Sunday, January 30, 2011

B.S. and A.S. : Before and After Sickness

Hopefully for you, like Cafe Drake, you will only succumb to the Flu - the Real Deal, the True, Dark Prince - no more than once every couple of decades. But when you Do, prayers are offered for the health blessings we have throughout the other 19 years, such are the medieval torments of this most vicious virus. Cafe D. spent the last week in the hellish throes of influenza, alternating between soaked midnight sheets and shivering mid-afternoons, coughing, retching and racked with an astonishing array of aches and ailments too graphically disturbing to relate on a food-based website. Below we present our "food diary" of the nightmarish days and nights, revealing in its dietary choices and hopefully helpful in guidance for those soon to follow in our pained footsteps.

(temp: 101 F.)
plain brown rice

peppermint tea

peppermint tea
Kozy Shack rice pudding (small amount)

water; green tea

rice pudding
Blondie brownie
peppermint tea
Chai Green tea

orange juice
lemon-lime Gatorade
soft-boiled egg
whole wheat toast (1 piece, dry)

(temp: 103 F.)
peppermint tea
rose hips tea
lemon water
Emergen-C fizzy drink

orange juice
Irish Breakfast tea
rice pudding
Blondie brownie
Cranberry Oatmeal Cookie

homemade chicken soup
chamomile tea
bleu cheese and scallion scone

orange juice
poached eggs (2)
whole wheat toast 

Roast Pork Chow Fun
Broccoli with Bean Curd in Garlic Sauce
Brown Rice (all from Chinese delivery)
Peppermint Tea
Orange-flavored Gatorade

Payback Dinner for Ruske

Pre-mashed potato topped pies.

We recently had a legendary dinner at the home of dear pal Jen Ruske . . .  a late night extravaganza boasting numerous cocktails, stuffed mushrooms and exquisite pistachio-studded mortadella as snacks, soon followed by a raw "rubbed" Tuscan kale salad bejeweled with blue cheese, candied walnuts and roasted beets . . . improbably topped by an entree of port wine and veal stock-braised short ribs and pan-roasted celery root, parsnips and carrots. And are you ready? Chased with homemade, chocolate dipped coconut macaroons and cognac! Add in the charming company of Ruske and her compadres Ben and Mary C. and we ended up with a most memorable evening.

Recovering from a major bout with the flu, Cafe Drake could only hint at the former glories of Ms. Ruske's meal but nonetheless conjured up a simpler-than-thou dinner for Jen upon her arrival from a red-eye flight from LA. 

Shepherd's Pie (made from lots of rosemary and Shiraz-soaked lamb stew and topped with mashed potatoes, sweet and Yukon Gold, mixed); a hearty green salad; a cheese course of Stilton, pumpernickel and apple and raisin chutneys and a wee finale of salted caramels and aged cognac comprised an unintentionally Anglo/Franco-phile dinner as thanks.

The Winter's First Fondue

The table is set for the season's first fondue, always a classic Swiss version of Emmental, Gruyere, white wine and kirsch.

Jen Ruske swirls a bread cube in the rich fondue. The B/W is not an affectation but rather the prism through which we always see fondue dinners . . . slinky, snowbound early 60s cinematic classics like Roger Vadim's Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960!

Drifting snow not absolutely essential for fondue rendezvous, but it always helps . . . Cafe Drake's kitchen fire escape.
We always make a concession to somewhat "healthy" dining, in this instance, a salad of Bibb lettuce with miso and Chinese chives dressing preceding the main course of melted cheese and booze.

Gift From Heaven (and David S.)

One of Cafe Drake's Dearest, Nearest and Oldest Pals, David Sellers, has often proved himself quite the accomplished painter, but a particular canvas has touched us deeply here at Cafe Drake - a gift from David, an arresting close-up portrait of Sailor Page. Not a single day goes by that we don't think fondly of - and miss terribly - Sailor, and many thanks to David for capturing him at his prime. Giving us cherished memories every time we walk through Cafe D.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Firecracker Chicken

For the marinade:
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
For the sauce:
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
To cook:
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (peanut tastes best)
  • 1 fresh jalapeno chile, cut into thin strips (do not remove seeds)
  • 8 small dried red chiles
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

  • Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl. Cut chicken crosswise into 1/2-inch wide strips, place in marinade, and stir to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  • Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl; mix well.
  • Place a stir-fry pan over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add fresh and dried chiles; cook, stirring, until dried chiles begin to brown, about 15 seconds. Add chicken, bell pepper, and onion; fry until chicken is no longer pink in center, 2 to 3 minutes. 
  • Add sauce and bring to a boil. Stir to evenly coat chicken and serve.
Cafe Drake loves this spicy little number with brown rice and lots and lots of chives and slivered scallions for garnish.

Sunday Afternoon with Jen and Susan and Cynthia and Biscuit

Quesadillas are for Nights When Cooking Dinner Isn't an Option

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Best Way to Cook Pork Chops

Do as the restaurant chefs do and follow the same rules employed for most cuts of steak ( porterhouse, ribeye, fillets etc) when cooking the perfect pork chop. First, ask your butcher for extra thick cuts of chops, bone in or out is not so important and up to your preference. What IS important is that the chops have at least a minimal amount of fat ringing the edges; pork is so lean these days it's a virtual hat trick to pull off a moist end product. 

An hour before dinner salt and pepper each side of the chop heavily and leave to rest at room temperature. When ready to cook, heat an iron skillet for 6-8 minutes over over a medium-high flame and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. When the pan is very hot, add a thin coating of oil and plop in the chops. The pork should never be touching and ideally have at least an inch of space between each piece - this often means using two pans.

Sear both sides till well browned, roughly 2 minutes per side but perhaps more. When both sides of the chops have a deep caramel color top all with 1 T. of good butter and place in the oven for about 10 minutes for medium done. If you have a meat thermometer stick into the thickest part of the chop and make sure the chops rise to 160 degrees but ideally, no more.

Allow the meat to rest for 7-10 minutes and serve warm.

Bookworms Meet on January's Coldest Night at Mary's Flat

Evidence of a glorious meal cooked by Ms. Mary Cahill for our monthly book club meeting. Mary chose the delightfully obscure stories of New Zealand writer Janet Frame for our reading selection, and prior to discussing, wowed us all with impressive bottles of Pinot Noir, bubbly, Cabernet, various munchies, braised lamb shank, cheesey grits perfect for the frigid evening and braised kale. Yum! Oh, and salted caramels and midnight dark chocolate for dessert. Way to go, Cahill!!

Lazzaro is scary with a meat fork.

In an outfit brilliantly channeling Liz Taylor's 70s Acapulco phase, Mary plates up.

Keep all kitchen implements away from Jen Lazzaro after two bottles of Cava.

Ruske always captures the good times for posterity.

Coconut Fish for Octavio

Coconut Fish Curry

Start with one pound of thin fish filets such as flounder or trout. Dust them all well with turmeric powder on both sides and do the same - freely - with good kosher salt. Set aside.

In a medium skillet heat 4 T. of oil till almost smoking. Reduce heat to medium and fry each piece of fish, SEPARATELY, until brown . . . about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and dry on paper towels.

Add 1 t. black mustard seeds to the remaining oil (adding more as needed to coat bottom of skillet) and once they begin to sputter and pop add: 8 fresh or frozen curry leaves, 2 whole cloves, 2 cardamom pods and cook for 30 seconds. Now add: 1 thinly sliced onion and a T. of chopped ginger (or a teaspoon of the dried variety). Cook on a lower flame for 6 minutes or until the onions are browning nicely.

Reduce heat to low and add: at least 1 t. or more of salt, 1/2 t. turmeric, 1 t. ground coriander and 1 can of coconut milk. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring fairly often over low heat. Do not let the coconut milk boil but keep at a low simmer.

Add the fried fish to the pan and heat through gently. Serve with rice and the thickened coconut sauce drizzled profusely over the fish.

Lloyd, like his older brother Sailor often did, waits patiently for his spicy fish.

Octavio and Lloyd at the dinner table.

A recent meal with Octavio at Cafe Drake included orange gimlets, spiced macadamia nuts, coconut fish curry, basmati rice, okra with tomatoes and cabbage salad.

Monday, January 10, 2011

After a 12-Day Absence, Lloyd Was Glad to Have Daddy Back Home

Welcome to 2011: Cafe Drake Early January Snippets

We promise to soon post reviews and recaps of our many spectacularly good meals recently amidst Atlanta's thriving international restaurant scene, but for now Cafe Drake offers just a few miscellaneous moments from the New Year.

Octavio Fenech joined Cafe Drake for our annual "good luck" New Year's meal of Southern charms: Hoppin' John stew, braised greens and cornbread. The simple but traditional meal was rounded out with a sharp sheep's milk cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm and homemade pickles.

After experiencing the visual spectacle of Peter Greenaway's Last Supper exhibition at the Park Ave. Armory, Jen Ruske retired to Cafe Drake for a lazy Sunday night supper of toasted whole wheat cornbread, curried chickpeas and kale. We started with Blood Orange Gin Rickeys and toasted cashews and ended with (our Mother's handmade) chocolate-dipped dried apricots. The first seated course was a bisque of carrots and parsnips (seen above, stewing and later, plated with a spring onion and white truffle oil drizzle).

What to do with a leftover 1/2 lb. of iron skillet whole wheat cornbread? Stuff a chicken of course.

On the coldest night of the year (so far) Ruske invited friends to her warm and cozy new flat for drinks and a cheese and fig compote spread. Sharon and Pete brought homemade peanut butter and chocolate fudge and after gorging on sweets, cheese and bubbly we all headed to nearby Vamos al Tequila. While deserted and kitschy the restaurant turns out decent enchiladas mole and margaritas. Best of all though were two homemade hot sauces - one thick with cilantro, the second creamy and yellow from a mysterious mix of fresh and dried chilies - and a free round offered by the hostess of tequila and mezcal shots.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Christmas in Atlanta

It turned out to be a White Christmas in Atlanta in other ways as well - a light snowfall covered the indigenous pines and evergreens with a dusting of glimmering white.

Cheese plates compiled from the most amazing specimens are a big part of the holiday splurge for us.

Smoked chicken and chipotle casserole with roasted asparagus.

One of many Christmas cocktails at Mother's house.

Mustard and rosemary pork loin with balsamic string beans and rutabaga-turnip gratin.

A holiday tradition is Mother's Cranberry Bake - sweet and tart and the perfect partner to roast meats.

At the Margaret Mitchell House/Gone with the Wind museum.

Candied Hibiscus flowers and champagne.

Another treat with pre-dinner fireside cocktails was decadent fresh lobster dip.

Our Mother always goes to great lengths creating a perfectly festive home.

Roasted pork loin.

Black tea pickled dried prunes.