Friday, May 30, 2008

Summer Greetings from Susan & Sloane

"She wore Blue Velvet . . ."

Veracruz Night with Jen Lazzaro

Rising temps and tropical breezes inspired a Mexican themed dinner with Jen at Cafe Drake. Fresh grapefruit daiquiris - straight up, natch - were raised in a toast to the end of the work week, their tart sweetness offset by chunks of aged Parmesan a much-needed catch up in conversation. Starters were a Salad of Watercress, Kumquats and Tangerines, lightly tossed in a lemon vinaigrette (no need for that Vitamin C tablet tonight!) with toasted walnuts. Pork Stew Verde (recipe below) proved a substantial entree, spicy and rich from slow-simmered tomatillos, serrano chiles and cilantro, served alongside warm corn tortillas. Ouzo on the rocks as a digestif and Jen and Cafe D headed out for a nightcap at Williamsburg's Hugs Bar.


If you can't find fresh tomatillos, use the whole canned variety, but do not substitute bottled "salsa verde" in this particular recipe; it will lend the stew an "odd" flavor. Leftovers are wonderful rolled in tortillas and baked with sauce and cheese for quick enchiladas.

3 T. olive oil / 1 1/2 lbs. pork stew chunks, cut in 1-inch pieces / 2 onions, sliced / 2 cloves garlic, minced / 6 serrano or jalapeno chiles / 1 lb. fresh tomatillos, quartered / salt / 1 T. dried oregano / 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro

  1. In a large pot, brown the pork pieces in oil. This should take about 10 minutes.

  2. Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Add garlic, chiles and tomatillos. Cook on a slightly higher heat for 5 more minutes.

  3. Add oregano and salt to taste. Add about 2 cups of water, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

  4. Cook covered until pork is fork-tender, about 1 1/2 hours on very low heat. Stir from time to time.

  5. Adjust seasoning - you may want to add a tablespoon of honey if stew is too tart, or more salt if needed - and serve warm.

Grand Theft Asdis

It may have been many a moon since the happy days of Asdis Gunnarsdottir residing just down Driggs Avenue from Cafe Drake, but we always are happy to steal a visit with her, crash at her place in Iceland or receive news on the conceptual artist's latest shows. If you find yourself anywhere near Mitte, Berlin, check out her current exhibition, Grand Theft Auto, opening June 3 at Gallery Torstrasse 111, Berlin-Mitte, Rosenthaler Platz. Visit Asdis online at her very cool and comprehensive website. Mention Cafe Drake and she might write you back.

Tiffin Wallah

Tiffin Wallah (127 East 28th Street, New York, NY 10016)

"Tiffin Wallah translates as - one who carries the box. Tiffin is an old English word for a light lunch, and also the name of the multi-compartment metal lunch box that carries it. Tiffin Wallahs originated over a century ago when the many Indians working for British companies disliked the food served at work. Tiffin service was created to bring home cooking to the workplace."

It can be pretty difficult to top the Indian buffet lunches in Jackson Heights, Queens, especially at Jackson Diner and Bombay Palace, but Cafe Drake hands the (bejeweled) crown over not to Gramercy Park's Tiffin Wallah, specializing in the Southern vegetarian cuisine of India. A far cry, stylistically, from typical Indian excess, the rather minimalist dining room is all pale ivory, shiny chocolate brown and summery kelly and deep emerald green; from rectangular dining plates and gleaming modernist flatware to pressed white linen napkins, Tiffin Wallah suggests a boutique hotel breakfast room more than a gaudy carnival (though we love that decorating approach as well; just need a break from it sometimes).

Arrive early as the place is small and justifiably popular, with tables hard to come by and wait times rather long. Recently Cafe Drake nabbed a prime spot near the steam tables and tucked into, among other delicacies: an unusual combination of chickpeas in a cream sauce with cubes paneer; a buttery biryani studded with whole spices and veggies; perfectly cooked split yellow lentils threaded with spinach and curry leaves; roasted potatoes tossed with pan-fried okra and mustard greens and silver-dollar uttaphams (savory Indian pancakes made from rice and lentil flours) awaiting the full treatment of onion and date relishes, mint sauce and coconut chutney. Dessert was a cornmeal-coconut cake, so rich and dense and moist, more akin to a bread pudding.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

CAFE DRAKE'S Guide to Summer (PART I)

We may as well make the most of the heat, humidity and mosquitoes, and as no kitchen has ever been to hot to drive us out, Cafe Drake remains resolute in discovering and savoring the few true pleasures of this most trying of seasons. Follow a few (or all) of our tips below and you'll weather the dog days in style and with great taste(s).
The cinema, with its frigid promise of arctic air conditioning and soothing darkness, was a mainstay for years of heat and sun-stroked city dwellers, but with the current fare geared towards out of school tweens (comic book adaptations, action/adventure drek and juvenile comedies), if you can't find a good repertory or art house theater near you, best off staying cool inside with Netflix. Soak up the Acapulco sun from your softly-lit, climate controlled living room with Love Has Many Faces (1965), a sinisterly-themed soap starring Lana Turner and Cliff Robertson, both upstaged slightly by Hollywood Regency set dressing chic enough to hurt. A Summer Place (1960) may be obvious - and Troy Donahue's acting appalling, but it fits the theme and we dare you not to hum the soundtrack for days after. For those who can't be bothered with the ferry or overcrowded shares and tacky bars, visit Fire Island via Frank Perry's neglected summer psychological noir, Last Summer (1970). It's only available on VHS (and pricey at that) so hit the last Mom and Pop vid shop you can find to score a rental. Summer always reminds Cafe Drake of hazy late nights as a child at the local Jesse James Drive-In, so 70s schlock abounds here during the hot months: two drive-in classics recently restored on DVD include Axe (1972) and DeathBed (1973). Neither will provide the craved chills but both are shining examples of the decade when exploitation films dreamed of higher aspirations.

In the upcoming Part II of our Summer Guide, we'll be recommending some books - light and dark - for the sand dunes and picnics and also those nights of violent thunderstorms. For now, peruse our recipes below, each selected for warm weather dining and lighter appetites.


From a land that doesn't experience Summer, as such, hails this Canadian main course salad. Excellent with crusty French or Italian bread and a crisp Chardonnay.

1 head lettuce, torn into pieces / ½ cup diced cooked beets / 1 large piece poached salmon, cooled and chopped / 3 T. olive oil / 1 T. tarragon vinegar / salt and pepper / 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped fine

  1. Place cleaned lettuce in a large serving bowl, along with beets and salmon.

  2. Blend oil, vinegar and eggs until well combined. Add to bowl and toss.

  3. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes then season with salt and pepper.


Bake this in the morning, then serve cold or at room temperature for a
lunch or dinner entree. At Cafe Drake we place a wedge on plates garnished
with marinated cucumbers, sliced tomatoes and Kalamata olives.

1 frozen deep dish pie shell / 1 medium onion, sliced / 2 garlic cloves, chopped / 1 cup crumbled feta cheese / 2 t. chopped dill / 4-5 chopped sun-dried tomatoes / 1 t. black pepper / 1 egg, beaten / 1 cup milk

  1. Saute the onion and garlic in the butter for 2 or 3 minutes. Place in bottom
    of pie shell.

  2. Add the feta next, sprinkle on the dill and tomatoes and black pepper, then pour over all the egg and milk.

  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, not longer.


One can eliminate the vodka completely from the recipe below, but it is
ill advised by Cafe Drake.This sorbet will work equally well as a light
dessert or mid-dinner palate cleanser.

3 cups pomegranate juice / ¾ cup sugar / juice of ½ lime / ½ cup vodka

  1. Place the juice in a saucepan and bring to a near boil. Add sugar and stir
    quickly until it has dissolved.

  2. Remove from heat and cool, preferably over-night in the refrigerator.

  3. Add the lime juice and vodka to the chilled juice and freeze according to
    your machine's instructions.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Curried Chicken Kabobs with Coconut Rice

This has become our top "go-to" recipe of late whenever stressed for time, under the proverbial gun, or just languishing from a bored palette. Mildly spicy and perfect for the summertime, these kabobs would make a stellar addition to any backyard barbecue or cocktail party buffet (we broil ours, being deficient of any outdoor space). Cafe Drake always prepares coconut rice as a side, but you might try couscous or a tabbouleh salad.

1 pound chicken tenders /1 cup plain yogurt /1 can coconut milk, divided /1 tablespoon curry powder / 1 teaspoon lemon juice / 1 clove garlic, crushed /kosher salt, to taste / ground pepper, to taste / 2 yellow onions, peeled and cut into large chunks / 1 1/2 cups long grain white basmati rice /1/2 cup frozen green peas

  1. Cut chicken into large chunks then combine in a bowl with yogurt, 1/2 cup coconut milk, curry powder, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

  2. Refrigerate several hours.

  3. Preheat broiler or grill.

  4. Alternate chicken on skewers with onions.

  5. Prepare rice according to package instructions substituting 1 cup coconut milk for 1 cup of the water and adding peas half way through cooking.

  6. Grill or broil chicken onion skewers until cooked through and serve over rice.

Monday, May 26, 2008

David Sellers' 40th Birthday Pizza Party

Cafe Drake and Natalie Sellers teamed up to throw a 40th B-day celebration for David Sellers, feting the Birthday Boy with rum punch, bubbly and homemade pizzas. Courtesy of Nat, our pies were tricked out with lush, luxe cheeses and meats and a flaming Red Velvet birthday cake was delivered to our honorary guest.


Martinique Clement Rum Punch with Fruit & Juices


Grana Padano and Piave Cheeses
Jamon Iberica
Marcona Almonds
Anchoivies with Capers
Cream Cheese with Raspberry Jalapeno Jam

Aged Provolone, Biellese Jambon Sec, Pineapple and Sweet Tomato Sauce

Fresh Mozzarella, Stewed Broccoli Rabe and Columbus Finocchiona

Fresh Mozzarella, Black Olive Tapenade, Basil and Beefsteak Tomatoes
Fresh and Dried Mushrooms in an Herbed Cream Sauce, Taleggio Cheese and Black Truffle Oil

Champagne and Red and White Sparkling Wines

Red Velvet Cake

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cafe Drake on a Ramps-age

These wild onions, a relative of the scallion and leek, and indigenous to North America from Florida to Canada, are much loved at Cafe Drake. Like most good things, ramps are only with us for a few fleeting weeks, always from Late Spring to Very Early Summer. We found a way to drag the love affair past its natural expiration date by air-drying the veggies overnight, then sealing tightly in freezer bags and placing in deep freeze; they thaw in 5 minutes and lose only a little of their lovely pungency. This is probably your last week to stock up at your local farmer's market or vegetable stand, so go grab some and try the simple recipe below. You're crazy if you don't.


Perfect with baked ham, this is rich and hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian main course if served with a green salad.

6 cups sliced potatoes / 3 cups ramps (rough estimate, but USE all the long, leafy green stems) / salt and pepper to taste / 1/2 cup chicken broth / 3/4 cup heavy cream / 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Place a layer of sliced potatoes in a buttered 1 1/2-quart casserole, follow with a layer of ramps and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

  2. Repeat layers, ending with potatoes.

  3. Combine chicken broth and heavy cream; pour over potatoes and ramps.

  4. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes, then top with grated cheese.
  5. Return to the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

This should serve 6-8 as a side dish, or at Cafe Drake, 2-3.

Japanese Comfort Food

Cafe Drake has lately taken to assembling easy and quick Japanese-influenced dinners as comfort grub on lazy Sunday evenings, worn-out Wednesdays or, for example, the current onslaught of rainy, gloomy nights. See below a couple of our favorite "small dishes" recipes and photos above of recent dinners.

Saba No Shioyaki (Broiled Mackerel fillet)

This may seem an extraordinary amount of salt given the relative petite nature of most mackerel fillets, but you really need this much to bring out the briny, rich lushness of the fish flesh. Serve with plain, boiled rice to counterbalance the sodium bonanza.

4 medium Mackerel Fillets / 4 tsp. sea salt / 5 oz. grated daikon or radish / Lemon juice / Soy sauce
  1. Scale (if necessary) and wash mackerels, drain.

  2. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt over each fish on both sides, let stand 10 minutes.

  3. Brush broiler rack with oil and heat rack over medium heat.

  4. Place fish on rack and broil 5 to 7 minutes or until brown.

  5. Turn fish over and broil another 4 to 6 minutes or until brown and skin is CRISP.

  6. Serve with grated daikon and sprinkled lemon juice and soy sauce if desired.

Salmon Ochazuke

This is so good with a small dish of oshinko (Japanese pickles) or kimchi and a side of sauteed bok choy.

2 cup of rice (Cold rice or leftover rice is perfectly fine) /Freshly brewed green tea loose leaves / A pinch of sesame seeds / 1/2 sheet of nori (dried seaweed paper) / 1 salmon fillet (approximately 1/4 lbs each) / wasabi (Japanese horseradish) / 2 umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums)

  1. Broil or bake some salmon (or if you like, you may use bits of leftover cooked salmon).

  2. Prepare and brew green tea.

  3. Place cooked rice into individual rice bowls. Shred the salmon over the rice.

  4. Pour hot green tea over the rice and salmon.

  5. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, crumbled nori, and a small dab of wasabi (Japanese horseradish) or umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum). Serve immediately; mix together and enjoy.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dinner en homage UDO KIER

Extraordinary weirdness is a precious commodity growing scarcer daily, even here in NYC, as Cafe Drake watches our own neighborhood turn away from eccentricity in favor of commodified blandness. Therefore, three cheers for Udo Kier and his oddly surviving film career, which over four decades has produced some of cinema's wackiest (and creepiest) memorable moments. The menu below pays obvious tribute to Kier's Teutonic roots, but tweaks German/Austrian standards in a surprising manner befitting the wacky actor himself.

SUGGESTED FILMOGRAPHY: Mark of the Devil (1970); Andy Warhol's Dracula (1974); Trauma (1976); Lili Marleen (1981); Die Insel der Blutigen Plantage (1983); My Own Private Idaho (1991); Breaking the Waves (1996)



Strange? Yes. But surprisingly toothsome and flavorful and open to virtually any twist you care to add. We use beef bouillon and can't imagine chicken working out at all.

1 large loaf dark bread / 2 qts water / 1/2 tsp caraway seeds /salt / 1 small onion / 1 tbls butter / 2 bouillon cubes

  1. Soak dark bread in water, bring to a boil, remove and strain.

  2. Bring to a boil again, if necessary adding more water.
  3. Season with salt and caraway.

  4. Chop an onion finely and brown in butter, and add to soup.

  5. Enrich, if desired, with bouillon cubes.

Skampi Auf Wienerische Art

Shrimp, Viennese style, this recipe is much simpler than it looks. Cafe Drake apologizes for the odd measurements as below, but we did our best to estimate. Remember, you're building a rather complex flavor profile here and even the smallest addition will shine in the finished product.

2 lbs shrimp (already deveined) / 1/4 cup lemon juice /1 tablespoon salt /1 bay leaf / 1/4 cup butter /2 tablespoons green onion, chopped /1/2 cup white wine /1 tablespoon tomato paste/ 1/4 teaspoon sugar /1/2 teaspoon salt /1/4 teaspoon soy sauce /pinch cayenne pepper /1/8 teaspoon sweet paprika / 1 tablespoon butter / 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  1. Rinse shrimp under water and drain well.

  2. Boil 1 qt water, lemon juice, salt and bay leaf. Once at a rolling boil, add drained shrimp. Cover tightly and simmer for 5-8 minutes or until shrimp are pink and tender.

  3. Drain shrimp and cover with cold water to chill. Drain shrimp again. Drain on paper towel to remove all moisture. Chill until ready to use.

  4. Heat a skillet and add 1/4 cup butter. When melted add shrimp and green onions. Cook over medium heat about 3 minute.

  5. Remove from heat and blend in white wine, tomato paste, sugar, salt, soy sauce, cayenne pepper and sweet paprika. Return to heat and simmer 15 minute Remove the shrimp and set aside.
  6. In a sauce pan, heat 1 tbsp butter until melted. Add the flour and make a roux by browning the flour a little, stirring constantly. Add 3 tbsp of the shrimp sauce to the roux and stir vigorously. Immediately blend roux into the shrimp sauce and bring to boiling. Cook at boiling 1-2 min, stirring frequently.

  7. Add the shrimp and cook over medium heat 5 min or until thoroughly heated.

Cheese, Apples and Pears, Dried Fruits

German Honey Liqueur (your choice)

The Price is Right

and priced to drink! The three bottles below are each stickered just under a tenner and adaptable to most meals and, even better, soft enough to be sipped alone.

Domaine Clavel Cado 2004: Truly budget wines rarely appear from the vineyards of Pierre Clavel, making this 2004 Cado an even better buy than most. Quite dry and alot of punch for the price, so pair wisely with aged cheeses, seared duck breasts or beef or lamb.

Bodega Septima Syrah 2005: Far more elegant than the connotations arising from the unfortunate name "bodega", this exceptionally jammy Syrah is perfect with any lightly roasted or grilled meat. Why not capitalize on the heavy fruit flavors and serve with a peach-glazed pork tenderloin, as Cafe Drake did below for a recent dinner with David Sellers?

Casillero del Diablo Reserve Carmenere 2006: Cafe Drake had reservations on this $10 Chilean bottle, but we loved the blackberry and chocolate notes of Chile's unique grape. Buy a case for this summer's backyard barbecues.

David Herbert's Spaceship Lands in Chelsea

Head over tonight to Postmasters Gallery in Chelsea for the opening of Amerika: back to the future, featuring two new sculptures from David Herbert, upstate NY artist and Daddy-to-be, and seen above tweaking latest work. Sign the guest book as DH is currently wrapping up a project in The Hague, Netherlands, but we're still excited to see this provocatively curated show, featuring three other Postmasters regulars and set to the sounds of Rammstein!

Whatever Lola Wants

Please join Cafe Drake in congratulating Reiner Lang and Esther Lok on the birth of (Beautiful!) LOLA TAMINA LANG.

Dining with David at Cafe Drake


Italian & French Vermouth Apertifs

Cream of Green Bell Pepper Soup

Peach-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Caribbean -Style Chickpeas with Tomatoes, Thyme and Habanero Peppers