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!

Vegan “Farm to Table” fresh and delicious

Apologies for the delay! The Tenant is back with a description of the Vegan Farm to Table Dinner of Wednesday. It was delicious from beginning to end — and the notable thing about this one was that Chef Ruth cooked it on her own, without any of the customary assistance from Chef Jakub. Looks like she’s got this vegan thing down cold! Or, should I say, hot and delicious!

Vegan Corn Chowder and Jalapeno Muffin

The starter course, Ohio Corn Chowder with Jalapeno Corn Muffin, could not have been better for me. I am a corn lover, and this is the time of year to grab that Ohio sweet corn and make amazing things out of it while you can! Ruth did just that with this incredible chowder. It was full of all the savory sweetness of the corn, yet with a special kick of heat enhanced by the red-pepper “cream” swirled atop it (which I believe was made with the assistance of almond milk). This is the kind of soup that, like the chestnut soup from Thanksgiving, makes even non-vegans say “What’s that you’re eating? Looks delicious.” It’s delicious, all right, and the muffin was perfect for sopping up any extra soup the spoon didn’t catch.

Organic Vegan Ratatouille and Gardein

On to the entree: Local and Organic Ratatouille with Rooftop Garden Herb-Crusted Gardein and Roasted Local Fingerling Potatoes. This was a concoction of classic ratatouille vegetables (including yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, red peppers) with garlic and rooftop herbs, combined with the crispy-outside, tender-inside tiny potatoes, and the crunchy-coated herbed gardein sitting atop it all. The melange of flavors was pure summer, and as I mentioned earlier, I like the chickeny texture and flavor of gardein myself, so I found this dish perfect for me.

Finally, dessert, and I’d already heard tell that this was going to be something else. Many times, cooks think of grilling meat but don’t consider what kind of amazing flavors grilling can impart to other foods (even lettuce, as I once learned at an earlier Bistro dinner). In this case, the Grilled Stone Fruit Compote demonstrated how succulent and tasty stone fruit (I believe this was peaches and apricots–not sure if there were plums too) can become when subjected to the grill, and what an incredible saucy glaze can be made from them as well. As for the Olive Oil-Lemon Cake…wow. You might be inclined to think “Wouldn’t olive oil ruin the sweet flavor of a cake?” But of course, there are many different kinds of olive oil, and not all of them have that “olive” taste. In the case of this cake, all the olive oil did was make it moist and spongy, with a tender, light, crunchy crust. The cake soaked up the fruit glaze beautifully and itself had just the slightest dusting of powdered sugar. Snuggled beside it was a mound of almond-milk whipped cream, boosted, I believe, with a touch of tapioca that made it a bit firmer and more puddinglike. Altogether, it was a tasty treat of the kind easily as enjoyable by non-vegans as by vegans.

This dinner was more than enough to rev my appetite for next week’s wine dinner. I’ll be there, and I hope you’re signed up to join us this Wednesday as Larry Laurello tells us about his wines and we enjoy dishes made from ingredients just as local as the wines. The growing season here is at its peak…come enjoy it at the Bistro!

Night at the Oscars: Lawrence of Arabia and Middle Eastern Lamb

This week, Monday through Wednesday, come along with us on a culinary adventure through the desert as we pay tribute to the 1962 Academy Award-winning Best Picture, Lawrence of Arabia. Our featured dish will be a lamb shank prepared Middle Eastern style, with apricots and cinnamon, accompanied by Moroccan couscous studded with raisins and pine nuts.  It’s a sweeter treatment of lamb that really brings out its depth of flavor and makes for a refreshing change of pace. Taste it and feel that desert breeze melting the chill in your winter soul!

Seafood and duck on the Key

Hi and greetings from Key West!

Last night we ate a great place — Michaels. We started with a glass of champagne with Chambord, and Marc had a great martini — Ketel One with Gorgonzola-stuffed olives. We started with a crêpe stuffed with beautiful and sweet chunks of crab, grouper and shrimp with a bechamel sauce — really lovely — coconut shrimp with an apricot dipping sauce and a wonderful wilted spinach salad. For dinner, we shared the duck entree. Too full for dessert!

They have a fondue menu that we may try tonight, along with a chocolate soufflé.
We are heading out for lunch to Sarabeth’s.

Friday-night fish dinner with Julia

We’re feauring Loup en Croûte as a special again tonight, in very limited quantities, and some of you are making it your Friday-night fish selection. Terrific! As for our cherry and apricot savarin? Each little cake is swimming in Kirsch sauce, deeply buried in fruit and whole almonds, and topped with fresh whipped cream.

It’s a gorgeous Friday summer night in Northeast Ohio — the kind you’ll wish you had back when digging out of a blizzard this coming winter — so enjoy it! We’d be honored to have you at the Bistro.

Behind the Dish: Be savvy about our savarin

On tonight’s menu, we have a Julia-inspired dessert: Savarin with Ohio-Grown Tart Cherries and Seasonal Stone Fruit with Crème Anglaise. What, exactly, is a savarin? It’s a ring-shaped, doughnutlike, yeast-based cake, much like a denser form of shortcake, with a “bready” or brioche-like texture, served with a rum or Kirsch (cherry liqueur) syrup. The dish is named for the 18th-19th century French politician, writer and gourmet Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, one of history’s most influential food writers. Some of these types of cakes are also called “babas,” as in baba au rhum.

Our take on the Julia-style savarin will feature a syrup flavored by red tart cherries, grown by Patterson Fruit Farm in nearby Chesterland in Geauga County, flavored with Kirsch. When we’re done painting it with syrup, it will be topped with more cherries, apricots and toasted almonds.

If this sounds like something you could enjoy on our patio tonight with a good cup of coffee — maybe even after having dinner with us as well — we invite you to join us for a beautiful summer night’s meal.