Italian Regional Wine Dinner: Molto bene!

Hello, this is The Tenant again, with a review of last night’s Italian Regional Wine Dinner. Ruth and her crew may just have topped themselves this time, as far as I’m concerned. This was possibly the best-paced wine dinner the Bistro has presented yet, with an excellent selection of courses beautifully executed — and those who know more about wine than I admittedly do also said the wines were paired perfectly to each course.

Last night’s wines were presented by Jim Dunlevy of Barrel Aged Wine in Concord, Ohio, a direct importer of artisan wines from small Italian regional wineries. He readily shared with us his expertise on these wines, most of which are produced and imported in very small quantities.

The feast began with individual antipasto plates filled with every variety of traditional Italian appetizer, from mozzarella rolls to sliced meats to Italian-style tuna salad, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Slender breadsticks also graced every table and made fine palate cleansers between courses and wines. The antipasto platters were served with 2007 Nicolis Valpolicella Classico DOC, from the region north of Verona and east of Lake Garda, a red wine made with the same varietals found in Amarone and Reciotto. This was a smooth and easily drinkable wine that was a perfect accompaniment to the antipasto.

Next came Tortellini en Brodo, or wild-mushroom tortellini in a very clear, lovely broth. Accompanying this course was 2005 Pavia Bricca Blina Barbera D’Asti DOC. This red wine, a great pasta accompaniment, is very rich and full-bodied, no doubt due to the 11-month-long rest it enjoys in stainless steel tanks following fermentation, to bring out all the flavor of the Barbera grapes the Pavia family has used exclusively in its five generations of winemaking.

The Pappardelle Pasta Bolognese and Natural Pan Sauce with Petit Veal Osso Bucco, with its tender fall-off-the-bone veal and spicy tomato-sauced pasta, had just the right match in the 2006 Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG. Only 200 cases of this wine are imported into the United States each year; if you were at last night’s dinner you had the opportunity to order your own share, a wonderful idea if you love a wine with a heady bouquet that holds its own when teamed up with a rich meat dish.

Following this course was the delightful Caprese Salad in a Parmesan Basket, bright and fresh with a variety of greens, grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices and balsamic vinaigrette. The salad spilled from a basket made of 100 percent shredded Parmesan cheese — no flour, no filler — and crispy and tasty as could be. Its selected wine was 2007 Piero Busso Langhe Bianco DOC, a spirited 50-50 chardonnay-sauvignon blended white that is also fermented in stainless steel, and imported to this country exclusively by Barrel Aged Wine (only 3,000 bottles are produced each year). As we learned, it’s an ideal wine for salad or for drinking on its own.

So many Bistro patrons especially appreciate Chef Ruth’s touch with a scallop, and that was once again on display last night in the Seared Scallop with Black Truffle Soft Polenta and Asparagus. Each scallop, perfectly cooked, sat on a bed of baby-soft polenta, surrounded by crisp green asparagus slices. The 2005 Palagetto Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, fermented and aged in oak for more than a year, tasted just right alongside.

The ideal finish to the evening came in the form of a Ricotta Mascarpone Crêpe with Zabaglione and Fresh Berries. The zabaglione, flavorful with lemon zest and Limoncello, was delightful and the little added treats on the plate (such as mocha custard in a chocolate cup, topped with a berry) made dessert even more special. So did the wine served with it, 2007 CA’D GAL Moscato Di Asti. The bright, crisp, fruity taste of this white makes it yet another wine that’s very easy to enjoy on its own as well as with a dessert. This one is produced in only a 1,000-case quantity each year and only 100 of those cases per year make it to the USA, so once again this was an opportunity to sample a wine not easily obtained in this country.

It was a special night, full of interesting information, magnificent flavors and experiences, and many delights for anyone who loves well-prepared food and lovingly created small-batch Italian wines. Kudos once again to Chef Ruth and her crew, Jim Dunlevy and the entire Bistro 185 staff for another memorable evening!

If you missed out, the video below will give you a little taste of this very enjoyable evening — and maybe encourage you to sign up for the next wine dinner February 15! Details to come!

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Italian Regional Wine Dinner preview!

Here are just a few glimpses of what’s going on as we prepare for tonight’s Italian Regional Wine Dinner. It’s another sellout! If you signed up for this one, you’re going to be glad you traveled through the cold for it…

We sill have a lot of work left to do before we present this feast to you, so please excuse us while we say arrivederci…we’ll greet you again with a hearty Ciao! in an hour and a half!

Mark your calendar now for these special February events!

We know you’re already excited about next Tuesday’s Italian Regional Wine Dinner (and so are we!), but we’ve got even more in store for you next month. Who says February in Cleveland has to be cold and dull? Cold, maybe, but dull — forget it! Not when we’re celebrating Bistro 185’s fourth anniversary, kicking off a series of monthy Vegan Dinners we know you’re going to love, and offering a special February 15 dinner for all you romantics who like the idea of keeping Valentine’s Day going a little longer!

HELP US CELEBRATE!: On Saturday, February 6, we will have been open for four years. You’ve helped make us a success, so please come and join in our Bistro 185 Fourth Anniversary Celebration! We’ll be featuring a special anniversary menu and birthday cake, and everyone will receive a complimentary glass of champagne — as well as some other surprises. More details to come!

VEGAN DINNER SERIES: Recently Bistro 185 was fortunate to secure the services of Chef Jakub Mejstrik, whose work will be featured in what is sure to be a very welcome new monthly Vegan Dinner Series. The series kicks off Wednesday, February 10, with our first featured dish, Thai-Style Massaman Curry with vegetables, tofu, and organic brown basmati rice. For the non-vegans among you, our Massaman Curry will also be available with a choice of chicken or shrimp. Keep watching this space for announcements of future Vegan Dinner dates and entrees.

FOR LOVERS ONLY — FOOD AND WINE LOVERS, THAT IS: True, Valentine’s Day, February 14, falls on a Sunday this year, and the Bistro is closed (after all, even we need to take time out for romance). But Monday, February 15, we’ll be open with a special Romantic Wine Dinner for everyone who just couldn’t get enough romance squeezed into Sunday. For more details on the featured courses and wines, watch this space. Who says love should be celebrated only one day? Oh, and if you have no sweetheart to bring along, just bring your love of great food and drink; you won’t be sorry!

Keep Bistro 185 in mind this coming month, and the rest of your winter will be something to look forward to.

Mind if we smoke?

We don’t think you will. In fact, we think you’ll thank us for smoking.

You’ll thank Marc for smoking, anyway. Since he got his big opportunity to smoke as much as he wanted at our house, he’s become quite the heavy smoker. Lately, he just can’t seem to quit smoking. Yeah, go figure, it’s a new year and everyone else is making resolutions to quit smoking — and this guy resolves to smoke more. In the past week, especially, Marc has been smoking like crazy.

Meat, that is. (What, you thought we were talking about smoking something else?)

He’s been smoking beef brisket (and if you’ve ever had our brisket, you’ll be delighted to hear that), he’s been smoking ribs, he’s been smoking pork chops, he’s been smoking sausage and he’s been smoking turkey. Now, you can benefit from all his smoking, in the form of this wonderful Choucroûte: an Alsatian smoked meat platter.

Meat platters like this are the quintessential bistro dish in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, so influenced in the kitchen by Germany: great quantities of smoked meat, roasted to a turn, served with boiled potatoes, sauerkraut and flavorful mustards. This is our version. You get a plateful of smoked ribs, sausage, turkey and a pork chop. On the side, boiled baby potatoes and plenty of sauerkraut, made with Ruth’s special recipe that combines a touch of sugar and bacon to render the shredded cabbage sweet-tart-savory, not sour. The whole thing comes accompanied by two mustards — a hearty grainy mustard and a mellow honey mustard — and we suggest you ask for some bread as well, because you’re going to want some to soak up the sauce and juices. Order up a beer with this, and — ach du Lieber! — you can’t get a more heartwarming or satisfying winter’s meal. It’s on our specials menu this week; you need to get in here and taste it!

If for some reason that doesn’t ring your bell, though, we still have plenty of other delights with which to tempt you. Such as veal osso bucco; roasted half duck with cherry port sauce; long bone double cut pork chops wrapped in bacon and stuffed with prosciutto, Gruyère and apple with port and dried plum ginger sauce; slow braised lamb shank with rosemary-mint demiglace; a spicy jambalaya; four-cheese mac and cheese with smoked chicken and black truffle; Portuguese fisherman’s stew; mahi mahi with raspberry-chipotle glaze…

Come on by and fill your stomach and your soul with a lovingly prepared dish this week. Because at Bistro 185, we smoke ’em if we got ’em.

Wine pairings for our Italian Regional Wine Dinner

This time we’re going to go one better in telling you about what’s in store for our upcoming wine dinner by listing each course with the wine we’re pairing it with. Here’s our lineup for the Italian Regional Wine Dinner January 26:

Individual Antipasto — 2007 Valpolicella DOC Classico

Tortellini en Brodo — 2005 Barbera D’Asti Bricco Blina DOCG

Veal Osso Bucco with Pappardelle Pasta and Natural Pan Sauce — 2006 Chianti Classico DOCG

Caprese Salad — 2007 Langhe Bianco “Sauvignon Blanc — Chardonnay” Bianco

Seared Scallop on Black Truffle Soft Polenta and Asparagus — 2005 Vernaccia Di San Gimignano Riserva DOCG

Ricotta Mascarpone Crêpe with Zabaglione and Fresh Berries — 2007 Moscato D’Asti Lumine DOCG

With a lineup like that, you won’t want to miss this one. Call 216.481.9635 and make your reservation now!

The James Beard Project: Coming full circle this week

This week marks the return of the James Beard Project, and to start with, we’re bringing back the same slate of dishes we featured in Week 1. That means if you missed any of these great dishes the first time around, you have another chance to enjoy them!

Monday, Jan. 11 — Noodles with Cabbage
Sautéed Medallions of Pork Tenderloin with a French Grainy Mustard and Horseradish Cream Sauce (Beard on Pasta, p. 88)

Tuesday, Jan. 12 — Coq au Riesling
Braised Chicken in Riesling Wine Sauce (Beard on Pasta, p. 116)

Wednesday, Jan. 13 — Walnut-Breaded Filet of Sole With Lemon Aioli, Grape Tomato Salad and Roasted Baby Redskin Potatoes (The New James Beard, p. 199)

Thursday, Jan. 14 — Roast Duck with Cherries and Wild Rice (The New James Beard, p. 338)

Friday, Jan. 15 — Ossi Buchi with Orzo
Braised Veal Shanks with Orzo (Beard on Pasta, p. 140)

Saturday, Jan. 16 — Lamb Shanks with Beans (The New James Beard, p. 399)

Mamma Mia! Don’t miss our Regional Italian Wine Dinner Jan. 26!

Whether you’ve enjoyed our wine dinners so far or never been to one before, you’re not going to want to miss out on our Italian Regional Wine Dinner Tuesday, January 26. It will feature a wonderful selection of regional Italian wines paired with each course — and oh, what courses!

Individual Antipasto

Tortellini en Brodo

Veal Osso Bucco with Pappardelle Pasta and Natural Pan Sauce

Caprese Salad

Seared Scallop on Black Truffle Soft Polenta and Asparagus

Ricotta Mascarpone Crêpe with Zabaglione and Fresh Berries

Our wine dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. and cost is $60 per person, tax and gratuity additional. Our last dinner sold out, so don’t miss your chance to escape the drab and dreary Cleveland winter for a few hours for a romantic night of great cuisine Italian style. Call 216.481.9635 and make your paid reservation now!

AND…BEARD IS BACK!! Our James Beard Project resumes the week of January 11 with two more weeks featuring a classic James Beard-inspired dish as part of our dinner specials each night! Watch this blog for more information coming soon.

Our Veuve Clicquot Champagne Wine Dinner video

We hope you enjoy this video presentation of the courses featured in our Champagne Wine Dinner December 28:

We’ll let you know when and what we’re planning for our next wine dinner in the near future!