Vegan Dinner a three-time pleaser

Hello again from the Tenant. I tried the Bistro’s “3 for 30” Vegan Prix Fixe Dinner last Wednesday and if you did, too, you know what I’m about to say. If not, definitely read on!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not vegan, but I have found that when I eat Bistro 185’s vegan concoctions, I enjoy them so much that I truly do not miss the meat. And if you’re a dedicated vegan, you can’t help but appreciate not only the care Chefs Jakub and Ruth take toward ensuring the 100% vegan content of every dish, but the gourmet flair they bring to each one. This dinner was certainly no exception!

The starter course was Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Vidalia Onions. I don’t think I have words to describe how delicious and satisfying it was. All I know is, I feel as if I could have eaten several more bowlsful. The flavor was so rich—a combination of sweetness and fiery spice—and the texture thick and substantial. It arrived streaked with a garnish of almond milk and sprigged with thyme, and it was an amazing winter soup that drained any feeling of chill from the cold weather outside right out of my body.


Next in line was the entree, Eggplant Parmigiana with Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Vegan Mozzarella Cheese and Slow-Cooked Marinara. This dish was also a winner—its sauce full of fresh tomatoes and the eggplant slices tender, light, and un-greasy, ever so gently breaded and fried, laid atop fantastic whole-wheat pasta. Even the pully texture of the vegan mozzarella was perfect, just as natural as the real thing. I’m told vegan cheese is made from almond milk. Don’t ask me how—all I know is, this was great. It was accompanied by a savory piece of garlic toast for soaking up extra sauce.

The finishing touch was as tasty a dessert as I’ve ever had, the Vegan Apple Pie—or, to be more precise, a Vegan Apple Turnover. It arrived hot and flaky, full of juicy, saucy apple slices in delightfully light pastry, accompanied by a little scoop of cinnamon almond-milk ice cream, a dollop of almond-milk “whipped cream,” and a fresh raspberry and blackberry garnish, dusted all over with powdered sugar. The “ice cream” was a terrific variation on the regular-milk variety and the “whipped cream” just as yummy. The perfect conclusion to an excellent meal!

To summarize: if you eat vegan, you owe it to yourself to try eating vegan-style at Bistro 185 whenever you have the opportunity (info about next month’s offerings will go up when ready). And even if you don’t normally eat vegan, trying a vegan dish, or even a full meal, at the Bistro is a terrific introduction, because you’ll be both surprised and impressed by the high quality of everything you taste. The flavor and texture will be so much the same as what you’d find in a traditional meal that you may even mistake what you’re eating for a non-vegan dish! Keep your eyes on the blog for information about upcoming vegan features. You’ll be impressed—and very well fed!

Behind the Dish: Gnocchi Verdi

Did you know that gnocchi, the famous form of Italian pasta, are sometimes referred to in Italy as malfatti — or “badly made”? James Beard himself says so in his cookbook Beard on Pasta. Why? Because “they are so delicate that when they are cooked they are quite uneven in shape. You have to skim them out of the water very, very carefully because of their fragility, but they well repay the care: they just melt on your tongue when you eat them.”

That’s the idea behind Gnocchi Verdi (“green gnocchi”), a type of gnocchi made out of spinach (that’s where the green comes from), ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, butter, eggs and flour, spiced up with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Kind of like a ravioli filling — only without the ravioli! The finished gnocchi are topped with a simple cream sauce of Parmesan cheese and butter.

We’re keeping pretty much to the original recipe for this one, with a touch of garlic added. When you try our Gnocchi Verdi, we don’t think you’ll find it malfatti at all — or, at least, your mouth won’t, anyway.

Behind the Dish: Halibut with Crab

Tonight’s James Beard special is halibut with a lump crab and artichoke velouté sauce (a stock-based white sauce). To prepare it, we made a shrimp stock from shrimp and lobster shells that were simmered with carrots, celery and onion, then strained and reduced the stock. We then made the basis for a white sauce and added the shrimp stock with a little black truffle paste and Parmesan cheese. We are serving the entree with a basil pesto torte. A truly elegant and delicious fish dish!

Behind the Dish: Basil Lasagna

Making James Beard’s Basil Lasagna takes, as you might guess, lasagna noodles and basil — more properly, basil in the form of pesto, the sauce made from basil, garlic, pine nuts, parsley, oil and Parmesan cheese. It also, as you might similarly guess, takes some eggs and ricotta cheese, as well as more Parmesan and mozzarella. From there, we build on his recipe a bit. For one thing, it calls for only two layers of lasagna noodles; we’re using four. For another, we’re kicking up the cheese factor by alternating layers of fresh provolone and mozzarella with layers of fresh Parmesan and mozzarella between the noodles and the pesto-ricotta mix. Third, we’re adding just a touch of lemon zest to heighten the flavor. We even drizzled a little Mornay sauce around the edges for a finishing touch. Come in and see what a hint of lemon does for a pesto lasagna!

Behind the Dish: Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken TetrazziniToday we think of Chicken Tetrazzini as a rather common dish, but it wasn’t named after a common person, or so the story goes. There was once a trend for naming culinary creations after celebrities, and Chicken Tetrazzini, we are told, was named to honor the Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini, “The Florentine Nightingale,” star of the San Francisco Opera. Although there are many variations on the recipe, the common elements are chicken, a butter-cream-Parmesan cheese sauce flavored with wine and vegetables, spaghetti and a grated Parmesan topping.

Most people have eaten Chicken Tetrazzini at some point, but have you ever eaten James Beard’s recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini? Chances are you haven’t — and you’ve never had it quite the way we’re cooking it for tonight.

Beard’s recipe calls for chicken, sweet red peppers, butter, flour, chicken broth, heavy cream, black pepper, Tabasco sauce, sherry, spaghetti, bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese. We’re using close to the same ingredients, with a combination of white and dark meat chicken, but we’re roasting the sweet red peppers for extra flavor, adding roasted garlic, and substituting Sriracha hot sauce — the popular chili sauce most often found on the tabletops of Chinese and other Asian restaurants — for the Tabasco and Marsala wine for the sherry. The bread crumbs topping our tetrazzini are a combination of regular and Japanese panko bread crumbs for extra crispness.

This isn’t your old school cafeteria’s Chicken Tetrazzini — as you will find out when you taste it! You get crisp, creamy and just a little spicy in the same dish — definitely uncommon.

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!