Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Jewel in Crown Heights

Ital Shak (780 Nostrand Avenue, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY)

On a West Indian stretch of Nostrand Avenue both sides of the street are lined with Caribbean eateries and groceries, many specializing in vegetarian and vegan cuisines. Several creative meatless interpretations of Jamaican standbys can be had from the steam table at Ital Shak, an unassuming, 24-hour take-out tucked away among the many bright-colored vendor awnings.

Must-trys include fried faux fish cakes (no flesh of any sort on offer here); vegetarian fish stew, constructed from wheat gluten chunks wrapped in briny nori seaweed and simmered with onions and peppers; meltingly soft eggplant slicked with orange palm oil and a facsimile of curried goat, as rich as the real deal but made from soya protein. Also good: gooey mac-and-cheese studded with red peppers, simple but tender collard greens and chickpeas in a curry sauce laced with branches of fresh thyme. For $7 you get a choice of 5 items - go with two friends, order diversely and you'll be able to sample the entire menu.

Pics above of nearby Eastern Parkway and a shady snacking spot snagged by Cafe Drake and Thordis. Sleeping old men on benches only add to the charm.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Late July Farmer's Market Meal

No better way to escape the sweltering heat and mugginess of July in NYC than a relaxed Sunday dinner followed by TiVo, all inside the cooling a/c of Cafe Drake. Thordis and David joined us for such an evening recently - photos above and menu below.

Pear Vodka and Orange Spritzers
Andy Cap's Hot Fries

Salad of Chicory and Smoked Trout with Apples in Horseradish Cream

Tomato Pie

Chilled Apricots

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Potluck with Miki, Miwa & Kevin

It's always a great pleasure to receive a dinner invitation to Miki Shimada's friendly abode a/k/a Cafe Berry. Our last visit was a potluck of sorts, with Miki's special guests Kevin and Miwa in attendance, and the four of us started with a bang: freshly shaken Gimlets, bruschetta with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, marinated spicy Moroccan olives and smoked salmon and goat cheese wrapped in shiso leaves. The main course was a Balsamic Glazed Chicken served with a Stone Fruit Salsa (heavy on plums, apricots and basil) and Roasted Yellow Crookneck Squash. Cheesecake with chocolate and iced coffees spiked with Frangelico ended the meal and a most convivial evening.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Catster Update

Cafe Drake hasn't dropped by Catster too much lately ourselves, but we're pleased to announce that some of Sailor's BFFs have been busy uploading photographs and penning autobiographies. Go say Hi now and don't forget the Greenies and catnip.

Sailor's Sister Down the Street, Daphne Thordisdottir:
http://www.catster.com/cats/265301. New photos posted of Daphne in all her crazy-eyed glory.

Sailor's Buddy in Berlin, Api Jonsson:
http://www.catster.com/cats/265271. Catch the latest installment of Api J's renewed online diary, in which he struggles with the existential dilemma of nature vs. a nurturing Mommy.

Sailor's Icelandic Gal Pal, Snaelda:
http://www.catster.com/cats/265342. See what's happening with the cats in the North Atlantic.

Sailor himself promises to soon put paws to keyboard and update everyone on his latest news in his own words.

People Needing People Needing Recipes

Sorry for our occasional, temporary lapse in recipe postings; we've just had so much else to share with you lately. Below find two seasonal favorites and big hits at Cafe Drake this summer.


Rich in flavor but low in fat, this is an ideal main course for hot weather dinners. Great simply with hot buttered rice tossed with chopped parsley, but also nice supported by homemade fries (use the less starchy red variety).

2 T. olive oil / 1 chicken, cut into pieces / salt and black pepper / a few small clove of garlic / 1 onion, chopped / 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced / 1 cup dry sherry / chopped parsley

  1. Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken on all sides, adding salt and pepper as you turn the meat. Do not skimp on this important step: the process will take at least 10 minutes.

  2. Remove the chicken and drain some of the fat from the pan. Add the garlic (not chopped), onion and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes.

  3. Return chicken to the pan and add sherry. Cover partially and cook for about 45 minutes.

  4. Season to taste and serve with parsley on top.


We could eat these every night here at Cafe Drake and refrain from doing so only due to waistline concerns.

juice of 2 limes / 1 clove of garlic / 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced / several hot chiles / 1 cup yogurt (lowfat is OK but NOT non-fat) / 1 T. or more sugar / 2 cups mint leaves / salt and pepper / 8 lamb chops (use the cheaper shoulder cuts; allow 2 per person)

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. For our chutney: combine lime juice, garlic, ginger, chiles, yogurt and sugar in a blender and puree. Stir in the mint and season with salt and pepper.

  3. Broil chops 3 minutes per side for medium rare.

  4. Serve lamb hot atop a pool of cool chutney.

  5. Receive oohs and ahhs from guests graciously.

Thinking of You All . . .

and trying to deliver the best Cafe Drake we can to our web visitors from around the globe. For those of you who dine at CD in person we promise to keep up-ing our game, expanding the repetiore and as always drawing inspiration from your delightful company.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Late July Cafe Drake Soundbites

In Which We Wax Prosaically on Every Little Thing:

Not certain she should have grabbed the cover of every NY daily paper, but still have loads of love for LiLo. While Lindsay continues to take things too far we admire her hellcat approach to Life as a Cabaret of sorts. And unlike her thespian peers in the same age range, LiLo actually has talent and looks, the two qualities which catapulted her into the dangerous life of the fast lane. Are we the only ones who think her addiction problems may stem from the fact they grab headlines consistently whilst her performances (great ones in Georgia Rule, Mean Girls, Diary of a Teenage Drama Queen) take backstage to the personal dramatics. Cafe Drake sends bouquets of white healing light to LiLo and will soon honor her on these pages with an homage dinner (heavy on cocktails, natch).

Don't forget to stop by Cafe Drake's MySpace page (http://www.myspace.com/drakepub) with new pictures and blog entries posted, including two recipes for all those readers with a serious sweet tooth. Come back to us by clicking the banner on top featuring yours truly.

Everyone is writing asking us about the latest playlist here at Cafe Drake, and with dinners galore this summer we have of course a few favorites at the moment. The infatuation with Rufus Wainwright's Release the Stars continues unabated, especially the dining-friendly tracks "Release the Stars", "Tiergarten" and "Going to a Town". If you missed his blister-hot performance on David Letterman recently, YouTube it immediately. Fullscreen format. Others on heavy spin include: Nico Muhly's digestive aid and first full-length after behind-the-scenes with Bjork and Philip Glass, Speaking Volumes; The Field aka Axel Wilner's From Here We Go Sublime . . . and boy does he, with minimalist collage techno so smart it can score the chicest cocktail party of your fantasies, and finally, any mp3 we can get our sticky hands on from the likes of Lavendar Diamond. With such a name do we even need to praise the actual music?

Afro-French is the Brooklyn cuisine of choice at present - always cheap, always spicy, always perfectly seasoned to draw the most from its humble ingredients of construction. We happily drive (sometimes by ourselves even) to E & R (907 Church Avenue, 718/941-0349) in the obscure 'hood of Kensington for Haitian soups and stews, especially the pork variety which is steeped prior to slow-cooking in a vinegary marinade. Equally scrumptious is Flatbush's Rocher d'Horeb ( 2281 Nostrand Avenue, 718/692-3666), where a ten-note buys you two courses and if you choose wisely, a side of moist rice studded with tiny black mushrooms. This tiny bit of exotica is so good we almost guarantee a mind-altering experience.

Screenings at Socrates Sculpture Park

Not content with a mere one weekly outdoor film series, Cafe Drake also hauls ourselves over to Long Island City in Queens for the nighttime flicks at Socrates Sculpture Garden, located in a lovely grassy glade on the East River and glowing from the lights of Manhattan mere yards across the water. Recently on tap was the tale of a Japanese schoolgirl rock band called Linda Linda Linda, strange and somewhat culturally obscure for American audiences, but far far less freaky than an opening act of demented manga characters belting boisterous heavy metal in flea-bitten costumes. Cafe Drake loves the marginalized and even the abject, so naturally we warmed to the oddballs by their final number, washing it all down with red wine, Thordis' pasta salad of bleu cheese and radishes, Israeli salad fresh from the backyard garden of Amanda and Odette and a Mexican corn salad with cactus and onions.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

McCarren Pool Movie Nights

One of Cafe Drake's favorite Summer '07 pastimes is walking down the block to the drained, shabby McCarren Pool - a mammoth expanse of graffitied chipped concrete that has become a sort of town hall for our eclectic neighborhood. Last year it was the Sunday Pool Parties hosted for free by the likes of Of Montreal, Deerhoof, The Walkmen, Beirut and others; now it's Tuesday nights in front of a giant inflatable outdoor screen with pre-dark live musical entertainment.

Smoking and drinking allowed and picnicking encouraged: we feast on al fresco meals of vino, vegetarian tempeh sandwiches, pasta and egg salads, fresh veggies, roasted potatoes, watermelon slices and more vino. So far we enjoyed a rowdy near-crowd participation viewing of Bring It On and Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains. If you find yourself in NYC stop by our colorful spread of blankets, pillows, victuals and libations to say Hi.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sunday, July 22, 2007

David Herbert Turns Thirty

Some events are so major they deserve massive photo postings, thirtieth birthdays paramount, especially if the camera is primed and lubricated with Rangepur Tanqueray Gin, several varietals of light summer red wines, sparkling white and red bubbly and a smattering of white vino, topped with digestives and cordials. Of course the birthday dinner itself was the star attraction, beginning with an orange gazpacho, followed by a mixed green salad, fish and shrimp baked in wine and crowned with tomato and basil salsa alongside rice and Baked Alaskas for dessert. Join us in saluting the Birthday Boy, his well-wishing friends, hostess extraordinaire Thordis and a mirthful evening given over to excess of all appropriate sorts.