21st Amendment Beer Dinner brewed up a delicious evening!

The 21st Amendment Beer Dinner October 18 served up an assortment of beer for all tastes and food hearty enough to please anyone, as I, the Tenant, can testify. I’m not any more of a connoisseur of beer than I am of wine, and this was the first beer dinner I’d attended (or had the chance to attend) since the Irish dinner, but it was an enjoyable education in different approaches to brewing, as well as container philosophies. All the beer at this dinner was provided by 21st Amendment Brewery, a San Francisco-based brewery whose brewing facilities are actually located in…Minnesota. Why? As Bob Gera, our 21st Amendment rep for the evening, explained to us, 21st Amendment cans all its beers rather than bottling them. They believe cans do a better job of preventing light damage and reducing headspace and air in the container, as well as making their containers more easily portable and recyclable. And the local cannery with whom 21st Amendment originally planned to work wanted license to manipulate the beer ingredients here and there…something the brewery absolutely did not want. Only in Minnesota could they find a cannery that agreed not to make any changes in the original formulas for their beer, so they could be assured the finished product possessed the qualities they originally intended it to have. That’s how much integrity means to this brewer.

Our first course was a meal that I’ve had a few times already at the Bistro and it’s always been a reliable, satisfying classic. In his kindness, Marc even sent me some upstairs by request when I was feeling ill, and I honestly think it may have helped cure me. The House-Smoked Chicken Mac and Cheese is an incredible concoction of cheeses, macaroni, chicken redolent of smoky flavor, and browned panko crumbs that is irresistible even without a good beer to go with it. The 21st Amendment choice was Back in Black IPA, a beer whose very appearance was surprising because when it arrived at the table in its own screen-printed logoed glass, it looked more like a stout than an IPA — the P in “IPA” stands for “Pale,” after all, and it was truly black-dark with a considerable head. Bob explained that this particular IPA is more like a “hoppy porter” than an IPA, and informed us of its 6.8% alcoholic content and IBU (International Bitterness Units) rating of 651. What does this mean to a non-beer expert? Not a lot, but it did remind me more of a stout than your typical IPA.

If the first course was hearty, the second course only turned up the knob on the hearty dial even higher: Slow-Roasted Beef Short Rib in Red Zinfandel Reduction Sauce with Fall Root Vegetable Mash. This is the kind of dish I’d love to get a particular one of my sisters in to try. (You meat-and-potatoes eater who loves few things so much as a good, tender pot roast–you know who you are. Let me tell you, beef short rib is like the best pot roast you ever ate.) The meat was achingly tender as always and the bright flavor of the sauce, studded with sauteed chanterelle mushrooms–I detected a touch of mint, I think–really shone. The mashed root vegetables were a fine combination of creamy and chunky–I’m not sure what was included, but my bets would be white potatoes, parsnips and rutabagas (I’m sure I tasted rutabaga). Appropriately, the beer served with this course, an IPA called Brew Free or Die (obviously exemplary of the 21st Amendment philosophy), was much paler, lighter and more sparkling on the tongue than the first. This, we were told, is a 7% alcohol beer with 751 IBUs.

By the third course we were ready for a light refresher, and we had one in the Fried Green Tomato and Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad. The fried green tomatoes were as good as they’d been at the Vegan Taste of Fall Dinner, and the addition of the chevre was very appealing. All was delicately balsamically drizzled. The beer accompanying the salad was a true departure from the previous two: Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer. This beer served as one of the points of contention causing 21st Amendment to select an out-of-state cannery; they wanted to be absolutely sure they could brew it with 100% watermelon juice, without any added sugar or other elements that might give it what Bob described as a “Jolly Rancher taste.” They got what they wanted, a twice-fermented beer with a light, sparkling feel and a gentle, fruity but not overly sweet taste and a 4.9% alcoholic content.

With the next course, it was back to the hearty: Mojo Shrimp with Corn Pudding. It was just amazing, the long-marinated shrimp redolent of cilantro, resting on its tender bed of corn pudding atop a sea of rich corn sauce. The beer with this course was called Hop Crisis, and while I’m not a huge fan of intensely hoppy beers, if you are a hop lover, this is the beer for you. Bob explained that this oak-aged, heady brew is an Imperial IPA that is part of what 21st Amendment calls its “Insurrection Series.” It ranks a 941 on the IBU scale and contains anywhere between 9.7% and 10.5% alcohol, so this is one serious concoction and it takes a rich dish like corn pudding to stand up to it.

The meal concluded with the kind of dessert of which I know that sister mentioned above would surely approve (and so did I!): bread pudding. This one was topped with an orange-vanilla-fig balsamic sauce that was truly tasty. The accompanying beer had not been announced prior to the conclusion, so it was a surprise: a winter seasonal called, appropriately enough given the 1930s air lent by the brewery’s name, Fireside Chat. This is a spicy, once again softly sweet, beer of 451 IBUs and 8% alcoholic content that makes a good dessert partner for a stick-to-your-ribs finale like bread pudding. Bob said the brewery likes to tweak the recipe slightly each year so it’s never exactly the same two years in a row. I don’t know that it’ll replace Great Lakes Christmas Ale in the hearts of Clevelanders, but it was a pleasant enough brew.

So, it was a wonderful evening of beer and food–but if you missed it, don’t fret. Just pick up the phone, call 216.481.9635 and make your reservations now for the UniBroue Beer Dinner Wednesday, November 16. You’ll have a fine time enjoying soul-satisfying French Canadian dishes and beers. See you there!

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!

Ay, caramba! We had a great Tequila Dinner!

The Tenant is back, and you’re going to have to make do with me for a while, because Ruth and Marc are going off on a well-deserved vacation. But they’ve entrusted me to write another of my reviews, this one of Wednesday’s Tequila Dinner. At this event, we were able to enjoy some of the many distilled forms of the blue agave plant, which is a succulent plant related to lilies — not a cactus, as some think. It’s been cultivated for many thousands of years, and people have been making tequila from it for quite a long time! We got to taste a few products of that experience.

Things got off to a rousing start with the combination of a Shrimp Tamale and two paired glasses on our tables: one of fresh pickle juice and one of Tierra Organic Blanco Tequila. Tierra is the only organic tequila sold in the United States, and blanco tequila is 100% agave tequila, unaged and untreated with additives. The contrast of the tart pickle juice with this slightly sweet tequila was a tastebud-tingler. So was the tamale, a combination of shrimp, plantain, cornmeal mush (with many tasty spicings and flavorings, including fresh cilantro and lime) served in a corn husk.

The second course was ropa vieja — shredded beef brisket cooked for 24 hours in a bath of Tex-Mex seasonings, seated atop jalapeño corn pudding, and topped with refreshing sour cream. But before it arrived, we were able to get a start on the accompanying tequila drink, an intriguing iced latte of Kahlua and Mexican chocolate known as a “Daring Dylan.” This drink, which I could enjoy as a substitute for chocolate milk any day of the week, featured Don Julio Anejo Tequila (aged in oak at least one year) and was rimmed with a very Mexican flavor combination of cocoa and cinnamon. OK, I admit it: the rim tasted so good, I licked it off!

You’d think the second course of a meal would be an odd place for a chocolate drink to be served, but the Daring Dylan was actually an excellent complement that helped cool the spicy-hot ropa vieja on the palate.

Next came another hearty dish, House-Made Black-Bean, Goat Cheese and Poblano Ravioli. These large, fairly flat ravioli were full of rich flavor from the beans, cheese, and poblano peppers, and sauced with a delicious roasted red pepper sauce streaked with cream. The tequila for this course was a powerful, pungent Don Julio Repasado (100% agave, stored in oak between two months and a year).

Following the intense flavors of this course came some gentle, cooling refreshment. Normally this point of a meal features a salad course, but this one was a little different: Chef Ruth had prepared three different kinds of guacamole. We each had a scoop of traditional guacamole made with avocados, a scoop of sweet and fresh guacamole made with mangoes, and a tart and tangy guacamole made with Marc’s smoked trout. The guacamoles were served with long fried plantain chips atop a bed of carrot and jicama slaw. These were very tasty; I thought the contrasting flavors of the mango and trout varieties were a fun and out-of-the-ordinary twist on the theme. The refreshment continued in the drink served with this course, a Mexican Mojito made with Don Julio Blanco Tequila, spiked with plenty of fresh rooftop-garden mint. Yum!

By this time, though, my eyes were getting bigger than my stomach. I had to have my fifth course, the Seafood Vera Cruz, packed up to go. But that was fine, because I had an absolutely wonderful lunch of it the next day! If anything, the seafood stew, rich with fish, mussels, shrimp and grilled scallop, full of peppers and onions and served over a timbale of saffron rice, tasted even better with the broth aging that extra day for the flavors to marry even more. Utterly delicious. The Tierras Organic Repasado tequila served with it was fiery and intense.

Somehow, even packing up the stew, I found room for the dessert course that night. And was it ever wonderful: tiny chocolate cups of margarita sorbet — like the most concentrated form of margarita slush you’ve ever had — along with smooth, soothing caramel flan and a fantastic churro, or Spanish fried doughnut stick, dipped deeply in molten chocolate. Mmmm-mmm! And the final drink was something special, too: a “Frisky Surprise” featuring Tierra Organic Anejo tequila. This slushy fruit drink was served in tall glasses with an orange slice, and was a refreshing and unusual treat.

So, it was another success for a Bistro 185 special dinner evening — but if you think this one was good, what Ruth and Marc (especially Ruth) are cooking up for October is really going to amaze you. Be sure not to be late signing up for it, because it’s going to be a dinner with a bit of a Halloween-style theme like you’ve never seen or tasted before. What is it? You’ll have to wait a little longer to find out. But watch this space — soon you’ll know!

Vegan Night menu for August 18

Our next Vegan Night featuring the mastery of Chef Jakub Mejstrik is coming up soon! You’ll be able to enjoy a delicious meal from beginning to end, all vegan and all fabulous:

Starters ($8 each)
Roasted Summer Vegetable Grilled Whole Wheat and Flax Pizza
Wild Mushroom Empanada

Entree ($17.50)
Southwest-Inspired Gardein
Black Bean-Summer Corn-Mango-Jalapeño Salsa
Cilantro and Lime Vinaigrette
Plantain Crisps
Corn Arepa with Vegan Cheese

Dessert ($6.75)
Roasted Stone Fruits with Lime Agave Rum Sauce and Fresh Seasonal Berries

For a truly memorable dining experience, try our version of Southwestern cuisine, vegan style!

Join us for June’s Salute to Latin America and the Caribbean!

It’s summertime — time to celebrate the sunshine, and warm and sunny flavors. Here at the Bistro, that means we’re serving up a series of specials during the month of June based on the lively cuisine of Latin America and the Caribbean. We’re starting this week with a reprise of a terrific special we introduced a while back, Ropa Vieja.

Ropa vieja originated in Spain’s Canary Islands, then migrated to the New World and became a popular dish throughout the Caribbean islands. Deriving its name from the Spanish words for “old clothes,” it’s a concoction of shredded flank steak in tomato sauce that we prepare sous vide, so the seasonings permeate the tender meat, before combining it with bell peppers, onions, cumin, garlic, cilantro, tomato and jalapeño peppers. We’re serving it with jalapeño-cheddar corn pudding, accompanied by seasoned black beans topped with the Mexican cheese queso blanco. If you’ve enjoyed our Ropa Vieja before, you’ll be happy it’s back. If not, this is your chance!

Another new addition to our specials has a tropical flair: Halibut with a Tropical Fruit Barbecue Sauce. This tasty fish is served with corn pudding and fried plantain tostones.

The weather is fine and the food here at the Bistro will help you enjoy summer to the fullest! Keep watching this space for more additions to our June lineup of Latin American and Caribbean-style specials.

Take a trip way south with Chef Todd’s Special

If you needed a picture of Chef Todd’s Special this week to whet your appetite, here it is: Argentinean Grilled Beef Medallion with Chimichurri Sauce, Black Beans, Yellow Rice and Onion Relish. The beef slices are rich with flavor; the rice is slightly sweet; the black beans are rich and saucy with plenty of cilantro and snap; and the onions are savory-sweet. It’s all topped with a dollop of queso blanco. And it all adds up to fantastic. If you have a hankering for some Southwestern and Latin American flavors, this is the dish for you!

Rum-Painted Grouper is a great tropical taste!

Oh boy, this is another winner from Chef Todd! You’re going to love the combination of flavors in this dish. The grouper is painted with a glaze of rum, cloves, black peppercorns, soy and lemon, then grilled to perfection and placed atop a bed of macadamia-nut guacamole, rich with the flavors of fresh avocado and cilantro. It’s topped with grilled pineapple slices and a wedge of lime, and served alongside jasmine rice and sweet-potato tostones. It’s one of those terrific dishes that provides a magical contrast of flavors and sensations: hot and cold, sweet and spicy, all blending together and yet each standing out to be savored in turn. Not to be missed!

Night at the Oscars: Giant and Ropa Vieja

For our “Night at the Oscars” special entree Thursday through Saturday, we’re honoring the film that won the 1956 Academy Award for Best Directing for George Stevens, the widescreen saga Giant. This movie about the effects of the oil industry — and a fierce personal rivalry — on two Texas ranching families deserves a dish with flavors as big as the Lone Star State itself. And some of the best of those flavors come from the influences of Spanish cuisine on American food, from the Southwest with its Tex-Mex cuisine to Miami and its Cuban, Caribbean and Canary Islands influences. Our entree is actually an example that originates in the Canaries, but which we’re treating with a Southwestern flair: ropa vieja.

Ropa vieja gets its name from the Spanish words for “old clothes,” possibly because of its “torn-up” look. But this concoction of shredded flank steak in tomato sauce tastes nothing like the laundry! We made ours by giving the steak the sous vide treatment overnight, heating it slowly in vacuum-sealed plastic with Southwestern seasoning to imbue it with plenty of tenderness and flavor. Then we combined it with bell peppers, onions, cumin, garlic, cilantro, tomato and jalapeño peppers to make it dance on your tongue even more. We’re serving it on a bed of corn pudding, accompanied by black beans prepared Southwestern style and topped with the Mexican cheese queso blanco. There’s freshly prepared pico de gallo sauce including chopped tomatoes, onions, chiles, lime juice and cilantro nestled in between the two. And we’re even adding freshly fried-up chicken empanadas for a finishing touch.

James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor never had it so good down on the ranch as you can have your dinner at Bistro 185 tonight. So come see us and enjoy a dish that will satisfy even a (wait for it) giant appetite. Olé!

It’s party time!

No, we’re not talking about tomorrow’s football game. We’re talking about tonight! It’s Bistro 185’s fourth anniversary — and as you can see, we’re ready to celebrate in style.

We never could have made it this far without you, our patrons who have so enjoyed themselves here and have returned again and again to tell us so. Please join us for dinner tonight and help us celebrate by enjoying a complimentary glass of champagne and taking home a slice of our anniversary cake!

As always, we’ve got fantastic specials to tempt your tastebuds. Such as our Argentina Style Beef Tenderloin Filet with Chimichurri Sauce, Cilantro and Lime-Marinated Shrimp with an Arepa and Sweet Potato Tostone and Yellow Rice; our Bistro 185 Fish Fry, starring day boat scallops, shrimp and cod in a cornmeal batter with remoulade sauce and sweet potato fries; our Rack of Lamb with Roasted Red Pepper Orzo Risotto; and our 12-ounce Long Bone Veal Chop with Shiitake Mushroom-Marsala Sauce and Wild Mushroom Tortellini. Or go with a classic or an old favorite; we’ve still got dishes you know and love, from the Four Cheese Mac & Cheese with Smoked Chicken to the Chicken Schnitzel to the Lobster Ravioli to our own Boeuf Bourguignon. Whatever you choose, it’ll make for a happy celebration!

So stop on by, wish us a Happy Anniversary and join in the champagne toast. With the support of you, our friends, we hope to enjoy many more years of serving exciting, creative and delicious bistro cuisine.