Latin American Barbecue: A fantastic fiesta

So, the Latin American Barbecue last Wednesday looks good, no? It tasted even better…says the Tenant. I can tell you, as hot as the weather was, this was a terrific meal for it, because while we tend to think of barbecues as hot and smoky (at least over the grill!), the emphasis in this dinner was more on the cool and refreshing…even as it offered piquant, spicy flavors that danced on the tongue.

For starters, we were all served glasses of Marc’s Special Sangria, garnished with orange slices. This sangria has been available at the bar for quite a while this summer already, and it is truly the perfect cooling treat anytime, but especially for this dinner. Its rich mix of chilled fruits and spices prepared our palates for all that was to come.

The opening dish, Shrimp Ceviche, continued the theme of cool refreshment. The shrimp arrived plump and well-cooked from its time spent bathing in the pungent lime-juice marinade with the other chunks of veggies, fruits and herbs, from tomatoes to mangoes. The cocktail selected to accompany this course was a delightful caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil, a concoction of cachaca — sugar-cane rum — sugar and lime. It was intensely sweet and pleasingly powerful, very well mated to the ceviche.

Now that we were all relaxed quite well into the South American vibe, we were ready to enjoy the course of Smoked Chicken Empanada with Brazilian Black Beans. The savory, flaky little pockets of meat-filled dough sat atop the incredibly flavorful beans, dressed with a cool drizzle of creme fraiche. They could not have tasted better. We had wine for this course: ’09 Lo Tengo Torrontes, an Argentinean white with a bright, smooth flavor.

The next course brought us right back to cool — South American Style Jicama-Orange-Avocado Salad with Chili-Lime Vinaigrette. This “slaw” style of salad featured a gently fruity-spicy dressing and the juicy tang of fresh orange slices. The perfect touch! Another white wine was served alongside, ’10 Octave Vinho Verde, a light and airy Portuguese selection, dry and crisp.

Then it was time for the star of any traditional barbecue meal: the meat. And oh, what meat! This was beautifully cooked, thinly sliced Argentinean Grilled Flatiron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce, Plantain Chutney and Peruvian Corn Pudding. The savory, spicy green chimichurri enhanced the natural flavor of the already well-seasoned slices of meat, tender and pink on the inside, yet with those crispy dark edges that signify perfect barbecue. I had never had plantain before, and had been curious as to what this more savory version of the banana was like. Well, as chutney, I loved it, and it was a welcome addition to this beautiful dish in which meat, chutney and sauce were arranged on a generous slice of the corn pudding, one of my favorite foundations for any dish. It all added up to produce a spectacular sequence of flavors: sharply spicy, then savory and sweet. With this dish we were served the only red wine of the evening, ’07 Guentota Old Vine Malbec, a rich, full-bodied and bountifully flavored selection.

To top off the evening, a little crown of a dessert: Quesillo de Coco, Venezuelan Coconut Flan. It sat on the plate looking irresistible in its puddle of caramel, flanked by incredibly tangy fresh raspberries. I almost hated to break the surface of the glaze; it looked too pretty to eat. Of course, not eating it would have been a huge mistake, because these little Latin American versions of creme caramel were absolutely fantastic. The accompanying wine was ’09 Moscato d’Asti, a crisp, light, peachy, pear-y white with just a touch of sparkle and a wine that always works with dessert. A satisfying conclusion indeed.

If you missed this dinner, you missed one masterful barbecue — but all is not yet lost. Sign up for this Wednesday’s classic barbecue American style (Yes, an earlier version of this said Thursday — but it’s Wednesday!), and you’ll feel as if you’re truly enjoying what summer is all about. I’m already looking forward to it!

Advertisements

Ay, caramba! We had a great Tequila Dinner!

The Tenant is back, and you’re going to have to make do with me for a while, because Ruth and Marc are going off on a well-deserved vacation. But they’ve entrusted me to write another of my reviews, this one of Wednesday’s Tequila Dinner. At this event, we were able to enjoy some of the many distilled forms of the blue agave plant, which is a succulent plant related to lilies — not a cactus, as some think. It’s been cultivated for many thousands of years, and people have been making tequila from it for quite a long time! We got to taste a few products of that experience.

Things got off to a rousing start with the combination of a Shrimp Tamale and two paired glasses on our tables: one of fresh pickle juice and one of Tierra Organic Blanco Tequila. Tierra is the only organic tequila sold in the United States, and blanco tequila is 100% agave tequila, unaged and untreated with additives. The contrast of the tart pickle juice with this slightly sweet tequila was a tastebud-tingler. So was the tamale, a combination of shrimp, plantain, cornmeal mush (with many tasty spicings and flavorings, including fresh cilantro and lime) served in a corn husk.

The second course was ropa vieja — shredded beef brisket cooked for 24 hours in a bath of Tex-Mex seasonings, seated atop jalapeño corn pudding, and topped with refreshing sour cream. But before it arrived, we were able to get a start on the accompanying tequila drink, an intriguing iced latte of Kahlua and Mexican chocolate known as a “Daring Dylan.” This drink, which I could enjoy as a substitute for chocolate milk any day of the week, featured Don Julio Anejo Tequila (aged in oak at least one year) and was rimmed with a very Mexican flavor combination of cocoa and cinnamon. OK, I admit it: the rim tasted so good, I licked it off!

You’d think the second course of a meal would be an odd place for a chocolate drink to be served, but the Daring Dylan was actually an excellent complement that helped cool the spicy-hot ropa vieja on the palate.

Next came another hearty dish, House-Made Black-Bean, Goat Cheese and Poblano Ravioli. These large, fairly flat ravioli were full of rich flavor from the beans, cheese, and poblano peppers, and sauced with a delicious roasted red pepper sauce streaked with cream. The tequila for this course was a powerful, pungent Don Julio Repasado (100% agave, stored in oak between two months and a year).

Following the intense flavors of this course came some gentle, cooling refreshment. Normally this point of a meal features a salad course, but this one was a little different: Chef Ruth had prepared three different kinds of guacamole. We each had a scoop of traditional guacamole made with avocados, a scoop of sweet and fresh guacamole made with mangoes, and a tart and tangy guacamole made with Marc’s smoked trout. The guacamoles were served with long fried plantain chips atop a bed of carrot and jicama slaw. These were very tasty; I thought the contrasting flavors of the mango and trout varieties were a fun and out-of-the-ordinary twist on the theme. The refreshment continued in the drink served with this course, a Mexican Mojito made with Don Julio Blanco Tequila, spiked with plenty of fresh rooftop-garden mint. Yum!

By this time, though, my eyes were getting bigger than my stomach. I had to have my fifth course, the Seafood Vera Cruz, packed up to go. But that was fine, because I had an absolutely wonderful lunch of it the next day! If anything, the seafood stew, rich with fish, mussels, shrimp and grilled scallop, full of peppers and onions and served over a timbale of saffron rice, tasted even better with the broth aging that extra day for the flavors to marry even more. Utterly delicious. The Tierras Organic Repasado tequila served with it was fiery and intense.

Somehow, even packing up the stew, I found room for the dessert course that night. And was it ever wonderful: tiny chocolate cups of margarita sorbet — like the most concentrated form of margarita slush you’ve ever had — along with smooth, soothing caramel flan and a fantastic churro, or Spanish fried doughnut stick, dipped deeply in molten chocolate. Mmmm-mmm! And the final drink was something special, too: a “Frisky Surprise” featuring Tierra Organic Anejo tequila. This slushy fruit drink was served in tall glasses with an orange slice, and was a refreshing and unusual treat.

So, it was another success for a Bistro 185 special dinner evening — but if you think this one was good, what Ruth and Marc (especially Ruth) are cooking up for October is really going to amaze you. Be sure not to be late signing up for it, because it’s going to be a dinner with a bit of a Halloween-style theme like you’ve never seen or tasted before. What is it? You’ll have to wait a little longer to find out. But watch this space — soon you’ll know!

Vegan Night menu for August 18

Our next Vegan Night featuring the mastery of Chef Jakub Mejstrik is coming up soon! You’ll be able to enjoy a delicious meal from beginning to end, all vegan and all fabulous:

Starters ($8 each)
Roasted Summer Vegetable Grilled Whole Wheat and Flax Pizza
Wild Mushroom Empanada

Entree ($17.50)
Southwest-Inspired Gardein
Black Bean-Summer Corn-Mango-Jalapeño Salsa
Cilantro and Lime Vinaigrette
Plantain Crisps
Corn Arepa with Vegan Cheese

Dessert ($6.75)
Roasted Stone Fruits with Lime Agave Rum Sauce and Fresh Seasonal Berries

For a truly memorable dining experience, try our version of Southwestern cuisine, vegan style!

Join us for June’s Salute to Latin America and the Caribbean!

It’s summertime — time to celebrate the sunshine, and warm and sunny flavors. Here at the Bistro, that means we’re serving up a series of specials during the month of June based on the lively cuisine of Latin America and the Caribbean. We’re starting this week with a reprise of a terrific special we introduced a while back, Ropa Vieja.

Ropa vieja originated in Spain’s Canary Islands, then migrated to the New World and became a popular dish throughout the Caribbean islands. Deriving its name from the Spanish words for “old clothes,” it’s a concoction of shredded flank steak in tomato sauce that we prepare sous vide, so the seasonings permeate the tender meat, before combining it with bell peppers, onions, cumin, garlic, cilantro, tomato and jalapeño peppers. We’re serving it with jalapeño-cheddar corn pudding, accompanied by seasoned black beans topped with the Mexican cheese queso blanco. If you’ve enjoyed our Ropa Vieja before, you’ll be happy it’s back. If not, this is your chance!

Another new addition to our specials has a tropical flair: Halibut with a Tropical Fruit Barbecue Sauce. This tasty fish is served with corn pudding and fried plantain tostones.

The weather is fine and the food here at the Bistro will help you enjoy summer to the fullest! Keep watching this space for more additions to our June lineup of Latin American and Caribbean-style specials.

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!

Here’s the beef…and it’s delicious

JuliaProject916This is what Filets of Beef in Pasilla Chile Sauce looks like when we’re done with it. Our chile sauce includes Cuban black beans, cooked in a sofrito of onions, tomato, garlic and peppers, added to the pasilla-poblano-chipotle combo that serves as the mail flavoring. After the seared beef medallions are cooked in this sauce, it’s topped with a fresh avocado salsa and queso fresco. To the left, you can see the ravioli, made with saffron pasta with a stuffing of goat cheese and black beans with a touch of roasted jalapeño and poblano chiles, topped with a creamy corn sauce. Garnished with grape tomatoes, a few plantain slices and a sprinkling of parsley, this is a truly incredible dish, a marriage of flavors from spicy to creamy to sweet that just dances on your tongue. Try it — you won’t forget it!

Behind the Dish: Bouillabaisse de Poulet

Julia’s variation on the traditional bouillabaisse — normally fish stew — that substitutes chicken for the fish is a tasty dish indeed. Here’s how we make it at the Bistro: the poached chicken is flavored by a combination of white wine, vermouth and “Provençal vegetables and herbs”: onions, scallions, our rooftop-grown tomatoes, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, fennel, saffron and orange peel. Swirled in as a final touch is a bit of pistou — a French variation on the Italian pesto — a combination of basil, tomato, garlic and cheese. We will serve it with Ohio-grown baby red potatoes for a hearty dish with plenty of local flavor.

And, what’s a birthday — especially a great chef’s birthday — without cake and ice cream? Our dessert choices tonight will include a special Angel Food Cassata with Cherries and Nectarines as Julia’s birthday cake, and our ice cream flavor of the evening is sure to be an eye-opener: Mango Jalapeño. Or, enjoy your mangoes and your cake together in a special dessert with a real taste of the tropics, Plantain-Mango Trifle with Banana Chips and Dulce de Leche Pastry Cream.

It’s going to be a special celebration at the Bistro tonight — don’t miss it!