There’s no doubt about it, to my mind: while each of the Bistro’s wine and beer dinners and vegan multicourse feasts is unique, there’s something extraordinary about the champagne/sparkling wine dinner that serves as the finale of the special-dinner year. It’s as if all the stops are pulled out in order to create the ultimate elegant dining experience. As the Tenant, I have missed only one since moving here in 2008, and I know they’re something to be especially anticipated. In that sense, not to mention all others, last night’s did not disappoint!
The pleasure began with an unannounced aperitif before dinner, a Lamarca Prosecco served in the only coupe glasses of the evening. This wine set the table, you might say, for all that came after. The couple who served as my dining companions for the evening were very excited, as, while they’ve enjoyed many a dining experience at the Bistro, this was their first time at a special dinner; normally, her job and early hours make it difficult to attend weeknight events, but she has the week off. I’m pleased to report we all had a fantastic time and that each of the dishes and wines was a pleaser indeed.
The first dish, Escargot en Croute, featured buttery, garlicky snails tucked into flaky beds of golden phyllo dough accented with a Pernod cream sauce, topped with creme fraiche and a dollop of orange caviar, long chives laid atop to finish. A top-notch presentation and the escargot was perfectly tender and delicious in its saucy, garlicky bed. The rather tart Dr. L Riesling Sec, a sparkler from Germany, accented it very well.
Course number two would conjure up a few memories of the beer dinner earlier this month, but oh, with what a difference! Once again, Duck Confit, a perfectly cooked crispy leg of duck, made an appearance, but this time in combination with a pile of thin, crispy duck-fat fries very similar to those that laid the foundation for the poutine from that dinner. This time, though, instead of being graced with cheese curds and gravy, the frites bore just the slightest touch of fragrant rosemary and sea salt, and were served with a dollop of the most flavorful, amazing Roasted Garlic Aioli (mayonnaise) one could imagine. If Ruth put this in jars and sold it, I’d be first in line to buy it! It tasted heavenly with both the duck and the fries. The wine chosen for the course, Champagne Laurent-Perrier Brut, could not have been a better choice with its fresh, crisp flavor.
I’d already warned my dining companions that if they’d never experienced a Bistro 185 scallop before, they were in for a treat with the third course: a scallop guaranteed to be cooked just right and full of flavor. The Scallop Rockefeller lived up to my advance billing in every way. Traditionally, a Scallops Rockefeller recipe calls for spinach, onion, garlic, lemon, butter, Pernod and hollandaise sauce. This variation had the rich cooked-to-wilting spinach and a delicate lemon shallot sabayon, but included a welcome addition in the form of crunchy little bacon lardons–which ramped up the appeal even higher. Each scallop was presented on a real scallop shell resting on a bed of lettuce: score 10 for presentation! To drink, we were poured Ayala Brut Zero Dosage, a highly unusual “brut nature” sparkling wine that is bone-dry with no sugar added during fermentation. As we discovered, this makes it a very appealing accompaniment to seafood (not to mention nice for those counting their calories–although, of course, at a dinner like this, we were not).
The fourth course was a classic of the kind that I like to believe anyone can appreciate–even the least adventurous diners of all and those who like to stick to a “meat and potatoes” diet. With French Braised Short Rib and Root Vegetable Mash with Wild Mushroom Saute, you simply cannot lose. As always, the Bistro short rib was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the mashers rich and flavorful with a combination of winter root veggies in the savory mushroom sauce. Our sparkling wine for this dish was another Italian, Adami Garbel 13 Prosecco, with a hint of dry tartness that set off the dish beautifully.
Our dessert for the meal was a special treat. It was described as Boule de Neige (“Snowball”) with Hazelnuts and Raspberries, and it arrived at the table as a mound of whipped-cream-covered, dense, flourless chocolate cake surrounded by a raspberry coulis and garnished with ground hazelnuts and fresh raspberries. What a dream! Ruth says she got the recipe from a French chef, but that’s all she’ll say about it, and after tasting it I can understand why she isn’t too eager to divulge the secret. This one should be a regular in the dessert case all winter long–if not summer! Who says snowballs are only for December through March? When they’re made of chocolate, hazelnuts and whipped cream, there really should be an exception. Our final wine was a Norton Demi Sec from Argentina, just sweet enough to go nicely with the dessert–although this dessert would go just as well with coffee, water or on its own!
This year’s version of the Bistro’s Champagne Dinner definitely left us feeling bubbly and happy. I certainly do hope you were there and enjoyed it as much as I did. Either way, though, you can still enjoy a magical evening of special cuisine and sparkling wine–make reservations for a sitting at the Bistro on New Year’s Eve and start thinking about which entree appeals to you most from the special menu for the evening. Whatever you choose, you’re sure to have a fabulous time!