Thursday, November 30, 2006

From the Lens of Miki Shimada

Thanksgiving Huddle

Thordis makes her way through the Thanksgiving dessert buffet.

Digestifs after Thanksgiving Dinner are enjoyed by Christine & Kelly.

Thordis & David rejoice after hearing another bottle of vodka was located inside Cafe Drake.

The difficult business of carving the turkey.

Ready, Mr. DeMille!

Dainty and demure, Miki contemplates Jorge's appetizer spread.

Jorge surveys his annual antipasto platter.

Consulting the Japanese cookbook (a gift from Miki) for tips on perfect tempura.

Summer table setting at Cafe Drake.

At Monkeytown, Brooklyn.

Miki photographs David photographing the Birthday Boy.

Miki & Susan savor the sparkling red dessert wine.

Italian film stars, si?

Octavio & Christine celebrate Cafe Drake's 17th annual 21st birthday.

About to dive in to NYC's best tiramisu.

Clearly excited at birthday dinner at d.o.c. wine bar.

Flanked by lovely ladies.

The Two Jens.

Everyone seems in a good mood, perhaps knowing Miki's soft-focus technique can only flatter?

Having a ball at another of Jen Ruske's fabulous Summer Soirees.

Pre-Sloane Susan & Henry.

Oliver seems fixated by a handsome face. Intelligent puppy with good taste.

Natalie prepares to sample hubby David's tandoori chicken.

David and his son Julian dance before dining.

Always a good time at Cafe Miki.

Miki's student proves he's no stranger to pork.

Miki Shimada, lover of all creatures great and small.

We give your party Two Thumbs Up as well, Miki!

Quality time with Berry Shimada.

Recently Miki Shimada dropped by Cafe Drake for a casual weeknight dinner (noodles with dried chile sauce, salmon croquettes and sauteed brocolli) and downloaded pics from her memory disc into Cafe Drake's laptop. We're immensely grateful, so much so we devoted this large post to the craft of Miki's photography. More than just a superb trained eye, Ms. Shimada manages to capture all the right moments in the most casual of ways - in documenting a social life, she hones in on some of the things we treasure most: fellowship over fabulous food, the inherent merriment of cocktails, our many animal friends and diffused lighting. Many, many thanks to Miki for these time capsule treasures.


Delhi Dinner with David

Lemon-Ginger Martinis
Ground Veal in Spinach Sauce with Whole Spices
Wild & Basmati Rice Pilaf
Pecan Sweet Chutney
Mango Relish
Fenugreek Pickles

Monday, November 27, 2006

Another Good Use for Turkey Leftovers

Soundbites II (more from the mind of Cafe Drake)


Though tempted to yell Basta! at the constant visitors' requests for pasta recipes, we aim to please, and are thus happy to introduce you to one of the simplest spaghettis we know. Cafe Drake has been dishing this up for YEARS, so much so we can't even locate the original recipe we jotted down in a lost notebook long ago. It's brainless enough to describe from memory however, and its quickness of prep and minimum of ingredients, seems to offer all desired by those craving a fast carb fix. Because the flavors are lighter than usual, and particularly crisp from the inclusion of an entire lemon, try it as a first course when you have more time, paving the way for a rich entree such as braised short ribs or roasted lamb shanks.


1 lb. spaghetti or linguine, boiled in salted water al dente and drained / 3-4 medium-small zucchini, diced / 3 T. butter / 1 T. olive oil / juice of 1 lemon / grated zest of 1/2 lemon / salt and pepper / Parmesan cheese

  1. Melt butter in large skillet along with olive oil.Add zucchini and cook until very tender. It is fine if a few brown quite a bit.
  2. Remove pan from heat, cool contents a bit then add to blender. Process for 1 minute or more. The resulting sauce should be silky smooth.
  3. Return sauce to skillet, and over very low heat, stir in lemon juice and lemon zest. Heat through, stirring well, for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Toss sauce thoroughly with pasta and add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
  5. Serve warm, topped with grated or shaved Parmesan.

Note: The sauce can be given a sweet and elegant note by adding 2 T. of an anise-flavored apertif (Ricard, ouzo, Pastis, Pernod etc) in Step 3 above.

(Thinking about food at Cafe Drake)


We recently wrote about getting corkscrewed on overpriced, inferior winelists at mediocre restaurants, and thought rather than just complain about a growing problem, we'd offer a few solutions (for the home anyway). A longstanding favorite red at Cafe Drake is Nuhar (approx. $10); luckily, this formerly obscure vineyard is now gaining a wider fan base and thus, distribution. Light in color and equally so on the palette, Nuhar makes a great partner to cheese, Italian pastas and even a mild red meat. The surprise comes at the end, with an aftertaste suggestive of a far more complex (and expensive) Cabernet. And don't turn your nose up at Robert Mondavi's 2004 Pinot Noir ($9), or you'll miss the delicate bouquet of young grapes, light to be sure, but also silky and smooth with a hint of earthiness.


Nigella Lawson, with her winsome combination of insouciance and professionalism, is our current leading lady on the Food Network (with Ina Garten a close second). Saucy and unafraid to embellish a dish with copious amounts of fat, her very modern take on British comfort food somehow just feels right for the time (unlike fellow Londoner Jamie Oliver, whose lad-ish demeanor and repetitive Thai flavors have grown exhausting). Ms. Lawson has also created a new food category - the Back from the Bar Snack - which, unsurprisingly, we adore. With hats off to Nigella, below is Cafe Drake's latest favorite dish for late-night, post-drinking knoshing.


1 lb. mozzarella, grated (if budget is a concern, fresh mozzarella is not absolutely essential here) / 1/2 cup finely chopped onion / 2 fresh hot green chiles, diced / 1/2 cup chopped cilantro / 1/2 cup mayonnaise / 1 t. cayenne pepper / ground black pepper / about 10 slices whole wheat bread, lightly toasted

  1. Preheat the broiler. Stir together all the ingredients except the bread.
  2. Spread the mixture on the toast slices and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Broil until the cheese is melted and slightly brown, about 3 or 4 minutes.
  4. Serve hot. Delicious with mango chutney.


Everyone needs ways to use up all that leftover turkey from Thanksgiving and Christmas, methods to incorporate perfectly good remains into tantalizing dishes far removed from the traditional meal served a few days prior. This year Cafe Drake went outside of the box and south of the border with these post-celebration concoctions: we boiled the turkey carcass to create a rich stock, then filled it with a handful of brown rice, sliced poblano peppers, chopped carrots and fried tortilla strips. Season with some fresh lime juice, a dried chile or two and chopped cilantro and you've got a delicious bowl of Mexican penicillin. Finely diced white meat was tossed with mayo and chipotle peppers to create turkey salad, incomparably good atop toasted wheat bread and crowned with cooling cranberry sauce. The remaining dark flesh of the bird was minced and added to leftover mashed potatoes, then formed into patties, dipped in a beaten egg, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried until golden brown.


For those who care, head over to MSN's feature on the Ten Best Films About Food: [Note: Link posted strangely here - you may need to include the final, unhighlighted ampersand in the blue-toned link above to view properly. Cut and paste as required.] You will need to hurry as these quirky articles rarely stay posted past a few weeks, and given the predictable nature of most of the selected movies - combined with a snarky tone - this may not be a tragedy. Still, it's alot of fun if only to scream back at the egregious omissions and yawn-inducing, shopworn standards so highly praised. Examples of laziness include odes to the ultra-obvious classics like Big Night and Good Fellas; kudos for the inclusion of the BEST film ever about the pleasures of dining, Babette's Feast, and the witty cheekiness of numbers 3 and 4, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989) and Ravenous (1999) (we would have gone even further out on a limb of morbidity and added The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1973), The Hills Have Eyes (1976), the raw liver and tannis root smoothies of Rosemary's Baby (1967) and the cringing taboo scenes of family consumption from Night of the Living Dead (1968)). Sadly neglected are Like Water for Chocolate (1992) and John Ford's masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath (1945), where we are reminded of a period in American history when the next meal was not promised.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Home(Cooked) (Cocktail Snacks) for the Holidays

Everyone needs a few nibbling food recipes on hand during the holiday season, as guests stop by for seasonal cheer. The two simple recipes below will make sure your friends and family graze happily while opening presents, admiring the Christmas tree or toasting to the New Year.


The simple recipe for pomegranate syrup can be found below on this page or under the November 2006 archives located via links on the right. Double the recipe and keep these olives on hand to add interest to stews and stir-fries.

2 cups cracked green olives / 1 small onion, chopped / 1/3 cup pomegranate syrup / 2 T. oil / 1 T. tomato paste

  1. Combine onions and olives in a large bowl.
  2. In another bowl stir the remaining ingredients together, blending well. A whisk will help.
  3. Combine the two, stir and refrigerate AT LEAST for 24 hours.
  4. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.


This is our attempt at recreating a beloved tapa at the late (and much mourned) Spanish restaurant Aiolli, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

1 lb. dry chorizo sausage, sliced in thin rounds / 5-7 cloves garlic, sliced / 1 small can tomato sauce / 5-6 dried whole red chiles / 1 t. whole black peppercorns / 1 bay leaf / 1 T. sugar / 1-3 T. water

  1. Place all ingredients in a saucepan, preferably a ceramic glazed pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, stir well and cover.
  3. Reduce to a very low simmer and cook 30 minutes. You may need to add water to keep the mixture from becoming too thick. The liquid should have the consistency of a very hearty broth.
  4. Serve piping hot with wedges of good crusty bread (baguette, Italian, rustic whole wheat all work well).

Chicken Malay

Cafe Drake's recent lunch at Sunset Park's Nyonya put us in the mood for Malaysian; we dug up the recipe below from an old index card in our recipe box. Notes jotted in the margins were: "Add 1-2 T. cayenne pepper" and "Remove skin from chicken prior to cooking." We trust these suggestions still apply.

Ayam Masak Merah (Red-Cooked Chicken)

3 lb whole chicken, cut into 8-10 parts / 2 tbsp turmeric powder /1 tbsp salt /1 cup red onions, chopped /2 tbsp ginger, grated /4 cloves garlic, minced /1 can tomato puree /½- cup chili paste /3 tbsp hot chili sauce /1 cup tomato ketchup /2 tbsp dark sweet soy sauce /1 large onion, cut into rings /½ tbsp sugar and salt to taste /2 cups water /3-4 kaffir lime leaves (optional) /vegetable oil for pan frying

  1. Smear chicken pieces with turmeric powder and salt and let it stand for about 40 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a wok to fry the chicken till light golden brown. Drain and keep aside.
  3. Add red onions, ginger, garlic and chili paste and stir-fry. Add tomato puree, dark soy sauce, hot chili sauce and salt and sugar.
  4. Add lime leaves (we skipped these) and 2 cups of water and let the sauce boil.
  5. Reduce on low flame for about 10 minutes. Add fried chicken pieces and bring to a boil.
  6. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
  7. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve on a bed of hot steamed rice. (While not authentic, we used brown rice.)

Sloane of Sunset Park

Heads Up - the curry pancakes are about to arrive.

Papa Henry makes adjustments to Sloane's ride.

Pondering a vast menu.

Sloane: "Perhaps if I just don't look it will go away."

Happy Mom. Happy Baby.

Jorge abducts Sloane before being apprehended one house away.

We recently introduced you to Sloane Lily Duys a few weeks ago, and now present photos of SMD at 1 month. Cafe Drake and Jorge M. recently paid the entire McKeever-Duys family a visit in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and lunched at Nyonya (5323 Eighth Ave. at 54th Street, 718-633-0808), one of the city's relatively few authentic Malaysian restaurants. Exceptionally well-priced, all of our several dishes sampled were tasty and varied, from two types of fried pancake (one stuffed with a breakfast-y mix of fried eggs and sliced potatoes), both accompanied by curry chicken dipping sauce, to a seafood medley amidst pan-fried broad noodles. Also good were the house pickles, lightly preserved in turmeric oil; tender beef satay skewers; rice vermicelli in a light curry dressing and a typical Malay platter of stewed chicken, rice, hard-boiled eggs, sweet-and-salty anchoivies and chopped cucumber and red onions.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

Thankful for a house full of faces new and familiar, Cafe Drake toasted the holiday in grand style with an international cast of guests (all bearing delicious offerings). Our very United Nations Thanksgiving included celebrants from Japan, Iceland, Mexico, Israel, Bulgaria, Slovenia and the U.S. The serving table groaned under the weight of roast turkey, smoked oyster and wild mushroom stuffings, cranberry sauce, chutney, stringbeans with pinenuts, a vegetable platter of spicy peppers, brocolli and baby carrots, lentil-and-brown rice casserole, pear and walnut and bleu cheese salad, vegetarian and non-vegetarian gravies, a cheese and sausage and pickles and olives platter, roasted yams with cilantro, mashed potatoes with dill and more! Desserts included a berry brulee, home-baked apple pie and pumpkin bread, all washed down with espresso and an assortment of cordials and digestifs. The red wine flowed (with an excellent assortment of Barollos, Pinot Noirs, Cabernets, et. al.), as did the bubbly and the warm conversation so integral to a holiday gathering. More pics to follow soon!