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!

Advertisements

The menu for our Second Annual Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner is ready!

Our vegan pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Dinner was such a hit last year that we’re doing it again this year on Tuesday, November 22. This four-course dinner, at $45 per person plus tax and gratuity, will once again prove that a vegan Thanksgiving feast doesn’t have to mean sliced Tofurky and a pile of blah vegetables. (Wait ’til you see what we do with Brussels sprouts! Your school cafeteria never cooked them like this!)

First Course
Celery Root Soup with Granny Smith Apples
Chive Oil

Second Course
Roasted Pear and Toasted Pumpkin Seed Salad
Cranberry Vinaigrette

Entrée Course
Beggar’s Purses filled with Sweet Onion, Lentil, Quinoa, Wild Mushrooms, and Sun-Dried Cranberries
Roasted Curried Butternut Squash Sauce
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and French Chestnuts

Dessert Course
Pecan Pie
Spiced Vegan Whipped Creme

Our dinner will be served with a Spiced Wine Cocktail sure to put you in the holiday spirit. Gather your vegan friends (and maybe even the vegan skeptics!), call 216.481.9635 and make plans to join us around the table (one sitting only, 6:30 p.m.) for a repast that just may give you some inspiration for your own vegan Thanksgiving table at home.

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!

A delicious “Taste of Fall” vegan-style

Whew! What with all that’s going on at the Bistro this fall, it’s all a Tenant like me can do to keep up with events. (Not to mention eating all this food…oh well, it’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it, right?) I’m happy to report that last night’s Vegan Dinner, “A Taste of Fall,” continued in the tradition of the series. An ideal series of seasonal dishes for sure!

Things got rolling with the Fried Green Tomato and Arugula Salad with Green Goddess Dressing. Not being a native of the South, I’d never tried fried green tomatoes before, but I’m glad I did, because they tasted crispy and delicious on this salad, along with the arugula and more traditional cherry tomatoes. The Green Goddess dressing–an old classic that traditionally includes mayonnaise and sour cream–was an ideal accompaniment in my opinion, too. Obviously, this version didn’t contain mayonnaise, sour cream or anything else that would have required use of an egg or dairy product, but it tasted just as fine as the Green Goddess dressing I remember. And the little corn muffin served alongside was a delightful bonus!

On to the main course: Crispy “Chicken” (Gardein) Marsala with Shiitake Mushrooms and Vegan Gnocchi with Roasted Root Fall Vegetables. If it looks delicious, let me assure you it is. I’ve said before that, being an admitted meat eater, I’m impressed when vegan cuisine can truly provide anything that seems truly analogous to meat, and to me, gardein fills the bill by bringing the old cliche “tastes like chicken” to life. And it tastes even better when breaded and sauced with a rich, savory marsala-and-shiitake-mushroom sauce. The gnocchi, chunks of root veggies such as sweet potato, and fried strings of onion didn’t hurt any, either. (Oh, and once again my friend Mary happened to be visiting, and I gave her a gnocchi to try. She loved it. She’s skeptical about this vegan stuff, yet whenever she catches me on Vegan Night, she seems to end up trying some of what I’m eating and really liking it.)

To crown the proceedings, what better than a Pumpkin Creme Brulee for dessert? Mine arrived garnished with a plump slivered strawberry and a dollop of almond-milk-and-tapioca “whipped cream” (not appearing in your picture), and as the caramel glaze on top cracked under my spoon the same way a thin glaze of ice gives way atop a frozen pond, I knew what lay underneath was going to be rich and delicious. It was. Seems as if this might be a good recipe to share for Thanksgiving season. Just saying!

Speaking of Thanksgiving, even I don’t yet know what Chefs Ruth and Jakub have planned for vegan dining delight next month, but after this dinner, I certainly am more than curious! Watch this space to see!

Take another “bite” of Bon Temps with “True Blood: Season 2”!

[Disclaimer: The video above contains adult situations. Not intended for viewing by children.]

It was a sellout last October, and it’s back again–the dinner that brought a bite of Sookie Stackhouse’s world into the Bistro to raise everyone’s Halloween spirits. And this year’s “True Blood Dinner” (aka “True Blood Season 2”), although it’s shape-shifted a bit, once again features a full menu of all-red toothsome delights. Chef Ruth has taken care to incorporate New Orleans-style dishes into this year’s offerings to ensure the proper Cajun/Creole atmosphere as depicted in the HBO series. And, like the show itself, the dinner includes plenty of “spirits”–in this case, libations from aperitif to dessert liqueur–in keeping with the red/”blood” theme:

Aperitif
Toffoli Pink Shadow Prosecco

First Course
Rare Ahi Tuna
Organic Greens
Blood Orange and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Wine: Shingleback Black Bubbles Sparkling Shiraz

Second Course
Oyster Po’Boy
Spicy Remoulade Sauce
Red Cabbage Slaw
Cocktail: Bacon Bloody Mary Shots

Third Course
True Blood Tenderloin–Rare
Wine: Sly Dog Cabernet

Fourth Course
Creole Shrimp and Grits
Wine: Howling Moon Old Vine Zinfandel

Fifth Course
Pecan Pie
Sweet Potato Ice Cream
Cranberry Drizzle
Liqueur: Blood Orange Chocolate Sabra

Cost of the dinner is $60 per person plus tax and gratuity. If you were here for last year’s, you’ll want to return (and feel free to wear your True Blood shirt, if you have one, to get into the spirit of things!); if you missed it, you’ll want to make sure you don’t this time. Call 216.481.9635 now and make your reservation for our “witching hour,” 6:30 p.m. Thursday, October 27–and get ready for a dinner sure to be “bloody marvelous”!

Cultures combine deliciously at Israeli Fusion Wine Dinner

Hi, Tenant here…unfortunately the cold season seems to be doing a number on me, and between the sniffles I’ve had a slow time putting up the video and writing the review for the latest fabulous Bistro dinner. But good things come to those who wait, so here we go:

Now to describe it…Let’s just say that at six courses, this was one huge feast. I made it through only three before I had to ask for a couple of them to be packed up so I’d have room for dessert. While I always enjoy the leftovers, I also know that not eating (even if I just sample) each dish in turn always minimizes the full experience a bit, so I regret that, but boy…the opening dishes were so good there was no way I could not do justice to them and that meant I had a lot less room by the time the fourth course came around! Yet all were delicious, each in its own way. And each showcased a particular aspect of global Jewish cuisine that can now be found in Israel. With the exception of the dessert course, also, all the wine was Israeli, from the Recanati Winery, and that too was a display of variety.

The festivities began with what I’ll gladly admit is probably my favorite traditional Jewish food, latkes. While not Jewish myself, I’m descended from Germans on my mother’s side–her parents were German–so potato pancakes have always been part of my family food tradition. And one of the things I’ve always loved about the Bistro is how closely Ruth’s latkes approximate the potato pancakes my mother used to make. You can thus imagine my pleasure at getting to eat one that combined potatoes and apples (applesauce being the favored condiment for this food at my house) and topped with some of Marc’s famous house-cured salmon and Israeli feta herb cream (Mom never had that–if only she had!). This was accompanied by a small cup of salad of various cubed veggies cooked tenderly and marinated in something that tasted pretty good. I didn’t even care, I just knew it was tasty. Our wine representative for the evening, Pat Fisher, explained that the accompaniment for this dish, Recanati’s 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, was grown on the coastal plains of Shamron, where hot days and cool nights provide the grapes with a climate much like that of Northern California. I found this wine fruity and intensely spicy in a way, and it set off the dish very nicely.

The second course was another dose of what tends to come to mind when one thinks of traditional American Jewish cookery of European origin…chicken soup with matzoh balls. But this version combined the traditional and classic with a taste of the Middle East. Ruth used her own mother’s Ashkenazi traditional recipe and served it with matzoh balls stuffed with walnuts, onion, cinnamon and cumin. It was a delicious twist. First, the soup…nothing floating it it but some slices of carrot and snippings of parsley, rich with the purest and most satisfying chicken flavor, yet clear enough to read a book through. (I have no idea how many times she must have strained it to get it that clear, but wow, was it clear.) In each bowl, a light and fluffy matzoh ball full of flavors that really made it sing (the Italian-Greek side of me loved the cinnamon especially). To drink alongside, Recanati 2009 Chardonnay, from the cooler northern regions of upper Galilee, smooth and buttery on the tongue and just right.

Course number three was one I would love to see the Bistro add to the fall dinner menu lineup (actually, I could say that of all three of the remaining entree courses, but this one really stole my heart). The 24-Hour Sous Vide Moroccan Lamb Tangine was just amazing. This was an incredible stew of meltingly tender chunks and shreds of lamb in a rich dark brown sauce flavored with pine nuts, apricots and sweet currants, topping a bed of couscous. You couldn’t ask for a heartier dish to warm your belly or your spirits on a cold autumn night, and oh, so rich with flavor and spice…With this dish we were poured a 2010 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon, which we were told originates from higher, cooler elevations and grapes that produce a Cab as deeply fruity and spicy as our lamb.

I usually learn something new at every wine dinner I attend at the Bistro, and at this one, I learned that for many centuries, India had a sizable Jewish population–one that by now is almost gone. Most of these Cochin Jews emigrated to Israel, where they brought their Indian food traditions with them. Thus the fourth course was Chicken Curry with Grilled Naan and Drizzled Virgin Olive Oil. I love Indian food, so even though I was close to the point of not being able to fit in another bite, I had to have a taste of this dish before packing it up for later. But of course, I derived the most enjoyment from it by finishing it off as a separate meal. The chicken thigh was perfectly cooked and coated in a sauce rich with curry and chickpeas. The traditional Indian naan bread was hot and tasty (had to find room to fit that in). The wine was a 2005 Syrah, and although I could take only a sip or two, it struck me as a deep, warm, smooth accompaniment.

I could fit in but a tiny taste of course number five, but luckily, it saved well and I was also able to enjoy its full deliciousness on a delayed basis. This was yet another dish brought to Israel from Jews who came from elsewhere–in this case, Spain. Ladino-Style Fish Ragout is Jewish cooking with a Spanish accent:  in this case, a good-sized chunk of halibut simmering in a tomato-based sauce with fingerling potatoes. The flavor and quality of this fish was just outstanding and the sauce complemented it wonderfully. Another upper Galilee-sourced wine, a 2009 Merlot, was served with this course.

Finally–somehow I managed to find room for it, and am glad I did–came dessert. Actually, a quite simple, Eastern European dessert: cheese blintzes, served with a blood orange coulis and garnished with fresh raspberries. My blintz was hot and tasty and sweet and delicious. The original plan was to serve Israeli Sabra liqueur, which combines the flavors of chocolate and oranges, with this dish, but unfortunately the distributor was unable to obtain it in time, and as a result the Sabra was substituted with a Washington State red wine called Chocolate Shop. The wine is infused with chocolate to provide it that classic flavor, and while it wasn’t the Sabra, it made an interesting and pleasant companion to the blintz.

I enjoyed this dinner from beginning to end, even if my eyes were a bit bigger than my stomach. And, of course, as you already know, the Bistro has yet another lineup of special events ready for October, each of which will offer its own pleasures: the Vegan Taste of Fall Oct. 13, the Clam Bake Oct. 14, the Twenty-First Amendment Beer Dinner Oct. 18, and the sure-to-be-amazing True Blood Season 2 Wine and Spirits Dinner Oct. 27. Save the dates and make your reservations now!

In the meantime, in case you missed it, here’s a link to the News-Herald’s story this past Wednesday in which Chef Ruth talked to Janet Podolak about Rosh Hashanah food traditions. It includes a recipe for her chicken soup with matzoh balls, so you can give it a whirl yourself. Try it; it could make a sweet New Year for you! I only wish I had about five gallons of it in my apartment right now–I think it would knock this cold right out of me!

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!

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!

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!

“Farm to Table” Wine Dinner: one delicious trip!

The Tenant is back, with the story of the latest Bistro wine dinner. It was truly a celebration of everything local at a time when the local eating just doesn’t get any better. And the wine was just as local as the food, being a product of Laurello Vineyards & Winery in Geneva. Not only did Laurello provide a wine for each course, they added a few bonuses: an aperitif to start off the meal and a sneak preview of two of the wines, including (at the end of the dinner) a special pre-release sample available for diners to pre-order. So, whether you were a connoisseur of fine food, fine wine or both, signing up for this event meant you were in for a truly special evening!

The aperitif wine, we learned, was Laurello’s Muscat Blanc ’08. Made with grapes native to Alsace, this was a fruity, flowery, surprisingly dry (without being puckeringly so) wine. I enjoyed it a great deal, and was sorry to learn that this was the final vintage for this particular wine. I liked the fact that despite being a muscat, it wasn’t especially sweet or dessert-like, but apparently that’s what people expect from a muscat and that’s what Laurello’s going to produce from now on.

On to the first course! Normally Bistro wine dinners don’t begin with salad; the salad course usually appears somewhere around midmeal. This one, however, was an exception, focusing on the superstars of the breakfast table, bacon and eggs. Well, pork belly and eggs–and what is bacon, in the USA anyway, if not pork belly? Organic greens bedded a thick chunk of smoky, crispy pork belly, cherry and grape tomatoes from the Bistro’s rooftop garden and a gently sous vide poached organic egg from Blue Pike Farm, an urban farm on East 72nd St. This salad was called a “hunt and peck” salad because the Blue Pike Farm eggs come from hens that freely roam the farm “hunting and pecking” for their meals rather than being fed industrial chicken feed–genetically modified or otherwise. Instead of commercial feed, they’re eating bugs, worms, grass, seeds and whatever other tasty items they find–and, as a result, not only do their eggs taste better, they’re more nutritious, with less cholesterol and saturated fat and more vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. The truly organic “hunt and peck” eggs on this salad truly made it special, and so did the honey-lemon dressing made with honey from Mark’s Apiaries in Painesville. Laurello’s accompanying wine was an ’08 Chardonnay, pleasantly dry and crisp.

I knew from having a little sample in the afternoon that I was absolutely going to love the next course: a big, beautiful bowl of Ohio corn chowder. This version was every bit as delicious as the vegan version the previous week, but it had an additional attraction that version lacked: two pieces of delicately tempura-fried Lake Erie walleye. Just amazing. The wine for this course was a dry Riesling from last year, which I really liked a great deal and went perfectly with the chowder.

The flavor delights of organic produce continued with the third course, the Chicken Roulade with Rooftop Garden Herbs on a bed of local-produce ratatouille. The meat was incredibly flavorful and the vegetables and herbs were savory and just right. You know they haven’t traveled far when they come right down from the roof! I make no bones about loving the fact that as a tenant, I can nip out to the rooftop garden and grab a tomato or some herbs for my own cooking from time to time, but I tend not to get as fancy with what I do as Ruth does. What she makes is terrific! Laurello’s wine for this course was a Cab Franc ’07, a gold-medal winner they look upon as their landmark wine. A combination of Cabernet and Bordeaux grapes gives it a velvety balance of fruit and acidity; they say this is the kind of wine that you can cellar for years and it will hold up beautifully.

For course number four, we were each served a huge and beautiful Caprese Ravioli pocket, made from Ohio City Pasta and stuffed with more rooftop tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and rooftop basil, topped with smoked tomato cream sauce and garnished with leaves of that same basil. I think I could have eaten several of these ravioli happily! Laurello provided us here with the first opportunity in Northeast Ohio to taste their French oak-aged Pinot Noir ’08, which I found sweet, fruity and aromatic yet light.

Finally it was time for dessert, which made it clear that Chef Rich, the Bistro’s ice-cream specialist, has still got the touch. The Brandy Peach Compote made with local fruit was treat enough, but the peach ice cream it graced, made with milk from Pomeroy’s Snowville Creamery, put it over the top. The pasture-raised, grass-grazing cows of Snowville produce rich, sweet and incredibly nutritious milk, and the resulting ice cream is just what you’d expect it to be with that kind of foundation. Each bowl of ice cream was topped with a crispy golden-brown almond tuile, the ideal accent. Laurello’s dessert wine was a 2010 Sweet Genevieve Ice Wine, named for their mother. The course couldn’t have had a more ideal wine.

At the end of dessert, Laurello had one more surprise for us: a bonus tasting of a wine that’s not even on the market yet. Their “Christopher” 2009 Fox Hollow Vineyard Reserve Cuvee is, they say, the richest, most concentrated wine they have ever produced. This one, scheduled for release in October, did indeed taste rich, smooth and incredible.

What I found interesting about Laurello’s wines was not only the high quality and the variety, but the fact that so many of the ones we tasted are relatively inexpensive. I know the next time I’m looking for a nice Riesling, for example, I can buy one from Laurello for $12 a bottle. This whole evening was a fine showcase of just how deliciously, and healthily, you can eat and drink from the bounty of Northeast Ohio. We are truly fortunate to be living in the time and place we are: on rich Lake Erie land, in a time when local vintners realize they can grow far more more than just Catawba and Concord grapes, and enterprising people are staking out vacant lots in the heart of the city, planting them full of good things to eat, and letting flocks of chickens have the run of the place. What they’re creating is nothing less than a renaissance, and we are all benefiting from it.

Keep watching this space. There’ll be some announcements of new events for next month soon, as well as a special one for those who love to eat local. It all sounds to me like it’s going to be pretty wonderful.