Whet your appetite with pics while we get Vegan Thanksgiving ready for you!

Feeling a little hungry about now? If you made reservations for our Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner tonight, we’ve got some coming attraction shots to get you in the mood!

Our Celery Root Soup has been simmering on the stove:

The pears for the salad have been roasted…

…and the pumpkin seeds are waiting to be toasted while the cranberry vinaigrette stands by…

The Beggar’s Purses with Sweet Onion, Lentil, Quinoa, Wild Mushrooms and Sundried Cranberries are filled, tied up and ready to be baked.

Here are some of the wild mushrooms that went into stuffing them:

The Roasted Curried Butternut Squash Sauce is all ready to top them once they’re done…

The Brussels sprouts that will accompany them are here fresh, green and waiting for roasting…

…and the French chestnuts that will dress them are not far away…

Last but far from least, the pecan pie is also prepared…

So, there you have it: a glimpse of what awaits you tonight at our vegan Thanksgiving table. Hope these images will get you through the rest of your day and warm your spirits on a cold, rainy November afternoon. See you tonight for spiced wine cocktails and great feasting!

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“True Blood” Dinner a toothsome treat!

Well, this Tenant has sure had her hands full (not to mention her stomach) attending all these amazing Bistro events this fall, but they’re all so good that doing so is inevitably a pleasure. This year’s new edition of Chef Ruth’s “True Blood” dinner was certainly no exception. Once again, she amazed us all with the concoctions cooked up for this repast. Let’s review!

Things got off to a pleasing start with our aperitif, Toffoli Pink Shadow Prosecco. This was a lovely Italian red sparkling wine with a light berry flavor that prepared us well for the first course, Rare Ahi Tuna on Organic Greens with Blood Orange and Pomegranate Vinaigrette. Not every dinner begins with a light dish, but this one did, and it was perfect. The tuna, of course, was fresh as could be and the vinaigrette added a spicy sweet-and-sour touch. The wine chosen for this course was Shingle Black Bubbles Sparkling Shiraz, yet another bubbly red. I’d never tasted such a light-bodied, sparkling Shiraz before, at least not that I can recall, so this fruity pleaser from Australia was a revelation.

Next came a dish that is usually served more casually in New Orleans, an Oyster Po’ Boy sandwich, breaded and fried oysters tucked into a long roll with a spicy remoulade sauce. This one was accompanied by a Red Cabbage Slaw with, I think, a touch of jicama added. Just delicious! I think I could have eaten about three of these sandwiches if I didn’t have three more courses to eat. Our drink for this course was Bacon Bloody Mary Shots, a tasty little vial of tomato juice combined with bacon-infused vodka and I’m not sure what else, but it was good.

The third course was the True Blood Tenderloin, a lovely red slab of rare beef sauced and stabbed through the middle with the only thing you can stab anything with on “True Blood” night: a tiny wooden stake. Alongside was a little lagniappe not mentioned on the original menu: a mound of Louisiana-style “Bloody Red Beans and Rice.” Perfect! The meat was soft as velvet and full of flavor, and the red beans and rice added a touch of spice to the plate. The Sly Dog Cabernet served alongside, from Lake County, California, was just right: a smooth complement without being too heavy.

The final savory dish really brought the bayou-style spice to this meal: Creole Shrimp and Grits. The perfectly cooked shrimp lay on the fluffy grits in a pool of rich tomato sauce flavored with onion, peppers, spices and andouille sausage chunks. My dinner partners could not stop raving about this one. They want to see it on the regular menu, and I can’t blame them. Again, the wine served with this course was not particularly heavy: Howling Moon Old Vine Zinfandel, a California red, was more spicy than weighty.

For dessert, we enjoyed three very different kinds of deliciousness. First was the unbelievable Pecan Pie, in which the taste of the huge, perfectly toasted nuts shone through in the ideal balance of sweet and nutty. Next was the scoop of Sweet Potato Ice Cream, full of that delicious fall flavor, not unlike pumpkin in many ways, just a delight. Then there was that yummy little lagniappe with the pink topping: a chocolate cup topped with whipped cream flavored with cinnamon red-hot candies. Ruth called these “Red Devils.” I adore cinnamon red hots, so I loved this. Delicious cranberry drizzle snaked all around the plate and made everything taste even better. To drink, we enjoyed tiny glasses of Blood Orange Chocolate Sabra, which has to be one of the most delicious liqueurs ever made.

One thing’s for sure: when Ruth and Marc invite you to the Bistro for a “bite,” you go home happy. “True Blood, Season 2” did good things to everyone, and even kept with that Louisiana tradition of including a little something extra and unexpected to delight us. Are they already thinking about new ways to go for our jugular next year? Guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Vegan Thanksgiving Wine Dinner: No turkeys admitted!

The Tenant has decided that given how long it took to post her last dinner review, she’d better be quick with her review of this one — hate to keep the fans waiting! Of course, better than reading a review of this feast was actually being there to enjoy it.

First, let it be said: I’ve always been a meat eater. Even the idea of going vegetarian or vegan never appealed to me greatly, in part because I imagined condemning myself to a life of tofu this, tofu that, and, well, tofu tofu tofu. Am I getting the message across that I have never really been into tofu? Okay. But since Chef Jakub started helming the Vegan Dinner Series here at the Bistro, my horizons on the world of vegan options have been considerably broadened. Yes, I asked for my Masamaun Curry with chicken. But my first experience with Gardein (in the form of schnitzel) was a real revelation. So I was looking forward to seeing what Chef Ruth and Chef Jakub would be cooking up for this banquet.

First, the Bistro is delighted that this dinner received such a terrific reception. Nearly all the “restaurant side” of the Bistro was full of guests for this dinner, which may make it the biggest special dinner yet. Obviously, the vegan community in the Cleveland area is hungry for this kind of restaurant option and if you cook it, they will come!

Dinner began with a wine aperitif, Peter Lehmann Layers. This wine from Australia’s Barossa Valley blends five different types of grape to create a dry white wine with a complexity of flavors. It was fitting preparation for our first course, Chestnut Soup, which arrived at the table streaked with vegan yogurt and garnished with a frizzle of fried leeks and just a dab of black truffle paste. I love chestnut soup, and this one was fabulous! It derives its creaminess from almond milk, and if you want to know how to whip up a batch for your own Thanksgiving feast at home, keep an eye on the food section in next week’s News-Herald, as we’re sharing the recipe with them. The accompanying wine, Marimar Estate Chardonnay Acero, is a Sonoma County white, steel fermented without a touch of oak, dry, bright and crisp on the tongue.

Now for the “meat” of the meal, which was, of course, not meat, but Spiced Apple Cider-Glazed Supreme of Gardein. The Gardein “cut,” bathed in the slightly tart, slightly sweet glaze, sat atop an herbed polenta cake mixed with vegan sausage and dressed with sautéed shoestrings of zucchini, yellow squash and carrot. The combined effect of the very chicken-like gardein, the gentle glaze, the polenta and vegetables, and the savory sausage was just fantastic and said “fall feast” in every sense of the word. It was served with Flora Springs Soliloquy, a Napa white that served as a fine complement.

This point of the meal was perfect for a salad course, and the Field Greens with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Pomegranate Seeds and Oranges dressed in Blood Orange Vinaigrette fit the bill. It combined sweetness, tartness and crunch to make the perfect salad. In an unusual twist, this course was served with a red wine, Peter Lehmann Layers Red, but it worked. This Layers wine is also a five-grape blend, with a big fruity bouquet and, I thought, a little chocolaty hint in it. Whatever the flavors, they combined really well with the salad.

Course number four was Quinoa and Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash, slices of roasted acorn squash glazed with agave syrup and fitted out in the middle with little quinoa timbales including chopped green apple and big fat pecans. Well, I have now learned that quinoa, which happens to be a high-protein, high-fiber, gluten-free food, is as delicious as any rice or pasta, and lower on the glycemic index to boot. This is good to know! Maybe I should be eating more quinoa and fewer complex carbs. For this dish, the wine was Green Truck Organic Petite Sirah, a Syrah-Merlot blend, peppery and fruity.

Last came a very elegantly plated dessert that tasted as good as it looked: a Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Cranberry Coulis. This variation on the traditional panna cotta, sauced with tart cinnamon-spiked cranberries, topped with a foam of almond milk, and garnished with mint leaves, was as satisfying as any traditional pumpkin pie. Alongside, we had tiny glasses of Hobbs Dessert Grenache, a rich, sweet red dessert wine with an intense flavor that comes from the grapes being partly dried out before pressing. It was the perfect conclusion to a most satisfying meal.

So, that’s the story. If you’re vegan or vegetarian and you live anywhere near Bistro 185, you owe it to yourself to sign up to be there the next time a dinner like this one is in the planning — or at least keep an eye out to see when the next Vegan Night is coming up. This is one experience where you won’t have to wonder or ask whether all of your meal was prepared vegan — you’ll know. (Trust me, they’re very careful about this!) If you’re normally an omnivore, get ready for a surprise as you learn exactly how varied, interesting, and refined vegan cuisine can be in experienced hands. Bistro 185 served up the kind of Thanksgiving feast even a turkey could love.

True Blood Dinner: our libation list is ready!

Has the thought of joining us for our “True Blood” Dinner gotten you a little thirsty for something…red? Well, our libation list for this special dinner is ready. If this menu makes your mouth water like we think it will, and you haven’t made your reservation yet, pick up the phone and call us at 216.481.9635. Then call 1.800.RED.CROSS to make your blood donation appointment!

First Course
Shrimp Fritters with Red Devil Aioli
Vampire Cocktail
Vodka Chambord Cranberry

Second Course
Jambalaya with Andouille Sausage
Red Beans and Rice
Wine
Dracula Zinfandel Paso Robles

Third Course
Roasted Red Beet and Pomegranate Salad
Balsamic Dressing
Wine
Sixth Sense Syrah

Fourth Course
Seared Ahi Tuna with Red Cherry Sauce
Wine
Vampire Chardonnay

Fifth Course
Roasted Beef Tenderloin Medallion with Red Wine Sauce
Root Vegetable Mash
Wine
Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon

Sixth Course
Red Velvet Cake with Raspberry Coulis
Wine
Sparkling Brachetto

Here are some places you can donate blood within the next week:

October 12
Red Cross Warzel Blood Donation Center
3636 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
7:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

Wickliffe Community Center
900 Worden Rd., Wickliffe
12:30-5:30 p.m.

October 13
Red Cross Warzel Blood Donation Center
3636 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
1:30-8 p.m.

October 14
Red Cross Warzel Blood Donation Center
3636 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
1:30-8 p.m.

October 15
Red Cross Warzel Blood Donation Center
3636 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
7:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Ohio Savings Bank
1801 E. 9th St., Cleveland
8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Radisson Eastlake
35000 Curtis Blvd., Eastlake
11 a.m.-3 p.m.

October 16
Red Cross Warzel Blood Donation Center
3636 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
7:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Holy Grove Missionary Baptist Church
2844 E. 130th St., Cleveland
10 a.m.-2 p.m.

We’ll have more listings for you next week. Remember, while many of the creatures in True Blood may be only products of the imagination, real people need real blood every day–and in our world, there is no substitute! So make your reservations, make your appointment, give blood, and join us for the “True Blood” Dinner Wednesday, October 27 at 6:30 p.m.! We promise a meal you can really sink your teeth into!

Behind the Dish: Lamb Shanks with Beans

Tonight’s James Beard dish is pretty basic on the surface: lamb shanks braised in red wine and beef stock with a bit of tomato paste, bay leaves and other herbs. But as usual, we at the Bistro like to change things up a bit, so we couldn’t just serve plain old white beans alongside: our beans are a bit dressed up with bacon, onions and shallots, and some fresh rosemary and thyme. You can really smell the perfume of the herbs coming off this dish and making the beans and the lamb even more flavorful.

But, of course, that’s not all. We’ve got a full lineup of other standards and specials to tempt you. Like a little spice? Has the great weather today made you feel like pretending for a while that you really do live someplace where it’s always warm like this? Go Jamaican tonight with a jerk barbecue mahi-mahi accompanied by tropical fruited rice, rich with bananas, papayas, pineapple and coconut. Or try something else on the specials that’s caught your fancy. For example, the Four-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese with Smoked Chicken and Black Truffle:

This is creamy, smoky, cheesy comfort of the best kind. Or maybe you’d prefer a “Petit Poulet” (chicken) wrapped in bacon with cornbread-andouille sausage stuffing and a cranberry-orange chutney. Or an Italian seafood cioppino, rich with South African lobster tail, scallops, shrimp, mussels, clams, crab leg, Italian sweet sausage and penne pasta in a spicy marinara broth, topped with tempura calamari.

Whatever you do, again, you want to keep one more course in mind, because, as always, there are some beauties in our dessert case. Some of the ones we have on hand right now: pumpkin pie topped with maple-brown sugar whipped cream; triple chocolate cheesecake; and fresh vanilla-bean ice cream. Oh, and did we mention we still have Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Pie?

It’s Saturday night, and it’s going to be a beautiful one. Come celebrate it at the Bistro!

Julia Project Wine Dinner: a review

Hi, the Tenant is back! I hope you were at the Bistro last night for the Julia Project Wine Dinner, because if you were, you know it was fabulous. If not, here’s a little taste of what you missed (too bad you can’t lick the screen!).

First, to give you an idea of what preparation for the dinner was like back in the kitchen earlier in the day, here’s a little video:

By 6:30 in the evening, everything was ready. Our feast began with the Amuse-Bouche appetizer of Escargot with Toast Batons. I must admit, I’ve been hesitant about trying escargot because it seemed to me from when I had seen preparations at other restaurants that it was a bit rubbery and extremely garlicky. What a surprise to try it at Bistro 185! Their escargot (we received three apiece) were not rubbery at all, and only slightly garlicky — the fresh, slightly earthy flavor of the escargot came through and tasted great with a little squirt of lemon. The hardest part was getting them out of the shells! The toast baton that came with each serving was perfect for soaking up some of that buttery garlic sauce on the plate.

This dish and the following seafood dish, Coquilles St. Jacques, were paired with a Chandon Brut Classic champagne — light, bubbly and crisp. The Coquilles St. Jacques was as delicious as the original Julia Project version, and made extra-special by being served in the classic manner: inside a shell, and surrounded by a “sandy beach” of sea salt and peppercorns. A few shrimp kept the scallops company in the white creamy sauce, and were very good too.

Then it was time for the Boeuf Bourguignon, and was it delightful! First of all, boneless short ribs are some of the most tender, tasty beef you will ever eat, and when they’re braised in this burgundy wine sauce, they’re phenomenal. We all detected a hint of cinnamon in the sauce this time around, and I loved that because cinnamon is a key component of my family’s spaghetti sauce recipe handed down from my father’s father (we suspect there’s a bit of Greek mixed in with our Italian side of the family). It also went especially well with the wine, Bridlewood Central Coast Syrah, a really fascinating wine whose notes and flavors change with every sip. It’s a full-bodied wine that didn’t get in the way of the complex flavors of the dish. And every bite — especially those soaking-up-sauce mushrooms — was exquisite!

After such a heavy dish, though, we needed something light and easy on the stomach, and the Frisee Salad with poached egg, lardons and croutons fit the bill. As Todd mentions in the video, it was finished with a light, gently sweet sherry vinaigrette, and the Bridlewood Reserve Viognier, a slightly flowery, airy white wine, was an ideal complement.

The salad was followed by another one of the popular Julia Project dishes, the Salmon and Halibut en Croûte with Tarragon Beurre Blanc Sauce. As before, the crispy browned puff-pastry crust was shaped like a fish, and enclosed deliciously sauced layers of salmon and halibut accompanied by sautéed asparagus. For this, the accompanying William Hill Chardonnay was, again, just right.

The final entree was a savory-sweet treatment of duck, the Duck Confit with Roasted Figs and Port. This one also was a true taste celebration. The rich fruit flavor went all the way through the crispy skin cradling the tender duck meat, and the combination of kasha and tiny bowtie egg pasta on the side was a good choice for a fall game dish. The wine paired with it was Lapis Luna Romanza Zinfandel, and it was a very good match — a robust red Zin for a dish with such strong flavors.

Last and very welcome, as always: the dessert plate! Here, the mini-chocolate mousses — served with a kind of honey “lollipops” usable as spoons to eat the mousse — were just the beginning. As the video hints (and in some cases shows), there was much more: a delectable little scoop of pumpkin ice cream on cranberry sauce, an apple-nut cake with caramel topping, a square of angel-food cake with raspberry puree and chocolate ganache with a sprinkling of crushed nuts, and a little marzipan candy. The dessert course was served with Presidential 20 Year Porto: a fine finish to an outstanding meal.

Afterward many guests were heard to say that of all the wine dinners they have attended at Bistro 185, this one featured the best pairings of wine to each course. Kudos are definitely due to Superior Beverage Group Ltd. for assisting the Bistro in coming up with and providing these inspired selections. If you weren’t at the dinner last night but would like to learn more about any of these wines, or try one for yourself, ask your server the next time you stop by.

So there you have it: the Julia Project Wine Dinner was a smashing success. If you missed this one, keep an eye on this blog to find out about the Bistro’s next special wine dinner, because whatever and whenever it is, it’s sure to be just as much fun.