Chocolate & Wine Dinner a tasty treat!

You’ve been waiting for it, and you’ve got it: the video from the Valentine’s Day Chocolate & Wine Dinner. I must say, I (the humble Tenant) am really sorry I didn’t get to finish this one. Those of you who were there, you know why; not going to bother the rest of you with the story. Suffice it to say I’m fine, and I hope I didn’t spoil anyone’s enjoyment of what was a really terrific repast.

We began with an aperitif wine, San Giulio Malvasia. This was a red sparkling wine, poured in flutes, and I liked it for its bright, slightly sweet qualities that prepared us for the meal to come.

The first course was Seared Day Boat Scallop with Wild Mushroom Risotto in a White Chocolate and Lemon Sauce. Once again, a classic Bistro 185 scallop, seared and cooked just perfectly, and in a delightfully light sauce. If you expect chocolate, white or otherwise, to be heavy, a sauce like this is a revelation; it was a light and delicate creamy seafood sauce, only a touch sweet. The risotto studded with mushrooms was a fine complement. Our wine for this course was Piper Sonoma Blanc de Blancs, which didn’t overpower the flavor of the dish.

Course 2 treated us to Chocolate and Espresso-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Mango Sauce, accompanied by a Chocolate Noodle Kugel. The slices of pork, once again cooked just enough, were tender and flavorful, with lovely little crispy crusty edges of chocolate-espresso coating. The mango sauce went with them perfectly, and the square of noodle kugel was like a little noodle casserole: a bit sweet but also spicy. With this dish we received a glass of Rebel Wine Company’s The Show Malbec. This is a smooth and full-bodied wine that is just right for a more substantial meat course.

The third course was a real charmer. I told my companions that it seems Ruth never does an ordinary salad, and this one was another mold-breaker. The mixed greens for this salad arrived in lacy fried baskets of Parmesan cheese slightly flavored with chocolate. (Ruth admitted to me later that they were very tricky to make.) The greens were sprinkled with organic cocoa nibs–which really aren’t sweet at all–and dressed in a mildly sweet, light ginger-citrus vinaigrette. This was tasty enough, but I’ll be honest and admit what my favorite part of the salad was: the piece of dark chocolate-dipped bacon that speared every serving. How can you resist a thick slice of applewood-smoked bacon coated in a lovely thick covering of dark chocolate? Of course, whoever came up with the concept of covering bacon in chocolate in the first place should probably be consigned to the fiery flames for having stumbled upon such an entirely unhealthy and utterly sinful concept. But it’s too late now to undo what’s been done. And let’s face facts: chocolate-covered bacon is unbelievably delicious. Did the Graffigna Pinot Grigio go well with it? Sure, but did it really matter? Enough said about that.

For the fourth course, we enjoyed Duck Confit with Chili-Chocolate Mole Sauce and Agave Rum-Grilled Bosc Pear. What a fine combination this turned out to be as well. The duck was ever so crispy and the sauce again was a winning combination of sweet and spice, with the pears just making it all the tastier. The wine was Campo Viejo Rioja, a very nice red.

Here is where I have to end my review. I only wish I could have made it to the Panko and Hazelnut Crusted Scampi with Hazelnut Chocolate Sauce with Brunoise of Fresh Melons in Chocolate Liqueur, not to mention the dessert of Chocolate Creme Brulee with Chocolate Cigar and Fresh Berries. I’m also a lover of any combination of chocolate and hazelnuts (keep your Nutella away from me if you don’t want it to disappear), and I know from past experience what kinds of reactions Ruth gets for her scampi. And a chocolate dessert like this one–need I say more? I would also have liked to try the Maschio Prosecco Treviso Brut and Terra d’Oro Zinfandel Port. But I’m probably going to have to try to get Ruth to cook up these dishes for me some other time. How good are my powers of persuasion? I guess we’ll see. Then again, maybe I can convince her that I don’t want to have missed out on seeing what magic she worked with these dishes. Worth a shot, right?

Anyway, if you were there and would like to offer your comments on them, please do. As a matter of fact, feel free to comment on anything about this dinner. One impression I definitely came away with, from what I was able to enjoy, was that if anyone had any notions that  just because it was chocolate-based, it was going to be like eating six courses of nothing but gooey-sweet, candy-like dishes…well, it couldn’t have been further from the truth. On the contrary, it proved that with care and creativity, chocolate can be used as a flavoring or component of many dishes other than sugary desserts, just like cinnamon or any other such spice. Something worth thinking about the next time you want to try cooking up a special meal–or enjoying one in a restaurant.

What’s up next on the Bistro 185 special dinner schedule? As you may have already seen, it’s a chance to get your Irish on at an Irish Wine and Spirits Dinner. To ensure yourself a place at the table, be sure to reserve now!

Chocoholics, rejoice!

We’ve got the menu all planned for the Chocolate & Wine Dinner at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 16. As promised, every dish includes chocolate, and every one is going to be special:

Aperitif Wine
San Giulio Malvasia

First Course
Seared Day Boat Scallop
Wild Mushroom Risotto
White Chocolate and Lemon Sauce
Wine: Piper Sonoma Blanc de Blancs

Second Course
Chocolate and Espresso Coffee-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin Medallions
Mango Sauce
Chocolate Noodle Kugel
Wine: Rebel Wine Company “The Show” Malbec

Third Course
Parmesan and Chocolate Basket
Mixed Greens
Organic Chocolate Nibs
Dark-Chocolate-Dipped Bacon
Ginger-Citrus Vinaigrette
Wine: Graffigna Pinot Grigio

Fourth Course
Duck Confit with Chili-Chocolate Mole Sauce
Agave Rum-Grilled Bosc Pear
Wine: Campo Viejo Rioja

Fifth Course
Panko-and-Hazelnut-Crusted Scampi
Hazelnut Chocolate Sauce
Brunoise of Fresh Melons in a Chocolate Liqueur
Wine: Maschio Prosecco Treviso Brut

Sixth Course
Chocolate Crème Brulée
Chocolate Cigar
Fresh Berries
Wine: Terra d’Oro Port Zinfandel

Think of what a special gift this dinner would make for your Valentine — this year, skip the box of candy and give an original “assorted chocolates” surprise! Not only that, but maybe your sweetheart will enjoy the idea of dining out after the rush. Especially when it means enjoying a relaxing, elegantly served six-course meal that’s full of chocolate magic.

You won’t want to miss this one, so call now and make your reservation ($75 per person, excluding tax and gratuity) at 216.481.9635. Chocolate may be the food of romance, but our Chocolate Wine Dinner will be a sweet experience even if you’re enjoying it solo!

Vegan Night is on!

And not only is Vegan Night on, but tonight you can enjoy a complete three-course vegan dinner at Bistro 185. For an appetizer, pictured above: a Flatbread Pizza based with whole wheat and flaxseed flatbread and topped with roasted zucchini, yellow squash, basil and garlic, topped with vegan Parmesan “cheese.” For your main course: a Mexican Stew rich with plantain, sweet potato, pineapple and Gardein “chicken.” For your dessert: a Roasted Banana “Cheese” Cake topped with pecans and maple-rum-agave syrup. From start to finish, we’ve got tastes to satisfy you at Bistro 185 tonight!

A flurry of activity going on now!

So much is happening here at the Bistro that it’s hard to even keep up with it all. To bring you up to date:

WINE TASTING TONIGHT: We’re having a special $10 wine tasting tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. with light hors d’oeuvres, featuring Vino Con Brio Wines: “Matzin” Old Vines Zinfandel, Vino Con Brio Pinot Grigio, Vino Con Brio Petit Sirah, Vino Con Brio “Late Harvest Matzin” and Old Vines Zinfandel. Availability is limited, so if you’re interested, call to reserve a spot.CHEF TODD SHOWS OFF HIS MUSSELS: This week’s new Chef Todd Special will be added tomorrow night. In the meantime Todd is continuing to offer specials from last week. One we hadn’t yet mentioned here (yes, he ultimately came up with three!): Mussels Provençal, steamed in garlic, white wine, roasted red pepper and tomato, flavored with roasted garlic cloves, parsley and scallions, served with thin spaghetti. Try this one for a hearty seafood-and-spaghetti dish!

WEDNESDAY NIGHT IS VEGAN NIGHT: This Wednesday, Bistro 185’s new featured Vegan Dinner Series entree of the evening will be Sundried Tomato Pesto with Tofu, Sauteed Vegetables and Vegan Parmesan over Pasta. Don’t miss this one!

IT’S SWEET TO TWEET: Also, if you take a look at the right column of this page, you’ll see our big news: Bistro 185 has joined Twitter! (We’ll be adding a similar widget to our Web site and Facebook pages shortly.) If you’re on Twitter, please add us to your Follow list; if you’re not there as yet, you can still follow us by searching for “Bistro185” on the Twitter Web site or just following our activity here and on our Web site and Facebook.

Twitter is the place to read our “short bites” on the latest on what’s happening at the Bistro, and also where you can take advantage of special time-sensitive offers available only to those paying attention to our tweets. So keep your eyes on us — it might just pay off! Also, we’d love to hear tweets back from you — did you enjoy your latest meal with us? What would you like to see on the menu in the future? What’s gone that you miss? Let us know!

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!


“A one-dish flavor fest”…

That’s how one patron sums up the Veal Sausage dish tonight. “If ever there was a dish worth going out in the rain for” — that’s the verdict!

With veal slices savory, crispy and bursting with the flavor of sage; creamy, oniony paper-thin scalloped potatoes, a wonderful contrast in texture and feel as well as flavor; sautéed caramelized slices of summer squash, zucchini and red onion, with garlic and Parmesan cheese…all sauced with veal demiglace and mushroom with a little hit of brandy…this one just explodes with wonderful layers of tastes.

Coquilles St. Jacques: behind the dish

A little insight into tonight’s Julia Project dish, Coquilles St. Jacques:

In addition to the scallops that give the dish its name, we are using small cubes of fresh Alaskan halibut. We just received 20 pounds’ worth today, and since we cut and trim our own fish, we thought the addition of the halibut would be great, along with the asparagus we are adding for extra color.

The topping consists of a combination of Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses with bread crumbs added for extra crunch. With some garlic toasts alongside, we think we’ve come up with the perfect seafood dish for an August evening. See if you don’t agree.