“OPA!” dinner was something to cheer about!

OK, The Tenant is a little embarrassed. Something happened to me and I forgot the “OPA!” dinner was Wednesday of this week, not Thursday. Where my head went, I don’t know. Luckily, however, I didn’t miss it, because it would have been a shame to miss out on all this divine Greek cuisine and wine. If you were there too, you know that spirits were high at this dinner and for a good reason: it not only had those components, but an extra touch of Greek ambiance provided by both traditional and nontraditional Greek music on the stringed instrument known as the bouzouki. It was enough to make anyone wish the Bistro was big enough to accommodate a dance floor!

Things started out on a classic note with the serving of Lamb Keftede with Tzatziki Sauce, sitting on a bed of greens. Keftedes are Greek meatballs, made with bulgur, and ground lamb is a traditional meat used in them. These keftedes had a delightfully crunchy fried outside and tender, meaty, spicy interior with a hint of mint. The yogurt sauce atop them was a cool and tasty complement. This course was paired with Nemea ’05, a light-bodied red wine with touches of plum and cherry.

Next came a frequent feature of Greek cuisine, a fish course. This one was presented as Sea Bass in the Style of Corfu, which meant we received a perfectly cooked slice of sea bass surrounded by the most tender and buttery roasted vegetables you can imagine. Artichokes, tiny potatoes, and Greek olives were accented with lemon, rosemary, and garlic cloves roasted to pure sweetness. The wine partner for this one was Moschofilero ’09, a white wine made from an aromatic Greek grape that I found smooth and airy, a good wine for the fish.

The salad course followed, and this salad was definitely not the same old mix of greens. The Greek Village Salad was a mixture of marinated chunks and slices of cucumber, red and yellow pepper, grape tomatoes, feta cheese and Greek olives. Each serving was topped with a dolmade, the classic Greek cabbage-roll-like concoction of rolled grape leaves stuffed with rice, and accompanied by a slice of freshly baked and grilled pita bread. The astringent, slightly minty salad was a refreshing change of pace, especially with the Santorini ’06, a dry and fragrant wine made from grapes described to us as being especially suited for the volcanic, ashy soil, hot sun and breeze off the Aegean Sea where they are grown. You can even taste a hint of the soil’s ashiness and minerality in the wine, if you pay close attention.

The next dish was one of the more familiar Greek dishes: spanakopita, the traditional phyllo-dough creation filled with feta cheese and spinach. Chef Ruth added a special touch to this one, though, by including chicken in the filling and saucing it with a dill-lemon beurre blanc that was simply heavenly. It was savory and yet slightly sweet, just perfect. The wine alongside was a Merlot-Xinomavro blend, a marriage of familiar Merlot with one of Greece’s principal red wine grapes that makes for a wine with a deep, full body and a great deal of warmth.

Course number five was Shrimp Santorini: a concoction of two plump, spicy shrimp in a sauce of tomatoes, feta cheese, peppers and onions topping a tender bed of orzo, the small ricelike pasta. This was an especially savory and amazing combination with a slight licorice or anise hint from the ouzo blended into the sauce. The traditional Greek liqueur gave it just the tiniest kick. Our wine for this course was Naoussa ’04, from the same Macedonian region as Xinomavro, another red but lighter than the Merlot-Xinomavro blend.

The evening came to a finish with a dessert course that reflected Chef Ruth’s sense of imagination. It has often seemed to me that all Greek desserts consist of only three different ingredients: wheat (as phyllo dough or shredded wheat), nuts, and honey, but this presentation was just a little different. The Phyllo Nests with Fresh Berries and Honey-Infused Crème Fraîche were a nice variation on the traditional, as was the very tiny — and very delicious — Caramelized Pistachio, Walnut, and Almond Tartlet in a miniature phyllo cup. With this course came Metaxa Brandy, which provides a warm glow indeed to finish off the meal.

Everyone seemed to be truly getting into the spirit of this event and enjoying the special atmosphere provided by the musical stylings of Abe “Dr. Bouzouki” Anderson, who has been playing the instrument since he was 11 years old. The good doctor, born in Australia but now living in Euclid, boasts quite the repertoire, much of which we had the opportunity to enjoy. In addition to the songs you expect to hear from a Greek musician — “Zorba the Greek,” “Never on Sunday” and such — he plays a mean Hava Nagila, and can segue from that to “Turkey in the Straw” without missing a beat. From The Godfather to Fiddler on the Roof, he seems to do it all! To hear him in action, check out his YouTube channel, or go see him with his band, Orion Express. He regularly plays the Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Festival on Mayfield Road in August, so if this dinner whetted your appetite for more Greek food and music, you can go there to hear more of him as part of a group. He seemed to have as good a time playing for us as we did listening to his music.

Once again, the Bistro served up a dinner unlike all the rest, with a selection of flavors to which we could respond only one way: “OPA!” Which, as Dr. Bouzouki helpfully pointed out to us, is Greek for “Yee-ha!” Don’t miss what’s on tap for May: watch this space for more information on the Sake Dinner!

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“OPA!” Greek Wine Dinner menu is here!

There’s so much going on at the Bistro this month it may seem hard to catch your breath. And indeed, the menu we’ve got planned for the “OPA!” Greek Wine Dinner on Wednesday, April 27, may just take away what breath you have left! Plan to be here for this culinary visit to the Greek Isles:

First Course
Lamb Keftede with Tzatziki Sauce
Wine: Santorini ’06

Second Course
Sea Bass in the Style of Corfu
with Artichokes, Lemon, Potatoes, Greek Olives, Oregano, Rosemary,
and Garlic
Wine: Moschofilero ’09

Third Course
Greek Village Salad with Pita Bread
Wine: Merlot Xinomavro ’09

Fourth Course
Chicken and Spinach Spanakopita with Dill-Lemon Beurre Blanc
Wine: Naoussa ’04

Fifth Course
Shrimp Santorini: Shrimp, Tomatoes, Feta Cheese, Orzo, and Ouzo
Wine: Nemea ’05

Sixth Course
Phyllo Nests with Fresh Berries and Honey-Infused Crème Fraîche
Caramelized Pistachio, Walnut, and Almond Tartlet
Wine: Metaxa Brandy

The “OPA!” dinner is $65 per person plus tax and gratuity. Doesn’t just reading about it make you feel like doing Zorba’s dance? Call 216.481.9635 to reserve your spot. We won’t be smashing any plates at the Bistro, but this Greek feast will be plate-smashing good!

Get out your calendars! We’ve got months of fun planned for you!

We hesitate to say anything too soon, but it seems that maybe the weather is actually starting to act like spring (even if that means rain instead of snow). Can warm, sunny weather be far behind? We hope not. But whatever the weather, we’ve got some amazing events planned at Bistro 185 that will keep you enjoying fantastic food and inspirational spirits all spring and summer long.

We’re kicking off the fun this month with three events sure to make your April fly by. First of all, our next Vegan Dinner is already set for Wednesday, April 20. In keeping with our around-the-world theme, this 3-for-$30 dinner will whisk you off to “A Night in Paris.” This will be French cuisine the way Julia Child never imagined it! The very next evening will be a treat for martini lovers. Our Thursday, April 21 Martini Tasting with Hors D’Oeuvres, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at $40 per person, will introduce you to some incredible bar-side concoctions. And wrapping up the month, our Wednesday, April 27 Wine Dinner, “OPA!,” will spirit you off to the Greek Isles with six courses of Greece-inspired cuisine and wine pairings for $65 per person. Much less expensive than a Greek cruise, and the food will be just as tasty!

You might call our month of May “Asian Month,” even “Sake Month.” We’re planning two different multi-course Sake Dinners: a Vegan Sake Dinner Wednesday, May 18, offering five courses of Asian-inspired vegan cuisine paired with five vegan sakes for $60 per person, and a non-vegan Sake Dinner Wednesday, May 25, pairing six courses of Asian-inspired cuisine with six sakes for $75 per person. This food and drink will be just right for fresh springtime eating.

On Thursday, June 16, we’ll be going back to our 3-for-$30 Vegan Night dinner offering with a menu we’re calling “Hello Summer.” That’s all we’re going to divulge about it right now; keep watching for details! Wednesday, June 22, will see us presenting our “Hello Summer” White Wine Dinner: five delicious courses paired with five summery white wines for $60 per person.

In July, we’ll be celebrating Bar-B-Que Month, so if you didn’t get your fill at your 4th of July cookout, no need to worry–we’ll satisfy your cravings for delicious Q…vegans too! Thursday, July 14, we’ll serve up a Vegan Bar-B-Que 3-for-$30 special, while for the non-vegans Wednesday, July 20, we’ll feature a Bar-B-Que with a Latin American flair: five courses and five wine pairings for $60. Ole!

Locavores rejoice! Our cuisine theme for August celebrates our brief but precious market growing season by featuring the bounty of local farmers’ markets. We kick off Wednesday, August 17, with a Vegan 3-for-$30 “From Farm to Table” dinner, followed on Wednesday, August 24, by a Farmer’s Market Wine Dinner featuring five courses of all-local, all-organic cuisine paired with five organic Lorello Winery wines for $65 per person. Of course, this one, like much of our spring and summer cuisine, will include THE most local food we can serve: produce from our rooftop garden! It just doesn’t get fresher than that!

Finally, we’ll wrap up a summer season of fantastic food and drink with a bit of fun. Did you know that Monday, September 19, is International Talk Like a Pirate Day? Arrrh! If ye didn’t know before, mateys, ye know now! So shiver me timbers, we’ll be celebratin’ with a spirits tastin’ of–what else–rum! Our Rum Tasting will cost 40 gold doubloons (or dollars, if you lack doubloons) and feature hors d’ouevres to satisfy ye hearties’ appetites.

Be sure to mark your calendars and set your reminder alarms, because you won’t want to miss any of the Bistro 185 fun this spring and summer! You can start now by calling 216.481.9635 to reserve for the Vegan Dinner, Martini Tasting, and “OPA!” Wine Dinner. Also, keep watching this space for more details as we draw closer to the events!

STILL WANT TO LEARN HOW TO COOK LIKE CHEF TODD?: You’ve got more chances coming up! First, Todd will present an “April in Paris” cooking lesson this Sunday, April 10, teaching you how to prepare an entire menu of springtime French bistro-style classics. Then, on May 15, his “Small Sweets” class will give you hands-on experience in creating classic French sweet treats. Both classes will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. at Sur la Table Woodmere, 28819 Chagrin Boulevard at Eton; tuition is $65 for “April in Paris” and $69 for “Small Sweets.” Call to reserve your place now at 800.243.0852. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to study French cuisine with a Paris-trained chef!

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!