Back by popular demand: CLAMBAKE November 18!

When you’ve got something good, why end it too soon? True, it’s getting colder and snow is even on the ground in some places, but that doesn’t have to mean clambake season is over in Cleveland, where the response to our Bistro clambake was so huge we’re going to do it again by popular demand!

On Friday, November 18, from 5 to 9:30 p.m., you’ll be able to enjoy one last hurrah of beach-style cuisine with our encore Lobster Clambake. At $49.50 per person, this feast includes a 1¼-pound whole steamed lobster, a dozen clams, one-quarter of a barbecued chicken, chowder, cornbread, a roasted sweet potato and slaw.

Our encore clambake is again by prepaid reservation only, so call 216.481.9635 now to make sure you get your share! We’ve got a whole lot of winter coming up…plan now to get your last taste of clambake goodness!

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This was a real nice clambake…

…and we all had a real good time! From Manhattan chowder to clams to lobster to chicken to corn to sweet potatoes, a true fall feast! Once again, thanks for making this one a sellout!

A toast to another top-notch Champagne Dinner!

Hi! The Tenant is back, and, along with Ruth and Marc, hoping you have had a wonderful holiday season so far. They have asked me to remind you that they’ll be open tonight for New Year’s Eve and open tomorrow night, New Year’s Day, for dinner, so you can put a nice cap on your holiday season fun. Are your out-of-town guests heading for home soon? Bring them to the Bistro for a nice New Year’s dinner. Then kick back, relax, and enjoy life returning to normal!

Now, about the Champagne Dinner last Tuesday…I’m not shy to tell you, after having suffered from a dragging-on illness last winter that kept me from being able to attend last year’s Champagne Dinner, I was really looking forward to this one. I had seen the pictures of last year’s, and they were mouthwatering enough to make my soul ache. So this was a Bistro dinner not to be missed for me — and apparently also not for a lot of other people, as the entire “restaurant side” of the Bistro was filled with this sellout dinner group. If you couldn’t make it, though, or didn’t reserve soon enough to get a spot, at least you’ll know what you missed. (This review might even give you a few ideas if you’re still looking for a good champagne to uncork tonight.)

The first course took no time setting the tone for an incredible meal. The Herbed Crêpe with Salmon Caviar, House-Cured Gravlax, Crème Fraiche and Poached Asparagus kicked things off excellently. It was an amazing combination of gentle, paper-thin crêpe, savory gravlax, slightly salty caviar, and dairy-fresh cream. The asparagus was just unbelievable in flavor…it tasted as fresh as if it had been picked off the roof in springtime. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that fresh-tasting a vegetable out of season. The champagne with this course was also especially fine, Lamarca Prosecco. An Italian wine produced champenoise style every few months, and subjected to a panel review before being released (!), it has a just slightly sweet touch, but not excessively so. Not only that, but it’s an incredible deal, usually available for between $13 and $15 a bottle. Our wine rep of the evening, Greg Webster of Wine Trends, also advised us that it makes great mimosas, so if you’d rather have New Year’s brunch than a New Year’s toast, it’s a fine choice for that as well.

Chef Ruth really got to show off one of her favorite kinds of dishes to prepare in the second course, Duck Three Ways. I’ve heard her and Marc describe this kind of dish to me before, but I’ve never actually had the chance to enjoy it. At center plate: tender, rosy, gently fat-ringed slices of seared duck breast, topped with a delicious mango chutney. At one side, a hearty slice of duck pâté, rich with nuts and savory spice, dressed with a dollop of French grainy mustard. (I love the Bistro’s pâtés. One of my sisters and I have joked that if the liverwurst sandwiches our mother used to pack for our school lunches had only been made like this, we would have enjoyed them much more.) On the other side of the duck breast, a duck confit — tender leg of duck cooked in its own fat to fall-off-the-bone tenderness, then crisped and caramelized in a balsamic ginger glaze. Sounds good just reading about it, no? Oh, it is. The champagne for this course was Domaine des Baumard Brut Cremant Carte Turquoise, a Loire Valley pick that is drier than the Lamarca and well suited to this sweeter dish. It is also not a pricey selection, either!

It was time for the salad course, but this was honestly like no salad I’ve ever had before; it was on another plane. Marc had told me earlier that the basis of this Caesar salad was grilled Romaine lettuce. “Grilled?” I asked. I’ve heard of and enjoyed many kinds of vegetables being grilled, even fruits, to caramelize them and add a crispy texture, but this was the first time I’d ever heard of anyone grilling salad lettuce. Well, they grilled it, and it’s absolutely incredible. Each serving of salad consisted of grilled Romaine leaves topped with Caesar dressing and a shower of Parmesan shavings; four escargot shells, each containing a former resident sautéed to perfection in butter, garlic, and parsley (we had to tease the little devils out with canapé toothpicks); thin, grilled slices of baguette; and garlic cloves roasted until sweet and soft enough to spread on the baguette slices. Remove an escargot from its shell, place it atop the baguette slice smeared with garlic, and take a bite…ahh, perfection! Oh, and then take a sip from your glass of Casteller Cava Penedes, a Spanish sparkler even drier than the second champagne, but still lovely and not so astringent as to get puckery. It just danced on my tongue.

Course number four was a tender, savory chop from Australian aged rack of lamb, cooked perfectly with a crackly skin outside, topped with a rosemary-mint demi-glace that went just as well with the unbelievable Potatoes Anna as with the meat itself. The paper-thin-sliced potatoes were creamy and baked just enough to form the perfect crispy brown crust on top. The champagne for this course was a Laetitia Brut Cuvée, a blended sparkling white that was probably the driest of all we enjoyed. I’m not any more crazy about extreme dryness in wine than I am in too much sweetness, but this one didn’t go overboard and I liked it as much as the others.

Then came course five. To my mind, they were all great, but this was the one that had people around me moaning with pleasure and saying it just has to go on the specials menu. The Seafood Waffle Topped with Lobster-Shrimp-Crab Imperial sounds simple, and it is — but oh, how good! Each serving included one quarter of a round Belgian waffle made with a savory herbed batter; an absolutely huge, split, freshwater flame-grilled scampi shrimp; and a butter-soaked cream sauce studded generously with tender chunks of lobster, Laughing Bird shrimp, and crab. You may recall that a while ago Marc and Ruth explained that Laughing Bird is a brand of Caribbean white shrimp farmed in Belize, raised in filtered sea water, fed a vegetarian diet, never treated with additives or sulfites, and sold fresh. The end result is a shrimp that’s wonderfully succulent and sweet. As for the scampi shrimp, it was so big, plump, and sweet that some of my fellow diners mistook it for a lobster tail. It was that delicious! Along with it we were served Champagne Delamotte, a “capital-C Champagne” in that it’s from the actual region. It was a nicely dry complement to the rich, creamy, buttery seafood dish.

The meal came to a simple but delightful conclusion with a heavenly Chocolate Lava Cake (with the classic crusty exterior/liquid interior) on a bed of strawberry coulis, garnished with blackberries and topped with a generous snowfall of powdered sugar. With it, the only rose wine of the evening, Patrick Bottex Vin du Bugey-Cerdon, also the only one we were served in coupes rather than flutes. It was the fruitiest wine of the evening, but still not excessively sweet…just right.

The verdict: if you missed this dinner, oh dear…too bad, because you missed out on some amazing dishes and champagnes whose goodness is hard to express in mere words! You can, however, console yourself a bit by making a New Year’s resolution not to miss the next Bistro special dinner. This one’s going to be a post-Valentine’s Day fête that just might make an excellent gift for that special someone…the Chocolate Dinner, Wednesday, February 16, 2011. Don’t wait until the last minute, because this one is likely to be another sellout…call now at 216.481.9635 and make your reservations! Happy New Year!

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this blog confused the scampi shrimp with the Laughing Bird shrimp, which actually stay small but are especially sweet and tasty and were included in the seafood sauce.

Champagne Dinner menu is set!

Get your tastebuds prepared, because the menu and list of accompanying champagnes for our December 28 Champagne Dinner is ready!

First Course
Herbed Crepe with Salmon Caviar and Lemon-Tarragon Sabayon
House Cured Gravlax with Creme Fraiche
Poached Asparagus
Champagne: Lamarca Prosseco

Second Course
Duck 3 Ways: Seared Duck Breast, Duck Pate, Duck Confit
Champagne: Domaine des Baumard Brut Cremant Carte Turquoise

Third Course
Grilled Caesar Salad with Escargot and Slow-Roasted Garlic
Champagne: Casteller-Cava-Penedes

Fourth Course
Australian Aged Rack of Lamb with Rosemary-Mint Demi-Glace
Potatoes Anna
Champagne: Laetitia Brut Rose

Fifth Course
Seafood Waffle Topped with Lobster-Shrimp-Crab Imperial
Champagne: Champagne Delamotte

Sixth Course
Chocolate Lava Cake with Raspberry Coulis
Champagne: Paringa Sparkling Shiraz

If you’re a lover of fine food and great champagne, this is the ideal way to ring in the New Year early–away from the noise and crowds, in a nice, peaceful, civilized celebration. And wouldn’t it make the ideal holiday gift for someone special in your life?

Cost of the dinner is $75 plus tax and gratuity. We start at 6:30 sharp, serving up six courses of fabulous dishes and bountiful bubbly. Make your reservation at 216.481.9635 today!

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!

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!

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!

Passport to Romance Wine Dinner

Enjoy the latest video from Bistro 185, our Passport to Romance Wine Dinner Monday night:

Hi! The Tenant is back again, to tell you the Passport to Romance Wine Dinner was a great opportunity for me to fall in love…with a variety of very special wines, all while being romanced by Chef Ruth’s wonderful cuisine. All who attended would likely agree with me that it was a match made in heaven!

We started out with a Seared Day Boat Scallop with Citrus Beurre Blanc surrounded by a Brunoise of Tropical Fruit. If you know how perfectly Ruth cooks scallops, I don’t need to tell you how delicious this was, but it was really special with the unusual and sweet tropical fruit treatment. The wine was Concerto Moscato D’Asti, a sparkling, delightfully fruity Italian wine that seemed tailored perfectly to the dish.

The second course, smoked duck breast atop a potato pancake and glazed with cherry sauce, was richer and the Robert Oatley Shiraz that accompanied it was a deep, full-bodied Australian red that stood up to the dish without overpowering it. Its black licorice notes beautifully echoed the anise flavoring in the cherry sauce.

Course three was a frisee and arugula salad topped by a corn-crusted fried oyster and dressed in a citrus vinaigrette. This light course, highlighted by the contrast between the crispy exterior and silky interior of the oyster, was just right for the Freixenet Elyssia Cava Brut, a dry sparkling Spanish white.

The fourth course was a return to more robust flavor: beef filet with tomato confit and sautéed spinach on grilled garlic bruschetta. I cannot overstate the tenderness of this beef with its light, slightly sweet tomato sauce. The John Robert Eppler Napa Cabernet Sauvignon was the ideal “beef course” red wine, exuding a heady rich perfume that meets the nose long before its taste meets the tongue.

Ruth’s fifth course was a sweet little lobster pot pie in a tiny ramekin, in a rich cream sauce topped by phyllo pastry. The Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008 served as a great palate cleanser and appetite stimulator following the richness of the beef course, and was a fine complement to the creamy sauce. (Wine lovers may be surprised to learn that this New Zealand selection is sealed with a screw cap. Don’t let that fool you — it’s a high-quality wine and the cap ensures its freshness.)

At last came the dessert course, a magnificent orange crème brulée and assorted other desserts. The crème brulée was served in cups made from scooped-out orange halves, and it was so delicious it made me wish you could grow trees from which you could pick oranges and peel them to find a crème brulée filling inside! My other desserts included a chocolate truffle and a tasty kind of cake made with pears. The wine served with dessert was Château Tertre du Lys d’Or Sauternes, a sweet Bordeaux wine full of fruity and spicy flavor. Our wine experts for the evening, Scott Turman and Steve Tyree, assured us that this kind of wine truly gets better with age — you can keep it for decades and it will only become richer and more flavorful. “When you drink this,” they said, “you are drinking history.”

This was a truly rewarding evening for every lover of good food and wine. Kudos to Scott, Steve, Ruth and the entire terrific Bistro 185 staff for creating another magical dining experience!

It’s party time!

No, we’re not talking about tomorrow’s football game. We’re talking about tonight! It’s Bistro 185’s fourth anniversary — and as you can see, we’re ready to celebrate in style.

We never could have made it this far without you, our patrons who have so enjoyed themselves here and have returned again and again to tell us so. Please join us for dinner tonight and help us celebrate by enjoying a complimentary glass of champagne and taking home a slice of our anniversary cake!

As always, we’ve got fantastic specials to tempt your tastebuds. Such as our Argentina Style Beef Tenderloin Filet with Chimichurri Sauce, Cilantro and Lime-Marinated Shrimp with an Arepa and Sweet Potato Tostone and Yellow Rice; our Bistro 185 Fish Fry, starring day boat scallops, shrimp and cod in a cornmeal batter with remoulade sauce and sweet potato fries; our Rack of Lamb with Roasted Red Pepper Orzo Risotto; and our 12-ounce Long Bone Veal Chop with Shiitake Mushroom-Marsala Sauce and Wild Mushroom Tortellini. Or go with a classic or an old favorite; we’ve still got dishes you know and love, from the Four Cheese Mac & Cheese with Smoked Chicken to the Chicken Schnitzel to the Lobster Ravioli to our own Boeuf Bourguignon. Whatever you choose, it’ll make for a happy celebration!

So stop on by, wish us a Happy Anniversary and join in the champagne toast. With the support of you, our friends, we hope to enjoy many more years of serving exciting, creative and delicious bistro cuisine.