Friday, April 28, 2006

April 27, 2006 Opening for Thordis Adalsteinsdottir






Ms. Thordis Adalsteinsdottir is not only a gifted painter and major player in the international art world, she is also a frequent guest at Cafe Drake and one of our favorite people. Thordis' skills don't stop with a brush either; we're lucky enough to receive regular invites to home for impeccable dinners and lunches. Upon her recent return from Down Under, Thordis served a spicy fondue spiked with fresh chile peppers, alongside a cooling watermelon and mint salad and pickled lemons from Australia. All was washed down with a brilliant Gold Coast chardonnay.

Above are photos from the post-opening dinner thrown in Thordis' honor by gallery owner Stefan Stux (also pictured above with T.A.) We spent the night celebrating the Woman of the Evening and laughing and catching up with friends old and new, all over a delicious Korean spread at Han Bat. Standouts included the barbequed beef, seafood pancakes, calamari noodles, fiery pickled turnips and of course, Thordis herself.

Fiesta de Comida con Octavio




One of the best things about a casual, mid-week meal with a good friend is that you never need an excuse for gathering. As much as we live for stately dinner parties, the ease and comfort of "whipping something up" cannot be undervalued. Especially when you're lucky enough to have the most important ingredient in any dining room or kitchen - sparkling conversation. Your goal for next week: Invite a friend or family member over, spontaneously, for dinner at your house. No need to stress about time or preparation - let them keep you company while you make the food. If they're anything like Octavio, plant a cocktail glass in front of your guest and refill till the meal is ready.

April 26, 2006 Dinner with Octavio
Gimlets and Hot Fries
Salmon in Banana Leaves
Vegetable Chiliquiles
Romaine Salad with Orange-Tahini Dressing and Bermuda Onions
Coffee

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

(All) Tomorrow's Swish Summer Cocktail Parties

Pimm's No. 1, a 19th century British distillation of gin and herbs, is so redolent of comfort and repose we can hardly wait for summer at Cafe Drake to begin gulping the flowery liquer. Often refered to as a marathon drink due to its low-octane alcohol content (50 proof), four or five glasses of hte following recipes should prove sufficient for soothing heat and humidity-frazzled nerves. The Pimm's Cup is a colonial British classic, born under Carribean skies and still guzzled at Surrey lawn parties. Our other suggestions below are more modern, pleasing to both the Empire of yore and the novelty seekers of today. Pimp swish booze bling at your next croquet party with these unique thirst quenchers.

PIMM'S CUP

2 oz. Pimm's No. 1 / 1 t. Cointreau / 2 oz. fresh lime juice / Sprite / cucumber slices for garnish

Put lime juice in a chilled Collins glass. Fill with ice. Add Pimm's and Cointreau. Fill to the top with Sprite and garnish with cucumber.


BACON AND TOMATO SANDWICH

We have no clue as to the origins of this intriguingly named cocktail, but like it best mixed in large quantities in a thermos and packed to go for a picnic in June.

2 jiggers Pimm's No. 1 / 1 jigger white rum / 1 jigger dark rum / 2 jiggers lemonade

Mix all together and serve over ice.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Welcome to Asparagus Season

Few vegetables proclaim Spring as loudly, or with as much flavor, as asparagus. Available year round now, the true harvest season is May 1 through June 21. In the next few weeks avail yourself of this wonderful, vitamin and mineral-rich delicacy, which lends itself to endless preparations. In addition to the recipes below, try steaming until just tender and serving chilled, with homemade mayonnaise and nothing else. Or pan fry quickly with sesame oil, soy sauce and a few dried chilies as an Asian side dish. We could go on and on, but now, will simply share just a few of our favorites ways to enjoy the Blessing of Spring (as the ancient Romans christened the asparagus plant).

ASPARAGUS AND NEW POTATO SALAD

This lovely dish combines two of the freshest ingredients of the season. Feel free to substitute the gorgonzola for any favorite cheese.

1lb 1½oz asparagus spears / ½ a lemon, juice only / 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil / kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper / 8oz small red new potatoes, boiled and cut into quarters lengthwise, and tossed in a little olive oil / 8 oz. cherry tomatoes, cut in half50g/15 pitted black olives, halved / 2 shallots finely chopped / 1 large bunch basil, finely shredded150g/ 1/3 lb. gorgonzola or dolcelatte cheese, crumbled, to serve

  1. Clean the asparagus and trim any white ends and peel, if necessary, with a vegetable peeler.
  2. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, drop in the asparagus and blanch for 1-3 minutes until just tender.
  3. Drain and immerse in very cold water to prevent further cooking. This leaves the asparagus bright green!
  4. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil together with the sea salt and black pepper. Add the boiled potatoes, cherry tomatoes, olives, shallots and basil and toss together.
  5. Arrange the asparagus on a large platter or individual serving plates, spoon some of the potato mixture over the asparagus and garnish with the crumbled cheese to serve.

ASPARAGUS POLONAISE

Straightforward and elegant, sure to be adored by all, try this as a side to any chicken or beef entree you may be serving. Also good with mere slices of baked ham. This recipe will serve approximately six reasonable portions.

36 asparagus spears (weight will depend on thickness of stems), snapped at bottom / 2 hard-boiled eggs, whites and yellow chopped separately / 1 stick butter (the best you can afford) / 3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs

  1. Blanch asparagus in salted, boiling water for 2-5 minutes, depending on thickness of spears.
  2. Remove from hot water and drain well. Do not rinse.
  3. Arrange attractively on platter (tips all in one direction, please. The asparagus circle looks like bad hotel food.)
  4. Quickly saute breadcrumbs in butter and pour over asparagus. Sprinkle chopped egg over all. The dish will be close to room temperature by now, which is absolutely fine.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Julian Arrives!!






Congrats to David Sellers - former roommate, treasured friend, fellow Fierce Bookworms member, Groom to my Best Man, longtime guest at Cafe Drake . . . and new Daddy to his second child. See above pics of Father and Son. Cafe Drake welcomes Julian Sellers to our universe (and is busy concocting baby food recipes for our future dining guest). Our best wishes go to David and wife Natalie on their new arrival. Send them newborn Cheers by clicking the Comments button below and leaving your regards.

Birthday Pas de Deux with Jenifer Ruske




The Divine Ms. R. was recently feted at Cafe Drake with an intimate dinner for two. Adding whimsy to what could have been a rather grave occassion (no pun intended whatsoever or reference meant to the aging process), we rescued tree cuttings and gave them a second life via three coats of auto paint. The effect was akin to dining under the branches of a lacquered forest. Above are a few photos from this happy evening, and below you'll find the birthday menu (along with a recipe for our entree). Birthday Cheers once again for Jen, a pioneer of - and dear friend to - Cafe Drake.

SEVICHE OF JOHN DORRY AND SHRIMP
PAN-FRIED FROG LEGS WITH POZOLE AND CALICO SALAD
MONTRECHET GOAT CHEESE, GRANNY SMITH APPLE AND FRENCH ROLLS
MEYER LEMON CAKE
COFFEE - CAMOMILE GRAPPA

PAN-FRIED FROG LEGS

Frozen frog legs are commonly available at Asian food stores, and sometimes in better supermarkets. If you're lucky enough to have a French or Italian butcher shop (as Cafe Drake relies upon) nearby, always go for the fresh variety. They are generally priced the same and manage to hold onto more of the meat's delicate flavor. Do not soak or scrub; rather, wipe clean with a damp cloth and cook within 24 hours of purchase. We also love the little dears sauteed quickly at high heat with diced hot peppers and tomatoes. A very memorable version is served at Canton Cooks, the revered Chinese restaurant in Atlanta; the expert chefs cut the legs into smaller pieces and fry in a spicy soy sauce accompanied by chunks of pungent garlic.

2 lbs. frog legs / 1 t. salt / 1 t. cayenne pepper / 1/4 cup mixed flour and cornmeal / 1/4 cup butter or olive oil / 1 t. garlic powder / 1 t. onion powder
  1. Combine salt, flour, cornmeal, pepper and onion and garlic powders. Place on a wide plate.
  2. Dip frog legs into dry mixture and coat well on both sides.
  3. Fry in hot butter or oil until brown on both sides.
  4. Cover and reduce heat to low, cooking until tender (about 10 - 15 minutes).

Easter Brunch 2006



Cafe Drake hosted its annual Easter Brunch this year, on a gloriously bright afternoon, dim only in comparison to the highly polished friends gathered round the holiday table. Food was served buffet style, after a round of our house Bloody Marys. On the sideboard (actually, um, the kitchen counter) lay a clove and pineapple baked ham, roasted leg of lamb, scalloped potatoes, fruit salad (Thanks Jen!), petit peas with shallots and mint, assorted roasted peppers, deviled eggs and lemon muffins. Courtesy of Octavio we had a marvelous carrot cake for dessert, with much-needed cups of strong coffee to counteract the food coma. An additional treat was provided by our favorite sommoliers Reiner and Esther - a vintage 1995 rose from the house of R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Condonia. Happy Easter and Passover to all our visitors!!