Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hit the Links (Part I)


No we're not golfing these days at Cafe Drake (rather, (web) Surf's Up, dudes) but referring to the (now) annual list of partner sites and homepages of friends and online acquaintances with whom we share an affinity or bond. All are well worth a visit and saying Hello and tell them Cafe Drake sent you. Trust me they're all on our side! Yes, we are partial. (If you're not on this list and you're offended please don't be: it's only Part 1, far from comprehensive and email us your URL as reminder PLEASE.) And besides, Look, you can't stay at Cafe Drake forever, house guests like fish start to smell after three days, you need some fresh air, it's a big world out there etc etc etc. Go roam the internet with the highly selective guide below.

Thordis Adalsteinsdottir: blog and professional page of the artist's ever inspiring output. Check those archives.


David Herbert: Check the latest creations of this Brooklyn-based sculptor. Video clips as a bonus!


Shoplifter: Icelandic dreamy output from the (now) New York based artist, Mom and longtime pal.


Meridith Pingree: Join the Art Reactive Kinetic Sculpture Drawing Movement.

SurfaceImage: Old skool compadre and scintillating Flog of NY after hours photography.


Macaque: We keep hyping the Chinatown EP and it's about to drop, ya'll! Lovely ladies and melodies to melt over.


Asmunder of Iceland: Multi-discipline artist, well-traveled Viking provocateur, friend and (dark) influence of Cafe Drake.


Unofficial Fan Page of Tom Hardy: Talented and quirky actor on the verge of stardom with Issues - most of which are strangely endearing.


Asdis Gunnarsdottir: Dear friend who we geographically miss and who you'll feel closer to via a site chocked with moody video pieces, photographs and much more.


CreatureCo: The remarkable illustrations of graphic novelist Lisa Weber, a gal with unique baroque styling and someone you want to sit next to at dinner.


Christina Dallas: Nearly creepy but always beautiful photographs and more from a neighboring artist and friend.


Kai Vierstra: Double-fisted Bushwick artist with BOTH online portfolio AND blog (scan here for link).


Gunnhildur Hauksdottir: Berlin-based Icelandic artist, enchanting raconteur and Mom to a kitten named Monkey.


Audrey Sellers: A guest at Cafe Drake since knee-high to a cricket; now pens blog entries wise beyond her (slight) years.


Natalie S: Blogs with a nostalgic bent full of wistful poetry and verklempt prose.


The Observer: The tattletale of NYC and only local newspaper we read religiously (sorry, Times, every other day at Cafe Drake)


Gawker: Because you read it anyway. The antidote to Perez Hilton's vapid e-rag covering Left Coast denizens no one cares about anymore anyway.


Camp Blood: Crooklyn neighbor Buzz maintains the funniest and most comprehensive horror film website and the only one you'll ever really need. Addictive gallows humor with (un) healthy doses of self-deprecation.


Satan's School for Girls: Our sister site and the stepchild of Cafe Drake (we need to update WE KNOW - more to come fer shure).


Sailor Page's Homepage: Another neglected website we promise to pimp shortly. Say Hi to all of Sailor's global friends after cooing over his adorable pics.


Groovy Age of Horror: They hate us and took us off their links list, but we're still addicted to this highly visual and mammoth ode to cheap paperback chillers of yesteryear.


Buddhafly: Cafe Drake co-conspirator from WAY back in the day, Jorge may need to refresh this personal site but pretty purples and pinks and details on this graphic designer/jazz musician.


Nurse Ratched's Place: Sanity is Madness put to good use. Very odd obsessive blog.


312 Square Feet: Our fave food blog and a place we're always honored to dine.


BruceLaBruce: Very adult, highly transgressive, for those with open minds. Which means all of you basically.


Apartment Therapy: Addictive and a great killer of hours, this website boasts at least 4 homes we know. You may never leave.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Game for a Gamey Dinner, Anyone?





For those of you in Cafe Drake's neck of the woods (Northeast Corridor) simply read below and sigh in commiseration:

October - the beloved month that ends with all things we love spooky and promises annually the reintroduction in our lives of crisp and cool air, cashmere and Claret - disappointed majorly in 2007 with heat, humidity and constant drizzle. Upsides included still burgeoning greenmarkets and determined party hosts battling against the climate catastrophe. The few chilly days were taken full advantage of at Cafe Drake with autumnal meals and cozy nights under wool throws warmed by Calvados, cute friends and creamy kitty Sailor Page. Happily the month is going out appropriately, and we decided upon a simple weeknight dinner celebrating ingredients in season. David Sellers joined us (bottle of bubbly in hand - yea!) for a menu beginning with Maple Leaf cocktails (golden Dominican rum and orange juice doused with grenadine syrup to affect the color of fall foliage) and continuing through a starter course of Frissee Salad with Buttermilk-Parmesan Dressing and Roasted Asparagus. The powerful tasting entree was a bold platter of venison sausage (straight from the farm in Rockland County and deeply "wild" tasting, the deer flesh ground with the liver, spices and dried cherries), Yukon Gold roasted potatoes and pan-fried orchard-fresh apples. You'll be glad to know Sailor Page did not disappoint with his adventuresome taste buds and devoured the leftover tail-ends of the woodland sausage! As if we thought a cat counting curry as his favorite flavor profile would shy away from sylvan mammilia!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Curried Celery Root Soup


Another slap dish recipe from Cafe Drake, this little gem (modesty be damned) was concocted tonight in our home as a light autumn rain fell outside the kitchen windows. Who knows where to credit the inspiration? The cool weather or the booty hauled from our local greenmarket earlier in the day? Variations we've sampled at restaurants and friends' homes? The delectable celery root mash made by our Mother for 2006 Christmas Eve dinner? The bottle of Rangpur gin we worked through while "building" the soup? Whatever the divine origin, the result is silky smooth and gentle enough in celery flavor to impress even us (those who know Cafe Drake well know our loathing for celery - we're still wondering if we were on glue the first time we purchased celery root and discovered its mild taste to be yummy), although the version below is quite spicy; some may wish to tame the heat by using less chiles. Vegetable stock was employed here because we had a can in the pantry - feel free to substitute chicken broth but this is so good a substitution is not recommended.

First one must face the daunting appearance of the celery root itself. Use a standard size - 1 celeriac (another term for this root veggie) usually equals roughly 1 1/2 pounds. Things go smoother if you trim each end and then remove gnarled outer layer with a sharp knife, standing the root on its end (similar to the process for pineapple).

Add chopped, peeled celery root to a medium saucepan, along with 1/2 onion (chopped), 1 large apple (peeled and chopped), 2 fresh green chiles, 2 dried red chiles and a few of the celery leaves saved from the root.

Cover all with vegetable stock (1 14 1/2 oz. can) and whole milk (about 1/2 cup). Add 1-2 T good curry powder and some salt and a T or so of sugar to the mix. Bring to a steady simmer for 30 minutes.


Allow to cool, puree in blender, reheat on stove gently and stir in 3 T of heavy cream. Season to adjust and serve hot.

Smooth(ie)r Hangovers

Now that Fall has rolled around once again, Cafe Drake's hometown of NYC kicks into high gear with plenty of holiday gatherings (Halloween, Thanksgiving, soon, Christmas) and cocktail parties galore. If you're anything like us a drinks party means three things: delish libations and victuals, sparkling conversations spent catching up with dear friends and vicious hangovers. Experience has proven the efficacy of B-vitamins swallowed one for every two hours of drinking, and many of our compadres swear by the Holiday Fixer-Upper (after an office Christmas party start the next morning with 7-Up and white rum), but Cafe Drake KNOWS the following recipe to be the kindest, gentlest way to face The Morning After. Loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, easy on even the most roiling of tummies, this smoothie should be followed by a large strong cup of sweetened coffee. Wash face, moisturize, don sunglasses and you're ready to head out to any Sunday champagne brunch.

HANGOVER SMOOTHIE

1 cup strawberries, blueberries or blackberries (frozen are perfect here) / 1 cup milk or soy milk (we usually find the latter more digestible) /1 cup yogurt (vanilla or blueberry) / 6 ice cubes / 1 banana
  1. Place all in a blender and process till smooth.

  2. Promise yourself you'll never drink so much again.
  3. Forget about Step 2 once you get to brunch.

Dinner en Homage: Paul Weller





Cafe Drake's "homage dinner" series remains a perennial favorite with visitors to the site, and many thanks to all those kind strangers who write with appreciation (despite our very very personal tastes which sometimes gravitate towards the mildly obscure end of fame). No minor star this month however as we salute the brains and voice behind The Jam and The Style Council and a widely acknowledged fashion icon par excellence - Mr. Paul Weller. It can be effectively argued that besides penning generation-defining classic tunes like A Town Called Malice and The Bitterest Pill (among a dozen or more), Weller single-handed introduced the larger world outside modish Brit football fans to Fred Perry shirts and black trenchcoats and ushered in the "slim fit" 20 years before Thom Browne or Hedi Slimane entered fashion school.

We didn't want to construct yet another English Isles-themed menu here based solely on a star's nationality, so in a cheeky little move we've devised a dinner drawing from England's culinary history but best suited to the lad-ish aura Weller so elegantly conveyed (and still does though naturally he's quite the old geezer now; Time stops only for Those it has delivered fully to Boredom). The food below is fun and unpretentious and should be consumed in a similar vein. For the main course of fish and fries we suggest covering the table in black-and-white newspapers: be ambitious and go to your local good kiosk for a Brit daily to lend an authentic air. No wine tonight, mates, as the beverage of choice here is lager and stout and plenty of it.




Toasted Cheese Sandwiches with Sweet Pickles

A pub and schoolchild favorite of the parsimonious Brits for decades, this simple construction rates high on flavor and possible addiction tendency.

Remove the crust from several slices of good quality wholegrain sliced bread. Toast very lightly and keep oven hot. Place several thin slices of sharp cheddar on slices of bread followed by slices of sweet pickles (bread and butter etc). Top with another slice of bread, press hard with your hand to flatten and return to hot oven until cheese is melted. Slice into strips and serve with a small green salad if you must.




Beer Battered Fish and Chips

Below are Cafe Drake's infallible recipes for fried fish and french fries. We have never once had a disappointment following these instructions but do be careful not to overcrowd the pan while deep-frying lest the oil temperature should drop radically ensuring soggy greasy bar fare of the worst sort.


1 1/2 pounds of Cod Fillets / 6 large red/new Potatoes, peeled and cut into matchsticks / 2 medium Eggs, beaten / 1 cup All-purpose Flour /1/4 cup Beer /1/4 cup Milk /1/4 cup White wine /Vegetable Oil for deep-frying /1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar /1/2 teaspoon Baking powder /Salt, kosher is REALLY best here


  1. Combine flour, eggs, beer, milk, wine, cream of tartar, salt, and pepper and mix well to make batter; cover and chill about 1 hour.

  2. Heat 2-3" oil in a large pot to 350-375 F and add potatoes; if you don't have a thermometer test by dropping a piece of potato into oil and making certain it sizzles furiously.

  3. Cook until just lightly browned, then drain well on paper toweling and keep warm.

  4. Cut Cod Fillets into 3-4" pieces; stir batter to re-mix and dip fish pieces into batter, allowing excess to drip off.
  5. Place into hot oil and fry until golden and just beginning to puff; drain well on paper towels; season fish and chips with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve hot in the traditional English way with malt vinegar.



Dessert: More Lager or Scotch served on 1 ice cube in highball glass. Repeat until everyone begins to sing Here We Go in unison and Arsenal or Manchester United shirts are revealed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thordis Gets Even Scarier in 2007


































Thordis Adalsteinsdottir recently celebrated a Birthday Weekend/Early Halloween here in Brooklyn and Cafe Drake was delighted to attend the festive costume party thrown at Thordis and David Herbert's Greenpoint pad. Revelers and well-wishers and those just happy to be younger than the birthday girl (all three over here, ya'll) showed up dressed to kill. Or as supernatural killers. Or their gory victims.

Hrappie A captured the prize for Best Costume - creative and unique in her vision per usual, Shoppie combined a scary black cloak and humpback with an even scarier photomask of an infamous Brazilian trannie/plastic surgery nightmare. As the birthdays grow in ascending numbers was it meant as a cautionary gesture for the year-older Thordis?

A quiet dinner followed the following evening at Cafe Drake where the guest of honor and David H joined us for West Indian vegetarian food: jerked tofu, okra with tomatoes and fennel seeds and sweet potatoes simmered with coconut, Scotch Bonnet chiles and sprigs of thyme. Dessert with a candle was a dense Fudge Pie with whipped cream and raspberry syrup. Plenty of bubbly was uncorked throughout the dinner and the early night ended with a scary movie and a satiated, tired Birthday Girl.

Monday, October 22, 2007

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from CAFE DRAKE!







Two of the finest perks of Halloween and late October are the reappearance of seasonal Goth Glam Queen Barbara Steele on late-night cable TV and the arrival of sweet, ripe pumpkins in markets around the globe. Above enjoy a few rare photos of Cafe Drake's favorite actress and dark muse and below some simple recipes from our creepy kitchen to yours. And a Happy Halloween to All!


PUMPKIN VINAIGRETTE

Not nearly as strange as it sounds, this creamy dressing tastes smooth and just slightly sweet. Try it over wedges of crisp romaine or other sturdy salad greens (chicory, watercress, etc). The oil to vinegar and pumpkin ratio is fairly accurate we believe, but adjust spices to your own taste.

4 Tbs Pumpkin Puree (canned, unsweetened) / 1/4 cup Vinegar- use Cider Vinegar or Balsamic Vinegar /1 Clove Garlic /1 Tsp Sugar /1/2 Tsp Salt /1/4 Tsp Black Pepper /1/2 Cup Olive Oil


  1. Finely chop or mash the clove of Garlic.

  2. Put all ingredients except the Olive Oil into a bowl.
  3. Whisk all ingredients together. Mix well.

  4. Add Olive oil and whisk well.



PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING WITH CARAMEL SAUCE

It seems every restaurant on the planet is currently featuring a unique spin on bread pudding. This is both tasty and fairly novel and -we predict - a dish you'll prepare over and over for gushing guests.


2 cups half and half /1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin /1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar /2 large eggs /1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice /1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon /1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract /10 cups 1/2-inch cubes egg bread (about 10-ounces) 1/2 cup golden raisins

for the sauce: 1 1/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar /1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter /1/2 cup whipping cream

  1. For bread pudding: Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk half and half, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and vanilla extract in large bowl to blend.

  2. Fold in bread cubes. Stir in golden raisins. Transfer mixture to 11x7-inch glass baking dish. Let stand 15 minutes.
  3. Bake pumpkin bread pudding until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, prepare caramel sauce: Whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts.
  5. Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.
  6. Sift powdered sugar over bread pudding. Serve warm with caramel sauce.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dinner with David & Natalie






Although glimpses of Fall still teasingly appear and disappear in this part of the world Cafe Drake calls home, we fully embraced our inner Autumn with the following meal prepared especially for D & N.


MID-OCTOBER DINNER WITH DAVID & NATALIE SELLERS

Rum Orange Fizzes
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds



Watercress Salad with Sweet Onion Dressing and Shaved Bermuda Onions, Feta and Sundried Tomatoes



Duck Ragout with Whole Wheat Egg Noodles



Morbier Cheese Sandwiches with Honeycrisp Apples

Monday, October 15, 2007

Breaking Up Is Easy To Do



"The intermezzo, in the 18th century, was a comic operatic interlude inserted between acts or scenes of an opera seria. These intermezzi could be substantial and complete works themselves, though they were shorter than the opera seria which enclosed them; typically they provided comic relief and dramatic contrast to the tone of the bigger opera around them, and often they used one or more of the stock characters from the opera or from the commedia dell'arte."

- Wikipedia


Differing from the amuse bouche both in size and substance and serving as culinary harbinger of Nothing, an intermezzo course allows whimsical chefs the opportunity to throw a curve ball mid-meal. The two recipes below are our current top surprises in the kitchen, always to be placed in front of guests unannounced and without complex introduction.



SHERRIED GRAPES


Serve these nestled next to a thin slice of the highest quality dry and salty cheese you can afford, an aged goat's milk Gouda for example. Especially nice after a soup or salad course and before a meaty entree of pork or lamb.


1/2 lb. seedless purple grapes / 2-3 T. high quality sherry vinegar / pinch of sugar



  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

  2. Line a cooking sheet with foil.

  3. Cut grapes into small clusters and toss with vinegar and sugar.

  4. Roast in oven about 15 minutes or until grapes begin to shrivel and caramelize. Careful not to burn.



SCALLOPS WITH BOURSIN AND RADISH


Rich and intense, make sure these morsels don't overwhelm the course to follow.


5-6 red radishes, sliced into thin matchsticks / 3-4 T. boursin cheese / 4 large sea scallops



  1. Mix radish matchsticks with cheese.

  2. Season scallops with salt and pepper and pan-sear about 3 minutes on each side in very hot, oiled cast-iron skillet. If you prefer the scallops can be cooked 2 minutes per side but the tops should be very well browned.

  3. Top each scallop with cheese and radish mixture and serve on plain white saucers or dessert plates.

Church of Seitan (a/k/a Cafe T & D)



Cafe Drake always enjoys skipping down Driggs Avenue past the leafy park to Cafe Thordis & David, a place where healthy meals are served graciously alongside unhealthy amounts of liquor. Red wine, toasted pumpkin seeds and madly friendly kitty Daphne kicked a Friday off the right way pressing all our happy buttons. First up was a composed Salad Caprese made with salty fresh mozzarella, ripe plum tomatoes and massive leaves of fresh basil. Seitan with Chiles and Baked Acorn Squash was a delicious entree, sided with a crunchy salad of shredded Chinese cabbage and onions tossed in a toasty sesame vinaigrette. More good wine, hearty conversation and a grappa di Chianti makes parting sweet sorrow.

Sunday in the (Sunset) Park with Susan & Sloane



Sunday found Cafe Drake in Sunset Park, Brooklyn visiting Susan and Henry and offspring Sloane, touring the neighborhood on a crisp autumn day and grabbing a sneak peak at the McKeever-Duys' brand new pad. Henry is speckling and building and wiring the place to perfection while Susan has picked a warm color palette of varied shades to compliment the home's light airiness and spacious spread. Before grabbing a quick drink at a local watering hole whose vintage 1950s signage promised more retro charm than the dank interior delivered, we lunched at Maria's Bistro Mexicano (886 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11232, 718/438.1608). Warm service immediately made us feel at home in the unjustifiably deserted restaurant; the same service proved spotty by the meal's finale but being rushed out from your table is not a worry at this lazy eatery. Just try getting that check!

Good salsa (fire-roasted tomatoes, pureed dried chiles) and chips are complimentary, and large portion of the made-to-order guacamole is a requisite; served in a traditional molcajete (mortar crafted from porous volcanic rock) the dip is loaded with creamy chunks of avocado, spicy green chiles, sweet onions, juicy scarlet tomatoes and fresh cilantro. $7 buys you a weekend brunch, complete with endless cups of deep, rich coffee tweaked subtly with ground canela (cinnamon sticks). The Chile Relleno was very nice and surprisingly complex in flavor, from the eggy batter to a mixture of cheeses stuffed inside and all crowned with a sweet-tart tomato salsa. A Stuffed Pork Loin topped with poached eggs was tender and novel, but undersalted and saddled with runny egg whites. Perfectly fine black beans and rice are served with most entrees. The Salmon Ennegrecido ($13.95) got previous good reviews from Susan (in an orange-chile sauce; "perfectly cooked") and the judicious menu offers several unusual Southern Mexican specialties we have our eye on in the future.