Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mojito Better Blues

The ONE thing we do agree with outmoded New York magazine (see June 2007 Tidbits posting below) on is the assertion that it's unlikely the Mojito will soon be replaced as the most requested summer drink. While we've made the standard version for years at Cafe Drake, in the new millennium it seemed necessary to formulate a few variations. Two of our favorites are listed below for your delectation. The ultra-quirky first beverage was sampled recently at Paloma restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, while the orange-scented mojito has long been a summer staple.


The ingredients here are decidedly atypical to the mojito, but the basic technique of preparation is similar, and the burst of tart lime adds a familiar element. This is our best recreation of a cocktail new to Cafe Drake and first enjoyed mere weeks ago. If you find improvements to this loose recipe, please email us or post via the Comments button for all our visitors.

1 1/4 oz Kazkar Feni cashew apple liqueur /2 apple slices /2 tsp sugar /4 - 6 oz apple juice /1/2 a juicy lime (roll on flat surface to release more liquid)

  1. Crush the apple slices with the sugar in the bottom of a highball glass.

  2. Stir thoroughly and top with ice.

  3. Add the Kazkar Feni cashew apple liqueur, top off with apple juice and stir. Squeeze 1/2 a lime as a floater on top.

  4. Garnish with an apple wheel and lime wedge, and serve.


Another twist on the standard mojito, the mint leaves provide a friendly flavor strongly reminiscent of the old standby.

1 1/2 oz orange-flavored vodka of your choice, Absolut Mandrin is nice here / juice of 1 lemon / 1 T. bar sugar (or slightly less if a dryer drink is desired /3 oz Sprite / 1 lime wedge /4 mint leaves

  1. Add mint and lime wedge into Collins glass, then muddle with vodka.

  2. Fill glass with ice. Add half Sprite (or 7-up) and fill the other half with lemon juice and sugar.

  3. Shake into a mixing pint glass or metal shaker and pour.

Dinner en Homage James Mason

According to emails from our many unknown visitors around the globe - unknown only in the sense we've yet to physically meet - our single most popular feature at Cafe Drake remains the homage dinners, always lovingly constructed in honor of those who have touched us deeply with their talent, style and presence. Much thought goes behind these postings which originated as caprices, so we don't get the chance to create as many as you'd obviously like. But here goes another, paying respect to our beloved James Mason (and fave of Cafe galpal Yolie Hunt). With over a hundred films to his credit, a humble suggested ESSENTIAL filmography includes: The Night Has Eyes (1942), East Side, West Side (1949), The Prisoner of Zenda (1952), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), North by Northwest (1959), Lolita (1962), Georgy Girl (1964) and Salem's Lot (1979). For an actor who spent much of his career portraying villains and complicated anti-heroes, Cafe Drake presents the following moody, warm-weather meal. Evening gowns for women, tuxes for gentlemen recommended, and should you choose to recreate this themed dinner, serve iced champagne throughout every course. Bold black-and-white ambiance may also be featured via strategically placed spots and up-lights.

Cold Tomato Bouillon

(Prepare several bouillon cubes in water according to package instructions. Boil longer than suggested to obtain a denser liquid. Cool slightly then press 3-4 canned peeled tomatoes through a fine mesh strainer into the broth. Add a few teaspoons Madeira or port wine to the mixture, reheat to just under a boil and chill again. Serve with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and diced green bell peppers.)

Cold Poached Salmon

(Poach fillets, skinless, in a strong chicken broth, always keeping covered and just under a simmer. This should take about 10 minutes at most. Chill in liquid then drain well on paper towels. Place on refrigerated individual dishes and top with 2-3 slices hard boiled egg. Garnish with a dollop of homemade mayonnaise and fresh dill, chervil, tarragon or parsley. Warm boiled new potatoes with butter and black pepper make a soothing, elegantly neutral and pleasant side.)

Cantaloupe Ice

(Boil 4 cups water and 1 3/4 cups sugar together until a syrup forms. This will take 5 minutes and not much more. Cool. Now blend chopped cantaloupe pieces, including accumulated juices, in a blender to achieve roughly 9 cups (about 2 very large ripe cantaloupes, maybe 3). Add 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice and 2 egg whites (no need to whip). Add this mixture to the cooled syrup. Chill for as long as you can; ideally overnight. Place in ice cream maker and freeze according as always to manufacturer's instructions. For extra elan, serve topped with a few fresh cherries marinated in 3-4 T. good brandy.) NOTE: At Cafe Drake you've noticed many ice cream and sorbet recipes in the past 2 years, and some have expressed consternation at not having an ice cream maker. As we've explained before we use a non-electric Donvier model purchased from Ebay for $15. Many varieties are available at reasonable to rock-bottom prices. Even though this is really a million dollar menu it need only cost a few bucks!

June '07 Tidbits

Another legitimately good use of the internet (besides Cafe Drake) exists at www.mr-lee-catcam.de. Thanks to Octavio for turning us on to a webpage which posts photos taken from a mini digi-cam attached to the proprietor's pet cat. Big Ups as well to Amee Spondike for an introduction to www.charlesandmarie.com , a shopping and travel information site recalling the glory years (1996-2000) of Wallpaper magazine.

And a pat on the back to ourselves after reading New York magazine's latest report on cocktail trends, which lists libations celebrated here since the August 2005 online debut of Cafe Drake: champagne based concoctions, revisited classics a la the Sidecar, pomegranate madness and tea and sake-spiked martinis. Continue to get the scoop first at Cafe Drake but throw a bone to the slow kids in the class at http://nymag.com/nightlife/articles/04/cocktails/trends.htm.

Whole Wheat Rotini with Smoked Ham and Peas

Begin by mixing a cooling medley of ruby red grapefruit juice and Bombay Sapphire gin. Stir with ice and sip 5 minutes before proceeding.

Open a 1-lb. bag of whole wheat rotini and boil in salted water for 8 minutes. Drain without rinsing and set aside.

Saute in 2-3 T. olive oil 1 chopped onion and 1/2 lb. cubed smoked ham. Salt will not be required but season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme and chopped basil leaves.

After 10 minutes lower heat and stir in 4 T. or so sour cream.

Add pasta to skillet with ham, toss all together well and add 1/2 package frozen petit peas. Season to taste.

Serve with an herb salad of romaine, mint leaves and flat leaf parsley.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dinner en homage Diana Rigg

Ever-popular cult TV icon and former Bond girl, Diana Rigg has aged gracefully into a grande dame of the British stage and small screen. Widely celebrated as a gourmand and extraordinary hostess, Rigg's London dinner parties still draw in the swankest of crowds to enjoy her lingering beauty and Continetal-inspired menus. Now we just have to somehow wrangle an invite to Cafe Rigg.



Consomme Grande Duchesse

Prepare this elegant but simple first course by boiling 2 quarts of best quality chicken stock with a sliced onion and lemon. Strain, heat to a tiny simmer, add 4 or 5 large splashes dry sherry, a few slices of poached chicken breast, shaved mushrooms and asparagus tips. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes then serve very hot with buttered dinner rolls.

Dublin Prawn Salad

1 1/2 lbs. prawns or large shrimp / 1 cup white wine / 1 onion, sliced / 1 lemon, sliced / 1 t. peppercorns of any sort / 1/4 lb. white mushrooms / 3 T. olive oil / about 1 1/2 T. lemon juice / 1/2 cup mayonnaise / 1 t. or more tomato paste / heavy cream / salt and pepper / parsley
  1. Clean shrimp and place shells in a saucepan with wine, onion, lemon, 1 t. salt and the pepercorns. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and pour over the prawns or shrimp in a second saucepan. Add water to just cover.
  2. Simmer the shellfish for 8 minutes - no longer. Cool then chill in the poaching liquid.
  3. Slice the mushrooms thinly and mix with olive oil, pepper, lemon juice and maybe a crushed garlic clove. Marinate for 2 hours or so.
  4. Flavor the mayonnaise with tomato paste and thin a bit with some heavy cream. A thick sauce should develop.
  5. Add the cold, drained prawns or shrimp and drained mushrooms to the tomato mixture.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with a bit of parsley.
  7. Serve with crusty bread.

Iced Peaches

Selected Cheeses and Water Crackers

Miki's Blind Wine Tasting

Always creative and always ready with an idea for a party, Miki Shimada hosted a weekend wine tasting party, with a cash prize for the event's biggest winner (Congratulations to Andrew - we just need to figure out how he cheated). Bottles were assembled from near and far, wrapped in tissue paper, generically labeled with letters and guests guessed as to the wine's country of origin, winery, year, grape varietal etc. Making things more difficult was the selection of some fairly esoteric vino: organic dry whites from Austria, obscure Spanish grapes, deceptive small batch South American reds etc. By the end of the evening we all felt like winners, no doubt due to Miki's hospitality, the great group gathered and plenty of tasty snacks to accompany the wines.

Le Barricou: Restaurant Review

Le Barricou ( 533 Grand Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 718/782-7372)

Cafe Drake recently dined with a lovely set of ladies at East Williamsburg's newest bistro Le Barricou. Once we found the remotely located space we settled into a table and wine and cocktails. Exhausted from a long work week (and Julie having just stepped off a thirty hour flight from China moments before), mercifully the wine was serviceable ($28 for a basic French Sauvignon Blanc) and the Manhattans ($8) large and well-made. Disappointing, doughy bread and routine butter didn't start things off with a bang, and an appetizer of Fried Calamari ($8) was tender but bland as well, rescued from disaster by a nicely spiced mayonnaise and a novel topping of chopped watercress and marinated mung bean sprouts. Similar Asian touches adorn the basic menu of bistro standbys; for example, a Grilled Salmon ($14) was shellacked with a sweet soy glaze, and resting atop knotted Chinese longbeans and tiny shrimp dumplings. Even better was an entree of pan-fried Sea Scallops ($13), each of the three moist bivalves crowned with buttered walnuts and served alongside sweet potato raviolis and grilled scallions. An obscenely rich ginger butter sauce made the entire dish sing. With a few awkward first steps, Le Barricou promises to grow into a neighborhood Cheers, the sort of place you return to again and again, not perhaps for regal decor or an of-the-moment crowd, but for the amazing prices, a handful of surefire menu options and a gracious and skilled staff.

We followed this most satisfying meal with drinks and a live performance from Macaque at Monkeytown. The show was great and the drinks very acceptable (Manhattans and Tom Collins, both $8). Jennifer and Julie wound the evening up with a nightcap at Cafe Drake itself, as you will see in the photos above.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sailor in Summer

More photos of our official mascot, lounging in the air-conditioned splendor of Cafe Drake, seen above before and after table morsels of his favorite entree - Buttermilk Fried Chicken. And many thanks to all who have enquired as to Sailor Page's health; struggling against diabetes he remains resolutely vivacious, living in the Present and enjoying life with an ease we envy. Spoiled as ever we leave him in the mornings in front of the humming and cooling window units, listening to Rufus Wainwright.

Happy Summer Solstice 2007

As pagans, Wiccans, witches and warlocks gather round the globe to celebrate the longest day of the year, Cafe Drake salutes Mother Earth with a vegetarian and Indian-influenced meal, perfectly light and spicy and seasonal. We're dining tonight on Portobello Mushroom Curry with Roasted Peppers, Mumbai Potato Salad, Sugar Snap Peas with Mint Butter and Wild Greens tossed with a sesame dressing.

Portobello Mushroom Curry
Neither red bell peppers or mushrooms are particularly indigenous to Indian cuisine, but we're rather proud of the creation, colorful and bursting with fresh flavors. As portobelloes are so meaty in texture this dish makes a splendid vegetarian entree for a gathering of friends with mixed diets.

1 T. vegetable oil / 1 T. butter / 1 t. ground cumin / 1 red bell pepper, sliced / 2 large portobello mushroom caps, sliced / 2 T. chopped cilantro / 1 T. cayenne pepper / kosher salt

  1. Heat cumin and cayenne in oil over high heat.

  2. Add mushrooms and peppers and saute for 10 minutes on medium heat.

  3. Season with salt, add cilantro to vegetables and cook for 5 minutes more.

  4. Serve piping hot.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dinner Takes All for Download

Now you can always pay $25 for the DVD at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Dinner-Takes-All-Season-Episode/dp/B000NVIWOC/ref=sr_1_1/002-3963001-3848059?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1182293125&sr=8-1), or you can download the Cafe Drake episode from July 2006 for only 2 bucks! Thanks to the good folks at Discovery Channel for making this memorable television event affordable to all. Go grab your laptop a copy at http://shopping.discovery.com/product-65357.html. Ignore the insulting synopsis but definately enjoy the free preview.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mid-June Updates

From the sister of Cafe Drake, mother of three and decades-long resident of France comes the following super simple tip: pan fry seasoned filets of salmon until almost done to your preference, then drizzle with pure maple syrup and finish off under the broiler. We gave it a try and nearly inhaled the crispy skin with its carmelized sweetness, offset by the salted fish itself. Try it with mustard mashed potatoes and barely steamed sugar snap peas for a surprising twist on a familiar flavor. Hint: sliced oranges add an additional "pop".

The nuevo Latino explosion hitting North Brooklyn is a welcome and wonderful thing. Quickly disappearing are the dubious and sometimes unhygenic diners of South Williamsburg and far east Manhattan Avenue, and rising from their greasy ashes are a new crop of sparkling clean cafes with menus full of fresh tastes. More full-service restaurant than coffeeshop is Pio Pio Riko (996 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 718/349-5925), home of the best roast chicken we've sampled in many a moon. Two diners can EASILY share the Combo Chalaco ($18.95), which consists of an entire bird, avocado salad, french fries and rice and black beans. If you can handle the starch overload, the tostones ($2.50 for a decent portion of perfectly fried and seasoned plantains) are also not to be missed. Across the street is an internet cafe more unique than most in this neighborhood, boasting not only amazing cafe con leche and rocket fuel-strong iced coffees, but the Quick Bite of Summer '07 - Venezuelan arepas ($2.50 -$5.95), thick and chewy cornmeal cakes stuffed with your choice of tangy tomatos, salty cheese or sweet cured ham. The Colombian pastries and grilled sandwiches here at Cafecito (1015 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn) look amazing as well, as does the attractive and friendly staff and bright, modernist surroundings. And the list keeps growing with Tipico BK (221 South 1st Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn), a Paraguayan self-proclaimed "yerba mate bar". Tipico BK offers much more than the highly energizing tea however; Sunday brunch is becoming a Brooklyn legend with homemade BBQ from the restaurant's backyard supplemented with a steaming cup of batido ($4), a thick and rich coffee made creamy with steamed milk.

We always love the hospitality and food at Cafe Miki-san, as evidenced above in our contented, comfortable smile.

A speedy lunch favorite at Cafe Drake is the mini cheese sandwich, constructed from slices of a good quality baguette and any manner of literally endless variations. Also useful as snacks, nibblers to accompany cocktails or quick fixes for the back-from-the-bar "Fourth Meal". Above we prepared all three with Amish yogurt cheese, mildly creamy with the hint of a tang, and topped with mango chutney and green chiles, chopped cilantro and garlic and flash-pickled onions.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Shirley (Temple) You Jest

Below you will find a few recipes for summer cocktails sans alcohol, posted more due to popular demand than personal tastes. We'd love to say these are every bit as good as the high-octane versions but you'd never believe us and we can't lie to ourselves either. Still, nice to offer to underage guests and valuable to anyone needing a sobering influence before driving or walking home.

Coconut Lips

From Beverly Hills comes this concoction aimed at all those starlets fresh from a stint in rehab.

about 2 oz. cranberry juice / same amount pineapple juice / 1 oz. heavy cream / 1/2 oz. cream of coconut / grenadine

Mix juices, cream and cream of coconut in a shaker with plenty of ice. Shake then strain into a tall thin glass. Sprinkle top with grenadine and serve with a straw.

Pellegrino Sunrise

One of the few relatively dry virgin cocktails.

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Pour one of the small bottles (4 oz.) of Pellegrino water into the glass. Add 2 oz. orange juice, the same amount of plain seltzer and don't stir to preserve the sunrise effect. Garnish with orange slices.

Royal Hawaiian

A nice liquor-free cocktail should you need it.

Fill a shaker with ice and add: 3 oz. pineapple juice, 2 oz. orgeat (almond syrup) and juice of 1/2 a small lemon. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Nice with salty mixed nuts.

Try to Tapas This!

Miki Shimada always cooks brilliant food and serves it in the warmest and most comfortable of environments. So we expected no less than the sheer perfection we enjoyed at a recent tapas-themed dinner hosted by Miki-san. As adept at Catalan delicacies as her native Japanese cuisine, Ms. Shimada wowed Cafe Drake with platter after platter of Spanish small dishes. Sweet and tart sangria kicked things off, glasses loaded with spiced wine and chunks of apples, pears, kiwi and more, and while delicious was not about to take back seat to the food: garlicky fried potatoes with tender morsels of thick octopus came swimming in an orange pool of paprika-spiked olive oil; more good oil sat in saucers for the dipping of toasted cigar-shaped baguettes seasoned with seeds and herbs; tender/crisp spinach was tossed with toasted pine nuts; shirred eggs nestled atop tomatoes and spicy sausages, hot from the oven, and tender chunks of beef filet were sauteed simply and drizzled with finely shredded radishes. Thanks once again Miki for inspiring us to greater heights at Cafe Drake!