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.

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