Vegan Night: a welcome warming trend

I’ve been a pretty busy Tenant lately. Last week it was the Chocolate Dinner, and this week I found myself enjoying the Vegan Night offerings once more. Yes, we’ve all been marveling/complaining/whatever about the winter weather we haven’t had much of this season, and how Jack Frost hasn’t exactly been socking it to us the way he has in winters past. Yet, as I look out my window right now, I see snow on the ground and the infamous horizontal lake-effect flurries flying back and forth. Yeah, sometimes winter really is acting like winter for us. And when it does, it’s great to have some stick-to-your ribs food sent in front of you to warm you from the inside out. Thursday’s Vegan Dinner proved that such a thing is possible without a smidgen of meat or animal products.

The first course was Creamy Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup. What a terrific winter soup! Rich, thick, and full of woodsy flavor. If you’re thinking “what’s it like to have wild rice in soup? Is it grainy and crackly and hard, like it is on its own?,” the answer is no! This wild rice was pureed to smoothness, so it had none of the texture of wild rice, just the flavor. The chunkiness of the soup came from the mushrooms, and it was all just heartwarming.

Then came the entree, Stuffed Cabbage in a Savory Sweet-and-Sour Tomato Sauce with Yukon Gold Potato Mashers and Maple-Glazed Carrots. Wow! I love traditional cabbage rolls (again, the German side of me), but although these contained no meat, they were utterly wonderful. Ruth explained to me that she made the rolls using Savoy cabbage, which she feels is tenderer and easier to work with than other cabbages. Inside went a mixture that included rice, tomatoes, vegan sausage (to give it that “meaty” flavor without the meat), a variety of spices, and something called “farro.” “What’s farro?” I asked. “I never heard of it before.” I knew I was going to have to research this one. Well, my trusty Internet connection tells me there’s actually some debate as to exactly what constitutes farro, but that it is essentially the whole grain of certain wheat species. Whatever it was, it tasted good inside these stuffed cabbages. The entree consisted of two HUGE cabbage rolls sitting atop a bed of the Yukon Gold mashed potatoes (the absolute best mashing potato, I think), coated with tomato sauce, with a serving of the carrots cozied up alongside. The sauce was a great complement not only to the cabbage but to the potatoes; I could smell the cinnamon in it (which always reminds me of my family’s spaghetti sauce recipe) and it was as if my own mother had made this dish. The carrots? Mapley sweet and pure joy–I could’ve eaten a bowlful of these on their own.

Topping it all off was dessert: a generous serving of Apple Brown Betty with Vanilla “Ice Cream.” My, oh, my! A classic winter dessert, reworked so as to use no butter, eggs or milk, yet to taste just as delicious as the original. Tender thin slices of cinnamony sauced apple, crunchy sugary cinnamony crumbs, all this hot crunchy saucy stuff contrasted with the coolness of the scoop of vanilla almond-milk “ice cream” on top. I tell you truly, if I didn’t know this was a vegan dinner, I wouldn’t have known it wasn’t typical milk-and-egg ice cream. It’s eating like this that makes me think “Yes, I could give up all the animal stuff and eat just fine.” Of course, it is a little easier when you have someone else doing the work for you. But mmm, what a tasty outcome!

Vegan Night has to be a real treat for people committed to vegan or vegetarian eating who enjoy an evening out, but don’t enjoy having to ask a lot of questions about a restaurant dish to make sure it passes the test. From my viewpoint, however, it is repeated proof that it’s possible to cook creatively and deliciously not only without meat, but without some of the other items we so often take for granted as staples, such as milk, eggs and honey. It seems that every time I sit down to another vegan dinner I learn something new, and this one was no exception. At this one, it was that even in wintertime, a hearty meal doesn’t have to be “meat and potatoes” to be satisfying. Potatoes, you can have, but the meat you can do without–if you know how. Congratulations to Ruth for showing us how yet again!

Help us name the next Bistro Martini!

Love a good vodka martini–shaken OR stirred? We’re looking for some new ideas to help us come up with the next amazing martini. And you can help us by entering our Name the Next Bistro Martini Contest. The creator of the winning recipe will receive a $50 Bistro 185 Gift Certificate and will have his or her name featured on our menu as inventor of the winning martini!

All you need to do is email your martini recipes and ideas to by Monday, March 5. Five will be chosen for our special Martini Tasting with Hors D’Oeuvres Thursday, March 8, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. At our tasting, featuring Seven Brothers Vodka from Leroy, Ohio with Master Distiller Kevin Suttman, guests will taste all five martinis and vote for their favorite.

If you want to be one of our taste testers, make your reservations now! Cost of the tasting is $30 per person plus tax and gratuity. Call 216.481.9635 now–and if you want to enter the contest, get thinking about that perfect martini of your dreams! It just might be our winner!

Valentine Chocolate Dinner: everything your heart desires

One thing you should know about me, The Tenant, by now is that I adore chocolate. Our love affair has been a very long one, and shows no signs of ending, ever. So, you could say the Bistro 185 Valentine’s Day Chocolate Dinner is made for me.  Certainly, this dinner didn’t cause me to fall out of love; it only deepened our existing relationship.

To sweeten the deal further, the Bistro’s choice of wine accompaniment for this dinner was all from one source: R&B Cellars of Alameda, California, the city’s largest family-owned winery, started by jazz musicians whose passion for their music is reflected in the names they bestow upon their products. It seems only fitting that music suited to love and romance be connected to the wines served at this event.

Things got off to a perfect start with the first course, Pappardelle Pasta with Lobster in a White Chocolate-Saffron Cream Sauce. I’m not even a big fan of white chocolate, but the sauce on this dish was just perfect: light and creamy but with a tiny, subtle touch of sweetness, so complementary for the buttery lobster meat. The wine, too, could not have been a better choice: Serenade in Blanc Sauvignon Blanc, a just as smooth and buttery as the dish itself.

From seafood we went to a hearty, beefy dish, without a misstep along the way. I’d had a taste of the Chocolate Merlot Demi-Glace that was going to accompany the Espresso and Cocoa-Rubbed Medallion of Beef Tenderloin earlier in the afternoon, and dreamed of how well it would go with the beef. It did! Unbelievable. The meat was cooked sous vide to slightly pink perfection on the inside, so it was tender as velvet. The Arugula and Roasted Red Peppers alongside were like a mini-salad, spiced up with a gently astringent vinaigrette. Our wine for the course was the hearty Saxy Syrah, deeply fruity and peppery and just right.

At the Bistro, even the salad courses are something out of the usual, and this one certainly lived up to its reputation. I’d never had a Chopped Caesar Salad quite like this one before. Not with shaved white cheddar cheese streaked with chocolate throughout the cheese itself, and sprinkled with cocoa nibs! (The cheese on its own is unutterably delicious. I could eat it by itself.) And Ruth had found a unique way to add the customary anchovies to the salad: in the form of a perfect little fritter. Unique and delicious–a hot and savory contrast to the cool salad and that heavenly cheese. The wine alongside was Swingsville Zin, which Chris Victor of Superior Wine distributors explained to us is made with grapes from 70-year-old vines, combined with just a bit of petite syrah. I don’t know whether it’s the vines, the syrah or what, but this was one plummy, smooth-tasting Zin.

We had one more meat course to go, and it was something special. The Lamb Chop Milanese, a lollipop-style lamb chop, arrived on its bed of Mexican Hot Chocolate Sauce pillowed by a light and airy Pumpkin Flan. This was a delightful mixture of flavors: savory lamb, sweet chocolate, orange and a hint of spice. (It was more like “Hot Chocolate” than “Mexican Hot”–a phrase that tends to make people think of chilies and the like.) Appropriately enough for the flavor blend of the dish, the wine was a true blended wine: The Improviser, a spicy, fruity melding of Zin and a number of other varietals.

Only dessert awaited us after that, and when the dinner is chocolate, you know the dessert is going to be chocolately fabulous. Our Chocolate Bouchee with Strawberries combined tender pastry with chocolate ganache and salted caramel on a bed of strawberry coulis, crowned with a huge, fat, juicy sweet strawberry coated in milk chocolate and drizzled in white chocolate. Oh yes. This hit the spot. What a finish. Our dessert wine was Fortissimo Port, a wine made from Portuguese varietals grown in California and made in the traditional Portuguese manner. Just the right partner for our chocolate conclusion!

Should Ruth decide to explore the potentials of chocolate again next Valentine’s season, all I can say is: if you’ve enjoyed any of her chocolate dinners thus far, you know you’ll sign up again, and if you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to do so, especially if you’re a chocolate lover like me. You’ll discover new depths to your passion that you never before knew. And that’s a satisfying romance, whether you’re dining with a partner or solo. A Bistro 185 chocolate dinner is sure to satisfy your palate and steal away your heart.

Take a sneak peek inside our chocolate factory for tonight’s wine dinner!

Wow. If your sweetheart decided to treat you this Valentine’s Day to reservations at the Bistro for tonight’s Chocolate Dinner, you’re never going to be satisfied with Russell Stover or a Whitman’s Sampler again. Here’s a look at what we’re getting ready right now…

Lobster awaits its moment to be bedded on pappardelle pasta and bathed with…

…our White Chocolate Saffron Cream Sauce. Beef tenderloins are cooking in their sous vide bath…

…after which they’ll receive their finishing touches and be served with our Chocolate Merlot Demi-Glace…

Our Caesar salad lettuce is chopped and awaiting the addition of cacao nibs and delicious slivers of White Cheddar cheese with veins of chocolate running through it…

The Mexican Hot Chocolate Sauce is ready for our Lamb Chops Milanese…

…and they’re going to be accompanied by some interesting touches…pumpkin cremes and anchovy fritters:

…and finally, the dessert everyone will be waiting for, the Chocolate Bouchee with Strawberries topped with a Chocolate Ganache and a touch of salted caramel:

Does it look good? It’s going to taste even better! So, whether you’re arriving with someone special, a group of friends, or on your own, you’re going to experience serious romance tonight. Step aside, Willy Wonka–this is chocolate only an adult could love, and you’ve got the golden ticket to enjoy it all!

Go for the comfort at this month’s Vegan Night

When winter comes, nothing can feel better than coming in from the cold and tucking into some hot, classic stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. That goes for everyone, vegans included–which is why the theme of our 3-for-$30 Vegan Night Dinner this month is “Comfort Food.” This menu is the edible equivalent of a Snuggie, and you won’t be able to wait to dig in!

Creamy Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

Stuffed Cabbage in a Savory Sweet-and-Sour Tomato Sauce
Yukon Gold Potato Mashers
Maple-Glazed Carrots

Apple Brown Betty with Vanilla “Ice Cream”

Sounds cozy? Don’t miss out–call 216.481.9635 and reserve your dinner for between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. Thursday, February 23. You’ll feel warm all over!