Monday, September 28, 2009

VERMONT - In Pictures & Captions

An at-home meal of salads and marinated veggies, Red Hen Bakery sourdough bread and an assortment of meats from Dakin Farms in Charlotte, VT: corncob-smoked ham, Swiss-style air-dried and aged beef and smoked summer sausage.

Quintessential New England.

The State House at Montpelier.

Inside the State House.

A friendly fellow at Willow Hill Farms in Milton, VT., where Cafe Drake and J. Ruske purchased two award-winning cheeses fresh from the dairy's fridge: Vermont Brebis (creamy sheep's milk cheese with a faint olive flavor) and La Fleurie ( delicate cow's milk cheese with earthy notes).

A rare appearance by Lake Champlain's famous "monster", Champie.

Product being made at Champlain Valley Dairy in Vergennes, VT.

Pete Ruske's best pal, Ivan.

At home (Peter Ruske's pad): a cheese plate assembled from above-mentioned local dairies as well as Three Shepherds.

Awesome screensaver!!

Schuyler House in Saratoga National Historical Park

Colorful Burlington, VT.

Like the sign says.

Country Road.

Jen Ruske (with Blackberry) at Lucy's Tacos, Kingston, NY

Downtown Kingston, NY.

Jen and Flowering Bush

Near NY-VT border.

Hen of the Woods restaurant, Woodbury, VT.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Genuis from the Lens of Miki S.

Instead of World Peace, if I had 1 wish it would be for everyone to have a photo-chronicler like our dear friend Miki-san. Actually, it ends up the same, when you consider the warm memories and fuzzy feelings captured by Miki's digicam . . . even when she passes it to trusted hands and jumps in the pic herself . . . after careful setup (natch) of the mise-en-scene. Most of the above photos are from Cafe Drake's recent b-day bash, but others of our son - and hero - Sailor Page, mixed in with shots from a recent dinner party at Miki's where we (along with M's roomie Jason) supped on perfectly cooked catfish, linguine, broccoli and so much more.

How to Cook Flank Steak

Cafe Drake should really turn this instructional post over to compadre Dave Sellers, so many times have we enjoyed this tricky cut of beef - cooked to rare perfection - at his old crib on Grand Street. Now that D Sellers is ensconced in San Diego, we found ourselves on our own, but with lingering tips from the Sellers' kitchen. Above you'll see we served thinly sliced with tamarind rice, braised Chinese cabbage and dry-sauteed baby Portobello mushrooms. Marinate as you will or simply dry rub with equal parts kosher salt, sugar, cayenne and paprika, but do make sure to:
  • always allow meat to come to room temp before pan-frying
  • barely slick skillet with olive oil
  • wait till oil smokes before adding meat
  • cook 2 minutes undisturbed on high heat to sear meat
  • flip once only and cook only until meat thermometer reads 125 degrees F
  • let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow juices to redistribute before slicing
  • always slice THINLY on the diagonal

More Gujarati Goodness in Jackson Heights

Chaos thrives in the Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights, and the area in turn seems to hold itself together by the same chaotic mash-up of cultures, culinary offerings, varied street life and architectural diversity (gorgeous Deco apt buildings stand side by side with near-derelict shanties and multi-dwelling gingerbread curiosities). Cafe Drake regularly trolls these crowded streets in search of amazing and unusual Indian food, both grocery stores and eateries, and a new fave for us is the decidedly unassuming steam table-dominated pastry/candy shop known as Ragbhog Sweets (72 - 27 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights, Queens, NY 11372) . Skip the desserts (many varieties of fudges, pastries, cookies and cakes) unless you favor the ragged sugar high of psychotically sugary subcontinental sweets and head to the back for the $7 lunch special. A recent visit snagged us a huge whole wheat roti bread, stewed tomatoes dotted with mustard seeds and fried vermicelli crisps, plain but tasty cauliflower curry, chat seasoned onions, a buttery rice and veggie pilaf and that Gujarat oddity known as patra, whereby giant tropical leaves are steamed and then rolled - maki style - around a filling of sweetened chickpea paste and all is fried with hot chiles, coconut and lemon juice. Very authentic so utensils are provided only upon request, but so sensual is the lovingly spiced grub you may want to give the traditional Indian method of eating with your (clean, please) fingers a try.