Barbecue bliss Bistro-style!

Hi, Tenant here, to tell you about Wednesday’s barbecue dinner. Let me warn you: if you weren’t here and you read this, you’re going to be sorry you missed out. The good news is, it’s still possible to enjoy many of the components; it’s just that this was such a fantastic opportunity to enjoy all of them at once, at a great price!

Some previews first, from back in the kitchen:

These were the shortcakes lined up on pans, ready for bathing in strawberries.

Rows of jalapeno corn muffins awaited serving.

Pans of coleslaw were at the ready…

…as was the potato salad.

The meat was just about finished. Pans of chicken were all prepared and just needed a final finish on the grill…

…while the ribs were getting a nice brushing.

All this looked fantastic, but of course the final proof would be in the eating. I had no partner for this meal and it was being served family-style “for two,” but the way I saw it, that just meant I’d have plenty of leftovers of whatever I couldn’t eat the first time around.

So at the appointed time, I sat down. And here’s what was placed before me…

The half-chicken sat to the left, the slab of ribs to the right, and in between, slices and slices of amazing beef brisket.

On a separate plate appeared a trio of ramekins filled with creamy goodness both hot and cold:

At the front, the coleslaw; at left, the redskin potato salad; at the rear, rich and thick macaroni and cheese, topped generously with browned bread crumbs.

And, last but not least, the jalapeno corn muffins:

It was an incredible repast, and there was just no way that even I with my hearty appetite was going to finish all this. After a few ribs, a slice of brisket and a generous stripping of the chicken, combined with making a serious dent in all the sides, I had eaten all I could hold and still find room for dessert. The ribs and brisket were just as I’ve come to love them from past experience: meaty and redolent of that amazing house-smoked flavor, coated with just enough sauce (although, as you can see, an extra container of the sauce arrived alongside, just in case). The chicken? Amazing. You know how chicken can very easily turn dried-out and stringy on the barbecue grill? Not this chicken. The recipe for barbecued chicken Bistro-style is to cook the chicken sous vide first, so it’s thoroughly cooked all the way through without being overcooked — then finished on the grill so the skin gets that perfect crispy char and the sauce melds into the flesh just so. It was a magnificent trio of barbecued meats all around, and the accompaniments were just as delicious. The coleslaw was a refreshing contrast to all the spice, and the potato salad was full of chunks of potato, chopped boiled egg, onion, celery and mayo. The macaroni and cheese? If you’ve ever come by at lunch for the fish fry, you know what I’m talking about. Rich, cheesy, just plain magic. The jalapeno corn muffins had just a slight hint of peppery heat and were just right.

After I had made my best dent in all this fantastic food, I asked for the rest to be boxed up and was served my strawberry shortcake:

Wow. This was good, old-fashioned, classic strawberry shortcake, saucy berries served on two halves of a neat white shortcake biscuit with plenty of fresh whipped cream. The perfect ending to the perfect dinner. My dining companions seemed to agree, as they enjoyed their dinner with a bottle of wine:

When I finally left, I had about three or four boxes of leftovers, and I knew I was going to enjoy eating them as leftovers as much as I had enjoyed my dinner. Part of the fun has been seeing how many meals I can get out of them. Yesterday, I finished off the chicken, the macaroni and cheese, and half the potato salad and coleslaw at lunch (the cats got tiny pieces of chicken as treats) and finished off the rest of the potato salad and coleslaw with the ribs and remaining corn muffin at dinnertime. Today, I made a delicious sandwich out of part of my leftover brisket. Now, the only question left is what to do with the rest of the brisket. Another sandwich, or do I cut it up and put it in a stir-fry?…Oh heck. Why not another sandwich. It’ll make it easier to taste the real flavor coming through. And it will definitely be tasty.

Only one way to end this. And that’s to say: Barbecue at the Bistro is the essence of summer! If you’ve never tried a platter featuring these amazing specialties, you should do it soon. If you have — especially if you did this past Wednesday — you may not be hungry again yet!

Latin American Barbecue: A fantastic fiesta

So, the Latin American Barbecue last Wednesday looks good, no? It tasted even better…says the Tenant. I can tell you, as hot as the weather was, this was a terrific meal for it, because while we tend to think of barbecues as hot and smoky (at least over the grill!), the emphasis in this dinner was more on the cool and refreshing…even as it offered piquant, spicy flavors that danced on the tongue.

For starters, we were all served glasses of Marc’s Special Sangria, garnished with orange slices. This sangria has been available at the bar for quite a while this summer already, and it is truly the perfect cooling treat anytime, but especially for this dinner. Its rich mix of chilled fruits and spices prepared our palates for all that was to come.

The opening dish, Shrimp Ceviche, continued the theme of cool refreshment. The shrimp arrived plump and well-cooked from its time spent bathing in the pungent lime-juice marinade with the other chunks of veggies, fruits and herbs, from tomatoes to mangoes. The cocktail selected to accompany this course was a delightful caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil, a concoction of cachaca — sugar-cane rum — sugar and lime. It was intensely sweet and pleasingly powerful, very well mated to the ceviche.

Now that we were all relaxed quite well into the South American vibe, we were ready to enjoy the course of Smoked Chicken Empanada with Brazilian Black Beans. The savory, flaky little pockets of meat-filled dough sat atop the incredibly flavorful beans, dressed with a cool drizzle of creme fraiche. They could not have tasted better. We had wine for this course: ’09 Lo Tengo Torrontes, an Argentinean white with a bright, smooth flavor.

The next course brought us right back to cool — South American Style Jicama-Orange-Avocado Salad with Chili-Lime Vinaigrette. This “slaw” style of salad featured a gently fruity-spicy dressing and the juicy tang of fresh orange slices. The perfect touch! Another white wine was served alongside, ’10 Octave Vinho Verde, a light and airy Portuguese selection, dry and crisp.

Then it was time for the star of any traditional barbecue meal: the meat. And oh, what meat! This was beautifully cooked, thinly sliced Argentinean Grilled Flatiron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce, Plantain Chutney and Peruvian Corn Pudding. The savory, spicy green chimichurri enhanced the natural flavor of the already well-seasoned slices of meat, tender and pink on the inside, yet with those crispy dark edges that signify perfect barbecue. I had never had plantain before, and had been curious as to what this more savory version of the banana was like. Well, as chutney, I loved it, and it was a welcome addition to this beautiful dish in which meat, chutney and sauce were arranged on a generous slice of the corn pudding, one of my favorite foundations for any dish. It all added up to produce a spectacular sequence of flavors: sharply spicy, then savory and sweet. With this dish we were served the only red wine of the evening, ’07 Guentota Old Vine Malbec, a rich, full-bodied and bountifully flavored selection.

To top off the evening, a little crown of a dessert: Quesillo de Coco, Venezuelan Coconut Flan. It sat on the plate looking irresistible in its puddle of caramel, flanked by incredibly tangy fresh raspberries. I almost hated to break the surface of the glaze; it looked too pretty to eat. Of course, not eating it would have been a huge mistake, because these little Latin American versions of creme caramel were absolutely fantastic. The accompanying wine was ’09 Moscato d’Asti, a crisp, light, peachy, pear-y white with just a touch of sparkle and a wine that always works with dessert. A satisfying conclusion indeed.

If you missed this dinner, you missed one masterful barbecue — but all is not yet lost. Sign up for this Wednesday’s classic barbecue American style (Yes, an earlier version of this said Thursday — but it’s Wednesday!), and you’ll feel as if you’re truly enjoying what summer is all about. I’m already looking forward to it!

It’s Rooftop Tomato Caprese Salad Season!

We told you it was coming soon, and it’s begun. As our varieties of rooftop tomatoes continue to ripen, the Bistro is now able to offer its Caprese Salads with tomatoes direct from our rooftop garden. This is freshness you’ve got to love!

Plenty more is growing too, of course, including basil and other spices, peppers, eggplant and squash. But the recent hot weather is definitely sending the tomatoes your way. Expect to find a lot of the smaller ones — the grape and cherry sizes — in your salad and other vegetable dishes as the growing season goes along. They’re fresh and sweet, and you’re going to love them!

BARBECUE BOUNTY: Unfortunately the Tenant wasn’t able to make the Vegan Barbecue this month, but that doesn’t mean you can’t tell us how you liked it. Anyone out there willing to send us a comment?…In the meantime, the Tenant did make last Wednesday’s Latin American Barbecue, and a review and video are to follow shortly…If you haven’t yet signed up for this Wednesday’s classic barbecue dinner, what are you waiting for? Does the thought of smoked brisket, grilled chicken, St. Louis ribs, redskin potato salad, coleslaw, mac and cheese, and jalapeno corn muffins with strawberry shortcake for dessert sound bad to you? If it does, guess there’s nothing we can do about that, but if it sounds incredibly delicious, grab a partner, call 216.481.9635 to make your reservation and get ready for a family-style summer banquet!

Things are growing beautifully on the roof!

How does our rooftop garden grow? Now that we’re hitting the middle of the summer season, you’re probably wondering. Here’s a little visual update for you. First, here’s how the tomatoes looked not long after planting:

Now, a recent picture:

Quite the change, no? The smaller varieties — the Sweet 100s and the Bonnie Grapes — are already starting to ripen:

There are plenty of green tomatoes on the bigger varieties, such as the Bush Goliaths, and with the fine sunny weather we’ve been having, they’ll be ripening soon as well:

Did we mention we put in cauliflower? That’s getting big too:

In their various varieties, the peppers are starting to pop:

The squash is emerging:

And the eggplant, you might say, is hatching:

In short, you’ll soon see plenty of rooftop veggies joining the rooftop herbs like chives, thyme and basil that have been thriving upstairs for quite some time. We are often asked “When are we going to be able to get those Caprese Salads with rooftop tomatoes?” As you can see, the answer is “Soon!”

But even that’s not all. As summer draws to an end, we’ll be reaching beyond our rooftop to add something special to our menu that will also be locally sourced. What will it be? Watch this space to learn more in the future!

Join us for Bar-B-Q Family Style!

When we said July was Barbecue Month here at the Bistro, we weren’t kidding! We’ve slated a Vegan Bar-B-Q, we’ve got a Latin American Bar-B-Q Wine Dinner in the works…but even that’s not all!

We hope you’ll join us for a Special Bar-B-Q Night Wednesday, July 27, between 5 and 9 p.m. Our $45-per-couple (plus tax and gratuity) feast will include the following classic barbecue fare served family style:

Smoked Bar-B-Q Brisket
1/2 Grilled Chicken with House Bar-B-Q Sauce
1/2 Slab Smoked St. Louis Ribs with House Bar-B-Q Sauce
Rooftop Herbed Redskin Potato Salad
Coleslaw
Our Famous Mac and Cheese
Jalapeno Corn Muffins
Dessert: Strawberry Shortcake with Fresh Whipped Cream

Our fantastic summer feast is available by prepaid reservation only, so call 216.481.9635 and reserve your classic barbecue dinner now!