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!

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Taste the Mediterranean at our September Vegan Dinner

In the Vegan Dinner Series, the hits just keep on coming…and if you’re a fan of Mediterranean food, you won’t want to miss our 3-for-$30 special for September. On Thursday, September 15, our Vegan Dinner Series features “Flavors of the Mediterranean.” Take a look at this lineup:

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

Main Course
Moussaka
Couscous

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

Sounds good? Don’t miss out! Call 216-481-9635 and make your reservation now for this vegan Mediterranean feast.

Vegan visit to India was tasty indeed!

The Tenant returns with a summary of last Wednesday’s Vegan Night 3-for-$30 offering India-style! Again, I have to say I’m impressed and amazed by what can be done with foods entirely vegan-sourced. From beginning to end, delicious!

The appetizer for this dinner was Chickpea-Onion Samosas with Cilantro and Mint Chutney and Field Green Salad with Tamarind Vinaigrette. It consisted of two samosas, delicate puff-pastry pockets fried until perfectly crispy, with a filling of mashed chickpeas and onions. The cilantro-and-mint chutney alongside looked almost like wasabi, and had almost the same level of heat due to the spices in it, so just a little at a time was all that was needed to accent the flavor of each bite. The salad was very lightly and tastefully dressed as well. A good start to the evening!

Next came the main dish, Cashew-Coconut Lemongrass Curry with Vegetables and Tofu and Organic Brown Basmati Rice. This was an amazingly flavored curry dish. I love cashews and I love coconut, so it was perfect for me. The sauce was aromatic and full of flavor from the lemongrass and curry, studded with vegetables like eggplant and cauliflower, and full of plenty of cashew nuts. It was garnished with a touch of cilantro. Altogether the flavors melded delightfully.

The meal concluded with an appropriate and charming dessert, Coconut-Cardamom Panna Cotta with Mango Coulis and Fresh Berries. The coconut and mango sauce made it just sweet enough, with the cardamom seeds (you can see them at the top) adding a little spicy kick. The berries, too, were a refreshing touch in the dead of winter. What I find interesting about vegan panna cottas is that like other dishes that would ordinarily use gelatin as a thickener or “jelling” agent, they instead use carrageenan, which is seaweed sourced. Carrageenan is already used in many commercial products, from toothpastes to dessert items. It’s just one example of how a dish can be made vegan without losing anything of the flavor or texture one would expect from the dish.

The entire meal was yet another example of how, under the touch of experienced chefs, vegan cuisine in the style of any country can be both authentic and a very enjoyable dining experience. And obviously I’m not the only one eating it up; they tell me this dinner sold out. Another example of “if you cook it, they will come!”

Be looking here for information on what the Bistro has planned for the next Vegan Night!

“A Night in Budapest” is vegan magic

Greetings, Bistro fans and vegan cuisine fans. The Tenant is finally back, with some time out for a cold. I regret to say that as a result of this cold, I decided not to attend the $10 wine tasting this week (I never want to risk making any of the other fine Bistro patrons, or the terrific staff for that matter, ill if I can help it). If you attended, however, and have a comment you’d like to make, please feel free!

As for “A Night in Budapest,” the latest Bistro venture into gourmet vegan cuisine last week, that was a fine evening indeed (as you know if you tried it yourself). The 3-for-$30 meal began with a first course of Tomato-Fennel Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings:

This dish was delightfully spicy with its blend of tomatoes, fennel, onion, paprika, and other flavorings. The cornmeal dumplings were deliciously tender, and the whole thing was topped with fresh sprigs of dill. A wonderfully warming winter soup.

Then it was on to the main dish, Vegan Chicken Paprikash with Potato Gnocchi:

This “chicken” was, as is true of many Bistro vegan dishes, made with gardein, which I’m told is made primarily from wheat gluten. Obviously not a choice for those with celiac or other issues requiring a gluten-free diet, but it does make an incredible chicken stand-in that is extremely difficult to tell from the real thing in terms of flavor. It worked perfectly in this dish, paired with classic traditional-tasting potato gnocchi and a sauce that, from my understanding, included cashew milk. It was rich, creamy in texture, and tasted just like something you might enjoy in a traditional home-cooking Eastern European ethnic restaurant.

The grand conclusion of the meal was Hungarian-Style Crepes with Apricot Preserves:

The crepes, made with almond milk and without eggs, were ultra-thin and delicious, layered with sweet fruit preserves, and accompanied by a snowing of powdered sugar, fresh berries, and “whipped cream” made with almond milk combined with a little tapioca to firm it up. A fantastic dessert and the perfect complement to the rest of the meal.

Altogether, “An Evening in Budapest” proved that even hearty, traditional ethnic cooking is possible using all vegan ingredients, and you won’t miss a bit of flavor!

Want more proof? Another opportunity is coming soon. On Wednesday, February 23, Bistro 185 presents “A Trip to India,” a three-course vegan dinner themed on Indian cuisine beginning to end:

First Course
Chickpea-Onion Samosas
Cilantro and Mint Chutney
Field Green Salad with Tamarind Vinaigrette

Entree
Cashew-Coconut Lemongrass Curry with Vegetables and Tofu
Organic Brown Basmati Rice

Dessert
Coconut-Cardamom Panna Cotta with Mango Coulis
Fresh Berries

Sounds special, doesn’t it? The dinner will be available between 5 and 9 p.m.; to ensure yourself a reserved time, call 216.481.9635 now and prepay with your credit card. Cost is $30 per person, plus 20 percent gratuity and 7.75 percent tax additional.

At Bistro 185, vegan dining is more than just a meal; it’s a tasteful journey into everything this type of cuisine can be. Book yourself this passage to India now!

Great excuses to treat yourself!

The Tenant is back, with the specific purpose of giving faithful Bistro 185 fans (and even new friends) a handy excuse for treating yourself to a meal at the Bistro soon. Because I’ve done that recently, and not just for the Vegan Thanksgiving Wine Dinner. I thought I’d share a few of those experiences here.

Last week, I tried the Veal Meatloaf with Shiitake Mushroom Bread Pudding. This was not your plain old mom’s meatloaf! It was tender, delicious and full or rich flavor, and cut quite thick as well. As for the bread pudding, it was an amazing savory reworking of traditional sweet bread pudding…when you think about it, an excellent alternative and analog to the traditional stuffing so often served with turkey and chicken dishes. Chef Ruth revealed to me that the secret to its flavorfulness is setting the pan for the bread pudding right below the meatloaf in the oven so the meat drippings fall right onto the pudding. Now that’s rich!

On another night, it was the Coconut Curry Chicken with Cashews. This was a pot of incredible goodness Asian style–a rich, spicy sauce filled with chunks of chicken, sweet potatoes, chickpeas and, of course, plenty of cashews and topped with snowy white coconut flakes.

These dishes are pretty typical of what Chef Ruth and company have been cooking up in the kitchen lately. If they don’t turn you on, how about Chicken in the Pot with Matzoh Balls, or Veal Osso Bucco with Herbed Polenta? And last time I looked, some of the classic favorites were still on the specials list, from Boeuf Bourguignon to Lobster Ravioli to Four Cheese Macaroni & Cheese to that incredible stuffed double cut pork chop. You know that after you’ve had your fill of Thanksgiving food, you’re going to want something different…maybe even before Thanksgiving…so why not stop by? (For the record, the Bistro will be closed Thanksgiving Day, but open and ready for business again Friday!)

If the dinner entrees alone aren’t enough to lure you in, I’ve got another piece of news to get you in the door…regarding the desserts. Lately one of the standouts has been Red Velvet Macadamia Lollipops, delicious single-serving balls of chocolate red velvet cake with macadamia nuts, drenched in a chocolate or white chocolate ganache, on a stick. They’re served with raspberry coulis for dipping. Need I say “heavenly”? If your entree is so filling you can’t eat another bite, take a few of these babies home. They freeze well. Although they won’t stay in your freezer long, I guarantee.

And then there’s the new form of decadence Ruth just came up with, pictured here. I call it Bacon Chocolate Parfait. She calls it “S’mores on Steroids.” It’s rich, thick Mexican chocolate cream, kind of like a mousse, served in a goblet atop graham-cracker crumbs, topped with miniature marshmallows, and speared with a long, crispy slice of chocolate ganache-dipped bacon. Yes, bacon. All with a little kick of cayenne pepper added. I really don’t know how to tell you how delicious this one is. There’s really only one way to know.

In short…if it’s been a while since you’ve been to the Bistro, you need to come back. Hey, even if it hasn’t been all that long, come back! You’ll be glad you did!