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.
Our Seven-Layer Cake has a story. When I was a child, my parents would often stop at Eclair - a bakery in Grand Central Station, popular in the 1950's and 1960's.
The owner brought the sweet taste of Austria and Hungary to New York City where busy commuters would purchase Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte, Apple Strudel and Charlotte Russe. The Charlotte Russe was anything but traditional - a small white paper cup with a push-up bottom filled with spongecake and whipped cream.
As children, we squealed with delight when these were brought home. Even more so, we nearly shook in anticipation of the Marshmallow-stuffed Glacé Apricots which probably caused my life-long obsession with apricots in ALL its forms. But most memorable was the Seven Layer Cake. A modest rectangle with seven heavenly layers of spongecake and light chocolate buttercream all enrobed in a dark chocolate glaze. For the last decade or three, I have been recreating this childhood memory, and it is still one of our most popular cakes.
I suppose a classic will always remain one. Over the years, I have encountered numerous people, who after seeing our Seven Layer Cake, recalled that same little bakery in Grand Central Station. Their memories are a touching tribute to a special little cake which has inspired decades of sweet and delicious eating right here at Susan Lawrence. - Mark Kramer
For many years, people have suggested I open a restaurant. And it has always been my dream to have a small, intimate setting where people could gather and enjoy truly innovative and finely crafted cuisine in a comfortable and welcoming environment.
So, I am very pleased to announce a truly special 'restaurant experience' at Susan Lawrence. Five thoughtfully chosen courses with wine pairings, graciously served at our antique farm tables. Each evening will feature a completely different menu inspired by my own world travels, culinary discoveries and the extraordinary bounty of the Hudson River Valley. I look forward to many such occasions with special surprise guests, entertainment, makers of rare wines, and an ever-changing seasonal menu.
Come join me in this wonderful celebration of food, wine and fellowship. I look forward to sharing with you, some truly special, if not unforgettable evenings...
After years of entertaining in my own home and creating all sorts of parties for my clients, I have had a rare opportunity to observe the very best and worst of people’s party behavior. So I have created ‘The Rules.’ A list of the important things every guest should know before they reach the front door of their host’s home. These do’s and don’ts (mostly don’ts!) are meant to act as a gentle reminder that being a guest at a party is a special privilege. And with that privilege comes a responsibility to be courteous, polite and gracious.
The Rules: How to be a Guest.
Do not bring flowers. EVER. Finding vases at the last minute are a hassle for a host that is busy with last minute details. And your host has already thought about flowers and a color scheme that will probably conflict with the bright orange roses you bought at the convenience store. A potted plant or orchid is fine.
Wine & Champagne - Not the best gift. Unless it really reflects who you are or is a particularly special wine. But you must tell your host it is for them to enjoy at another time. They have already planned what wine will be served and you don’t want a host to feel obligated to use yours that evening.
Do not bring food. Not even cookies. You are a guest at a dinner party where there is food being served. Do I need to explain any further??
Food Allergies & Diet Restrictions. Keep them to yourself. You will not starve - enjoy what you CAN eat without making a scene or making it all about you.
Bar Etiquette. After you are served a drink, step away from the bar. There are many people waiting while you stand and chat with your friends. And for goodness sake - if you see someone cleaning up and carrying plates and glassware - try to stay out of their path. Do not ever ask for a drink that is not offered. No one should have to find you sugar free cranberry juice or Pinot Grigio even if it is YOUR signature drink.
Buffet Etiquette: Move quickly through a buffet line, knowing that there are people waiting. Move as far away from the buffet as possible after being served to allow others to circulate near the table. Never eat food while standing at or near the buffet. Do not return to the buffet for more food until all guests have been served.
Bathroom Etiquette: Don't make a mess. Always flush the toilet and put the the entire seat-cover down. Leave the bathroom spotless. If paper or soap needs replenishing - replace it if you can. If waste basket is overflowing - take the initiative to empty it or inform your host quietly that the bathroom needs attention. Never flush anything but bathroom tissue - most homes have sensitive septic tanks that can not accommodate paper hand towels or sanitary napkins.
Do not talk on your cell phone or check your messages in front of anyone. If there is an emergency or situation that requires you to check in - do it privately in a bedroom or outside.
Do not, EVER, bring an unexpected guest, child or pet. Do not even ASK to bring your pet!
Never arrive early. NEVER!
RSVP as early as possible. Don’t assume your host knows you are coming just because you are their best friend.
Always put your name on a gift.
Always offer to help. Pass hors d’oeuvres, pick things up etc.
Offer to introduce guests to one another.
Offer to help wash glasses or serve.
Hostess Gifts. It is always nice to arrive with something for your host. But what are the options if wine, flowers and food are against the ‘rules’? Here are some suggestions: Artisanal candles or soaps. Chocolates (but always tell your host it is for them AFTER the guests leave and not meant to be shared). An orchid or small potted herb or plant, homemade or artisanal jam, a jar of French Sea Salt, Local Honey or Maple Syrup, an interesting tea. A dozen local farm eggs in a basket. A box of beautiful note cards. A wonderful bottle of olive oil. Please remember, gifts that have a personal connection - that mean something special to either you or your host, are always the best!
Always send a handwritten thank you note to your host, even if it is someone you speak with all the time.
A cold winter day in Vienna last January inspired one of my new favorites – a modern interpretation of an old classic; Hungarian Goulash. Just across from the elaborate Jugendstil façades of the Otto Wagner apartments at a small bistro in the heart of the Naschmarkt, I had a Goulash so remarkable I had to go back and have it a second time the very next day. The Viennese certainly understand stews, soups and all the cold weather fare that provides respite from the harshness of winter. ‘American Goulash’ is a lighter ‘soup’ version of this hearty dish, prepared with slow-braised veal, winter vegetables, fresh herbs, red wine, Marzano tomatoes and Hungarian paprika. The result of hours of simmering and slow cooking is something rustic, familiar, comforting and pure heaven. Tender bites of delicate veal, mushrooms, caramelized onions and sweet red peppers float in a richly flavored and intoxicatingly aromatic broth. And if that were not enough – a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of slightly salty but ‘light as air’ fried capers provide a wonderful but unexpected perfect little crunch and modern touch.
It took a few months of trial and error, but I was determined to recreate another wonderful food memory: the cinnamon sweet rolls I had as a college student in the Midwest. In Moorhead Minnesota, some thirty or more years ago - we would gather at a local coffee shop for a very extraordinary creation. They were giant buttery sweet rolls, dripping with molten cinnamon and sugar. The dough was like silk - light and billowy with a luscious vanilla frosting that just melted down the sides. So now, every morning before dawn, at Susan Lawrence, we make these wonderful breakfast rolls - and as they bake, the wonderful aroma of cinnamon fills the air. A recent article in Westchester Magazine declared: “Once inside the elegant Susan Lawrence shop, it’s hard to pick just one thing. The cinnamon sweet rolls are a must - and among the shop’s most addictive, as is the gorgeously drizzled chocolate Babka. But it is the Buttermilk Bread, with its powdery tan color, crackling exterior, and delicate interior that takes eating pleasure to a whole new dimension.”
We truly are an old-fashioned bakery. There are not many left like us – who celebrate the art of baking cakes, pies, cookies and breads by using the very best and purest ingredients. And our Cinnamon Sweet Roll – truly an American Classic, is right at home here at Susan Lawrence with all the other wonderful artisanal specialties that are baked with such care and pride. Please stop in for a sample and allow me to share this very special memory with you.
Near the Piazza del Popolo, in the artistic heart of Rome, is an extraordinary restaurant where a French woman by the name of Babette creates wonderful Italian cuisine with just a touch of French flair. The restaurant is a blend of Parisian bistro and Italian trattoria charm. A black and white tile floor and distressed stucco walls exhibiting works of emerging painters provide a true French ambience and backdrop for an eclectic mastering of many regional favorites. Presiding over the kitchen is Babette herself – and one can only imagine she is the incarnation of that famous Babette in Isak Dinesen’s decadently scrumptious novel. On her insistence, we ended our dinner with a piece of her signature dessert: a rustic lemon cake. Served warm, it was quite simple in appearance – but pure heaven and maybe the most perfect cake I have ever eaten. Light as air, delicately flavored with fresh lemon and a hint of almond, its genius was a creamy and luxurious center. If a cake could be life changing - this might be the one, and it has haunted me ever since we left Rome. Babette holds fast to keeping her recipe secret, so it became my mission to recreate her cake in my own kitchen. My research began with the traditional Torta della Nonna, which has many of the same flavors although is clearly a much older, less pretty and heavier sister to Babette’s creation. Then came the trials. Night after night of cake baking with interesting but failed attempts at texture, lightness and flavor. How was the mysterious molten center achieved? How much lemon? How could the almond flavor be so delicate? And then, voilla! As soon as I began to think like a French pastry cook in an Italian kitchen, the mysteries of Babette’s cake began to unravel. A Torta della Nonna it was not, even though the combination of tart lemon and almond is decidedly indigenous to Roman kitchens. Torta Babette, I discovered, is a quintessentially French cake with an Italian twist. Seductive, yet simple. Now that I have perfected it, I like to serve the cake warm with a little Limoncello or a wonderful espresso. One bite, and you too, will be exclaiming with a French accent, “Molto molto buono!”
It is one of Europe’s most elegant cities where an intermingling of art, architecture, music and food seduces all the senses. Arriving just in time for a New Year’s Eve concert of Mozart and Strauss at the Kursalon, we indulged in a week of Austrian cuisine. There is wonderful food everywhere in Vienna. A city of extraordinary soups, Mr. Fleck and I dined on Gasthaus favorites like Consummé with Liver Dumplings and Oxtail Soup with Frittaten (thin slivers of crepes). Even the food kiosks which dot the pristine city have a perfect ‘fast’ food. It is the Kasekrainer - a Viennese sausage studded with little chunks of Emmentaler cheese and served hot off the grill with German mustard. In Vienna’s Naschmarkt, truly a culinary wunderland, a labyrinth of food stalls display a stunning array of beautiful fruits and vegetables, cheeses, cured meats, exotic spices, prepared food and pastries. The elaborate Jugendstil façade of the Otto Wagner apartments, presides in view of the Naschmarkt’s many little cafés where we dined on Goulash Soup and Speck (cured ham) before returning to the art of Wilhelm Klimt and the music of the Vienna Boy’s Choir. The Viennese claimed Germany’s Beethoven as one of their own – as they did Italy’s Veal Milanese which became their famous Wiener Schnitzel. These crisp cutlets of tender veal are served with potatoes or a simple cucumber salad – and in the hands of the Viennese brought to perfection. Vienna is also a city of great chocolates and wonderful desserts – and it just happened that the balcony of our room not only overlooked the Vienna Opera house but also the famous Sacher Hotel. It is here, presented with schlagobers (whipped cream) that their famous chocolate torte and apple strudel is served in one of the city’s most stunning dining rooms. And to end each glorious day – we returned to the opulently appointed Bristol Hotel to find on each pillow, a small gold box with a luxurious bite of Austrian chocolate Imperial Torte.
A few weeks ago we had seventy guests at Susan Lawrence for one of my cooking classes, The Art of Brunch: New Classics for Stylish Entertaining, sponsored by Chappaqua Continuing Education. The two -hour class was also an extensive tasting dinner served to the audience as I demonstrated each menu selection. Always a fun evening, I really enjoy the enthusiastic group of people who come and imbibe in the pleasures of food and cooking. My goal was to redefine brunch. To do away with those stodgy and heavy old brunch traditions that we just have come to expect and accept! Brunch has long been in need of a major overhaul. Who really wants a plate crammed with Chicken Florentine as maple syrup and pancakes run amuck alongside an overcooked Spanish omelet and piles of carb-ladened croissants, muffins and Danish?!??! Most brunch menus are just too sweet, overly eclectic and way too heavy. So instead, I created a wonderful menu balanced by color, texture and variety – where every dish complements the others. Smoked Fish ‘Antipasto’ has replaced the dreaded bagels with lox and cream cheese. And my favorite Egg Gratin with Fennel Pollen, Saffron, Lavender, Chives & Goat Cheese is paired with Roasted Artisanal Sausages with Caramelized Baby Pears & Fresh Rosemary. You will find these and other satisfying dishes on our new Fall Menu which can be viewed here online. So take this as my personal invitation to join us for a truly special occasion: The New Sunday Brunch. Relax with a copy of the New York Times, warm Cappuccino, really great food, and a hand-picked selection of amazing music featuring the Jazz vocals of Madeleine Peyroux and some of my other favorites.
In a recent interview for Westchester Magazine, I was very excited to extol the merits of Fennel Pollen – a wonderful ingredient that is not very well known. It is one of my favorite ‘spices’ along with dill pollen and can give an incredible flavor boost to many different kinds of dishes. I began using these pollens at Susan Lawrence and in my cooking classes after discovering them many years ago on a sojourn to Tuscany. Fennel pollen in particular, is wonderful with shrimp, chicken, fish – even some vegetables. And I often serve guests at my country house a breakfast of scrambled eggs with fennel pollen, saffron, goat cheese and fresh chives with lavender and nasturtiums from the herb garden. My friend Mary Keehn – the brilliant cheese maker at Cypress Grove has created a wonderful goat cheese called Purple Haze which is infused with fennel pollen and lavender flowers – a pairing which I have used in my own cooking for many years. You will also see dill pollen on several new dishes this summer at Susan Lawrence. Wonderful hors d’oeuvres of shrimp with dill aioli served on dill pollen brioche toasts. And for dinner – Pan-Seared Orange Roughy (a deep sea perch) with dill pollen butter sauce, sautéed Kirby cucumbers and a yellow cherry tomato gastrique.
On June 24th we celebrated a special birthday high above New York City on the rooftop of the Atlas building for my friend Lisa. With stunning views of the city and the Empire State Building, guests enjoyed cocktails, a breezy cool night and live Jazz. A fun group of friends, mostly designers and such – it is always a challenge to create a new cake for them. Last year it was a Manolo Blahnik sugar ‘shoe’ sitting on top of a shoebox made entirely of cake. And for this occasion, a stunning Louis Vuitton handbag that was hardly discernable from the real thing. So whatever the occasion – I get so much enjoyment out of creating these cakes, especially for people I know.
For the 4th of July I have created an incredible watermelon cake for our customers here at Susan Lawrence. It is truly a trompe l’oeil marvel – a perfect round baby watermelon – so realistically rendered with green stripes & tendrils - you would think it was an actual watermelon. Inside, it is just as playful, with a wonderful raspberry cake center laced with melon liquor and studded with chocolate watermelon ‘seeds.’ Perfect for a summer party or any special occasion! Please visit my Facebook page for pictures….you won’t believe your eyes!
Just back from a culinary tour of San Francisco and Sonoma – I am feeling truly inspired. After reading The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones – we were very eager to seek out the authentic Shanghaiese cuisine the author so brilliantly describes; where each dish in itself is a metaphor, a poem or even a history lesson. So upon Nicole’s recommendation, Mr. Fleck and I found ourselves in the very heart of Chinatown at Jai Yun. The only customers in a tiny restaurant for a dinner of some twenty or more tasting courses that just hinted at the staggering variety found in classic Chinese cooking. On another evening, a visit to Chez Panisse in Berkeley where Alice Waters performs miracles with nature’s finest ingredients, turned out to be the dining experience of a lifetime. Farm fresh vegetables, freshly caught fish, locally raised meat, all so meticulously prepared, and imaginatively conceived –I was simply astonished by the sheer integrity of every single dish. Our adventure continued with a wonderful conversation with Chef Paul Prudhomme who confirmed it is true – HE is the inventor of Turducken. And with Joseph Schmidt, the iconic chocolatier who told me that he is the luckiest man in the world for having had the privilege to spend his entire life working with chocolate. At Gary Danko’s chic downtown restaurant, the staff and I had a lively conversation about the always charming Mary Keehn, whose artisanal cheeses have developed quite a cult following. Her extraordinary Humboldt Fog appears on their cheese cart – as it has on ours for many years. But her latest creation, a goat cheese infused with fennel pollen and lavender, is so seductive and full of summery brightness, that I knew I had to create a new dish around it. So this week, experience a little taste of summer with roasted figs, stuffed with Purple Haze goat cheese, wrapped in prosciutto and glazed with tupelo honey & balsamic vinegar. What better indulgence could there be in the middle of winter?
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.
We had a wonderful evening last week with 75 guests at my cooking class here at Susan Lawrence. A full tasting dinner was served by our staff while I demonstrated how each course was made – and there were all the usual extra tips about entertaining, planning ahead, and setting the mood with exactly the right music, flowers and luminaries. What a fun evening – friends, clients and we even hear that a certain former President and his Senator-wife have been enjoying many of the recipes too!
Many of you have asked for my cheesecake recipe – one that I have treasured for over 40 years after discovering it at Lindy’s in New York. Lindy’s restaurant made it with a delicate butter cookie crust. But you can substitute your own graham cracker crust if you prefer.
Lindy’s Famous Cheesecake
1 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
1 t grated lemon zest
1 t vanilla
1 egg yolk
4 oz softened butter
Combine, flour, sugar, lemon zest. Blend in vanilla, yolk and butter just until it forms a soft dough. Chill one hour before rolling 1/8” thick and cover bottom and sides of spring form pan.
5 pkg (8oz size) soft cream cheese
1 ¾ cup sugar
3 Tablespoons Flour
1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 ½ teaspoons grated orange peel
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 500°
In large bowl of electric mixer, combine cheese, sugar, flour, lemon and orange peel and vanilla. Beat at high speed just to blend. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add cream, beating just until well combined. Pour mixture into pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 250° and bake 1 hour longer.
Let cheesecake cool in pan on wire rack. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
To serve: loosen cake from side of pan with a knife. Remove side of springform pan.
Saturday night, Mr. Fleck and I happened upon a charming restaurant in Croton Falls, New York. Truly inspired places to dine in the Westchester vicinity are rare – so I am always looking for that small gem where food, intimate atmosphere and charm intermingle. By coincidence, Chef John Reynolds and I had just met one another very recently and I was so pleased to see his Bungalow filled with enthusiastic diners. With rave reviews from the New York Times, this nostalgic Bungalow and its remarkable food are just on the cusp of being discovered. John’s ‘Usonian’ ideals come through in his finely crafted cuisine. The food is wonderfully imaginative, yet achieves a fine balance of integrity, comfort and quality. The chef’s wife, Banu – a former fashion editor and costume designer, presides over the restaurant. Her special attention and friendly enthusiasm truly made us feel like guests in her own home. So please visit the Bungalow for a truly memorable dinner. And let John and Banu know who sent you - maybe we will see you there!
Some very sad news today. Abby Mandel passed away this morning after a battle with cancer. A culinary legend, she was a cookbook writer, chef and founder of the Chicago Greenmarket. Perhaps best known for her affiliation with Cuisinart – her spirited demonstrations encouraged countless cooks to be fearless in using food processors – then a relatively new appliance for home cooks. She was an important influence on me as a young chef in Chicago. Truly one of the first ‘celebrity’ chefs, her energy, knowledge and passion for food was truly inspiring. And to this day, in my own cooking classes, I continue her tradition of using a Cuisinart from the wrong side - so the front faces the audience. I remember seeing her do this with such ease! Always smiling, always enthusiastic – Abby will be greatly missed. Our condolences to her family and friends.
One of the most famous landmarks in New York City – presiding graciously over Central Park and the Strawberry Fields memorial - the Dakota has long been on my list of places to visit. Not just an architectural icon, it is ‘home’ to many celebrities and influential New Yorkers. So I often wondered what life was like beyond the gated porte cochére - and last Saturday, Mr. Fleck and I were very privileged to enjoy a wonderful evening with our friends Susan & Gerald in their beautiful Dakota apartment. Their home, which reflected the sensibilities of an architect and artist, was an exquisite backdrop for a most memorable dinner party. From the moment we entered, the aroma of Bolognese sauce simmering in the kitchen wafted throughout the high-ceiling rooms. Wonderful wines and conversation preceded a remarkable kale salad prepared with pine nuts, currants, lemon and parmesan cheese. And one of Susan’s specialties – a cheese & garlic spread (which has appeared at our picnics together in Central Park) was served with crusty fresh bread. It is also wonderful with pasta and can be made far in advance. Truly extraordinary and quite simple to prepare, I am sharing her recipe below. So thank you Susan & Gerald – for a really special dinner and giving us a glimpse into life at the Dakota.
Garlic & Cheese Marmellata
1/2 lb Parmesan (not too dry)
1/2 lb Asiago (not too dry)
2 T chopped green onion
2 t minced garlic
2 t dried oregano (crush between fingers when adding to the mix)
1 t fresh ground pepper
1 t red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil ( use a flavorful and “green” olive oil)
Remove rind and chop cheese into 1 inch cubes.
Pulse cheese in a food processor to reduce to the size of fine peas.
Transfer cheese to bowl and stir in green onion and garlic.
Add oregano, rubbing it between fingers to release fragrance.
Add black pepper, red pepper and olive oil.
Stir well, cover and let stand at room temperature at least 4 hours before serving.
To store, put in container and cover with a bit of olive oil. Refrigerate.
Always serve at room temperature.
Wonderful with toasted bread slices or on pasta.
Inspired by the era of D.H. Lawrence, our Chatterley Martini was a fitting cocktail for a Roaring Twenties party held in a magnificent stone mansion in Greenwich last Friday. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the private home was an opulent backdrop for the eighty or so guests who arrived in 1920’s regalia. The long driveway was lined with hundreds of white paper luminaries leading to the red-carpeted entrance of the house. Greeted by our staff in classic black tuxedos, guests were ushered into the ‘coat room’ where they could choose from an array of period costume jewelry, feather boas, headbands and hats to enhance their attire. Then on to the Caviar & Pink Champagne Bar – where 1000 grams of Osetra caviar, displayed in an estate-sized urn carved from ice, was served on tiny sterling silver plates with warm blini, melted truffle butter and crème fraiche. The ‘French Quarter’ – once the garden conservatory of the house – was lined with five-foot tall silver candelabras flanking a magnificent pink birthday cake completely covered with delicate crystallized rose petals. An elegant bar and cocktail tables with pink silk cloths and peony centerpieces filled the garden courtyard. And as guests spilled out onto the portico, a swing-band played, professional flapper dancers ‘flapped’ and singer Martine kept everyone entertained with 1920’s songs and ballads. The dinner buffet glowed from a long and narrow tent placed deep within a magnificent garden of blooming Mountain Laurels. By candlelight, guests indulged in bourbon glazed quail, porcini crusted filet mignon, stuffed endive petals tied with leek ribbons, and sweet pea & baby artichoke ‘lasagnas’ served in tiny demi-tasse cups topped with a perfect pod of little peas. An exquisite evening, a spectacular home and some of the most gracious hosts and guests I have ever known. Truly a magical occasion. Happy Birthday Marianne!!!!
A recent party in New York City was held in honor of Jamie Wyeth in connection with a major exhibition of his works. Our staff passed hors d’oeuvres from ‘art’ trays garnished with green cymbidium orchids as guests moved through two floors of galleries displaying Mr. Wyeth’s paintings and drawings. A seven-panel series depicting seagulls as the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ was particularly striking as were portraits of Andy Warhol with Victor Hugo and Fred Hughes. I especially enjoyed speaking with Mr. Wyeth about the techniques he used to create the fiery effects in his remarkable ‘Inferno’ panel which was the centerpiece of the exhibition. The ‘Inferno’ was also the inspiration for a cocktail which I created just for that evening – a marvelous martini made with Italian blood orange juice, vodka & chili-spiced mango. Mrs. Wyeth, who is depicted in her husband’s painting, ‘Catching Snowflakes’ was thrilled to see her image recreated from the original canvas into our wonderful chocolate picture frames. The colorful portrait, captured in detail in sugar, chocolate and edible gold leaf were wrapped with satin ribbons and displayed on silver estate trays. Not only were each of the 250 guests happy to receive one of these chocolate ‘Wyeth’s’ – but Mrs. Wyeth herself asked me to save a half dozen or so for her to take home as well.
With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, I have been giving much thought to the extraordinary variety of traditions associated with this holiday. So when Westchester Magazine asked me to be a judge on a panel of chefs for an upcoming Irish Soda Bread contest, I was intrigued to see how other area bakeries interpreted this classic bread. The contest results, which appear on page 112, show an enormous range of textures, flavors and shapes. The most authentic loaf, with a nutty brown-wheat dominance typical of Northern Ireland, was made by Eileen’s Country Kitchen in Yonkers. Other varieties were strongly seeded with caraway – some were heavily laden with currants or raisins. In my own baking – I always worked toward achieving a well-formed round loaf with the traditional cross hatch exposing a golden crust. And inside a moist texture and the buttery goodness of the finest ingredients. We will be sampling what we consider to be a ‘perfect’ Irish soda bread from now until St. Patrick’s Day. And along with our Irish soda bread, we will be offering a wonderful menu of regional favorites from Northern Ireland, the South Coast and County Cork.
When an invitation came for President Clinton’s Christmas party at New York’s Russian Tea Room – I was so excited to tell Mr. Fleck that he would be meeting the American icon he so admired. So last week, we were off to the Russian Tea Room – dressed in our presidential best and looking forward to a truly wonderful evening. Feeling very privileged to be included in such an event, we enjoyed champagne and Russian caviar served from gleaming silver trays as glitterati and politerati rubbed elbows with us common folk. The party took place in a private upstairs ballroom – opulently decorated with mirrors, gilt moldings and crystal chandeliers. Certainly fit for a king – if not the former President of the United States. There was much easy conversation with Clinton staffers, who now seem like family, old friends from Chappaqua and new ones who quickly became wonderful cocktail companions. After our three minutes with the charming Mr. Clinton and a go around with the paparazzi, we headed downstairs to the main restaurant with the unlikely hope of finding an available table on a busy Friday night. And we did. Just as we were seated at a plush banquette toward the front of the restaurant, Mr. Fleck leaned in and whispered to me, “don’t look, but Martha Stewart is sitting right behind you.” And of course I turned around and looked – catching her gaze at that exact moment. You would think the Tsar of Russia was present – but Ms. Stewart’s presence certainly gave a regal air to the evening. Only later did we discover that she too had been upstairs at the same party, and like us, decided to stay for a quiet dinner.
And still there was another surprise. A few days later a huge gold box of chocolates arrived on my desk with a note, “Merry Christmas from the Clintons.” How nice to be on their Christmas list - but I sure hope we get invited to the inauguration!!! Over the weekend we realized that even chocoholics like us would never be able to eat all of this candy – so Mr. Fleck decided to make holiday chocolate chunk cookies using the various filled chocolates, chopped and arranged in a way that each cookie would have a unique mixture of tastes. So while I was out doing a party for a favored Bedford client, Mr. Fleck made batches of Presidential Cookies as snow gently fell outside. Here is the recipe that was inspired by a gift from America’s foremost First Family:
2 ¼ c All-purpose flour
1 t Baking soda
1 c Butter, softened
¾ c Granulated sugar
¾ c Brown sugar, packed
1 t Pure vanilla extract
2 Large eggs
2 c Assorted filled chocolate candies or bon bons, coarsely chopped.
Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.
Beat butter, sugars and vanilla until blended. Add eggs one at a time and until light and creamy. In a separate bowl combine remaining dry ingredients and gradually beat into mixture. Stir in candies and drop rounded tablespoons onto un-greased baking sheets. Bake 8- 10 minutes or until golden brown but still slightly under baked in the center.
When Westchester Magazine called early in November to ask me if I wanted to be a judge on a panel of chefs for a rugelach contest – I was of course honored. But after thinking about it, I decided rather than be a judge, I wanted our rugelach to be considered in the competition. Coincidently, I had just written about our rugelach here on my journal and was quite confident that ours was among the best. The recipe was many years in the making, a lot of trial and error, beginning early on in my career as a young pastry chef in Chicago. Just last week, Westchester Magazine published the results and I am very proud to say that among all the bakeries in Westchester that participated, Susan Lawrence rugelach was deemed the ‘best’. I am particularly grateful to Chef Josh Lawler of Blue Hill at Stone Barns who gave our rugelach his highest rating – and all the chefs seemed to agree that ours had the best flavor, moisture and texture. There really is no secret to our recipe – except perhaps the fresh cream butter and pure vanilla that you can taste from the very first bite. And the fact that we bake our rugelach fresh every morning! Read the entire article in the December 2007 Holiday issue of Westchester Magazine, page 130.
Last night, the magnificent neo-Renaissance mansion in Dobbs Ferry, called Esterwood, provided the backdrop for a truly remarkable evening. Four hundred guests were served a cocktail dinner as they celebrated the 130th anniversary of the Masters School. Jewel-toned pomegranate martinis accompanied enormous buffets of gleaming copper vessels overflowing with ice-cold seafood, delicate canapés, artisanal cheeses and truffle infused pastries. Our forty or so waiters, dressed in crisp tuxedos, circulated with a never ending array of passed hors d’oeuvres served from copper trays garnished with nosegays of Leonedes roses and amber colored calla lilies. The palatial rooms – replete with ornate gold leaf columns, intricate vaulted ceilings, elaborate tile work, massive fireplaces – were indeed impressive. But in spite of the joyous occasion, I could hardly put out of my mind the heartfelt drama that played out so very long ago in the rooms of Esterwood. The mansion was built in 1894-95 for James Jeannings McComb, who in his twenties, had been refused permission to marry the woman he loved – the young Ester Wood. He reluctantly picked up his life and went on, eventually finding great fortune and marrying Fanny Rayne with whom he raised a family in England. After Fanny’s death in 1877, he returned to America with his three daughters and son to find that after so many years, his first love, Ester Wood had also become available. So, after a lifetime apart – they finally married. And they celebrated this long-delayed union by building one of New York’s most beautiful and sensational homes. Here in the opulent rooms of Esterwood – one can imagine the reunited couple enjoying their remaining precious years together where they lived more extravagantly and far briefly than anyone could hope for themselves.
I know we have spoken already, but I wanted to put in writing just how truly extraordinary last night’s party was for us. I can’t tell you the number of people who have come up to me and EXCLAIMED over the food, the presentation, your thoughtful staff and the pomegranate cocktails! Brilliant – creative – elegant – delicious….
Thank you for everything and making our 130th birthday a smashing success.
- Durrie Golding
My passion for Asian food, art, antiques and culture continues. Ever since immersing myself in Pema Chodron’s writing, I have noticed a definite trend: Eastern aesthetics seem to be everywhere. There is something attractive about the peacefulness of it all – artificial or not, the tranquil mindset, healthy approach to cuisine and ‘exoticism’ in art seems to be pervading our Western lifestyle. So over the weekend, we indulged in a little chinoiserie of our own at home. Blending east and west, a hectic week was celebrated with a quiet candlelight dinner for two, served on exquisite hand painted 18th-century Chinese export plates. The setting was a bit fancy, but the food – actually an experiment, was casual and rather messy. In the center of the table, was an oversized green glass pedestal bowl filled with spicy hot Singapore crab legs. Armed with seafood forks and piles of napkins, the delicious crabmeat was removed from shells glazed with a spicy sauce blended from a variety of Asian condiments and ingredients. A side dish of ginger fried rice laced with fresh garden mint, was a perfect accompaniment, held steaming hot in a chinoiserie covered dish.
Simple to make, ‘Singapore’ sauce is a perfect balance of sweet and spicy. It will match well with just about any kind of fish or poultry. So it doesn’t have to be an expensive crab dinner – try it with chicken wings!
Singapore-Style Chili Sauce
3 T Ketchup
2 T Chili Paste with Garlic
2 T Oyster Sauce
1 T Tamarind concentrate
1 T Chopped Fresh Ginger
½ Cup Chopped Fresh Scallions
1 T Minced Garlic
1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeds removed, minced.
1 Red Bell Pepper, julienne
¼ cup Fresh Cilantro, coarsely chopped
2 Stalks Lemon Grass, bruised and cut into 4” pieces
Mix ketchup, chili paste, oyster sauce and tamarind in a small bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of water.
Sauté the ginger and garlic in 1 T of canola oil for one minute. Add peppers and lemon grass and sauté for another minute or two. Add sauce and cook for about three minutes. Remove from heat and add scallions and cilantro. Pour over heated chicken wings, crab legs or steamed fish.
It happens every day all across America. A treasured son, daughter or friend leaves home and family to serve their country at a military post in some far away region of the world. And last night, here in Chappaqua we gathered to show our support and love for one of our own. Ever since the Clinton family moved from the White House to Chappaqua, just about every step of their transition into our community was made easier by Oscar, who manages many of the details of their home life. Everyone in town knows who you mean when his name is mentioned – the affable young man who quickly became a friend to merchants, neighbors and townspeople. And over the years, as we all got to know him, it soon became obvious that this was a remarkable fine citizen who’s commitment to the Clintons and his country was beyond reproach. So last night, 125 people from all walks of life; community, Clinton staff, friends – gathered at Susan Lawrence for a beautiful evening in honor of Oscar who leaves today for an extended tour of duty. Between all the hugs and tears, were words of hope, gratefulness and encouragement. Dozens of white luminaries lined the red carpeted walkway up to the entrance of Susan Lawrence where waiters in tuxedo served some of our very favorite hors d’oeuvres: Thai beef spring rolls, blini roulades with truffled whipped quail eggs, edamamae bean humus with gingered lobster, warm goat cheese tarts with fresh figs & tupelo honey, and kobe beef cocktail franks with black truffles. For dessert, macadamia brulettes, black ‘pearls’ and spice-cured mango were accompanied by crystallized rose petals and garden mint. All in all a festive occasion. But even more so, it was truly a privilege to host an evening where a friend to our community and country could be celebrated and honored.
Those flaky, buttery pastries practically oozing with cinnamon and sugar – hold some wonderful memories for me. They have been an irresistible indulgence for as long as I can remember, appearing piled high on platters at family gatherings and parties. When I first began my career as a pastry chef I became very aware that not all rugelach are created equal. I was astonished that so many people seemed content with those dry versions, infected with the flavor of artificial vanilla that plague so many commercial bakeries. So I went on a mission. To create perfect rugelach, just like the ones that are made at home in small batches and served still warm from the oven. I soon discovered that there was one basic secret apart from using the very best ingredients; they needed to be baked fresh every day! So at Susan Lawrence we do just that. And for the holidays our bakery staff is rolling out hundreds of pounds of rich cream cheese dough where it completely covers our 8’ tables. The rich soft dough is then brushed with melted butter and then covered with a wonderful mixture of ground cinnamon and a special blend of sugars. There really is no secret to our recipe – except perhaps the fresh cream butter and pure vanilla that you can taste from the very first bite.
Just this week, Susan Lawrence has been mentioned in several publications which you can read here on our website's 'Press' page. A lovely article in luxury Ranch & Coast magazine has some wonderful comments and beautiful photographs of our town, the Clintons and Susan Lawrence. Now all the readers of Ranch & Coast magazine will know what a charming place Chappaqua is to visit! In the local magazine, Inside Chappaqua, resident Ben G. Frank, a noted travel writer, has an informative description of French Polynesia in the article, “Chappaqua Meets Tahiti & Islands.” And what a small world it is – because it was the Franks who we met while visiting Tahiti in July.
Westchester Family Magazine reports on our design for the Hudson River Museum Gala – an extravaganza for 400 guests titled, “Sweet Inspirations” which featured the museum’s summer exhibition, “I want Candy: The Sweet Stuff in American Art.” For this dinner we created a menu of “Sweet Nothings” in which every course served during the formal sit down dinner was a trompe d’oeil creation, each of which looked like a beautiful confection or fanciful dessert. Here is the menu from that party:
Passed from Glass “Confection’ Plates with Sugar Flower Noesgays
Roast Beef & Boursin ‘Seven Layer Cakes’
Spicy Chipotle Chicken with Chocolate Molé Sauce in Phyllo ‘Candy Wrappers’
Goat Cheese & Strawberry ‘Shortcakes’
Lobster ‘Eclairs’ with Pink Beet Aioli
Smoked Salmon Sushi ‘Bon Bons’ with Pastel Caviars
Roast Duck Crepes Suzette with Sour Cherry Port Wine ‘Jubilee’ Sauce
At the Bar: Cotton Candy Cosmopolitan
Peach Melba Champagne Cocktail Candy Green Apple Martini
Honey Roasted Cashews
A Dinner of Inspired ‘Confections’
A tall parfait glass with colorful layers of marinated shrimp, truffled whipped eggs, delicate baby greens, pink crème fraiche & caviar.
Beef Short Rib ‘Cream Puff’ with Truffled Potato ‘Whipped Cream’
Heirloom Beet ‘Candies’ & Lollypop-Color Sauces
Cornbread “Cupcakes” with Candy Cane Butter Spirals
Giant Cake Slices to be Shared
Chocolate Fudge Layer Cake, Mascarpone Cheesecake, Mocha Almond Layer Cake
Meringue Towers with Pastel Macaroon Cookies
I discovered a basket of fresh figs last night at home which had been left over from the weekend. Figs are at their peak right now – and these beautiful dark purple ones were very ripe and needed to be used right away. So I fired up the oven and made a wonderful impromptu batter with toasted hazelnuts, raw sugar, marsala wine, orange zest, eggs, butter and flour. The batter was poured into a fluted tart pan and the halved figs were pressed in, exposing their colorful interior. Forty minutes later it was done, drizzled with tupelo honey and the aroma of hazelnuts wafted through the house. We loved this tart and its cake-like texture so much we will be making it this weekend here at Susan Lawrence. It is really delicious served with a dollop of mascarpone or whipped cream. So come and enjoy a slice……and ignore what the Bible has to say about eating the cursed fig!
What a glorious Labor Day weekend! Forty-five or so, wonderful friends enjoyed the perfect weather and an afternoon of summer food on the new stone terraces where they dined at white umbrella tables. No one seemed to mind that the terraces were still under construction! And guests enjoyed playing bocce ball, croquet and wiffle ball all afternoon and into the evening. Early the next morning our house guests awoke to an early breakfast of scrambled eggs with nasturtiums, truffles, garlic chives & mascarpone along with some delicious breakfast sausages, buttermilk pancakes served with a really dark amber maple syrup and sea- salted French butter, and freshly squeezed Valencian orange juice. I especially like Valencian oranges – they are truly the tastiest juice oranges, are relatively low in acidity, and the best ones come from Spain’s organic orchards. We also experimented with a wonderful new blend of coffee, Siena – a very robust and flavorful dark roast which is now available exclusively at Susan Lawrence as a new addition to our coffee bean collection.
Here is the recipe for the scrambled eggs. They were inspired by the flowering garlic chives and nasturtiums that were growing in the herb garden that morning:
Summer Scrambled Eggs
10 Amy’s Free Range Large Eggs (These have amazing rich yellow yolks!!!)
½ teaspoon truffle salt
¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black Tellicherry pepper
8 Nasturtiums (julienne)
8 Fresh Chives, minced (preferably garlic chives)
2 T. Sea-salted French Butter
4 oz. of Mascarpone
Whisk eggs until will blended and frothy. Add truffle salt, pepper, nasturtiums and chives. Mix again.
In a non-stick pan, melt the butter and on low heat, stir in the eggs, scrambling them until they are just set – not dry, but creamy and shiny.
Transfer to a heated serving dish, add dollops of mascarpone and garnish with whole nasturtiums and chive flowers.
Long in the planning stage has been my design for a unique set of high quality stainless steel flatware with copper handles. We are very pleased to be adding to the Mark Kramer Vintage Collection these wonderful five-piece place settings. Dishwasher safe and stain resistant, they are the perfect addition to any copper collection. In addition to my signature copper bowls and pedestal stands we will soon be introducing new pieces based on the faux lizard pattern that appear on the 19th-century English pieces of Joseph Sankey that I have been collecting for many years. And among the many new copper finds that will appear on our shelves in the weeks to come are some beautiful high copper content bronze wine openers, large glass votives reverse painted in metallic copper and some extraordinary copper glass serving bowls and platters. To top it off, our newest confection, ‘Black Pearls’ – inspired by my recent trip to Tahiti, are exquisite chocolates coated with iridescent copper, bronze and black tones. They make an amazing gift or a really decadent indulgence!
It has truly been an incredible spring and summer season. During the months of May and June we catered more parties than ever before in Susan Lawrence history. And among the most notable events was the Hudson River Museum Gala – an extravaganza for 400 guests titled, “Sweet Inspirations” which featured the museum’s summer exhibition, “I want Candy: The Sweet Stuff in American Art.” For this dinner we created a menu of “Sweet Nothings” in which every course served during the formal sit down dinner was a trompe d’oeil creation, each of which looked like a beautiful confection or fanciful desert. In complete contrast, our design for Luxury Spa Finder Magazine’s summer event in Manhattan featured Asian cuisine and an Ice Buddha Bar framed by a backdrop of hand painted Tibetan paper umbrellas. On black lacquer trays were vegetable Zen Garden ‘paintings’ and hors d’oeuvres passed on aquamarine glass trays with aromatherapy herb nosegays.
On June 30th, we ended the season with a Cajun–inspired menu for the Paramount Theatre Gala featuring the Neville Brothers. Just hours after the dinner and two months of non-stop events I was off to Tahiti and the Islands of Moorea and Bora Bora. Absolute paradise. Where the air is intoxicating with the scent of tiare flowers (a Tahitian gardenia) hibiscus and vanilla. French Polynesia, not only is exquisite by its primeval landscape, but the magnificent lagoon and ocean waters – crystal clear, are an ever changing kaleidoscope of 40 or more shades of aqua and blue. Below the surface are some of the most beautiful coral reef gardens in the world, teeming with tropical fish – and yes, after hours of diving we did encounter sharks and stingrays! In the current issue of Inside Chappaqua /www.insidechappaqua.com/ you can read more about our adventures in Tahiti. And you will soon see a new cake in our pastry case, “Black Pearl” which was inspired by the cuisine. A jeep tour through a plantation in Moorea gave Dave and I a rare opportunity to experience tropical fruit in its natural state. Ripe and freshly cut from the branch, mangos, bananas, passion fruit, grapefruit and coconut are incredible taste sensations that neither of us will ever forget. And the cuisine on the Islands – an eclectic mix of French and native Polynesian traditions perfectly matched the sun drenched islands and ocean air. Even Jean Georges of New York, whose romantic restaurant, set right on the water’s edge at the St. Regis Hotel in Bora Bora, succeeds splendidly in interpolating sophisticated culinary style with the region’s natural beauty. A luminous star filled southern-hemisphere sky over head and the shadow of the ever-present Mt. Otemanu was a breathtaking backdrop for an exquisite dinner prepared from Pacific fish, tropical fruits and Tahitian vanilla.
With Labor Day just around the corner, I am busy preparing for the 40 or more friends that will join us at home in the country for a fairly casual barbecue dinner. And of course many of my recent food discoveries will be served: pink watermelon radish slaw with mango and cilantro, Kobe beef hot dogs with truffle mustard, Bison burgers fire roasted over mesquite, a classic heirloom tomato salad with basil from the herb garden, iceberg lettuce wedges with Maytag blue cheese dressing, grilled corn & andouille sausage skewers with spicy herb butter. And for dessert, the premier of “Black Pearl” A rich chocolate cake infused with Tahitian vanilla, a vanilla center, a dark chocolate glaze, and decorated with a gold leaf vanilla bean and chocolate black pearls in iridescent gold and copper tones spilling out of chocolate oyster shells . The vanilla theme continues with grilled peaches infused with vanilla and served with pistachios, amoretti and mascarpone. Guests will keep cool with some refreshing summer white wines and a sparkling white peach lemonade cooler with Shiso – a Japanese herb with a complex taste of mint with tones of basil and cilantro.
A wonderful luncheon for tennis legend Billie Jean King last week was a delightful event. A garden party with celadon green table linens and a wonderful menu of light summer fare with medallions of asparagus stuffed chicken, grilled salmon with a crystallized ginger glaze, heirloom tomato napoleons with goat cheese and basil, and a salad of olive-leaf shaped pasta with truffle cheese, oil cured olives, sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. Ms. King was a delight, a kind and thoroughly engaging individual whose humanitarian interests are truly remarkable.