Saturday, October 30, 2010

World's Easiest Lamb Stew

Cafe Drake's Easiest Lamb Stew: Brown 1 lb. of cubed lamb (shoulder or leg) in 2 T. of olive oil until well colored on all sides. Sprinkle profusely with salt and black pepper and cook for 1 more minute over high heat. Remove from pan and add: 1 roughly chopped red onion, 3 cloves whole garlic, a handful of thyme sprigs, 2-3 roughly chopped, in large pieces, carrots and 1 each chopped potato and turnip. Cook, stirring often, for 7-10 nminutes adding more oil if required. Return lamb to pan. Add 1 cup of dry white wine and 1/2 cup vegetable stock and cook over a low heat, covered, for 1 hour or until meat is very tender. Check seasonings and adjust as needed. Serve with buttered egg noodles or crusty French bread.

The Halloween Girl: Sloane's 4th Birthday

Papa Henry finds a moment of peace amidst the happy chaos of sugared-up toddlers.

Ruske shares a moment with the kids in Sloane's too-cool boat bed.

A happy Birthday Girl, and well she should be, after a feast of kid (and adult) friendly food like hotdogs, sliders, roasted white asparagus, pickled beets, hummus, olives and luxe cupcakes a la Salted Fudge, Spiderweb Caramel and Pistachio Buttercream!

Our horned hostess keeps things tidy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Show Some for the Zombies, or Zombies Have To Eat Too

So we know fully that vampires have jumped the broadcast TV shark and that zombies are the New Cool, so this Halloween Cafe Drake is eating up (pun absolutely intended) IFC Channel's Brit export, The Dead Set. So far the first of 5 episodes have been shockingly shocking and creepy, with the living dead gnawing their way through a politically divided United Kingdom. Best of all, the mini-series takes deep potshots at reality TV (a studio producing brainless fodder such as Big Brother 10 is the first invaded and killed/zombified) and a current economic and political  climate that seems to suggest the poor are better off dead.We're also excited to see if the always impressive AMC can deliver a post- Mad Men/Breaking Bad hit with their zombie series The Walking Dead premiering Halloween evening.

Zombies are represented yet again in an event celebrating two of our favorite things at Cafe Drake, the NYC Public Library system and Offal - The Zombie March to Save the Libraries! Details below courtesy of Urban Librarians Unite:

You thought the fight for library budgets were done until next year? Nope! The midyear budget adjustment will result in a projected further cut of 5.4% to NYC library budgets. These new cuts will result in even less service hours and MORE LAYOFFS.

We've already lost Saturday Service in most of the city. So those working parents taking their kids to the library on the weekend? Tough, not open. Can't return your books during the w...eek because you work 60 hours just to live? Tough, closed on the weekend.

What does any of this have to do with zombies? Well, without libraries there are no brains, and zombies need to eat brains to live. So New York's zombie librarians will be walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall this Halloween to protest these drastic cuts to their food supply.

Meet us in the circle at the west end of Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, next to the High Street A, C Station.

Dress in your Librarian Zombie best, and come help us bring attention to the continuing cuts to the libraries, and the elimination of the yummiest brains in the city, those of Library Users.

Happy Halloween from Cafe Drake

We're madly busy in the kitchens this time of year, both here at Cafe Drake and over at The DP Chutney Collective. To keep us entertained during many hours of chopping and stirring we're indulging our favorite seasonal pastime . . . creepy Old Time Radio (OTR) classics from legendary broadcasts of yesteryear. Some of the more atmospheric and innovative include: The Sealed Book, Lights Out, Quiet Please, The Witching Hour and Weird Circle . Click the previous lists and listen online for free while you scare up your own Halloween meals.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Two Lonely Bookworms

"Where is everybody??"

Personal Library place cards at Jen's dinner table.

"Maybe someone will show up?"

Lucy and Biscuit offered to fill the two empty seats.

After a long day in the chutney kitchens, Cafe Drake was thrilled to begin the book club evening with sopressata, cheese and pate.

"Should we just start??"

Rich and hearty chicken and leek soup and yellow tomatoes.

As you can see above, Jen Lazzaro has a deft hand at setting deceptively simple and utterly charming tables. The occasion was a monthly meeting of the Brooklyn Bookworms but ended up being just ourselves and our lovely host. Undeterred we tucked into 2 bottles of dry red, cheese, cured meats, pate, soup, bread and salad while discussing our October selection, the appropriately food-obsessed The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola.

Sleeping Beauty (and then awake)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Atlanta Restaurant Recaps, Part 1

Kyma (3085 Piedmont Rd., Atlanta, GA 30305)
Fanoos Persian Cuisine (6125 Roswell Rd., Atlanta, GA 30328)

The multi-course tasting menu at Buckhead's luxuriously appointed Kyma is the way to go, allowing diners to sample a wide variety of Greek specialties, tweaked variations on classic peasant fare gussied up to reflect the sleek and elegant restaurant interior (a traditional color scheme of chalk white and sea blue evokes the Aegean islands in an unexpectedly modern interpretation).

Equally modern is the preparation and presentation . . . dollops and artfully streaked sauces, reductions and dribbled foams immediately indicate this won't be the rougher Greek fare generally encountered in over-lit eateries decorated with Parthenon wallpaper murals and general banquet hall blahs.

After cocktails our astute waitress (Bulgarian but heartily acknowledging a legitimate national culinary kinship with the Greeks) vehemently warded us away from a customary bottle of retsina (the pine essence-spiked white wine Cafe Drake so associates with Greek food) in favor of a pricier but excellent dry Riesling. Then came the multiple courses, all excellent actually but standouts included: eggplant, red pepper and white bean purees served with toasted pita and warm sesame bread; marble-sized lamb meatballs over a navy bean stew and drizzled with yogurt; a quirky preparation of mussels, steamed in a creamy feta and slivered leek broth; braised lamb shank with yellow split peas and fried tapioca pearls; fork tender braised octopus legs and the crowning glory, a whole Dover sole, filleted table side with brown butter and fried capers.

The northern Atlanta neighborhood of Sandy Springs seems to be a mecca for Iranian eateries, so carefully labeled in all signage now as "Persian". Perhaps overly nostalgic and historically inaccurate in their geographic moniker, one can hardly fault the survival tactics of a nation still demonized by a significant portion of the U.S. population (thanks, Fox News). Maybe even if America continues to dismiss the factual statistics of a planet comprised of a Muslim majority, they can at least appreciate the centuries-old cuisine. Cafe Drake and our mother certainly did at Fanoos restaurant, a sprawling indoor complex of dance floors, banquet halls and traditional low tables (for reclined dining and relaxation)  and erstwhile opulent rugs. We loved a Sunday afternoon brunch buffet with a Byzantine maze of choices both sweet and savory and yet none of the pastry board /fruit bar /roast meat carving station fluff of the pseudo-posh hotel equivalent.

Particularly good:  a pickled salad of cukes,carrots and eggplant; tah dig (crispy rice cakes); boneless chicken kabobs with saffron rice; gheimeh (beef and peas in a tangy tomato sauce) and more lamb dishes than you could shake a shank at.

Sprout Creek Farm

Goats relax all over Poughkeepsie's Sprout Creek Farm.

And the goats here LOVE affection!

On several sylvan acres in the Hudson River Valley lies dairy farm and cheese producers Sprout Creek Farm. Cafe Drake is absolutely convinced their products are amongst the very finest domestic cheeses and worth every penny - this is cheese to be properly served (on its own or with suitable condiments) and savored in small, appreciative and celebratory doses. Our favorites include: a raw cow's milk, Toussaint; a washed rind, Batch 35; the pearly and creamy goat milk, Sophie and a spreadable chevre, Doe Re Mi. Best of all, in addition to crafting internationally award winning cheeses, SCF is dedicated to its numerous community outreach programs and educational opportunities for area youth.
Happy free-range chickens lay better tasting eggs.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Overdue Cafe Drake Dinner with Jen Lazzaro

What's Up, Auntie Jen?

Bangers and Mash, Cafe Drake style: organic and grass-fed lamb herb and pork chorizo sausages (from Kingston, NY's premier butchers Fleischers Free Range Meats) atop mashed rutabagas.

Without the need any longer for pumping A/C, Cafe Drake is once again entertaining parties of two in our home office/computer room/den.

Celebrating the holiday season with a festive and retro tabletop.

If we could humbly offer one piece of advice for dinner party perfection it would be to use, if not entirely, at least 75% candle light for illumination. No one wants to eat underneath overhead lighting.

Sides to the sausages and mashed rutabagas included quick-pickled daikon radish and the herb salad above of fresh dill and parsley, onions, garlic, chives, tomatoes and Sicilian olive oil.

What can we say? We're in the holiday spirit!

In the two photos above, Jen Lazzaro enjoys an evening at Cafe Drake while sporting a chic new pixie hairdo. Spirits (no pun intended, honestly) were high (again, ditto) after (1) many Kir Royale aperitifs, (2) a bottle of delicious red Bordeaux courtesy of Jen and (3) digestifs (consumed with a 2-course dessert featuring Sprout Creek Farm sheep milk cheese and pear-cardamom chutney and soon following, chocolate truffles) of reserve Calvados and Grappino.

Overnight in Woodstock

Combining business with pleasure, Cafe D. overnighted in the hippy-dippy yet achingly charming town of Woodstock, NY, visiting potential DP Chutney Collective vendors while savoring most our time with old Park Slope friend and crony from the early '90s, Ruth Kopelman. Ruth was gracious enough to not only provide us shelter for the night in her woodland retreat (a cozier-than-thou bungalow deep amongst the pines and maples of Ulster County) but to also treat us to a festive dinner at Woodstock's health-centric Middle Eastern eatery, Joshua's Cafe (51 Tinker St., Woodstock, NY 12498)

Of course CD explored less the clean eating side of the establishment in favor of good dry Gimlets, an appetizer of mixed Mid-East "tapas" (baba ganoush, hummus, pickles peppers and tabbouleh), a dinner salad enriched with thick and dreamy tahini dressing and a stomach-stretching entree of near-perfect moussaka (layered correctly with ground lamb, cinnamon-kissed tomatoes, tender grilled eggplant and burnished with a decadent egg custard). Thank heavens it came sided with grilled zucchini and tomatoes and a mound of buttery brown rice.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Locust Grove

After an awe-inspiring lunch at Fishkill, NY's Tanjore Restaurant (992 Main Street) (insanely good and unique Hyderbadi cuisine: check out especially the coconut fish curry with floating curry leaves and a largess of toasted red chilies; the "warm" coleslaw also decked out with a plethora of various chilies; lentil and rice "pancakes" slathered with coconut chutney and our favorite, a tikka masala swapping out the usual dry chicken bits for creamy house made paneer (Indian curd cheese) squares. Also very unexpected was a rich curry of fried potatoes and roasted bell peppers.), Cafe Drake  - despite a severe food coma - motored up tacky, obnoxious Rte. 9 to a jewel box Hudson Valley estate and accompanying grounds overlooking the river. . . Locust Grove, the original home of the father of the telegraphic code, Samuel Morse.