Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mambo Italiano at Cafe Berry

Miki and Berry were hard at work in the kitchen this weekend, crafting homemade spinach gnocchi, and serving a happy dinner crowd including Miwa, Kevin K and Cafe Drake. End of summer cocktails kicked off things right - a cooling peach and booze concoction - quickly followed by an assortment of bruschetta (tomato and basil, smoked salmon and cream cheese, and in a Japanese nod, potato salad) and fresh fruit. The aforementioned pasta was lighter than air, green fluffy clouds of goodness topped with sauteed tomatoes and garlic and plated alongside garlicky pan-fried chicken. Delicious nut and apricot-filled cookies and plenty of wine (red, white and rose) made for yet another of many memorable evenings at Cafe Berry.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day of the Triffids

Rooted in a radical concept espoused by horticulturist Michael Pollan in his dark and scary book The Botany of Desire, an intriguing art exhibit entitled Implant is currently ruling the extensive lobby gallery of 1285 Ave of the Americas (6th Ave at 51st St, home to Paine Weber, BBDO and Cafe Drake's daytime job). Pollan argues that plants use us to further their existence and are ultimately predatory and biologically geared to survive at the cost of humans and all other animal life. Artists who may or may not agree, but who have all produced works that sinisterly suggest there may be truth to this ruthless view, are exhibited in 14 mini-galleries. Standouts for Cafe Drake include the always excellent Felix Gonzalez-Torres, yet another disturbing/amusing video from Swiss Miss Pipilotti Rist, Nick Cave, Stan Brakhage, Hiraki Sawa , Dennis Oppenheim, James Weeling amongst 40 others.

Cafe Drake suggests supplementing the provocative exhibition with a home viewing of (now on DVD) The Ruins, 2008's most entertaining horror film and directed by famed fashion photographer Carter Smith, a positively freaky chiller drawing equally from campy plant monster movies (Little Shop of Horrors) and the paranoia-fueled plant horror of contemporary progenitors such as Cabin Fever and Bug.

We're showing plants who's boss at Cafe Drake with an all-time favorite salad recipe below, one that if executed with flair can stun - and not terrify - dinner guests.


First, make the dressing and let in sit in fridge for a few hours to mingle flavors. This is how you do it: place in a blender: 1 cup walnuts, 2/3 cup vegetable broth, 1 T. or so soy sauce, a small piece of chopped and peeled fresh ginger and a sprinkle of sugar. Blend to a thickish consistency, adding more broth if mixture becomes too stiff.

Now, place facing outward, 3-4 leaves of Green Leaf lettuce. Top in a small circle with endive leaves. In very center, place a small hand full of watercress leaves.

Pour dressing over each salad plate just before serving.

Late Summer Libations (Part II)

Damn ye all friends and visitors to Cafe Drake, both the website and actual physical space alike. You were all so parched for drinks recipes on your summer vacation from AA that you inundated our Hotmail inbox with complimentary thanks for very recent recipes tailored to the summer boozehounds amongst you. Well, flattery will get you everywhere, or at least earn you further cocktail suggestions, and Cafe Drake's liver is paying the price for all this hedonistic encouragement. [Oy Vey, before we start guilt tripping like a Jewish mother, a confession: we'd already earmarked in our daily planner the Labor Day holiday as another Lost Weekend (thanks to Ray Milland as seen above in the 1945 classic, merely one of a dozen sympathetragic/realistic performances darkening classic-era Hollywood) so consider your requests mere sermons to a tipsy choir.]


Too simple to make up, this 19th-century -born British Empire classic still delivers on looks and personality, but be cautious; like any Life of the Party, a little goes a long way. No relation to the beloved but milder Sloe Gin Fizz, Pink Gin is best sipped in moderation. Unless you have nothing to do the next day.

With precision, fill a chilled cocktail glass with very good gin - we use Plymouth for these as it is perennially on sale and top-notch, but Bombay Sapphire or even Boodles will also perform well. Pour gin into a shaker with only a few ice cubes. Add 3 dashes of bitters and shake once or twice, no more. Strain into glass and drink while ice cold.


Don't blame us when you break a heel.

Mix 4 measures rye whiskey (no, bourbon will NOT DO here) with 1 measure simple syrup and a dash of bitters in a shaker full of ice. Give a twirl and strain into chilled glass. A wedge of lemon may be served on the napkin for those wishing to cut the sweet/bitter/but delicious bite of this New Orleans creation.

Back At Ya in 3-D (metaphorically, aurally)

RADIO CAFE DRAKE, also tagged FIRZ-FM (pronounced Fierce-Ef-Em), has dropped another hot mix for the holiday weekend. Knowing you need tunes for all those Labor Day BBQs and cocktail soirees, Cafe Drake has assembled another spankin' new selection of tunes for the Summer's Finale, guaranteed to extend shelf life through the brilliant blue skies of September '08.

Our latest sampler is heavy on the electro-rock tunes, with a few dive bar pop songs and nostalgic music hall singalongs thrown in for good measure; hollah at us at Elephants & Eccentrics and impress your nearest and dearest guests with a surefire good time. This new sonic background wallpaper is pre-pasted with the likes of The Kills (yup, Kate Moss' boyfriend's band), Be Your Own Pet, Bellanova, Junior Boys, Neimo, Lykke Li, Tegan & Sara and many magnificent others. Just make sure you tailor the invite list to favor dancefloor divas and faded club kids.

Enchiladas, the Easy Way

And also an authentic preparation and a perfect example of the Mexican home cooking we so favor over the limited, predictable menu of tacos and burritos found in most Mexican restaurants. The variety of regional specialties across this massive country is staggering when compared to the handful of bespoke dishes served again and again, and this humble precursor to the standard enchilada can be upgraded with shredded pork or chicken, or as above, a stew of chickpeas emboldened with cumin and dried red chiles.


The original enchilada before it morphed into the now ubiquitous (but still delicious) kitchen-sink stuffed Latin manicotti passing as the real thing nowadays. These are so much fun to make and plate!

2 garlic cloves, chopped / 2 jalapeno or serrano chiles, chopped / 2-3 large tomatoes, chopped / vegetable oil / 1 can of vegetable broth plus a little water / corn tortillas / salt / 1/4 cup or so crema (sour cream thinned with a little milk will work fine) / 1/2 onion, chopped / cilantro, chopped / grated queso anejo (or a mixture of crumbled feta and Parmesan may be substituted with excellent results )

  1. Puree in a blender: garlic, peppers, tomatoes, a tablespoon or two of oil, about a good teaspoon or more of salt, broth and water. Season to taste with more salt if needed and a healthy splash of sugar (if sauce is too tart or sour from tomatoes).

  2. Heat the puree over a low heat for 15 minutes, reducing to a consistency of a tomato sauce.

  3. Quickly brush tortillas with a bit of oil and either heat briefly in low oven to soften, or over open flame of stove.

  4. Dip warm tortillas into sauce and then fold into quarters on serving plate. Repeat for each tortilla (4 should be plenty per person).

  5. Ladle a little more warm sauce over tortillas, creating a pool on plate.

  6. Garnish with crema, cilantro, onions, cheese and anything else you'd like.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Last PIcture Show (for realsy)

Because the fathers of our community have chosen to return the cracked, atmospherically decrepit McCarren Pool from a town hall for residents into a functioning swimming hole for the negligible amount of children in the neighborhood, tonight was the final screening of a film at the Pool. Wisely they sent us out with the anti-establishment (and pro-smoking) flick Rushmore - a landmark celluloid keystone for the majority of Billyburg/Greenie-point denizens - and Cafe Drake was joined by die hard "Burgers" J-la and David Sellers for the sad swan song.

In typical fashion we said goodbye to a 3-year tradition of al freso cinema and general drunkenness in style - fried chicken baguettes adorned with roasted yellow peppers, red onions, sun-dried tomato tapenade and garlic mayo, blue corn chips and organic Trader Joe's salsa, and courtesy of Dave and Jennifer, two crisp bottles of blanco vino. Jen supplied a decadent dessert sampling while Cafe D poured out a thermos of ur-espresso. Adios to the tiny remaining slice of true 'hood credibility.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Guajillo Pork Stew with Potatoes and Turnips

Toast 8 or so dried guajillo peppers in a dry skillet till browned. Soak for 15 minutes in very warm water then remove stems.

Blend peppers with soaking water, another cup or so of water, 4 garlic cloves, some cumin and oregano, a dash or two of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, 2 chopped tomatoes and a bit of black pepper. Process till smooth.

Chop 1 1/2 lbs. of boneless, trimmed pork shoulder into medium-sized cubes. Place in a casserole dish. Feel free to substitute beef, lamb or even mutton.

Cover pork cubes with chopped potatoes and turnips.

Pour chile puree/sauce over all and bake for 3 hours in a very low oven - 300 degrees is best and won't heat up the kitchen too terribly.

Beer really is the beverage of choice with a rich Mexican stew, but instead of the lighter varieties from south of the border, Cafe Drake prefers a bold, malty Polish brew. Above are two favorites.

When stew is done and meat is fork tender, ladle into bowls and strew with chopped red onions.

Cafe Drake likes ours with a side salad of arugula, chopped cilantro and crumbled cotija or queso fresca cheeses.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday Lunch with Susan

Shirred Eggs with Tomato-Chile Confit

Arugula Salad

Aged Provolone Cheese Toast


Mint Iced Tea

Late Summer Libations

We apologize at Cafe Drake for not posting many drinks recipes lately. No excuse really - God knows it isn't as if we've stopped imbibing during this thirstiest of seasons. Only two deeply CONFIRMED recipes new to us, ones we feel completely comfortable in sharing and recommending, so find these below:

Unnamed as yet - someone, please help us with a suitable moniker and you'll be acknowledged here and live on in alcoholic infamy forever and ever - the following was inspired by the idea of an apple cocktail, but something more sophisticated than the muy Cancun Apple Martini (which should never be sipped past 21 years of age or in mixed company). Take a champagne flute and fill it a little over half way with the best Calvados (apple brandy from Normandy) you can afford. Fill the remaining portion of the glass with ice-cold hard cider. Garnish with an apple slice (and come Autumn, it better be a Honeycrisp!)

Our second suggestion is equally simple yet also stunning on a newbie palette: mix equal parts apricot nectar, rum and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker and vibrate well with plenty of ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a fresh slice of apricot or lemon. Top with a splash of rum after serving.

Up in Jorge's (Birthday) Grill

Adam and Penni Beckerman threw an all-out surprise party for Jorge Manahan's birthday recently, and Cafe Drake was there to capture a few photos and testify to the merriment in honor of J M. We're still in awe of Penni's 4-layer birthday cake with marshmallow frosting and the preternaturally tender chicken and pineapple kebabs cooked on a communal present of a luxe grill.

Friday, August 22, 2008

More Babies & Pets

We're all about kids and animals (stuffed, as well) here lately at Cafe Drake. Our rainbow phase will begin next month.

Above is a pic from our cousin Heather and hubby Mark of their adorable daughter Anna Louise and her best friend.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

August in Alaska

The adventurous McKeever-Duys clan returned last week from an Alaskan sojourn - Sloane in tow - and provided Cafe Drake with some gorgeous photos of the breathtaking landscape. We're still jealous of the whole "coats and scarves thing" in mid-August, boiling away in our concrete jungle, but have nonetheless supplied visitors with two Yukon recipes below: the first being one of our favorite ways to prepare salmon quickly and without a fuss for a large dinner party, and the second from Anchorage chef Danny Costanios of that city's Downtown Deli & Cafe. We haven't actually made the stew yet but may break down and order the reindeer meat from one of several online suppliers. Just not at Christmas.


You could always add 1/4 cup of brown sugar to the sauce below, but we've found the ketchup provides enough sweetness.

1/2 pound melted butter / 1/4 cup ketchup / 4 Tbs. soy sauce /2 Tbs. prepared mustard /1 clove garlic, minced /Dash Worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients together and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour over 2 LARGE pieces of salmon and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until your desired doneness. Reserve some of the sauce for basting the fish at least once while in the oven, and a bit more to serve at the table as a condiment.


Once Susan extolled the tasty virtues of Alaskan reindeer sausage, our mouths began to water, loving gamey wild meats and any food with such exotic panache. Of course you could easily adapt this recipe for a venison stew, though if so, we suggest 2 cups of broth and 1 1/2 cups of red wine.

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour / 1 pound reindeer meat cubed /2 tablespoons cooking oil 1/4 cup chopped onion /1 cups carrots sliced /2 1/2 cups potatoes cubed /3 1/2 cups beef stock

  1. Flour meat and brown in hot oil. Add stock and bring to a boil.

  2. Reduce heat cover simmer one to one and a quarter hours or until tender.

  3. Add vegetables. Cover and simmer 30 minutes.

  4. Skim fat.

  5. Makes four servings.