Friday, November 30, 2007

So Much To Do Outside Our Cafe

Pink Safety Pin Coil Bracelet Ball by Meridith Pingree


With our rigorous holiday entertaining schedule Cafe Drake needs to get out of the house now and then, to seek inspiration to bring home and transmogrify into the Next Great dinner/cocktail/ Christmas/house party. Charging our batteries right now and requiring your immediate attention are:

Macaque (a/k/a MCQ) and their heavily anticipated EP, released just in time for holiday shopping. You've heard us singing the praises of MCQ for many a moon (as well as band composer Christine Hart's genius food blog 312 Sq Ft) and now it's time to visit their shiny new website and purchase your own copy of Winter 2008's must-have CD.

One of the perks of having a new friend working as a publicist for Knopf is the largess of America's greatest publishing house . . . um, the HQ closet of free books tossed like candy from a small town parade float. Absolutely essential for cold nights spent reading under the covers is hot-off-the-presses The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger. Even if you're not as obsessed with Old Hollywood as Cafe Drake, Basinger's 550+ page dissection of the studio system of the 1930s-50s will enthrall via its witty, urbane prose style alone. Chocked with delicious gossipy tidbits, the volume never loses sight of the thesis: movie stars were once crafted and molded from humble origins hinting at possible future divinity.

Cafe Drake pal Meridith Pingree has not one but two openings this weekend, both of course featuring her provocative, edgy sculptures. If you missed "Yellow Star" - an eerily compelling "interactive" piece - this summer at Supreme Trading Gallery, you have another chance to walk into/under its spell! Or take in the holiday themed annual Ornament show at Bravin Lee. Grab the details for an upcoming visit either
here or here.

R Werner Fassbinder has been a hero to Cafe Drake since we first saw his films as a child via HBO and PBS. Forget the legendary party monster we so love, the celluloid legacy left behind could convince a prohibitionist of his unique genius. Melodrama abounds at Queen's
PS1 in the manner of a gargantuan exhibit devoted to the rare 14-hour TV melodrama Berlin Alexanderplatz. You can watch a few "episodes" in various screening rooms, wander through galleries of production stills and storyboards or bravely tackle the upcoming marathon (all 14 hours in one shot)!

Showing Our Age (only for a moment)

As most of you know, Cafe Drake rolls with the times, forever updating our digital music library and often recommending to visitors the latest discoveries. Changing from month to month in our selection of pimped tunes, we pride ourselves on staying Present and forever keeping up with the latest and greatest - be it 12" singles from Cologne's cold minimalist techno clubs or Lil' Mama's newest addictive single or West London's hybrid pop star of the moment (Mika, Jamie T etc). But contemporary music - unlike books and movies and the plastic arts (which introduce themselves unbidden to anyone with eyes & minds wide open) - requires some happy effort; Cafe Drake finds we must stay diligent and scour mags/blogs/MySpace/Fuse/friends' iPods/et al to spoon out the cream of the crop. HAVING SAID THAT, if you want a dose of truly old skool 80s tacky glamour, check out our newest retro mix. Ah, takes us back to days of dancing in sleazy clubs with fake IDs, MTV when it played videos and even college radio at full blast in the morning car pool. If you have any friends over 30 spin this sweet Cafe Drake Radio (FIRZ-FM) pop confection at your next holiday dessert party

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Season's Greetings from Cafe Drake Radio - FIRZ FM

Add a little holiday sparkle to your workday or get in the mood to bake sugar cookies with Cafe Drake's 2007 Holiday Sampler at Cafe Drake Radio: FIRZ FM. Click here to listen!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sloane the (butternut) Squash


Tis the season for all manner of winter squashes and gratins as well. The recipe below is supremely easy to assemble and cooks rather quickly. Try as a vegetarian main course alongside a large green salad or as a co-star to fried chicken.

2 lbs. butternut squash, a large one, peeled /1 med. onion, finely chopped (about 1 c.) /1/2 tsp. salt /1/4 tsp. pepper /2 tbsp. butter, melted /2 eggs /3/4 c. milk /3/4 c. finely shredded Swiss cheese

  1. Halve squash lengthwise and cut into thin slices. Place slices in bowl with onion, salt, pepper and melted butter. Toss well.

  2. Spoon mixture into buttered 9-inch baking dish. Bake, covered, at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, beat eggs, milk and cheese.

  4. Remove cover from baking dish and pour cheese mixture evenly over squash.

  5. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Winning (Online) Friends (and rare photos)

Many thanks to an online admirer and friend of Cafe Drake who located us through a Word Press search for Barbara Steele. Running his own marvelous website dedicated to the greatest of cult actresses, Kurt Steller sent the stellar photo above from a 1965 press book to us via email, noting our love of both Babs and kitties! Visit his site here, and as always, say Cafe Drake sent you.

Critic Raymond Durgnat once declared that Steele’s very eyelids snarl, and the late Italian director Riccardo Freda, who worked with her twice, rhapsodized that “in certain conditions of light and color…her face assumes a cast that doesn’t appear to be quite human.” Only in horror films, of course, is that something about which to rhapsodize.And so Steele, an actress of formidable intelligence, talent, beauty and high-minded (if sometimes eccentric) standards became a not a star, not a beloved character actress or a household name (except, of course, in a few select households), but a cult icon. She is the sadomasochistic Madonna of the “cinefantastique”; the queen of the wild, the beautiful and the damned; and to her fans - let’s call them “Steelers” - the one and only true Mother of Darkness.

Unlike many lesser horror figures, Steele never reveled in her cult status. For years she fought it aggressively, refusing genre-oriented interviews and shunning the fan-boy circuit. More recently, she’s started making occasional convention appearances; sometimes she’s aloof and distant, other times she’s as nice and accessible as can be. Her devoted fans take her however they can get her, clutch their signed photographs and write worshipful encomiums such as this. Steele’s assessment of her enduring allure is as cool and astute as you would expect: “It’s not me they’re seeing. They’re casting some projection of themselves, some aspect that I somehow symbolize. It can’t possibly be me.”

-Maitland McDonagh, Alliance of Women Film Journalists

Eliza Page & the Memories of Animals Gone

Tis' the Season now to acknowledge those we're thankful for . . . and those we'll miss but not forget. Above are two previously unposted photographs of Eliza Page (click to enlarge; hit browser's Back button to return to previous page), a sweet and wonderfully loving cat who passed over earlier this Fall after a bout with cancer. Cafe Drake will always remember, on visits to our mother's home in Atlanta, Eliza's incessant need to sit atop one's lap at every opportunity, her fondness for Fromm's organic gourmet gravies and her gentle, kind nature. We also know that as long as one is remembered they never truly die, a point poignantly driven home this week by a dinner guest and old friend who brought up, in conversation, memories of Sweet Potato Page (Sailor's older brother, killed a year before Sailor's birth by a fall from a fourth-floor rooftop, leaping after a near-flying pigeon). Our previous animals are always with us, unable to touch physically perhaps but still touching our hearts, and making us better humans simply for knowing them.

Late November Soundbites

The section of this blog for those who eschew Vanity Fair in favor of Lucky magazine, sentences not paragraphs more satisfying.

A good time was had this week at The Word Exchange: U.S./Mexico Playwright Exchange Celebracion held at HERE performance space in SoHo. Hosted by LARK Theater and filled with self-congratulating writers and minor stage actors, the good time occurred primarily after excerpts from four new plays (an exception to the mediocrity was Paola Izquirdo's cabaret piece Of Princes, Princesses and Other Creatures). A surprisingly lush Mexicano feast with pails of cerveza included the following highlights: chorizo and potato flautas with an ancho chile-cream dipping sauce, superb and sharp roasted tomatillo salsa, thick and rich guacamole, mini and square tamales drizzled with pumpkin seed sauce and cheese and skewers of chicken mole.

Though it's been three weeks since we gobbled up every last drop, Cafe Drake can't get Williamsburg's Marlow & Sons Rabbit Stew ($16) out of our minds. Sweetened with butter and cream and flecked with shreds of fresh mint, the whole is topped with crostini groaning under a thick and superb green pea puree.

Almost unbelievably, Noel Coward's correspondence (thankfully well preserved and documented) is even wittier and more amusing than his many glorious plays, film scripts and song lyrics. Hot off the presses is Cafe Drake's current bedtime reading, The Letters of Noel Coward . Treat yourself via Amazon's discounted prices.

A new mix especially created for Cafe Drake's Thanksgiving celebration is available now at Cafe D Radio, FIRZ - FM. Equally appropriate for all occasions, listen to it here.

Turkey Relief

48 hours after Thanksgiving Dinner most of us are not only satiated with - but almost literally sick of - turkey and all the resourceful casseroles, sandwiches and soups concocted from the leftover bird. At times like this the more prosaic of poultry meat - the chicken - seems a welcome respite. Cafe Drake dug into the vaults for two such recipes, scrawled long ago on now yellowed, stained note cards. Both preparations below are also convenient entrees for the busy holiday season now upon us, just what you need when seasonal energies are spent shopping, wrapping presents and evenings are devoted to baking cookies and creating candies.


Serve with plain jasmine or buttered brown rice.

1 large chicken, cut into 6 pieces / 2 T. butter / 1 t. curry powder (or more if you like) / 1/2 cup plum jam / 1/4 cup cream sherry (more if mixture is too dry) / 1 thinly sliced lemon

Brown chicken in butter on all sides for about 10 minutes total. Stir curry powder into accumulated juices, then blend jam and sherry and pour over chicken. Place a slice of lemon on each piece of chicken, cover pan and reduce heat to low. Cook for 30 minutes and serve chicken with pan juices poured over all. If the juices are too thin, boil for a minute to thicken.


Perfect as part of a tapas selection or starter course; if serving as an entree, double the recipe to accommodate four.

3 slices bacon, diced / 3 T. or so butter / 1 tart green apple, peeled and sliced / 3/4 lb cleaned chicken livers / 1 T. olive oil / 3 T. DRY Marsala / 2 scallions, tops and bottoms, chopped / salt and pepper

Fry the bacon and remove and set aside. Add 1 T. of the butter and saute apples till soft. Remove and set aside once again. Dust livers with flour, put 2 T. butter and olive oil in skillet and once very hot, add livers. Cook for 5 minutes, turning frequently. Add Marsala, bacon, apples, scallions and salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes to blend flavors. Serve very hot.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

The holiday of culinary excess has rolled around once again. Check it: Cafe Drake roasted a free-range, organic 17-lb. bird, boiled up Marsala gravy from the oily residue (separated at serving sadly, but authentic at least), made whole berry cranberry sauce and our famous raisin chutney, along with two stuffings suitable for the plethora of vegetarians present ( cornbread with apples, shallots and wild mushrooms; tomato, green onion and chive). Thordis and David supplied creamy sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows and a green salad adorned with huge chunks of goat cheese, pears and walnuts (plus delish top-shelf champers). Miki kicked things off with an antipasto platter, as did Lisa Webber, slinging pear and Gorgonzola savoury warm pastries. Christine and Octavio hooked us up with mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts and - courtesy of 312 Sq Ft - a divine pumpkin spice cake with ultra-rich maple cream cheese frosting. Oct drew out Frangelico and German honey liqueurs to accompany coffee, and even after potent beginning cocktails of spiced cider and rum, we nobly plowed through numerous bottles of red (Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux), white (Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, White Rioja) and sparkling (Perrier Jouet) wine. Cafe Drake holiday traditions were upheld after wining and dining with a viewing of Judy Garland's long lost last Christmas special, ushering in the new season alongside Chipmunks and Band-Aid classic recordings. (Oh yeah, and a Pixies tribute to a bafflingly discarded band). All dining/cocktail music was courtesy of Cafe Drake Radio, FIRZ-FM.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cafe Thordis & David H Dinner for Ben

Good friend of Thordis A - Ben - popped into town for a week's visit to NYC on break from grad school in Iowa and said Icelandic hostess extraordinaire Ms. Adalsteinsdottir, along with fellow host with the most David Herbert, threw a fondue dinner party for a favorite visiting Midwesterner. Thank Heavens Cafe Drake was invited for the unique hotpot of Irish fondue (fused with Mexican flavors of jalapeno and Monterrey Jack appropriate to Mexican Independence Day), served with heaping bowls of carrots, broccoli and whole wheat bread cubes for dipping. Extra dry Martinis greeted ourselves and fellow guest Brian as we walked through the door. Dozens of cigarettes, delectable bites and various glasses of wine (red, white, bubbly) later, Thordis & David served up palette cleansing bowls of peach sorbet alongside espresso, grappa, brandy and Pimms No. 1. As if we had the right to ask for more, good conversation and party favors and sweet kitty Daphne kept all happy until the wee hours of the morning (school night).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cafe J, D & O

Cafe Drake loves homey Sunday night suppers, especially when shared with old and new friends like Jorge and Dorothy. From the warmth and splendor of Jorge's new mod co-op, encouraged by Cafe Manahan mascot Ocho, we threw together an altogether too salty red clam sauce over whole wheat rotini. Luckily Jorge saved the day (or night) with an ample antipasto platter, spinach and bleu cheese salad and chocolate/raspberry ice cream and coffee for dessert.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Indeed, Part II

Vaguely Chinese Dinner with Thordis & Jorge


Aged Dry Provolone
Asian Pear Rob Roys

Sea Scallops with Orange-Sherry Sauce
Shredded Caramelized Brussels Sprouts
Roasted Shallots

Chinese 5-Spice Apple and Pear Crisp
Maple Whipped Cream

Small Batch Single Barrel 10 Year Bourbon

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Restaurant Review: Regal Indian Fare

Banjara (97 First Avenue, New York, NY 10003)

Cafe Drake adores all things Indian as most of you know, especially the dazzling plethora of dishes comprising the world's most complex cuisine (typical Indian lunches even in remote villages typically offer 12+ dishes not including bread, rice and any number of condiments). With hundreds of East Asian restaurants in New York's five boroughs, we've made it a point to consistently try as many as possible, often following leads from local papers, Chowhound and other fanatical message boards. Additionally, it's a rare visit to any city or town - domestic or abroad - that doesn't find Cafe D at least once sampling the local Indian fare.
Perhaps that might explain (if not entirely excuse) the occasional minty fit thrown when served sub-standard sub-continental grub - a travesty given the plethora of good to great options available nearly worldwide. Our hometown is never going to seriously compete or course with the banquet of London curry shops, where most of our best meals in the genre occurred; then again we're not close to officially naming Chicken Tikka Masala the national dish as Great Britain did in 2003.

Perhaps the best moderately-priced Indian experience on the East Village's Curry Row (East 6th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, home to nearly 20 Indian restaurants) can be had at Banjara. Vaguely upscale compared to the curry joints of yesteryear (another sad casualty of the late 90's poverty purge of New York, eradicating in one fell Giuliani bear claw swoop, an entire creative culture and alternate way of life so famous to the city), Banjara carries its new haughty crown well - and deserves every syrupy accolade soon to be spooned out here, as though anointing the classic honey-drenched dessert, gulab jamon. See how corny we get when describing GOOD Indian food, such is the excitement?

"Before you opt for something lighter and brighter than this view from a street where inner city life is revealed without colorful candy coating, bear in mind this: Don't give up on theater as a means to look at rather than away from real people living lives of not so quiet and uneventful desperation." - from

But first, let us backtrack and get lost on tangents like any good cocktail party drunk. Tired from work and besieged by a cold October rain, Cafe Drake and good friend Jen Lazzaro left a performance of Lab Theater's A View from 151st Street at Astor Place's grand Public Theater in search of wine and comfort food. The deeply flawed play (though bolstered by the incredible performances of (forever genius) Lisa Colon-Zayas, Elizabeth Rodriguez and Andre Royo) resonated with uncomfortable realities needing to be drowned in cheap vino and korma sauce. Banjara soothes luckily as much as it ignites fires in the mouth. Good papadums and the inevitable trio of relishes are above average here, as is a wine list geared towards smart selections (though most hover around the $40 mark). In turn a smartly selected choice was a $28 California Pinot Noir, drinkable and heartier than the typical Pinot N - a good foil to the spices to come.

Our shared starter was a platter of South Indian specialities, Dhaksin Se Shuru ($7.95); namely, a baby dosa (Indian crepe filled with potatoes and nuts); steamed idli (a lentil and rice "dinner roll") and coconut and tamarind chutneys. Aloo paratha ($4) was bread perfection, flaky and wholegrain and stuffed with mustard seed-laced mashed potatoes and onions. Equal kudos to the traditional Lamb Vindaloo ($15): tender morsels of browned meat nestled beneath a thick sauce of many spices, vinegar and fiery chiles. Our favorite dish was a rare wonder, absent from most menus but based on an ancient recipe - Sharabi Kababi ($16). How to describe? Chunks of chicken breast meat, moist as thunderclouds, are marinated 24 hours in sweet Indian wine then given the tandoori oven treatment till blackened slightly but just cooked through, the resulting heaven simmered further in a mild cream sauce and accompanied by tandoori-grilled vegetables of every color.

We'll gladly squirm and wince through a "challenging" play every week if Banjara is a promised post-theater payoff!

Restaurant Review: Revamping an Old Favorite

Freemans (End of Freeman Alley, off Rivington Street near Bowery; New York, NY, 10002; 212/420-0012)

The Lower East Side's tucked away jewel Freemans, in a previous incarnation, lived as a manque speakeasy, burdened with lazy DJs, overwhelming crowds and pricey drinks but made fab by its cloistered location. Secretive and unmarked, this space exudes exclusive charm, the kind you fight against and brand bourgeois but privately adore for a naughty nighttime revel. Sadly the restaurant replacing the bar has fallen on hard times in recent months, battered in the local press with grim reviews and ghastly yarns of criminally rude service. Cafe Drake so loved the world of Freemans however we decided to give it another shot. Knock wood, all complaints seem either false, exaggerated and/or the problems have been quickly corrected, as our latest visit was yet another lovely trip to a fairy tale urban cabin decked out with taxidermy and rustic curious decor. Call it Adirondack Gothic (we're copyrighting that term, BTW).

Our hostess dealt out warm greeting and secured us two seats at the tiny bar while we waited patiently for a table. Apparently bad press hasn't deterred the punters, as even on a weeknight after 10PM the wait list is substantial. So famished were we after a movie based on wilderness travels culminating in fatal starvation, starters were ordered and woofed down at said bar. Very on-point were Grilled Cheddar Toasts ($6) and a meltingly smooth Housemade Wild Boar Terrine ($12), thoughtfully sided with huckleberry jam, perfect toast points and spiky cornichons. Hefty, hearty appetizers - combined with doubles of cocktails called Yankee Mint Juleps ($10) - left us needing to share an entree of Roasted Cod with Leek, Bacon and Cockles Chowder ($21). Foolish to leave a single bite so all was quickly consumed as the end of a enchanting evening.

Restaurant Review: Foulest of Fish

McCormick and Schmick's (1285 Avenue of the Americas; New York, NY, 10019)

Beware the misguided tourist who stumbles for a quick lunch in Midtown Manhattan, especially within the Bermuda Triangle of Rockefeller Center and Radio City - just watch your cash disappear and then wonder what you actually spent it on! Certainly not towards quality ingredients or the salaries of a fine kitchen staff or proficient waiters. the appalling Cost-to-Quality ratio of midtown tourist trap restaurants is a daunting and demonic institution to battle, being nearly pervasive and ubiquitous to every grim corner.

One of the worst offenders is the seafood charlatan known as McCormick and Schmick's, a vast but generic warehouse of a slop kitchen distinguished solely by audacious pricing. DON'T let the convenient location or promise of a "45-minute Lunch" entice harried loved ones on a tight sightseeing schedule. Friends don't let friends eat dross!!

On a recent, inexplicable visit appetizers consisted of a Prawn Cocktail ($15) of four pallid crustaceans drifting on a sea of insipid and bottled chili sauce and an order of 1/2 dozen oysters on the half shell ($18). While M&S boasts 14 daily varieties of fresh bivalves, our order from the Prince Edward Islands yielded milky, overly mild examples - farmed to be sure - stripped of any natural brininess or punch. A basket of bread, dropped unceremoniously on the table by an anxious waiter, proved inedible.

Honestly, we're not going to waste more energy giving attention to this impostor of a seafood purveyor; we have Will Self's latest tome to plow through after all. Decent espresso and macchiatos ($3.50) were the lone high point, relished as a removal device for lingering entree flavor stains. Namely: a miniature crab cake sandwich covered in frozen fries ($16.95); a fillet of sole overpowered by chemically-redolent breadcrumbs ($21.95) and a supremely grotesque Seared Tuna and Chinese Greens Salad ($20), the "greens" translating to a disheveled mess of coarsely shredded cabbage (chalky, tough, poorly washed) doused in a caustic soy vinaigrette.

Cafe Drake Radio (FIRZ-FM) Strikes Again

Another carefully cultivated online radio mix especially for You, this raucous rollicking mash-up isn't exactly sipping music - best played when friends pop over for a drink after dinner. Taking you from the Past (XTC, Madness) to the Way Past (Leonard Cohen) to your current favorites (Sea Wolf, Jamie T, Mystery Jets and many others). It's called Nostalgia In-It Wha It Used To Be and is available exclusively HERE.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Miki's 2nd Wine Tasting Soiree

Cafe Drake is thrilled to report that Miki Shimada hosted her second wine tasting at Cafe Berry recently - and this time we took home the prize for most wines guessed correctly (well, we shared the prize with dark horse Hiro who displayed far more wino finesse than originally professed). Either way a good time was had by all and everyone got to taste new wines and bask in Miki's warm and cozy home. Munchies included a cheese board, bread, nuts, rosemary potatoes, Finnish meatballs and a vegetable lasagna!