Friday, December 23, 2011

Mark and Lynn take back the holidays for the adults with Barefoot Bubbly...

Barefoot Wine has consistently been our favorite day in day out wine throughout the year and the holiday season is no exception with the 2011 Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee release a great offering  for the holidays with an unbelievable price point (10.00) and great, festive flavors including jasmine and apple as well as a crisp finish.   This can be enjoyed throughout the entire season au naturel but for a great crowd pleasing cocktail try the Jingle Bellini-directions below

Jingle Bellini
4 oz. Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee 1 oz. raspberry liqueur 1 oz. raspberry puree (muddled berries) Thyme sprig
  • Muddle fresh raspberries to create berry puree
  • Combine puree with Barefoot Bubbly and raspberry liqueur in a cocktail shaker with ice
  • Roll contents, then strain into chilled champagne flute
  • Garnish with fresh raspberry and thyme sprig

(Who says the holidays are for kids?)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Paintings at Painters in Brookhaven, NY

Besides being one of our favorite restaurants week in and week out, Painters in Brookhaven, NY has one of the most eclectic collections of art on Long Island.  The variety is astounding and to the place's credit they are as willing to exhibit something of questionable taste as they are something sublime (sometimes there is some overlap with regard to this).  In any event, it gives the restaurant one of the most distinctive "looks" of any place in Suffolk.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mark and Lynn love Mike's Hot Honey...

Lynn and I something on a local station about Miie's Hot Honey which is chili infused honey.  The taste is influenced by Mike's travels where he was exposed to the versatility of chili resulting in this concoction.  It is really hot and we love it over pears, almost any cheese and are looking forward to figuring how to use it in cocktails.  A great stocking stuffer...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mark and Lynn discover three great Thanksgiving whites...

In recent years, Thanksgiving has become more and more a great holiday for wine lovers.  Picking a great wine can really transform the traditional holiday meal into something special and memorable.   Mark and Lynn have come across a couple of great last minute Thanksgiving wine selections that should help add variety to a pleasant though often predictable holiday. 

One, the Naked Grape Pinot Grigio has great fruit flavor and is an idiosyncratice, though very appropriate choice with the traditional turkey of Thanksgiving. 

Another great choice is the Argentinian Alamos Torrontés whose floral and jasmine hints pair well with typically savory offerings like spicy cornbread.

 Finally, the Spanish Martín Códax Albariño has nice notes of pear, passion fruit and apple which pairs well with seafood and shellfish offerings like Oysters and Oyster Dressing.  Very sophisticated stuff for turkey, cranberry and stuffing...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bellport Liquors bring the fine wines of Raphael Vineyards to Mark and Lynn's backyard...

When Lynn and I moved to Long Island the local liquor store Bellport Liquors was a reliable and nearby place to get basic, Waspy spirits like Gordon's Gin, Smirnoff and so on; good stuff to be sure but nothing to get too excited about.  Flash forward 10 year later and Bellport Liquors  has slowly become a favorite of ours due to their increasingly interesting and thoughtful selections of wine and spirits, cordial, familiar service (with great and friendly proprietors Maura and Mike Kuehl);  but most of all for the fact that they have consistently interesting wine tastings.  Most recently, we were able to attend a tasting of wines from the Raphael Vineyards on the North Fork of Long Island in Peconic, NY.  We had visited the vineyard years ago and quite frankly had no particular remembrance of the place or the wines.  However, the wines we sampled last Saturday at Bellport Liquors were quite impressive.  The reds in particular were solid (impressive since our experience with LI reds is a mixed bag) with the Cabarnet Franc (great finish, confident feeling and juicy) being a particularly impressive offering.  We feel lucky to have such an interesting liquor store in our midst where we can sample interesting spirits and wine just around the corner...

Bellport Liquors
P: 631.286.3106
129 Main St
BellportNY 11713

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mark and Lynn turn to Snap liqueur to ward of the creep of old man winter...

Of late, Lynn and I have been working on transitioning into fall cocktail/wine mode.  This typically means circling back to bourbons, heavier reds, some port and maybe some experimentation with scotch.  As always, we remain on the lookout for something new to add some snap to our concoctions.  Ironically, what we found was Snap liqueur.  Snap is the result of the distillation of a traditional lebkuchen (a homemade ginger snap made with black strap molasses and fresh ginger-far superior to the grocery store variety).  The result of this is that not only does Snap reject some of the over processing of it's core ingredients it actually contains elements that are essential to good health like iron, potassium and calcium (mainly found in the traditional black strap molasses) as well as a good, earthy flavor. Snap is surely not the first ginger infused spirit on the market; however, it sets the bar quite high as it is both organic and made with pure ingredients.

What about the cocktails then?  Well, with some online guidance and our own interest in experimentation we have managed to come up with some interesting ways to pair Snap with spirits that we find both palpable and difficult to like.  Most of all, we find that Snap helps smooth out some of the rougher, some would say backwoods type spirits like the corn whiskey offerings that have popped up in New York state in the last few years.  We look forward to  pairing it with some of the scotches that taste rugged to our palette as well as some of the bourbons that are smooth but could use some tweaking.  Mainly, it will help keep our spirits up during the onset of the frosty Northeast winter that is back yet again...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mark and Lynn wish you a sexy Halloween (or Hallo-wine) with Apothic Red...

Lynn and I are always on the lookout for great wine bargains and there are quite a few out there if you have the patience and good fortune that we have tried to cultivate.  Still, few of these wines qualify as truly great wines; one of the great few is Apothic Red which has a great price point (we have bought it for under 10.00), a great label, a great, full bodied flavor (we detected silk and smoke among others; a by product of the long April frost, mild summer and dry fall of '09).  Most of all, however, we feel we have found a great, sexy wine to crack open and pair with a great, underrated Halloween film like the early talkie Island of Lost Souls with Charles Laughton or a more recent, but in it's own way vintage offering like the '79 Dracula with Frank Langella and Laurence Olivier.  If you are more intellectually ambitious maybe try revisiting some of the Poe stories with this mesmerizing red....

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mark and Lynn love crowded Isabella's on the Upper West Side...

Lynn and I had brunch at Isabella's over the weekend in part to celebrate my birthday (Oct. 24), in part to get out of the country and into the big city.  The restaraunt was packed and the energy up due to the perfect fall weather.  Despite the crush, we managed to get a table in less than 10 minutes; and, not just any table, a perfect ringside seat of Columbus Avenue where we experienced Grade A people watching.

The food, as it should be, was the main event.  Lynn had Smoked Salmon Benedict which was a magnificent brunch choice with the detail of a light buttermilk biscuit over a heavy piece of bread.  I had a seafood cobb salad which was flavorful and decadent seeming while being healthy despite it all.  The bill was minimal for all that was eaten (with a complimentary splash of Campari to boot!)

If there was any drawback it might be that the place seemed to have too many tables which placed a huge burden on the staff (wait and otherwise).  Our waitress was pleasant and competent but there were some long spells between our seeing her which we chalked up to being overloaded with customers which we were sympathetic to for the most part.  Despite our awareness of this staff stress it obviously did not enhance our experience for the most part.

Small potatoes for the most part; we have rarely found a combination of value, food quality and sophisticated atmosphere in New York as we did at Isabella's.  We will be back...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mark and Lynn check out the Ballston Spa, NY hot spot for tea; The Whistling Kettle

Lynn and I had done so much in upstate NY late last month we have had a hard time processing it completely.  One of the real surprises of our trip was the discovery of The Whistling Kettle in Ballston Spa, NY (not far from Saratoga Springs).  The Whistling Kettle is no demure tea room but a bustling energetic, high ceiling space with the energy of a great bar or steak house.

Obviously the tea is the big draw here; but Lynn and I had  a wonderful lunch with me having a hefty, old fashioned Cobb Salad and Lynn having a tasty panini.  There are also some gluten free offerings that point to a forward thinking mentality with regard to food that is not an automatic thing in traditional minded upstate NY (at least in our experience).

Again, however, the tea here is the show stopper.  I am not much of a tea drinker but Lynn has become something of an aficionado since she gave up coffee.  Suffice to say she was blown away by the fragrant offerings one after the other.  As always, Lynn got a kick out of the stylish names of the Whistling Kettle's offerings; 9 Bend Black Dragon, 100 Monkeys, Samurai Matcha and son on.  Suffice to say Lynn is easily hooked on this kind of exotica and with a return trip to upstate it is a certainty that we will swing by the Whistling Kettle to see what new delicacies are to be found at the Ballston Spa hot spot...

M & L

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mark and Lynn talk to author Gayle Trent about Killer Sweet Tooth...

It is always interesting when an author takes a well established genre and adds a genuine twist.  So it is with Gayle Trent's series of mysteries which have at its center a charming amateur sleuth/cake decorator Daphne Martin.  Ms. Trent's latest,  Killer Sweet Tooth: A Daphne Martin Cake Mystery, finds her resourceful character knee deep in a murder investigation relating to the unusual death of a dentist.  Ms. Trent was nice enough to correspond with Mark and Lynn about her work, her characters and how she balances her character's skills as a cake decorator and detective. 

M & L:  There are food oriented novels and mystery novels; how do you manage to connect the two so that they make narrative sense?

GT: "I basically have Daphne baking and using her cakes to either figure out or get her into murderous situations. When she's baking, she's usually trying to sort out her thoughts. Of course, delivering the cake or making a cake for someone or some event is usually what gets her involved in the mystery."

M & L: What kind of feedback do you get from fans? Do you think you have more mystery fans or food fans reading your stuff?
GT: "I think more mystery fans are readers of the book, although many of them enjoy the cake decorating tips and the recipes as well."

M & L: Why did you make Daphne a cake decorator?  Why not a chef? A vineyard owner?
GT: "I'd taken a cake decorating class with my daughter, and during that process we became engrossed in the world of cake decorating. We began watching the shows on Food Network, and we saw how much really went into the craft as well as the business."

M & L: What are your work habits like?  Do you always write?  

GT: "I do my best. Today, however, my work day has been truncated because I'm having to pull up living room carpet. Ugh! I'll bet Patterson and Evanovich (New York Times Bestselling authors) don't have to replace THEIR own carpet. Seriously, though, I'm typically at my computer from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. every day."

M & L:  Who do you see playing Daphne if the series is optioned for tv or film?

GT: "I'd love to see Sandra Bullock in the role. And the pet shop owner in MURDER TAKES THE CAKE would definitely need to be Sam Elliot. Jonathan Rhys Meyers could play Elvis impersonator Scottie Philips. Olympia Dukakis would rock as Myra. And my children would want Johnny Depp to play every other role. Not that we've given this much thought.... ;)"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mark Love the Rose and Kettle in Cherry Valley, NY

Lynn and Mark went upstate recently and are still trying to process the richness of our experience.  We had the only proper supper at the Rose and Kettle in Cherry Valley, NY which was a beauty of a restaurant with regard to food and service.  The grilled pork loin and the crab cakes were favorites of ours.  There were great flavored cocktails with interesting garnishes like Basil.  The servers were attractive and uncomplicated upstate New York types that might have served James Fenimore Cooper as he bent over writing one early American masterpiece or another...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mark and Lynn Dig hip Putnam Wine in Saratoga Springs....

During our recent upstate NY swing we managed to stumble upon  Putnam wine in Saratoga Springs, NY bill itself as "The Best Food and Wine Store between Manhattan and Montreal" which is no doubt the truth; however, truth be told it might give either place a run for it's money with regard to this.  Incredibly hip in atmosphere the store has a turntable and was playing a selection of works by the great Italian spaghetti western composer Sergio Leone and had expertly drawn chalk renderings of a Japanese manga series about wine called "Drops of the Gods."  A couple of nice guys were working and were handling a couple of difficult customers with good humor and finesse.  I bought a nice South American white for well under 10.00.  On future trips upstate this place will likely be a destination spot for us...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mark and Lynn are blown away by the Cooperstown Cheese Company...

As part of our recent trip to Sharon Spring's Harvest fest we happened upon the Mildred's Meadows booth where we bought some of the best and most interesting cheese we have tasted in a while; the Toma Flora offering from the Cooperstown Cheese Company which was embedded with lavender giving it an amazing flavor that we won't soon forget.  Luckily, we only bought a modest amount of the stuff else we would have overdosed on this food of the gods...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mark and Lynn dig the Jones Family Farm in Herkimer, NY...

Lynn and I were fortunate enough to have the chance to visit Sharon Springs, NY on a mini-upstate swing over the weekend.  The cause for our visit was to attend the Sharon Springs Fall Harvest Festival.  We had attended a similar festival for the Christmas holiday in November of last year where we met Josh and Brent AKA "The Beekman Boys" who had chucked high flying lives to become farmers in uber-rural upstate New York.  The Beekman 1802 mercantile store looms large on Main Street but the prescence of Josh and Brent seemed muted this year and since there show was not renewed there was no sign of roaming TV crews this year as in years past. 

In any event, Lynn and I happened upon a couple of "finds" at the fest one of which was the cheeses of the Jones Family Farm in nearby Herkimer, NY.  Lynn and I sampled a couple of their offerings and bought a couple of goat cheese varieties including a very unique and frangrant goat cheese flavored with fig.  Needless to say the cheese didn't last the weekend and we are already trying to figure out how we can get a regular supply...

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About Me

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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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