Friday, December 13, 2013

Hoptron Brewtique's offerings brings artisanal beer to Patchogue...

Lynn and I are not big beer drinkers, however, the Hoptron Brewtique in Patchogue has been intriguing to us for several months.  Lynn and I are always drawn to the visuals of a place and HB has a sleek and inviting environment with architectural interiors, artful lighting and comfortable furniture. There are a plethora of beers there, many, if not most seemed to be local and/or New York State offerings.  The many selections could be overwhelming but the knowledgeable and engaged staff there helped tailor our flight toward our usual tastes as well as helping direct us toward more adventurous stuff that might expand our palate.

My favorite was one of Port Jefferson Brewery's offerings. I can't remember the beer's name because I lost my notes but I do remember it was pretty good.  Lynn loved the Long Ireland Pale Ale which is crisp with some notes of bitter and sweet.   There are a lot of beers we didn't try so we will be back...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mark and Lynn hit the Queens Kickshaw in Astoria and get a great meal and a parking ticket...

Lynn and I were in Astoria earlier this fall and ducked into The Queens Kickshaw after I had a yoga class at the Anthea Yoga Center.  Unlike some of our other pursuits this was pure accident, we were tired of walking and ducked into the first place we thought we might like.  We lucked out as we loved the rustic interiors which looked like re-claimed wood paired artful lighting (a design detail that a lot of restaurants overlook).  It was well past lunchtime and we were tired and hungry so the comforting interior, warm efficient service and inexpensive menu were particularly welcome .  For the sake of my current yoga training I stuck with the Kitchen Sink Salad which was somehow satisfyingly healthy and brawny with savory pickled vegetables helping set it apart from the everyday. .  Lynn had the Manchego and Ricotta Grilled Cheese with pillowy bread and a generous helping of manchego.  The Kickshaw had an innovative beer and cider menu and Lynn I split a very satisfying Belgium beer that unseasonably hot day.  We had such a good time that the 35.00 parking ticket we subsequently found plastered to our windshield couldn't dampen our spirits.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Mark and Lynn find respite from the maddening holiday crowd at the New American Cafe in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts....

Lynn is in the Orange

There is much to love about the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston: The artful mix of exhibits both traditional (the current John Singer Sargent watercolor show), playful (the current "Hippie Chic"exhibit), awe inspiring (the recent Samurai exhibit)  and edgy (last years Mario Testino exhibit) . We do love these offerings and the museum manages to be major league without seeming overwhelming such as some of the major museums in New York can be, especially around the holidays.

In addition, over the years we have found other reasons to appreciate the MFA which is their dining.  The MFA has three major dining spots to accommodate any palette and temperament.  We have dined at all the venues the MFA has to offer but we keep coming back to the New American Cafe.  There is much there that we love:  It is perfectly integrated into the museum's environment as it is located in the glass enclosed courtyard which helps it feel like you are still very much in the middle of the museum's artworks.  You can have an authentically high end dining experience there without the fuss and price tag associated with traditional high end dining.  At the same time, it is enclosed in such a deft way that the New American Cafe feels like a respite from the quiet hum of the museum's energy without losing the feeling that you are in a major American art venue.  

A soaring Chihuly sculpture stands guard near the New American Cafe

On our recent trip to Boston, Lynn and I took an afternoon to soak up the museums exhibits and collections.  We made a special point of getting a quick bite at the New American Cafe.  We split a fall inspired pizza and had a glass apiece of a crisp table wine from Spain.  It was a typically perfect experience for us at the MFA one which we hope to repeat many times in the near and distant future. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mark thinks Torso Lingerie Studio in Saratoga is awesome...

Lynn and I love food obviously but for this site we like to write about other interests like tennis, art and fashion.  We went to Saratoga last weekend as part of a whirlwind visit to Upstate New York and ran into one of the sexiest stores around, Torso Lingerie Studio.   We had initially noticed Torso  at its Ballston Spa location where I had bought Lynn a couple of nice things.  Saratoga also has a Torso outpost which we visited as part of our trip.  The store specializes in high end lingerie with a concentration on featuring the newest styles and designers making it a particularly "lingerie forward" store.  The owner, Deborah brings a warm and chic prescence to the Torso experience.  With its racks of beautiful bras, panties, bodysuits and stockings the store's sensuality whips at the senses like no other lingerie store we have seen...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Eat Cake's cupcakes has Lynn hooked...

Lynn was somewhat in mourning for the recent move of Cupcake Nirvana Amanda Oakleaf's from Winthrop, Massachusetts (the same town where our family lives) to nearby Boston according to the company's website.  Boston is next to Winthrop but going into a big city is usually a production and this is definitely the case with Boston.  Lynn considered going into Boston to visit Amanda O's but, as is often the case with Lynn, decided to go in a different direction and seek out other artisan cupcake offerings in Massachusetts.  This effort took us into the charming village of  Newburyport which was particularly quiet when we arrived on a rainy mid week to visit Eat Cake

Eat Cake, like it's Boston brethren Oakleaf's is a breakout media cupcake star with cable appearances on the likes of Food Network.  The interior was sleek yet warm with sweet natured, attentive employees. Lynn loved the flavor of EC but what really impressed her was the combination of the crusty outer texture with the buttery filling.  Lynn and I will be back...

M& L

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mark and Lynn love Apothic Dark for Halloween...

Lynn and I got this great follow up to Apothic Red, Apothic Dark.  AD is as rich, dark, cherry, chocolately and decadent as Apothic Red only more so.  And, as if you didn't know it is the perfect adult beverage for Halloween on every level.  So, open a bottle (or two-at a price point of around $14.00 this is easy enough) of Apothic Dark and enjoy it with a horror film marathon.  Our suggestion?  Revisit the original Dark Shadows....

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mark and Lynn interview author Jessica Soffer about loss, loss and food (but mostly food) in her debut novel Tomorrow there will be Apricots....

Ms. Soffer

Jessica Soffer's debut novel Tomorrow there will be Apricots (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)  is the unlikely story of a relationship between a 14 year old young woman named Lorca whose disconnected chef mom is ready to send her off to boarding school after Lorca displays alarming behaviors and an older Iraqi-Jewish woman named Victoria who is dealing with her own regrets, loss and personal demons.  The two cross paths over a love of food and a need to find meaning and hope in their predicaments.  Needless to say, the two help each other deal with the blows life has dealt them through their love of food and cooking which includes cardamon pistachio cookies and baklava.  Ms. Soffer was nice enough to correspond with Mark and Lynn about her lovely, bittersweet book, as well as her own culinary heritage and habits.

M & L: A lot of foodie (sorry for using that overused word) oriented literature/memoirs these days has an overlay of feel good female empowerment-Your work goes into some fairly dark places.   Were you afraid that the intensity of the narrative would overwhelm the themes of food and culture in your work.

JS: "I really wanted to play with that notion. Food can be so much more. On one hand, it is a magnet, bringing the characters together, allowing them to transcend their loneliness—and, for sure, the element of food brings some necessary lightness into the narrative. But I was also concerned with the ways in which food can be a catalyst for feelings of nostalgia, sadness, grief, pain: all that equally so."

M & L : Why do you think the creative act of cooking has become such a popular subject matter for memoirs and fiction? Why do you think women tend to gravitate towards this genre?

JS : "I just met with a book club with as many men as women—and the men cooked recipes from Apricots. I’ve found that men are as concerned with food in fiction as women. That said, I do think it’s an issue of marketing: how best to sell the book. And women are, quite simply, more active book consumers—so when a book can be geared toward female readers, a publisher’s best bet is to do just that."

M &  L :A lot of the book revolves around cultivating and honoring the cuisine of your own Iraqi Jewish heritage. Does this cuisine still influence your interest in food and cooking?

JS: "Absolutely. My father’s mother was a healer in Baghdad and believed in eating for one’s well being, to nourish the body. I was raised with notions of mindful eating, of a respect and particular awareness of food, and I imagine they will always be an important part of my life, and for the foreseeable future, of my writing."

M & L: Having woven themes about food into your work here can you imagine orienting your work around food again?

JS: "Food has been a really great way to connect with readers: cooking with them, sharing tips and stories. We’ve decided to include additional recipes in the paperback, and I’m excited to see how that changes the readers’ experience, if it works."

M & L: Do you have a particular food you like to prepare?  A favorite place to eat?

JS: "We’ve just moved full-time to Amagansett and joined a CSF called Dock to Dish, which delivers fish once a week to the consumer within 24 hours of being caught locally. So there’s been a lot of fish in our lives lately, paired with all the good stuff from farm stands. We seared Montauk scallops the other day, and made a nectarine and arugula salad. It was just what the doctor ordered—or, should I say, what the healer ordered?"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mark and Lynn duck into the City Bakery

Lynn and I went into the city recently  so I could take a martial arts class revolving around a fairly obscure martial art called Bartitsu  which inolves, among other things fighting with a cane, that would probably be  truly obscure if not for an offhand mention by one of fiction's greatest creations, Sherlock Holmes.  Anyway, we got into the city about a half an hour before class started so we ducked into The City Bakery where we had a quick espresso, coffee and fruit tart.   The espresso helped focus and steel me for my class and the tart helped Lynn's mood considerably.  We just ran in and out but we observed that the space managed to be both cavernous and intimate with cozy seating and comforting lighting.  So, next time I need a cane fighting lesson we will have our default breakfast place...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lisa Ann's Desserts make an impression on Mark and Lynn at the Hamptons Classic

Photogenic Lisa Ann and her wares

While attending the Hampton Classic late in August Lynn and I happened upon a great company out of Mineola, NY called Lisa Ann's Desserts.  Lynn really loved the Raspberry Jam Thumbprint cookies which were buttery and literally melted in your mouth.  Lynn was particularly impressed with the high end packaging which had exquisite detailing most notably grosgrain navy ribbon making for a great hostess/party gift (if you can avoid the temptation of devouring them beforehand).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Murphy-Goode's Homefront Red ushers in fall with a great wine and a wonderful patriotic gesture...

We just got a great bottle of red from the Murphy-Goode winery; namely the Homefront Red.  The wine is exceptional as an early fall red with a richness and full bodied quality that feels perfect for the hot/cold days of late September.  Lynn said it had rich flavors of cherry, currant, and chocolate  that reminded her of a special occasion port.  These particular notes  were nice to sample after a summer of white wine drinking.   The price point is far below most special occasion wines toping out at about 15.00 a bottle.   Better than all of this is the very gracious move of donating 50 cents of every bottle sold to Operation Homefront, a national non profit which helps provide emergency and monetary assitance to wounded warriors and families of service members.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rocky Point Artisan Brewers' Tangerine Triple impress Mark and Lynn

Lynn and I ventured into Rocky Point about 15 miles from our Brookhaven home.  The small community has a well-established Farmer's Market.  Our nice discovery at the RPFM was a very local craft beer group called Rocky Point Artisan Brewery.  The RPAB had a small tasting booth where we sampled three of their  beers.  All were quite nice, but our favorite was the citrusy "Tangerine Triple."  A rare beer that is light on its feet but also makes an impression.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mark and Lynn interview My Berlin Kitchen author Luisa Weiss

Of all of Lynn's summer reading, My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story with Recipes (Penguin) by Luisa Weiss was Lynn's favorite (her dog eared copy is testament to that). The rare food memoir oriented in Berlin, Ms. Weiss' book (which evolved out of her popular The Wednesday Chef blog) is about food, fate, coming into your own, and challenging your limits (personal romantic and culinary).  It is also the best work we have seen to weave recipes into a biographical narrative.  Fortunately for us Ms. Weiss allowed us an interview about her work, her cooking habits and what she wants to master next. 
M &L: There is a real flow to how the menus fit into the narrative.  How did you manage to make this work?
LW: "It took some trial-and-error. I always knew that certain recipes had to be in the book, no matter what. Many chapters were specifically constructed around those recipes. But in other cases, there were chapters that didn't have a clear recipe pairing. I had to think a lot about what people were most likely to be hungry for, what would make sense in the larger collection and what would feel like an authentic match before finding the right recipe for each of those chapters."
M&L : A lot of memoirs oriented toward food are set in France.  What was the culinary energy like in Berlin?
LW: "In France, food is very much part of the national identity. In Germany, this isn't the case at all. People are much more open and flexible and relaxed about food - there are no real rules and traditions like in France. Of course there are a lot of traditional foods, but people aren't dogmatic about them. And the food scene in Berlin is just booming. It's a very exciting time. There are lots of new restaurants opening, ambitious ones and smaller ones, lots of ethnic restaurants are getting better and better. It's a good time to be an eater in Berlin."
LW: We were very intrigued by Quark Cheesecake; are there differences between the use of Quark in Europe and the US?
LW: "Quark is a very German cheese - it's really only available in Germany and Austria (where it's known as Topfen) and maybe Denmark, but I'm not even sure on that. Here, Quark is used in a lot of sweet dishes like cheesecake or fruit souffles. People also put it in cake batters and pie crust for tenderness or use it as fillings for strudel, sweet dumplings and pancakes. But there are some savory uses for it too - seasoned with salt, pepper and herbs, it's delicious served with boiled potatoes as a meal. It's also used as a spread for dark rye bread."
M&L : Do you and your husband cook together?  If so, what do you like to prepare?
LW" Not really. I'm the alpha cook, for sure. But once in a blue moon, we'll cook something together, like make his mother's meatballs and potato salad or a pan of cocoa brownies. But with a toddler keeping us busy, my husband is usually on kid duty while I cook - Hugo's just old enough to get caught underfoot opening the hot oven now."
M&L: Do you have any aspirations regarding eating or drinking? Is there something you want to master that you haven't? Something you want to try that you haven't gotten around to trying?
LW: "I really want to make puff pastry one day and I'd like to host a Thanksgiving meal and cook everything (or almost everything, since potluck is part of the fun).

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Brother can you spare a dime for Salamander Sauce Company (on Kickstarter)?

One of our summer faves has been Salamander Sauce straight out of Brooklyn.  They are currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign which has less than a week to go.  Check out their official Kickstarter page here and consider helping this very fine company grow and evolve.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Salamander Sauce Company continues to impress Mark and Lynn...

We had a chance to try Salamander Sauce Company's Strawberry Hot Sauce (having recently tried and liked their standard issue Hot Sauce).  Lynn and I found the Strawberry version to be very appealing and complex almost like a wine with different notes and an arc of flavor going from sweet to hot in a few exhilarating seconds.  We found the Strawberry Hot Sauce to be somewhat more versatile than the companies regular Hot Sauce as it could be used on desserts and vegetable (for instance) as well as meat, chicken and fish.  We particularly loved it on Lynn's chicken fingers and as a dip for broccoli.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Brooklyn's Salamander Sauce stirs Tar Heel nostalgia in Mark....

Food is often accompanied by nostalgia as was famously demonstrated in the well known passage in Proust where the narrator was hit with a wave of overwhelming nostalgia while eating a Madeline dipped in tea reminding him of his childhood rituals. I had a somewhat similar but less intense experience when trying out Salamander Sauce from Brooklyn.
My roots are in southeastern, North Carolina and as a result I have a real affinity and near superhuman tolerance for hot sauce which pervades the everyday diet (at least in my household). Salamander Sauce company makes three sauces at present; Original which is the company's take on hot sauce.  Salamander Sauce Original is of course hot, but it has a different kind of heat to our palate.  Something that was more reminiscent of the deep, sharp heat that I had grown up with in the BBQ belt. I felt a pang of Proustian nostalgia along with pangs of sweet pain from the Salamander Sauce.

Lynn used Original Salamander on baked cauliflower which kicked them into orbit.  When football season rolls around this combination could be a more nutritious version of buffalo hot wings.  And, always creative, Lynn made a super potent bloody Mary like concoction with the OS and vodka which despite the heat was somehow perfect for a hot summer day.
Salamander makes two other sauces Tropical and Strawberry which we are experimenting with as of this writing that are apparently on the more savory and sweet side. Keep an eye out for our impression of them in August...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Square Wine & Spirits help cool Mark and Lynn off in Long Island City....

They Deliver!

Our recent trip to Long Island City is still reverberating with us.  One thing about going toward Manhattan is that you get flashes of things that you want to remember to check out later. So it was with Square Wine and Spirits in Long Island City (there Facebook is here).  We were going to the Sage Genaral Store and were told it was BYOW.  As fortune would have it, literally next door was Square Wine and Spirits.  Besides being literally very cool in the midst of the East Coast Heat Wave, Square Wine and Spirits had a great, cold selection of whites and roses.  The one I picked was called "Alpha Zeta" rose (I didn't save the bottle but I scrawled it in my notebook) which was well under ten dollars and in the 90 plus heat seemed like the best thing we had ever drunk.   Again, a place to file away and re-visit in more comfortable weather.

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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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