Sunday, May 31, 2009

David Sellers B'day-Slash-Going Away Party

And oh there will be other Bon Voyage parties in the next two weeks, but recently we celebrated David Sellers 41st B'day in style at Williamsburg's Union Pool, a nostalgic venue borne in the days before the carpetbaggers invaded Billyburg with their extortion-priced yuppie coffee shops. A fitting locale as Cafe Drake gathered with many close friends to revel in David's special day and send him off to the West Coast with panache. See above a few photos representing all the usual suspects, including Jen Ruske, Jen Lazzaro, Miki S, Octavio Fenech, Jorge Manahan, and Anthony Castro among others, plus David's brother Justin visiting from Seattle.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sailor in the Tub

As the mercury rises Sailor Page seeks out the relative cool of the bathroom tiles and the tub in particular. Though we're pretty sure he won't be volunteering for an actual bath this summer.

Another Soft Foods Dinner with J-La

Again, Cafe Drake subjected Jen Lazzaro to one of our "special diet" dinners, only through necessity of course. Jaw mobility is slightly on the rise and chewing pain waning, so we baked a very soft and flaky red snapper, slicked with a soy/mirin glaze and blanketed under slivers of hot green chiles. The fish was draped over spinach mashed potatoes and crowned with a few sliced (and very tender) roasted piquillo peppers. Jen brought us Pirate Booty snacks (puffed corn and veggie bites flavored with white cheddar) to enjoy alongside her own homemade creation: a fizzy "cocktail" of fresh juiced kiwis and apples, made festive with splashes of soda water. [Jen got to snack on a few of Sondra's Cheese Biscuits] Dessert was simple, rich and easy on the jaw - vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with strawberry syrup. Even with this current limitation on eating, Cafe Drake continues to get by and dine well . . . especially with a little help from our friends.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Audrey Sellers Dines Once Again at Cafe Drake

Audrey Sellers' Daddy may be moving 3000 miles across the country to San Diego, but at Cafe Drake Ms. Sellers is always welcome. Even for a long weekend break from Smith College. We certainly hope this won't be the last time we host A. As she's nobly spending her summer interning at a Boston LGBT Crisis Center, Cafe Drake fully intends to provide a weekend respite from the heaviness of her chosen work. In a reverent spirit we actually cooked a meal for guests within our recent limitations of chewing (due to a dreary dislocated jaw).
Menu is as below (and we conquered all foods except crunchy cocktail snacks):


Lemon-Lime Cuban Rum Rickeys
Whole Wheat CrispBreads with Spice Powder

Pinto Bean Soup with Red Onion Relish

Baked Cheese Tortellini in a 3-Chile Cream Sauce


Smooth, Non-Chewing Dip and Spread

Yeah of course it would be best on toasted pita chips. Or olive oil-slicked thin slices of sourdough baguette. But for now Cafe Drake has content ourselves with a spoonful of pureed veggies. Here's how to turn 2 large eggplants into a dip/spread everyone will enjoy, a welcome variation on the more traditional babaganoush.
Slice 2 large eggplants long wise and rub with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees for at least 30 minutes or until very soft.

Scrape all eggplant flesh in to a large bowl and mash completely. Season with alot of kosher salt, some cayenne pepper and 1 T. of garam masala.

Stir in 1 cup of thick yogurt (Greek style, available at all supermarkets).

Add 1/2 minced red onion and 2 minced green chiles (hot ones).

Mix all together and re-adjust salt.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day BBQ with Jen & Anthony

Just because we can't chew well at the moment - a by-product of a most unfortunate dislocation of our much used jaw - doesn't mean Cafe Drake intends to sit at home, hungry for food and social interaction. See above a few photos from Jen & Anthony's backyard bash. A good time was had by all, thanks to our hosts' skills in the kitchen, on the grill and at the bar.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Jen Lazzaro a/k/a Flo Nightengale

Things are a lot easier for Cafe Drake (and our dislocated jaw) with good friends like Jen L. Relaxing with puppy Lucy in McCarren Park and strolling over to J-La's gorgeous apartment for a meal of thick and rich fresh corn chowder. Specially put through the food mill. For an extra soft, non-painful texture.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cafe Drake in ATL: Part IV (The Restaurant Reviews)

One Midtown Kitchen ( 559 Dutch Valley Rd NE, Atlanta, GA)

Tucked away on an obscure side road flanking Piedmont Park (Atlanta's inner-city oasis of rolling meadows and urban forest), One Midtown Kitchen glows austerely amidst the heavy foliage, radiating soft blue light from horizontal stripes of low-wattage neon adorning its modernist, wooden exterior. Low lighting prevails indoors as well, most of it emanating from dozens of tiny dangling pendant lights, with its dark ceiling the dining room suggesting a galaxy of falling stars. At the end of the building a giant picture window looks across a sprawling lawn and uplit oak trees. Clearly, very flattering lighting.

But within this serene, stylized environment high energy characterizes the mood. Both our waiter and host wore over-the-top personas (but terribly friendly). Oh and yes, Cafe Drake and Mother arrived on Prom Night. Happily the rented tuxes and sequined gowns were all herded to tables across the vast room, next to a sprawling bar area. But we were feeling festive enough ourselves, and soon were sipping chilly rose wine and munching on flatbreads and hummus, whisked to the table upon seating.

A cheese plate ($10) was very good, although only one of the three selections was local - we would have loved to see the entire platter devoted to Georgia's growing (and award winning) artisinal cheese industry. Jumbo specimen calamari ($10) proved the best appetizer however, with each giant tentacle lightly fried in a spicy batter, protruding from a pool of pepper jelly mayonnaise. Cafe Drake could have gobbled down at least two more portions. Sophisticated spins on Southern standbys soon arrived from the kitchen, including a crusty yet succulent long-roasted beef brisket ($18), paired with pimento cheese risotto and a watermelon and sweet corn salad. Mother's scallops ($20) were enormous (where do they shop for these huge sea creatures?), perfectly seared, fork-tender and seasoned just enough to enhance their sweet and salty goodness.

Shaun's Restaurant ( 1029 Edgewood Avenue, Atlanta, GA)
Inman Park is one of Hotlanta's most charming neighborhoods, fine old homes and cozy bungalows buried behind impeccable gardens and a lush, tree-filled landscape. And somehow everything just seemed more inviting on a stormy night. Glistening on a residential corner beneath lashing rain and lightening sat Shaun's the solo project from accoladed head chef (and owner) Shaun . A true darling of the national food press, Shaun's is all uncluttered calm inside, wainscotted walls and off-white and cream tones dominate.
Now, to the less agreeable parts; namely, the exorbitant prices and elitist wine list (less than 3 or 4 selections under $40). A Pork Wiener schnitzel with Parsley and Peanut Salad and Grilled Vidallia Onions ($26) was cooked well enough, and boasting an intriguing combo of flavors, but couldn't live up to its hefty price tag. Overall the entire ensemble dish would have benefited from some moisture - a sauce or a condiment like mustard. Mother had Tempura Batter Fish and Chips ($26), and while the deep-fried grouper was light as air - and the soupbowl of accompanying homemade tartar sauce most welcome, the fries were pedestrian.
Negative, much? Well perhaps Cafe Drake and M were spoiled by a shared appetizer worthy of a place on the Mains menu: a carefully crafted (and large) antipasto platter ($16) loaded with the greatest hits of the kitchen. House-cured duck prosciutto. Briny and plump olives. Wedges of exquisite Parmesan cheese. Clever pickled eggs. A mini-tureen of chicken liver pate. If heading to Shaun's, stick with the antipasto and a glass of wine and everyone will leave happy and still able to pay their mortgage.

Sunflower Cafe ( 5975 Roswell Rd NE, Atlanta, GA)
Vegetarian restaurants come in two varieties, shaped by either an ethical-based philosophy or one motivated strictly by health concerns. The former tend to be great fun with their decadent and rich fare (think lots of cream, cheese, deep-fried offerings etc) while the latter - if not intensely creative - often feel punitive in nature. The politically incorrect might call this "rabbit food". Sunflower Cafe manages to stride the fine line between the two extremes, and even confirmed carnivores will enjoy the peaceful patio out back, thoughtfully shaded from the scorching Georgia sun. Mother enjoyed a Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sandwich ($11) while Cafe Drake noshed through a huge bowl of Indonesian-style noodles ($11) in a hearty coconut milk sauce. The pasta was cooked perfectly and while intense, the sauce did not overwhelm the delicacy of even the fresh oyster mushrooms dotted throughout.

Flip Burger ( 1587 Howell Mill RD NW, Atlanta, GA)

Local celebrity chef Richard Blaise has made quite an impression on the Atlanta dining scene since his appearance in the finale two years ago of TV's Top Chef. With something like four or five restaurants dotted throughout the city, Blaise's brand of comfort food by way of molecular gastronomy is finding a welcome home in the Deep South. Nowhere more than Flip Burger do the two dining concepts come together better, i.e. a dessert selection featuring liquid nitrogen-tweaked "milkshakes" in flavors like fois gras and pistachio-truffle.

While we enjoyed a lunch of Shrimp Burgers, a Moroccan Lamb Burger with house-pickled veggies and homemade harissa, vodka-battered onion rings and crisp fries, the chef du jour himself strolled through, casting an approving eye over the bustling, ultra-mod, all-white dining room. Playful as his menu can be, the flavors are serious. Seriously good! Cafe Drake's lamb burger was tender and dripping with spicy juices, while Mother's shrimp burger was an culinary engineering marvel of minced shrimp held together with who knows what?
Lunch for two with a glass of wine runs about $50.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

After an Absence . . .

We apologize for the recent lack of postings here at Cafe Drake's online home, but CD has suffered a recent setback, one especially frustrating to our self-created world of food, drink and entertaining. About 9 days ago we woke in the morning with a searing pain in our jaw and an inability to open our mouth. A dentist and dental surgeon a day later confirmed we dislocated our jaw! Possibly through nighttime teeth grinding or clenching. Possibly not. Anyway, the joint popped its groove, the circle did not hold and facial muscles spasmed.

For the immediate (and longer) future Cafe Drake is consigned to a liquid diet, punctuated only with daily doses of painkillers and muscle relaxants. Not as fun as it may sound when you literally can't bite a sausage.

Shakes, smoothies, homemade veggie and fruit juices and pureed soups are a current mainstay. Hence a new focus for the moment at Cafe Drake. No more recipes for foods that require chewing; we couldn't bear the torture of salivating over dishes we're unable to consume. Look for smoothie recipes galore and an especial attention to thin soups.

In the last week Cafe Drake has churned out the following smooth soups:

Greek Chickpea Soup ( brown 1 onion and 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil for 5 minutes. add fresh thyme and a bit of dried dill. spike it with 2-3 dried red chiles. add a can of chickpeas and simmer with 2 cups of chicken - or veggie - stock for 10 minutes. cool slightly and puree in blender. return to soup pot and add 1 bunch of minced sorrel. can be topped with soft feta crumbles and/or a dollop of Greek yogurt).

Potato and Fenugreek Soup (brown an onion and garlic and brown mustard seeds in 3 T. of oil for 3 minutes. add 3 chopped potatoes, 1 t. turmeric and 3 cups of stock. simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. add 1 bunch fresh fenugreek leaves (chopped) and simmer for 5 more minutes. puree in blender and return to pot. season highly with salt, pepper, a bit of heavy cream and good butter).

Broccoli Soup (brown an onion in olive oil, then add 1 chopped bunch of broccoli, stems included. add 3 cups of stock of your choice and simmer for 10 minutes. puree in blender and return to saucepan. add 1 cup of whole milk and a dash of grated nutmeg. season to taste.

Punjab Spinach Soup (in a stockpot, heat a tablespoon or two of butter and then fry a teaspoon of cumin seeds until they pop. add some chopped onion, a little ginger and 1 chopped turnip. throw in a pinch or two of turmeric and cayenne pepper. Saute all for about 5 minutes. now add 2-3 cups of vegetable stock and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. throw in 1 package of frozen spinach and cook soup an additional 10 minutes. puree in a blender and return to pot. season with salt and pepper.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Urad Dhal: A Cafe Drake Favorite

No matter how many Indian buffets we serve at Cafe Drake, no matter how tipsy our guests, the humble dish of stewed urad dhal always wins new fans. The split Indian lentils, known as urad dhal, are more typically ground into a flour adapted for paper-thin crepes (dosas) or thickened and fried as savoury "donuts" in South Indian cuisine. But in the enormous province of Rajasthan, bordering the sands of Pakistan, locals often create rich stews from these multi-purpose legumes. The recipe below - and shown above with greens, chile paranthas and yogurt chutney - is typical of western India and its millions of denizens. Obscured from 99% of restaurant menus, this homestyle comfort stew will delight any discerning guest; serve to impress with said yogurt and your choice of vegetable accompaniments.


If you can't find urad dhal at your closest Indian food market (and it will be plentiful at any subcontinental store), skip the recipe altogether. there is no substitute. So buy at your local market, even if it means a 30-minute drive. Or Google the legumes if all else fails; they're insanely cheap and available online and a 3-lb. bag will last quite awhile.

a little over 1 cup of urad dhal / 1/4 t. turmeric / 4 plum tomatoes, chopped / 1 onion, chopped / 2 T. oil / 1/2 t. cumin seeds / 1 T. fennel seeds / 2-inch piece of ginger, minced / 2 dried red chiles, broken into pieces/ salt and pepper / chopped cilantro for garnish

  1. Rinse urad dhal very well then add with 4 cups of water to a large saucepan. Add tomato, turmeric and onion. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer - covered - for about 30 minutes. If foam rises to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon.

  2. For the last part, heat oil in a small skillet and fry cumin and fennel seeds until they pop. Be careful to not burn!

  3. Add ginger and chile and fry for 30 seconds.

  4. Pour seasoned oil into pot of urad dhal and simmer gently for 5 more minutes.

  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve warm, topped with chopped cilantro.