combination of Vodka, Gin and Kina Lilet is tough to get in many restaraunts as the Kina Lilet part is a bit out of fashion and is often hard to find even in a restaraunt with a well-endowed bar. To my surprise, the restaraunt had this key ingredient and whipped up this potentially lethal concoction with a touch that was light and sublime. Even the tempature of the glass was perfect. Lynn and my daughter Elizabeth both sampled the Red Cat's version of the Classic "Sidecar." Both agreed that the fine sugar on the rim of the glass was a highlight of the drink and indicative of the elegant touches that the restaraunt is well-known for.

As for the food: The fried oysters were tremendous with a coating that was so light and flavoral it was almost like snowfall. The Shell Steak was hefty without being inelegant and the tempura green beans were perfection (yet again). With reliable service, a warm inviting atmosphere and one of the better bars to eat at we have seen in NY, Red Cat is fast becoming one of our favorites.


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I (Mark) have written for The Christian Science Monitor, Clear Magazine, Picture Magazine, Film Score Monthly, Dan's Papers, Rue Morgue, In Flight USA and a lot more publications that I can't remember.... My wife Lynn was a model with the Ford Agency and her photography has been featured in most of the publications I have written for...


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