Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Once More, A Last Minute Meal













Recently David Sellers came over to help Cafe Drake with kitchen ceiling renovations, and in the blink of an eye we decided upon cooking a simple dinner as thanks and inviting over neighbor and great mutual friend Ms. Miki Shimada. Much of the meal was assembled from a lunch break shopping trip the day before in Midtown Manhattan's Little Tokyo district; with a few twists and an instant batch of potent cocktails a school night dinner party was thus born. Again, simple proof that midweek dinners need not be stressful or daunting to prospective hosts.




MARCH 2007 DINNER WITH MIKI-SAN AND DAVID S.



Gin and Orange/Raspberry Coolers


TOFU TWO WAYS WITH OSHINKO (Fried Tofu Salad, Almond-Crusted Fried Tofu and Quick Pickles)


Beef and Mountain Yam Stew


Spiced Hot Chocolate with Butter Cookies
Patron Orange Liqueur

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dinner with David

Dramatic Uplighting always has its Ups and Downs.

Sailor never fails to join the dinner party if poultry is on offer.

Through a Wine Carafe Darkly.

Chopsticks for udon noodles always.



Not so very long ago, erstwhile Cafe Drake pal (and former roommate a decade ago!) David Sellers joined us for an uber-casual dinner comprised largely of leftovers. We ransacked the fridge to add a couple of newer items, and whiled away a pleasant schoolnight knoshing, sipping and laughing over old times. See photos above and the menu below as proof that food - like friendship - often improves with a bit of (refrigerated) age.
DINNER WITH DAVID - LATE MARCH 2007
Orange Martinis
Seasoned Sunflower Seeds
Malaysian Chicken with Coconut and Anise
Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce
Tofu & Shitake Stir-fry
Gingered Quick Cuke Pickles
Digestifs

Sloane Takes Precautions Against Hell



Doesn't Sloane Lily look like a living porcelain doll above in her christening gown? Happy Baptism, Sloane!

WWW.CatholicCulture.org is a surprising place for Cafe Drake to be visiting, but Lo' and Behold, they have a great treasure chest of simple recipes appropriate to the religious season. Below is an adaptation of a cheese tart preparation, consumed frequently during Lent by the devout and (temporarily) vegetarian. It's so good we could almost eat it every day for 40 nights. Perfect for a post-baptismal brunch, the tart is excellent in Fall and Winter as well, sided with a cup of rich tomato soup.


CHEESE TART


pie crust for 9-inch pastry shell /1/2 pound Swiss cheese, grated/ 1 Tablespoon flour /3 eggs, well beaten /1 cup milk or light cream /salt and pepper / 1 T. Dijon mustard


  1. Line 9-inch pie plate with pastry.


  2. Sprinkle grated cheese with flour; spread evenly in pie plate.


  3. Combine eggs, milk or cream, salt and pepper and mustard. Pour over cheese.


  4. Bake 15 minutes in hot oven (400°), reduce heat to moderate (325°); bake 30 minutes longer or until inserted knife comes out clean.


  5. Serve hot.




Cold Buckwheat Noodles in Broth


CHILLED NOODLES IN TANGY BROTH
This is a great transitional recipe for the seasonal shift, as buckwheat is purported to have warming qualities, while the coolness of the dish is perfect for a warm Spring day's lunch.
1 package of buckwheat noodles / 1 quart of organic chicken or organic beef broth /Sea salt /Vinegar (rice vinegar is best, white vinegar will do) / 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded with a spoon, then sliced into thin strips, about 2 inches long /1 Asian pear, peeled and thinly sliced /Soft boiled egg - one for each person /1/2 cup sauteed shitake mushrooms /Ice cubes
  1. Pour organic chicken or beef broth into a large bowl. Add 5 tablespoons of vinegar, stir gently, and taste.
  2. Add a small amount of sea salt, to taste. If there is enough time before mealtime, put this bowl of broth in the refrigerator to chill.
  3. Put buckwheat noodles into a large pot of boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. They should be taken out as soon as they are al dente - chewy, but not too soft. At this point, put noodles in a large colander and rinse two to three times with cold water. Allow noodles to rest in the colander for a few minutes or until excess water has been drained.
  4. To serve, place a large handful of noodles in a large eating bowl. Add a small bunch of cucumber strips, a few pear slices, and one soft boiled egg (cut in half right before serving) to the bowl. Then use a ladle to add a generous amount of cold and tangy broth to the bowl, enough to cover about 75 percent of the ingredients. Place shitake mushrooms on top.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Many Many Muses of Cafe Drake




THE BULLETIN BOARD
Cafe Drake long ago learned from influential mentors that an ever-rotating board of images is the best way to keep things fresh; choose pictures from ANYWHERE you find kinship or emotional/aesthetic comraderie.



Inspiration - good, bad, or misguided - always arrives from above we believe. And Cafe Drake is never one to deny a muse anything he/she requests. Good food and successful entertaining can only stem from an inspired mind, and "restocking the well" is essential to survival as shelter, kindness and Pinot Noir. Below we offer - as gifts, really - some of the things that have kept us going recently, with the hope that sharing may similarly enrich your own lives.


THE PLAYLIST


After-dinner drinks parties will remain rolicking until sunrise with Black Devil Disco Club's 28 After, a most propulsive dance music CD. The Tall Boy's latest full-length, Go Forth, bridges the gap between your techno and rock friends at your next house party. Rich Boy and DJ Drama bring delight to even rap haters like Cafe Drake; Ghetto Fabulous never tasted so good. Barbara Morgenstern is a Cabaret Noir chanteuse backed by a drum kit, making her perfect for cocktails or German food. The Blow's Paper Television, despite their name associations, is subtle enough for sublime dining music. And lastly in March 2007 we know we've mentioned Brooklyn's own Beirut a million times before, but his newest EP Lon Gisland is a little slice of Cold War German cake, good preceeded with bratwurst and sweet mustards and soft pretzels.





THE BOOKSHELF

It almost seems as if we spent the entire winter cooking, hosting and reading. All of these activities were intimately related we assure you; after all, there is hardly a more productive or enjoyable way to pass time in the kitchen - stirring a custard, marinating filets - than with a great book. What you must Amazon wish-list in 2007 are:

The Ruins of Contracouer. Joyce Carol Oates. Avon Books. - For her, like 1000th book, our favorite author returns to the genre of High Gothic, made even creepier and more compelling for its realistic prose style. Menu Suggestion: Decayed Wedding Cake.

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Elizabeth Smart. Vintage Books. - All thanks to the universe for an early-90s re-issue of this experimental masterpiece, a tale of love gone wrong wrong wrong. Menu Suggestion: Salad of Bitter Greens

Port Mungo. Patrick McGrath. Knopf. - Again British author McGrath gives us a tale of romantic obsession turned macabre, largely set in a lurid port city (straight out of Genet's fantasies) in Honduras. Suggested Menu: Black Beans, Rice and Fried Plantains

A Glass of Blessings. Barbara Pym. Vinatage Books - Long after her death Pym remains the coziest of English writers. Suggested Menu: Roasted Beef with Yorkshire Pudding

Now is the Hour. Tom Spanbauer. Houghtin Mifflin. Another coming-of-age tale from Spanbauer set in the American West; rough, raunchy and glorious as always. We dare you to not fall in love with narrator Rigby John. Suggested Menu: Venison Chops

This Book Will Save Your Life. A. M. Homes. Penguin - Like most of her previous work, it did. Suggested Menu: Belvedere on the Rocks and a Heart Pill.

Jill. Philip Larkin. Faber and Faber - A rare prose work from a masterful poet. Dated certainly, but the emotions rise above the post-war details. Suggested Menu: Earl Grey Tea with Milk and No Sugar, Please

The Demon in the Freezer; A True Story. Richard Preston. Random House - The deadliest virus on Earth, smallpox, exists in only two freezers on Earth: the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and a Siberian waystation. A non-fiction science horror that will scare you to death. Suggested Menu: Frozen Dacquiris (and lots of them for your jangled nerves).





Thursday, March 22, 2007

SILENT H: Restaurant Review

Silent H (Berry Street at 9th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211)

Vietnamese has always been a cuisine on the forefront of fusion, if that dubious food term may even be used correctly with a country so adoptive of French gustatory colonial influence. Of course Lafayette Street's Indochine has turned out the more glammed-up version of Vietnamese to supermodels and rock stars for years (and we must say never fails to impress 15 years after our first meal there), while Baxter Street in Manhattan's Chinatown (with at least 5 Vietnamese eateries at last count) continues to deliver the authentic goods at prices more common to Saigon than New York City. Finally Williamsburg has gotten its dose of upscale Southeast Asian with Silent H, the East Coast cousin of Santa Monica's Father's Room (same peeps). A limited menu could benefit from the offer of daily specials, and the liquor license-in-waiting is problematic, but these shortcomings are so far countered by the two most important elements - quality food and good service.

A recent meal (courtesy of Cafe Drake pal Octavio Fenech) began with a starter unappealingly described as "street food" but titled Shrimp Toast ($6). Two baguette slices arrived adorned with a generous slather of yuca and mung bean puree and topped with chopped shrimp; a small cup of sweet vinegar sauce was nestled alongside for dipping. This is the sort of snack we could nosh on all night - given the small portions perhaps four could be offered for the asking price. Octavio enjoyed an entree of Fried Sole with Vietnamese Spices ($14.50), curiously sided with spinach and spears of okra. A double-thick cut pork chop ($14.50) was quite successful - pan-caramelized on both sides after a long marination in rice vinegar and black peppercorns. Slices of cooling cucumber and creamy hard boiled egg provided a lovely contrast to both the meat and expertly steamed rice (seasoned with more fiery peppercorns).

Occupying the former space of Oznot's Dish, a neighborhood restaurant with vast amounts of memories, Silent H seems to have wiped out most of the intriguing decorative elements of the former tenant; sadly, the new design is overly spare, leaning towards the dead trend of mid-century modernism and completely without soul. As mentioned before, a graceful staff that is warm, courteous and professionally trained goes along way towards correcting this lack of coziness or visual interest. Then again we live in a tragic age when purposelessly austere lines and monochromaticism passes for style amongst the irreverent and historically deficient.

Postnote: after dinner Octavio and Cafe Drake met David for cocktails at K & M Bar on Roebling Street, where the better tastes of an older age lives on, at least in the DJ booth. We were treated to a playlist including The Smiths, 70s-era Bowie, Roxy Music, T-Rex and other nostalgic favorites. Octavio claimed we were showing our age with enthusiasm for such golden tunes; we merely smiled contentedly and sipped our gin-and-tonic.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Another March Birthday


While we're in the mood of saluting Hollywood icons, we can't let March pass without a nod to another of our favorite Pisces (see posting below for Cafe Drake's own mother): screen legend Ms. Carole Lombard. An actress we've admired since childhood, this Indiana native came to epotimize Hollywood royalty in the 1930s and (early) 1940s. Tragically killed at 34 in a plane crash, Lombard was notorious not only for her fierce (sorry, no other word applies) beauty, but also for her legendary parties at her Hollywood Hills estate (shared with hubby Clark Gable). Rumors circulate to this day about soirees turned scandalous, so in the spirit of all things hedonistic, we provide below two Prohibition-era cocktails no doubt favored by our beloved Carole.



PROHIBITION COCKTAIL


Aptly named and an historical nod at Cafe Drake, these go down fast and easy.


1/2 tsp Apricot Brandy /2 oz Gin / 1 tsp Orange Juice /2 oz Lillet Blanc



  1. Mix all with ice in a shaker and agitate.

  2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


MILLIONAIRE


Being Southern by birth and nature, Cafe Drake adores the following concoction.


1/3 Jamaica Rum / 1/3 Apricot Nectar / 1/3 Sloe Gin /1 Dash Grenadine / Juice of 1 Lime


Shake all with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Repeat until you feel like a million bucks.

A Word about Alignment and Spacing

We've recently noticed a bug in the "blogging" software used to create Cafe Drake as relates to line spacing and leading. Apologies are offered for any aesthetic flaws, as well as the sometimes confusing nature of jumbled lines atop each other. Rest assured we are hard at work to correct this problem.

Dinner en homage Rosalind Russell








Our series of homage dinners here at Cafe Drake have been very popular with visitors, and we can think of no one more deserving of a culinary tribute than the legendary film actress Rosalind Russell. Always a standout and always much-loved in these locales, Russell brought a snappy wit and urbane sense of humor to almost every role she played, always drawing the viewer in to her world of unstrained glamour. Perhaps it is this rare combination of accesibility and elegance that continue to endear her to legions of fans long after her physical demise. The American fashion designer James Galanos recently remembered his muse in a Vanity Fair profile with this description: " She just glowed. Roz was tall with a beautiful figure, great legs and the ability to talk until 3 in the morning about everything and nothing." Rosalind lives on in her many marvelous movies and - we hope - via a special dinner constructed around her dynamic persona.


Suggested Filmography (among dozens): Night Must Fall (1937); The Women (1939); His Girl Friday (1940); Auntie Mame (1958); Gypsy (1962).
ROSALIND RUSSELL DINNER PARTY
OYSTERS ON THE HALF-SHELL
In season fresh oysters can be purchased easily and economically at your local fishmonger or even most supermarkets. Use an oven mitt when opening shells though, as they can be quite stubborn we've found.
2 dozen fresh oysters, shucked on the half shell / 4 cups finely crushed ice / 1/4 cup kosher salt
MIGNONETTE SAUCE: 2 teaspoons finely crushed white pepper / 1/8 teaspoon salt / 1/4 cup dry red wine / 2 tablespoons olive oil / 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  1. Put 1 cup of ice in each of 4 large, shallow, rimmed soup bowls, or small, decorative trays and press down gently to make a level bed.
  2. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt over each bowl of ice.
  3. Place 6 oysters in their shells on each bed.
  4. Serve with small bowl of sauce.

COQ AU VIN

This pared-down and simplified version is almost as good as the more laborious classic. Cafe Drake has yet to have any complaints about this easy recipe. Serve with boiled and buttered tiny potatoes and lightly sauteed french green beans (haricots verts).


1 tablespoon vegetable oil / 1 (4 pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces / 1 teaspoon salt / 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper / 1 minced garlic clove /1 1/2 cups red wine (use the $3 Shiraz from Trader Joe's!) /1 1/2 cups chicken stock / 1 onion / 1 tablespoon cornstarch /1/3 cup water

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Season chicken parts with salt, pepper and garlic powder and saute until lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Place wine in a shallow dish or bowl. Dip chicken pieces into wine, one at a time, and return to skillet.
  3. Add any remaining wine, stock and onions, stir together and reduce heat to medium.
  4. Cover skillet and cook for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and water and add mixture to sauce to thicken; cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes and serve.

FLOATING ISLAND

This is where the work comes in, but to simplify, buy the merengues at a reliable nearby bakery or pasrty shop. We've made them before at Cafe Drake, and while simple enough to prepare, they are time consuming.

FOR THE CUSTARD SAUCE:


4 egg yolks /1/4 c. sugar /Pinch of salt /2 c. milk /1 tsp. vanilla /1/4 tsp. lemon rind, grated fine

  1. Beat the egg yolks slightly, then add the sugar and salt.
  2. Scald the milk and slowly add to the egg mixture, whisking to prevent yolks from curdling.
  3. Place the custard in a double boiler, stirring constantly until it begins to thicken and coat the back of a spoon.
  4. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add the vanilla and lemon rind.
  5. Chill thoroughly until ready to use.
  6. Note: This is not a firm custard, but a sauce. It must not be permitted to boil at any time.

FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE:
1 c. sugar /1/2 c. water

  1. Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Stir well and then heat until sugar turns a golden brown. Do not stir while sugar mixture is boiling or it may crystallize.
  2. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

To assemble:

  1. Pour a bit of the custard sauce into a deep dessert plate.
  2. Float a meringue on each pool of custard.
  3. Dipping a fork into the caramel sauce, drizzle a web of the caramel sauce atop the meringues.

Portuguese A Go-Go



Cafe Drake never thought too much of the cuisine of Portugal, and rarely ate it outside of the occasional overnight in Providence (or another city in Rhode Island). Singularly unsophisticated in our opinion, burdened with an addiction to excessive amounts of garlic and chorizo, the food of this Mediterranean nation never rang our bell, but as of late we've warmed to the subtler dimensions of a few national dishes. Above are photos of a haphazard Night in Lisbon-themed meal we recently constructed: cubes of monkfish were lightly simmered in a classic sauce of tomatoes, bell peppers and chopped green olives; boiled wheatberries and red onions were added to the mix to create a most hearty and healthy stew. Sides included kale (surely the most beloved vegetable in all of Portugal) poached with tomatoes (another ubiquitous ingredient) and a salad of watercress, almonds and sliced oranges. Below we offer two more favorite Portuguese recipes, all delicious when enjoyed with the famous Vinho Verde of the region - a most inexpensive white wine, barely matured and containing a hint of effervescence.





CALDO VERDE


This is the famous soup of Portugal: simple but strangely satisfying on a chilly evening. In the recipe below we've omitted the chorizo sausage, as we prepared this recently for a dinner populated with guests abstaining from pork. Add if you like for a deeper complexity to the soup.


3 cups of water / 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth / 3 cups of kale chopped or shredded /3 or 4 med. size potatoes, peeled and halved /1 tbsp. of salt /2 tbsp. of olive oil




  1. In a pan deep enough add water, olive oil, salt and potatoes.


  2. Cook until the potatoes are tender.


  3. When the potatoes are cooked mash them lightly.


  4. Once this is done add them back to the pan. Stir in and bring to a boil.


  5. Add the kale and boil uncovered for 15 minutes.


  6. If desired, garnish with green onions and grated cheese (Manchego, Gruyere or Parmesan-Reggiano will all do nicely).




NEW ENGLAND FISH CHOWDER


A staple all across coastal Rhode Island, home to the largest percentage of fishermen of Portuguese descent. What Mexican food is to California, what Indian is to England, so is Portuguese cuisine to the Ocean State. Far from fancy the following stew is nonetheless perfect for a weeknight meal with only crusty bread and a green salad needed as sides.



1 lb. cod or haddock fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces /1 lb. of small red potatoes /2 tsp. olive oil /3 tbsp. chopped Canadian bacon /1 red bell pepper, cut into med. pieces /1 green bell pepper, cut into med. pieces /2 or 3 cloves of garlic /2 tbsp. of flour /11/2 cups of milk /1/2 tsp. salt /1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper




  1. Cook the potatoes until just tender, using a medium pot.


  2. In a large skillet heat the oil ( don't burn it) (use med. heat).


  3. Put in bacon, peppers, garlic and cook until the peppers are somewhat soft.


  4. Add flour into pan, stir into cooked ingredients.


  5. Now stir in milk, salt and cayenne pepper. Bring all to a boil.


  6. Place the fish on top, reduce to simmer, cover and cook until the fish is opaque, around 5 minutes or so. DO NOT BOIL THE FISH, as it will fall apart and lose both texture and flavor in the ruinous process.




Sunday, March 18, 2007

Belated Birthday 2007

Cafe Drake recently missed our mother's birthday dinner and trip to Atlanta due to winter weather and Delta's usual problematic flight plans. Nonetheless we'll send Best Wishes now, and post photos and the menu from the special dinner after our re-scheduled upcoming visit in early April. Plus, a couple of local restaurant reviews to boot!

Julian Sellers Walks!


With Julian Sellers about to turn 1 year old, we'll be sure to post pictures from the upcoming birthday bash at nearby McGorlick Park here at Cafe Drake. Meanwhile we present a very cute and recent photo submitted by Daddy David, and two recipes featuring one of young Jules' favorite foods - the mango.







MANGO PORK TENDERLOIN


Talk about an easy recipe with minimal ingredients! Use two tenderloins and double the portions for all else if cooking for 4 or more.

2 medium ripe mangoes / 1 Pork tenderloin, about 3/4 pound / olive oil / salt and pepper to taste / hot pepper sauce



  1. Put pulp of 1 mango in food processor or blender. Cut the other mango into small cubes.

  2. Trim pork tenderloin and slice into 1-inch thick medallions. Flatten slices lightly with hand.

  3. Add a small amount of olive oil to a large skillet and heat on medium-high.

  4. Brown pork for 1 minute on each side. Season each side with salt and pepper to taste.

  5. Reduce heat and cook pork another 5 minutes to cook through. Remove to a plate and add mango puree to the skillet or saucepan.

  6. Cook puree about, scraping up brown bits of pork, for about 30 seconds. Add several drops of hot sauce and the mango cubes.

  7. Toss cubes in puree while heating through.

  8. Spoon sauce over pork and serve with hot cooked rice.




MANGO SMOOTHIE


This is a summertime favorite for quick, no-fuss, before-work breakfast at Cafe Drake. Follow the measurements below for proper consistency.


1 cup mango, peeled and diced / 1 cup plain or vanilla nonfat yogurt / 1/2 cup crushed ice
soymilk or milk, optional



  1. Place mango, yogurt and ice in a blender and process until smooth and drinkable, about 1 full minute usually.

  2. If too thick, add a small bit of soy or regular milk and blend further.

It's the Details That Matter





Sometimes it's the little things that count. The sum of several parts. Attention to a tiny detail that can magnify the success of a meal or an evening with friends and family. Maybe it's the right scent from a particular candle greeting guests as they settle into cocktails in the living room, or the subtle tones of a flower arrangement gracing the table. Certainly big things come in small packages when we're discussing condiments. Sauces, relishes or quick pickles can enhance every meal and, if paired correctly with more substantial fare, elevate dining to the level of the Sublime. A few simple recipes below will add spark to your (no doubt already delicious) next dinner party.
FIERY ONION RELISH
Great with all Indian dishes or anytime you need a spicy pick-me-up for meats or most vegetables. Try a dollop atop a baked potato along with sour cream and butter.
1 large onion, peeled and chopped finely / juice of 1/2 lemon / 1 t. paprika / 1 t. cayenne pepper /salt / vegetable oil
  1. Combine onion, lemon juice and spices in a large bowl. Add salt to taste and just a few drops of vegetable oil. Stir well.
  2. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour or longer before serving.

BLACKBERRY BBQ SAUCE

Serve this with anything even remotely barbequed - such as grilled chicken or fish. Livens up (without alot of extra fat and calories) baked poultry or pork chops nicely.

1 1/4 cups blackberries / 1/4 cup catsup / 1/4 cup honey / 1/4 cup packed brown sugar / 1/4 cup minced ginger / 1 teaspoon pepper / 1 or 2 teaspoons hot sauce, to taste / salt, to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a blender and reduce to about 1 1/2 cups total over medim heat.

SOY AND HONEY DRIZZLE

This is the sort of concentrated "sauce" you often find swirled across a dinner plate, a favorite of chefs looking for a big boost to a simple entree. Sprinkle a generous teaspoon or so over broiled flank steak or pan-fried salmon.

2 tablespoons honey / 1 tablespoon good soy sauce / juice of 1/2 lime / 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour in 1/2 cup of water and stir well.
  2. Reduce to about 1/2 cup total.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

March 2007 Soundbites from Cafe Drake

Brooklyn Label (corner of Franklin & Java Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn 11222)

Occupying a vast, high-ceilinged first floor of a Gothic apartment building on Greenpoint's Franklin Street (once desolate, now increasingly commercialized), Brooklyn Label is far more unique than its bland name suggests. A wall of picture windows and the afore-mentioned dizzingly lofty ceilings keep things airy and spacious feeling, despite a floor plan of tables densely and closely packed. All the usual coffeeshop beverages seem professionally done, and several oddities are thrown into the mix (rosehip soda anyone?); the breakfast/brunch only menu is creative with a few novel twists on morning standbys. Recently, an open-faced Steak Sandwich with Bernaise Sauce ($10.95) got good reviews from Susan McKeever, while we enjoyed immensely a burger studded with pepperoni bits and slathered in a red pepper mayo ($9.95). Fries were uniformly excellent - crisp and salty and worthy of the best bistros in town. A congenial local crowd and friendly waitstaff make Brooklyn Label a brunch destination to keep in mind.







Sailor marvels at a white world during the very recent snowstorm.

Kitchen Delight (167 North 8th Street, Williamsburg, NY 11211, 718/486-3663)
We're not certain Williamsburg needed another burger and sandwich shop, but a new one has sprung up in the former space of much-mourned Bean, just off the hectic avenue of Bedford. Modernist design (the menu is etched on a wall of glass running the entire length of the restaurant) fails to save the sub-standard food being slopped out of Kitchen Delight - a name so ironic it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth long after the greasey remnants of the Philly Cheese Steaks ($6.50) have been washed away with a flat soda. Too bland to be redeemed by any number of extras offered (hot peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers etc), the classic sandwich is a boring version of something-not-that-hard-to-do-right. Burgers and fries and suspicious-looking green salads round out the limited repetoire here.


A Punch to Quench the Thirst of Many Guests (and preserve the contents of your wallet)

Sometimes you need to provide libations for a hefty crew . . . say cocktails in honor of a housewarming, or a birthday fete for a Guest of Honor with many mutual friends. The following swill has always worked for us; just keep extra pitchers in the fridge to replenish the punch bowl as needed (and ziplock bags of floating granish as well). The concoction is STRONG, so after the first round steadily add ice cubes to the bowl, keeping the drinks chilled and guests less likely to snatch your lampshades. Double or triple the recipe depending on the size of your crowd.

CUCUMBER VODKA PUNCH
1 liter vodka (not the cheapest, obviously, but a moderately priced bottle will suffice) / 1 large can pineapple juice / 1 bottle white grape juice / 3-4 cucumbers, scrubbed and sliced thinly / 1 bottle seltzer / 1 bunch mint, washed and leaves removed from stems / 1 lemon
  1. Place vodka and sliced cucumbers in a large container that can be sealed with a top. If you don't have such, place in a large saucepan and cover very tightly with plastic wrap AND aluminum foil. Place in a dark, cool area for 2 hours before guests arrive.

  2. Just prior to the start of the festivities, place half of the vodka/cucumber mixture in a large punchbowl and add 1/2 each above measurements of the remaining ingredients.

  3. Garnish with sprigs of mint or basil and thin slices of lemon.

  4. Refill as needed, always keeping proportions on ingredients intact (this can be difficult if you're quaffing freely yourself so pay attention!)



The Newest Martini on the Block
Great for a brunch of mid-afternoon swig. Serve with tiny cheese sandwiches or anchovy toasts. Looks minorly complicated below, but is a breeze to assemble and the infused gin should last you awhile. (p.s. That was a joke). Vodka lovers substitute the gin for your favorite spirit.
EARL GREY MARTINI
INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 ounces Earl Gray Gin Infusion (see recipe)
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
1 lemon twist, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:
Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add the gin infusion, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white. Shake for approximately 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the twist.

Earl Grey Gin Infusion

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1 liter Tanqueray gin
INSTRUCTIONS:
Add tea leaves to the bottle of gin.
Replace cap and shake well. Allow the tea to steep in the gin for 2 hours; strain gently to remove the tea leaves. Do not press the tea leaves to extract excess gin -- this can make the infusion bitter.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Another Last-Minute Meal

There's not much better than an impromptou meal with a close friend late on a Saturday; inherent in the event is the mutual decision to eschew the frantic social scene for a quiet time with ones we hold dear. Jen L. (seen above poised very chic, with a fresh dacquiri and smoke) joined us for such a night recently, and we whiled away the evening eating, drinking and watching rare vids on YouTube (David Bowie circa-1973 "Life on Mars" - so beautiful you must stream; druggy Rolling Stones concert footage of "Gimme Shelter" and much much more). Dinner was an informal affair - served family style at the table - of sauerkraut baked with kielbasa, apples and onions, cauliflower in a walnut dressing and roasted sweet potatoes. Multiple demitasses of espresso and good dark chocolate to follow, chased with a selection of NY State cordials.

Thordis Warms Our Hearts (and Stomachs)

A backdrop of freshly painted walls - who couldn't love a pink kitchen?


Dessert prepared for the oven.
March 10, 2007 Dinner at the Home of Thordis Adelsteinsdottir
Tofu Steamed with Oranges and Fresh Rosemary
Slow-Cooked Fish with Potatoes and Herbs
Asparagus
Brocolli
Baby Carrots
Baked Polenta
Roasted Pears with Milk and Dark Chocolates and Whipped Cream
Icelandic Schnapps
Champagne
Espresso

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Wee Lassie Sloane


With her Mom's Gaelic heritage, and St. Paddy's just around the (chilly) corner, Cafe Drake posts a couple of favorite recipes below in honor of Sloane Lily McKeever-Duys. Enjoy with a few pints of Guiness to keep those Irish eyes a-smiling.
BAKED PARSNIPS
Good with any roasted meats or fish. If extra richness is desired, add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream before baking.
2.5 lbs of good quality Parsnips / 2 tablespoons Butter / 1 cup of Beef Stock / Salt, Pepper and Nutmeg
  1. Peel and quarter the parsnips and boil for 15 minutes, but do not let them cook completely (par-boil).
  2. Place in a large dish and add the Beef Stock , salt, pepper and nutmeg as required.
  3. Spread with Butter and cook for 30 minutes on a lowish oven heat.

IRISH OMELETTE

This is so nice as a starter alongside a simple salad of shredded cabbage and sliced apples (dress with a vinegarette). Also great sliced into wedges and served with beef stew. Figure one omelette per two diners.

4 large eggs /1 large mashed potato /some lemon juice /1 Tablespoon of Chives /Salt and Pepper /1 Tablespoon of Butter

  1. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks.
  2. Add them to the mashed potato, mixing thoroughly and then add the lemon juice, chives, and salt and pepper.
  3. Melt the butter in a pan.
  4. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and stir them into the potato mixture.
  5. Cook the mixture until golden and then run under the broiler to finish and puff it up.
  6. Serve immediately

WOODLAND SALAD

This is an adaptation of a dish we sampled at a Bed & Breakfast years ago in the Scottish Borders country. It seems appropriate enough for an elegant St. Patrick's Day dinner, given the two countries' geographic proximity.

Ingredients: Champagne Vinaigrette • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil• 1 tablespoon walnut oil• 1 tablespoon chopped garlic• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 4 duck breasts, or 1 pound chicken or duck livers • Salt and freshly ground black pepper • 2 tablespoons cooking oil• 2 slices bacon, chopped • 2 tablespoons chopped chives • 2 tablespoons chopped scallions • 8 mushrooms, sliced • Mixed greens • 1 cup croutons

  1. In a small jar with a lid, combine the vinegar, oils, garlic, shallots, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Shake to blend and reserve.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  3. Sprinkle the breasts with salt and pepper. In a frypan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the breasts and cook on both sides until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer breasts to a baking pan and cook in the oven for about 5 minutes. Remove and keep warm.
  4. Return the frypan to stove top, add the bacon and cook until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towel to drain.
  5. Reduce heat, add chives, scallions, and mushrooms to the pan, and cook to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables to paper towel to drain.
  6. In a saucepan over low heat, warm the vinagirette for 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Arrange the lettuces on 4 salad plates. Divide the bacon and vegetables over the lettuce. Slice the breasts and arrange on top of salad.
  8. Pour the warm vinaigrette over the meat and garnish with croutons.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Rambling Man

Cafe Drake is on the road this month, away three out of four weekends, so please forgive the spotty updates (or lack thereof). We'll be returning with plenty of restaurant reviews from Atlanta to Philly and beyond, plus pics and new recipes as soon as possible. In the meantime we'll do our best to post a few old favorites and such. Be patient please and anticipate an even bigger and better site this Spring!