Happy New Year!

We’re open tonight for New Year’s Eve — so if you like the idea of a nice low-key New Year’s Eve with a great dinner, a drink or two and good conversation with friends, we’re the place to drop by.

If you’re looking for a place to spend New Year’s Day, we’ll be open tomorrow at 5 for dinner as well. Why not start 2010 off right by joining us?

We wish the happiest of New Years to every friend of Bistro 185 and thank you for a wonderful 2009. We truly appreciated your patronage and your support of our new ventures into special cuisine such as the Julia Project and our yet-to-be-completed James Beard Project. Be looking for more such exciting culinary explorations in 2010, because we look forward to bringing them to you!

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We’re open today and tonight

If you need a respite from last-minute Christmas shopping or just whatever…Bistro 185 will be open for lunch today and dinner tonight. We will be closed tomorrow — Merry Christmas! We will reopen for dinner Saturday, Dec. 26.

In the meantime, here’s a little treat for everyone who’s been enjoying the James Beard Project and looks forward to its continuation: a link to a video tour of James Beard’s former house in New York City that we found online. (For some reason, it doesn’t want to embed.) Enjoy, and look for more tidbits about James Beard here in upcoming weeks!

How to say “Happy Holidays” AND “Bon Appétit!”

Are you scanning your holiday gift list and pondering what to get for that friend of yours who had such a good time with you in the summer going to see the movie Julie & Julia, and following up the trip with a visit to Bistro 185, where you enjoyed dinner and dessert Julia Child-style to cap off your evening? We have a great idea for you.

As it so happens, Julie & Julia has just been released on DVD and Blu-ray. So, here’s what to do: Go get a copy of the movie, get a Bistro 185 gift certificate, wrap them up together, and give them to your friend. You can even get creative with your wrapping: tie a few wooden spoons or a metal whisk into the ribbon bow.

And what about your other friends, relatives, colleagues, etc., who appreciate great food and could use a nice night out? Bistro 185 gift certificates are always just right. Whatever they enjoy in cuisine — adventurous dishes or old reliable standards — they can find it here at the Bistro. And you don’t have to mess around with the crowds and parking at the mall to get this gift, either — just ask your server. Gift certificates are available in $25, $50, $75 and $100 denominations.

Get a lot of your holiday shopping done quickly and painlessly — give the gift of Bistro 185!

PERFECT PAIR: We’re trying out something new on the Bistro’s dinner specials menu: wine and beer pairing suggestions for many of our nightly offerings. Next time you stop in, take note of the wine or beer we list along with some of our dishes as a suitable accompaniment. It’s a great way to try something new and different, even if you don’t feel comfortable enough with your own knowledge of wine or beer to make a selection yourself. Also, always keep in mind that if you’d like us to suggest a wine or beer for your dinner choice, we will happily do so.

A change in plan

It’s almost the middle of December, and here at the Bistro we’re changing things up a bit. Rather than continue our James Beard project all the way through to Christmas, we’re going to put it on a little hiatus, and then resume the daily specials based on James Beard dishes in January. Tonight, however, if you missed last night’s Portuguese Fish Stew, you can catch it one last time — we’re bringing it back by popular demand, as our final Beard special until next month.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we won’t still be here blogging. Watch this space to learn more about our current specials of the non-Beard variety through the rest of December. There will be plenty of them, and they’ll sure to tempt you in the door for a taste, especially when you get tired of holiday cooking, baking and entertaining and have a hankering to just sit down and relax while someone else is in the kitchen. As time gets shorter and things get more hectic, you’ll always be able to find a little oasis of peace, quiet and pampering right here at Bistro 185. Come on in and treat yourself!

Behind the Dish: Portuguese Fish Stew

Looking for a different kind of Friday fish special? Are fried fish and clam chowder getting to be too same-old same-old for you? Try our take on James Beard’s recipe for fish stew, Portuguese style. His recipe calls for a combination of shrimp, tuna, tomatoes, basil and orzo pasta. Our variation adds salmon and fennel to the mix and substitutes shell pasta for the orzo. See how this combination warms you up!

Behind the Dish: Crab Louis

Crab Louis is what you might call a “retro dish”: you don’t see it on all that many menus anymore. It appears to have originated somewhere on the West Coast before World War I; at least James Beard himself claimed to have first enjoyed the dish at around that time. At the time, the cities of Portland (Beard’s hometown), San Francisco and Seattle teemed with oyster and crab bars offering up the freshest and best Pacific seafood, any of which may have spurred the invention of Crab Louis.

What is it, exactly? It’s an entree-sized salad made with (of course) lump crab meat, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and hard-boiled eggs. What makes it distinctive is the dressing, which incorporates mayonnaise, chili sauce, lemon juice, horseradish and parsley. Try our version (we’ve got pickle in there, too — all served atop a wedge of Romaine) and see why this was said to be James Beard’s favorite crab dish. (They say the great opera star Enrico Caruso loved it too: when the Metropolitan Opera touring company played Seattle in 1904, he kept ordering it until none was left in the kitchen.) It’s a little different for a winter dish — more of a cool salad than a cozy warmer-upper — but we think you’ll find this spicy take on fresh seafood and crispy vegetables a welcome change of pace right about now.

Behind the Dish: Gnocchi Verdi

Did you know that gnocchi, the famous form of Italian pasta, are sometimes referred to in Italy as malfatti — or “badly made”? James Beard himself says so in his cookbook Beard on Pasta. Why? Because “they are so delicate that when they are cooked they are quite uneven in shape. You have to skim them out of the water very, very carefully because of their fragility, but they well repay the care: they just melt on your tongue when you eat them.”

That’s the idea behind Gnocchi Verdi (“green gnocchi”), a type of gnocchi made out of spinach (that’s where the green comes from), ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, butter, eggs and flour, spiced up with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Kind of like a ravioli filling — only without the ravioli! The finished gnocchi are topped with a simple cream sauce of Parmesan cheese and butter.

We’re keeping pretty much to the original recipe for this one, with a touch of garlic added. When you try our Gnocchi Verdi, we don’t think you’ll find it malfatti at all — or, at least, your mouth won’t, anyway.

Behind the Dish: Baked Salmon with Ginger Sauce

This is the time of year when thoughts of cooking with ginger usually have to do with gingerbread. Well, while ginger is wonderful for baking cakes and cookies, it also works wonderfully with fish — and we don’t just mean sushi.

James Beard’s Baked Salmon with Ginger Sauce is a perfect example of just that. The tender, moist baked salmon is perfectly enhanced by a sauce made with ginger. And to make our sauce, we didn’t use just fresh ginger, but also pickled ginger (the kind you eat with sushi, or our Asian-style crab cakes) and ginger extract. It’s even topped with a sprinkling of candied ginger for more flavor and a little crunch. Definitely not your ordinary salmon dish!

We’re serving our Baked Salmon with Ginger Sauce on a bed of sweet potato mashers with some freshly crispy battered tempura vegetables alongside. Taste it and we think you’ll agree that while gingerbread is a great dessert, gingered salmon is one treat of an entree.

Behind the Dish: Spaghetti with Clam Sauce and Chorizo

Here’s the only real scoop behind tonight’s James Beard featured dish: It’s based on his straightforward spaghetti-with-clam-sauce recipe, only we’re tweaking it by adding chorizo sausage and serving it on shell pasta instead of spaghetti. Not too complex, right? But it does sound delicious, no? Taste it and see. You’ll find the hot and spicy chorizo sausage brings the fire as well as the flavor — a guaranteed sinus-clearer and snowflake-melter for your cold winter night!