21st Amendment Beer Dinner brewed up a delicious evening!

The 21st Amendment Beer Dinner October 18 served up an assortment of beer for all tastes and food hearty enough to please anyone, as I, the Tenant, can testify. I’m not any more of a connoisseur of beer than I am of wine, and this was the first beer dinner I’d attended (or had the chance to attend) since the Irish dinner, but it was an enjoyable education in different approaches to brewing, as well as container philosophies. All the beer at this dinner was provided by 21st Amendment Brewery, a San Francisco-based brewery whose brewing facilities are actually located in…Minnesota. Why? As Bob Gera, our 21st Amendment rep for the evening, explained to us, 21st Amendment cans all its beers rather than bottling them. They believe cans do a better job of preventing light damage and reducing headspace and air in the container, as well as making their containers more easily portable and recyclable. And the local cannery with whom 21st Amendment originally planned to work wanted license to manipulate the beer ingredients here and there…something the brewery absolutely did not want. Only in Minnesota could they find a cannery that agreed not to make any changes in the original formulas for their beer, so they could be assured the finished product possessed the qualities they originally intended it to have. That’s how much integrity means to this brewer.

Our first course was a meal that I’ve had a few times already at the Bistro and it’s always been a reliable, satisfying classic. In his kindness, Marc even sent me some upstairs by request when I was feeling ill, and I honestly think it may have helped cure me. The House-Smoked Chicken Mac and Cheese is an incredible concoction of cheeses, macaroni, chicken redolent of smoky flavor, and browned panko crumbs that is irresistible even without a good beer to go with it. The 21st Amendment choice was Back in Black IPA, a beer whose very appearance was surprising because when it arrived at the table in its own screen-printed logoed glass, it looked more like a stout than an IPA — the P in “IPA” stands for “Pale,” after all, and it was truly black-dark with a considerable head. Bob explained that this particular IPA is more like a “hoppy porter” than an IPA, and informed us of its 6.8% alcoholic content and IBU (International Bitterness Units) rating of 651. What does this mean to a non-beer expert? Not a lot, but it did remind me more of a stout than your typical IPA.

If the first course was hearty, the second course only turned up the knob on the hearty dial even higher: Slow-Roasted Beef Short Rib in Red Zinfandel Reduction Sauce with Fall Root Vegetable Mash. This is the kind of dish I’d love to get a particular one of my sisters in to try. (You meat-and-potatoes eater who loves few things so much as a good, tender pot roast–you know who you are. Let me tell you, beef short rib is like the best pot roast you ever ate.) The meat was achingly tender as always and the bright flavor of the sauce, studded with sauteed chanterelle mushrooms–I detected a touch of mint, I think–really shone. The mashed root vegetables were a fine combination of creamy and chunky–I’m not sure what was included, but my bets would be white potatoes, parsnips and rutabagas (I’m sure I tasted rutabaga). Appropriately, the beer served with this course, an IPA called Brew Free or Die (obviously exemplary of the 21st Amendment philosophy), was much paler, lighter and more sparkling on the tongue than the first. This, we were told, is a 7% alcohol beer with 751 IBUs.

By the third course we were ready for a light refresher, and we had one in the Fried Green Tomato and Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad. The fried green tomatoes were as good as they’d been at the Vegan Taste of Fall Dinner, and the addition of the chevre was very appealing. All was delicately balsamically drizzled. The beer accompanying the salad was a true departure from the previous two: Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer. This beer served as one of the points of contention causing 21st Amendment to select an out-of-state cannery; they wanted to be absolutely sure they could brew it with 100% watermelon juice, without any added sugar or other elements that might give it what Bob described as a “Jolly Rancher taste.” They got what they wanted, a twice-fermented beer with a light, sparkling feel and a gentle, fruity but not overly sweet taste and a 4.9% alcoholic content.

With the next course, it was back to the hearty: Mojo Shrimp with Corn Pudding. It was just amazing, the long-marinated shrimp redolent of cilantro, resting on its tender bed of corn pudding atop a sea of rich corn sauce. The beer with this course was called Hop Crisis, and while I’m not a huge fan of intensely hoppy beers, if you are a hop lover, this is the beer for you. Bob explained that this oak-aged, heady brew is an Imperial IPA that is part of what 21st Amendment calls its “Insurrection Series.” It ranks a 941 on the IBU scale and contains anywhere between 9.7% and 10.5% alcohol, so this is one serious concoction and it takes a rich dish like corn pudding to stand up to it.

The meal concluded with the kind of dessert of which I know that sister mentioned above would surely approve (and so did I!): bread pudding. This one was topped with an orange-vanilla-fig balsamic sauce that was truly tasty. The accompanying beer had not been announced prior to the conclusion, so it was a surprise: a winter seasonal called, appropriately enough given the 1930s air lent by the brewery’s name, Fireside Chat. This is a spicy, once again softly sweet, beer of 451 IBUs and 8% alcoholic content that makes a good dessert partner for a stick-to-your-ribs finale like bread pudding. Bob said the brewery likes to tweak the recipe slightly each year so it’s never exactly the same two years in a row. I don’t know that it’ll replace Great Lakes Christmas Ale in the hearts of Clevelanders, but it was a pleasant enough brew.

So, it was a wonderful evening of beer and food–but if you missed it, don’t fret. Just pick up the phone, call 216.481.9635 and make your reservations now for the UniBroue Beer Dinner Wednesday, November 16. You’ll have a fine time enjoying soul-satisfying French Canadian dishes and beers. See you there!

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October’s bringing a wealth of fall feasts!

While you’re waiting for a review and video of our Israeli Fusion Dinner this past Wednesday, why not catch up on what we’ve got planned for next month and make sure your reservations are in for everything you plan to attend? We’ve got something for everyone in October: vegans, beer lovers, wine lovers, seafood enthusiasts and, yes, those who’d like to spend another Halloween season enjoying dinner Sookie Stackhouse-style.

First up is our “Taste of Fall” 3-for-$30 Vegan Dinner Thursday, October 13. Available from 5 to 9 p.m., this three-course meal highlights rich and homey autumn flavors for cooler weather:

Appetizer
Fried Green Tomato and Arugula Salad
Green Goddess Dressing

Entree
Crispy “Chicken” (Gardein) Marsala with Shiitake Mushrooms
Vegan Gnocchi with Roasted Root Fall Vegetables

Dessert
Pumpkin Creme Brulee

For those who get a hankering in the crisp, cool weather to head out to the beach, build a bonfire, dig a pit and enjoy a good old-fashioned clambake–but who would be happy to spare themselves the work of cooking–we have good news. The Bistro Clam Bake is back! On Friday, October 14 between 5 and 9 p.m., we’ll be serving up individual clambakes at a cost of $48.50 per person. With each clambake package, you get Manhattan clam chowder, 1 1/2 Ib. whole lobster, 1/4 barbecued chicken, a dozen middleneck clams, corn on the cob, a roasted sweet potato, slaw, cornbread and butter. It’s one of Cleveland’s favorite types of fall celebration, and you don’t even have to cook it yourself to enjoy it! We’ll have extra clams by the dozen available at $10.50 per order; just let us know ahead of time so we can get you as many as you like.

To get yourself in the mood for our next event, watch this:

Prohibition, Ken Burns’ documentary on the effects of the Eighteenth Amendment, debuts in October on PBS. And, as it so happens, October 14-22 is Cleveland Beer Week. What better way to celebrate a festival of beer and a documentary on Prohibition than to salute the end of that 14-year booze ban? Our Twenty-First Amendment Beer Dinner (named for the amendment that repealed Prohibition) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 18, will pair five courses with five beer selections at a cost of $45 per person. Take a look at this lineup:

First Course
House Smoked Chicken Mac and Cheese
Beer: Back in Black IPA

Second Course
Slow Roasted Beef Short Rib in a Red Zinfandel Reduction Sauce
Fall Root Vegetable Mash
Beer: Brew Free or Die IPA

Third Course
Fried Green Tomato-Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad
Beer: Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer

Fourth Course
Mojo Shrimp with Corn Pudding
Beer: Hop Crisis

Fifth Course
Bread Pudding
Orange-Vanilla-Fig Balsamic Sauce
Beer: Seasonal to be Determined

This dinner is bound to please all fans of the brew. But if beer isn’t your favorite beverage, perhaps you prefer something else. Something a little redder. Wine or…another drink entirely? As Halloween draws closer, we’re preparing just the dinner for you. Yes, Chef Ruth is once again indulging her adoration for her favorite TV series with a “True Blood: Season 2″ Wine and Spirits Dinner Thursday, October 27 at 6:30 p.m. The menu’s not ready yet, so watch this space to see which way she goes with her theme this time. Just don’t wait–make your reservations now, because this one was a sellout last year!

To reserve your prepaid reservation for any of these dinners, call 216.481.9635. Then get ready to enjoy fabulous food and decadent drink at the Bistro!

Latin American Barbecue: A fantastic fiesta

So, the Latin American Barbecue last Wednesday looks good, no? It tasted even better…says the Tenant. I can tell you, as hot as the weather was, this was a terrific meal for it, because while we tend to think of barbecues as hot and smoky (at least over the grill!), the emphasis in this dinner was more on the cool and refreshing…even as it offered piquant, spicy flavors that danced on the tongue.

For starters, we were all served glasses of Marc’s Special Sangria, garnished with orange slices. This sangria has been available at the bar for quite a while this summer already, and it is truly the perfect cooling treat anytime, but especially for this dinner. Its rich mix of chilled fruits and spices prepared our palates for all that was to come.

The opening dish, Shrimp Ceviche, continued the theme of cool refreshment. The shrimp arrived plump and well-cooked from its time spent bathing in the pungent lime-juice marinade with the other chunks of veggies, fruits and herbs, from tomatoes to mangoes. The cocktail selected to accompany this course was a delightful caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil, a concoction of cachaca — sugar-cane rum — sugar and lime. It was intensely sweet and pleasingly powerful, very well mated to the ceviche.

Now that we were all relaxed quite well into the South American vibe, we were ready to enjoy the course of Smoked Chicken Empanada with Brazilian Black Beans. The savory, flaky little pockets of meat-filled dough sat atop the incredibly flavorful beans, dressed with a cool drizzle of creme fraiche. They could not have tasted better. We had wine for this course: ’09 Lo Tengo Torrontes, an Argentinean white with a bright, smooth flavor.

The next course brought us right back to cool — South American Style Jicama-Orange-Avocado Salad with Chili-Lime Vinaigrette. This “slaw” style of salad featured a gently fruity-spicy dressing and the juicy tang of fresh orange slices. The perfect touch! Another white wine was served alongside, ’10 Octave Vinho Verde, a light and airy Portuguese selection, dry and crisp.

Then it was time for the star of any traditional barbecue meal: the meat. And oh, what meat! This was beautifully cooked, thinly sliced Argentinean Grilled Flatiron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce, Plantain Chutney and Peruvian Corn Pudding. The savory, spicy green chimichurri enhanced the natural flavor of the already well-seasoned slices of meat, tender and pink on the inside, yet with those crispy dark edges that signify perfect barbecue. I had never had plantain before, and had been curious as to what this more savory version of the banana was like. Well, as chutney, I loved it, and it was a welcome addition to this beautiful dish in which meat, chutney and sauce were arranged on a generous slice of the corn pudding, one of my favorite foundations for any dish. It all added up to produce a spectacular sequence of flavors: sharply spicy, then savory and sweet. With this dish we were served the only red wine of the evening, ’07 Guentota Old Vine Malbec, a rich, full-bodied and bountifully flavored selection.

To top off the evening, a little crown of a dessert: Quesillo de Coco, Venezuelan Coconut Flan. It sat on the plate looking irresistible in its puddle of caramel, flanked by incredibly tangy fresh raspberries. I almost hated to break the surface of the glaze; it looked too pretty to eat. Of course, not eating it would have been a huge mistake, because these little Latin American versions of creme caramel were absolutely fantastic. The accompanying wine was ’09 Moscato d’Asti, a crisp, light, peachy, pear-y white with just a touch of sparkle and a wine that always works with dessert. A satisfying conclusion indeed.

If you missed this dinner, you missed one masterful barbecue — but all is not yet lost. Sign up for this Wednesday’s classic barbecue American style (Yes, an earlier version of this said Thursday — but it’s Wednesday!), and you’ll feel as if you’re truly enjoying what summer is all about. I’m already looking forward to it!

Menu for Sake Dinner is ready!

You already know what we have planned for the Vegan Sake Dinner — so what’s in store for the non-vegan version on Wednesday, May 25? We can tell you now:

First Course
Seared Day Boat Scallop
House-Cured Pork Belly
Sauteed Shiitake Mushroom Cap
Ginger Plum Sauce

Second Course
Roasted Asian Duck with Miso-Orange Sauce
Black Forbidden Rice

Third Course
Sesame Ahi Tuna
Pickled Ginger
Asian Greens

Fourth Course
Roast Pork and Crab Dumpling Soup

Fifth Course
Cold Soba Noodles with Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce
Tempura Shrimp
Tempura Green Beans

Sixth Course
Green Tea Ice Cream with Fresh Berries

This dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. sharp and the cost is $75 per person plus tax and gratuity. Keep your eyes here for future information on which sakes we’ll pair with which courses. In the meantime, make your prepaid reservation at 216.481.9635 and get ready for a true Asian gourmet experience!

Vegan Night features a savory trip to Paris!

The Tenant here, having eaten vegan again tonight! I’m here to tell you the 3-for-$30 Vegan Dinner served up this time around was another fine stop on the Bistro’s world vegan tour.

The festivities began with the Ratatouille Niçoise Salad. This was a rich and spicy combination of fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, yellow squash, and eggplant, accented with fresh and roasted fennel seeds, orange zest and white wine that really brought the flavor alive. It was served on a bed of greens, garnished with niçoise olives and capers, and drizzled with a balsamic glaze that added a little sweetness to balance out the spice. The flavors were both hearty and just right for springtime. A couple of tender mini-croissants were tucked alongside and came in handy for soaking up excess sauce.

The main course, Gardein “Chicken” Française Finished with a Meyer Lemon Sauce and Imported Lemon Oil, was one in which the sauce truly made the difference. The gentle sauce had just enough lemony bite to accent the “chicken” cut beautifully, and the Potatoes Lyonnaise were rich with saucy flavor. The Haricots Verts Amandine were perfectly green, fresh beans with a spring-y snap and fresh flavor that tasted buttery even without butter. This course was plated up beautifully as well–a feast for the eyes.

I knew I was going to love dessert, because once you say “marzipan,” I am there. The Apple and Marzipan Tart was sheer heaven, dusted lightly with cinnamon and drizzled with both the crème anglaise originally announced and a dark sauce that I forgot to ask the identity of! Whatever it was, it was a perfect complement for the fragile and wonderfully tasty pastry concoction, packed with slender slivers of apple and a layer of yummy marzipan. To my mind, this one should be in the dessert case all the time, vegan or not! It would be a shame for people who don’t normally try the vegan dinners to not get a taste of it. True, it could be made non-vegan as well, but the fact that it was made so deliciously without any animal products is a testament to the versatility shown in the kitchen by Chefs Ruth, Jakub and Todd whenever they’re at work.

Once again, I found myself enjoying a full vegan dinner without feeling I was missing out on any flavor at all. I highly recommend the experience to others…and if you’re vegan, you’ve got to love it! Keep in kind that next month is a multicourse Vegan Sake Dinner. If you love Asian food, you will want to make plans now to attend.

Let’s talk NO turkey!!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for many people that means sitting around the banquet table to enjoy turkey with all the trimmings…unless you’re vegan. Can you still enjoy a sumptuous feast full of incredible fall harvest flavors? Absolutely!

Join us Wednesday, November 17 at 6:30 for a Vegan Thanksgiving Wine Dinner featuring five courses paired with five organic wines. Come discover that there’s more to a vegan Thanksgiving than Tofurky!

First Course
Chestnut Soup
Wine: Marima Chardonnay

Second Course
Spiced Apple-Cider-Glazed Supreme of Gardein
Herbed Polenta Cake
Saute of Shoestring Vegetables
Wine: Flora Springs Soliloquy

Third Course
Field Greens with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Pomegranate Seeds, and Oranges
Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Wine: E. Guigal Cote Du Rhone

Fourth Course
Quinoa-and-Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash
Wine: E. Guigal Cote Du Rhone Blanc

Fifth Course
Pumpkin Creme Brulee
Wine: Hobbs Dessert Grenache

Our Vegan Thanksgiving Wine Dinner is $55 per person, tax and gratuity additional.

You won’t want to miss this holiday treat, so call us for reservations at 216.481.9635. Kick off your holiday season with us at Bistro 185!

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!

Join us for the Passport to Romance Wine Dinner Feb. 15

Looking for a little love in your life? How about getting away from it all on a culinary trip for two…or maybe just for you? Join us at Bistro 185 for our Passport to Romance Wine Dinner the night after Valentine’s Day at 6:30 p.m., Monday, February 15. We’ve got a menu planned that’s sure to put the love back in your heart:

Seared Day Boat Scallop with Citrus Beurre Blanc
Brunoise of Tropical Fruit
Smoked Duck Breast
Cherry Sauce
Potato Pancake
Frisee and Arugula Salad with Corn Crusted Fried Oyster Citrus Vinaigrette
Beef Filet with Tomato Confit
Sautéed Spinach on Grilled Garlic Bruschetta
Lobster Pot Pie
Orange Crème Brulée
Assorted Chef’s Whim Mini Desserts

Each of these courses, naturally, will be paired with a selection of wine to be announced. The Passport to Romance Dinner is $70 per person, tax and gratuity additional. Make your reservations now at 216.481.9635, and come and get your love!

Our Veuve Clicquot Champagne Wine Dinner video

We hope you enjoy this video presentation of the courses featured in our Champagne Wine Dinner December 28:

We’ll let you know when and what we’re planning for our next wine dinner in the near future!

Pop some corks with us December 28!

You’ll have the opportunity to pop the champagne before New Year’s Eve when you join us for our special Champagne Wine Dinner Monday, December 28. We’ll be pairing a selection of Veuve Clicquot Champagnes with the following dishes:

Coquilles St. Jacques
Baby Lamb Chop with Roasted Red Pepper Orzo Risotto
Tuna Ceviche in Champagne, Lime, Cilantro and Jalapeño Vinaigrette with Organic Baby Greens
Duck Confit with Orange-Ginger Glaze
Lyonnaise Potato Timbale
Butter-Poached South African Lobster Tail with Confetti Vegetables
Dessert Course: Champagne Sorbet, French Crèpe with Sweet Cheese and Cherry Sauce

Cost of the Champagne Wine Dinner is $60 per person in advance, gratuity and tax additional. Don’t miss this chance to celebrate the end of 2009 with some truly fine champagne and some wonderful food — make your reservations now at 216.481.9635.

Hint, hint: A reservation for this dinner makes a perfect holiday gift for the wine lovers on your list!