A preview of what’s happening in Fall 2010

As we said earlier, the Bistro goes on summer vacation starting August 29 — but when we get back after Labor Day, it’s going to be a busy fall for us! In addition to enjoying our food here at the restaurant, you’ll be able to find us at some terrific fundraising events.

The festivities begin with our appearance at the North Union Farmers Market’s first-ever Garlic Festival at Shaker Square September 11-12. This festival will be a celebration of everything there is to love about the humble but mighty garlic! On the 12th, from noon to 8 p.m., we’ll be among the local restaurants serving up delicious dishes featuring garlic — ours will be French-Fried Garlic Chips on Lobster Ravioli with Laughing Bird Caribbean White Shrimp, so you know it’s going to be amazing. (FYI, Laughing Bird is the only brand of shrimp that’s imported fresh into the United States. You can read a little more about them here.) The event will also feature artisans, farm representatives, and contests such as a grill-off, a bake-off, a competition with local bartenders (garlic martinis? who knows?), and much more. There will also be educational tents for children to learn about local food and farming. All proceeds will support North Union’s mission of championing local foods by connecting certified producers with consumers through their network of seven markets. For more information, watch the Market’s Web site.

If you love dogs, on September 19, you’ll want to look for us at the Muttsquerade Ball, from 5 to 9 p.m. at Moxie in Beachwood. The Muttsquerade Ball, a fundraiser for Dogs Unlimited Rescue, will be hosted by Fox 8 News in the Morning anchor Stefani Schaefer and feature live music by Cleveland legend Michael Stanley, a silent auction, and a magnificent spread of food from area restaurants. Our contribution to the feast will be Fall Corn Pudding with Pancetta and Sautéed Laughing Bird Shrimp. Tickets for this wonderful evening are $100 each, and all donations help Dogs Unlimited Rescue in its work of rescuing and rehabilitating abused and neglected dogs and placing them into permanent loving homes. For more information, visit Dogs Unlimited Rescue’s Web site.

On September 27, we’ll be at the American Liver Foundation Flavors of Northeast Ohio event, which takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Intercontinental Hotel on the main campus of the Cleveland Clinic. At this unique and creative culinary event, premier regional chefs (including us!) will each prepare, tableside, a signature five-course gourmet dinner, complete with wine pairings and distinctive décor, for a table of ten. Nowhere else can you witness firsthand culinary experts creating a menu personally for you! The event supports the American Liver Foundation’s mission to facilitate, advocate, and promote education, support, and research for the prevention, treatment, and cure of liver disease. To find out how you can experience the thrill of having Chef Ruth create a dinner designed especially for you and your table, visit this page.

You’ll also be able to find us on November 22 at the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction at Embassy Suites Cleveland Rockside from 5:30 to 9 p.m. This event gives you the opportunity to sample specialties from Northeast Ohio’s finest chefs (again, that would include us!) and varieties of fine wines from across the country while supporting the leading nonproft organization for pregnancy and baby health.

So, mark your calendars now — it may be a hot summer so far, but the events on our schedule will make it an even hotter fall for fans of the Bistro!

Join us for June’s Salute to Latin America and the Caribbean!

It’s summertime — time to celebrate the sunshine, and warm and sunny flavors. Here at the Bistro, that means we’re serving up a series of specials during the month of June based on the lively cuisine of Latin America and the Caribbean. We’re starting this week with a reprise of a terrific special we introduced a while back, Ropa Vieja.

Ropa vieja originated in Spain’s Canary Islands, then migrated to the New World and became a popular dish throughout the Caribbean islands. Deriving its name from the Spanish words for “old clothes,” it’s a concoction of shredded flank steak in tomato sauce that we prepare sous vide, so the seasonings permeate the tender meat, before combining it with bell peppers, onions, cumin, garlic, cilantro, tomato and jalapeño peppers. We’re serving it with jalapeño-cheddar corn pudding, accompanied by seasoned black beans topped with the Mexican cheese queso blanco. If you’ve enjoyed our Ropa Vieja before, you’ll be happy it’s back. If not, this is your chance!

Another new addition to our specials has a tropical flair: Halibut with a Tropical Fruit Barbecue Sauce. This tasty fish is served with corn pudding and fried plantain tostones.

The weather is fine and the food here at the Bistro will help you enjoy summer to the fullest! Keep watching this space for more additions to our June lineup of Latin American and Caribbean-style specials.

Pacific Coast Highway Wine Dinner: a refreshing trip!

The video for the Bistro’s Pacific Coast Highway Wine Dinner is ready for your review. As The Tenant, I again had a wonderful time sampling the food and wines the latest special event had to offer, courtesy of chefs Ruth Levine, Todd Mueller and Phyllis Prybor.

Things started off deliciously with “A Taste of Half Moon Bay”: Roasted Oysters with Bacon and Spinach. The oysters were plump and lightly briny with garlicky spinach in their pearly shells, and is there anything that doesn’t taste good with bacon? The accompanying wine was ’06 Evergreen Vineyards Spruce Goose Pinot Gris, from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, a light and fruity contrast.

Next it was off to “San Francisco Chinatown” with Asian-Inspired Medallions of Beef Tenderloin in a Hoisin-Soy Glaze and Fried Rice. Being the lover of Asian food that I am, I’d have to choose this as my favorite course. The ’06 Annabelle Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley served with it was lighter than I expected it to be, especially given its heady bouquet, which is fine with me. I thought it was just right for the food.

The third course was a true coastal cuisine classic: Cioppino, or Fisherman’s Stew, with Sourdough Toast in the San Francisco tradition. The tomato broth was rich with Alaskan halibut, mussels, clams, and shrimp. Our wine for this course was ’08 Michael Pozzan Russian River Chardonnay, which I found to be strong, heady, buttery rich yet dry, and nicely counteractive to the spiciness of the stew.

A crisp and cool salad course came next: Jicama-Carrot-Daikon Salad Brunoise of Melons in a Sesame Vinaigrette. It was an absolutely delicious slaw, dressed just right, and while I wouldn’t have expected it to be paired with a red, the red chosen for it really was a good choice: Kestrel Vintners Lady in Red from Yakima Valley, a smooth blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah.

Course number five was “L.A. à la Wolfgang Puck,” a tribute to Southern California cuisine and its light, fresh flavors: a Smoked Salmon & Arugula Pizzette Topped with Crème Fraîche and Chives. The bounty of the rooftop garden was already making itself known in this one! A more full-bodied wine arrived with this one: an ’09 Montoya Pinot Noir, with lots of depth and fruitiness.

Last but never least, the dessert course for this evening was a Panna Cotta with Mixed Berry Coulis. I’d never had a panna cotta before, and this dish, a kind of Italian pudding made with cream, milk, sugar, gelatin and a hint of lemon zest, was just delightful, especially topped by the zesty berry sauce. Combined with the tiny glasses of ’05 Norman Old Vine Zin Port, it made a fitting finish to the meal.

It was a great evening, and over the course of it the Bistro even celebrated a birthday or two. If this sounds like your kind of fun but you have yet to join us, be sure to sign up for “From Russia with Love,” a feast that will feature Russian champagnes and vodkas with each course, on June 23. You’ll love the food and you’ll learn a lot about what you drink — as well as having the opportunity to purchase some yourself. Don’t miss out!

Vegan Night is on!

And not only is Vegan Night on, but tonight you can enjoy a complete three-course vegan dinner at Bistro 185. For an appetizer, pictured above: a Flatbread Pizza based with whole wheat and flaxseed flatbread and topped with roasted zucchini, yellow squash, basil and garlic, topped with vegan Parmesan “cheese.” For your main course: a Mexican Stew rich with plantain, sweet potato, pineapple and Gardein “chicken.” For your dessert: a Roasted Banana “Cheese” Cake topped with pecans and maple-rum-agave syrup. From start to finish, we’ve got tastes to satisfy you at Bistro 185 tonight!

A flurry of activity going on now!

So much is happening here at the Bistro that it’s hard to even keep up with it all. To bring you up to date:

WINE TASTING TONIGHT: We’re having a special $10 wine tasting tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. with light hors d’oeuvres, featuring Vino Con Brio Wines: “Matzin” Old Vines Zinfandel, Vino Con Brio Pinot Grigio, Vino Con Brio Petit Sirah, Vino Con Brio “Late Harvest Matzin” and Old Vines Zinfandel. Availability is limited, so if you’re interested, call to reserve a spot.CHEF TODD SHOWS OFF HIS MUSSELS: This week’s new Chef Todd Special will be added tomorrow night. In the meantime Todd is continuing to offer specials from last week. One we hadn’t yet mentioned here (yes, he ultimately came up with three!): Mussels Provençal, steamed in garlic, white wine, roasted red pepper and tomato, flavored with roasted garlic cloves, parsley and scallions, served with thin spaghetti. Try this one for a hearty seafood-and-spaghetti dish!

WEDNESDAY NIGHT IS VEGAN NIGHT: This Wednesday, Bistro 185’s new featured Vegan Dinner Series entree of the evening will be Sundried Tomato Pesto with Tofu, Sauteed Vegetables and Vegan Parmesan over Pasta. Don’t miss this one!

IT’S SWEET TO TWEET: Also, if you take a look at the right column of this page, you’ll see our big news: Bistro 185 has joined Twitter! (We’ll be adding a similar widget to our Web site and Facebook pages shortly.) If you’re on Twitter, please add us to your Follow list; if you’re not there as yet, you can still follow us by searching for “Bistro185” on the Twitter Web site or just following our activity here and on our Web site and Facebook.

Twitter is the place to read our “short bites” on the latest on what’s happening at the Bistro, and also where you can take advantage of special time-sensitive offers available only to those paying attention to our tweets. So keep your eyes on us — it might just pay off! Also, we’d love to hear tweets back from you — did you enjoy your latest meal with us? What would you like to see on the menu in the future? What’s gone that you miss? Let us know!

Chef Todd throws us a change-up this week

You have to give credit to Chef Todd, because he’s really been busy this week coming up with fresh ideas for the specials menu. Yes, he has added Rum-Painted Grouper to our offerings (and for more details on that, check this blog later tonight), but he has created not one, but two, specials for this week. His other new special is Yogurt-Marinated Leg of Lamb, and it’s like the best gyro you’ve ever eaten, only without the pita bread. Slices of tender, perfectly cooked lamb cut right off the leg (not processed meat, like your typical gyro!), accompanied by circles of yellow and green squash sautéed in oil and garlic and a cool, refreshing raita sauce — a traditional Middle Eastern yogurt-based sauce. It is also served with a delicious timbale of rice seasoned with Middle Eastern spices, raisins and almonds. If you enjoy Greek and Middle Eastern-style food, this one is a must!

But we don’t want to give short shrift to the grouper, so keep posted here for a description of that dish. And if you have yet to try Todd’s Meyer Lemon Chicken Française with Basil Cherry-Tomato Arugula Salad and Potato Tostones, you still have a chance!

A few other notes from our specials menu: we’ve added the Lollipop Lamb Chop Milanese with Vegetable Barley Risotto that was so popular at our most recent “Spring Into Whites” wine dinner. And if you love Asian food, tonight, skip the Chinese restaurant and come here instead for our Asian Trio. It’s grilled beef, shrimp, chicken, potstickers, and tempura vegetables, served with three different dipping sauces: coconut curry, Asian peanut and spicy plum ginger.

Vegans! Remember that wonderful Massaman Curry we kicked off our Vegan Dinner Series with? It’s now on our specials menu, full of tofu, coconut and Thai-style veggies, served with brown rice. And of course, there are plenty of other great staples on the specials menu — ones you’ve come to know and love and ones you haven’t tried yet. So what are you waiting for? Plenty of pleasures await you at the Bistro right now!

Chef Todd Special of the Week: Greek-Style Stuffed Leg of Lamb

With Passover and Easter just over and spring coming into full bloom early this year thanks to all the warm weather, Chef Todd has come up with a truly seasonal dish using lamb as the centerpiece. His approach is to do the way the Greeks do and stuff a leg of lamb with some of their favorite accompaniments: kalamata olives, red and yellow peppers, feta cheese, roasted garlic and spinach. He’s cooking it using the sous vide method to maintain all the color, texture and flavor of both the lamb and its stuffing.

It’s a tasty triplet of flavors. At center plate: slices of tender lamb and savory stuffing. Circling it: a ring of rich and creamy barley risotto. Surrounding the risotto: a moat of delicious brown lamb gravy, flavored with a bit of carrot and whole garlic cloves roasted until they’re soft and sweet.

Try this dish on a warm night and you just may feel as if you’re spending an April evening on the coast of Greece!

This week’s Chef Todd Special: Meyer Lemon Chicken Française

If you’re a chicken dish lover, you owe it to yourself to try Chef Todd’s new special for this week, Meyer Lemon Chicken Française. It’s chicken battered in seasoned flour using a Dijon-mustard egg wash, pan-seared and topped with a sauce of Meyer lemon juice, shallots, chicken stock and butter. The tender, lightly breaded chicken cutlets are served with a cherry tomato salad tossed in a balsamic glaze with garlic and shallots, as well as crispy smashed fried potatoes to help soak up all that delicious buttery lemon sauce. (You should ask for bread too, though…in case there’s any sauce left on your plate.) Altogether, it’s delicious!

This week’s Chef Todd Special: Seafood Crêpes

Todd Mueller has cooked up another winner for this week’s Chef Todd Special: Shallot, Chive and Garlic Crêpes with Crab, Shrimp, Spinach, Artichokes and Lobster Sauce. What a seafood delight awaits you! You get three crêpes folded around tender, succulent crab meat, topped with shrimp, surrounded by artichokes and sautéed spinach, and doused in a rich, creamy lobster sauce. Come on in and treat yourself!

Night at the Oscars: Giant and Ropa Vieja

For our “Night at the Oscars” special entree Thursday through Saturday, we’re honoring the film that won the 1956 Academy Award for Best Directing for George Stevens, the widescreen saga Giant. This movie about the effects of the oil industry — and a fierce personal rivalry — on two Texas ranching families deserves a dish with flavors as big as the Lone Star State itself. And some of the best of those flavors come from the influences of Spanish cuisine on American food, from the Southwest with its Tex-Mex cuisine to Miami and its Cuban, Caribbean and Canary Islands influences. Our entree is actually an example that originates in the Canaries, but which we’re treating with a Southwestern flair: ropa vieja.

Ropa vieja gets its name from the Spanish words for “old clothes,” possibly because of its “torn-up” look. But this concoction of shredded flank steak in tomato sauce tastes nothing like the laundry! We made ours by giving the steak the sous vide treatment overnight, heating it slowly in vacuum-sealed plastic with Southwestern seasoning to imbue it with plenty of tenderness and flavor. Then we combined it with bell peppers, onions, cumin, garlic, cilantro, tomato and jalapeño peppers to make it dance on your tongue even more. We’re serving it on a bed of corn pudding, accompanied by black beans prepared Southwestern style and topped with the Mexican cheese queso blanco. There’s freshly prepared pico de gallo sauce including chopped tomatoes, onions, chiles, lime juice and cilantro nestled in between the two. And we’re even adding freshly fried-up chicken empanadas for a finishing touch.

James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor never had it so good down on the ranch as you can have your dinner at Bistro 185 tonight. So come see us and enjoy a dish that will satisfy even a (wait for it) giant appetite. Olé!