Monday, August 27, 2007

Curry In A Hurry (Part III)


We made this recipe up tonight, wanting a fresh and light condiment to offset the richness of stuffed peppers baked in cream sauce, and found it delightful enough to share with Cafe Drake visitors.

  1. Basically (and feel free to experiment widely and wildly): roughly chop 4 green tomatoes, 1 large onion and 1 clove of garlic and combine all in a saucepan with 2 T. or so of vegetable oil.
  2. Cook over high heat, stirring and then add 1 peeled and chopped apple (we used Gala). Season with a cinnamon stick, bit of ginger (fresh or dried) and a pinch of coriander seeds.

  3. Let all bubble away on reduced heat until broken down and thick. Add 1 T. of apple cider vinegar, reduce heat further to a bare simmer and add honey and salt to taste.

  4. The chutney should of course be quite sweet.

  5. Cook for maybe 10 more minutes, cool and serve.


Broccoli doesn't often appear in Indian cuisine except as a filler ingredient in school cafeteria style Mixed Curry Vegetables. This is a nice way to incorporate the super healthy veggie in a theme meal or just to spark up roasted chicken or duck.

2 T. vegetable oil / 1 t. fennel seeds, approximately / about 3 fresh hot chiles / 1-2 bunches broccoli, depending on size, cut into florets / salt / lemon juice / garam masala (in the spice section of all supermarkets)

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the fennel seeds.

  2. Cook until aromatic, about 1/2 a minute.

  3. Throw in the chiles and broccoli.

  4. Stir-fry for about 6 minutes or longer.

  5. Sprinkle with a lemon juiced directly over the broccoli. Stir once more, season with salt and serve warm.

  6. If desired sprinkle with garam masala before serving. A ripe tomato, diced, is also a nice garnish.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Late August Soundbites from CAFE DRAKE

LibraryThang: No the books you see listed in the far right column of Cafe Drake are not attempts at extra revenue; though God knows we could use the change, not a penny is earned by this site no matter how many times you may click and buy from Amazon. Rather this is our latest feature - a random listing, updated daily, from We think it's the niftiest new idea on the internet - in 5 seconds and for no money you can sign up and catalogue your home library through their quick entry system. Besides finally seeing in a friendly format just what is on your actual shelves (and under the bed and in closet boxes behind the sleeping bags), LibraryThing connects you with the home collections of all other members, cross-references you to readers with similar tastes and makes eerily accurate recommendations for authors and titles you may also enjoy. Of course there are chat rooms and online reading groups galore, but you'll find plenty of fun just browsing and having the OCD relief of your very own card catalogue. Sign up - no cards, no addresses etc - and visit Cafe Drake for our full selection (we've only gotten a couple of hundred entered so far but this is a longterm project, friends).

What Else We're Reading Presently:
The Bikeriders (1968: reissue by Twin Palms Press) : A glorious photo book by lens master Danny Lyon, capturing the renegade biker movement of the early 1960s, pre- Devil's Angels, well before everything got dirty and long-haired. B/W portraits of these voluntary outcasts from "normal" society provide such insight into the human soul itself; artfully constructed but also deeply revealing, the pictures testify to a rogue glamour with more than an air of danger. As Lyon says in his introduction:

"If anything has guided this work beyond the facts of the worlds represented, it is what I have come to believe is the spirit of the bikeriders: the spirit of the hand that twists open the throttle on the crackling engines of the big bikes, and rides them on racetracks or through traffic or, on occasion, into oblivion."

Portrait of a Failure (1968), Marie-Jacqueline Lancaster : Who doesn't love a tale of the charming loser? Aesthete Brian Howard reigned supreme in English literary society Between the Wars, popping from party to raging party, sharing drinks and gab with the likes of W H Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Rosamand Lehmann and Evelyn Waugh (who based a number of characters around Howard, including Sebastian of Brideshead Revisited). His life ended tragically and prematurely after years of alcohol and drug abuse, seemingly wasted but certainly not unremembered.

Out and About in North Brooklyn: We're enjoying a (relatively) new neighborhood restaurant that despite its bland moniker - Parish Diner (218 Richardson Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 718/383.8200) - offers food and drink that is anything but boring. Massive brunches ($16) include a morning cocktail, coffee and bread basket bursting at the seams; French Toast with a side of smokey bacon was especially tasty. And even better, on difficult weeknights cafe Drake can walk a mere 4 blocks to a daily changing Hungry Man Dinner ($14), riffing on frozen TV meals of yore, the dinner comes complete with protein, veggies, a starch and even dessert. Tuesday's Southern-inflected Fish and Chips is our favorite thus far. Also recommended are the Carrot Cupcake served with a scoop of Guinness ice cream and the Blackberry Lemonade ($10) spiked with Wild Turkey 101 (yes the extra kick provided by overproof bourbon is well worth a couple of extra bucks).

One of the stingy few pleasures to be had in NYC's muggy August days is a stroll to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (97 Commercial Street at Manhattan Avenue) at the water-front tail end of sprawling Manhattan Avenue. Flavors are basic for now but hand-crafted in the shop and frozen dessert guru Mark Thompson uses only the highest quality of ingredients: the vanilla is a cold replica of a slightly sweetened vanilla bean, while butter pecan is suitably rich and densely swirled with caramel, toasted nuts.

Hope Lounge (10 Hope Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 11211) is among the near-dozen of new bars to open in Summer 2007 in rapidly overcrowding Williamsburg, but the forlorn side street location means the teeming weekend crowds won't overwhelm you upon entering or leaving. Cafe Drake popped in recently to celebrate the (mysteriously unnumbered) birthday of Jorge Manahan, and enjoyed the sprawling outdoor patio filled with tables, a few booths, DJ station, a grill serving hearty fare such as BBQ short ribs and an al fresco mini-bar. The Sangria proved agreeably fresh and fruity and a relative bargain at $8 for a pint. Let's all wish Jorge a HAPPY BIRTHDAY and best wishes that Hope Lounge has a successful run making it into the 5th decade just like J.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another Attempt at Tempura

Cafe Drake continues with mixed results to attempt to perfect our beloved Japanese savoury of battered and deep-fried veggies. The good news is the rice finally worked out, after several washings in cold water to remove starch and boiled till almost dry, then covered and steamed on low low low heat for 20 minutes. The clinging grains were bolstered by umeboshi (Japanese salty pickled plums) and nori strips for wrapping. Thordis proved amazingly adept at creating these seaweed/rice bundles with chopsticks alone - even after three Gimlets.

Ice-battered and then plunged in boiling oil were sliced yams, bell peppers, red onion rings, shiso leaves and string beans. An unorthodox tempura dipping sauce consisted of soy, ponzu, rice vinegar and grated ginger. Dessert waited for an hour after coffee so heavy were the veggies, however Thordis managed to slurp down a tall raspberry milkshake and post-meal cocktails of gin and ginger ale.

Tastiest of all to Cafe Drake were Thordis' dry prosecco contribution and the pleasure of her company of course, all heightened with a late-night viewing of a (now just follow us here) British animal rights horror movie.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mexicano Martes at Cafe Drake

A rainy Tuesday night, unusually for August brushed with an early autumnal chill, provided the backdrop for a laidback comida with Cafe Drake's old friend Octavio Fenech.


Raspberry Cosmopolitans
Salsa Verde with Flax Seed Tortilla Chips

Tilapia with Mole Sauce
Calabacitas (Zucchini fried with tomatoes, onions and chipotle peppers)
Dried Chile Rice Pilaf
Pinto Beans with Cumin and Onions


2006 Rouge Martin Cotes de Provence Rose

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cafe Berry Part ???

Permanently thrilled to receive an invitation to Cafe Berry a/k/a/ the home of Miki-san, we spent a Saturday night savoring the kitchen delicacies of M. Shimada and her guest chef Kevin. Upon entry David Sellers and Cafe Drake were greeted with friendly faces and cheese straws and (legendarily) strong Gin Gimlets. The meal kicked off with a crisp salad of organic baby greens, orange wedges, grape tomatoes and goat cheese, quickly followed by shumai dumplings served with soy sauce and molded wasabi mayonnaise. Miki filled our glasses with red, white (courtesy of fellow diner Mariusz) and sparkling Chardonnay as the third course of beef tataki was placed on the well-appointed tabletop, nestled amongst zucchini strips deliciously sauteed in quarts of olive oil and garlic. West Village resident Kevin took the helm of this gently rocking ship, donning a dojo-worthy headband, and dished out the entree of fresh cheese ravioli crowned with walnut sauce, fried prosciutto, toasted pignoli nuts and grated Asiago. Dessert followed: luscious Japanese pastries stuffed with chocolate, vanilla and green tea custard. Kindly souls, Kevin and Miwa-san also poured us out a deep, rich grappa, complex and smokey but smooth on the palette and throat. Leave it to Miki to top all off with good iced coffees and Polish chocolates.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Our Greatest Influence

We talk alot here about Inspiration . . . because everyone feeds off images/sounds/narratives indelibly imprinted in Youth, icons that speak to the individual Soul in an everlasting heated scream. Cafe Drake has, since, like, 8 years old, built its persona in homage to one such individual above all others. We're certainly not alone - in fact we number in the millions -but felt the time has come to pay tribute to our personal hero.

Anyone Who Had a Heart

You know Cafe Drake is getting all verklempt (hence the rare mad use of bold face to follow) when we quote our patron saint Dusty Springfield in a posting title. The currently running ASPCA commercial featuring Sarah McLachlan has us in tears every time we see it; loving a good cry now and then, CD rewinds and pauses it several times via the magic of TiVo (our secondary patron saint). Now you know we never go political here - and know that Cafe Drake has plenty to say to friends and everyone else on the broken state of affairs in this country - but we urge you to watch the commercial online HERE if you haven't experienced it yet. And to also remember that for the cost of the average restaurant starter twice a month in NYC you can help these pitiful creatures so in need of care and comfort. Hit for more info. And a huge THANK YOU and xxxxx from Cafe Drake.

The Peak of Chic

Every so often at Cafe Drake we feel compelled to share a tome so essential to your life that it cannot be held a secret any longer (even if it means sharing many of our entertaining secrets - who loves ya baby? Cafe Drake!) Dorothy Rodgers (wife of composer Richard Rogers of Rodgers & Hart ultra-fame) penned one thick volume devoted to style, decorating and primarily dinner parties - My Favorite Things (Atheneum Publishers, 1964). Like almost every important work sadly the book is long out-of-print, but copies can be picked up on various websites and your better used bookstores.

Just as well perhaps because honestly most of the kids today couldn't handle Ms. Rogers' prescriptions for fierce domestic gatherings, from measurements of tablecloths' length to the floor to arrangement of canapes and strict orders that the cocktail hour preceding dinner should be at least 90 minutes! Invaluable menu advice comprises half the book, with experimental combinations that would scandalize even the most avant-garde host/ess.

Below we've adapted two of our favorite starter recipes from this glorious printed treasure, made easier for the contemporary cook without Rodgers' excess of leisure time. More will follow here at Cafe Drake once we've test-driven these lower maintenance versions. Fancy? Yes. Perfect for a weeknight dinner for you and a BFF? Assuredly.


Cafe Drake whipped this chilled soup up the night before a Wednesday dinner and found the flavors mingled superbly. Perfection on a muggy August evening poured into shallow bowls given the freezer treatment for at least an hour.

4 leeks (largest you can find, washed of all grit and sliced finely) / 1 onion, chopped / 4 small potatoes, peeled and sliced thin / 1 1/2 cups chicken or veggie stock / salt and pepper / 3 cups clam juice (buy 2 of the 12-oz jars) / 2 cups half-and-half (go ahead and use cream if you're skinny) / parsley, chopped (about 1/3 cup for 8 servings)

  1. Put leeks, onion and potatoes in a large saucepan with stock of your choice (we like chicken for a true vichyssoise flavor but you can easily tailor to vegetarian guests with success). Add salt and pepper and simmer until veggies are quite soft.

  2. Add clam juice, cook at a boil for a couple of minutes or so then take off heat and cool slightly.

  3. Puree in a blender until very, very smooth. You may need to push through a wire mesh strainer or food mill but hopefully not.

  4. Cool completely then refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Leave overnight and have the easiest first course in dinner party history!

  5. Before serving, thin with half-and-half. Use less if you prefer a thicker consistency but ideally it should be quite thin and light.

  6. Serve in ice-cold soup bowls or cups and dust each with chopped parsley.


Don't let the name scare you off unless you loathe beets. As for the fermented dairy ingredient, like ranch dressing, it mellows beautifully in this preparation. FYI for those unfamiliar with beets, the peeling process after proper cooking takes a minute at most.

1 1/2 lbs beets (boiled, steamed, roasted until tender - your preference - but then peeled with your fingers under running water) / 1 quart buttermilk / salt and black pepper / 3 T. fresh cut chives (you cannot leave these out)

  1. Place soft cooked beets in blender and puree. If needed add a tablespoon or two of stock to ease the process.

  2. Place in large bowl and add buttermilk. Stir well and season with salt and pepper.

  3. Place in fridge for 2-3 hours.

  4. Serve in chilled bowls with a sprinkling of chives on top. Also lovely are fresh croutons or crostini passed at the table.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Outlaw Outdoor Cinema

As the Summer 2007 Film Series winds down at McCarren Pool in Williamsburg, we caught the penultimate screening: the 1967 classic crime drama of the American New Wave, Bonnie and Clyde. Jen Lazzaro joined Cafe Drake for a picnic under the stars and in front of the big screen, bringing along blankets and a fruity gewurztraminer to enjoy with mango-glazed chicken thighs, tomato and onion salad and cilantro macaroni. Afterwards Cafe D. joined Cynthia, Brian, Thordis and David H. in the park for a bottle of dry red, followed by refreshing Manhattans at Enid's and Matchless across the street.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Brooklyn Japanese Cuisine

Cafe Drake tried our hand at Crooklyn/Nippon fusion cuisine recently with Japanese food expert Miki Shimada. Luckily Miki approved of our rough experiments: after a few potent daiquiris straight up, we settled into a meal of peanut and ginger tofu stir-fried with purple bell peppers, kari carrots, brown rice with salmon mayonnaise (far better than it sounds, lost in translation), cucumber oshinto and a Japanese panzanella (the Italian bread salad reconfigured with rice wine vinegar, ginger and soy).

Silly Rarebit


Italian Lemon Sodas with Gin
Spicy Fries

Welsh Rarebit (Cheese and Beer Stew over Sunflower Toast)
Braised Kale
Carrot & Pear Salad with Curry Vinegarette


2004 Jabulani South Africa Merlot