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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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!

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 Night features a savory trip to Paris!

The Tenant here, having eaten vegan again tonight! I’m here to tell you the 3-for-$30 Vegan Dinner served up this time around was another fine stop on the Bistro’s world vegan tour.

The festivities began with the Ratatouille Niçoise Salad. This was a rich and spicy combination of fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, yellow squash, and eggplant, accented with fresh and roasted fennel seeds, orange zest and white wine that really brought the flavor alive. It was served on a bed of greens, garnished with niçoise olives and capers, and drizzled with a balsamic glaze that added a little sweetness to balance out the spice. The flavors were both hearty and just right for springtime. A couple of tender mini-croissants were tucked alongside and came in handy for soaking up excess sauce.

The main course, Gardein “Chicken” Française Finished with a Meyer Lemon Sauce and Imported Lemon Oil, was one in which the sauce truly made the difference. The gentle sauce had just enough lemony bite to accent the “chicken” cut beautifully, and the Potatoes Lyonnaise were rich with saucy flavor. The Haricots Verts Amandine were perfectly green, fresh beans with a spring-y snap and fresh flavor that tasted buttery even without butter. This course was plated up beautifully as well–a feast for the eyes.

I knew I was going to love dessert, because once you say “marzipan,” I am there. The Apple and Marzipan Tart was sheer heaven, dusted lightly with cinnamon and drizzled with both the crème anglaise originally announced and a dark sauce that I forgot to ask the identity of! Whatever it was, it was a perfect complement for the fragile and wonderfully tasty pastry concoction, packed with slender slivers of apple and a layer of yummy marzipan. To my mind, this one should be in the dessert case all the time, vegan or not! It would be a shame for people who don’t normally try the vegan dinners to not get a taste of it. True, it could be made non-vegan as well, but the fact that it was made so deliciously without any animal products is a testament to the versatility shown in the kitchen by Chefs Ruth, Jakub and Todd whenever they’re at work.

Once again, I found myself enjoying a full vegan dinner without feeling I was missing out on any flavor at all. I highly recommend the experience to others…and if you’re vegan, you’ve got to love it! Keep in kind that next month is a multicourse Vegan Sake Dinner. If you love Asian food, you will want to make plans now to attend.

“A Night in Paris” Vegan Dinner menu ready!

If we haven’t yet convinced you that our April 3-for-$30 Vegan Dinner on Wednesday, April 20, is going to be magnifique, let this menu persuade you…

First Course
Ratatouille Niçoise Salad Served on a Bed of Greens, Garnished with Niçoise Olives and Capers with Balsamic Glaze
Mini Croissant

Entree
Gardein “Chicken” Francaise Finished with a Meyer Lemon Sauce
and Imported Lemon Oil
Potatoes Lyonnaise
Haricots Verts Amandine

Dessert
Apple and Marzipan Tart with Crème Anglaise

Sounds délicieux, n’est-ce pas? Be sure not to miss this tour of French cuisine, vegan style!

Eat your liver!

Did you ever hear that admonition when you were a child? Did you find yourself not too thrilled at the prospect, staring at a plateful of something that looked like a big slab of shoe leather — and had approximately the same consistency and flavor?

Or, are you a fan of that good old comfort food standard — liver and onions — who’s never tried liver the way the French do it? Or have you already discovered the pleasures of foie de veau — but wondered if you can experience something that good here in Cleveland? Thanks to our Julia Project, you can, tonight.

Our Sautéed Calves’ Liver with Cream Mustard Sauce is a far cry from shoe-leather country. These are soft, tender slices of liver bathed in a savory sauce of cream and top-quality grainy French mustard, sitting atop a cozy bed of mashed potatoes. Our accompaniments for this dish are sautéed spinach, rich with garlic, and celery root (celeriac) remoulade, the recipe for which is also from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1. Normally, remoulade is a term used for a kind of tartar sauce or condiment, but this French dish is actually thin strips of celery root combined with a mustard-based dressing. You might think of it as “coleslaw in a tuxedo.” Just as the cold creaminess of coleslaw complements battered fried fish, the crisp, cool, astringent texture and taste of this remoulade provides a refreshing contrast to the rich, warm flavor of the calves’ liver and sauce. Indeed, it’s a dish you’ll be more than happy to eat, no admonitions necessary!

In other news: The Julia Project list of dishes for the week of August 10 to 15 is ready! Here’s what’s in store for each day.

Monday: Potage Veloute aux Champignons — Cream of Mushroom Soup, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1 (page 40)

Tuesday: Coquilles St. Jacques — Scallops and Mushrooms in White Wine Sauce, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1 (page 216), accompanied by asparagus tips

Wednesday: Sauté de Veau Marengo — Brown Veal Stew with Tomatoes and Mushrooms, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1 (page 360), accompanied by mashed potatoes

Thursday: Loup en Croûte — Fish in Pastry, from Julia Child and Company, with hollandaise sauce and haricots verts

Friday: Savarin with Ohio-Grown Tart Cherries and Seasonal Stone Fruit with Crème Anglaise, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1 (page 664). Taste a classic French dessert made with local fruit at the peak of flavor!

Saturday: Bouillabaisse de Poulet — Chicken Poached in White Wine, Provençal Vegetables and Herbs, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2 (page 261), with Ohio-grown baby redskin potatoes and pistou. (It will be Julia’s birthday August 15 — she would have been 97 — and we’ll be celebrating in style!)

Sound good? Make your reservation now! Also, don’t forget, if we served a dish this past week that you’d love to see again, let us know in the poll. We’ll keep it open until midnight Sunday to give you a good chance to vote.

A special shout-out to everyone who enjoyed sampling our food last night at the American Cancer Society 2nd Annual “Dining at the Diamond” event at Classic Park in Eastlake. Thanks for joining us in supporting a great cause, and hope to see you at the Bistro soon!