Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tend is an unlikely hip coffee house in Shirley, NY

Lynn and I have frequented Tend Coffee in Shirley, NY (the next town over from where we live) a couple of times.  This place is a hidden gem (so to speak) cranking out artful cup of coffee after artful cup of coffee.  They also roast certified organic coffee as well as have a small, cozy sitting area that is nicely removed from the din of the nearby William Floyd Parkway/Montauk Highway crossroads.

 Long Island taste buds are seemingly in the death grip of Dunkin Donuts, 7-Eleven and various independent delis.  It is nice to have an alternative to these pedestrian offerings in Brookhaven.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bar Tartine: Techniques and Recipes is a next level cookbook....

There has been an embarrasment of riches this season with regard to cookbooks with first rate offerings such as Plenty,  Add to this impressive list Bar Tartine: Techniques and Recipes (Chronicle).

Bar Tartine (the restaraunt) is the San Franciso based outpost owned by Chefs Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns whose devotion to locally sourced food (creatively implemented) all made "in house"  has helped define the contemporary West Coast food scene and put them on the map as innovative and artistic chefs. Authors Balla and Burns don't merely churn out recipes they devote a considerable amount of time and text to identifying techniques crucial to their own food philosopy and practices such as dying herbs, making cheese at home, browning butter, making vinegar, preserving and so on.

The recipes are equally inventive with offerings like chilled sour cherry soup, beef gulyas with marrow toast and buckwheat dumplings with paprika.  Lynn and I especially appreciated the approach the chefs took toward salads which often are overlooked in cookbooks.  Chefs Balla and Burns give them their due here as a genuine meal with great inventive offerings such as Chicory Salad with Anchovy Dressing, Beet and Blue Cheese as well as Kale Salad with Rye Bread Seeds and Yogurt. 

A great book for the everyday cook to take food preparation and cooking to the next level.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Scott's Barbecue Sauce hits a nostalgic cord for Mark.....

We recently got back from Wilmington, North Carolina where  I was raised and I was r-introduced to Scott's Barbecue Sauce made in Goldsboro, NC as a result.  We used it frequently in my  household mainly to give flavor to pork but sometimes also for vegetables and potatoes.  It was also omnipresent in a lot of the Barbecue oriented rrestaurantswe used to frequent like the late great Skinner and Daniels and Flips.  Despite press and food magazine coverage to the contrary, traditional Southern food can be pretty bland and Scott's vinegary concoction can be a godsend to enhance often times neutral meats such as pork and poultry.  It also can cut some of the earthiness of acquired taste cuisine of the South such as collard greens.
The nice folks at Scott's were nice enough to send a bottle to us since I failed to smuggle one back over the Mason Dixon Line during our whirlwind trip to NC.  We have used Scott's for alternative fare other than Southern such as Kale and Tofu and it has given them a nice spike of much needed flavor.  I have not seen Scott's in New York grocer or retail outposts but here is hoping it will make the jump over the Mason Dixon line....


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mark and Lynn love Portlandia: Cook like a local

The recent release of The Portlandia Cook Book: Cook Like a Local (Clarkson Potter) is a particularly  pleasant entry in the march of seasonal cookbooks not the least of which is it wears its foodie appreciation lightly and with much humor. The Portlandia Cook Book is a natural extension of the Portlandia series on IFC which parodies the idiosyncratic citezines and institutions of Portland.  Bike, music, hipster, bike and  literary culture are a few of the many cultures and sub-cultures that Portlandia takes a good natured swipe at.

Of particular interest to us is the show's take on food culture.  Food is a big part of the show which features cult raised (but local) chicken; a dumpster diving dinner party; a tailgate party for Prarie Home Companion; artisinal movie popcorn and so on.  The cookbook makes mention of these and other niche cuisine in the book.  Oddly enough, there are some exceptionally creative recipes that Lynn was interested in particularly the Baked Manchego-Filled Dates, the Roasted Wild Mushrooms with Foraged Greens and Hazlenut Vinagrette (topped with an egg) and the Slamburger (a giant burger which can be topped with an egg).

Still, the unique appeal of this work is the humorous sidebars in the the PCB: The CSA newsletter ("keep your voice down around the grey horse if you come around"); the coffee shop manifesto ("The Wi-Fi password is Leave.Go); A Mixologist's Guide to Ice ("A Mixologist Walks into a bar. Bartender says,'What can I get you?' Mixologist says 'A tall glass of water, four hours, and your freezer.')

The book will be great to lighten the mood over the Holidays.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Seoul Food in Sliver Springs wows Mark and Lynn (again)....

Seoul Food in Silver Springs, Maryland might be our favorite place to eat at present.  We had eaten there a little over a year ago and it was not like anywhere we had ever eaten. The set up remains as odd as can be as SF shares the same space as an Exxon gas and convenience station.  Somehow, Seoul Food manages to create a pleasant, hip ambiance despite this.  When Lynn and I were there Iggy Pop, The Talking Heads, Lou Reed and the like helped set the mood.  The colorful branding, prayer flags,  turntable and so on gave the place the feel of a hip New York outpost.

The surroundings are nice but the food is what keeps us slavishly devoted fans.  Everything is expertly prepared and artfully arranged.  I got the Kimchi Tofu Bowl  which has fragrant sticky rice and is topped with heavenly caramelized kimchi.  These elegant touches are riposted with more earthy ingredients such as tofu, fried egg (cage free), seaweed, and sesame seeds.

Lynn had the equally exquisite Bibimbap which consists of a large bowl of sticky rice topped with mixed baby greens, carrots, daikon and red radish, cage greens, carrots, daikon, red radish, and  sunny side-up egg (again cage free).

Great and memorable....



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mark and Lynn have mixed feelings about Founding Farmers....

Lynn and I ate at Founding Farmers in Potomac, Maryland.  The restaurant has gotten a lot of positive press particularly as a result of Michelle Obama listing it as one of her favorite restaurants. Indeed, there is much to admire about Founding Farmers; its attention to "green" practices such as recycling, and composting; its notion of using reclaimed materials in constructing the interiors and so on. As for the menu, there is great attention to the idea of using family farms and vineyards as the heart of the restaurant's offerings. In addition the FF site makes mention that they don't always gravitate towards local fare but try to be mindful and conscious about keeping their carbon footprint minimal.

In addition, Founding Farmers is also located in Washington, DC and another is set to open in Tyson's Corner in early February.  The Potomoc outpost had great interiors with a good looking bar and a charming hostess.  We ate brunch there which is not typically our favorite meal.  I had poached eggs, chicken apple sausage and a farmer's salad.  Lynn had Crab Benedict.  Unfortunately, we found the food merely ok.  My eggs were cold and the farmer's salad was a mess mixing olives and figs with an uninspiring dressing that seemed to be some sort of honey mustard.  Lynn was happier with her Crab Benedict but it wasn't particularly memorable to her and the bacon accompanying her plate was slathered in what seemed to be syrup.

The service was surprisingly ragged and uneven.  We got menus and our order in quickly but the service deteriorated as the meal progressed.  The staff was particularly slack in clearing our plates at the end of the meal.

I will say that the "Corps Reviver" cocktail (with gin, absinthe, and lillet) was one of the best I have ever had. 

Surprisingly enough, with all of the trumpeting about the various farms and vineyards there was little if any mention on the menus about where the ingredients came from.  We have been to other restaurants that wear there "green" credentials proudly so we were surprised there wasn't more of a narrative accompanying the meal.

So, Lynn and I were underwhelmed.  We may just have caught the place on a bad day.  Perhaps the wait staff was particularly stressed?  Maybe we just aren't brunch people? Will we give Founding Farmer's another shot?  Maybe so; just please  keep the Corpse Reviver on the menu...


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Chef Sean Brock's Heritage is an instant cookbook classic...

Chef Sean Brock of Husk Restaurant (located in Nashville and Charleston) has put together one of the most noteworthy cookbooks of the season: Heritage (Artisan).  As the title indicates, Heritage makes much of Chef Brock's history and Southern upbringing particularly how this upbringing has influenced his culinary evolution.  Heritage is an attempt to marry high end sophisticated cuisine and techniques with traditional comfort food which is a cornerstone of the Southern dinner table and diet.  Some of the typical examples of this merge are Braised Lamb Neck with Tomato Conserve and Squash Seed Risotto.  Many of the recipes are straightforward comfort food with a tweak or two to such as the Husk Cheeseburger which is pretty much a classic cheeseburger using plebeian American cheese and Duke's mayonnaise tweaked slightly by using ground  flank steak and bacon for the hamburger meet and lemon zest for the "special sauce" accompanying the meal. Chef Brock's instructions are clear which is helpful since many of the recipes can be on the complicated side with a number of ingredients and steps involved.  

Heritage is so artfully put together that it could function as a coffee table book.  The pictures by Peter Frank Edwards are beautiful compliments to the romantic quality of the text and recipes. 

Heritage is more than a mere cookbook. It also contains creative recipes for bitters, cocktails, as well as various blends, stocks, mustards, sauces and spices Chef Brock uses as foundations for his culinary work. There are also instructions about smoking techniques, pickling and preserving and even how to set up a Whiskey Cocktail Station for a party.  Heritage is a very versatile cookbook particularly for the fall and winter months and it appears to be a breakthrough work on contemporary Southern Cuisine. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Apothic Dark is Mark and Lynn's official wine of the ghostly season...

Despite a very mild and occasionally very hot Indian Summer on our part of Long Island (we just took out our window air conditioner units) we have made the transition from the very cold, very dry whites we drink during summer to the very dark, hefty reds we enjoy in the late fall and winter, particularly at the start of Halloween.  As always, we start with Apothic line of fragrant, perfume like reds.  This year we are favoring Apothic Dark which has great flavors of coffee, smoke and cranberry.  It mixes well with my Halloween and autumn reading which trends toward gothic short stories by Poe and Algernon Blackwood as well as vintage magic instruction manuals.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Wegmans saves the day for Mark and Lynn....

Lynn and I recently returned from Wilmington, NC and though we had a good time there we had rather miserable experiences driving in both directions.  The one bright spot for us was the discovery of Wegmans in Frederick, Maryland.  Lynn had been familiar with the store when she lived Upstate, NY and experienced the first rate groceries, produce, wine and so on.  The store in Frederick had a great, inexpensive wine selection (where I picked up a couple of Charles Smith reds) and, to our relief, great prepared food with Asian, Indian, Vegetarian selections and so on both hot and cold.  The staff was mostly young, attractive and competent giving an impression of being a more genial, folksy version of Whole Foods.  Unfortunately, there are no Wegman's very near us (the closest one is about 75 miles from us in NJ).  We frequently go upstate so perhaps we can stock up and enjoy the comfort and variety of this, our new favorite supermarket....


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mark and Lynn in Wilmington: The Goat and Compass Showcases Dukes Old South BBQ...

Lynn and I went to Wilmington, NC last week for festivities surrounding our son's wedding.  As with trips to the Port City (my hometown) there is a sense of nostalgia mixed with a weird sense of discovery.  The rehearsal dinner was at the Goat and Compass a place that might best be described as an upscale dive bar.  The environment is lived in with a beer centric bar.  However, there are some good wines and spirits available and an iconic portrait of King Richard III looks down with royal disapproval on the bar's patrons adding an unlikely sense of literary appreciation and an ironic counterpoint to the Panthers game on the big screen TV.

The affair was mostly a DIY affair (curated and decorated by Lynn and our daughter Elizabeth).  Duke's  Old South BBQ catered the dinner and Lynn and I were very impressed by the Duke's pulled pork which triggered in me a Proustian involuntary memory of late fall, early winter childhood memories of Game of Thrones style pig roasts in my family's backyard on Market Street  Duke's savory, sweet and smoky pork brought back those early memories to me as vividly as Proust's tea soaked cakes did to him in Remembrance of Things Past....

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mark and Lynn take Jackson and Sloane to the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport...

Lynn and I enjoy visiting local museums almost as much as we enjoy visiting local eateries.  We were in Southport for a long weekend recently for our son's wedding and even though our time frame was narrow we managed to take our Grandchildren Jackson and Sloane to the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport.   I am a native North Carolinian and the history of my state and the South is very much a part of my DNA.  So, I felt much enjoyment in Sloane and Jackson exploring the museum's broad array of memorabilia, artifacts and pirate lore.

Jackson loved the museum's vintage periscope where he spied Bald Head Island

The NC Maritime Museum communicates the romantic quality of Southern Seamanship 

Sloane takes the wheel

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mark and Lynn discover Deer Run Farms' Oriental Cauliflower...

Lynn and I enjoyed an early autumn surprise courtesy of Deer Run Farm in Brookhaven. Dear Run Farms is a reliable provider of everyday summer fare for us during the summer but more recently we have noticed Deer Run Farms has branched out from the usual Long Island summer/fall staples like corn, onions and butter crunch lettuce to include more exotic fare such as something we got from the farm's farm stand this weekend; Oriental Cauliflower.

Janet, one of the farm's owners described it as "lacy" as it was more subtle in appearance with an elegance that the suddenly more pedestrian everyday Cauliflower lacked.  We roasted it with some simple garlic powder and found it both flavorful but delicate a nice addition to our fall palette...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Saying goodbye to Summer at Captain Scott's Lobster Dock

Lynn and I are still processing some of our late summer memories and one of the best and most memorable was a labor day weekend spent going to Boston.  On our way back to Long Island we happened upon a lively Labor Day scene at Captain Scott's Lobster Dock in New London, Connecticut.  We particularly enjoyed the Oysters there being shucked for a dollar an oyster.  They were apparently indigenous to Connecticut and were very clean and sweet tasting.  On our next visit we will try to learn more about Connecticut Oysters.  In the meantime it remains a nice afternoon in our memories of this past summer....

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jaime Wyeth's retrospective at the MFA in Boston renews Mark's appreciation for that piece of Folk Art Arnold Schwarzenegger....

 Portrait of Arnold Schwarzenegger 
 Jamie Wyeth (American, born in 1946) 
 Oil on canvas 
 * The Collection of Arnold Schwarzenegger. © Jamie Wyeth. 
 * Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 

Lynn and I have always enjoyed the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston during our frequent trips there.  They always have interesting and sometimes provocative exhibits, they have multiple great restaurants and the space manages to be stately without being intimidating or overwhelming.

Recently, Lynn and I had the chance to check out one of the high profile exhibits in the US for the season: The Jamie Wyeth retrospective.  Wyeth's work has always intrigued me on its own and in the way it connects to the work of his father and especially his grandfather.

Wyeth's retrospective shows an artist whose interests and experimental tendencies surpassed both his father and grandfather.  Wyeth's work reflects some of the rustic, supernatural(ism) of his father Andrew but it also connects to some of the brawny and poetic men of action that NC painted in his illustrations for Children's Classics like Last of the Mohicans.  Wyeth's 1977 portrait of a bare chested Arnold Schwarzenegger in his late 70's  prime reminded me of NC's work on the print version of The Return of Tarzan from 1913 which depicts a brawny Tarzan in repose.   This portrait in particular made me realize that Jamie Wyeth merged the notion of fine art with popular culture and even pulp in a way that his grandfather did which is why I love his work so much and why he is the most enjoyable major American artist at present in my opinion....

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mark and Lynn visit Paul, Mark and Donnie's place in Hingham....

There is a part of us (mainly me) that really has a weakness for quality commercial restaurants and products that really deliver good value, minimum pretension and good quality and variety in their food, wine and/or spirits.  This impulse led us (mainly me) to seek out Wahlburgers the high end burger outpost in Hingham owned by Chef Paul Wahlberg and his brothers  Hollywood superstar Mark Wahlberg and  Donnie who has had a noteworthy career as a music, film and television performer.   The restaurant has also generated a reality show of the same name on A & E featuring the behind the scenes operations of the Hingham restaurant.

Lynn likes excitement and novelty which the crowded, bustling restaurant had in spades.  What was unexpected was the high quality and general variety of the food.  Lynn had a Haddock sandwich which she said had great flavor and was lightly fried with panko.  Our grand kids enjoyed the Chicken Fingers and "Alma's Macaroni" (Alma is Mother Wahlberg).   The restaurant had some great offbeat offerings for vegetarians such as the Portabello Capped Mushroom Burger which I had and found juicy and savory.  If you are watching your carbs you can get the burgers with lettuce wraps instead of the bread.

An artful homage to the Wahlberg's film and television work hovers overhead
It is also worthy of note that the staff is friendly and unflappable.  The manner in which they handled the bustling lunch crowd with wait lines going out into the street was impressive.  Despite the long lines  we were seated in a surprisingly timely fashion and managed to get our food quickly and with a minimum of fuss.  The place has a family friendly vibe but there is a separate part of the restaurant with a bar section which makes it a good place to go and watch "the game."  (The Red Sox were playing an afternoon game which generated a lot of interest during our time there).
Jackson at Wahlburgers
The drive from South Boston to Hingham is about an hour but the trip was well worth it and though we love Boston the parking can be kind of a headache if you are not up for it.  The area where Wahlburgers was busy but parking was not a hassle.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Contest!: Mark and Lynn give away a copy of Kathleen Flinn's latest...

We are giving away a copy of Kathleen Flinn's funny and poignant memoir of her childhood Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good.  Ms. Flinn has also graciously agreed to contribute a one of a kind item to our givaway: An autographed jar of her own homemade blueberry jam made from her grandfather's own recipe. 

To enter simply tell us in 50 words or less your most memorable dish growing up (and why).  Email your entry to  Lynn and I will choose the winner and will publish the winning entry as on of our posts.  Contest ends midnight September 20.  Thanks much and good luck!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Author Kathleen Flinn turns family history into storytelling gold...

Kathleen Flinn's author of The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry is back with a memoir of her youth called Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family. Ms. Flinn's memoir appropriately arrives late in the summer as it is a book as bittersweet and poignant as the end of the season and the onset of Autumn.

The book is a chronology of her upbringing and covers three generations of her family.  Ms. Flinn's adventurous streak and zest for life was a theme of some of her earlier works and here we see some of this in her own family history such as when her family decides fairly abruptly to pack up their Michigan home and move to California to help a relative run a pizza restaurant.  Other highlights include chronicling her family's attempt at raising chickens and her family's abrupt move from Michigan to Florida.  Ms. Flinn offers up serious retro comfort food recipes such as Lemon Meringue Pie, Bread and Butter Pickles, and Hot German Potato Salad to punctuate her chapters and underline some of her early experiences with food and cooking. Our favorite of these recipes is her Pan Fried Steak a la Julia Child.
The author (photo credit  Irene Flinn)

This work, is in effect Ms. Flinn's third memoir and exhibits her exquistie story telling ability.  She manages to weave a fascinating tale out of both the considerable drama and impulsiveness of her parents but also manages to get a lot of mileage out of the ordinariness of her youth such as chronicling the prodigous canning practices of her Grandparents or how her Father loved fishing.  Ms. Flinn's work here manages to balance the sweetness and the ache of family history with the wizened perspective of adulthood. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mark and Lynn at the I Go Inn....

The end of summer tends to have us in a reflective mood and the end of this summer is no exception.  One of the most memorable experiences of the summer of 2014 was a jaunt to the rakish I Go Inn Upstate in Edinburg, NY. 
The afternoon we visited the I Go Inn was one of the first hot summer days we experienced and many of the patrons of the IGI were literally just off of the boat from motoring on the Great Sacandage Lake as the Inn has a dock at the bottom of its property.  Many of the patrons were floating around with beach coverups, flip flops and sunscreen liberally applied on their face and torso.
The food was the best kind of beach food Generous portions of fried seafood (such as the coconut shrimp), beer battered shrimp and chips mixed in with more high end and/or healthy options such as the Ahi Tuna Salad and Turkey Burgers.

Mainly though, the I Go Inn is a great place to people watch.  The place was packed the day we were there so it took awhile for our food to get served but our attentive waitress managed to re-assure us and the restaurant "comped" a couple of our appetizers even though our wait wasn't that bad considering.  Again, the raucous but somehow well behaved clientele helped keep us entertained until we got our food. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mark and Lynn try A Taste of the North Fork

Lynn and I had discovered much of the North Fork's culinary offerings this summer starting with the cHarissa that Lynn had found at a Farmer's Market in Mattituck early in the summer.  The eventual need to replenish our cHarissa supply led us to the charming A Taste of the North Fork storefront. 

The Taste of the North Fork storefront in Southold had a wide variety of locally made culinary delights such as the sesame scallion dipping sauce which we found worked great as a marinade and provided nice flavor
to such bland fare as tofu.
Thankfully, we found our cHarissa in ample quantities.  There were plenty of items that we didn't get to try just yet but the Taste of the North Fork store is a great showcase for the rich and evolving creative food scene on the North Fork of Long Island.

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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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