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...

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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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