“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!


“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!

Review: “Spring Into Whites” Wine Dinner

The Tenant is back, to tell you that the Bistro 185 “Spring Into Whites” Wine Dinner was a real spring fling! This special dinner featuring nothing but white wines was a fine introduction to the season we look forward to here in Cleveland so much.

The first course, Sea Bass Veronique, featured a slice of tender pan-roasted sea bass atop a tiny slightly sweet, light-as-air polenta-mascarpone cheese cake. The Veronique was topped with a chive beurre blanc accented with green and red grapes. The gentle, subtle flavors of this dish were enhanced by the Scharffenberger Brut sparkling wine, a blend of two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay, equally light and soft in flavor as this dish.

Lollipop Lamb Chop Milanese was the second course: a pair of lollipop-style lamb chops in spicy breading atop a cake of orzo risotto and accompanied by a sweet peach-ginger chutney that was an ideal complement for the flavors of the lamb. The Conundrum White Blend served with this course, an intriguing blend of California white grapes, had a sweet overall touch that combined well with the chutney.

Next came the salad course, with something special indeed: Grilled Pineapple Carpaccio with Fresh Raspberries and Arugula, drizzled with a champagne vinaigrette. Grilling the thinly sliced pineapple really caramelizes it and brings all its sugars to the fore, and it made for a delicious salad, with a wine — Yalumba Viognier — that made for a beautiful and light companion.

The fourth course brought richer and spicier flavors: Chicken Wellington with Shiitake Mushrooms and Spinach in an Herb Crêpe Beggars’ Purse, tied with a ribbon of leek and seated in a creamy roasted red pepper and basil sauce. It was a dish of contrasts: the creamy, tender chicken and the spicy pepper sauce. The Cloudline Pinot Gris, a fruity but drier wine than many of the preceding wines, worked well with this dish.

Course number five had an Asian touch, with Thai Seafood Coconut-Mango Curry. This was another opportunity to enjoy one of Chef Ruth’s perfectly seared grilled scallops, topped with a perfect shrimp and dressed in a curry sauce rich with mangoes, coconut, red pepper, corn and Thai basil. The wine for this dish was Valley of the Moon Chardonnay, a 100% Chardonnay that was very enjoyable.

The delicious conclusion to it all was a dessert that continued the Asian theme: Phyllo Wrapped Roasted Banana and Caramel, along with an assortment of “chef’s whim” delights. The banana was heavenly sweet and delightful; the “chef’s whims” consisted of tiny lemon tarts topped with a raspberry and mini-mocha mousses in tiny chocolate cups. The wine for this course was Von Wilhelm Haus Riesling Beerenauslese, a very appropriate wine with a nice hint of sweetness.

Much thanks to Vintage Wine Distributors and Jonathan, their representative, who joined us and helped me, especially, learn more about the wines we enjoyed.

If you have yet to make it to a Bistro 185 Wine Dinner, but your mouth waters when you read about this and the others (and watch the video!), you should take advantage of your next opportunity to enjoy one — Wednesday, April 28. We’ll be announcing our menu and wines soon, so keep an eye out here for it!

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.

The James Beard Project: Coming full circle this week

This week marks the return of the James Beard Project, and to start with, we’re bringing back the same slate of dishes we featured in Week 1. That means if you missed any of these great dishes the first time around, you have another chance to enjoy them!

Monday, Jan. 11 — Noodles with Cabbage
Sautéed Medallions of Pork Tenderloin with a French Grainy Mustard and Horseradish Cream Sauce (Beard on Pasta, p. 88)

Tuesday, Jan. 12 — Coq au Riesling
Braised Chicken in Riesling Wine Sauce (Beard on Pasta, p. 116)

Wednesday, Jan. 13 — Walnut-Breaded Filet of Sole With Lemon Aioli, Grape Tomato Salad and Roasted Baby Redskin Potatoes (The New James Beard, p. 199)

Thursday, Jan. 14 — Roast Duck with Cherries and Wild Rice (The New James Beard, p. 338)

Friday, Jan. 15 — Ossi Buchi with Orzo
Braised Veal Shanks with Orzo (Beard on Pasta, p. 140)

Saturday, Jan. 16 — Lamb Shanks with Beans (The New James Beard, p. 399)

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!

Behind the Dish: Ossi Buchi with Orzo

Osso Bucco is a dish we’ve been serving quite a bit of at the Bistro this fall. So how does tonight’s James Beard special, Ossi Buchi with Orzo, differ? Well, this time our seared, simmered veal shanks are accompanied by both the traditional gremolata (chopped garlic, parsley and grated lemon zest) and by an orzo risotto, combining the ricelike Italian pasta with cream, butter, Parmesan cheese, roasted red peppers, scallions and parsley. We think this will definitely delight you with tender fall-off-the-bone meat, a little spice and a lot of risotto creaminess.

Whatever entree you enjoy at the Bistro, you don’t want to skip dessert if you can possibly help it. For one thing, we’ve been making many of our Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Pies (a slice of which you can see in our Halloween video), because they’re so popular we just can’t keep them in the dessert case. And right now we’re preparing a couple of new treats to tempt you: Gingerbread-Root Beer Cake with Root Beer-Poached Pears (made with artisanal root beer) and Cheesecake Topped with Banana-Lime-White Chocolate Ganache and Slivered Almonds.

Ruth is also preparing some of her famous Asian Crab Cakes for tonight’s Dames Dish! for the Holidays event, hosted by Cleveland’s female culinary pros, Les Dames d’Escoffier Cleveland. The event, from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. in Parma’s Trevarrow Kitchen Showroom, is designed to please your taste buds and inspire your holiday entertaining plans, with appetizers, hors d’oeuvres and desserts from the group’s culinary professionals, accompanied by wonderful wines. The event will also feature a silent auction including prizes like a KitchenAid Artisan Series mixer, restaurant gift certificates and more. Advance registration of $50 is required; all proceeds benefit Les Dames’ Northeast Ohio Green Tables Initiative, which helps people better understand the link between rural and urban farms and their tables.

So…don’t let anyone tell you there’s nothing to do in Cleveland on a Friday night…or nothing good to eat!

Bistro 185 Presents: The James Beard Project

We mentioned earlier that in the wake of the success of the Julia Project, Bistro 185 was going to keep exploring the work of the country’s greatest chefs — and now our newest project is ready for unveiling. “The James Beard Project: A Salute to American Icons in Food” will feature four weeks’ worth of new James Beard-inspired entrees each evening. And, just as with the Julia Project, we’ll be blogging about them right here and letting you know from which cookbooks we’re drawing the recipes.

Here’s what’s in store for Week 1, which begins tomorrow night. Be sure to join us for great dishes inspired by James Beard!

Monday, Nov. 2 — Noodles with Cabbage
Sautéed Medallions of Pork Tenderloin with a French Grainy Mustard and Horseradish Cream Sauce (Beard on Pasta, p. 88)

Tuesday, Nov. 3 — Coq au Riesling
Braised Chicken in Riesling Wine Sauce (Beard on Pasta, p. 116)

Wednesday, Nov. 4 — Walnut-Breaded Filet of Sole
With Lemon Aioli, Grape Tomato Salad and Roasted Baby Redskin Potatoes (The New James Beard, p. 199)

Thursday, Nov. 5 — Roast Duck with Cherries and Wild Rice
(The New James Beard, p. 338)

Friday, Nov. 6 — Ossi Buchi with Orzo
Braised Veal Shanks with Orzo (Beard on Pasta, p. 140)

Saturday, Nov. 7 — Lamb Shanks with Beans
(The New James Beard, p. 399)

Keep checking this blog to read “Behind the Dish” features and descriptions of these great entrees and many others we’re featuring this fall. We’ll also be posting a video soon of last night’s Halloween fun, featuring some of the delicious meals being ordered. So don’t be away for long!