“Farm to Table” Wine Dinner: one delicious trip!

The Tenant is back, with the story of the latest Bistro wine dinner. It was truly a celebration of everything local at a time when the local eating just doesn’t get any better. And the wine was just as local as the food, being a product of Laurello Vineyards & Winery in Geneva. Not only did Laurello provide a wine for each course, they added a few bonuses: an aperitif to start off the meal and a sneak preview of two of the wines, including (at the end of the dinner) a special pre-release sample available for diners to pre-order. So, whether you were a connoisseur of fine food, fine wine or both, signing up for this event meant you were in for a truly special evening!

The aperitif wine, we learned, was Laurello’s Muscat Blanc ’08. Made with grapes native to Alsace, this was a fruity, flowery, surprisingly dry (without being puckeringly so) wine. I enjoyed it a great deal, and was sorry to learn that this was the final vintage for this particular wine. I liked the fact that despite being a muscat, it wasn’t especially sweet or dessert-like, but apparently that’s what people expect from a muscat and that’s what Laurello’s going to produce from now on.

On to the first course! Normally Bistro wine dinners don’t begin with salad; the salad course usually appears somewhere around midmeal. This one, however, was an exception, focusing on the superstars of the breakfast table, bacon and eggs. Well, pork belly and eggs–and what is bacon, in the USA anyway, if not pork belly? Organic greens bedded a thick chunk of smoky, crispy pork belly, cherry and grape tomatoes from the Bistro’s rooftop garden and a gently sous vide poached organic egg from Blue Pike Farm, an urban farm on East 72nd St. This salad was called a “hunt and peck” salad because the Blue Pike Farm eggs come from hens that freely roam the farm “hunting and pecking” for their meals rather than being fed industrial chicken feed–genetically modified or otherwise. Instead of commercial feed, they’re eating bugs, worms, grass, seeds and whatever other tasty items they find–and, as a result, not only do their eggs taste better, they’re more nutritious, with less cholesterol and saturated fat and more vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. The truly organic “hunt and peck” eggs on this salad truly made it special, and so did the honey-lemon dressing made with honey from Mark’s Apiaries in Painesville. Laurello’s accompanying wine was an ’08 Chardonnay, pleasantly dry and crisp.

I knew from having a little sample in the afternoon that I was absolutely going to love the next course: a big, beautiful bowl of Ohio corn chowder. This version was every bit as delicious as the vegan version the previous week, but it had an additional attraction that version lacked: two pieces of delicately tempura-fried Lake Erie walleye. Just amazing. The wine for this course was a dry Riesling from last year, which I really liked a great deal and went perfectly with the chowder.

The flavor delights of organic produce continued with the third course, the Chicken Roulade with Rooftop Garden Herbs on a bed of local-produce ratatouille. The meat was incredibly flavorful and the vegetables and herbs were savory and just right. You know they haven’t traveled far when they come right down from the roof! I make no bones about loving the fact that as a tenant, I can nip out to the rooftop garden and grab a tomato or some herbs for my own cooking from time to time, but I tend not to get as fancy with what I do as Ruth does. What she makes is terrific! Laurello’s wine for this course was a Cab Franc ’07, a gold-medal winner they look upon as their landmark wine. A combination of Cabernet and Bordeaux grapes gives it a velvety balance of fruit and acidity; they say this is the kind of wine that you can cellar for years and it will hold up beautifully.

For course number four, we were each served a huge and beautiful Caprese Ravioli pocket, made from Ohio City Pasta and stuffed with more rooftop tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and rooftop basil, topped with smoked tomato cream sauce and garnished with leaves of that same basil. I think I could have eaten several of these ravioli happily! Laurello provided us here with the first opportunity in Northeast Ohio to taste their French oak-aged Pinot Noir ’08, which I found sweet, fruity and aromatic yet light.

Finally it was time for dessert, which made it clear that Chef Rich, the Bistro’s ice-cream specialist, has still got the touch. The Brandy Peach Compote made with local fruit was treat enough, but the peach ice cream it graced, made with milk from Pomeroy’s Snowville Creamery, put it over the top. The pasture-raised, grass-grazing cows of Snowville produce rich, sweet and incredibly nutritious milk, and the resulting ice cream is just what you’d expect it to be with that kind of foundation. Each bowl of ice cream was topped with a crispy golden-brown almond tuile, the ideal accent. Laurello’s dessert wine was a 2010 Sweet Genevieve Ice Wine, named for their mother. The course couldn’t have had a more ideal wine.

At the end of dessert, Laurello had one more surprise for us: a bonus tasting of a wine that’s not even on the market yet. Their “Christopher” 2009 Fox Hollow Vineyard Reserve Cuvee is, they say, the richest, most concentrated wine they have ever produced. This one, scheduled for release in October, did indeed taste rich, smooth and incredible.

What I found interesting about Laurello’s wines was not only the high quality and the variety, but the fact that so many of the ones we tasted are relatively inexpensive. I know the next time I’m looking for a nice Riesling, for example, I can buy one from Laurello for $12 a bottle. This whole evening was a fine showcase of just how deliciously, and healthily, you can eat and drink from the bounty of Northeast Ohio. We are truly fortunate to be living in the time and place we are: on rich Lake Erie land, in a time when local vintners realize they can grow far more more than just Catawba and Concord grapes, and enterprising people are staking out vacant lots in the heart of the city, planting them full of good things to eat, and letting flocks of chickens have the run of the place. What they’re creating is nothing less than a renaissance, and we are all benefiting from it.

Keep watching this space. There’ll be some announcements of new events for next month soon, as well as a special one for those who love to eat local. It all sounds to me like it’s going to be pretty wonderful.

Vegan “Farm to Table” fresh and delicious

Apologies for the delay! The Tenant is back with a description of the Vegan Farm to Table Dinner of Wednesday. It was delicious from beginning to end — and the notable thing about this one was that Chef Ruth cooked it on her own, without any of the customary assistance from Chef Jakub. Looks like she’s got this vegan thing down cold! Or, should I say, hot and delicious!

Vegan Corn Chowder and Jalapeno Muffin

The starter course, Ohio Corn Chowder with Jalapeno Corn Muffin, could not have been better for me. I am a corn lover, and this is the time of year to grab that Ohio sweet corn and make amazing things out of it while you can! Ruth did just that with this incredible chowder. It was full of all the savory sweetness of the corn, yet with a special kick of heat enhanced by the red-pepper “cream” swirled atop it (which I believe was made with the assistance of almond milk). This is the kind of soup that, like the chestnut soup from Thanksgiving, makes even non-vegans say “What’s that you’re eating? Looks delicious.” It’s delicious, all right, and the muffin was perfect for sopping up any extra soup the spoon didn’t catch.

Organic Vegan Ratatouille and Gardein

On to the entree: Local and Organic Ratatouille with Rooftop Garden Herb-Crusted Gardein and Roasted Local Fingerling Potatoes. This was a concoction of classic ratatouille vegetables (including yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, red peppers) with garlic and rooftop herbs, combined with the crispy-outside, tender-inside tiny potatoes, and the crunchy-coated herbed gardein sitting atop it all. The melange of flavors was pure summer, and as I mentioned earlier, I like the chickeny texture and flavor of gardein myself, so I found this dish perfect for me.

Finally, dessert, and I’d already heard tell that this was going to be something else. Many times, cooks think of grilling meat but don’t consider what kind of amazing flavors grilling can impart to other foods (even lettuce, as I once learned at an earlier Bistro dinner). In this case, the Grilled Stone Fruit Compote demonstrated how succulent and tasty stone fruit (I believe this was peaches and apricots–not sure if there were plums too) can become when subjected to the grill, and what an incredible saucy glaze can be made from them as well. As for the Olive Oil-Lemon Cake…wow. You might be inclined to think “Wouldn’t olive oil ruin the sweet flavor of a cake?” But of course, there are many different kinds of olive oil, and not all of them have that “olive” taste. In the case of this cake, all the olive oil did was make it moist and spongy, with a tender, light, crunchy crust. The cake soaked up the fruit glaze beautifully and itself had just the slightest dusting of powdered sugar. Snuggled beside it was a mound of almond-milk whipped cream, boosted, I believe, with a touch of tapioca that made it a bit firmer and more puddinglike. Altogether, it was a tasty treat of the kind easily as enjoyable by non-vegans as by vegans.

This dinner was more than enough to rev my appetite for next week’s wine dinner. I’ll be there, and I hope you’re signed up to join us this Wednesday as Larry Laurello tells us about his wines and we enjoy dishes made from ingredients just as local as the wines. The growing season here is at its peak…come enjoy it at the Bistro!

Wednesday Night Is Vegan Night!

It’s already coming time again for our monthly Vegan Night! We’ve got some great vegan dishes planned for this time around. Join us Wednesday, July 21 for these fabulous creations from Chef Jakub:

Appetizer
Mini Potato Latkes

Entree
Roasted Vegetables Topped with Miso Tahini Sauce Served with Brown Rice and Nori

Dessert
Grilled Peaches with Key Lime Cream and Blueberries

Here’s some other news that should make vegans and all foodies happy…did we mention that another great vegetable we have growing in our rooftop garden is eggplant? It is! And our eggplant has been growing big, fat and ripe, so expect to see it on our menu in the weeks to come, along with our squash, tomatoes, tomatillos, arugula, and terrific herbs! The peak of summer’s bounty is coming in now!

Summer is passing by quickly, though…hard to believe the back-to-school ads are out already, isn’t it? It won’t be long before fall is with us, and it’ll be a busy one for the Bistro. Watch this space for a wrapup of all the special events where you’ll be able to catch us away from the restaurant! In the meantime, take note that while we’ve still got plenty of summer left to spend with you, we’ll be closing the Bistro for vacation August 29 through September 4. We’ll be back open on September 7, the day after Labor Day.

Behind the Dish: Roast Duck with Peaches and Bourbon

James Beard’s Roast Duck with Peaches and Bourbon is definitely not an everyday kind of dish. For each serving, we’re roasting up a half duck, nice and crispy, and glazing it with a sauce made of brown sugar, a splash of Madeira, bourbon and peach halves. We’re enhancing that basic recipe with a touch of apricot preserves and ginger. The duck is served with an accompaniment of long grain and wild rice and root vegetables. Get ready for a unique and flavorful experience!

The James Beard Project: Week 5

Our apologies for the skimpy blogging on the Beard dishes this past week. We’ve had some assistance getting those posts to you regularly, and last week our assistance got sick. However, recovery is in process, so we look forward to being able to bring you regular “Behind the Dish” posts this week as usual.

For now, here’s the delicious lineup of dishes we have planned for Week 5 of the James Beard Project:

Monday, Nov. 30 — Old-Fashioned Chicken Fricassee with Shell Pasta (Beard on Pasta, p. 108)

Tuesday, Dec. 1 — Corn and Shrimp Chowder with Tomatoes (James Beard Celebration, p. 115)

Wednesday, Dec. 2 — Filet of Sole Casanova (James Beard’s Fish Cookery, p. 194)

Thursday, Dec. 3 — Navarin (French Lamb Ragôut) (The New James Beard, p. 395)

Friday, Dec. 4 — Le Plaisir’s Truffled Pasta (James Beard Celebration, p. 140)

Saturday, Dec. 5 — Roast Duck with Peaches and Bourbon (James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, p. 84)

So, when you stare into your fridge this week at that turkey carcass, and the prospect of more turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey casserole, or turkey whatever just isn’t doing it for you, join us for more of the best of James Beard. We guarantee: no turkey on our menu!

Peachy keen…and figgy, too

JuliaProject920This ice cream is…mmmmmmmm! With the dense, pully quality of a great gelato and the sweet taste of peaches and figs, it’s studded with pieces of the fruit and crunchy little bits of crushed sugared almonds. A perfect finish to a perfect Bistro 185 meal…or great all by itself!

Behind the Dish: Crème Fraîche Ice Cream with Figs and Peaches

Tonight’s Julia dish is a delightful dessert: Crème Fraîche Ice Cream with Figs and Peaches. This one is another recipe that comes to us from her friend Julian Serrano; you can see a video of its preparation at this link. It’s made with half-and-half, vanilla beans, egg yolks, sugar and crème fraîche, which is French heavy cream — essentially cream that has thickened and fermented slightly to acquire a slight sour taste (we make our own). Unlike sour cream, however, crème fraîche can be boiled without curdling, and has a much richer flavor.

When the ice cream has been mixed and set up so it’s nicely chilled, it will be combined with poached peaches and mission figs that have been roasted with a combination of egg whites, brown and white sugars and almonds.

This is going to make a fantastic finish to a dinner at the Bistro tonight. If you missed last night’s Tuna À La Provençale, we’re serving it again tonight — or choose anything else from the menu that strikes your fancy. Then top it off with this sweet treat!

Julia Project Dishes for Week 6

Ruth and Todd just put together the list of Week 6 dishes for the Julia Project. Sounds like we’re in for another delicious week!

Monday, Sept. 14 — Roasted Lamb Inspired by the Renaissance Agnello Al Forno (In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, p. 171)

Tuesday, Sept. 15 — Roasted Veal Chops and Sweetbreads with Lemon and Rosemary (In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, p. 32)

Wednesday, Sept. 16 — Filets of Beef in Pasilla Chile Sauce (Cooking with Master Chefs, p. 79)

Thursday, Sept. 17 — Tuna À La Provençale (Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1, p. 219)

Friday, Sept. 18 — Crème Fraîche Ice Cream with Figs and Peaches (In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, p. 205)

Saturday, Sept. 19 — Lobster Thermidor (Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1, p. 221)