“Farm to Table” Wine Dinner: one delicious trip!

The Tenant is back, with the story of the latest Bistro wine dinner. It was truly a celebration of everything local at a time when the local eating just doesn’t get any better. And the wine was just as local as the food, being a product of Laurello Vineyards & Winery in Geneva. Not only did Laurello provide a wine for each course, they added a few bonuses: an aperitif to start off the meal and a sneak preview of two of the wines, including (at the end of the dinner) a special pre-release sample available for diners to pre-order. So, whether you were a connoisseur of fine food, fine wine or both, signing up for this event meant you were in for a truly special evening!

The aperitif wine, we learned, was Laurello’s Muscat Blanc ’08. Made with grapes native to Alsace, this was a fruity, flowery, surprisingly dry (without being puckeringly so) wine. I enjoyed it a great deal, and was sorry to learn that this was the final vintage for this particular wine. I liked the fact that despite being a muscat, it wasn’t especially sweet or dessert-like, but apparently that’s what people expect from a muscat and that’s what Laurello’s going to produce from now on.

On to the first course! Normally Bistro wine dinners don’t begin with salad; the salad course usually appears somewhere around midmeal. This one, however, was an exception, focusing on the superstars of the breakfast table, bacon and eggs. Well, pork belly and eggs–and what is bacon, in the USA anyway, if not pork belly? Organic greens bedded a thick chunk of smoky, crispy pork belly, cherry and grape tomatoes from the Bistro’s rooftop garden and a gently sous vide poached organic egg from Blue Pike Farm, an urban farm on East 72nd St. This salad was called a “hunt and peck” salad because the Blue Pike Farm eggs come from hens that freely roam the farm “hunting and pecking” for their meals rather than being fed industrial chicken feed–genetically modified or otherwise. Instead of commercial feed, they’re eating bugs, worms, grass, seeds and whatever other tasty items they find–and, as a result, not only do their eggs taste better, they’re more nutritious, with less cholesterol and saturated fat and more vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. The truly organic “hunt and peck” eggs on this salad truly made it special, and so did the honey-lemon dressing made with honey from Mark’s Apiaries in Painesville. Laurello’s accompanying wine was an ’08 Chardonnay, pleasantly dry and crisp.

I knew from having a little sample in the afternoon that I was absolutely going to love the next course: a big, beautiful bowl of Ohio corn chowder. This version was every bit as delicious as the vegan version the previous week, but it had an additional attraction that version lacked: two pieces of delicately tempura-fried Lake Erie walleye. Just amazing. The wine for this course was a dry Riesling from last year, which I really liked a great deal and went perfectly with the chowder.

The flavor delights of organic produce continued with the third course, the Chicken Roulade with Rooftop Garden Herbs on a bed of local-produce ratatouille. The meat was incredibly flavorful and the vegetables and herbs were savory and just right. You know they haven’t traveled far when they come right down from the roof! I make no bones about loving the fact that as a tenant, I can nip out to the rooftop garden and grab a tomato or some herbs for my own cooking from time to time, but I tend not to get as fancy with what I do as Ruth does. What she makes is terrific! Laurello’s wine for this course was a Cab Franc ’07, a gold-medal winner they look upon as their landmark wine. A combination of Cabernet and Bordeaux grapes gives it a velvety balance of fruit and acidity; they say this is the kind of wine that you can cellar for years and it will hold up beautifully.

For course number four, we were each served a huge and beautiful Caprese Ravioli pocket, made from Ohio City Pasta and stuffed with more rooftop tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and rooftop basil, topped with smoked tomato cream sauce and garnished with leaves of that same basil. I think I could have eaten several of these ravioli happily! Laurello provided us here with the first opportunity in Northeast Ohio to taste their French oak-aged Pinot Noir ’08, which I found sweet, fruity and aromatic yet light.

Finally it was time for dessert, which made it clear that Chef Rich, the Bistro’s ice-cream specialist, has still got the touch. The Brandy Peach Compote made with local fruit was treat enough, but the peach ice cream it graced, made with milk from Pomeroy’s Snowville Creamery, put it over the top. The pasture-raised, grass-grazing cows of Snowville produce rich, sweet and incredibly nutritious milk, and the resulting ice cream is just what you’d expect it to be with that kind of foundation. Each bowl of ice cream was topped with a crispy golden-brown almond tuile, the ideal accent. Laurello’s dessert wine was a 2010 Sweet Genevieve Ice Wine, named for their mother. The course couldn’t have had a more ideal wine.

At the end of dessert, Laurello had one more surprise for us: a bonus tasting of a wine that’s not even on the market yet. Their “Christopher” 2009 Fox Hollow Vineyard Reserve Cuvee is, they say, the richest, most concentrated wine they have ever produced. This one, scheduled for release in October, did indeed taste rich, smooth and incredible.

What I found interesting about Laurello’s wines was not only the high quality and the variety, but the fact that so many of the ones we tasted are relatively inexpensive. I know the next time I’m looking for a nice Riesling, for example, I can buy one from Laurello for $12 a bottle. This whole evening was a fine showcase of just how deliciously, and healthily, you can eat and drink from the bounty of Northeast Ohio. We are truly fortunate to be living in the time and place we are: on rich Lake Erie land, in a time when local vintners realize they can grow far more more than just Catawba and Concord grapes, and enterprising people are staking out vacant lots in the heart of the city, planting them full of good things to eat, and letting flocks of chickens have the run of the place. What they’re creating is nothing less than a renaissance, and we are all benefiting from it.

Keep watching this space. There’ll be some announcements of new events for next month soon, as well as a special one for those who love to eat local. It all sounds to me like it’s going to be pretty wonderful.

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We’re going “Down on the Farm” in August!

This August, the Bistro goes “Down on the Farm” so our guests can enjoy the greatest products of the local harvest in the best season for eating local! Our special dinners for the month — both vegan and non-vegan — focus on fresh local produce from some of the best providers in Ohio, as well as the harvest we’re reaping now daily from our own rooftop garden.

Our Vegan Dinner Series features another 3-for-$30 special, our Farm to Table Dinner, Wednesday, August 17. Our three courses:

Appetizer
Ohio Corn Chowder with Jalapeno Corn Muffin

Entree
Local and Organic Ratatouille
Rooftop Garden Herb-Crusted Gardein
Roasted Local Fingerling Potatoes

Dessert
Grilled Stone Fruit Compote
Olive Oil-Lemon Cake
Almond Milk Whipped Cream

For the non-vegans and wine lovers, our Farmer’s Market Wine Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 24, spotlights five courses of local goodness, paired with wines from Laurello Vineyards & Winery of Geneva. Cost of this dinner is $65 plus tax and gratuity. Our course lineup:

First Course
Hunt and Peck Organic Greens Salad with Blue Pike Farm Organic Sous Vide Egg
Crispy Pork Belly
Local Honey Lemon Dressing
Wine: Chardonnay

Second Course
Ohio Corn Chowder
Tempura Lake Erie Walleye
Wine: Dry Riesling

Third Course
Organic Chicken Roulade with Rooftop Garden Herbs
Organic and Local Ratatouille
Wine: ’07 Cabernet Sauvignon

Fourth Course
Caprese Ravioli, House Made with Ohio City Pasta
with Rooftop Garden Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil Smoked Tomato Cream Sauce
Wine: ’08 Pinot Noir

Fifth Course
House-Made Snowville Creamery Peach Ice Cream
Brandy Peach Compote
Wine: 2010 Vintage Ice Wine

Both of these dinners will be something special, so don’t delay — call 216.481.9635 and make your reservations for them now!

“Hello Summer” Vegan Dinner refreshing and delightful

The vegan dining was perfectly suited to the season with last night’s “Hello Summer” 3-for-$30 special. Yes, The Tenant has enjoyed yet another meatless and everything-else-animal-less meal at the Bistro’s talented hands.

First on the menu was Wild Field Greens Salad with Blueberries, Strawberries, Sunflower Seeds and Toasted Almonds with Blueberry Vinaigrette. This was the ideal refreshing summer salad, with a variety of crisp greens mixed with the freshest blueberries and sliced strawberries, scattered with sunflower seeds and toasted almond slivers. The blueberry vinaigrette was a fantastic complement and this salad set the stage for an excellent meal.

The main entree, Gardein “Chicken” Scallopini atop Asparagus, Pea, Meyer Lemon and Basil Risotto, arrived looking utterly irresistible, and indeed it was. The gardein, as usual, was a terrific analog for chicken, breaded and topped with a little garnish of frizzled onions that made it even tastier. The risotto was a dream: creamy and rich with the flavor of fresh asparagus, carrot strips, basil and the light kiss of Meyer lemon throughout. As it happened, my friend Mary was in the Bistro last night and she had to have a taste of the risotto, even though she’s not any more of a vegan than I am. She pronounced it delicious, which I thought she would. I guess this means she’s really going to love the risotto that arrives with the scallops at next week’s white wine dinner! I know I will!

To top it all off, the dessert, Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble, arrived bringing more summery flavors. This was a sweet and pungently tart mixture of strawberries and rhubarb under a crumbly sweet crust, topped with whipped almond milk and a garnish of fresh rooftop mint. Yum!

The 3-for-$30 was a feast for vegans, as well as a bit of a preview of the delights available at next week’s “Hello Summer” White Wine Dinner. If you are not vegan, or not strictly so, sign up for this one before it’s too late! With the combination of carefully selected white wines and Chef Ruth’s cuisine, it’s sure to be a satisfying way to kick off summertime. Hope to see you there!

Join us for one (or both) of our “Hello Summer” dinners

The Memorial Day Weekend is the perfect weekend for us to announce our next set of special dinners coming your way in June.

First, on Thursday, June 16, starting at 5 p.m., we’ll present our next 3-for-$30 Vegan Dinner, “Hello Summer,” featuring just the right flavors in vegan dining for summertime:

Appetizer
Wild Field Greens Salad with Blueberries, Strawberries, Sunflower Seeds and Toasted Almonds with Blueberry Vinaigrette

Entree
Gardein “Chicken” Scallopini
Asparagus, Pea, Meyer Lemon and Basil Risotto

Dessert
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble

The following week, on Wednesday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m., we’ll seat our “Hello Summer” White Wine Dinner, featuring five courses and five white wines for $60 per person plus tax and gratuity. The menu is just as cool and summery as our Vegan Dinner menu:

First Course
Seared Day Boat Scallop
Risotto with Peas and Asparagus
Truffle Oil Drizzle
Wine: Henri Bourgeois Les Baronnes

Second Course
Field Greens Salad with Strawberries, Blueberries, Almonds and Sunflower Seeds
Strawberry and White Wine Vinaigrette
Wine: Brandborg Pinot Gris

Third Course
Crispy Duck with Star Anise-Rhubarb Sauce
Wine: Clayhouse Adobe White

Fourth Course
House-Made Artichoke and Ricotta Ravioli
Rooftop Garden Herb Cream Sauce
Wine: Buried Cane Dry Reisling

Fifth Course
Fresh Berry and Mascarpone Phyllo Cup
Wine: Andrieux & Fils Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise

To make your reservation for either, or both, dinners, call 216.481.9635 and ensure your place now. There’ll be fabulous dining this summer at Bistro 185, and our “Hello Summer” offerings are just the beginning!

Our rooftop garden is blooming with flavor!

Summer is now in full swing, and it’s a Cleveland locavore’s favorite time of year. By “locavore,” of course, we mean someone who tries to eat locally produced food, over food shipped in from outside his or her home region, as much as possible. In this part of the country, our growing season is limited by the weather, so we’re all the more appreciative of the short period of time each year when we can truly enjoy eating local produce.

Here at the Bistro, our effort to source food as close to our restaurant as possible includes growing our own — right here on the rooftop! Each spring we put in new plants and welcome back perennials, creating a garden full of fresh delights to add to our menu all summer long.

We’re sharing some of our early bounty with you already, in the form of arugula and fresh herbs. Chives, German thyme, rosemary, mint and sweet basil are among our offerings, part of which you can see here:

We’ve also put in some green beans and some yellow squash. The squash is really growing at an amazing pace, as you can see:

We also have tomatillos in this year — a staple of Mexican and other Latin American cuisine:

Of course, what just about every Clevelander loves about summer is the opportunity to quit settling for those mealy-textured pink supermarket tomatoes and enjoy fresh, ripe, red ones right off an Ohio vine — tomatoes grown for flavor rather than for shipping well! Obviously at Bistro 185 we’re no exception, and once again we’ve put in lots of tomato plants on the rooftop:

We like to grow several tomato varieties — from those that produce fruit early to those that last later into the season, as well as types that are especially suited to particular uses, whether fresh for salads or cooked in sauces. And our efforts are beginning to show rewards:

Mmm, you can almost taste them now, can’t you? One of our favorite things to do this time of year is head up to the garden with a knife and a shaker of salt, just to taste how fresh and flavorful our tomatoes are with nothing but that small enhancement. Amazing.

What all this means for you, of course, is that when you come to the Bistro, you’re going to have some incredible local produce on your plate very soon. Whether it’s fresh tomatoes in your caprese salad, rooftop squash in your ratatouille or risotto, spears of rosemary flavoring your lamb shanks, or a pasta sauce with the kind of flavor that only comes from tomatoes that haven’t taken a long trip from California to your table, you’re in for some great summertime eating. These herbs and veggies will be making a very short trip to you: down a flight of stairs and through a hall! Sure beats a cross-country trip when it comes to flavor!

Yes, the rooftop here at the Bistro is a wonderful place this time of year, and for more reasons than one. We’ve oftentimes had patrons ask if they can be seated on our rooftop deck during the warm months, and as a result, this summer we are opening our rooftop garden for private, catered parties. We will cater a special wine dinner for your group of eight on an evening you choose in advance. Our garden is a wonderful place to be on a warm summer night, and it just may be the ideal spot for that small get-together you have in mind. Whether it’s a birthday, a graduation, an engagement, an anniversary or just an opportunity to celebrate our all-too-short summer season, all you need to do is call 216.481.9635 to get Chef Ruth started on planning a menu that’s just right for summer dining al fresco.

Summer will only be with us for a little while. Make the most of it by stopping by and enjoying the bounty of our rooftop garden soon!

Chef Todd goes Italian with Vodka Penne Pasta

Chef Todd is showing off his Italian chops in this week’s special, with a dish that proves you don’t have to go to Little Italy to have a great meal Italian-style: Vodka Penne Pasta. This penne à la vodka is rich with prosciutto, tomatoes, basil, scallions, heavy cream, vodka and fresh mozzarella, just like you’d get on Murray Hill. Which makes sense, because Todd actually used to cook in Little Italy. Order a plate of his penne and be sure to ask for bread with it, so you can soak up that creamy, cheesy sauce. Primo!

Vegan Night is on!

And not only is Vegan Night on, but tonight you can enjoy a complete three-course vegan dinner at Bistro 185. For an appetizer, pictured above: a Flatbread Pizza based with whole wheat and flaxseed flatbread and topped with roasted zucchini, yellow squash, basil and garlic, topped with vegan Parmesan “cheese.” For your main course: a Mexican Stew rich with plantain, sweet potato, pineapple and Gardein “chicken.” For your dessert: a Roasted Banana “Cheese” Cake topped with pecans and maple-rum-agave syrup. From start to finish, we’ve got tastes to satisfy you at Bistro 185 tonight!

Review: “Spring Into Whites” Wine Dinner

The Tenant is back, to tell you that the Bistro 185 “Spring Into Whites” Wine Dinner was a real spring fling! This special dinner featuring nothing but white wines was a fine introduction to the season we look forward to here in Cleveland so much.

The first course, Sea Bass Veronique, featured a slice of tender pan-roasted sea bass atop a tiny slightly sweet, light-as-air polenta-mascarpone cheese cake. The Veronique was topped with a chive beurre blanc accented with green and red grapes. The gentle, subtle flavors of this dish were enhanced by the Scharffenberger Brut sparkling wine, a blend of two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay, equally light and soft in flavor as this dish.

Lollipop Lamb Chop Milanese was the second course: a pair of lollipop-style lamb chops in spicy breading atop a cake of orzo risotto and accompanied by a sweet peach-ginger chutney that was an ideal complement for the flavors of the lamb. The Conundrum White Blend served with this course, an intriguing blend of California white grapes, had a sweet overall touch that combined well with the chutney.

Next came the salad course, with something special indeed: Grilled Pineapple Carpaccio with Fresh Raspberries and Arugula, drizzled with a champagne vinaigrette. Grilling the thinly sliced pineapple really caramelizes it and brings all its sugars to the fore, and it made for a delicious salad, with a wine — Yalumba Viognier — that made for a beautiful and light companion.

The fourth course brought richer and spicier flavors: Chicken Wellington with Shiitake Mushrooms and Spinach in an Herb Crêpe Beggars’ Purse, tied with a ribbon of leek and seated in a creamy roasted red pepper and basil sauce. It was a dish of contrasts: the creamy, tender chicken and the spicy pepper sauce. The Cloudline Pinot Gris, a fruity but drier wine than many of the preceding wines, worked well with this dish.

Course number five had an Asian touch, with Thai Seafood Coconut-Mango Curry. This was another opportunity to enjoy one of Chef Ruth’s perfectly seared grilled scallops, topped with a perfect shrimp and dressed in a curry sauce rich with mangoes, coconut, red pepper, corn and Thai basil. The wine for this dish was Valley of the Moon Chardonnay, a 100% Chardonnay that was very enjoyable.

The delicious conclusion to it all was a dessert that continued the Asian theme: Phyllo Wrapped Roasted Banana and Caramel, along with an assortment of “chef’s whim” delights. The banana was heavenly sweet and delightful; the “chef’s whims” consisted of tiny lemon tarts topped with a raspberry and mini-mocha mousses in tiny chocolate cups. The wine for this course was Von Wilhelm Haus Riesling Beerenauslese, a very appropriate wine with a nice hint of sweetness.

Much thanks to Vintage Wine Distributors and Jonathan, their representative, who joined us and helped me, especially, learn more about the wines we enjoyed.

If you have yet to make it to a Bistro 185 Wine Dinner, but your mouth waters when you read about this and the others (and watch the video!), you should take advantage of your next opportunity to enjoy one — Wednesday, April 28. We’ll be announcing our menu and wines soon, so keep an eye out here for it!

Beer Dinner Night Menu for April 14

We hope you’ll be all done with your taxes by Wednesday, April 14, because the Bistro 185 Beer Dinner, featuring beers from California’s North Coast Brewing Company, will be the perfect way to celebrate. Here’s the menu we have planned:

Cheese Fondue with Homemade Soft Bavarian Pretzel
Beer: Scrimshaw Pilsner

House Smoked Duck Jambalaya
Beer: Red Seal Pale Ale

Sausage, Kraut and Potato
Beer: Brother Thelonious Belgian Dubbel Style Ale

Watermelon, Tomato, Basil and Feta Salad
Beer: PranQster Belgian Style Golden Ale

Low Country Shrimp and Grits
Beer: Old Stock English Strong Ale

House Made Stout Ice Cream with Caramel and Fleur de Sel
Assorted Chef’s Whim Desserts
Beer: Old Rasputin Imperial Russian Stout

Our Beer Dinner is $50 per person plus tax and gratuity. If you haven’t made your reservations yet, what are you waiting for? Call 216.481.9635 and get ready to enjoy a hearty beer lover’s dinner!

White Wine Dinner and Beer Dinner coming up!

Bistro 185 has not just one, but two special dinners on our schedule in the near future — one for wine lovers and another for beer aficionados. Whatever your taste (or if you like both) you’ll want to mark your calendar for these events!

“SPRING INTO WHITES” MARCH 24: Springtime is the time when our thoughts turn to wearing white (and not the snow on our boots!) and drinking white — those delightful white wines that so well complement the light, fresh flavors of spring. We’re celebrating with a “Spring Into Whites” White Wine Dinner on Wednesday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m., highlighting a variety of the finest in white wines.

Here’s the menu:

First Course
Sea Bass Veronique: Pan-Roasted Sea Bass with Chive Beurre Blanc and Green and Red Grapes
Wine: Scharffenberger Brut

Second Course
Lollipop Lamb Chop Milanese with Peach-Ginger Chutney
Wine: Conundrum White Blend

Third Course
Grilled Pineapple Carpaccio with Fresh Raspberries and Arugula Salad in a Champagne Vinaigrette
Wine: Yalumba Viognier

Fourth Course
Chicken Wellington with Shiitake Mushrooms and Spinach in an Herb-Crêpe Beggars’ Purse with Leek Ribbon, Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Sauce
Wine: Cloud 9 Pinot Gris

Fifth Course
Thai Seafood Coconut-Mango Curry
Wine: Filadonna Pinot Grigio

Dessert
Phyllo-Wrapped Roasted Banana and Caramel
Assorted Chef’s Whim
Wine: Valley of the Moon Chardonnay

Cost of our White Wine Dinner is $60 per person, gratuity and tax to be added. Call now to make your reservations at 216.481.9635 and get ready to “Spring Into Whites”!

If you need any further persuasion to join us, take a look at our latest wine dinner video and the accompanying review from our “Passport to Romance” event February 15.

NORTH COAST BREWING COMPANY BEER DINNER APRIL 14: One of the pioneers of microbrewing in 1988, North Coast Brewing Company of Fort Bragg, California is famous for its Red Seal Ale and many other craft beers that have won more than 70 awards in national and international competitions. Now, you can enjoy a variety of North Coast brews, selected to complement a six-course chef-driven menu, Wednesday, April 14 at 6:30 p.m. Cost of our beer dinner is $50 per person, gratuity and tax to be added. Seating is limited, so make your paid reservations now at 216.481.9635. We’ll be posting a menu soon!