Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mark and Lynn at Fort Defiance in Brooklyn

Lynn and I went into Brooklyn (yet again) this time to visit the Red Hook area.  We mainly concentrated on visiting locations on Van Brunt street.  One of the locations was Fort Defiance where we had a late afternoon Manhattan made with the old school Old Overhoot brand.  We were the only people in the restaraunt/bar but with the drink and the general coziness of the place we felt very comfortable.  We had just eaten at the Hope and Anchor a block or so away so were were not terribly hungry. 

However, some of the invnetive tasty offerings on the FD menu like Grilled baby octopus with black olive butter & shaved fennel as well as Buttermilk fried chicken sandwich  with lettuce, pickles, & lemon aioli will bring us back as will some of the great cocktail offerings such as the Bourbon Milk Punch...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Two Macho Argentian reds fill Mark and Lynn with the spirit of Brando and Eastwood...

This is the year that we came to be really exposed to and appreciative of Argentian wines.  Truth be told, they are easy to appreciate and we have come to enjoy Malbec which we had initially had a hard time warming up to properly.  Our latest discoveries are wines from the Bodega Elena De Mendoza line which are among the most appealing wines we have tasted this year.

As with many of our wine experiences we tend to think of them in cinematic terms rather than the typical, and in our mind, rather tired venacular of wine critique (fruity, bold, chocolate, manure, grass,etc).

The Malbec we had was straightforward and sensual with a raw quality that made it almost confrontational in it's unfolding.  It reminded us of the great and controversial (at the time) Last Tango in Paris...

The other red, a blend of Malbec, Syrah and Bonarda seemed to have the macho, cowboy quality that Argentina has become associated with.  This red would pair well with any of the Sergio Leone spaghetti western particularly A Fistful of Dollars...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Need a Holiday gift for the Don Draper (Roger Sterling) in your life? How about the Four Seasons Book of Cocktails?

A warm, elegant book The Four Seasons Book of Cocktails (Sterling) has a two fold mission one to enable the home mixologist to replicate some of the sophisticated cocktails found at the venerable Four Seasons and second, and more interesting, to apparently act as a kind of primer to building a first rate home bar and gathering techniques to make a great drink.  There is talk about some of the fundamentals of making a great cocktail like what kind of ice to use (cubed-crushed ice can dilute the drink's potency), but there are also fascinating tips about how to "float" and "layer" drinks such as a pousse-cafes style drinks.

The Four Seasons Book here has a crisp, easy to access layout in the interior and a sharp looking exterior that makes it look as handsome as the picture of the Four Seasons inside.  Very cool and easy to imagine on the bookshelf of Don Draper's office (or more likely Roger Sterling)...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Need a Christmas Present for the Mixology Geek? May we suggest Punch?

A great and timely Christmas present is Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl (Perigree) written by spirits historian and archivist David Wondrich.  Punch chronicles the history and development of, well, Punch, particularly the alcoholic variety which was particularly popular in Europe from the 1600's well into the 1800's.  Mr. Wondrich mentions that in nearly every significant account of day to day life in the 18th and 19th century there are mentions of Punch at some point.  Many of the great English language authors (Defoe, Byron, Coleridge, Dickens) made reference to it in their work. 

Mr. Wondrich's book also traces the eventual downfall in Punch's popularity mainly having to do with the lack of large amounts of free time that could be devoted to enjoying punch at a leisurely pace.  If Punch makes a comeback there is no doubt that Mr. Wondrich's book will have a lot to do with it;  perhaps this is the next frontier for mixology geeks since the antiquarian cocktail revival might be moving into a new phase.  There are plenteous punch recipes in this work and most are complicated and fussy enough recipe wise to be gratifyingly challenging to a cocktail geek.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mark and Lynn find the Dressler in Brooklyn to our liking...

We finally got around to going to the Dressler in Brooklyn (the quote at the top of our masthead is from Dalia Jurgensen who besides being an author is also the pastry Chef at this restaurant). and were blown away in a small way.  Why in a small way?  Well, the pleasures of the place were subtle so as good as the food was it was a series of small pleasures that made the experience so sublime.  First off, there was the waitress who was attentive and tuned into us and who had an interesting looking leather apron draped around her torso.

Second, we were seated at a very attractive and singular booth where the two diners faced each other almost like Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint did in North By Northwest.  This seemed to be a one of a kind booth in the restaurant which made us feel particularly appreciated.

Things just continued to be great with a nice Pimm's Sicilian Cocktail (Pimm's, Blood Orange Liqueur, Fresh Lime and Fresh ginger) which proved to be a nice, warm (but not overpowering) drink for a cold winter's night.  Lynn had the venison special which was as buttery and flavorful as any great piece of Fillet Mignon (for instance); my grilled octopus was succulent as was my warm artichoke salad which had the perfect amount of lightness and heft.  Lynn ordered an otherworldly pumpkin cheesecake whipped up by our favorite pastry chef Dalia which finished off an impressive evening of memorable, but not over the top, dining.

Monday, December 13, 2010

James in Brooklyn is Mark and Lynn's latest favorite place...

Lynn and I went into Brooklyn yet again this Sunday to see the Mark Morris re-imagining of the Nutcracker Suite which was entitled The Hard Nut.  Prior to this, we were fortunate to have some time for a casual brunch at the Brooklyn restaurant James.  This experience rates as one of our most memorable dining experiences of the year.  For one, the place had the best and most creative drinks we have ever sampled and, by extension, the best bartender we have ever had the good luck to cross paths with; a tall gentlemen named Brendan with a Civil War General's beard and a sure touch with a cocktail shaker. 

The food was also out of this world; particularly the Duck Sausage (that Lynn had as part of her meal) which had the great flavor of pork sausage without the heaviness associated with more traditional types of sausage.  I had two heaping platters of  Malpeque Oysters (with Bloody Mary Hot Sauce)  which had a great combination of sweetness and brine; but I was also tempted by other items on the menu like the Steak and Eggs with Choron sauce as well as the Lemon Ricotta pancakes. 

Our waitress with an odd tattoo of a circle with a slash through it was charming and warm which helped us feel particularly great as the weather was horrid outside.  Lynn and I eat at a lot of places that are great but would not necessarily seek out again; this is not one of those places...

605 Carlton Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mark and Lynn visit the Beekman Boys in Sharon Springs...

One half of "The Beakman Boys, Dr. Brent Ridge poses with Lynn
The other half of "The Beakman Boys" Josh Kilmer-Purcell poses with Mark
Lynn and I went up to Sharon Springs, NY last weekend to see the Victorian Christmas Celebration spearheaded by Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell AKA "The Beakman Boys" whose experiment in promoting forward thinking with regard to  agricultural arts and emphasis on local craftsmanship has yielded a book, The Bucolic Plague, an account of their transition from slick Manhattanites to upstate NY resourcful types as well as a TV show on the Planet Green channel.

We had a great time, the guys were very nice and cordial to all participants.  The cold tempatures helped everyone get in the mood and the generous pouring at the nearby American Hotel took care of the cold and helped everyone get into the spirit.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mark and Lynn read a mystery and find a great recipe...

Lynn got a copy of a wonderful new book by a young author who seems destined for an interesting career.  The book, The Black Squirrel Ball: A Samantha Cummings Mystery reminds us, for some reason, of the great old Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys series (if for no other reason than the catchy title).  In any event, embedded within the mystery is a nice recipe which is as follows:

Blueberry Pudding Cake
                  2 cups of blueberries
                  Juice of ½ lemon
                  ¾ cup of sugar
                  3 TBSP butter (room temp works best)
                  ½ cup milk
                  1 cup flour
                  1 tsp baking powder
                  ¼ cup sugar
                  1 TBSP cornstarch
                  ¼ tsp salt
                  1 cup boiling water
Step 1
                  Put blueberries and lemon juice in the bottom of a well greased 1 quart baking dish.
Step 2
                  Blend butter sugar, milk, flour, and baking powder. Spread over blueberries.
Step 3
                  Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt; sprinkle over batter.
Step 4
                  Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the top of the mixture.
                  Set baker on aluminum foil or on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 1 hour. Serve warm plain or with vanilla ice cream!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mark and Lynn check out Todd English's Ozone at Logan Airport...

Lynn and I had gone to meet our daughter Kristina and her magnificent children Jackson and Sloane at Logan's Airport.  Located just before Terminal E in Logan's Airport; Ozone was a kind of oasis for us as we were hungry and tired and more troubling, bored having gotten to the airport almost an hour too early.  We ducked into Ozone, an eatery from the stable of celeb-chef Todd English (it apparently replaced the "Cheers" themed restaraunt around 2004).

Let us say the experience was better than the food;  my arugala salad was filling and fresh tasting (I had a nice glass of red wine but can't remember more than that-we were anxious to see our family).  Lynn's calamari plate was enormous but somewhat undistinguished.

The place itself was memorable; the lighting  a kind of homage to sixties Euro-comic films like Danger Diabolik, Barbarella and Modesty Blaise. The homage seemed fairly obvious as there were striking comic panels on the walls of the restaraunt (Herge? Jean Claude Forest?) seemingly European in Origin?  Our petite, brunnette female bartender had a memorable accent and a charming way about her which helped sustain us while we waited for our loved ones to fly in to the next chapter of their lives...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cafe Sol Azteca in Newton delivers good Mexican comfort food and drink...

Part of the problem with having a food site is that we start to think about everything we eat and drink as how it might fit into a post (Lynn less so than me).  I try to turn this tendency off as much as possible as I want to experience the world through my senses and not through this site (Hemingway, a big influence on me would have understood).  In any event, on our recent trip to Boston we ate at a nice Mexican restaurant called Cafe Sol Azteca.  There are two of these eateries in and around Boston (we ate at the one in Newton) and they serve the Mexican equivalent of comfort food; very basic, very familiar, no pretense, no re-boot or re-invention, no "new" Mexican.  We are not great Mexican food eaters but we enjoy the hospitality of the place and the portions of the food are generous as are the drinks (I had a great Cuba Libre there).  Mainly, it was a great place to spend time with family and enjoy the simple pleasures of simple food.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Flour in Boston leaves a nice taste ....

After our rather unfortunate experience at the Full Moon Cafe we were glad to have had a great experience at Flour.  Flour is a bakery cafe with three locations in and around Boston (we went to the one on Washington Street).  We stopped there fairly late in the day last weekend and had a very late lunch.  To our surprise the place was abuzz but thanks to an efficient staff behind the counter the line moved along quite quickly.  The menu was huge for a place that was relatively compact and for a place that makes pretty much everything fresh.  Lynn had a hummus, cucumber salad with radish and red onion that was served in a stainless steel bowl which helped make the presentation attractive as well as helped the salad remain icy cold.  I had a salad with grilled roast chicken, brie, arugula and peppers which had a good combination of crisp and creaminess (they also had my favorite condiment the Vietnamese hot sauce Hoy Fung Sriracha sauce).  

The interior was also very attractive with a cool wall sized blackboard with the menu scratched upon it; the space has some communal seating which we were lucky enough to snag despite the crush of customers.  The two young women sitting with us were quite nice and were predictably charmed by our two attractive grandchildren.  The population in Boston seem more at home  about this kind of thing than people in New York so the effect is actually quite pleasant and relaxed.  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mark and Lynn have a sour experience at the Full Moon Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Hopefully we won't get in trouble for taking this picture...

Lynn and I spent the weekend in and around Boston as our daughter and son in law were moving into a new apartment near Boston.  We were lucky enough to have our grandchildren for 48 fun and eventful hours.  Lynn is always interested in checking out new places to eat and drink (obviously) and one of the places that popped up when she googled "family friendly restaurants"  or something like that was The Full Moon Cafe in nearby Cambridge.  On Sunday, a short window of time popped up and we had the chance to go there for a late breakfast.  

The menu was what was of real interest to Lynn as there were many vegetable and even vegan choices (trying to be a good influence on our grand children's culinary habits).  Despite this, there were also plenty of traditional breakfast/brunch/lunch choices like huevos rancheros, and a grilled chicken BLT.  I had the well prepared and hefty grilled salmon which was nice and kind of interesting to have as a breakfast dish.  Lynn had a concoction called "The Norway" which was scrambled eggs and smoked salmon which gave her a much needed shot of protein after a fun, but eventful weekend.  My grandson had blueberry pancakes which he seemed to enjoy a great deal and which we were glad to see him eat since the food at FM is so conscientiously prepared. 

Now for the bad;  When Lynn phoned ahead to see if there would be a wait the male on the other end of the line (possibly the manager/owner we guessed) was quite discouraging and said they were "slammed."  We decided to give it a shot and when we got there about 5 minutes later the place was only half full and we were quickly seated.  Despite this, it took at least 10 minutes for us to be waited on.   The final awkward moment of the meal nearly ruined our experience;  I had taken some pictures of Lynn feeding our granddaughter Sloane in the restaurant and about 15 minutes later on my way to the restroom the waitress mentioned some nonsense about the owner being uncomfortable with us taking pictures in the restaurant as there were kids there.  She stopped short of saying he didn't want us to take pictures, however. There were no signs indicating that picture taking was not allowed that I saw (and believe me I really looked).  This was about midway through our time there and as you might imagine it put a damper on the rest of our meal.  Lynn and I are proud of how conscious and sensitive we are of people's privacy and we usually end up simply taking pictures of food, wine glasses and cocktails at the various places we eat and drink.  We know the restaurant had kids there but so does every restaurant we eat in all and every time and we have never been scolded like that before.  Believe me, we have no interest in taking pictures of anybody else's unattractive obnoxious kids; only our clearly superior perfect grand kids.  Plus, if this is a concern why not put up a sign or something; and, finally, why did the owner not check with me about this?  Why did he send the waitress over?  

We ended up chalking it up to a certain Yankee fussiness and a whiff of over protective parenting run amok.  Of course we won't worry about it again as there are many great restaurants in the Boston area who would love us to take pictures in their restaurant...

M & L

Jackson and Sloane at the Hotel Indigo Boston-Newton Riverside...

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Dumbo General store impresses Mark and Lynn by not trying to hard...

While in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn we grabbed a quick late morning bite at the DUMBO General Store a well lit and friendly place in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.  The food we had was very good and unpretentious (Lynn's Breakfast Sandwich was particularly well prepared).  I had a fairly nondescript but nice glass of white wine.  Our server was particularly sweet and well mannered.  As with many places in the area the interiors are something to write home about and the General Store had interesting lighting and communal tables made of worn, rugged and (I am guessing) reclaimed wood.  Not a place we would go out of our way to visit again, but a nice little oasis to recharge with solid food and a generous staff. 


PH: 718.855.5288



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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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