Monday, December 17, 2012

Catching Up with Miki and Brian in the HRV

Miki and Brian blew in from Brooklyn for a recent weekend at Cafe Drake HRV, dining here (bistro meal of mussels and parsnip fries, salad, cheese, panna cotta ice cream) and there (brunch at the reliable Miss Lucy's). We also found time for a stroll around the neighborhood and vintage/antiques browsing in town. Now M&B are off for sunny holidays in Florida and Cafe Drake is closing the shutters while we go have an Atlanta Christmas. See you in 2013. Or probably a couple of days before . . .

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dinners, Snacks and Small Bites

Our favorite part of a pork katsu dinner - Japanese breaded and fried pork cutlets - is the accompanying sauce. It even saved our overcooked version seen above! The sauce can be bought in Asian markets but you can make a perfectly acceptable facsimile at home. Serve as you would condiments such as HP Sauce, Heinz 57 or A-1 Sauce. Mix together in a bowl: 1 T. soy sauce, 1 T. mirin or sake, 1 T. Worcestershire sauce, 3 T. ketchup and 1 t. hot mustard.

Cold, grey afternoons are pretty much the norm for Hudson Valley winters. Cafe Drake often warms up with a bowl of split pea soup and toasted ham and Gruyere open-faced sandwiches as seen above.

Yup, another walnut dip. This one's a cinch: in a blender whirl together until smooth:1 cup chopped walnuts (don't roast), some chopped parsley, 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, about 1/2 cup milk (water also works!), 1 minced clove of garlic, 1 t. paprika and a bit of cayenne pepper.
The result should be thick, more like a pate. Season with salt and black pepper and refrigerate for at least an hour so flavors meld. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and more chopped parsley if desired.

Grape tomato and mint leaf salad, dressed with olive oil, minced garlic and sea salt, certainly looks seasonal.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's That Time of Year

Paloma Faith

Because we feel we have great taste here at Cafe Drake, we loyally ape habits of the erstwhile print and online press and present annually our our Year's Best lists. Here goes.


Not every one of these films were made in 2012 but were - at least in the US - released this year. Only a half-dozen or so achieved the sublime heights of 2011's Best (i.e. Bellflower, Tabloid, The Future, Drive) but the following kept us enthralled and inspired to go ahead with the day. If you miss any, you're a fool. In absolutely no particular order:

Cloud Atlas
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Sound of My Voice
Cabin in the Woods
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Moonrise Kingdom
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Kid With a Bike
Monsieur Lazhar
The Raid:Redemption
Carol Channing: Larger Than Life
Blue Like Jazz 
The Road (Filipino horror film, not the C. McCarthy celluloid debacle)

The Snowtown Murders 
Shame (soundtrack also one of 2012's favorites)


Here we know of what we speak/type. Carefully cultivated playlists daily stoke the kitchen fires of Cafe Drake!

(Of Course) Matthew Dear's album Beams. No surprise and not much to say without gushing embarrassingly.

Eugene McGuiness' Invitation to the Voyage - Hands Down Cafe Drake's most treasured musical release of 2012. Again, words fail us.

 Um, can anyone say ALT-J? Bombarded by a dozen tunes from Alt-J this year "Breezeblocks" has been officially crowned our most all time forever favorite song from the always inventive group.

Singles: "Myth" - Beach House / "Emmylou" - First Aid Kit / "Genesis" - Grimes / "Royal Countess" - Boy Eats Drum Machine / "Would That Not Be Nice" - Divine Fits

Artists on Constant Rotation in 2012: Austra, Jane Jane Pollock, Tennis, Youth Lagoon, Twinsy, Icona Pop, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Death in the Afternoon, Niki and the Dove, Grimes, How To Dress Well, Purity Ring, Cheek Mountain Thief, Twin Shadow, The Helio Sequence, Tame Impala, Black Prairie (sort of an obsession), Moonface, Paloma Faith (now thas a REAL obsession), Bright Moments

Most Played Track: "Go Go Goliat" by King Melodies


And here we digress into a treaty on our own reading habits. Basically, we grab and devour whatever sounds good, pirouetting from linked author to similar genre to shared ideologies. Doesn't matter to Cafe Drake when it was penned, vaulting as we do in a reading fortnight across two centuries. Having said that pretentious mouthful, our favorite book of 2012 was published in this same year - Peter Cameron's gorgeous Coral Glynn, steeped in the tradition and subject matter of perennial Cafe D. fave authors such as Barbara Pym, Jane Austen and Penelope Mortimer. If you read nothing else in the next 12 months please please PLEASE consume this novel.

What Also Kept Cafe Drake Up Too Late in 2012 on 1200 T.C. Sheets: 

Dear Husband / Sourland / Black Dahlia, White Dahlia, all 2012, all by J. C. Oates

The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore

Anything by Shirley Hazzard 


Not our favorite medium. But, well, we watched Don't Trust the Bitch in #3B, Criminal Minds, Dexter, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Guys With Kids, Misfits, Two Broke Girls, American Horror Story, Modern Family, Revenge, 666 Park, The Office, Parks & Recreation and Nashville.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Don't Tell Us We Can't Have Our Salads in Winter

For ardent locavores (like us) salads in the colder months can be challenging. Not so much if we avail ourselves of our northern neighbor Canada's hothouse and hydroponic tomatoes, not to mention hearty snow-resistant greens like chicory, escarole and tender baby kales. We add Winter Whites via Maytag bleu cheese or Roquefort and boost protein with rib-sticking stewed chickpeas on the side.

Regardless of the season we Northeasterners must rely on shipped avocados. Why not celebrate the fruit's utter lusciousness with just a simple dressing of aged Balsamic and Maldon salt flakes?

The Rise of the Transplants

Susan and Sloane, like ourselves, have migrated north to quieter lives above the city. Recently they drove up to Cafe Drake for a tour of our town and a quiet dinner spent snacking, sipping and confabbing. First Friday  - a monthly event highlighting the merchants of Division and Main streets - shows Saugerties at its best, resplendent especially in early December; scores of holiday lights lined most of the 19th century buildings and shopkeepers and gallery owners rolled out local treats such as hand-dipped chocolates, brownies, wines and Hudson Valley-distilled spirits (we were partial to grappa from the Finger Lakes, a specialty of the region's enduring Italian-American legacy).

Dinner at Cafe Drake was simple and designed for grazing and gossiping:  rich, gamey Scotch Broth given a Moroccan twist with ras el hanout, salad, tahini dip, toasted pita with za'atar, cinnamon and honey glazed and roasted tomatoes, pickles and muhammara. See recipe for the latter below.


Our first encounter with this sweet and rich Arabic mezze (or appetizer) was in the improbable surrounds of a Middle Eastern restaurant/night club in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela. Many years later we still can't resist leftovers tucked in pita halves with lettuce, tomato and onion. Muhammara also makes a terrific sandwich spread alongside turkey. Vegetarians should smear thickly over toasted wheat bread, top with avocado slices and make carnivores at the table jealous.

For this recipe good roasted red bell peppers in the jar are fine, but if you have the time to roast and peel 2 large sweet red bell peppers you'll notice the difference, happily. Throw the roasted peppers in a processor along with 3/4 cup toasted walnuts (toast in a 350 degree oven, on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes, shaking now and then to avoid burning), 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 T. lemon juice, about 3 T. chopped onion or shallots, 1-2 t. ground cumin, 2 t. sweet or hot paprika and 1 small, chopped jalapeno pepper. Begin to grind all together and then add - slowly - at least 2 -3 T. olive oil

Spoon into a bowl and season as you like with salt and black pepper. Cayenne pepper is good here if you'd like something spicier and Cafe Drake usually stirs in about a T. of pomegranate molasses if we have it around.

Serve with pita wedges, toast points, bruschetta, et. al.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A Bizarre Little Curry

Offbeat, eccentric curries keep our palettes on point and our minds open. Cafe Drake remains forever humbled by the sheer breadth of India's vast culinary landscapes. Chances are you won't be stumbling across this bold side dish any time soon at your local curry house so may we suggest you make it at home. Tonight or tomorrow. 


Pairs well with bean and rich meat entrees alike and Cafe Drake thought it a fine accompaniment to saag paneer. Great with basmati rice and even better with an Indian flat bread such as roti or chapati. If you can't find daikon (available now in virtually all supermarkets across the country) you might try substituting an equal amount of red radishes? Either way you'll need about 1 pound of radishes.

Peel 2-3 medium-size daikon and dice. Discard both ends of the radish.

Heat 2 T. vegetable oil (canola, sunflower or grape seed - we use the latter) over medium-high heat and sprinkle in: 6 whole cloves, 3-4 dried red chilies torn into pieces and 2 cinnamon sticks. Cook until they sizzle and release a sweet aroma before adding the radishes. 

Immediately lower the heat to medium and stir-fry the daikon for a couple of minutes. Cover the pan and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring only occasionally. Refrain from adding any water unless absolutely necessary; the daikon should release enough moisture to prevent burning or sticking if stirred now and then.

When the daikon is cooked (after 20 minutes) stir in: 1 t. sugar, 1 t. salt and 1/2 t. tamarind paste or concentrate. Taste for seasoning and add more sugar if the dish is too bitter for your liking.

Olive Oil Cookies with Sesame Seeds

Only lightly roast the sesame seeds, leaving about half still white in color. Over-roasting results in a muddy, burnt sort of flavor.

Your dough should look exactly like this.

Fresh from the oven

Begin by lightly toasting 2/3 cup sesame seeds, taking care to not brown too much. Shaking the pan frequently helps. Set those aside on a plate to cool.

Butter 2 baking pans and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl mix together 2 cups self-rising flour and 2/3 cup sugar. In a smaller bowl whisk together 2 extra-large eggs, 1/2 cup olive oil and 2 t. almond extract. Now add the egg mixture to the flour/sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until you have a thick, oily dough. Note: the dough will be crumbly and that's just fine.

Form the dough into balls the size of a walnut (a little bigger is fine) and flatten just slightly with your palm. Roll or dredge them in the sesame seeds and place 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. Sprinkle any leftover seeds across all the cookies.

Bake 25 minutes or until just firm and golden (again, not brown).

Unbelievably good with espresso or regular coffee. Another genius creation from Rozanne Gold.

Only The Best Tahini Sauce/Dressing Ever

Adapted slightly from the Healthy Crush blog, a spicy tahini sauce and dressing that has become a recent fixture on Cafe Drake's fridge shelves. Honestly, when one jar runs out we pretty much set about making another. Boasting enough flavor to enliven even a plate of steamed veggies and brown rice, the sauce is excellent on sandwiches, broiled fish and as a dip for bread and slivered carrots. Try tossing it with cold and well-rinsed spaghetti or ramen for a bolder take on Noodles with Sesame Sauce.

The original recipe called for raw garlic which we omitted; its pungency tends to overwhelm other flavors in our opinion. Instead, Cafe Drake tossed in 3 cloves of milder and sweeter roasted garlic. Do as you wish and be creative: although it's absolute perfection as is, the sauce can be taken in different directions with a few creative twists. We've loved it with a handful of sunflower seeds thrown in the blender, or add 1 roasted red bell pepper for color and extra richness without the fat.

Here's how:

Throw all of this in a blender and blend until smooth. That's it.

  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp white miso
  • 1 clove garlic (or 2-3 cloves roasted garlic)
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (rice vinegar is also great)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (honey or brown sugar are both OK)
  • 1 pinch cayenne
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes

Monday, December 03, 2012

Lloyd Models a Sleeker Pose

"Wait, did someone just call me fat?"

Lloyd Fluffs Out for Winter

When Lloyd asked us if the bottom photo made him look fat we had to lie to the little dear! (And then urge him gently - and kindly - to refrain from that pose in the future).

Happy HRV Holidays!!

An HRV Weekend with Jen & Ben

Cafe Drake was thrilled to welcome Jen Ruske and Ben Terziani to Cafe Drake HRV during these early days of the holiday season. The weather cooperated and J&B went to bed Friday night with a gentle snow blanketing the surrounding fields and woods, waking up to light ground coverage that didn't deter these hardy Northeasterners from a morning trek along the Hudson River. 

Appetites were hearty and we all enjoyed a multi-course Indian dinner at home (tomato rassam with shrimp, uttapams and coconut chutney, yogurt and ginger marinated lamb with pine nuts, basmati, pan-fried cabbage and a tangy dal spiked with tamarind) and a mid-afternoon meal of rabbit stew, salad, cheese plates and olive oil cookies. Cafe Drake was the lucky recipient of Saturday dinner at PanZur - surely one of our favorite restaurants in all of New York, city and state - where we stretched ourselves through plate after plate of rich, perfectly seasoned tapas: crispbreads topped with braised pork belly and red cabbage slaw, smoking beef heart tartare, poached clams atop more pork belly (fried, this time) and thick parsley emulsion, maple and butter-braised brussels sprouts, fried potatoes loaded with Manchego cheese and nestled next to saffron mayo, fried pig ears and bleu cheese mousse . . . yes Dear Reader we ate it all. And doggy-bagged a couple of small bites home. 

In between rounds of heavenly gorging we still found time for antique and book shopping in Saugerties, drinks at Liberty of Rhinebeck and the Beekman Arms and brunch at Miss Lucy's!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Almost Purist Mac-and-Cheese

Like pizza, hot dogs and burgers during the 80s, another American (stalwart) comfort food staple - macaroni and cheese - was conferred Blank Slate status in the last decade, its utter familiarity a springboard for multiple chefs' creative tweaks and reinvention. As a culture we've moved far beyond the addition of bacon or caramelized onions to this culinary classic; some innovations sublime and decadent (lobster, shaved black truffles), others gratuitous and silly (pepperoni?). Particularly welcome seems the introduction of vegetables such as Melissa Clark's wildly popular and tweeted version with grated carrots. Cafe Drake went Back to Basics with the original recipe borrowed from Philadelphia's and NYC's historic Automat restaurant empire, tossing in halved grape tomatoes and shredded scallions because we had them on hand. The nostalgic results were deeply satisfying. Our only other adaptations were the inclusion of Parmesan, Panko crumbs and dry mustard, the latter's sharp notes buffeting the richness as does the acidity of tomatoes.

If using tomatoes: slice 10-12 grape tomatoes in half and toss lightly with kosher salt. Set aside for 30 minutes before draining accumulated liquid and patting tomatoes dry. This step is important to prevent a watery final dish.

Boil 1/2 lb. elbow noodles (or any other type of small pasta shapes you prefer) in plenty of well-salted water until just tender. Drain and set aside. Do not rinse.

While the pasta is boiling, make your cheese sauce. Begin by melting 4 T. of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in 4 T. of flour and saute for a minute or two before adding - slowly - 3 cups of milk. Cook, stirring often, until the white sauce begins to thicken slightly. Season with salt and black pepper (you'll need a good amount of each), about 1/4 - 1/2 t. grated nutmeg, 1/2 t. dry mustard and a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce. Now stir in 2 cups of grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese and stir until cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. 

When ready, stir cheese sauce into drained pasta (a large mixing bowl is helpful here) along with the drained tomatoes and 2-3 thinly sliced scallions. Transfer all to a lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup grated Parmesan across the top and then do the same with an equal amount of dried bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40-50 minutes or until the casserole appears golden brown. Serve warm, not hot - allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 19, 2012

El Mundo de Mexican Dried Chilies


You can use either grape or cherry tomatoes for this piquant salsa, good with, well, everything. Cafe Drake likes it best as a pre-dinner, kitchen snack with salty tortilla chips and a strong drink. 

Broil 1 lb. cherry tomatoes  - along with 1 large pasilla chile, 1/2 cup sliced onion and 1-2 jalapeno or serrano chilies, split in half - on a baking sheet for 5-7 minutes, or until blackened in spots and becoming softer. A teaspoon of vegetable oil tossed with the veggies may be used if needed. Be careful to avoid burning. After a few minutes remove from the broiler; cover for 15 minutes to allow the onions and chilies to steam. We find this easiest to do by scraping all in to a bowl and covering with a plate.

Seed the pasilla chile well (this will make a HUGE difference in the finished texture) and puree all in a processor or blender. Transfer to a bowl and season with: about 2 T. minced cilantro, 2 T. lime juice, 1 t. maple syrup (or honey or sugar) and salt to taste. Let rest for half an hour at least to mingle flavors. Best served at room temperature but store in the fridge for up to a week.


A Mexican adobo sauce is technically a chile paste slathered on meat or fish and then baked or grilled, but this recipe - adapted from Marcella Valladolid - is so thick and luscious Cafe Drake can make a meal from mere warmed tortillas dipped in the stuff! Marcella recommends this for roast chicken but as above, we coated pork chops and then baked until the meat just reached 170 degrees. We've also added dried chipotles for their smokey heat.

Heat 2 T. oil (any kind you like really) in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 small onion (chopped) and cook until just soft and translucent. Add 2 minced cloves of garlic and cook for another minute. Add 8 dried guajillo chilies and 2 dried chipotle chilies, all seeded and broken into small-ish pieces. Cook for a couple of minutes or until the guajillo chilies begin to darken. Now add  1 1/2 cups of broth (chicken or vegetable) and simmer for at least 5 minutes - make sure the chilies are soft.

Transfer it all to a blender and process till you get a smooth paste. No worries if a few recalcitrant chunks of dried chile resist the blender blades. Season with salt and pepper and now you're ready to coat anything you'd like before roasting or grilling - vegetables, fish, poultry, beef, pork, anything.


Quite simply, our new addiction, also courtesy of Marcella V.! Perfect on tacos, nachos, meatloaf sandwiches, mac and cheese . . . you get the far-reaching concept.

Heat 2 T. vegetable oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup minced onion and 2 minced garlic cloves (more if you like). Saute for at least 5 minutes or until all is richly browned but not burned. Add 1/4 cup sesame seeds and 1/2 cup dried arbol chiles. Cook and stir for 5 more minutes.

While the chile/onion/seed mix is cooking heat a cast iron skillet over a high flame. Toss in 4 large tomatilloes (peeled and rinsed). Sear all over for about 10 minutes or until you have black spots covering most of the skins. When ready add to the sauce pan and cook everything together for 5 additional minutes. Press the tomatilloes with a spoon to release their juices. Cool slightly then puree in a blender with 1 cup water.

Season to taste with plenty of salt (this requires quite a bit) and black pepper. Best at room temperature or only slightly chilled.