Tuesday, August 29, 2006

As summer departs and cooler evenings are encroaching, Cafe Drake cannot stress enough the urgency for viewers to host a casual warm weather dinner party, celebrating all that makes August great. Add a touch of whimsy to the table setting and make sure everyone has just the right amount of too much to drink and stays up a bit too late for a weeknight. September, and its serious back-to-work-and-school urgency will be upon us soon, so laugh in the face of Fall responsibilities one last time and gather with loved ones to wine and dine. Above you'll find pictures of a recent last-minute Cafe Drake dinner with Gold Card member Jenny Lazzaro. Below is the menu for that Sunday evening repast, and another playlist to make your meal easy, breezy and lighthearted.

Salad of Organic Arugula and Fresh Herbs with Rice Wine vinaigrette, Cayenne Toast and Shaved Parmesan

Buttered Noodles
Spanish Beef Stew with Wild Mushrooms
Broiled Homegrown Tomatoes with Oregano Crust

Coffee and Chocolate Mint Wafers

End of Summer Dinner Music (Carefree Insouciant Mix)

(For those of you have asked or emailed recently, yes, Cafe Drake is still planning to post dinner/cocktail party musical podcasts on this site. Thank you for your patience as we search for solutions to uploading and file size dilemmas. For now we present mere playlists, though many, if not most, of the tracks below can be downloaded online - either for a small fee via online music services or perhaps even free for the internet savvy amongst our visitors).

David - Nellie McKay
Dear Lover - Mary Wells
Rag for William S. Burroughs - Matmos
Not for Sale - CocoRosie
Song Song Song - Final Fantasy
Rowan's Theme - Finishing School
A Window - The Radio Department
Where the Streets Have No Name - Pet Shop Boys
Unexpected Violence - Ennio Morricone (Bird with the Crystal Plummage soundtrack)
Crescent City - Emmylou Harris
The Dog Song - Nellie McKay
Penny and Jack - The Essex Green
Big Time - Dada Life
Dog Days - Matthew Dear
Chain Gang - Sam Cooke
Florence sur les Champs Elysees - Miles Davis
Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) - Melanie
Your Touch - Mazi Lori
I Parade Myself - Gang of Four
Janine - David Bowie
The Siamese Cat Song - Peggy Lee
Shakespeare's Sister - The Smiths
Crystal - New Order
My Radio (AM Mix) - Stars
Cast Anchor -Hanne Hukkelberg

Afternoon in Connecticut

There are few things nicer than dining al fresco on a breezy summer afternoon, especially if you can drop your picnic basket beneath a huge oak tree with incomparable views of the late-August sea and rolling wide lawns disappearing into the blue Atlantic. Harkness Memorial State Park in northern Connecticut was recently the gorgeous site of a lazy Cafe Drake picnic, and combined with an Italianate villa and manicured walled gardens, the perfect location for a city escape.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Long Distance Dedictation: PASTA

We listen to the cries from website visitors here at Cafe Drake, and have finally gotten around to posting some pasta recipes per your requests. The following dishes are a far cry from the general association of noodles with a) student budget dinners and b) hurried meals with little thought and no planning. Good enough to serve to guests, pair the slightly Asian-influenced creations below with a roasted duck or other fowl, a full-flavored fish or even as a vegetarian entree alongside sauteed Chinese greens and perhaps deep-fried tofu.


It's a real shame you never see this dish on Chinese restaurant menus anymore; historical research reveals it was quite popular in the 1940s and 1950s, and its gentle flavors partner gracefully with almost anything. Cafe Drake uses it as a bed for seared scallops and even breaded and fried chicken cutlets (a la Milanese).

1 stick butter / 2 onions, chopped / 1 small clove garlic, chopped / 2 T. or more good curry powder / 2 28-oz cans of plum tomatoes / Kosher salt to taste / 1 lb. udon, Chinese wheat or whole wheat noodles (spaghetti)

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft but not browned (you will need a low, steady flame for this).
  2. Add the curry powder and cook for 1 more minute. Add the canned tomatoes and break up with the back of a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to quite low, cover partially and simmer until thick. Note: this can take 1 1/2 hours or so, but can be left unattended for the most part.
  3. Adjust for seasoning. You will need to add more salt probably, black pepper if desired or even a teaspoon of sugar. Simmer for 5 more minutes then toss with boiled and drained pasta. Parsley and diced pineapple make a lovely garnish.


This cold pasta can also be served at room temperature if desired, and is very nice nestled on a plate with corn-on-the-cob and crab cakes or fried fish. The dish last made its appearance at Cafe Drake in a supporting role to an entree of oven-barbecued spare ribs. The ribs were a hit, but this was the recipe everyone asked to have in their collection.

1 lb. macaroni / 2 cups cottage cheese / 1 T. wasabi paste (in the Asian aisle at the supermarket) / 1 t. Dijon mustard / Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

  1. Cook and drain the macaroni.
  2. Toss the pasta well with the remaining ingredients and serve sooner than later.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Great Outdoors



At Cafe Drake we hate the heat but stay in the kitchen. It's air-conditioned. But when you want some fresh air (and to save money on the absurd electric bills) it's good to combine a field trip with gustatory pleasures. Recently we toured Sunset Park, an obscure little corner of Brooklyn and new home to Cafe regulars Susan and Henry (and soon, a third addition to the family - more on that to follow). Their spacious new digs are pure Victorian-era Crooklyn, paneling and oak built-ins and all. Susan gave us a locals-only tour of the 'hood, including the charming Mexican markets and the densely-populated Chinatown (second in size only to Canal St in NYC - take that, Flushing). The tititular park is also the highest point in five boroughs, offering a bird's eye view of New York Harbour and cool breezes as a bonus. We supped at one of several Vietnamese restaurants, not the best in the world, but gracious and generous with the portions and sides. Our table nearly toppled under platters of summer rolls, lettuce and fresh herbs, mixed pickles, rice paper wrappers, plates of raw beef and an electric pot of boiling vinegar to cook it in, steamed rice and prawns in the shell. Word of advice: skip the salty lemonade, proving as it does with every sip that there's a reason we don't drink seawater.

And when you want that August hotdog and beer fix, we understand. Luckily the McCarren Pool parties offer turkey and organic soy varieties of frankfurters as well, plus $5 pints of Brookly Lager to boot. It also helps that the drained former city pool is awe-inspiring in scope, a football field + of poured concrete, sporting a massive stage with top bands performing for free! Cafe Drake feels so lucky to be right around the corner. This summer we've taken in faves liek Of Montreal, Beirut and Deerhoof, surrounded by our alternative-identified neighbors, a 20-ft Slip and Slide and the afore-mentioned franks and brewski. We're just waiting for the Canuck invasion.

Cafe Drake in Summer of '06 (more photos)

We think Summer is such a swell time to entertain, to gather with friends in the cool indoors for chilled drinks and farm-fresh fruits and vegetables. Menus are lighter than usual, evenings run a bit later than average, and stories are shared of vacations and seasonal adventures. Compliment your guests' hard-earned glowing tans with lots of candlelight and soft, rosy color schemes, keep the a/c cranked and savour the myriad possibilities for cold soups and entrees and frozen desserts. Captions as below for photos above of Summer (2006) Fun at Cafe Drake.

[Sailor Page replete after a feast at Cafe Drake]

[Chic Ivory-handled serving ware, a gift from J. Lazzaro]

[Table setting in the widescreen format]

[Christine savours Cafe Drake's shrimp ouzo, while Octavio digs in]

[Table detail]

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Behind-the-Scenes with TLC's Dinner Takes All

Many thanks to those Cafe Drake visitors that I've yet to meet (in person anyway) but who sent such nice emails concerning the show. There were lots of requests for the recipes prepared, and some can be found on the TLC website. I will eventually post all of them on Cafe Drake, but in the spirit of, um, moving on, there will be new features on this site uploaded first. As Cafe Drake's favorite season, Autumn, approaches, check back for loads of soup, stew and hearty rustic casseroles. In the meantime we'll be focusing on the summer largesse of fresh produce, the Holy Grail for foodies hitting the farmers' markets in August! Below you will find production pics from the Dinner Takes All shoot in June of this year. Be forewarned - we have HUNDREDS of these, so although carefully edited, selections will continue to appear on a regular basis.