Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mckiernan's in Montreal warms us up in cold Canada...

Just a couple of doors down from Joe Beef (with the same owner) was McKiernan’s which was our lunch spot over the weekend. It was very small (tables had to be moved around to be seated due to the limited space) but hardly claustrophobic. As was the custom the hostess warmly greeted us and we picked out a nice Spanish red (see my drawing) to warm us up from the chill of the day and we ate a nice pate with pistachios along with a nourishing cheese plate. The quirky interior made it seem like eating at a bohemian friend’s apartment. Best of all was a picture of Burt Lancaster in the Crimson Pirate on the wall…


2485 Notre-Dame Ouest, Montreal
Métro Lionel-Groulx
Téléphone: 514-759-6677

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mark and Lynn are mostly happy with the Marriot Chateau Champlain in Montreal...

Our hotel (the Marriot Chateau Champlain) on our recent trip to Montreal was on the whole very nice. The best thing was the incredible view of Old Montreal that we had which was equally breathtaking day or night. Lynn also got a tremendous massage at the hotel's spa L'Ultime. We had a nice lunch one day at the Le Senateur lounge where the bartender made up a special cheese plate not on the menu. The parking situation was tough as it cost about 20.00 per day to park and it was no picnic to get in and out of the parking garage. The valets in the front were either not helpful or overly helpful. We did not eat in the Champlain restaraunt but it looked appealing. Forgive me but it was nice to have a Starbucks downstairs as well....

Montreal Marriott® Chateau Champlain

1050 de la Gauchetiere West Montreal, Quebec H3B 4C9 Canada

* Phone: 1 514 878 9000
* Fax : 1 514 878 6761
* Sales: 1 514 878 9000
* Toll-free: 1 800 200 5909

Monday, October 27, 2008

Deus Ex Machina (look it up) Itsi Bitsi Cupcakes makes Lynn happy...

Lynn is not completely complicated. Economic crisis...Have a cupcake. Conflicted electorate...Have a cupcake-Rising rate of foreclosure...Have a-Well, you get the idea...After braving the Atwater market and the "Circle C" (the Canadian equivalent of Pathmark, just with more panache), Lynn needed sustanace and a sugar rush. Mon Dieu, a Dues Ex Machina popped up in the guise of Itsi Bitsi Cupcakes a very sweet, very cool cupcake bakery a couple of years old near the very hip, very cool, very hip Rue Notre Dame...The smell alone was enough to intoxicate Mark and Lynn into a coma, the taste...Well, you can guess the rest (as the song says).

The Atwater Market in Montreal save Mark and Lynn from Starvation (not really)...

There was a lot of "Atwater Market" that popped up when we Googled "Montreal Food" or "Montreal Gourmet." We made a point of checking this place out near the Rue Notre Dame on Saturday the 25th as we were quite hungry. The Market was a mixed bag with commerical stuff (ordinary cheeses' for instance like Shopshire Blue, Diet Coke and the like), in combination with exceptional chocolates, great coffee and superior magazines in various languages.

Is Joe Beef in Montreal the best restaraunt in the world....the short answer is yes

Joe Beef in Montreal is the most satisfying dining experience I have ever had. It had the drama of a great play for me and I will never forget it. I thought about why it had the effect on me and I am still at a loss. Maybe it was like a great opera, or a great magic show, something that is touched by magic but is unexplainable in the regular ways...

In any event, the salad we had was near perfect (translated from the French it was "The Glutton's Salad") with rich pate and confit. Our wines were perfect, and we were so drunk with the sensuality of the place that it was all a blur...Our very pregnant waitress was lovely, directing us and offering advice (as she navigated us through the menu written on a huge bulletin board) in an intimate purr. We were crammed into the smallest of spaces, but people treated us like long lost friends offering compliments on our choices of wines, food, etc...

Lynn looks great in her new dress but Les Tois Petit Bouchons doesn't impress...

By far our most dissapointing eating experience during our recent visit to Montreal, this restaurant was not a disaster by any means. There was simply some awkwardness because we got a relatively mild reception by the staff there (by our last night we were used to being greeted very warmly). The space we were seated at was awkward and dark. The menu was written on a blackboard in the bar area so we had to stand there like we were waiting for a train trying to make up our minds about what to eat. (Many of the restaurants had blackboards for menu items, but most were situated where they could be read comfortably from where you might be seated). The reviews we had read praised the wine, but our server could do little to tell us about the wines available (nor did he seem terribly interested in going into it with us). There was no convenient place to put our coats, and again, none of the staff seemed interested in helping out even as we struggled to figure this out.

For what it is worth the food was very good. The duck I had was exceptional. We were sorry we could not really recommend this place as it has much to be desired lacking the French-Canadian charm we had grown so fond of...

Pullmans in Montreal lives up to the hype...

Pullmans in Montreal is one of the most high profile restaraunts (really a tapas bar) in Montreal. It was the centerpiece of a recent high profile ad campaign for Montreal tourism and its striking and witty interior (with a chandelier of wine glasses as the restaraunts centerpiece). This image and a promise of hip eating and drinking are what caused us to formulate a short excursion to Montreal from Long Island (about 7-8 hours of driving). We got in last thursday the 23rd and immediately headed out to Pullmans.

We saw the characteristic chandelier and the host greeted us with a warm "Bonjour" and lead us up to the bar area (the restaraunt is somewhat tiered with multiple levels) giving the small space a horizontal dynamic which makes it seem larger than it is).

Lynn and I had drinks, a great negroni for me (a drink that is often made too sweet, but this time with made with a nice citrus bite). We ate a great blate of endive salad, a nice bit of fried calamari and a brilliant cheese plate. The only misfire were the cupcakes which tasted dry and were fine to eat, but rather pedestrian.

Our server was very warm and helpful and she took great pains to make sure we were content and was helpful in recommending other restaraunts in the city to check out...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Isabella Gardner Museum's Cafe in Boston would make Ms. Gardner proud....

The Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston is certainly one of the most intriguing museums in the US with a mystique and panache that other art museums like The Met, MOMA and the Whitney simply don't have. There are reasons for this that mainly have to do with the physical place itself. Other reasons: the tragic theft of 13 paintings in 1990 that has, ironically, added to the allure and mythology of the musuem (see the film Stolen for more about this). The effect of visiting there is that one has stumbled onto a set concocted by a character out of Jules Verne, or HG Wells. The space is several stories high and the interior is a magnificent garden with tremendous light and a sense of awe is hard to shake off as one winds through the place. Isabella Gardner, a woman ahead of her time was many things, but most of all she was a sublime character and patron of the arts. Her friends included artists John Singer Sargent, Whistler and the author Henry James (whose characters in works such as Daisy Miller seem indebted). Her passions included the Red Sox, and Harvard Football and mainly, assembling a collection of art that reflected all of her moods, whims and contradictions.

Mark and Lynn were lucky enough to get a chance to see this wonderful, sensual, tactile legacy of Ms. Gardner's well-lived life. The intimacy of the place is such that Mark and Lynn thought they might run into the great woman in the elevator or coming around the corner of the gift shop. The art is definitely an interesting mix, but, as different as it is, it all somehow makes sense as a collection. There is a mix of grand pieces such as Sargent's El Jaleo ( a real jaw-dropper near the entrance)
and smaller works like Lippi's The Meeting of Christ and John The Baptist that signals the physical manifestation of Ms. Gardner's fine tuned mind at work.

The Gardner Museum also has a fine cafe for patrons to re-charge their batteries after being assaulted with so much sensual beauty. We staggered in exhausted and were pleasantly rewarded with an excellent lunch that captured the spirit of offhand elegance and graceful living that Ms. Gardner would have approved of. Mark and Lynn had a simple salad and cheese, a serving of pate along with a dessert of English sticky pudding (that Lauren was especially proud of) and a couple of glasses of Quail Hill chardonnay. Luckily, the weather was perfectly Indian Summer and Mark and Lynn could sit in the outdoor seating section of the museum and try to make sense of all the beauty of the place. Our service was first rate both by the hostess and our waitress. The cafe apparently has special menus throughout the year celebrating the artwork and life of Ms. Gardner (including experimentation's with special cocktails and nasturtium blossoms which intrigued the two of us). Ms. Gardner would be proud of it all and if she were around we like to think she would have joined us for lunch...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hotel Indigo Riverside near Boston is the coolest hotel in New England (just don't tell anyone)

Mark and Lynn had stayed in the Hotel Indigo near Boston in May and it was one of the best hotel experiences we had had in many a year. All the better because we were not expecting that much. On our recent return trip the hotel had taken a huge leap forward on several different levels. The pool area was finished and it was warm enough last weekend to contemplate taking a dip in the heated pool. Beautiful cabanas and lounges lined the pool area making it look like the scene out of Goldfinger when Bond is in Miami Beach.

We had a drink on the patio of restaurant Boxx 109 sitting before a beautiful gas generated firepit that looked like an art object. The waitstaff and management were great to us the whole time expressing there familiarity with us and putting up with our offbeat requests (like fetching six champagne glasses for us to take to our room for an impromptu family celebration) without batting an eyelash.

Hotel Indigo is also a great bargain at well under 200.00 a night (on the weekend no less!). Just don’t tell anyone about it and spoil our secret ok?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Interview-Author Iain Gatley explains the history and mythology of spirits in his book DrinK: A Cultural History of Alcohol...

Author Iain Gatley has made a name for himself in examining the everyday substances of human existence and extrapolating universes of history, mythology and fascinating detail out of them. His work on Tobacco did this and now he is back with a history of Alcohol called Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol (Gotham). Mark and Lynn were fortunate enough to correspond with Mr. Gatley from Spain and he was nice enough to answer a few questions about his work...

MLAF: In some ways this work might seem to be a natural follow up to your work on the history of Tobacco. Did you see a connection between the two?

IG: Whilst both Drink and Tobacco belong to the same genre, and each subject is treated in a similar manner, they posed very different challenges when I was writing them. I conceived of Tobacco as akin to a detective story - with plenty of bodies at the end - and arranged the book around a single question: why smoke? Drink in contrast deals with a far more equivocal substance – a sort of Jekyll and Hyde - which has been part of western culture for far longer than the evil weed, and which has done more good than harm. Alcohol, in moderation, is beneficial, and alcoholic beverages have an intensity and sophistication of flavour that other drinks lack. Most importantly, booze has been part of our diet for nearly 10,000 years. As a consequence, I had to consider a wider strata of each culture and era I examined."

MLAF: Were you surprised that the subject of Spirits and Wine was somewhat unrepresented in in popular histories?

IG: "In terms of a general history, yes. Whilst there is a vast body of work dealing with individual drinks – one could assemble an entire library dedicated to the wines of Bordeaux for instance - and also with alcoholism, few have attempted a synthesis of the influence of alcohol on our culture over time."

MLAF: Was there anything that you found particularly interesting in the research or writing of this work?

IG "Plenty – interesting, surprising and amazing. The sheer volume of alcohol people used to consume is staggering. King Edward II of England, for example, ordered over a million bottles of wine to celebrate his wedding in 1307, when the population of London was only 80,000; between the dark ages and the industrial revolution men women and children seem to have averaged a gallon of beer or a litre or two of wine a day. Viewing history through the bottom of a glass also introduced me to new things in each era I examined – the poetry of John Skelton, the correspondence of Benjamin Franklin, the settlement of the American West, to name but a few."

MLAF: Do you feel that the US has the most complicated ideas about alcohol and its consumption?

IG: "Absolutely. Prohibition has cast a long shadow. Americans have the greatest variety of attitudes towards alcohol in the world. Whilst some are connoisseurs of fine wines, or happy to put away a bellyful of beer when out drinking with their buddies, others choose to live in dry communities. Similarly, America produces – and consumes, a tremendously diverse range of alcoholic beverages, ranging from Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon through Jim Beam Bourbon to Bud Light, and while some places have honourable and ancient connections to specific beverages, there’s not the ingrained localism of many European countries. I’m writing in Spain right now, where it’s very hard to find any imported drinks, aside from premium brands of spirits."

MLAF: Did writing this change your attitudes or tastes with regard to alcohol?

IG" Yes. Studying the beliefs and prejudices of prior ages made me want to put some of them to the test: do beer drunks really only fall over backwards, as Aristotle hypothesised? The book also affected my choice of drinks, in a number of ways. Firstly it made me more open to trying different beverages like mead and absinthe, partly with the aim of finding out if they had the peculiar effects attributed to them by Vikings or 19th century Parisian boulevardiers; and secondly it focused me on quality rather than quantity: knowing how, for example, a style of wine is made, and what the vintner was aiming to achieve, have enhanced my appreciation of each glass I drink."

MLAF: Any films you think are fun with regard to spirits?

IG: "How about Breakfast at Tiffanys-or Tom Jones - both have splendid boozing scenes."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Annalise is at Perabell in Patchogue!-Why are we excited? Read on...

For Mark and Lynn so much of the restaraunt experience is wrapped up in personality. We rarely say "Let's go to Painter's tonight." Instead, it is "Let's go see Kevin tonight." (A favorite bartender of ours at Painter's). This is especially true when we find ourselves gravitating towards a place simply because a favorite bartender has relocated there. So it is with Parabell, a nice restaraunt/bar in Patchogue where Analise, one of our favorites from Mangia Mangia (from our first post ever) has taken up residence behind the bar. Why do we like her so much, well it might be because of her freakishly upbeat personality, her preternatural ability to remember what we like to eat and drink...There are other reasons as well. As a result, we have been frequenting Perabell more than ever (as opposed to never). We will continue to do so (unless she moves somewhere else)...

114 West Main Street;
Patchogue, New York, 11772

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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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