Vegan Dinner spins Mediterranean magic

Because The Tenant had weekend guests, I’m a bit behind reporting on the latest Vegan Dinner. But now that I have a bit of time to describe it, one word covers it well: WOW.

Festivities began with the platter of mezze, the Mediterranean term for a selection of small dishes served as appetizers. This particular selection of mezze was so delicious and filling it could serve as a meal in and of itself!

Laid out beautifully on a platter atop a trio of romaine lettuce leaves and dusted with spice were an assortment of Rice-Stuffed Grape Leaves, Tabbouleh Salad, Hummus, Greek Olives and Spanakopita, accompanied by still-warm toasted pita wedges and lemon slices. I’m Southern Italian on my father’s side and we suspect there’s some Greek in our heritage, too, even if we can’t directly point to it, so to me this is like ethnic soul food in many ways. I didn’t grow up eating it, but something in me just gravitates to eating it very naturally. What struck me most strongly about this platter was that everything on the plate was just so absolutely fresh. The hummus, that well-known paste of ground chickpeas, seemed as if it had literally just been made, and spread on a piece of warm toasted pita wedge, it was simply fantastic. The tabbouleh salad was cool and rich with flavor and smacked perfectly of lemon juice and mint. The stuffed grape leaves, or dolmades, were delightful little packages of tasty rice. The spanakopita, normally a spinach-feta cheese turnover, was still warm, the phyllo dough crisp and flaky. Obviously, the cheese used must have been vegan, but I couldn’t tell the difference. And the olives were a true treat.

This dish alone nearly filled me up. It was all I could do to find room for the rest of the meal. But it’s a good thing I did find room for at least part of it, because the vegan moussaka was wonderfully done.

Layers of eggplant, tomato, spices and a custard made with a soy-milk base–indistinguishable to me from traditional moussaka custard–topped a healthy pile of yellow couscous. Yum. I couldn’t finish it all that night, but I am doing so tonight.

What can I say? I had to make some type of room for dessert–or at least try. And I’m glad I did, because the Apple, Apricot and Pine Nut Galette with
Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise was superb.

Flaky open pastry, tender and sweet fruit accented with toasty pine nuts, snowed with powdered sugar and an amazingly rich creme anglaise served on the side to pour over the top–thick, rich, indistinguishable from dairy–and all of it served heartwarmingly hot, as the best pastry should be. Divine!

If you’re vegan, and you’ve never tried the Bistro’s vegan dinners, you owe it to yourself to give them a try. If you’ve been considering going vegan for whatever reason, trying one of these dinners will open your eyes to the amazing things talented chefs can do to make vegan dining just as varied and tasty as any other dietary choice. But as always, I wouldn’t recommend taking my word for it. Tasting is believing!

Join us for dinners celebrating Middle Eastern cuisine!

Have you signed up yet for the amazing special dinners we have planned for September? If not, what are you waiting for? We’re headed to the Mediterranean and Israel for our inspirations this month. You’ll want to join us. You don’t have to be vegan, Mediterranean, Greek or Jewish to enjoy these feasts, but it certainly won’t hurt!

We begin next Thursday, Sept. 15, with our 3-for-$30 Vegan Dinner, Flavors of the Mediterranean. This one’s almost sold out, so don’t delay:

First Course
Mezze Platter: Rice-Stuffed Grape Leaves, Tabbouleh Salad, Hummus, Greek Olives and Spanakopita

Main Course
Moussaka
Couscous

Dessert
Apple, Apricot and Pine Nut Galette
Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise

The following week, Wednesday, September 21 at 6:30 p.m., Ruth will be going back to her roots–and celebrating a variety of Jewish heritages–by creating our Israeli Fusion Wine Dinner. At this six-course, $65-per-person dinner, the first five dishes will be paired with a wine from the Recanati Winery of Israel, and the closing dessert with an Israeli liqueur:

First Course
Apple-Potato Latka
Israeli Feta Herb Cream
House-Cured Salmon
Wine: Recanati Sauvignon Blanc

Second Course
Ruth’s Mother’s Ashkenazi Chicken Soup
with Middle-Eastern Inspired Matzoh Ball
Wine: Recanati Chardonnay

Third Course
24-Hour Sous Vide Moroccan Lamb Tangine
Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts and Currants
Wine: Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon

Fourth Course
Chicken Curry from the Cochin Jews of India
Wine: Recanati Shiraz

Fifth Course
Ladino Style Fish Ragout
Wine: Recanati Merlot

Sixth Course
Cheese Blintz
Blood Orange Couscous
Liqueur: Chocolate Sabra

We’ll be providing a bit more information about the Israeli dinner in the near future. In the meantime, to ensure you enjoy either of these feasts, call 216.481.9635 and make your reservation now!

Another delicious Vegan Night

For those who haven’t yet joined us for Vegan Night, we thought you might like some pictures of our offerings from last night. Here’s the Charcuterie Board:

Here’s our entree, the Gardein Schnitzel with Yukon Gold Smashed Potatoes and Roasted Vegetables:

And last but not least, the Apple Strudel:

Altogether, this Vegan Night was a celebration of great food Oktoberfest-style. Even The Tenant (not vegan, but half German) gave the schnitzel entree a try and found it “absolutely yummy”!

Watch this space for information on our next Vegan Night Wednesday, November 17. Chef Jakub and Chef Ruth will be cooking up another one sure to please!

Wednesday Night is Vegan Night!

Are you ready for some great vegan food? We hope so, because the Bistro has a terrific set of offerings planned for Vegan Night this Wednesday, October 13!

Starters
Charcuterie Board: Selection of Grilled Vegan Sausages, Dried Fruit, Grainy French Mustard, Cornichons, and Black Bread, $12
Grilled Vegetable Flatbread Pizza, $6

Entree
Gardein Schnitzel, Roasted Root Vegetables, Smashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Caramelized Onions, and Sweet and Sour Sauteed Red Cabbage, $17.50

Dessert
Apple Strudel, $6.75

Vegan “dining out” is easy and delicious when you come to Vegan Night at the Bistro! Join us!

Austrian Wine Dinner a delicious success!

Hope you enjoy this new video of our latest wine dinner last Wednesday, featuring wines from Austria and Germany paired with a menu of classic Austrian dishes.

The Tenant has once again popped in here to provide a review of the latest, and you may not be surprised to hear that I felt it was delightful! Here are the details.

The dinner kicked off in fine form with a first course of House-Smoked Pork Tenderloin accompanied by an Apple Galette with Ginger-Cream Sauce. I don’t know how to describe how delicious this was. The pork was smoked to perfection and the ginger-cream sauce was the ideal addition. But the real revelation was the tender and flaky apple galette, which included sweet caramelized onions and crispy bacon pieces; it was sheer heaven! The Lois Grüner Veltliner 2008 served with this course went very well with this symphony of flavors without overpowering it.

From there, the meal continued with one of the favorite ethnic dishes of this and many other parts of America, schnitzel. But what a schnitzel! So tender and so gently breaded, and topped with a delicate Meyer lemon sauce combining just the right amounts of sweetness and tartness. Each was topped with a fried quail egg and a stripe of anchovy for a little extra savory bite. All of it lay atop a bed of exquisite redskin mashed potatoes. Very satisfying, especially paired with with a 2007 Heinrich Red that was a mixture of 50% Zweigelt, 30% Blaufran-Kisch and 15% St. Laurent. This combination made for wine that, despite its heady bouquet, was not as heavy as I tend to expect reds to be. It seemed to have a more flowery, light taste than the average red — not so much a “red meat” wine as a wine that would go with many different kinds of dishes, and was a good match for the schnitzel.

The always-welcome third salad course, this time of ruby red grapefruit, avocado and arugula dressed in a white wine vinaigrette, was a wonderful and refreshing palate cleanser. I especially love avocados, so this was a winner for me. The wine was a Zweigelt Classic Gelt 2008, and complemented the fresh, crisp flavors of the salad.

The fourth course, Wild Forest Mushroom Ragu with Asparagus and Pappardelle Pasta, was like the exact opposite of the salad course: dense, woody, peppery, in a rich and flavorful brown sauce. It was somewhat similar to Chef Todd’s ragu with spinach, and the Blaufrankisch Classic Frank 2008 was a successful match here, with enough body and dense fruitiness to not be overpowered by the richness of the dish.

In course five, the exact right things came along at the exact right time. The Juniper Berry House-Smoked Trout — yet another great product of the Bistro 185 smoker — had just the perfect pungent, savory flavor for this point of the meal. It was unlike anything else and positively delicious in its contrast. Speaking of contrast, it coexisted on the plate with a polenta cake whose texture and flavor was also perfect for the dish, as was its savory mustard sauce. The wine here was a switch from the original plan; the Heinz Eiffel Kabinette 2009, originally planned for the dessert course, was served with this one instead, and it was a wise choice. The German Riesling was just fruity enough to complement the dish without being too dessert-y sweet.

Finally, the dessert course featured two classic Austrian tortes: the Sacher, layers of chocolate sponge cake sandwiched together with apricot preserves and topped with dark chocolate ganache, and the Linzer, a tart of latticed almond pastry and raspberry jam. The two examples baked up by Bistro 185 were purely delicious. The wine that accompanied them, Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2007, was a really enjoyable, crisp, fruity Riesling perfect for dessert but also, like so many of the lighter wines at these dinners, something I’d be happy to drink on its own.

It was a pleasure to spend this dinner with the wine lovers of Bistro 185 and Greg Webster of Wine Trends, who provided the selections for the evening. If it sounded good to you, but you missed this particular dinner, don’t miss the next one, which is now planned for Thursday, May 27 (courses and wines to be announced). If you’re interested in wine tastings but would prefer to keep your emphasis on the wine, or would appreciate a less expensive way of trying new wines, sign up for one of the Bistro’s $10 “Light Tastings,” which feature hors d’oeuvres instead of a sit-down dinner, scheduled for next Monday, May 10, and Monday, May 24. Call 216.481.9635 and prepare for a wonderful wine-filled evening!

Behind the Dish: Filet of Sole Casanova

Why is tonight’s James Beard entree called “Filet of Sole Casanova”? Really not sure. There’s not much about it that will make you think of the 18th-century Venetian adventurer reputed for his romantic skills. But it is kind of a romantic dish — at least if you love cuisine inspired by India. This dish really brings Indian flavors to the fore in a delightful way.

The fish is simply sautéed; it’s the sauce that makes the difference. Beard’s original recipe calls for celery root, but we substituted fresh fennel and celery, sliced super-thin, and sweated these along with mushrooms in butter, then added artichoke hearts for texture and flavor and chopped Golden Delicious apples for a touch of sweetness, flavor and crunch. All of this was cooked down and reduced with heavy cream and curry to create a rich and delicious sauce.

Our sauced filet of sole is accompanied by a mound of Indian jasmine rice, steamed with cardamom seeds, sautéed onion, cinnamon stick, star anise and cumin. The finished dish is aromatic, flavorful and a delightful change from the ordinary. Try it — you just might fall in love.