July barbecues coming your way…and more!

It’s as if there’s something deep inside us — especially those of us forced to spend so much time indoors during the winter — that calls to us when summertime hits and compels us to start a fire and throw something on the grill until it gets really crispy, juicy and tasty. At Bistro 185, we’re no different. That’s why July is going to be Barbecue Month in terms of our special dinners — even the vegan one!

We actually start out with the Vegan Barbecue, on Thursday, July 14. This will be another 3-for-$30 special, featuring Grilled Caesar Salad as the appetizer. The main course will be Smoked and Grilled Tofu Glazed with a Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Barbecue Sauce, Grilled Corn and Pinto Bean Succotash with Roasted Sweet Potato and Jalapeno Cornbread. We’ll top it off with Strawberry Shortcake for dessert.

The following week, it will be time for the meat eaters to gather ’round. On Wednesday, July 20 at 6:30, the Bistro will celebrate south-of-the-border spice with a five-course Latin American Barbecue Dinner. This $60 feast will feature the following courses paired with the following wines and other beverages:

Opening Beverage
Marc’s Special Sangria

First Course
Shrimp Ceviche
Beverage: Caipirinha

Second Course
Smoked Chicken Empanada
Brazilian Black Beans
Lo Tengo Torrontes

Third  Course
South American Style Jicama-Orange-Avocado Salad with Chili-Lime Vinaigrette
Beverage: Vinho Verde

Fourth Course
Argentinian Grilled Flatiron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Plantain Chutney
Peruvian Corn Pudding
Beverage: Guentota Malbec

Fifth Course
Quesillo de Coco: Venezuelan Coconut Flan
Beverage: Pisco-Rita

You will want to be in your seat for this exciting fiesta, so call and make your prepaid reservations now at 216.481.9635.

Is this all we’ve got planned for special fun this summer? Not quite. In August we celebrate locally grown food with our special dinners…but aside from even that, we’ve got some tricks up our sleeve that we’ll be revealing soon. Watch this space for more details to be announced!

“Hello Summer” White Wine Dinner a happy seasonal kickoff

The Tenant returns, with word about the “Hello Summer” Wine Dinner. One word: fabulous. Well, I can and will say more, but that’s a start. This dinner combined breezy-feeling summer dishes with some of the most appealing white wines you could ask for.

Any Bistro dinner that starts out with seared scallops is bound to be a triumph, and this one was no exception. Again, the scallop in the first course, seated on a bed of risotto with peas and asparagus and drizzled with truffle oil, was cooked to perfection. My friend Mary was sitting with her party near me, and as you may recall from last week, she enjoyed her taste of my vegan risotto enormously. I told her if she liked that, she was sure to be happy with the risotto at this dinner, and I was right; it, too, was beautifully creamily textured and studded with deliciously fresh vegetables. Our wine for this course was a 2008 Henri Bourgeoise Les Baronnes Blanc, and although our information sheets told us it has “sauvignon’s typical fresh-cut glass, flint and apple character,” the first thing I thought when savoring its bouquet was “buttery.” Really, it seemed more buttery than fruity, flinty or grassy, but maybe that’s just me. In any case, I certainly enjoyed it.

The second course was as refreshing a salad as you could want this time of year, one whose flavors seemed to joyfully shout “summer”: mixed field greens, strawberries, blueberries, almonds and sunflower seeds, dressed in a strawberry-and-white-wine vinaigrette. Not exactly the same salad as last week’s vegan dinner salad, but a close relative, and it hit just the right note. The vinaigrette was perfect for the combination of greens, fruit, seeds and nuts. To accompany it we had Brandborg Pinot Gris ’09, which struck me as a wine with a sharper taste than the first, kind of biting and peppery for a fruity white, but I really liked the way it complemented the salad.

Course number three was deceptively simple-looking for the powerhouse of flavor it packed. The Crispy Duck with Star-Anise Rhubarb Sauce arrived looking rather unassuming, sitting unadorned in its crunchy golden-brown skin atop a pool of reddish sauce. And then I cut off a piece and tasted it. Oh, my. Who would have thought the simple combination of sweet rhubarb and the slight licorice tang of anise could have created such a perfect sauce for duck? It was unbelievably good, skin, meat and all. If you ever see this one as part of a specials menu, order it! Rhubarb-star anise sauce is just as delightful as raspberry chipotle glaze anytime. For wine with this course, we were poured ’09 Clayhouse Adobe White, a little smoother and creamier than the previous white. I loved how it tasted with the duck. I admit to not having the education to detect all the nuances and notes in a glass of wine, but I know what feels right with a dish, and this one felt right.

The same could be said of the Buried Cane Dry Riesling that accompanied the final savory course, House-Made Artichoke & Ricotta Ravioli with Rooftop Garden Herb Cream Sauce. These were, quite simply, pasta pillows from heaven! The ravioli came stuffed to the gills with julienned vegetables and creamy cheese, and the sauce that topped them couldn’t have been better — nor could the herbs that flavored it been more fresh and local, coming from the deck out back! (And the rooftop garden has barely begun producing everything it’s about to put out this summer. Keep that in mind in the months to come!)

Last to be served was a dessert that seemed to fit perfectly with what had gone before: we’d just eaten magnificent ricotta, and now we were finishing with sweet, tender mascarpone cheese in a phyllo-dough cup, topped with fresh berries, sauce and a touch of rooftop mint. What a charming ending to an incredible summer feast! Tiny glasses of golden Andrieux & Fils Muscat Beaumes de Venice finished off the wine selection, tasting honeyed and refreshing.

All taken together, I though this dinner was a completely enjoyable way to welcome back that brief season of warmth that’s so precious to us. Next month will continue the summer celebrations, but in a different vein: the Bistro is planning to show off the best in barbecue, not only traditional but even in vegan style. If you enjoyed “Hello Summer,” you’ll know this, too, is an opportunity you should not miss.

A few pictures of preparations for tonight’s “Hello Summer” White Wine Dinner

We’re busy this afternoon making fresh Artichoke and Ricotta Ravioli…

…that ends up looking like this:

The phyllo cups are baked and ready to be filled with fresh berries and mascarpone for dessert…

Prime stalks of rhubarb will soon go into the Star Anise-Rhubarb Sauce…

…that we’re making for our Crispy Duck…

Feeling hungry yet? Hope so…it’s going to be a terrific summer night of white wines and the finest in warm-weather dining! See you soon!

“Hello Summer” Vegan Dinner refreshing and delightful

The vegan dining was perfectly suited to the season with last night’s “Hello Summer” 3-for-$30 special. Yes, The Tenant has enjoyed yet another meatless and everything-else-animal-less meal at the Bistro’s talented hands.

First on the menu was Wild Field Greens Salad with Blueberries, Strawberries, Sunflower Seeds and Toasted Almonds with Blueberry Vinaigrette. This was the ideal refreshing summer salad, with a variety of crisp greens mixed with the freshest blueberries and sliced strawberries, scattered with sunflower seeds and toasted almond slivers. The blueberry vinaigrette was a fantastic complement and this salad set the stage for an excellent meal.

The main entree, Gardein “Chicken” Scallopini atop Asparagus, Pea, Meyer Lemon and Basil Risotto, arrived looking utterly irresistible, and indeed it was. The gardein, as usual, was a terrific analog for chicken, breaded and topped with a little garnish of frizzled onions that made it even tastier. The risotto was a dream: creamy and rich with the flavor of fresh asparagus, carrot strips, basil and the light kiss of Meyer lemon throughout. As it happened, my friend Mary was in the Bistro last night and she had to have a taste of the risotto, even though she’s not any more of a vegan than I am. She pronounced it delicious, which I thought she would. I guess this means she’s really going to love the risotto that arrives with the scallops at next week’s white wine dinner! I know I will!

To top it all off, the dessert, Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble, arrived bringing more summery flavors. This was a sweet and pungently tart mixture of strawberries and rhubarb under a crumbly sweet crust, topped with whipped almond milk and a garnish of fresh rooftop mint. Yum!

The 3-for-$30 was a feast for vegans, as well as a bit of a preview of the delights available at next week’s “Hello Summer” White Wine Dinner. If you are not vegan, or not strictly so, sign up for this one before it’s too late! With the combination of carefully selected white wines and Chef Ruth’s cuisine, it’s sure to be a satisfying way to kick off summertime. Hope to see you there!

Enjoy the warm weather more with our Summer Wine Special!

We’ve got a summertime special you’re going to love! Starting June 6, on Mondays through Wednesdays starting at 5 p.m., the Bistro is featuring a half-price special on any of our 33 wine selections with the purchase of an entree. The half-price offer is also our Early Bird Special on Saturdays from 5 to 6 p.m.

It’s going to be a gorgeous week of weather…and summer is only beginning. Make plans now to join us for food, friends and half-price wine on our patio or inside, soon! You’ll be glad you did!