Monday, November 29, 2010

Will Lloyd Just Stop Being so Damn Cute?

The Bookworms' Latest Assembly at Cafe Drake

November 2010 Fierce Bookworms Meeting
Selection: Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, Justin Taylor

Gingered Roasted Almonds and Walnuts

Chickpea Bisque with Harissa Oil and Truffled Croutons

Line-Caught Wild Cod Tagine
Whole Wheat Couscous
Parsley and Lemon Salad
Braised Collard Greens

Plat du Fromage ( Local Raw Sheep and Aged Goat Cheeses)
Cranberry Chutney

Coffee Service
Mocha Cream Shortbread Cookies

Ruske's New Apartment + cocktail snacks and Polish dinner

Ms. Ruske always outdoes herself, even for a tiny housewarming gathering of herself, Cafe Drake and Jen's mother Connie. Along with good red wine we sipped 1982 Calvados (!) while snacking on assorted bruschetta-style savories: goat cheese and fig compote, salami and mustard, bleu cheese and pickled oranges etc.

After drinks we dashed to beat the early closing time (10PM) of a neighborhood Polish restaurant. Cafe Drake heartily welcomes our dear friend Jen to Greenpoint!!

Birthday Cocktails with Jen Lazzaro

Many Happy Birthday Wishes to Jen!! (pictured above at Hotel Delmano- camera shy - with Dallas Sowers)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Our Son Lloyd

Recent Dinner at Jen Lazzaro's Flat

Perpetually hungry Biscuit waits patiently for table handouts. And not to worry - he got them!

Despite being under the weather, Jen L. hosted Cafe Drake and Jen Ruske for dinner recently. Ruske contributed this dish of flash-fried, marinated calamari. Delicious.

Lazzaro told Cafe Drake's camera to "Talk to the Hand".

Jen Ruske
Jen Lazzaro's excellent Beef Stew (spiked with allspice berries) atop creamed sweet potatoes.

Ever industrious, Jen Ruske also whipped up a side of kale with chickpeas.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Catching a Book Moment Here and There

God only knows when we find time to read at Cafe Drake, between our recently neglected hosting duties here in favor of near-constant condiment production over at The DP Chutney Collective. Still, those long-simmered chutneys sometimes afford us an hour or two of quality book time while stirring vats not dare left unattended (chutneys burn easily!) and our version of multi-tasking has led us to several amazing short story collections this Fall. Especially loved and recommended:

Collected Stories - Tennessee Williams (New Directions/Penguin)

The rare insightful preface (don't see many of those these days) by Gore Vidal whets one's appetite suitably for this delirious and vast range of lesser-known short fiction by America's greatest playwright (sorry, Eddie Albee, you're 1st runner-up in our eyes). Cafe Drake can't help identifying with Williams' cast of lost and damaged characters, many still glimpsing inspiring hope in the face of absurd tragedy. A playful and archly witty element intrudes in stories such as The Killer Chicken and The Closet Queen and The Inventory at Fontana Bella, while masterpieces of the form can be found via Two on a Party, Desire and the BlackMasseur , One Arm and Hard Candy. Truly not a second of Life could ever be considered wasted while consuming these tales.

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned - Wells Tower ( Macmillan)

We actually read this debut collection of stories last year but needed to return to it in October to whet our creative appetites, always sure to eventually translate to the kitchen in a perfect example of Life imitating/inspiring Art. The final and title selection is simply astonishing, on a level almost never encountered by a young, first-time author. Even better, Wells Tower is a resident of Cafe Drake's neighborhood so we'd love to make dinner for him one of these days!

American Salvage -Bonnie Jo Campbell (Wayne State University Press)

Less quirky than many of her contemporaries in the short fiction arena, Campbell lacks none of their precision at dissecting and transforming the banal details of everyday existence into something far greater than the sum of ordinary parts. Lots of Midwestern methheads and the working poor depicted here, elevated into angels of poetic prose and thus illuminating the inner and outer glory in even the most downtrodden of us all. 

Sourland - Joyce Carol Oates (ecco/HarperCollins)

Cafe Drake used to joke that our reading schedule couldn't even keep up with Oates' publishing schedule, so voluminous is her voracious imagination, meticulously displayed in any number of new books each year. Her very latest, this collection of stories culled from an eclectic array of literary magazines, is only slightly less dark than the usual trademark glimpses in to Hell on Earth but perhaps more resonant for all its jaundiced realism.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another Japanese Small Bites Meal

Call it an obento box dinner, Japanese tapas or a meal of bar snacks, but Cafe Drake loves from time to time assembling a few small plates (generally Asian inspired) for a special and fun dinner treat, usually consumed in front of Glee, Law & Order UK , The Arrangement or another favorite show.

Bulgar wheat cooked with assorted early Autumn vegetables.

Black pepper and sesame crusted fried tofu.

Chicken salad with wasabi mayo.

Again, house made okra pickles and sweet cuke pickles from Cheshire Canning.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

We'll Never Forget You

As the 6-month anniversary of Sailor Page's passing rapidly approaches we'll continue to post a few pics from the Cafe Drake vaults. Above are two photos of Lloyd's older brother in his healthy prime (apprx. ages: 8 and 10).

Really Really Tired? Two Dinners for You

What could be easier than roasting some seasonal cauliflower and frying up a few Chicken and Smoked Apple sausages from Trader Joe's?

With a can of good Italian tuna packed in olive oil, Tuna Croquettes come together in minutes. Shave off further kitchen time by serving over pre-washed baby spinach leaves and alongside quick-cooking Basmati rice.

Lloyd Never Forgets His Vitamins

Monday, November 08, 2010

Pumpkin and Miso Soup

What do you do when faced with three sugar pumpkins day-trip exported from the Hudson Valley's Adams Fair Acre Farms and only two are scheduled to become the star of a batch of quick breads and biscotti? After staring at a delightfully misshapen orange orb for half an hour Cafe Drake hit up on the idea of soup, but we didn't want any standard variety pumpkin soup (which truth be told tends to be watery and a bit bland). The recipe devised below is anything but underwhelming - thick and rich and safe for the vegetarians in your life.

Begin by slicing and seeding 1 medium sized pumpkin of any variety. Obviously kabocha, butternut and acorn squashes etc. would work as well but you may need to use more than one. In the end you're gonna want at least 2 cups of cooked squash. No need to peel.

Roast the pumpkin in wedges in a hot oven, around 400 degrees until very soft; this can take anywhere from 40-60 minutes or more depending on the size of the wedges and type of pumpkin used. Scrape all the flesh from the cooked wedges and set aside.

While roasting the pumpkin, saute in 2-3 T. of butter or olive oil in a large saucepan: 1 minced onion, 1/2 of a green bell pepper (minced) and a T. or to of fresh chopped ginger. You may also add 2-3 dried red chilies or a t. or more of cayenne if you like a bit of heat as we do. 

Cook until the onion is browned then add the cooked pumpkin along with: 4 cups of vegetable stock or plain water, a T. of honey and some salt and black pepper to taste. Cook all over a low flame (basically at a light simmer) for 20 minutes or until beginning to thicken. Puree everything until smooth in a blender and return to the saucepan.

Take a ladle of soup from the pot and stir into it 2 T. of white (sometimes called blond) miso. Return to the pot and stir well. DO NOT allow the soup to ever return to a full boil lest you kill the beneficial live bacteria contained in miso paste.

Serve hot in soup bowls with a garnish of slivered scallions, snipped chives, sesame seeds or toasted nori strips.

You Asked . . . 2 More Pasta Recipes

We still receive plenty of requests for pasta recipes here at Cafe Drake, and are forever slow in accommodating due to our relative lack of preparing pasta ourselves. We LOVE it of course but somehow seem to forget about the wonderful world of Italian noodles. Cafe Drake's favored method of serving pasta is generally as a dinner party first course, but the two recipes below can easily serve as light luncheon entrees or become more substantial evening meals when served with a salad and garlic bread.


Using the best anchovies you can find and/or afford is fairly important here; luckily their pungent flavor goes a long way. And even if you think you hate anchovies, give them a try here as the "fishy" flavor almost disappers and transforms magically into a deep and salty nuttiness.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and roast 3/4 cup of walnuts for 10-15 minutes, shaking the pan here and there to avoid burning. Set aside and when cool roughly chop.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt and then 1 lb. of spaghetti or linguine. Stir and cook until al dente then drain.

While the pasta cooks heat 2-3 T. of olive oil in a skillet and add 1/4 lb. (4 oz.) of chopped anchovies along with their oil. If they came packed with capers you can throw them in as well. Add 2 cloves of garlic (chopped) and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. The garlic should become golden but not allowed to brown deeply (and thus developing an acrid flavor).

Finally, toss the pasta and anchovies/garlic together along with 1/4 cup or so of the pasta cooking water. Toss very well and over a low flame to incorporate all the flavors. Toss in the walnuts, stir well again, season to taste with salt and black pepper and serve hot.


Looking and tasting elegant, Pasta with Fennel makes an ideal starter prior to a fish or chicken main dish. If a less intense fennel flavor is desired, skip the seeds.

Soak 1/4 cup currants in warm water. Toast 1/4 cup pine nuts in a hot, dry skillet being careful not to burn. Set both aside.

Bring a big pot of water to boil. While waiting on the water, finely slice 1 fennel bulb - discard any overly tough outer leaves. If you insist on using tough or fibrous outer shell, slice it very, very thinly.

Heat 4-5 T. olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add the fennel to it, along with 1 chopped onion and 1 t. of fennel seeds. After 5 minutes add some salt to taste and then the currants. Simmer until all is very tender and almost caramelizing - if needed, add a few splashes of pasta water. The entire cooking time for the fennel/onions should be about 15 minutes or just less.

While cooking the fennel mixture, boil 1 lb. of ziti (or dried pasta of choice) until just tender, then drain. 

Toss the cooked fennel mixture with the pasta very well and taste for salt or pepper adjustments. Serve in pasta bowls topped with a tablespoon or so of toasted pine nuts. Pass grated Parmesan at the table.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Back to the Hudson Valley

A Kingston, NY church graveyard put us in a very Halloween mood.

Kingston is one of Cafe Drake's favorite towns in the Hudson Valley, especially its historic downtown district. This time around we express lunched on bustling Wall Street at Vincenzo's (305 Wall St., Kingston, NY 12401), sampling the Meatball Hot Sub, a terrific deal at $5 . . .light flattened orbs of ground beef and breadcrumbs, seasoned (like the drenching marinara sauce atop the entire sandwich) sanely without the usual overkill of salt and garlic. The bland interiors of Vincenzo's may clash harshly with the much of the surrounding century + old architecture, but the menu (Sicilian style antipasto platters and seafood salads, Neapolitan pizzas) and quality belies the drab decor.

Dinner was across the bridge in Rhinebeck, NY at the ever-popular restaurant, Terrapin (6426 Montgomery St., Rhinbeck, NY 12572). Dining with Cafe Drake friends and area residents Ruth and Mark, we loved the Vanilla Sidecars (icy cold and decorated with confetti of vanilla bean scrapings), the perfect herbed fries, potato gnocchi in a rich cream sauce with shaved black truffles and excellent fish and chips. A happy surprise was an expertly dressed salad of Belgian endive spears, candies pecans and local Bleu cheese.