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.

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“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!

Our next Vegan “3 for $30”: “A Night in Budapest”

Vegans–and adventurous non-vegans–you’re going to love the theme of our January Vegan “3 for $30” prix fixe dinner: “A Night in Budapest.” Our vegan dinner for Wednesday, January 19, features dishes inspired by the best of Hungarian cuisine:

Starter
Tomato- Fennel Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings

Entree
Vegan Chicken Paprikash with Potato Gnocchi, Wilted Sweet-and-Sour Cucumber Salad with Dill

Dessert
Hungarian-Style Crepes with Apricot Preserves and Fresh Berry Garnish with Almond-Milk Whipped Cream

Make your prepaid reservations now at 216.481.9635 (for any time between 5 and 9). You won’t want to miss this!

Night at the Oscars: Moonstruck and Baby Osso Bucco

Sick of the Cleveland winter? Feel like your life is going down the toilet? Well, snap out of it! Bistro 185 has the solution to your blues with our “Night at the Oscars” special for this Monday through Wednesday. Instead of honoring a Best Picture winner this time around, we’ve chosen a movie that picked up three other Academy Awards for 1987: Best Original Screenplay (John Patrick Shanley), Best Actress (Cher) and Best Supporting Actress (Olympia Dukakis), Moonstruck.

Of course, Moonstruck is all about the moon and the magic it can work on the lives of we humans down on Earth — especially on love Italian-American style. For centuries, full moons have been associated with insanity (it’s where the word “lunatic” comes from), and although we know the moon doesn’t really make you crazy, it does seem to have that effect on people in danger of falling in love. And as it so happens, there was a full moon Sunday…and there’ll be a near-full moon for the next three nights!

So why not take full advantage of this crazy time and enjoy our version of romance Italian-American style: Baby Osso Bucco over Pappardelle Pasta in a fennel, carrot and tomato sauce, garnished with onion straws? We think you’ll “love it awful”!


Night at the Oscars: Oo là là!

Tonight’s French dishes should definitely make you feel like An American in Paris. The Fennel Salad is sautéed sweetly with a touch of shallots (not in the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe, but Chef Todd added them) in orange juice and olive oil to the point of perfect tenderness and nestled in a bed of mixed greens. Fennel also comes into play in our Tenderloin of Pork with Green Peppercorns, helping to flavor a slightly spicy, slightly sweet sauce that uses a mix of whole-grain and Dijon mustards. The sauce is perfect for being soaked up by the baby redskin potatoes. Dessert? The Pain Perdu is like slices of bread pudding, rich with toasted almonds and Grand Marnier and slivered strawberries. C’est magnifique indeed! If you missed it Monday, join us Tuesday!

Bistro 185 Salutes the Academy Awards!

Things never stay the same for long here at the Bistro, and we’re bringing something new to our offerings for the month of February as we look forward to the 82nd Academy Awards. This year, Bistro 185 is presenting its own salute to legendary Academy Award winners. Each week leading up to “Oscar Night” — March 7 — we’ll salute three past Academy Award winners for Best Picture with special entrees, starters and desserts.

As you might guess from the trailer above, we’re kicking off our Salute to Hollywood’s Best Pictures tonight and tomorrow night with a tribute to the Best Picture winner for 1951, An American in Paris. If you can’t dance like Gene Kelly or Leslie Caron, how can we make you feel like an American in Paris right here in Cleveland? By offering you a selection of dishes from Barefoot in Paris, the French cookbook by the Food Network’s own Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. On our salad menu: Fennel Salad (p. 99). Our featured entree: Loin of Pork with Green Peppercorns (p. 118), which we’ll prepare as a tenderloin of pork with green peppercorns, served with redskin potatoes. Finally, the perfect dessert to finish it off: Pain Perdu (p. 209), a souped-up French toast with strawberries, almonds and Grand Marnier. All of it together should make you feel like dancing!

But this is just the beginning. Wednesday and Thursday, we’ll salute yet another Academy Award Best Picture with a new set of themed dishes, and Friday and Saturday a third. The fun continues each week until the Best Picture winner for 2009 is chosen in March.

To which films will we pay tribute? What kinds of special dishes will be in the offing as the weeks go on? You’ll just have to keep following the blog and see! (One hint: we’ll be including this year’s Best Picture nominees, which will be ten this time around, rather than the usual five. To find out which movies are selected, be alert for the live announcement tomorrow morning — yes, Groundhog Day — at 8:38 a.m.!)

Behind the Dish: Portuguese Fish Stew

Looking for a different kind of Friday fish special? Are fried fish and clam chowder getting to be too same-old same-old for you? Try our take on James Beard’s recipe for fish stew, Portuguese style. His recipe calls for a combination of shrimp, tuna, tomatoes, basil and orzo pasta. Our variation adds salmon and fennel to the mix and substitutes shell pasta for the orzo. See how this combination warms you up!

Behind the Dish: Filet of Sole Casanova

Why is tonight’s James Beard entree called “Filet of Sole Casanova”? Really not sure. There’s not much about it that will make you think of the 18th-century Venetian adventurer reputed for his romantic skills. But it is kind of a romantic dish — at least if you love cuisine inspired by India. This dish really brings Indian flavors to the fore in a delightful way.

The fish is simply sautéed; it’s the sauce that makes the difference. Beard’s original recipe calls for celery root, but we substituted fresh fennel and celery, sliced super-thin, and sweated these along with mushrooms in butter, then added artichoke hearts for texture and flavor and chopped Golden Delicious apples for a touch of sweetness, flavor and crunch. All of this was cooked down and reduced with heavy cream and curry to create a rich and delicious sauce.

Our sauced filet of sole is accompanied by a mound of Indian jasmine rice, steamed with cardamom seeds, sautéed onion, cinnamon stick, star anise and cumin. The finished dish is aromatic, flavorful and a delightful change from the ordinary. Try it — you just might fall in love.

Behind the Dish: Braised Lamb Shanks with Tomatoes and Sausage

Here’s a secret: we’re swapping out the main element in a James Beard recipe tonight to bring you Lamb Shanks with Tomatoes and Sausage. Because, truth be told, his original recipe calls for veal shanks. However, we feel that the flavor will be even richer using lamb shanks — truly exceptional — so we’re subbing them for the veal.

The dish calls for braising the shanks in tomatoes and white wine, parsley and basil, then adding partially cooked sausages (we’re using Italian sausages) during the final cooking time, until they’re cooked all the way through. We’re serving our shanks, tomatoes and sausage with an assortment of fall root vegetables including parsnips, turnips, carrots, rutabagas, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and purple potatoes — and a little fennel and rosemary. Now that’s hearty — and the flavor is exquisite!

Warning to those who can’t resist dessert: we still have Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce available, and now you can choose them filled not only with ice cream, but with pastry cream. Either way, you will be amazed.

Review: Spanish Regional Wine Dinner

The Tenant’s back again…first, let me ask all of you who regularly come to these wonderful dinners: Where do you put it all? I always end up at the end of one of these Bistro 185 wine dinners feeling as if I am filled to the very top of my body with wonderful food, unable to fit in one bite or one drop more, and the rest of you are just sitting around sipping the rest of your wine, or ordering coffee…how do you do it??

If that gives you the impression that last night’s dinner was a winner, it should. It was a real feast of incredible food Spanish-style, paired with wines that fit the mood and the dishes beautifully.

I can’t say I’m a wine expert, but I enjoy tasting the different kinds offered and seeing how well they go with the courses, and it’s always an adventure.

First came the tapas. You got to see yesterday what the tapas trays looked like, and they were filled with delicious treats. From the olives, nuts and cheeses to the specially prepared items like the crabmeat-stuffed deviled eggs, the salt cod fritters (passed around separately) with garlic aioli, and the Spanish tortillas — alternating layers of tortilla and potato slices, served cold with more of the aioli — these were a great exploration of appetizers Spain-style. So were the gazpacho shooters: narrow little shot glasses of cold, spicy Spanish vegetable soup, each topped with a shrimp. The wine for this course was Ramon Bilbao Crianza 2006: a deep cherry-red wine with a fruity, smoky flavor. All the Ramon Bilbao wines are produced in the Rioja Alta wine region of Spain.

Next came a bowl of tiny sautéed clams, swimming in the chorizo broth you saw a picture of cooking up on the stove yesterday. The little clams absorbed the rich, spicy flavor of the sausage-filled broth, so delicious that after having picked the clams out of their shells with the clam fork to eat them, you needed to switch to your spoon to scoop up every flavorful drop of the chorizo sauce. The original plan was to serve this course with Ramon Bilbao Limited Edition 2006, but as it turns out the 2006 vintage isn’t ready yet, so we were supplied with the 2004 vintage instead, which made a fine accompaniment.

Next came the Chicken Marbella. How did it taste on top of Yukon Gold mashers? Absolutely delicious! Because this was Spanish food, many of the dishes were spicy and pungent, with a heat that lasted long on the tongue. But the astringency of the green olives in this dish was counteracted beautifully by the addition of prunes, which contributed a special sweetness and made for a nice change of pace. And the mashed potatoes did a wonderful job of soaking up the sauce! It was accompanied by Volteo Viura Sauv Blanc Viognier, a blended wine whose lighter, fresher, flowery-buttery flavor also provided a contrast to many of the heavier red wines on the menu. Volteo wines come from Castilla-LaMancha, the world’s largest vineyard.

By the time you’ve enjoyed appetizers and a few courses at a dinner like this, you’re ready for a light, refreshing salad course, and that’s just what the Orange and Fresh Fennel Salad provided. The organic honey and lemon vinaigrette was the perfect taste to go with the combination of greens, orange slices and slivers of fennel — a sweet, juicy, delight. The wine, too, was just right for it: Volteo Rosé Garnacha, full of fruity scents and crisp flavor.

Last, but certainly not least, of the main courses was the South African Lobster Tail, Sea Bass and Scallop in Saffron Broth with Timbale of Saffron Rice with Peas and Roasted Red Peppers. Mere words cannot describe the pure, smooth, buttery sublime flavor of this lobster tail. The sea bass, coated wonderfully with the saffron broth, tasted almost as rich, as did the scallop. I overheard another diner saying he had never in his life eaten such a well-prepared scallop. The rice was a nice addition as well; it served as a little starch to play off the richness of the seafood. The wine for this course was Cruz de Alba Crianza 2006, an unusual choice to my mind because it’s a heavier, redder wine than I’m used to thinking of as ideal for a seafood course, but it worked well. This wine is produced in one of Spain’s fastest developing wine regions, Ribera del Duero.

I must admit that by the time the dessert course came around, I didn’t have much room left for both the desserts and the Drysac Sherry served with them (although it was very good). The treats assembled for us on this plate were a rich, eggy Spanish flan, blanketed in caramel; an almond cake deep with flavor, topped with sliced almonds; a tiny chocolate mousse in a chocolate cup, with a strong mocha-coffee flavor; and a deep, dark, rich chocolate truffle that just melted in your mouth and flooded it with heavenly chocolate flavor. What a way to end our mini-visit to Spain! Hats off to Chef Ruth Levine and her staff for making this another wine dinner to remember.

If all this doesn’t persuade you that the next Bistro 185 Wine Dinner, set for December 15, is not to be missed, I don’t know what will! Watch this space for more details.