Ay, caramba! We had a great Tequila Dinner!

The Tenant is back, and you’re going to have to make do with me for a while, because Ruth and Marc are going off on a well-deserved vacation. But they’ve entrusted me to write another of my reviews, this one of Wednesday’s Tequila Dinner. At this event, we were able to enjoy some of the many distilled forms of the blue agave plant, which is a succulent plant related to lilies — not a cactus, as some think. It’s been cultivated for many thousands of years, and people have been making tequila from it for quite a long time! We got to taste a few products of that experience.

Things got off to a rousing start with the combination of a Shrimp Tamale and two paired glasses on our tables: one of fresh pickle juice and one of Tierra Organic Blanco Tequila. Tierra is the only organic tequila sold in the United States, and blanco tequila is 100% agave tequila, unaged and untreated with additives. The contrast of the tart pickle juice with this slightly sweet tequila was a tastebud-tingler. So was the tamale, a combination of shrimp, plantain, cornmeal mush (with many tasty spicings and flavorings, including fresh cilantro and lime) served in a corn husk.

The second course was ropa vieja — shredded beef brisket cooked for 24 hours in a bath of Tex-Mex seasonings, seated atop jalapeño corn pudding, and topped with refreshing sour cream. But before it arrived, we were able to get a start on the accompanying tequila drink, an intriguing iced latte of Kahlua and Mexican chocolate known as a “Daring Dylan.” This drink, which I could enjoy as a substitute for chocolate milk any day of the week, featured Don Julio Anejo Tequila (aged in oak at least one year) and was rimmed with a very Mexican flavor combination of cocoa and cinnamon. OK, I admit it: the rim tasted so good, I licked it off!

You’d think the second course of a meal would be an odd place for a chocolate drink to be served, but the Daring Dylan was actually an excellent complement that helped cool the spicy-hot ropa vieja on the palate.

Next came another hearty dish, House-Made Black-Bean, Goat Cheese and Poblano Ravioli. These large, fairly flat ravioli were full of rich flavor from the beans, cheese, and poblano peppers, and sauced with a delicious roasted red pepper sauce streaked with cream. The tequila for this course was a powerful, pungent Don Julio Repasado (100% agave, stored in oak between two months and a year).

Following the intense flavors of this course came some gentle, cooling refreshment. Normally this point of a meal features a salad course, but this one was a little different: Chef Ruth had prepared three different kinds of guacamole. We each had a scoop of traditional guacamole made with avocados, a scoop of sweet and fresh guacamole made with mangoes, and a tart and tangy guacamole made with Marc’s smoked trout. The guacamoles were served with long fried plantain chips atop a bed of carrot and jicama slaw. These were very tasty; I thought the contrasting flavors of the mango and trout varieties were a fun and out-of-the-ordinary twist on the theme. The refreshment continued in the drink served with this course, a Mexican Mojito made with Don Julio Blanco Tequila, spiked with plenty of fresh rooftop-garden mint. Yum!

By this time, though, my eyes were getting bigger than my stomach. I had to have my fifth course, the Seafood Vera Cruz, packed up to go. But that was fine, because I had an absolutely wonderful lunch of it the next day! If anything, the seafood stew, rich with fish, mussels, shrimp and grilled scallop, full of peppers and onions and served over a timbale of saffron rice, tasted even better with the broth aging that extra day for the flavors to marry even more. Utterly delicious. The Tierras Organic Repasado tequila served with it was fiery and intense.

Somehow, even packing up the stew, I found room for the dessert course that night. And was it ever wonderful: tiny chocolate cups of margarita sorbet — like the most concentrated form of margarita slush you’ve ever had — along with smooth, soothing caramel flan and a fantastic churro, or Spanish fried doughnut stick, dipped deeply in molten chocolate. Mmmm-mmm! And the final drink was something special, too: a “Frisky Surprise” featuring Tierra Organic Anejo tequila. This slushy fruit drink was served in tall glasses with an orange slice, and was a refreshing and unusual treat.

So, it was another success for a Bistro 185 special dinner evening — but if you think this one was good, what Ruth and Marc (especially Ruth) are cooking up for October is really going to amaze you. Be sure not to be late signing up for it, because it’s going to be a dinner with a bit of a Halloween-style theme like you’ve never seen or tasted before. What is it? You’ll have to wait a little longer to find out. But watch this space — soon you’ll know!

Holy guacamole!

Last night’s Tequila Dinner didn’t attract any characters like the ones shown in this clip, but it was so good it could make you feel like dancing on the table (if you weren’t stuffed from all the food and drink)! Watch this space for a video and review soon. Also, keep an eye out for information on our next Vegan Dinner Series plans and the big plans for our special dinner in October. You just might be surprised by what we’ve got in mind!

Vegans, rejoice! Now you can cook Bistro 185-style at home!

If you’ve been watching this space, you already know that tomorrow night is Vegan Night at the Bistro. But here’s a new twist!

We’ve been thrilled at your enthusiastic response to the Vegan Dinner Series, and we’ve also been listening to those of you who have been saying “Wow, I wish I could enjoy one of Chef Jakub’s vegan dinners at home…any night of the month.” Now, we’ve come up with a way to make it happen!

Tomorrow night, we won’t only be serving our monthly Vegan Night appetizer, dinner, and dessert offerings here at the Bistro. We won’t even just be packing up fully cooked dinners “to go” for those who call in for a takeout order. We’re going one step beyond…to offer you a special frozen vegan entree that you can pick up, take home, and cook up fresh anytime you like!

The premier offering in our Bistro 185 Vegan Take-Home Entrees series will be Tikka Masala. (This is a different entree from the one we’re serving here in the Bistro tomorrow night.) It’s sautéed seitan in a rich Indian sauce prepared with garden-fresh vegetables and cashews, complete with organic brown basmati rice. It’s elegantly boxed, frozen, and can be kept in your freezer at home until you’re ready to defrost, heat, and eat! Easy preparation instructions will be included in each box. Each entree is 28 full ounces, big enough to feed two.

We’re offering our frozen vegan Tikka Masala entrees at a special introductory price of $15.50 per entree. Limited quantities will be available, so don’t miss out! Be sure to get yours early tomorrow evening! Tomorrow night is going to be a Bistro 165 Vegan Night like no other!

Enjoy a $10 Wine Tasting August 23

OK, so we’ve had an amazing Sake Dinner recently and there’s a wonderful Tequila Dinner in the works…but you miss your wine? Well, miss it no more! Next Monday, August 23, the Bistro is having a wine tasting from 6 to 8 p.m., featuring light hors d’oeuvres for purchase and a variety of Northern California coastal wines: Meyer Family Syrah, Robin K Pinot Noir, Hoe Down Chardonnay, and Teira Sauvingon Blanc. Cost of the wines is $10, and space will be limited, so call 216.481.9635 now to reserve your spot!

Tequila!

Sure, everyone knows that in 1958 the Champs had a big hit with “Tequila.” But how many know or remember that they recorded a follow-up song called “Too Much Tequila”? They did!

Well, at the Bistro 185 Tequila Dinner, our goal is to make sure you don’t get too much tequila, but just the right amount — and it’s going to make you feel like partying! This special dinner features six Southwestern-style courses paired with six tequilas, and it’s all guaranteed to have your tastebuds doing a dance. Here’s our lineup of courses and tequilas:

First Course
Shrimp Tamale
Tequila: “Tickle My Pickle” with Marc’s Fresh Pickle Juice
Featuring Tierra Organic Blanco Tequila

Second Course
Ropa Vieja — 24-Hour Tex-Mex Shredded Brisket
Jalapeño Corn Pudding
Tequila: “Daring Dylan” — Kahlua — Mexican Chocolate Latte
Featuring Don Julio Anejo Tequila

Third Course
House-Made Black Bean-Goat Cheese-Poblano Ravioli
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Tequila: Don Julio Repasado

Fourth Course
Trio of Guacamole:
Smoked Trout Guacamole
Mango Guacamole
Traditional Guacamole
Tequila: Don Julio Blanco

Fifth Course
Seafood Vera Cruz — Seafood Stew with Saffron Rice
Tequila: Tierras Organic Repasado

Sixth Course
Margarita Sorbet
Flan
Churros
Tequila: “Frisky Surprise” Featuring Tierras Organic Anejo

Our Tequila Dinner is $55 per person, tax and gratuity additional. Call 216.481.9635 to make your paid reservation, because this one will sell out quickly!

Vegan Night menu for August 18

Our next Vegan Night featuring the mastery of Chef Jakub Mejstrik is coming up soon! You’ll be able to enjoy a delicious meal from beginning to end, all vegan and all fabulous:

Starters ($8 each)
Roasted Summer Vegetable Grilled Whole Wheat and Flax Pizza
Wild Mushroom Empanada

Entree ($17.50)
Southwest-Inspired Gardein
Black Bean-Summer Corn-Mango-Jalapeño Salsa
Cilantro and Lime Vinaigrette
Plantain Crisps
Corn Arepa with Vegan Cheese

Dessert ($6.75)
Roasted Stone Fruits with Lime Agave Rum Sauce and Fresh Seasonal Berries

For a truly memorable dining experience, try our version of Southwestern cuisine, vegan style!

Menus coming for Vegan Night and Tequila Dinner

We hope you’re as excited about our next Vegan Night and special dinner as we are. This month’s Vegan Night will be Wednesday, August 18, and the entree will have a Tex-Mex theme. We’ll be announcing it soon; in the meantime, plan to join us!

We’ll also be posting the menu for our Tequila Dinner, another pleaser in the Southwestern tradition, very soon, so watch this space. Do we hear your mouths watering already?

But that’s not the only news we have. While we’ll be taking a rest from our special dinner schedule next month, we’ll be back the last Wednesday in October (the 27th) with a themed dinner that will be VERY different! This one won’t be focused on one kind of beverage…well, then again, maybe it will. But put it this way: the beverage won’t be one you’ve ever enjoyed a themed dinner around before. (At least we hope not!) And it will definitely have a flavor of October about it. That’s it for clues right now! Can you guess what we have in mind? More later!

For goodness: Sake Dinner

The Tenant here, with a review of the Bistro’s Sake Dinner last week (if you haven’t yet, check out the video in the previous blog post). As I think I mentioned earlier, I particularly love Asian food, so I knew this special dinner was going to be a standout for me. When Ruth and her team put their talents to this kind of cuisine, it’s always something fantastic, as I remember from last year’s sake dinner. This one was every bit as wonderful.

The courses started off with Seared Day Boat Scallop with Golden Trout Caviar atop Forbidden Black Jasmine Rice with Chinese Sausage and Ginger Beurre Blanc. Again I repeat, if you’re a person who loves scallops but can’t stand the way some chefs turn them into overcooked, rubbery little hockey pucks, you must try them the way Ruth cooks them. They’re always cooked to perfect doneness and then caramelized on the outside just enough to give them a little bit of crispy brown crust to contrast with the tender inside. This one, wearing its gold caviar crown, sat like a king atop a mountain of black rice mixed with tiny chunks of Chinese sausage. The rice had a dense, nutty flavor, and the ginger beurre blanc provided a nice touch of sweetness and just a subtle hint of citrus. The sake served with this course was a very enjoyable Murai Family Tanrei Junmai. As I was last year, I continue to be impressed and dazzled by how many different varieties of sake exist. Yes, I used to think sake was sake; that it was all the same! Obviously, I know better now!

Our second course was a triple treat: Pistachio-Crusted Chicken Tonkatsu with Curry Aioli, Grilled Korean Beef Lettuce Wrap and Sesame Japanese Eggplant. With three items as delicious as these on one plate, it was hard to know which to eat first. I decided on the lettuce wrap, which was a pick-up-and-eat street-food kind of entree. The marinated beef sits in the lettuce leaves with a sprig of green onion and a little marinade dressing, and you just hold it all together and eat it! It was absolutely delicious, with just a touch of mint as a refreshing contrast to the spice. Speaking of spice, the chicken delivered delightfully, thanks to the curry aioli. It was a winning combination of nutty, crispy, and a little hot and tangy. And then there was the sauteed eggplant, tender and flavorful. The accompanying sake was Momokawa Junmai Pearl, which, true to its name, was a cloudy, milky-looking “pearl”-style sake with a lot of “kick.”

Third on our Asian excursion were little pots of Shrimp Scallion Dumpling Soup. The savory broth of this soup contained another triple delight: strips of tender pork in the won ton soup tradition, delicate baby shrimp, and a dainty, positively melt-in-your-mouth dumpling. It was rich in flavor and tasty to the last drop, as were the heady sakes served along with it: G-Joy and Moonstone Asian Pear Sake.

A contrast to the dishes served hot was the fourth course, Cold Soba Noodles with Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce. This one needed no heat from the stove, because the fire was right in the chilies that flavor it; the noodles were pleasingly spicy and tongue-awakening without numbing your palate. I had fun using my chopsticks to wind up and eat the noodles the same way I used to see my Uncle Frank eat his spaghetti–I guess that despite my love of Asian food, I’m an Italian at heart! The chopsticks were also useful for picking up the scattering of edamame beans that lay at the base of each mountain of noodles. At the peak of that mountain: one heavenly shrimp, just barely coated in tempura batter and fried, greaseless and light as a feather. A full-bodied Murai Family Nigori Genshu sake accompanied this dish.

The last of the savory courses was a treat for sushi lovers, with slices of Yuzu Ahi Tuna Sashimi Style taking the center of the plate. These ruby-red, utterly fresh slices of tuna were coated with a crust of black and golden sesame seeds, and accompanied by a bed of thinly shredded Daikon-Carrot Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing and paper-thin slices of pickled ginger. The contrasts of cool fresh fish, crunchy seeds and spicy-sweet ginger with the refreshing, lightly dressed slaw made for a perfect combination with the Choya Umeshu Sake. As distributor representative Greg Webster explained to us, this sake, made with a fruit known in Japan as umeshu but often referred to by Westerners as a “plum” (you can see it sitting right at the bottom of the container), is the third most popular alcoholic beverage in Japan, after beer and vodka. From its slightly sweet, intense flavor, I could understand why.

The evening ended with a perfect dessert course. Each plate contained a tiny scoop of lychee ice cream in a chocolate cup, a delightfully creamy custard tartlet encased in a flaky-light crust, and a variety of melon balls (and a lychee) that had been marinated in sake. The sake served with dessert was Choya Ume Blanc, a refreshing and mildly sweet ice-wine-like drink, and Choya Sake Jumani, which I think I’d have to choose as my favorite among the sakes for its unique flavor with a hint of lime essence. The perfect ending to an incredible meal!

I had the pleasure of sharing a table for this dinner with the proud mother of Chef Todd Mueller, and we had a fine evening indeed. As you might expect, she’s not exactly modest about her son’s accomplishments in the kitchen, but with a son who cooks the way hers does, she doesn’t need to be! This dinner was another triumph for Chefs Ruth, Todd and the whole Bistro crew. Whether eaten with chopsticks, knife and fork, or a little of both, it was sensational!

If this description has helped whet your appetite for a Bistro special dinner, and especially if you like Southwestern, Mexican and Latin American flavors, you’ll want to make your reservation quickly for the August 25 dinner. It will be a fiesta of tequilas, served with appropriate accompanying dishes. Look for the menu to appear here soon!