Friday, May 26, 2006

Alpine Chic


Much ado is being made of the latest microtrend in restaurants to sweep Cafe Drake's hometown – Alpine ski chic. One of the earliest adopters was Gstaad (37 W. 26th St), the Chelsea watering hole currently suffering a declasse status due only to being the First Kid on the Swiss Block. Slightly newer and therefore still relevant in the eyes of ADD-addled New York is Williamsburg's St. Helen Cafe (150 Wythe Ave. between North Seventh and North Eighth Sts.) A lovelier brunch spot is, granted, hard to imagine, and we frequently crawl the short distance to their hangover-sympathetic dining room (soothing black lacquered walls, potent coffee and delicious breakfast sandwiches), followed by a visit to their clothing/housewares/tattoo parlor store down the block. The same Pacific Northwest nightmare aesthetic of the cafe reigns in the retail shop Saved (82 Berry St.), and truthfully, no one does it better (or more expensively) than this unique design/culinary collective.

A gentler version of apres-slopes dining in Brooklyn has now arrived in the most unlikely of locales – the industrial outer reaches of Bushwick. Amidst streets seemingly designed by the production crew from Escape to New York, Northeast Kingdom (18 Wyckoff Ave, Brooklyn, (718) 386-3864) is a spot of welcoming diffused light, as consoling to the urban spirit as a St. Bernard bearing brandy in a barrel. The gently-lit interior evokes a rustic lodge from the restaurant's namesake (and owner's childhood home), the upper stretch of Vermont bordering Quebec, down (or up) to the wood-planked ceilings.

At least for the moment, Northeast Kingdom offers an abbreviated menu – a scant four starters and three entrees are the bulk on offer here, but a handful of specials appear nightly on a chalkboard in the front. Our first courses were disappointing; an order of crostini with liver pate ($4.50) was chalking and runny, and the steamed artichoke ($6) was completely without distinction (poorly trimmed outer leaves, small heart, measly portion of drawn butter). Susan McKeever and I liked the entrees better, with a dinner salad of watercress, dried sausage, egg and avocado ($9) nicely dressed and composed, and a well-seasoned chicken pot pie ($12); juicy morsels of chicken and creamy potatoes buried beneath a salty, thick crust was a winner, if perhaps not terribly seasonal (then again, this is supposed to be the Canadian border, right). Fittingly perhaps, the meal ended with the best dish of the evening, a wide slice of rich chocolate tart ($6). Also worth mentioning is the brave choice of locale by the restauranteurs, the petite but smart wine list (moderately priced) and perfectly shaken Manhattans in fishbowl cocktail glasses ($8).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

North African Dinner with Jenifer



We recently hosted a Moroccan-themed dinner for Cafe Drake regular Jenifer Ruske, and submit photos above, and menu below, for your approval. Recipes available upon request!

Casablanca Carrot Consumme with Corn-Date Fritters & Harissa Yogurt
Tagine of Rabbit and Preserved Lemons
Vegetable Couscous
Watercress and Aged Asiago Salade
Lemon Tart

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Introducing Berry Shimada (and Red Snapper recipe)



Berry's Mom, Miki, is such a great cook and loving Mother to petite kitty Berry. And also a great friend of Cafe Drake. We've had the great fortune to dine several times at Cafe Berry, and Miki always serves delicious, creative buffets - everything from paella to potato cake and mozerella casseroles to cold rare slices of grilled beef, with fresh ginger, wasabi and seasoned soy dipping sauces! Above you'll find a few pictures of Berry and below a recipe we think she'd especially love. You don't need to have a feline in the house to prepare it for yourself, however, and we think it's best with rice pilaf and sliced radishes in a vinegarette.

BROILED RED SNAPPER WITH SALSA VERACRUZ

1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes) / 1/4 cup olive oil / 2 t minced garlic / 4 8-10 oz. red snapper fillets / kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. In a shallow pan that can hold the fillets in a single layer, combine the lime juice, olive oil and garlic, Mix well.
  2. Add the fillets, cover and refrigerate for 1-1 1/2 hours, turning once or twice.
  3. Remove the fillets from the lime juice mixture and discard the mixture. Dry the snapper with paper towels, then broil for 5 minutes per side. To check for doneness, cut into one fillet to make sure it is opaque all the way through. Be careful to not burn or overcook!
  4. Serve hot and topped with Salsa Veracruz.

SALSA VERACRUZ

2 medium tomatoes cored and diced medium / 1 greem pepper halved, seeded and diced small / 1/4 cup chopped scallion, green and white parts / 2 T minced fresh chile of your choice (we like it HOT at Cafe Drake, so use serranos or habaneros) / 1 T minced garlic / 1/3 cup olive oil / 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano

Mix all ingredients together and serve over snapper, and also in a bowl at the table for those who like a heavily sauced fish.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Menagerie at Cafe Drake








By now everyone is acquainted with the Official Mascot of Cafe Drake - Mr. Sailor Page. But we thought it high time we saluted a few of the various other critters who pass through, welcome guests and honorary members of the cafe. We need more pictures than we have, so although they may not be seen above, big What Ups to Berry Shimada and Pepper Simmons. And please remember, you can always have a house, but never a HOME without an animal friend.

Photos (from the top)

Oliver Sellers
Miette McKeever-Duys
Ocho Manahan
Gretel Lazzaro
Eliza Page
Daphne Thordisdottir

From the Archives . . .


Time for Spring Cleaning has arrived, and Cafe Drake presents for your delectation a few dusty old gems, still full of sparkle and essential to your kitchen repertoire. This is true short-order cooking!!

CANAPES

Two of the quickest recipes we know, and made from ingredients likely to be in any pantry, these Eisenhower-era nibblers are perfect for unexpected guests during the cocktail hour.

OLIVES AND BACON
Wrap a fat pimento-stuffed olive with a strip of lean bacon. Broil until just crisp and serve hot.

PICKLE DILLIES
Use a small mouth glass to cut circles from a loaf of good bread. Top with a couple of slices of dill pickle, sprinkle with grated cheese and pop under the broiler until piping hot.

SOUP AND PASTA

COLD CREAM OF CHICKEN SOUP INDIENNE
In a deep saucepan, saute 3 large onions and 2 bay leaves in 3 T. butter until onions are soft. Add 4 T. curry powder and enough flour to make a smooth paste. Add 4 cups chicken broth and 3 cups whole milk. Heat to combine flavors then remove from flame. Refrigerate until very cold (at least 4-6 hours) and serve with chopped chives and croutons.

SPAGHETTI WITH SAUCE ORIENTALE
Saute 1 sliced onion, 2 small tomatoes (chopped) and 5-6 large mushrooms of any variety in 3 T. butter. Add 1 cup dry white wine and 1 cup heavy cream. Cook gently for a few minutes until thickened. Add 6-8 chopped mint leaves and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Toss with hot spaghetti and serve.

SAUCE CARUSO
Separately, saute 1 lb. chopped chicken livers and 1 lb. chopped mushrooms. Combine with a large jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce, 1/3 cup of Maderia wine and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for a few quick minutes and serve over fettucini or toasted baguette slices.

In Praise of Kumquats

Think of them as Nature's very own SweetTarts, or as a prototype of CabbagePatch Sours, but definately think of them when compiling your next grocery list. If properly ripened, the piquant little fruits should be eaten whole, in one bite, transforming your mouth from puckered sourpuss to a sweet smile at finish. Cafe Drake is so taken with the minature flavor bombs, we're serving them in everything from cocktails to roasted meats. The recipe below is quick to prepare but long on taste. See the kumquats above with their modeling partner Thordis Adalsteinsdottir.

ROASTED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH KUMQUAT MARMALADE

2 cups kumquats, quartered, seeded / 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided / 4 small shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup) / 1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, seeded, chopped (about 1 cup) / 3 tablespoons minced jalapeño chiles, divided / 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped / 3/4 cup water / 3/4 cup sugar / 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt / 2 1-pound pork tenderloins

  1. Finely chop kumquats.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, apple, and 1 tablespoon jalapeño. Cook until shallots are soft, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add chopped kumquats, apricots, 3/4 cup water, sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  4. Boil until mixture thickens, about 6 minutes. Transfer marmalade to small bowl. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons jalapeño. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and chill. Rewarm before serving.)
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Add pork to skillet; brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total.
  6. Transfer skillet to oven; roast pork until thermometer inserted into center registers 145°F, about 15 minutes. Remove pork from oven; let stand 10 minutes.
  7. Cut pork into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve with warm marmalade.

The citrus and sweet fruit flavors present here go very well with sweet potatoes, either roasted or mashed. A perfect dessert to balance the entree's strong flavors might be thick Greek-style yogurt, spread thinly on a plate, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon and walnuts (always a crowd pleaser at Cafe Drake).

Monday, May 08, 2006

Post-Theater Dining



We've really warmed to the Spring Season on Broadway here at Cafe Drake, loving both The Pajama Game and Entertaining Mr. Sloane recently, and looking forward to upcoming visits to The Importance of Being Earnest and Threepenny Opera in the next weeks. But what to do about dinner? Especially if you're not at the moment up to the pricey prix fixe menus, or willing to suffer the bland cuisine of Times Square's endless restaurant chains. Two recent meals in the neighborhood were quite adequate but hardly memorable. Pasta and Pesce (536 9th Ave, New York, 10018 - (212) 594-5408) is an affordable option, and provided a warm and cozy atmosphere on a blustery April night. A decent wine list with many selections by the carafe is probably the saving grace here, as the menu is basic and the food on the same level. An assortment of roasted and grilled seafood ($15.95) is arranged on a round platter with great variety - prawns, calamari, halibut, tuna and salmon - all of which tasted pretty much the same. A side of spaghetti in butter sauce was suitably rich and the pasta was perfectly al dente.

Havana Express (West 46th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues) belongs to that category of theme restaurants the size of an airplane hangar, and the liveliest aspect of Havana is the calypso band and diners more than willing to dance. Decked out like a set from a Rita Hayworth movie, the interiors feel just as flimsy as the cardboard backdrops on an RKO soundstage. Mojitos were strong but burdened with browning mint leaves; skip the wilted herbs and go for the sangria ($7), available in a number of versions. An avocado salad was easily shared by two ($6), though the greens were of the supermarket-bagged variety and sided with bottled dressing. The Cubano ($9) was satisfying in its trademark excess of fat and sodium, though better interpretations abound throughout the city. Bonus points however for the sweet potato fries, crisp and salty and abundantly heaped on side plates.

No, we have another option. Eat at home. After the theater. It's no bother if you can assemble a quick meal while sipping wine in the kitchen and rehashing the play. Cookbooks from a more graceful time sometimes offer tips on such late-night casual dinners, and below you'll find one of our favorites.

QUICK THEATER STEAK

The best thing about this entree (besides its savoury taste) is that it combines a hearty meat and starch and salad all on one plate. You need only serve fruit and cheese after, or perhaps a slice of previously-baked pie.

2 1/2 lb. fillets of beef, sliced in half lengthwise / 3 T. butter / kosher salt and black pepper / 4 slices good bread, lightly toasted / 1 bunch watercress, washed and stemmed
  1. Heat butter in skillet until smoking. Place steaks in skillet and fry 2-3 minutes per side, sprinkling liberally with salt and coarse black pepper.
  2. Set steaks aside and keep warm, while deglazing pan with a splash of brandy or red wine if needed.
  3. To assemble: place bread on plate and butter thoroughly. Arrange a small handfull of watercress atop bread, followed by the steak. Top with a spoon of pan juices and serve immediately.