July barbecues coming your way…and more!

It’s as if there’s something deep inside us — especially those of us forced to spend so much time indoors during the winter — that calls to us when summertime hits and compels us to start a fire and throw something on the grill until it gets really crispy, juicy and tasty. At Bistro 185, we’re no different. That’s why July is going to be Barbecue Month in terms of our special dinners — even the vegan one!

We actually start out with the Vegan Barbecue, on Thursday, July 14. This will be another 3-for-$30 special, featuring Grilled Caesar Salad as the appetizer. The main course will be Smoked and Grilled Tofu Glazed with a Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Barbecue Sauce, Grilled Corn and Pinto Bean Succotash with Roasted Sweet Potato and Jalapeno Cornbread. We’ll top it off with Strawberry Shortcake for dessert.

The following week, it will be time for the meat eaters to gather ’round. On Wednesday, July 20 at 6:30, the Bistro will celebrate south-of-the-border spice with a five-course Latin American Barbecue Dinner. This $60 feast will feature the following courses paired with the following wines and other beverages:

Opening Beverage
Marc’s Special Sangria

First Course
Shrimp Ceviche
Beverage: Caipirinha

Second Course
Smoked Chicken Empanada
Brazilian Black Beans
Beverage:
Lo Tengo Torrontes

Third  Course
South American Style Jicama-Orange-Avocado Salad with Chili-Lime Vinaigrette
Beverage: Vinho Verde

Fourth Course
Argentinian Grilled Flatiron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Plantain Chutney
Peruvian Corn Pudding
Beverage: Guentota Malbec

Fifth Course
Quesillo de Coco: Venezuelan Coconut Flan
Beverage: Pisco-Rita

You will want to be in your seat for this exciting fiesta, so call and make your prepaid reservations now at 216.481.9635.

Is this all we’ve got planned for special fun this summer? Not quite. In August we celebrate locally grown food with our special dinners…but aside from even that, we’ve got some tricks up our sleeve that we’ll be revealing soon. Watch this space for more details to be announced!

Ay, caramba! We had a great Tequila Dinner!

The Tenant is back, and you’re going to have to make do with me for a while, because Ruth and Marc are going off on a well-deserved vacation. But they’ve entrusted me to write another of my reviews, this one of Wednesday’s Tequila Dinner. At this event, we were able to enjoy some of the many distilled forms of the blue agave plant, which is a succulent plant related to lilies — not a cactus, as some think. It’s been cultivated for many thousands of years, and people have been making tequila from it for quite a long time! We got to taste a few products of that experience.

Things got off to a rousing start with the combination of a Shrimp Tamale and two paired glasses on our tables: one of fresh pickle juice and one of Tierra Organic Blanco Tequila. Tierra is the only organic tequila sold in the United States, and blanco tequila is 100% agave tequila, unaged and untreated with additives. The contrast of the tart pickle juice with this slightly sweet tequila was a tastebud-tingler. So was the tamale, a combination of shrimp, plantain, cornmeal mush (with many tasty spicings and flavorings, including fresh cilantro and lime) served in a corn husk.

The second course was ropa vieja — shredded beef brisket cooked for 24 hours in a bath of Tex-Mex seasonings, seated atop jalapeño corn pudding, and topped with refreshing sour cream. But before it arrived, we were able to get a start on the accompanying tequila drink, an intriguing iced latte of Kahlua and Mexican chocolate known as a “Daring Dylan.” This drink, which I could enjoy as a substitute for chocolate milk any day of the week, featured Don Julio Anejo Tequila (aged in oak at least one year) and was rimmed with a very Mexican flavor combination of cocoa and cinnamon. OK, I admit it: the rim tasted so good, I licked it off!

You’d think the second course of a meal would be an odd place for a chocolate drink to be served, but the Daring Dylan was actually an excellent complement that helped cool the spicy-hot ropa vieja on the palate.

Next came another hearty dish, House-Made Black-Bean, Goat Cheese and Poblano Ravioli. These large, fairly flat ravioli were full of rich flavor from the beans, cheese, and poblano peppers, and sauced with a delicious roasted red pepper sauce streaked with cream. The tequila for this course was a powerful, pungent Don Julio Repasado (100% agave, stored in oak between two months and a year).

Following the intense flavors of this course came some gentle, cooling refreshment. Normally this point of a meal features a salad course, but this one was a little different: Chef Ruth had prepared three different kinds of guacamole. We each had a scoop of traditional guacamole made with avocados, a scoop of sweet and fresh guacamole made with mangoes, and a tart and tangy guacamole made with Marc’s smoked trout. The guacamoles were served with long fried plantain chips atop a bed of carrot and jicama slaw. These were very tasty; I thought the contrasting flavors of the mango and trout varieties were a fun and out-of-the-ordinary twist on the theme. The refreshment continued in the drink served with this course, a Mexican Mojito made with Don Julio Blanco Tequila, spiked with plenty of fresh rooftop-garden mint. Yum!

By this time, though, my eyes were getting bigger than my stomach. I had to have my fifth course, the Seafood Vera Cruz, packed up to go. But that was fine, because I had an absolutely wonderful lunch of it the next day! If anything, the seafood stew, rich with fish, mussels, shrimp and grilled scallop, full of peppers and onions and served over a timbale of saffron rice, tasted even better with the broth aging that extra day for the flavors to marry even more. Utterly delicious. The Tierras Organic Repasado tequila served with it was fiery and intense.

Somehow, even packing up the stew, I found room for the dessert course that night. And was it ever wonderful: tiny chocolate cups of margarita sorbet — like the most concentrated form of margarita slush you’ve ever had — along with smooth, soothing caramel flan and a fantastic churro, or Spanish fried doughnut stick, dipped deeply in molten chocolate. Mmmm-mmm! And the final drink was something special, too: a “Frisky Surprise” featuring Tierra Organic Anejo tequila. This slushy fruit drink was served in tall glasses with an orange slice, and was a refreshing and unusual treat.

So, it was another success for a Bistro 185 special dinner evening — but if you think this one was good, what Ruth and Marc (especially Ruth) are cooking up for October is really going to amaze you. Be sure not to be late signing up for it, because it’s going to be a dinner with a bit of a Halloween-style theme like you’ve never seen or tasted before. What is it? You’ll have to wait a little longer to find out. But watch this space — soon you’ll know!

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.

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!

Ruth Levine Events caters a wedding

In early September, Ruth had the opportunity to create a very special catered menu for a highly special occasion: the wedding of our son Ari.

She wanted to create a wedding feast that would reflect the South American heritage of his bride, Ursula. With that type of cuisine in mind, here was the menu she devised:

Baby Lamb Chops with Curry Mojo Glaze

Seviche on Spoon

Tequeños

Chilean Sea Bass with Platano Maduro Frito (Fried Sweet Plantains)

Arepa with Roasted Corn Salsa

Mache and Baby Sprouts and Greens with Brunois of Mango, Papaya, Strawberry and Corn Nuts with Broken Sherry Vinaigrette

Black Bean, Goat Cheese, Roasted Pablano and Jalapeño in Saffron Ravioli with Spicy Tomato and Crème Fraiche Sauce and Annatto Oil Drizzle

Mojito and Pineapple-Basil Sorbet

South African Mini Lobster Tail with Hollandaise Sauce and Tomato-Basil Concasse

Black Truffle Risotto with Herb Paste and Sautéed Shrimp

Cuban Black Beans and Rice for Table

Pan Cubano and Medianoche Breads

Guava Cheesecake

Dulce Con Leche Crêpes with Sautéed Apple

Croque en Bouche

Not all these dishes may be familiar to you, so here’s a glossary:

Seviche — raw fish marinated in lime or lemon juice, often with oil, onions, peppers and seasonings, and served especially as an appetizer

Tequeños — fried breadsticks formed by wrapping dough around queso blanco; a popular appetizer in Venezuela, especially at weddings

Arepa — a bread made of corn, originating in the northern Andes, similar to a tortilla

Mache — a salad green with a mild, lettuce-like flavor

Brunois — a very small dice

Annatto oil — a dark red-orange oil made by infusing an oil with annatto (achiote) seeds, used in South American cooking

Pan Cubano — A Cuban type of bread, with a distinctive taste created by its starter and enriched with lard that creates a smooth texture

Medianoche bread — A sweet, eggy type of bread roll, the type used to make a smaller version of the “Cuban sandwich” known as the “midnight special” (that’s another story)

Croque en bouche — a tower of tiny cream puffs, glued together by a caramel glaze and drizzled with the glaze (ours had a large cake as a base)

Here are some pictures, courtesy of our son Zachary:
Black Bean Ravioli with Tomato SalsaLobsterTail with Corn Pudding and Hollandaise SauceMojito and Basil-Pineapple SorbetBlack Truffle Risotto with ShrimpCroque en BoucheOne of the nicest things about this wedding was, of course, was that we got to enjoy playing the exalted role of Parents of the Groom. Here we are in a position you don’t often see us: relaxing and enjoying our own food, right along with everyone else.

Ruth and Marc at Ari's Wedding DinnerThe ceremony was held in our backyard in Pepper Pike, and the lovely late summer weather helped create a magical setting for the perfect wedding and a lovely and intimate wedding dinner.

If you have an event like a small, intimate wedding coming up in your future — or want to plan something special for the holidays (sorry we can’t provide weather like this for that!) — we invite you to find out what Ruth can do for you. Visit the Ruth Levine Events Web site and call 216.404.0500 or send her an email to set your plans in motion.

Here’s the beef…and it’s delicious

JuliaProject916This is what Filets of Beef in Pasilla Chile Sauce looks like when we’re done with it. Our chile sauce includes Cuban black beans, cooked in a sofrito of onions, tomato, garlic and peppers, added to the pasilla-poblano-chipotle combo that serves as the mail flavoring. After the seared beef medallions are cooked in this sauce, it’s topped with a fresh avocado salsa and queso fresco. To the left, you can see the ravioli, made with saffron pasta with a stuffing of goat cheese and black beans with a touch of roasted jalapeño and poblano chiles, topped with a creamy corn sauce. Garnished with grape tomatoes, a few plantain slices and a sprinkling of parsley, this is a truly incredible dish, a marriage of flavors from spicy to creamy to sweet that just dances on your tongue. Try it — you won’t forget it!

A great combination of creamy and spicy

That’s my Tenant verdict on the Julia Project dish of the day. The scallops are seared just right, with a little touch of golden brown — tender and soft. The risotto and the green sauce blended into it manage together to combine gentle creaminess and spiciness. You can really taste the earthy mushrooms, and the tang of the tomatillos and jalapeños lingers on your tongue a little, but is softened by the rest of the flavors. They changed things up a bit on us! Rather than topping it with a tomato salsa, Chef Todd and crew went with a grilled corn salsa instead, which turned out to be just right; it adds a little crunch and sweetness to what is in every other way a pretty soft and smooth-textured dish. Another bonus was a little spoonful of that salmon caviar they were talking about the other day. This has a saltier, fishier flavor and is a good contrast to the more subtle flavor of the scallops.

This is definitely a dish I would recommend to seafood and scallop lovers, especially if you’ve eaten lots of scallops-in-a-creamy-buttery-sauce dishes (often with cheese) and would like to try something a little different.