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!

Tequila!

Sure, everyone knows that in 1958 the Champs had a big hit with “Tequila.” But how many know or remember that they recorded a follow-up song called “Too Much Tequila”? They did!

Well, at the Bistro 185 Tequila Dinner, our goal is to make sure you don’t get too much tequila, but just the right amount — and it’s going to make you feel like partying! This special dinner features six Southwestern-style courses paired with six tequilas, and it’s all guaranteed to have your tastebuds doing a dance. Here’s our lineup of courses and tequilas:

First Course
Shrimp Tamale
Tequila: “Tickle My Pickle” with Marc’s Fresh Pickle Juice
Featuring Tierra Organic Blanco Tequila

Second Course
Ropa Vieja — 24-Hour Tex-Mex Shredded Brisket
Jalapeño Corn Pudding
Tequila: “Daring Dylan” — Kahlua — Mexican Chocolate Latte
Featuring Don Julio Anejo Tequila

Third Course
House-Made Black Bean-Goat Cheese-Poblano Ravioli
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Tequila: Don Julio Repasado

Fourth Course
Trio of Guacamole:
Smoked Trout Guacamole
Mango Guacamole
Traditional Guacamole
Tequila: Don Julio Blanco

Fifth Course
Seafood Vera Cruz — Seafood Stew with Saffron Rice
Tequila: Tierras Organic Repasado

Sixth Course
Margarita Sorbet
Flan
Churros
Tequila: “Frisky Surprise” Featuring Tierras Organic Anejo

Our Tequila Dinner is $55 per person, tax and gratuity additional. Call 216.481.9635 to make your paid reservation, because this one will sell out quickly!

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: Filets of Beef in Pasilla Chile Sauce

Filets of Beef in Pasilla Chile Sauce is another of Julia’s cookbook recipes that comes to us by way of Robert del Grande, whom you can see making the dish in a video you’ll find at this link. It’s another one in which the use of chiles imparts a unique Southwestern flavor to a cut of meat. If it puts you in mind of Texas, that’s no accident.

The recipe first requires toasting the chiles — which, in our case, will be a combination of not only pasillas (narrow chiles with a mild to medium-hot, rich flavor) but poblanos and chipotles, to add flavor, depth and a little more heat. Then the chiles are added to a sauce made with plum tomatoes, white onions, garlic and chicken stock. Meanwhile, medallions of beef are seared, then added to the sauce to cook just a bit longer. The dish is finished off with some brown sugar, cilantro, cheese (the original recipe suggests Cotija cheese — a Mexican hard cow’s milk cheese — we will use a softer queso blanco) and either an avocado salsa or a guacamole.

For an extra-special touch, Bistro 185’s chile-flavored beef filets will be served with roasted poblano-black bean ravioli made with saffron pasta. These ravioli are very similar to the ones we prepared recently for the dinner to celebrate our son Ari’s wedding (more about that Sunday!) and we think they will be perfect for accompanying this dish.

If your mouth is watering, you know what to do: pick up the phone and call 216.481.9635. We’ll be delighted to see you tonight.

A sweet combination of spices

What does Pork Tenderloin with Hot Fanny Sauce taste like? A little sweet, a little spicy — a little Mexican, because of the jalapeños and poblanos — but not too hot and very, very flavorful. This is a great way to sauce a tender cut of pork. The sweet potato mashers we’re serving with it, combined with a bit of chopped pecans and topped with marshmallows, are light as air. We added another side to the dish as well: a cool and creamy bit of coleslaw to play off the spiciness of the pork. Delicious? We think so.

Behind the Dish: Pork Tenderloin with “Hot Fanny Sauce”

So…we all know what pork tenderloin is (ours will either be grilled or cooked in a cast-iron grill pan), but what exactly is “Hot Fanny Sauce”? Chef Todd, who once cooked at the restaurant of its inventor George Germon, describes it as “a fresh-pepper barbecue sauce,” made with onions, jalapeño peppers, chicken stock, sherry, red-wine vinegar, salt, and ground red and poblano peppers. Todd tells us he doesn’t really recall preparing this sauce back when he worked at Al Forno (he worked at the pasta station, preparing all the pasta entrees and sides, and the starch sides such as potatoes), but is enjoying the opportunity to whip it up here as part of the Julia Project.

How did “Hot Fanny Sauce” get its name? According to Julia’s cookbook from which we derived the basic recipe, Cooking with Master Chefs, there’s no big story behind it. George Germon just liked the name! (To see him whipping it up, look for the video at this link.)

There’s another project going on today that you might enjoy knowing about. Ruth just gave Marc a rather special gift…the gift of a full kitchen inside our garage at home, complete with a smoker. And since that time, Marc has been busy smoking beef brisket like you wouldn’t believe. The end result? Bistro 185 is going to have yet another notable special on tonight’s menu: Smoked Beef Brisket with Ruth’s corn pudding. Now, how are you supposed to decide what to have tonight? Good luck deciding!