Great excuses to treat yourself!

The Tenant is back, with the specific purpose of giving faithful Bistro 185 fans (and even new friends) a handy excuse for treating yourself to a meal at the Bistro soon. Because I’ve done that recently, and not just for the Vegan Thanksgiving Wine Dinner. I thought I’d share a few of those experiences here.

Last week, I tried the Veal Meatloaf with Shiitake Mushroom Bread Pudding. This was not your plain old mom’s meatloaf! It was tender, delicious and full or rich flavor, and cut quite thick as well. As for the bread pudding, it was an amazing savory reworking of traditional sweet bread pudding…when you think about it, an excellent alternative and analog to the traditional stuffing so often served with turkey and chicken dishes. Chef Ruth revealed to me that the secret to its flavorfulness is setting the pan for the bread pudding right below the meatloaf in the oven so the meat drippings fall right onto the pudding. Now that’s rich!

On another night, it was the Coconut Curry Chicken with Cashews. This was a pot of incredible goodness Asian style–a rich, spicy sauce filled with chunks of chicken, sweet potatoes, chickpeas and, of course, plenty of cashews and topped with snowy white coconut flakes.

These dishes are pretty typical of what Chef Ruth and company have been cooking up in the kitchen lately. If they don’t turn you on, how about Chicken in the Pot with Matzoh Balls, or Veal Osso Bucco with Herbed Polenta? And last time I looked, some of the classic favorites were still on the specials list, from Boeuf Bourguignon to Lobster Ravioli to Four Cheese Macaroni & Cheese to that incredible stuffed double cut pork chop. You know that after you’ve had your fill of Thanksgiving food, you’re going to want something different…maybe even before Thanksgiving…so why not stop by? (For the record, the Bistro will be closed Thanksgiving Day, but open and ready for business again Friday!)

If the dinner entrees alone aren’t enough to lure you in, I’ve got another piece of news to get you in the door…regarding the desserts. Lately one of the standouts has been Red Velvet Macadamia Lollipops, delicious single-serving balls of chocolate red velvet cake with macadamia nuts, drenched in a chocolate or white chocolate ganache, on a stick. They’re served with raspberry coulis for dipping. Need I say “heavenly”? If your entree is so filling you can’t eat another bite, take a few of these babies home. They freeze well. Although they won’t stay in your freezer long, I guarantee.

And then there’s the new form of decadence Ruth just came up with, pictured here. I call it Bacon Chocolate Parfait. She calls it “S’mores on Steroids.” It’s rich, thick Mexican chocolate cream, kind of like a mousse, served in a goblet atop graham-cracker crumbs, topped with miniature marshmallows, and speared with a long, crispy slice of chocolate ganache-dipped bacon. Yes, bacon. All with a little kick of cayenne pepper added. I really don’t know how to tell you how delicious this one is. There’s really only one way to know.

In short…if it’s been a while since you’ve been to the Bistro, you need to come back. Hey, even if it hasn’t been all that long, come back! You’ll be glad you did!

Behind the Dish: Ossi Buchi with Orzo

Osso Bucco is a dish we’ve been serving quite a bit of at the Bistro this fall. So how does tonight’s James Beard special, Ossi Buchi with Orzo, differ? Well, this time our seared, simmered veal shanks are accompanied by both the traditional gremolata (chopped garlic, parsley and grated lemon zest) and by an orzo risotto, combining the ricelike Italian pasta with cream, butter, Parmesan cheese, roasted red peppers, scallions and parsley. We think this will definitely delight you with tender fall-off-the-bone meat, a little spice and a lot of risotto creaminess.

Whatever entree you enjoy at the Bistro, you don’t want to skip dessert if you can possibly help it. For one thing, we’ve been making many of our Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Pies (a slice of which you can see in our Halloween video), because they’re so popular we just can’t keep them in the dessert case. And right now we’re preparing a couple of new treats to tempt you: Gingerbread-Root Beer Cake with Root Beer-Poached Pears (made with artisanal root beer) and Cheesecake Topped with Banana-Lime-White Chocolate Ganache and Slivered Almonds.

Ruth is also preparing some of her famous Asian Crab Cakes for tonight’s Dames Dish! for the Holidays event, hosted by Cleveland’s female culinary pros, Les Dames d’Escoffier Cleveland. The event, from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. in Parma’s Trevarrow Kitchen Showroom, is designed to please your taste buds and inspire your holiday entertaining plans, with appetizers, hors d’oeuvres and desserts from the group’s culinary professionals, accompanied by wonderful wines. The event will also feature a silent auction including prizes like a KitchenAid Artisan Series mixer, restaurant gift certificates and more. Advance registration of $50 is required; all proceeds benefit Les Dames’ Northeast Ohio Green Tables Initiative, which helps people better understand the link between rural and urban farms and their tables.

So…don’t let anyone tell you there’s nothing to do in Cleveland on a Friday night…or nothing good to eat!

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.