A toast to another top-notch Champagne Dinner!

Hi! The Tenant is back, and, along with Ruth and Marc, hoping you have had a wonderful holiday season so far. They have asked me to remind you that they’ll be open tonight for New Year’s Eve and open tomorrow night, New Year’s Day, for dinner, so you can put a nice cap on your holiday season fun. Are your out-of-town guests heading for home soon? Bring them to the Bistro for a nice New Year’s dinner. Then kick back, relax, and enjoy life returning to normal!

Now, about the Champagne Dinner last Tuesday…I’m not shy to tell you, after having suffered from a dragging-on illness last winter that kept me from being able to attend last year’s Champagne Dinner, I was really looking forward to this one. I had seen the pictures of last year’s, and they were mouthwatering enough to make my soul ache. So this was a Bistro dinner not to be missed for me — and apparently also not for a lot of other people, as the entire “restaurant side” of the Bistro was filled with this sellout dinner group. If you couldn’t make it, though, or didn’t reserve soon enough to get a spot, at least you’ll know what you missed. (This review might even give you a few ideas if you’re still looking for a good champagne to uncork tonight.)

The first course took no time setting the tone for an incredible meal. The Herbed Crêpe with Salmon Caviar, House-Cured Gravlax, Crème Fraiche and Poached Asparagus kicked things off excellently. It was an amazing combination of gentle, paper-thin crêpe, savory gravlax, slightly salty caviar, and dairy-fresh cream. The asparagus was just unbelievable in flavor…it tasted as fresh as if it had been picked off the roof in springtime. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that fresh-tasting a vegetable out of season. The champagne with this course was also especially fine, Lamarca Prosecco. An Italian wine produced champenoise style every few months, and subjected to a panel review before being released (!), it has a just slightly sweet touch, but not excessively so. Not only that, but it’s an incredible deal, usually available for between $13 and $15 a bottle. Our wine rep of the evening, Greg Webster of Wine Trends, also advised us that it makes great mimosas, so if you’d rather have New Year’s brunch than a New Year’s toast, it’s a fine choice for that as well.

Chef Ruth really got to show off one of her favorite kinds of dishes to prepare in the second course, Duck Three Ways. I’ve heard her and Marc describe this kind of dish to me before, but I’ve never actually had the chance to enjoy it. At center plate: tender, rosy, gently fat-ringed slices of seared duck breast, topped with a delicious mango chutney. At one side, a hearty slice of duck pâté, rich with nuts and savory spice, dressed with a dollop of French grainy mustard. (I love the Bistro’s pâtés. One of my sisters and I have joked that if the liverwurst sandwiches our mother used to pack for our school lunches had only been made like this, we would have enjoyed them much more.) On the other side of the duck breast, a duck confit — tender leg of duck cooked in its own fat to fall-off-the-bone tenderness, then crisped and caramelized in a balsamic ginger glaze. Sounds good just reading about it, no? Oh, it is. The champagne for this course was Domaine des Baumard Brut Cremant Carte Turquoise, a Loire Valley pick that is drier than the Lamarca and well suited to this sweeter dish. It is also not a pricey selection, either!

It was time for the salad course, but this was honestly like no salad I’ve ever had before; it was on another plane. Marc had told me earlier that the basis of this Caesar salad was grilled Romaine lettuce. “Grilled?” I asked. I’ve heard of and enjoyed many kinds of vegetables being grilled, even fruits, to caramelize them and add a crispy texture, but this was the first time I’d ever heard of anyone grilling salad lettuce. Well, they grilled it, and it’s absolutely incredible. Each serving of salad consisted of grilled Romaine leaves topped with Caesar dressing and a shower of Parmesan shavings; four escargot shells, each containing a former resident sautéed to perfection in butter, garlic, and parsley (we had to tease the little devils out with canapé toothpicks); thin, grilled slices of baguette; and garlic cloves roasted until sweet and soft enough to spread on the baguette slices. Remove an escargot from its shell, place it atop the baguette slice smeared with garlic, and take a bite…ahh, perfection! Oh, and then take a sip from your glass of Casteller Cava Penedes, a Spanish sparkler even drier than the second champagne, but still lovely and not so astringent as to get puckery. It just danced on my tongue.

Course number four was a tender, savory chop from Australian aged rack of lamb, cooked perfectly with a crackly skin outside, topped with a rosemary-mint demi-glace that went just as well with the unbelievable Potatoes Anna as with the meat itself. The paper-thin-sliced potatoes were creamy and baked just enough to form the perfect crispy brown crust on top. The champagne for this course was a Laetitia Brut Cuvée, a blended sparkling white that was probably the driest of all we enjoyed. I’m not any more crazy about extreme dryness in wine than I am in too much sweetness, but this one didn’t go overboard and I liked it as much as the others.

Then came course five. To my mind, they were all great, but this was the one that had people around me moaning with pleasure and saying it just has to go on the specials menu. The Seafood Waffle Topped with Lobster-Shrimp-Crab Imperial sounds simple, and it is — but oh, how good! Each serving included one quarter of a round Belgian waffle made with a savory herbed batter; an absolutely huge, split, freshwater flame-grilled scampi shrimp; and a butter-soaked cream sauce studded generously with tender chunks of lobster, Laughing Bird shrimp, and crab. You may recall that a while ago Marc and Ruth explained that Laughing Bird is a brand of Caribbean white shrimp farmed in Belize, raised in filtered sea water, fed a vegetarian diet, never treated with additives or sulfites, and sold fresh. The end result is a shrimp that’s wonderfully succulent and sweet. As for the scampi shrimp, it was so big, plump, and sweet that some of my fellow diners mistook it for a lobster tail. It was that delicious! Along with it we were served Champagne Delamotte, a “capital-C Champagne” in that it’s from the actual region. It was a nicely dry complement to the rich, creamy, buttery seafood dish.

The meal came to a simple but delightful conclusion with a heavenly Chocolate Lava Cake (with the classic crusty exterior/liquid interior) on a bed of strawberry coulis, garnished with blackberries and topped with a generous snowfall of powdered sugar. With it, the only rose wine of the evening, Patrick Bottex Vin du Bugey-Cerdon, also the only one we were served in coupes rather than flutes. It was the fruitiest wine of the evening, but still not excessively sweet…just right.

The verdict: if you missed this dinner, oh dear…too bad, because you missed out on some amazing dishes and champagnes whose goodness is hard to express in mere words! You can, however, console yourself a bit by making a New Year’s resolution not to miss the next Bistro special dinner. This one’s going to be a post-Valentine’s Day fête that just might make an excellent gift for that special someone…the Chocolate Dinner, Wednesday, February 16, 2011. Don’t wait until the last minute, because this one is likely to be another sellout…call now at 216.481.9635 and make your reservations! Happy New Year!

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this blog confused the scampi shrimp with the Laughing Bird shrimp, which actually stay small but are especially sweet and tasty and were included in the seafood sauce.

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Our next Vegan “3 for $30”: “A Night in Budapest”

Vegans–and adventurous non-vegans–you’re going to love the theme of our January Vegan “3 for $30” prix fixe dinner: “A Night in Budapest.” Our vegan dinner for Wednesday, January 19, features dishes inspired by the best of Hungarian cuisine:

Starter
Tomato- Fennel Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings

Entree
Vegan Chicken Paprikash with Potato Gnocchi, Wilted Sweet-and-Sour Cucumber Salad with Dill

Dessert
Hungarian-Style Crepes with Apricot Preserves and Fresh Berry Garnish with Almond-Milk Whipped Cream

Make your prepaid reservations now at 216.481.9635 (for any time between 5 and 9). You won’t want to miss this!

OK, only a few days left and you’re still stumped…

…about what to get that person (or those people) who seem to have everything…what to get them that won’t be exchanged, “re-gifted” or otherwise unappreciated. You don’t have any idea what their size or taste is in clothing or stuff for the home, they’ve already bought themselves every kind of cool gadget under the sun, the last thing you feel like doing is tackling the shopping crowds at this late date, and it’s too late to order anything online to get it delivered in time (at least without paying a monster of a shipping fee). What to do, what to do?

We have a suggestion. It does require that you answer one lifestyle question regarding your potential recipient, though.

Namely: Does this person eat?

If the answer is yes, we have your solution: a Bistro 185 gift certificate.

Our gift certificates are available in denominations as low as $25 and as high as $100 (you can get $50 and $75 certificates, too). Just think of the advantages:

1. One size and color (well, they’re actually several colors) fits all.

2. If the person eats–just about ANY kind of food–it will be used and enjoyed. No “re-gifting” likely on this one.

3. If you were about to throw up your hands in despair and just give money or a gift card, well–a Bistro 185 certificate isn’t cold and impersonal like cash, or even some gift cards. It shows you put some thought into the fact that your recipient enjoys occasions of fine dining, and you want to give that person the gift of one (or maybe even a few).

4. No need to wrestle with crowds at any shopping establishment. Just stop by the Bistro and tell a server you would like to purchase. Done!

5. Unlike some gift cards, it doesn’t need to be used immediately. It doesn’t lose value during any time it goes unused. It’s always worth the exact same value it was the day you bought it. No hidden tricks. Also, it’s highly unlikely to get sold or traded away on one of those gift-card Web sites for something else.

6. It’s good at any Bistro 185 location. Well, OK, there is only one Bistro 185 location. But when you enjoy the care we take toward preparing your meal fresh from scratch, you realize that’s actually a good thing.

7. Your potential giftee lives out of town? Well, what better reason for the giftee to come visit you? (Assuming that‘s a good thing. If not, at least you’ll be at the Bistro when you get together.)

8. If your recipient is a vegan, this is a great way to treat him or her to vegan fine dining through experiencing our Vegan Dinner Series.

9. It shows your good taste in fine dining and flatters your recipient, whom you have assumed shares it.

10. It supports local business here in Northeast Ohio, and shows your recipient that you do so as well.

OK, there is one disadvantage. You’re not going to find Bistro 185 gift certificates for sale at the drugstore, supermarket, or convenience mart on the corner. You do have to come to the Bistro to buy them. But we’re pretty conveniently located, anyway. Come on, we’re only a few minutes right off I-90. This is not hard! You’ll spend less time coming here, buying your certificates and leaving than you will just hunting for a parking spot at the mall right now!

OK, we think we’ve made our case. For those who eat, and can make it to East 185th Street at some point in their lifetimes, Bistro 185 gift certificates are the ultimate holiday present. Your recipient will think of you with each delicious bite. So come on in and get your holiday shopping finished quickly and easily. Just try to get here before too much longer, because we’re bound to close early on Christmas Eve. Of course, we’ll be closed on Christmas and back open on Monday, December 27. Also, if you need a place to go New Year’s Day, we’ve got good news–we will be open the evening of January 1 for your dining pleasure.

We hope to see you soon!

Vegan Dinner a three-time pleaser

Hello again from the Tenant. I tried the Bistro’s “3 for 30” Vegan Prix Fixe Dinner last Wednesday and if you did, too, you know what I’m about to say. If not, definitely read on!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not vegan, but I have found that when I eat Bistro 185’s vegan concoctions, I enjoy them so much that I truly do not miss the meat. And if you’re a dedicated vegan, you can’t help but appreciate not only the care Chefs Jakub and Ruth take toward ensuring the 100% vegan content of every dish, but the gourmet flair they bring to each one. This dinner was certainly no exception!

The starter course was Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Vidalia Onions. I don’t think I have words to describe how delicious and satisfying it was. All I know is, I feel as if I could have eaten several more bowlsful. The flavor was so rich—a combination of sweetness and fiery spice—and the texture thick and substantial. It arrived streaked with a garnish of almond milk and sprigged with thyme, and it was an amazing winter soup that drained any feeling of chill from the cold weather outside right out of my body.


Next in line was the entree, Eggplant Parmigiana with Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Vegan Mozzarella Cheese and Slow-Cooked Marinara. This dish was also a winner—its sauce full of fresh tomatoes and the eggplant slices tender, light, and un-greasy, ever so gently breaded and fried, laid atop fantastic whole-wheat pasta. Even the pully texture of the vegan mozzarella was perfect, just as natural as the real thing. I’m told vegan cheese is made from almond milk. Don’t ask me how—all I know is, this was great. It was accompanied by a savory piece of garlic toast for soaking up extra sauce.

The finishing touch was as tasty a dessert as I’ve ever had, the Vegan Apple Pie—or, to be more precise, a Vegan Apple Turnover. It arrived hot and flaky, full of juicy, saucy apple slices in delightfully light pastry, accompanied by a little scoop of cinnamon almond-milk ice cream, a dollop of almond-milk “whipped cream,” and a fresh raspberry and blackberry garnish, dusted all over with powdered sugar. The “ice cream” was a terrific variation on the regular-milk variety and the “whipped cream” just as yummy. The perfect conclusion to an excellent meal!

To summarize: if you eat vegan, you owe it to yourself to try eating vegan-style at Bistro 185 whenever you have the opportunity (info about next month’s offerings will go up when ready). And even if you don’t normally eat vegan, trying a vegan dish, or even a full meal, at the Bistro is a terrific introduction, because you’ll be both surprised and impressed by the high quality of everything you taste. The flavor and texture will be so much the same as what you’d find in a traditional meal that you may even mistake what you’re eating for a non-vegan dish! Keep your eyes on the blog for information about upcoming vegan features. You’ll be impressed—and very well fed!

Tonight’s Wine Tasting postponed to Dec. 13

Wine lovers! Some bad news: we’re postponing tonight’s tasting event. The good news: we’re not canceling it altogether, just postponing it until next Monday, December 13. If you have a reservation for tonight’s tasting, you can call 216.481.9635 and reschedule for next week. Or, if you didn’t have a reservation for tonight, by all means feel free to make one for next Monday. You’ll love this opportunity to taste some terrific wines!

Champagne Dinner menu is set!

Get your tastebuds prepared, because the menu and list of accompanying champagnes for our December 28 Champagne Dinner is ready!

First Course
Herbed Crepe with Salmon Caviar and Lemon-Tarragon Sabayon
House Cured Gravlax with Creme Fraiche
Poached Asparagus
Champagne: Lamarca Prosseco

Second Course
Duck 3 Ways: Seared Duck Breast, Duck Pate, Duck Confit
Champagne: Domaine des Baumard Brut Cremant Carte Turquoise

Third Course
Grilled Caesar Salad with Escargot and Slow-Roasted Garlic
Champagne: Casteller-Cava-Penedes

Fourth Course
Australian Aged Rack of Lamb with Rosemary-Mint Demi-Glace
Potatoes Anna
Champagne: Laetitia Brut Rose

Fifth Course
Seafood Waffle Topped with Lobster-Shrimp-Crab Imperial
Champagne: Champagne Delamotte

Sixth Course
Chocolate Lava Cake with Raspberry Coulis
Champagne: Paringa Sparkling Shiraz

If you’re a lover of fine food and great champagne, this is the ideal way to ring in the New Year early–away from the noise and crowds, in a nice, peaceful, civilized celebration. And wouldn’t it make the ideal holiday gift for someone special in your life?

Cost of the dinner is $75 plus tax and gratuity. We start at 6:30 sharp, serving up six courses of fabulous dishes and bountiful bubbly. Make your reservation at 216.481.9635 today!

Join us for wine tasting Monday!

Take a little break with us from 6 to 8 p.m. this Monday and enjoy some great wines for only $10 (tax and gratuity additional):

Havenscourt Chardonnay
Havenscourt Pinot Noir
Tin Barn Napa Valley Zin
Ahnfeldt Provocative Cabernet

We’ll have hors d’oeuvres available for your purchase as well. Make your reservation at 216.481.9635, sip a glass at the Bistro, and who knows, you could discover a new favorite!