“True Blood” Dinner a toothsome treat!

Well, this Tenant has sure had her hands full (not to mention her stomach) attending all these amazing Bistro events this fall, but they’re all so good that doing so is inevitably a pleasure. This year’s new edition of Chef Ruth’s “True Blood” dinner was certainly no exception. Once again, she amazed us all with the concoctions cooked up for this repast. Let’s review!

Things got off to a pleasing start with our aperitif, Toffoli Pink Shadow Prosecco. This was a lovely Italian red sparkling wine with a light berry flavor that prepared us well for the first course, Rare Ahi Tuna on Organic Greens with Blood Orange and Pomegranate Vinaigrette. Not every dinner begins with a light dish, but this one did, and it was perfect. The tuna, of course, was fresh as could be and the vinaigrette added a spicy sweet-and-sour touch. The wine chosen for this course was Shingle Black Bubbles Sparkling Shiraz, yet another bubbly red. I’d never tasted such a light-bodied, sparkling Shiraz before, at least not that I can recall, so this fruity pleaser from Australia was a revelation.

Next came a dish that is usually served more casually in New Orleans, an Oyster Po’ Boy sandwich, breaded and fried oysters tucked into a long roll with a spicy remoulade sauce. This one was accompanied by a Red Cabbage Slaw with, I think, a touch of jicama added. Just delicious! I think I could have eaten about three of these sandwiches if I didn’t have three more courses to eat. Our drink for this course was Bacon Bloody Mary Shots, a tasty little vial of tomato juice combined with bacon-infused vodka and I’m not sure what else, but it was good.

The third course was the True Blood Tenderloin, a lovely red slab of rare beef sauced and stabbed through the middle with the only thing you can stab anything with on “True Blood” night: a tiny wooden stake. Alongside was a little lagniappe not mentioned on the original menu: a mound of Louisiana-style “Bloody Red Beans and Rice.” Perfect! The meat was soft as velvet and full of flavor, and the red beans and rice added a touch of spice to the plate. The Sly Dog Cabernet served alongside, from Lake County, California, was just right: a smooth complement without being too heavy.

The final savory dish really brought the bayou-style spice to this meal: Creole Shrimp and Grits. The perfectly cooked shrimp lay on the fluffy grits in a pool of rich tomato sauce flavored with onion, peppers, spices and andouille sausage chunks. My dinner partners could not stop raving about this one. They want to see it on the regular menu, and I can’t blame them. Again, the wine served with this course was not particularly heavy: Howling Moon Old Vine Zinfandel, a California red, was more spicy than weighty.

For dessert, we enjoyed three very different kinds of deliciousness. First was the unbelievable Pecan Pie, in which the taste of the huge, perfectly toasted nuts shone through in the ideal balance of sweet and nutty. Next was the scoop of Sweet Potato Ice Cream, full of that delicious fall flavor, not unlike pumpkin in many ways, just a delight. Then there was that yummy little lagniappe with the pink topping: a chocolate cup topped with whipped cream flavored with cinnamon red-hot candies. Ruth called these “Red Devils.” I adore cinnamon red hots, so I loved this. Delicious cranberry drizzle snaked all around the plate and made everything taste even better. To drink, we enjoyed tiny glasses of Blood Orange Chocolate Sabra, which has to be one of the most delicious liqueurs ever made.

One thing’s for sure: when Ruth and Marc invite you to the Bistro for a “bite,” you go home happy. “True Blood, Season 2” did good things to everyone, and even kept with that Louisiana tradition of including a little something extra and unexpected to delight us. Are they already thinking about new ways to go for our jugular next year? Guess we’ll have to wait and see!

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Vegan Thanksgiving Wine Dinner: No turkeys admitted!

The Tenant has decided that given how long it took to post her last dinner review, she’d better be quick with her review of this one — hate to keep the fans waiting! Of course, better than reading a review of this feast was actually being there to enjoy it.

First, let it be said: I’ve always been a meat eater. Even the idea of going vegetarian or vegan never appealed to me greatly, in part because I imagined condemning myself to a life of tofu this, tofu that, and, well, tofu tofu tofu. Am I getting the message across that I have never really been into tofu? Okay. But since Chef Jakub started helming the Vegan Dinner Series here at the Bistro, my horizons on the world of vegan options have been considerably broadened. Yes, I asked for my Masamaun Curry with chicken. But my first experience with Gardein (in the form of schnitzel) was a real revelation. So I was looking forward to seeing what Chef Ruth and Chef Jakub would be cooking up for this banquet.

First, the Bistro is delighted that this dinner received such a terrific reception. Nearly all the “restaurant side” of the Bistro was full of guests for this dinner, which may make it the biggest special dinner yet. Obviously, the vegan community in the Cleveland area is hungry for this kind of restaurant option and if you cook it, they will come!

Dinner began with a wine aperitif, Peter Lehmann Layers. This wine from Australia’s Barossa Valley blends five different types of grape to create a dry white wine with a complexity of flavors. It was fitting preparation for our first course, Chestnut Soup, which arrived at the table streaked with vegan yogurt and garnished with a frizzle of fried leeks and just a dab of black truffle paste. I love chestnut soup, and this one was fabulous! It derives its creaminess from almond milk, and if you want to know how to whip up a batch for your own Thanksgiving feast at home, keep an eye on the food section in next week’s News-Herald, as we’re sharing the recipe with them. The accompanying wine, Marimar Estate Chardonnay Acero, is a Sonoma County white, steel fermented without a touch of oak, dry, bright and crisp on the tongue.

Now for the “meat” of the meal, which was, of course, not meat, but Spiced Apple Cider-Glazed Supreme of Gardein. The Gardein “cut,” bathed in the slightly tart, slightly sweet glaze, sat atop an herbed polenta cake mixed with vegan sausage and dressed with sautéed shoestrings of zucchini, yellow squash and carrot. The combined effect of the very chicken-like gardein, the gentle glaze, the polenta and vegetables, and the savory sausage was just fantastic and said “fall feast” in every sense of the word. It was served with Flora Springs Soliloquy, a Napa white that served as a fine complement.

This point of the meal was perfect for a salad course, and the Field Greens with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Pomegranate Seeds and Oranges dressed in Blood Orange Vinaigrette fit the bill. It combined sweetness, tartness and crunch to make the perfect salad. In an unusual twist, this course was served with a red wine, Peter Lehmann Layers Red, but it worked. This Layers wine is also a five-grape blend, with a big fruity bouquet and, I thought, a little chocolaty hint in it. Whatever the flavors, they combined really well with the salad.

Course number four was Quinoa and Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash, slices of roasted acorn squash glazed with agave syrup and fitted out in the middle with little quinoa timbales including chopped green apple and big fat pecans. Well, I have now learned that quinoa, which happens to be a high-protein, high-fiber, gluten-free food, is as delicious as any rice or pasta, and lower on the glycemic index to boot. This is good to know! Maybe I should be eating more quinoa and fewer complex carbs. For this dish, the wine was Green Truck Organic Petite Sirah, a Syrah-Merlot blend, peppery and fruity.

Last came a very elegantly plated dessert that tasted as good as it looked: a Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Cranberry Coulis. This variation on the traditional panna cotta, sauced with tart cinnamon-spiked cranberries, topped with a foam of almond milk, and garnished with mint leaves, was as satisfying as any traditional pumpkin pie. Alongside, we had tiny glasses of Hobbs Dessert Grenache, a rich, sweet red dessert wine with an intense flavor that comes from the grapes being partly dried out before pressing. It was the perfect conclusion to a most satisfying meal.

So, that’s the story. If you’re vegan or vegetarian and you live anywhere near Bistro 185, you owe it to yourself to sign up to be there the next time a dinner like this one is in the planning — or at least keep an eye out to see when the next Vegan Night is coming up. This is one experience where you won’t have to wonder or ask whether all of your meal was prepared vegan — you’ll know. (Trust me, they’re very careful about this!) If you’re normally an omnivore, get ready for a surprise as you learn exactly how varied, interesting, and refined vegan cuisine can be in experienced hands. Bistro 185 served up the kind of Thanksgiving feast even a turkey could love.

“True Blood” Dinner was frighteningly good!

The Tenant has another dinner review ready at last…and this one was fun and tasty indeed! It was great to see how much people got into the theme of this dinner, whether it was dressing up for a real “evening out” or outfitting themselves Sookie Stackhouse-style with Bon Temps T-shirts and the like. It was all to enjoy a truly special combination of dishes–all red, and all perfectly prepared.

The festivities began with two dishes very suited to the Louisiana setting of the True Blood TV series: Shrimp Fritters with Red Devil Aioli and Jambalaya with Andouille Sausage, Red Beans and Rice. The shrimp fritters, tender and deliciously spiked with corn, tasted wonderful with the fiery aioli. The jambalaya also brought the Southern heat, full of spice, peppers, savory sausage, onions, and red beans in a rich red-orange sauce. To relieve the flames a bit, the first beverage on the menu was a very refreshing “Vampire Cocktail” consisting of Chambord, vodka, and cranberry juice with a slice of lime. It packed a cool and tasty punch indeed. To accompany the jambalaya, we were served glasses of Michael David Sixth Sense Syrah, an earthy, fruity wine whose pepperiness went well with the sauce.

For the third course, we got the chance to really cool down a bit. The Roasted Red Beet and Pomegranate Salad with Balsamic Drizzle brought crisp sweetness to the table, with scarlet chunks of beet and fruit accented and contrasted by the crunchy yellow pomegranate seeds. I never really ate beets as a child, so I never had any idea how delicious they could be until I tried Chef Ruth’s treatments of them–a wonderful contrast of the sweet and the savory. The wine that joined it, Dracula Zinfandel, had a nice touch of fruity sweetness, but was rich and robust as well.

Course number four was Seared Ahi Tuna with Red Cherry Sauce. Searing meant the outside of each slender slice of tuna was just lightened, while the center retained the rich red color of fresh tuna. The slices sat in a pool of sauce enhanced with a touch of Asian flavoring: five-spice powder and star anise. This was tuna like I’ve never had it before, and very tasty. Its wine pairing was the single exception to the rule of the evening, Vampire Chardonnay from Vampire Vineyards. This light, breezy wine fit in nicely at this point of the menu and went well with the fish.

For the fifth course, beef took the spotlight, with roasted medallions of tenderloin in red wine sauce, accompanied by root vegetable mash. The medallions were perfectly cooked and the wine sauce was just right. The vegetable mash was complex and interesting, a change from mashed potatoes with a fresh, almost minty kind of touch. The wine for this course was Vampire Pinot Noir, full-bodied and beefy enough to sit beside it very nicely.

Finally, along came dessert, the promised Red Velvet Cake with Raspberry Coulis. Here, I think many of us expected a traditional devil’s-food cake colored red, but we got a tasty twist: more like a pale sponge cake colored bright red by coulis, topped with fondant and garnished with raspberries (both real fresh berries and a German candy raspberry on top!) and layered with and surrounded by more coulis. Yummy! Our dessert wine was Villa M. Rosso Brachetto, a rosy-colored sweet wine with an airy, sparkling feeling and taste.

Any questions as to whether an all-red six-course menu could embody enough variety and richness of contrast in flavors and experiences were certainly put to rest by this meal. Chef Ruth came up with a “toothsome” Halloween-season fest for all! The “bon temps” definitely “rolled” at the True Blood Dinner!

Let’s talk NO turkey!!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for many people that means sitting around the banquet table to enjoy turkey with all the trimmings…unless you’re vegan. Can you still enjoy a sumptuous feast full of incredible fall harvest flavors? Absolutely!

Join us Wednesday, November 17 at 6:30 for a Vegan Thanksgiving Wine Dinner featuring five courses paired with five organic wines. Come discover that there’s more to a vegan Thanksgiving than Tofurky!

First Course
Chestnut Soup
Wine: Marima Chardonnay

Second Course
Spiced Apple-Cider-Glazed Supreme of Gardein
Herbed Polenta Cake
Saute of Shoestring Vegetables
Wine: Flora Springs Soliloquy

Third Course
Field Greens with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Pomegranate Seeds, and Oranges
Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Wine: E. Guigal Cote Du Rhone

Fourth Course
Quinoa-and-Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash
Wine: E. Guigal Cote Du Rhone Blanc

Fifth Course
Pumpkin Creme Brulee
Wine: Hobbs Dessert Grenache

Our Vegan Thanksgiving Wine Dinner is $55 per person, tax and gratuity additional.

You won’t want to miss this holiday treat, so call us for reservations at 216.481.9635. Kick off your holiday season with us at Bistro 185!

True Blood Dinner: our libation list is ready!

Has the thought of joining us for our “True Blood” Dinner gotten you a little thirsty for something…red? Well, our libation list for this special dinner is ready. If this menu makes your mouth water like we think it will, and you haven’t made your reservation yet, pick up the phone and call us at 216.481.9635. Then call 1.800.RED.CROSS to make your blood donation appointment!

First Course
Shrimp Fritters with Red Devil Aioli
Vampire Cocktail
Vodka Chambord Cranberry

Second Course
Jambalaya with Andouille Sausage
Red Beans and Rice
Wine
Dracula Zinfandel Paso Robles

Third Course
Roasted Red Beet and Pomegranate Salad
Balsamic Dressing
Wine
Sixth Sense Syrah

Fourth Course
Seared Ahi Tuna with Red Cherry Sauce
Wine
Vampire Chardonnay

Fifth Course
Roasted Beef Tenderloin Medallion with Red Wine Sauce
Root Vegetable Mash
Wine
Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon

Sixth Course
Red Velvet Cake with Raspberry Coulis
Wine
Sparkling Brachetto

Here are some places you can donate blood within the next week:

October 12
Red Cross Warzel Blood Donation Center
3636 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
7:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

Wickliffe Community Center
900 Worden Rd., Wickliffe
12:30-5:30 p.m.

October 13
Red Cross Warzel Blood Donation Center
3636 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
1:30-8 p.m.

October 14
Red Cross Warzel Blood Donation Center
3636 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
1:30-8 p.m.

October 15
Red Cross Warzel Blood Donation Center
3636 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
7:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Ohio Savings Bank
1801 E. 9th St., Cleveland
8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Radisson Eastlake
35000 Curtis Blvd., Eastlake
11 a.m.-3 p.m.

October 16
Red Cross Warzel Blood Donation Center
3636 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
7:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Holy Grove Missionary Baptist Church
2844 E. 130th St., Cleveland
10 a.m.-2 p.m.

We’ll have more listings for you next week. Remember, while many of the creatures in True Blood may be only products of the imagination, real people need real blood every day–and in our world, there is no substitute! So make your reservations, make your appointment, give blood, and join us for the “True Blood” Dinner Wednesday, October 27 at 6:30 p.m.! We promise a meal you can really sink your teeth into!

Join us for a bite at our True Blood Dinner Oct. 27

We wanna do…um, actually, good things with you!

What’s the story behind our theme for October’s special dinner at the Bistro?
Well, if you’ve ever had a chance to talk with Chef Ruth about the topic of TV, one thing you know is that her favorite show is HBO’s True Blood. She can’t get enough of the saga of the vampires, telepaths, and shapeshifters that inhabit Bon Temps, Louisiana, where the good times bleed as much as they roll. So what better theme for the month of Halloween than a dinner based on True Blood?

It wasn’t long before Ruth came up with the perfect tribute: a dinner composed entirely of red dishes and red libations, from appetizers to dessert. And quite a few of them are inspired by classic Louisiana cuisine. Here’s what’s on the menu:

First Course
Shrimp Fritters with Red Devil Aioli

Second Course
Jambalaya with Andouille Sausage
Red Beans and Rice

Third Course
Roasted Red Beet and Pomegranate Salad
Balsamic Drizzle

Fourth Course
Seared Ahi Tuna with Red Cherry Sauce

Fifth Course
Roasted Beef Tenderloin Medallion with Red Wine Sauce
Root Vegetable Mash

Sixth Course
Red Velvet Cake with Raspberry Coulis

The dinner starts promptly at 6:30 p.m. on October 27 and is $65 per person, tax and gratuity additional. But the dinner itself isn’t the whole story. Sign up for this one and you can earn yourself a nice treat while helping up to three other people — and possibly even saving their lives.

As you may have heard, right now our region is in desperate need of blood. This time of year is often a low time for donations, and the need is critical. Because when it comes to “true blood,” there is no substitute!

That’s why, when you register for the Bistro 185 True Blood Dinner and donate blood between now and October 27, you’ll earn a $25 gift certificate good for a future visit to the Bistro. Simply show us your Red Cross blood donor card indicating the date of your donation to receive your gift certificate.

To make a donation appointment or for more information, call 1.800.RED.CROSS or visit the Red Cross blood donation Web site. To make donating easier, we’ll be publicizing locations and times of blood donation opportunities over the next month here on the blog. You can also find donation locations and times near your area on that site by plugging in your ZIP code. (The locations and times we list here on the blog will be based on our ZIP code, 44119.)

Here are a few locations you can take advantage of tomorrow!

Donation Locations and Times

Sept. 29
Cleveland Clinic Surgical Center
9500 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

200 Public Square (former BP Building), Cleveland
10 a.m.-2 p.m.

John Carroll University
20700 North Park Blvd., University Heights
Noon-7 p.m.

Red Cross Warzel Blood Donation Center
3636 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
1:30-8 p.m.

We’ll continue to post blood donation locations and times here on the blog up until the time of the True Blood Dinner. Even if you can’t attend the dinner, we’re hoping you will consider the critical need for blood and make a donation.

Come “Join Us for a Bite” on October 27 and help your community! Call 216.481.9635 and make your reservation today — then call the Red Cross and schedule your blood donation appointment. “True Blood: There Is No Substitute. Donate Now!”