Mark Kramer

Mark Kramer, Executive Chef, Creative Director & Proprietor of Susan Lawrence, brings to his work an extensive knowledge of food and a keen sense of design drawn from the visual arts and cultural history. His food designs have appeared in many major publications such as Victoria Magazine, Early American Life, and W Magazine. Recently honored as "Best Caterer" by Westchester Magazine, he has created menus and coordinated events for many prestigious clients including; the New York Zoological Society, the Rockefeller family, President & Senator Clinton, the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., Brooke Astor, Lady Bird Johnson, Glenn Close, Eileen Fisher, Vanessa Williams, Historic Hudson Valley, the Jewish Museum, The New York Times, the Hudson River Museum and Hermes of Paris. Mr. Kramer's cooking classes, particularly his "Perfect Dinner Party" series, have been extremely well received and have developed a large following.

A passionate collector of antique copper, Mr. Kramer brings his love for hand- hammered copper platters and furnishings to his design work. They figure significantly in his catering concepts where they are combined with estate urns, English ivy topiaries and verdigris baskets to create a distinctive 19th-century garden aesthetic. The Mark Kramer Vintage Collection, a line of handmade copper housewares, is currently in production and will soon appear in retail stores. Mr. Kramer, has recently redesigned and expanded Susan Lawrence in Chappaqua making it one of the nation's finest purveyors of gourmet food.

Mr. Kramer began his culinary career in Chicago as the pastry chef for Foodstuffs (a division of Crate and Barrel) where he designed and created an entire retail pastry product line. It was in Chicago, mentored by such culinary visionaries as Carol Siegel, Abby Mandel and Leslie Reis that he perfected his craft. Mr. Kramer also studied the violoncello and early music at Northwestern University where he received a Master of Music Degree. While earning a doctorate degree in music history, he specialized in the symbolism of music in Dutch paintings of the seventeenth century. He remains today a respected expert in that field and has received critical acclaim as artistic director of the period instrument ensemble, Ars Antiqua. He resides in Putnam County where he has created a formal English herb garden and perennial gardens that have supplied Susan Lawrence with culinary herbs and flowers for many years.

Mark's Journal
'Twas the Night Before Christmas: Remembering.... Posted on Thursday, December 5, 2019

It was over 35 years ago when I first started making the classic Bûche de Noël at Susan Lawrence. In those days I was the lone baker, starting my day at 5:00 in the morning. The first few hours were devoted to baking breads and rolls. Mid-morning was spent creating cakes and then on to cooking soups, salads and entrées for the remainder of the day. 

We were a tiny little store back then, with just some family and friends working around the clock to help fill all the holiday orders. What I remember most, and certainly will never forget, was the night before every Christmas, when Susan would join me in the pastry kitchen. Together we would make 100 Bûche de Noëls. It was a blur of activity as spongecake rolls were filled with chocolate ganache and mountains of French buttercream were fashioned into rustic bark topped with marzipan decorations, meringue mushrooms and holly leaves. Susan always brought her contagious energy, good cheer and enthusiasm to what seemed like an impossible task for just the two us. By the end of the night our aprons were covered with chocolate, and she would always joke about the “glamour” of it all. It was exhaustingly hard work, but for us both, truly a labor of love. 

Today, we have a wonderful crew of talented pastry chefs who re-create that miraculous French Yule Log Cake. It is made with the same fine ingredients and loving care just as we have done for the last three decades. For those who have their own memories of Susan, I hope you find joy in the continuance of this tradition. For everyone, I wish you a Merry Christmas full of delicious memories, peace and hope. 

- Mark Kramer 

Deliciousness awaits...

Thanksgiving: Making Your Own Pumpkin Soup Tureen Posted on Friday, November 22, 2019

All of a sudden the holiday is upon us! As usual we are so busy making arrangements for the fresh turkeys, local heirloom apples and all the wonderful ingredients that go into our Thanksgiving menu. We are so excited to begin making those special pies again! And seeing the wonderful families who come back to the store year after year is such a gift! Please make sure to say hello – I am never too busy to catch up or assist you with your entertaining needs.  

In the meantime here are directions for making a really festive Pumpkin Soup Tureen. Perfect for serving a silky-smooth Butternut Squash Soup. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds – and you will create memories for years to come!

1. Start with a perfect, round pumpkin. A deeply ribbed Cinderella Pumpkin is ideal. Choose one that is free of blemishes and irregularities. The pumpkin should be about 20” in diameter, and make sure you choose one that will easily fit in your oven. 

2. To make the lid of the soup tureen, cut off the top of the pumpkin with the stem still attached, and trim the extra flesh and seeds from the underside. Set this piece aside.

3. Scoop out the remaining seeds and extra flesh from inside the pumpkin. Be careful not to puncture the pumpkin exterior.  

4. Pre-heat your oven to 475 degrees. In the meantime brush the pumpkin exterior and lid exterior lightly with melted butter. Sprinkle the exterior lightly and evenly with paprika. Place the lid (stem side up) and the hollowed-out pumpkin (open side up) on a cookie sheet.

5. Bake at 475 degrees until nicely browned. It will look best if the browning is uneven - just a few scorched spots here and there. Allow to cool.  

6. Your pumpkin tureen can be made ahead of time. Just leave it out at room temperature. 

When you are ready to serve, place your pumpkin tureen on a platter. If you like, you can  

garnish the platter with autumn leaves, miniature squashes, fresh figs or nuts. Carefully fill the pumpkin with hot soup, cover with the lid and present the finished tureen to your guests.

Wishing you and your family a joyous Thanksgiving!   - Mark

The Truth About Rotisserie Chickens: Caveat Emptor! Posted on Tuesday, October 15, 2019

It is always a temptation. The aroma of those warm rotisserie chickens in your local food market catches your attention every time. It's an easy dinner solution and who could resist a good roast chicken for a quick impromptu dinner? What seems like a good idea is actually a potentially disappointing and dangerous food experience. 

Keep in mind, those yummy chickens have been kept under a heat lamp for hours (sometimes reheated from days before) and exposed to all sorts of temperature fluctuations. In addition to getting very tough and dry, the potential for them being dangerous to eat is quite high. At a luke warm temperature, they are what the health department certifies as being in the "danger zone." This is a temperature at which potentially harmful pathogens grow like wildfire. Put that little warm cooked bird in a foil bag and on the ride home the risk of salmonella and other toxins increases at an astonishing rate. Don't even think about leftovers. Once those little devils get going, they are not going away. Not even in the refrigerator. 

Many people have asked over the years why our Rotisserie Chickens are kept cold in our refrigerator case here at Susan Lawrence. Well, the answer is simple. A perfect roast chicken, when chilled immediately after cooking, preserves the integrity of the bird. The 'cold' will not only lock in the juices but will keep that dangerous salmonella bacteria from ever getting started. 

So next time, when the aroma of those warm roasting chickens captures your senses, observe carefully. Think about how long they have been waiting there for you and decide for yourself if suspicion is warranted. A properly handled 'cold' chicken will crisp up beautifully in a hot oven - and don't forget the gravy....       

                                                                                                       - Mark Kramer

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