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!

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October’s bringing a wealth of fall feasts!

While you’re waiting for a review and video of our Israeli Fusion Dinner this past Wednesday, why not catch up on what we’ve got planned for next month and make sure your reservations are in for everything you plan to attend? We’ve got something for everyone in October: vegans, beer lovers, wine lovers, seafood enthusiasts and, yes, those who’d like to spend another Halloween season enjoying dinner Sookie Stackhouse-style.

First up is our “Taste of Fall” 3-for-$30 Vegan Dinner Thursday, October 13. Available from 5 to 9 p.m., this three-course meal highlights rich and homey autumn flavors for cooler weather:

Appetizer
Fried Green Tomato and Arugula Salad
Green Goddess Dressing

Entree
Crispy “Chicken” (Gardein) Marsala with Shiitake Mushrooms
Vegan Gnocchi with Roasted Root Fall Vegetables

Dessert
Pumpkin Creme Brulee

For those who get a hankering in the crisp, cool weather to head out to the beach, build a bonfire, dig a pit and enjoy a good old-fashioned clambake–but who would be happy to spare themselves the work of cooking–we have good news. The Bistro Clam Bake is back! On Friday, October 14 between 5 and 9 p.m., we’ll be serving up individual clambakes at a cost of $48.50 per person. With each clambake package, you get Manhattan clam chowder, 1 1/2 Ib. whole lobster, 1/4 barbecued chicken, a dozen middleneck clams, corn on the cob, a roasted sweet potato, slaw, cornbread and butter. It’s one of Cleveland’s favorite types of fall celebration, and you don’t even have to cook it yourself to enjoy it! We’ll have extra clams by the dozen available at $10.50 per order; just let us know ahead of time so we can get you as many as you like.

To get yourself in the mood for our next event, watch this:

Prohibition, Ken Burns’ documentary on the effects of the Eighteenth Amendment, debuts in October on PBS. And, as it so happens, October 14-22 is Cleveland Beer Week. What better way to celebrate a festival of beer and a documentary on Prohibition than to salute the end of that 14-year booze ban? Our Twenty-First Amendment Beer Dinner (named for the amendment that repealed Prohibition) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 18, will pair five courses with five beer selections at a cost of $45 per person. Take a look at this lineup:

First Course
House Smoked Chicken Mac and Cheese
Beer: Back in Black IPA

Second Course
Slow Roasted Beef Short Rib in a Red Zinfandel Reduction Sauce
Fall Root Vegetable Mash
Beer: Brew Free or Die IPA

Third Course
Fried Green Tomato-Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad
Beer: Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer

Fourth Course
Mojo Shrimp with Corn Pudding
Beer: Hop Crisis

Fifth Course
Bread Pudding
Orange-Vanilla-Fig Balsamic Sauce
Beer: Seasonal to be Determined

This dinner is bound to please all fans of the brew. But if beer isn’t your favorite beverage, perhaps you prefer something else. Something a little redder. Wine or…another drink entirely? As Halloween draws closer, we’re preparing just the dinner for you. Yes, Chef Ruth is once again indulging her adoration for her favorite TV series with a “True Blood: Season 2″ Wine and Spirits Dinner Thursday, October 27 at 6:30 p.m. The menu’s not ready yet, so watch this space to see which way she goes with her theme this time. Just don’t wait–make your reservations now, because this one was a sellout last year!

To reserve your prepaid reservation for any of these dinners, call 216.481.9635. Then get ready to enjoy fabulous food and decadent drink at the Bistro!

The James Beard Project: Week 4

Here are the menus for Week 4 of the James Beard Project. (Of course, we will be closed Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving — Gobble Gobble!):

Monday, Nov. 23 — Basil Lasagna (Beard on Pasta, p. 157)

Tuesday, Nov. 24 — Halibut with Crab (James Beard’s Fish Cookery, p. 107)

Wednesday, Nov. 25 — Sole with Shrimp Sauce (James Beard’s Fish Cookery, p. 192)

Friday, Nov. 27 — Chicken Sauté with Figs and Cognac (James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, p. 166)

Saturday, Nov. 28 — Steak Au Poivre (James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, p. 159)

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.

Tonight’s Specials: Oct. 5

Starters
Soup of the Day
Gravlax (house cured salmon) with potato pancakes, capers, chopped red onion and sour cream
House Smoked Duck Breast with mango chipotle glaze, sun-dried cranberries, potato pancake and sour cream
Chicken and Vegetable Pot Stickers with sesame-soy dipping sauce
Asian Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
Romaine Wedge Salad with Gorgonzola dressing, chopped hard-boiled eggs, red onion, bacon and tomato
Warm Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese Salad on a bed of field greens with balsamic vinaigrette
Roasted Organic Beets with goat cheese, honey and balsamic drizzle
Calymarna Brown Figs stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped with prosciutto, field greens and balsamic vinaigrette
Warm Wild Mushroom Salad with pistachios, field greens and raspberry vinaigrette
Coquilles St. Jacques: Baby bay scallops and shrimp in creamy Alfredo sauce with a Parmesan cheese crust
Escargot with Garlic Butter
Puff Pastry Wrapped French Camembert served warm with grapes and toasts
Medjool Dates stuffed with almonds and wrapped with bacon with balsamic drizzle and crumbled goat cheese

Entrees

Lamb Shanks with Baby Fall Vegetables (a Julia Project favorite)
Lamb Moussaka with Greek Salad (a Julia Project favorite)
Sautéed Pork Tenderloin in Prune and Port Wine Sauce with Mashers (a Julia Project favorite)
Steak Oscar: Medallions of beef filet topped with crab and shrimp, hollandaise sauce, tempura green beans and mashers
Boeuf Bourguignon: Boneless Black Angus short ribs slow-braised in a rich burgundy wine sauce with carrots and onions on a bed of mashers
16-oz. Bone-in Cowboy Ribeye Steak with onion straws, sautéed redskin potatoes and house tempura vegetable
Calves’ Liver, pan sautéed, with onion gravy, mashers and bacon
Roasted Half Duck with orange sauce, organic wild rice and house tempura vegetable
Limoncello Chicken: Pan-seared chicken breasts finished in a limoncello cream sauce, Meyer lemons, asparagus, artichoke hearts and snap peas with penne pasta
Chicken Parmesan with pasta marinara
Pan-Seared Day Boat Scallops with black truffle, chanterelle mushrooms and roasted butternut squash risotto
Sesame-Crusted Pan-Seared Wild-Caught Ahi Tuna with wasabi aioli and ginger mandarin drizzle, Israeli couscous and house tempura vegetable
Pecan-Crusted Bay of Fundy Salmon with sweet potato mashers and sautéed spinach
Pan-Roasted Wild-Caught Alaskan Halibut with tropical fruit and nut rum sauce and butternut squash ravioli
Wild-Caught Canadian Walleye finished with a lemon herb butter sauce, mashers and house vegetables, OR tempura style with sweet potato fries, slaw and tartar sauce
Lobster Ravioli with Seared Day Boat Scallops and Shrimp finished with a creamy lobster sauce
Ricotta and Spinach in Fresh Manicotti Pasta with marinara and a touch of cream

Peachy keen…and figgy, too

JuliaProject920This ice cream is…mmmmmmmm! With the dense, pully quality of a great gelato and the sweet taste of peaches and figs, it’s studded with pieces of the fruit and crunchy little bits of crushed sugared almonds. A perfect finish to a perfect Bistro 185 meal…or great all by itself!

Behind the Dish: Crème Fraîche Ice Cream with Figs and Peaches

Tonight’s Julia dish is a delightful dessert: Crème Fraîche Ice Cream with Figs and Peaches. This one is another recipe that comes to us from her friend Julian Serrano; you can see a video of its preparation at this link. It’s made with half-and-half, vanilla beans, egg yolks, sugar and crème fraîche, which is French heavy cream — essentially cream that has thickened and fermented slightly to acquire a slight sour taste (we make our own). Unlike sour cream, however, crème fraîche can be boiled without curdling, and has a much richer flavor.

When the ice cream has been mixed and set up so it’s nicely chilled, it will be combined with poached peaches and mission figs that have been roasted with a combination of egg whites, brown and white sugars and almonds.

This is going to make a fantastic finish to a dinner at the Bistro tonight. If you missed last night’s Tuna À La Provençale, we’re serving it again tonight — or choose anything else from the menu that strikes your fancy. Then top it off with this sweet treat!

Julia Project Dishes for Week 6

Ruth and Todd just put together the list of Week 6 dishes for the Julia Project. Sounds like we’re in for another delicious week!

Monday, Sept. 14 — Roasted Lamb Inspired by the Renaissance Agnello Al Forno (In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, p. 171)

Tuesday, Sept. 15 — Roasted Veal Chops and Sweetbreads with Lemon and Rosemary (In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, p. 32)

Wednesday, Sept. 16 — Filets of Beef in Pasilla Chile Sauce (Cooking with Master Chefs, p. 79)

Thursday, Sept. 17 — Tuna À La Provençale (Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1, p. 219)

Friday, Sept. 18 — Crème Fraîche Ice Cream with Figs and Peaches (In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, p. 205)

Saturday, Sept. 19 — Lobster Thermidor (Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1, p. 221)

Some dinner before your dessert?

After kicking off our Julia Project with a soup of the day and moving on to entrees, our feature for tonight is on the sweet side: Le Gâteau Victoire au Chocolat Mousseline – Chocolate Mousse Cake, from Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home. If that sounds good enough for you to join us tonight (and when doesn’t Chocolate Mousse Cake sound good?), you’ll be faced with the dilemma: what to order for a main course? Fortunately for you, we have suggestions!

Not to skip anything, let’s take a look at appetizers first. Many of our offerings are standbys that are usually on our menu all year long and that our diners return to again and again, such as our Asian Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, potstickers, and house-cured gravlax salmon with potato pancakes. Others, however, are only recently added, and if you haven’t seen us in a while, you might want to give one of them a try. Here’s one: Medjool dates stuffed with almonds and wrapped in bacon with a reduced balsamic glaze drizzle and goat cheese crumbles. Or how about fresh white figs stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto with field greens and balsamic vinaigrette?

Now for dinner. How about a Black Angus Strip Steak with with sauteed shiitake mushroom caps and blue cheese mashed potatoes? Steak Oscar — topped with crab and shrimp — or perhaps Chilean Sea Bass treated in the same fashion? Whether it’s lamb shank, pork tenderloin medallions, roast duck with orange sauce or lobster ravioli that’s sounding good right now, you’ll love our specials.

One very seasonal dish you should know about before it’s gone: Wild Caught Alaskan Copper River Salmon with Ohio-grown English peas, haricots verts, asparagus, spinach, baby bok choy and baby redskin potatoes. It’s available only in very limited quantities, so make your reservations early.

Of course, our regular menu of comfort-food classics is always available to enjoy, so if you could go for some good old-fashioned chicken schnitzel and pierogies or a tasty Kobe beef burger, stop on by.

Whatever you’re in the mood for, we hope you’ll come in, bring a few friends to laugh and enjoy the time with, and make this Saturday night a little special.