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!

Night at the Oscars: Moonstruck and Baby Osso Bucco

Sick of the Cleveland winter? Feel like your life is going down the toilet? Well, snap out of it! Bistro 185 has the solution to your blues with our “Night at the Oscars” special for this Monday through Wednesday. Instead of honoring a Best Picture winner this time around, we’ve chosen a movie that picked up three other Academy Awards for 1987: Best Original Screenplay (John Patrick Shanley), Best Actress (Cher) and Best Supporting Actress (Olympia Dukakis), Moonstruck.

Of course, Moonstruck is all about the moon and the magic it can work on the lives of we humans down on Earth — especially on love Italian-American style. For centuries, full moons have been associated with insanity (it’s where the word “lunatic” comes from), and although we know the moon doesn’t really make you crazy, it does seem to have that effect on people in danger of falling in love. And as it so happens, there was a full moon Sunday…and there’ll be a near-full moon for the next three nights!

So why not take full advantage of this crazy time and enjoy our version of romance Italian-American style: Baby Osso Bucco over Pappardelle Pasta in a fennel, carrot and tomato sauce, garnished with onion straws? We think you’ll “love it awful”!


Italian Regional Wine Dinner: Molto bene!

Hello, this is The Tenant again, with a review of last night’s Italian Regional Wine Dinner. Ruth and her crew may just have topped themselves this time, as far as I’m concerned. This was possibly the best-paced wine dinner the Bistro has presented yet, with an excellent selection of courses beautifully executed — and those who know more about wine than I admittedly do also said the wines were paired perfectly to each course.

Last night’s wines were presented by Jim Dunlevy of Barrel Aged Wine in Concord, Ohio, a direct importer of artisan wines from small Italian regional wineries. He readily shared with us his expertise on these wines, most of which are produced and imported in very small quantities.

The feast began with individual antipasto plates filled with every variety of traditional Italian appetizer, from mozzarella rolls to sliced meats to Italian-style tuna salad, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Slender breadsticks also graced every table and made fine palate cleansers between courses and wines. The antipasto platters were served with 2007 Nicolis Valpolicella Classico DOC, from the region north of Verona and east of Lake Garda, a red wine made with the same varietals found in Amarone and Reciotto. This was a smooth and easily drinkable wine that was a perfect accompaniment to the antipasto.

Next came Tortellini en Brodo, or wild-mushroom tortellini in a very clear, lovely broth. Accompanying this course was 2005 Pavia Bricca Blina Barbera D’Asti DOC. This red wine, a great pasta accompaniment, is very rich and full-bodied, no doubt due to the 11-month-long rest it enjoys in stainless steel tanks following fermentation, to bring out all the flavor of the Barbera grapes the Pavia family has used exclusively in its five generations of winemaking.

The Pappardelle Pasta Bolognese and Natural Pan Sauce with Petit Veal Osso Bucco, with its tender fall-off-the-bone veal and spicy tomato-sauced pasta, had just the right match in the 2006 Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG. Only 200 cases of this wine are imported into the United States each year; if you were at last night’s dinner you had the opportunity to order your own share, a wonderful idea if you love a wine with a heady bouquet that holds its own when teamed up with a rich meat dish.

Following this course was the delightful Caprese Salad in a Parmesan Basket, bright and fresh with a variety of greens, grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices and balsamic vinaigrette. The salad spilled from a basket made of 100 percent shredded Parmesan cheese — no flour, no filler — and crispy and tasty as could be. Its selected wine was 2007 Piero Busso Langhe Bianco DOC, a spirited 50-50 chardonnay-sauvignon blended white that is also fermented in stainless steel, and imported to this country exclusively by Barrel Aged Wine (only 3,000 bottles are produced each year). As we learned, it’s an ideal wine for salad or for drinking on its own.

So many Bistro patrons especially appreciate Chef Ruth’s touch with a scallop, and that was once again on display last night in the Seared Scallop with Black Truffle Soft Polenta and Asparagus. Each scallop, perfectly cooked, sat on a bed of baby-soft polenta, surrounded by crisp green asparagus slices. The 2005 Palagetto Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, fermented and aged in oak for more than a year, tasted just right alongside.

The ideal finish to the evening came in the form of a Ricotta Mascarpone Crêpe with Zabaglione and Fresh Berries. The zabaglione, flavorful with lemon zest and Limoncello, was delightful and the little added treats on the plate (such as mocha custard in a chocolate cup, topped with a berry) made dessert even more special. So did the wine served with it, 2007 CA’D GAL Moscato Di Asti. The bright, crisp, fruity taste of this white makes it yet another wine that’s very easy to enjoy on its own as well as with a dessert. This one is produced in only a 1,000-case quantity each year and only 100 of those cases per year make it to the USA, so once again this was an opportunity to sample a wine not easily obtained in this country.

It was a special night, full of interesting information, magnificent flavors and experiences, and many delights for anyone who loves well-prepared food and lovingly created small-batch Italian wines. Kudos once again to Chef Ruth and her crew, Jim Dunlevy and the entire Bistro 185 staff for another memorable evening!

If you missed out, the video below will give you a little taste of this very enjoyable evening — and maybe encourage you to sign up for the next wine dinner February 15! Details to come!

Present and future specials: tonight, this weekend, this fall

We have some truly exciting things in mind for the coming weeks! Here’s a preview.

First, tonight’s specials will be basically the same as last night’s. For those wondering what the Soup of the Day is, it’s Chicken Vegetable Tortilla.

Now, for we upcoming weekends, starting tomorrow night, we have some real goodies planned, so make your reservations now if your mouth starts watering!

First, we’re going to feature amongst our specials this weekend a 14-oz. Veal Osso Bucco Cooked with Pureed Fall Root Vegetables, served on a bed of pappardelle pasta.

Then, starting this Friday and Saturday and continuing each weekend through the first two weeks of November, we’re going to offer a Bistro 185 Individual Clambake. It’s just like any other clambake, only each one is personal-sized: big enough for just you! Each person who orders a Personal Clambake will receive his or her own potful of goodies cooked in clam broth, including a “maris section” crab leg (the portion between the knuckle and the claw), a South African lobster tail, jumbo shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops, chicken thighs, redskin potatoes, and corn on the cob. Your clambake will be served with cornbread and melted butter so you can enjoy it to the fullest!

But that’s not all we’re working on that’s new and special. This Monday, October 12, the Bistro introduces its new Fall Menu, featuring some specials we think you’re really going to love. Here are some of the items we have planned:

House-Smoked Chicken with Four-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese: Replacing our Limoncello Chicken summer special, this treat will star our own smoked chicken with a combination of Gruyère, Brie, Emmenthaler and Parmesan cheeses on medium shell pasta, with black truffle, finished with a bit of white truffle oil. We like to call it “Ultimate Mac & Cheese.” We think you will, too.

Duck Three-Way: We’ve served duck the same way here at the Bistro since we opened. Time to change things up! That’s what we’ll be doing with this new dish: a duck ragout with a confit, served with a quarter roasted duck and sliced smoked duck breast. This creation will most likely be presented on a bed of pappardelle pasta.

Gumbo of the Week: We will feature a new and different gumbo each week. Next week’s will combine shrimp, chicken and andouille sausage.

Seafood Stews: We’ll be rotating a variety of seafood stews through our specials, influenced by different regions and countries, such as Thailand and Italy.

Cassoulets: Look for a rotating variety of cassoulets, including classic French and seafood.

Risottos: We’ll also rotate a variety of risottos highlighting various ingredients.

Julia Project Classics: We’ll rotate some of the most popular dishes we served during the Julia Project back through our fall menu.

A few items that are already on our specials, and have earned a permanent place throughout our fall menu, are our two most popular Julia Project dishes of all: the Lamb Shank with Baby Fall Vegetables and the Pork Tenderloin with Port and Prunes. We will also continue to offer our Calves’ Liver entree, which recently won Scene Magazine’s Best in Cleveland award for Best Liver That’s Not Foie Gras.

In the future, also look for another very special dish: Cornish Hen Wrapped in Bacon with a Ginger-Maple Glaze, Acorn Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Pecans, Roasted Shallots and Roasted Garlic.

To learn more about our fall menu, and to keep up with the nightly specials, keep checking this space. You won’t want to miss anything!