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
The Rules Posted on Friday, January 3, 2020

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. Don’ts: 

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!

 Do’s:

 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.

'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...
www.susanlawrence.com

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

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