Here’s the menu for our UniBroue Beer Dinner!

It’ll be beer and dining French-Canadian style at the Bistro’s UniBroue Dinner, featuring artisanal beers from Quebec, Canada, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, December 15:

First Course
Montreal-Style Poutine (Duck Fat Fries, Fresh Cheese Curds and Gravy)
Beer: La Fin du Monde

Second Course
Maple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Pecans
Beer: Maudite

Third Course
French White Salad
Beer: Blanche de Chambly

Fourth Course
Deconstructed Cassoulet
Duck Confit with White Beans and Sausage
Beer: Trois Pistoles

Fifth Course
Chocolate Crème Brulee
Beer: La Terrible

That last one, by the way, means the name of the beer is “La Terrible”–not that the beer itself is terrible! (Except maybe in the original sense–kind of an equivalent for “awesome”!)

Cost of this dinner is $50 per person plus tax and gratuity. Take advantage of this chance to try some incredible imports from our neighbors to the north, along with their cuisine–call 216.481.9635 and reserve your spot!

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“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.

Barbecue bliss Bistro-style!

Hi, Tenant here, to tell you about Wednesday’s barbecue dinner. Let me warn you: if you weren’t here and you read this, you’re going to be sorry you missed out. The good news is, it’s still possible to enjoy many of the components; it’s just that this was such a fantastic opportunity to enjoy all of them at once, at a great price!

Some previews first, from back in the kitchen:

These were the shortcakes lined up on pans, ready for bathing in strawberries.

Rows of jalapeno corn muffins awaited serving.

Pans of coleslaw were at the ready…

…as was the potato salad.

The meat was just about finished. Pans of chicken were all prepared and just needed a final finish on the grill…

…while the ribs were getting a nice brushing.

All this looked fantastic, but of course the final proof would be in the eating. I had no partner for this meal and it was being served family-style “for two,” but the way I saw it, that just meant I’d have plenty of leftovers of whatever I couldn’t eat the first time around.

So at the appointed time, I sat down. And here’s what was placed before me…

The half-chicken sat to the left, the slab of ribs to the right, and in between, slices and slices of amazing beef brisket.

On a separate plate appeared a trio of ramekins filled with creamy goodness both hot and cold:

At the front, the coleslaw; at left, the redskin potato salad; at the rear, rich and thick macaroni and cheese, topped generously with browned bread crumbs.

And, last but not least, the jalapeno corn muffins:

It was an incredible repast, and there was just no way that even I with my hearty appetite was going to finish all this. After a few ribs, a slice of brisket and a generous stripping of the chicken, combined with making a serious dent in all the sides, I had eaten all I could hold and still find room for dessert. The ribs and brisket were just as I’ve come to love them from past experience: meaty and redolent of that amazing house-smoked flavor, coated with just enough sauce (although, as you can see, an extra container of the sauce arrived alongside, just in case). The chicken? Amazing. You know how chicken can very easily turn dried-out and stringy on the barbecue grill? Not this chicken. The recipe for barbecued chicken Bistro-style is to cook the chicken sous vide first, so it’s thoroughly cooked all the way through without being overcooked — then finished on the grill so the skin gets that perfect crispy char and the sauce melds into the flesh just so. It was a magnificent trio of barbecued meats all around, and the accompaniments were just as delicious. The coleslaw was a refreshing contrast to all the spice, and the potato salad was full of chunks of potato, chopped boiled egg, onion, celery and mayo. The macaroni and cheese? If you’ve ever come by at lunch for the fish fry, you know what I’m talking about. Rich, cheesy, just plain magic. The jalapeno corn muffins had just a slight hint of peppery heat and were just right.

After I had made my best dent in all this fantastic food, I asked for the rest to be boxed up and was served my strawberry shortcake:

Wow. This was good, old-fashioned, classic strawberry shortcake, saucy berries served on two halves of a neat white shortcake biscuit with plenty of fresh whipped cream. The perfect ending to the perfect dinner. My dining companions seemed to agree, as they enjoyed their dinner with a bottle of wine:

When I finally left, I had about three or four boxes of leftovers, and I knew I was going to enjoy eating them as leftovers as much as I had enjoyed my dinner. Part of the fun has been seeing how many meals I can get out of them. Yesterday, I finished off the chicken, the macaroni and cheese, and half the potato salad and coleslaw at lunch (the cats got tiny pieces of chicken as treats) and finished off the rest of the potato salad and coleslaw with the ribs and remaining corn muffin at dinnertime. Today, I made a delicious sandwich out of part of my leftover brisket. Now, the only question left is what to do with the rest of the brisket. Another sandwich, or do I cut it up and put it in a stir-fry?…Oh heck. Why not another sandwich. It’ll make it easier to taste the real flavor coming through. And it will definitely be tasty.

Only one way to end this. And that’s to say: Barbecue at the Bistro is the essence of summer! If you’ve never tried a platter featuring these amazing specialties, you should do it soon. If you have — especially if you did this past Wednesday — you may not be hungry again yet!

Menu for Sake Dinner is ready!

You already know what we have planned for the Vegan Sake Dinner — so what’s in store for the non-vegan version on Wednesday, May 25? We can tell you now:

First Course
Seared Day Boat Scallop
House-Cured Pork Belly
Sauteed Shiitake Mushroom Cap
Ginger Plum Sauce

Second Course
Roasted Asian Duck with Miso-Orange Sauce
Black Forbidden Rice

Third Course
Sesame Ahi Tuna
Pickled Ginger
Asian Greens

Fourth Course
Roast Pork and Crab Dumpling Soup

Fifth Course
Cold Soba Noodles with Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce
Tempura Shrimp
Tempura Green Beans

Sixth Course
Green Tea Ice Cream with Fresh Berries

This dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. sharp and the cost is $75 per person plus tax and gratuity. Keep your eyes here for future information on which sakes we’ll pair with which courses. In the meantime, make your prepaid reservation at 216.481.9635 and get ready for a true Asian gourmet experience!

Want to cook Bistro-style? Have Chef Todd teach you how!

Love French cuisine? Wish you could whip up an impressive Bistro-style French dish like perfectly cooked scallops, pork tenderloin, Lyonnaise potatoes, or a classic French tart right from scratch in your home kitchen? Well, here’s your chance to learn how, from our own Chef Todd Mueller! On Sunday, March 20 at 1 p.m., Chef Todd will lead a “Winter Bistro Dinner” workshop at the Woodmere store of Sur La Table (28819 Chagrin Blvd., at Eton). This event will provide you with a culinary tour of fabulous bistro fare:

Coquilles St. Jacques
Warm Wild Mushroom Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette and Pistachios
Pork Tenderloin with Plums and Port Wine Sauce
Potatoes Lyonnaise
Pear Tart Tatin with Hazelnut Mascarpone Cream

Chef Todd will show you how to cook bistro-style, leading you step by step through the menu and highlighting helpful hints. The fee for this event, for ages 18 and older, is $69 per person. To reserve your spot, call 800.243.0852. Then get ready to discover some of the secrets that help our Paris-trained Todd create cuisine that’s truly magnifique! Bon appetit!

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!

Great excuses to treat yourself!

The Tenant is back, with the specific purpose of giving faithful Bistro 185 fans (and even new friends) a handy excuse for treating yourself to a meal at the Bistro soon. Because I’ve done that recently, and not just for the Vegan Thanksgiving Wine Dinner. I thought I’d share a few of those experiences here.

Last week, I tried the Veal Meatloaf with Shiitake Mushroom Bread Pudding. This was not your plain old mom’s meatloaf! It was tender, delicious and full or rich flavor, and cut quite thick as well. As for the bread pudding, it was an amazing savory reworking of traditional sweet bread pudding…when you think about it, an excellent alternative and analog to the traditional stuffing so often served with turkey and chicken dishes. Chef Ruth revealed to me that the secret to its flavorfulness is setting the pan for the bread pudding right below the meatloaf in the oven so the meat drippings fall right onto the pudding. Now that’s rich!

On another night, it was the Coconut Curry Chicken with Cashews. This was a pot of incredible goodness Asian style–a rich, spicy sauce filled with chunks of chicken, sweet potatoes, chickpeas and, of course, plenty of cashews and topped with snowy white coconut flakes.

These dishes are pretty typical of what Chef Ruth and company have been cooking up in the kitchen lately. If they don’t turn you on, how about Chicken in the Pot with Matzoh Balls, or Veal Osso Bucco with Herbed Polenta? And last time I looked, some of the classic favorites were still on the specials list, from Boeuf Bourguignon to Lobster Ravioli to Four Cheese Macaroni & Cheese to that incredible stuffed double cut pork chop. You know that after you’ve had your fill of Thanksgiving food, you’re going to want something different…maybe even before Thanksgiving…so why not stop by? (For the record, the Bistro will be closed Thanksgiving Day, but open and ready for business again Friday!)

If the dinner entrees alone aren’t enough to lure you in, I’ve got another piece of news to get you in the door…regarding the desserts. Lately one of the standouts has been Red Velvet Macadamia Lollipops, delicious single-serving balls of chocolate red velvet cake with macadamia nuts, drenched in a chocolate or white chocolate ganache, on a stick. They’re served with raspberry coulis for dipping. Need I say “heavenly”? If your entree is so filling you can’t eat another bite, take a few of these babies home. They freeze well. Although they won’t stay in your freezer long, I guarantee.

And then there’s the new form of decadence Ruth just came up with, pictured here. I call it Bacon Chocolate Parfait. She calls it “S’mores on Steroids.” It’s rich, thick Mexican chocolate cream, kind of like a mousse, served in a goblet atop graham-cracker crumbs, topped with miniature marshmallows, and speared with a long, crispy slice of chocolate ganache-dipped bacon. Yes, bacon. All with a little kick of cayenne pepper added. I really don’t know how to tell you how delicious this one is. There’s really only one way to know.

In short…if it’s been a while since you’ve been to the Bistro, you need to come back. Hey, even if it hasn’t been all that long, come back! You’ll be glad you did!

For goodness: Sake Dinner

The Tenant here, with a review of the Bistro’s Sake Dinner last week (if you haven’t yet, check out the video in the previous blog post). As I think I mentioned earlier, I particularly love Asian food, so I knew this special dinner was going to be a standout for me. When Ruth and her team put their talents to this kind of cuisine, it’s always something fantastic, as I remember from last year’s sake dinner. This one was every bit as wonderful.

The courses started off with Seared Day Boat Scallop with Golden Trout Caviar atop Forbidden Black Jasmine Rice with Chinese Sausage and Ginger Beurre Blanc. Again I repeat, if you’re a person who loves scallops but can’t stand the way some chefs turn them into overcooked, rubbery little hockey pucks, you must try them the way Ruth cooks them. They’re always cooked to perfect doneness and then caramelized on the outside just enough to give them a little bit of crispy brown crust to contrast with the tender inside. This one, wearing its gold caviar crown, sat like a king atop a mountain of black rice mixed with tiny chunks of Chinese sausage. The rice had a dense, nutty flavor, and the ginger beurre blanc provided a nice touch of sweetness and just a subtle hint of citrus. The sake served with this course was a very enjoyable Murai Family Tanrei Junmai. As I was last year, I continue to be impressed and dazzled by how many different varieties of sake exist. Yes, I used to think sake was sake; that it was all the same! Obviously, I know better now!

Our second course was a triple treat: Pistachio-Crusted Chicken Tonkatsu with Curry Aioli, Grilled Korean Beef Lettuce Wrap and Sesame Japanese Eggplant. With three items as delicious as these on one plate, it was hard to know which to eat first. I decided on the lettuce wrap, which was a pick-up-and-eat street-food kind of entree. The marinated beef sits in the lettuce leaves with a sprig of green onion and a little marinade dressing, and you just hold it all together and eat it! It was absolutely delicious, with just a touch of mint as a refreshing contrast to the spice. Speaking of spice, the chicken delivered delightfully, thanks to the curry aioli. It was a winning combination of nutty, crispy, and a little hot and tangy. And then there was the sauteed eggplant, tender and flavorful. The accompanying sake was Momokawa Junmai Pearl, which, true to its name, was a cloudy, milky-looking “pearl”-style sake with a lot of “kick.”

Third on our Asian excursion were little pots of Shrimp Scallion Dumpling Soup. The savory broth of this soup contained another triple delight: strips of tender pork in the won ton soup tradition, delicate baby shrimp, and a dainty, positively melt-in-your-mouth dumpling. It was rich in flavor and tasty to the last drop, as were the heady sakes served along with it: G-Joy and Moonstone Asian Pear Sake.

A contrast to the dishes served hot was the fourth course, Cold Soba Noodles with Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce. This one needed no heat from the stove, because the fire was right in the chilies that flavor it; the noodles were pleasingly spicy and tongue-awakening without numbing your palate. I had fun using my chopsticks to wind up and eat the noodles the same way I used to see my Uncle Frank eat his spaghetti–I guess that despite my love of Asian food, I’m an Italian at heart! The chopsticks were also useful for picking up the scattering of edamame beans that lay at the base of each mountain of noodles. At the peak of that mountain: one heavenly shrimp, just barely coated in tempura batter and fried, greaseless and light as a feather. A full-bodied Murai Family Nigori Genshu sake accompanied this dish.

The last of the savory courses was a treat for sushi lovers, with slices of Yuzu Ahi Tuna Sashimi Style taking the center of the plate. These ruby-red, utterly fresh slices of tuna were coated with a crust of black and golden sesame seeds, and accompanied by a bed of thinly shredded Daikon-Carrot Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing and paper-thin slices of pickled ginger. The contrasts of cool fresh fish, crunchy seeds and spicy-sweet ginger with the refreshing, lightly dressed slaw made for a perfect combination with the Choya Umeshu Sake. As distributor representative Greg Webster explained to us, this sake, made with a fruit known in Japan as umeshu but often referred to by Westerners as a “plum” (you can see it sitting right at the bottom of the container), is the third most popular alcoholic beverage in Japan, after beer and vodka. From its slightly sweet, intense flavor, I could understand why.

The evening ended with a perfect dessert course. Each plate contained a tiny scoop of lychee ice cream in a chocolate cup, a delightfully creamy custard tartlet encased in a flaky-light crust, and a variety of melon balls (and a lychee) that had been marinated in sake. The sake served with dessert was Choya Ume Blanc, a refreshing and mildly sweet ice-wine-like drink, and Choya Sake Jumani, which I think I’d have to choose as my favorite among the sakes for its unique flavor with a hint of lime essence. The perfect ending to an incredible meal!

I had the pleasure of sharing a table for this dinner with the proud mother of Chef Todd Mueller, and we had a fine evening indeed. As you might expect, she’s not exactly modest about her son’s accomplishments in the kitchen, but with a son who cooks the way hers does, she doesn’t need to be! This dinner was another triumph for Chefs Ruth, Todd and the whole Bistro crew. Whether eaten with chopsticks, knife and fork, or a little of both, it was sensational!

If this description has helped whet your appetite for a Bistro special dinner, and especially if you like Southwestern, Mexican and Latin American flavors, you’ll want to make your reservation quickly for the August 25 dinner. It will be a fiesta of tequilas, served with appropriate accompanying dishes. Look for the menu to appear here soon!

Austrian Wine Dinner a delicious success!

Hope you enjoy this new video of our latest wine dinner last Wednesday, featuring wines from Austria and Germany paired with a menu of classic Austrian dishes.

The Tenant has once again popped in here to provide a review of the latest, and you may not be surprised to hear that I felt it was delightful! Here are the details.

The dinner kicked off in fine form with a first course of House-Smoked Pork Tenderloin accompanied by an Apple Galette with Ginger-Cream Sauce. I don’t know how to describe how delicious this was. The pork was smoked to perfection and the ginger-cream sauce was the ideal addition. But the real revelation was the tender and flaky apple galette, which included sweet caramelized onions and crispy bacon pieces; it was sheer heaven! The Lois Grüner Veltliner 2008 served with this course went very well with this symphony of flavors without overpowering it.

From there, the meal continued with one of the favorite ethnic dishes of this and many other parts of America, schnitzel. But what a schnitzel! So tender and so gently breaded, and topped with a delicate Meyer lemon sauce combining just the right amounts of sweetness and tartness. Each was topped with a fried quail egg and a stripe of anchovy for a little extra savory bite. All of it lay atop a bed of exquisite redskin mashed potatoes. Very satisfying, especially paired with with a 2007 Heinrich Red that was a mixture of 50% Zweigelt, 30% Blaufran-Kisch and 15% St. Laurent. This combination made for wine that, despite its heady bouquet, was not as heavy as I tend to expect reds to be. It seemed to have a more flowery, light taste than the average red — not so much a “red meat” wine as a wine that would go with many different kinds of dishes, and was a good match for the schnitzel.

The always-welcome third salad course, this time of ruby red grapefruit, avocado and arugula dressed in a white wine vinaigrette, was a wonderful and refreshing palate cleanser. I especially love avocados, so this was a winner for me. The wine was a Zweigelt Classic Gelt 2008, and complemented the fresh, crisp flavors of the salad.

The fourth course, Wild Forest Mushroom Ragu with Asparagus and Pappardelle Pasta, was like the exact opposite of the salad course: dense, woody, peppery, in a rich and flavorful brown sauce. It was somewhat similar to Chef Todd’s ragu with spinach, and the Blaufrankisch Classic Frank 2008 was a successful match here, with enough body and dense fruitiness to not be overpowered by the richness of the dish.

In course five, the exact right things came along at the exact right time. The Juniper Berry House-Smoked Trout — yet another great product of the Bistro 185 smoker — had just the perfect pungent, savory flavor for this point of the meal. It was unlike anything else and positively delicious in its contrast. Speaking of contrast, it coexisted on the plate with a polenta cake whose texture and flavor was also perfect for the dish, as was its savory mustard sauce. The wine here was a switch from the original plan; the Heinz Eiffel Kabinette 2009, originally planned for the dessert course, was served with this one instead, and it was a wise choice. The German Riesling was just fruity enough to complement the dish without being too dessert-y sweet.

Finally, the dessert course featured two classic Austrian tortes: the Sacher, layers of chocolate sponge cake sandwiched together with apricot preserves and topped with dark chocolate ganache, and the Linzer, a tart of latticed almond pastry and raspberry jam. The two examples baked up by Bistro 185 were purely delicious. The wine that accompanied them, Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2007, was a really enjoyable, crisp, fruity Riesling perfect for dessert but also, like so many of the lighter wines at these dinners, something I’d be happy to drink on its own.

It was a pleasure to spend this dinner with the wine lovers of Bistro 185 and Greg Webster of Wine Trends, who provided the selections for the evening. If it sounded good to you, but you missed this particular dinner, don’t miss the next one, which is now planned for Thursday, May 27 (courses and wines to be announced). If you’re interested in wine tastings but would prefer to keep your emphasis on the wine, or would appreciate a less expensive way of trying new wines, sign up for one of the Bistro’s $10 “Light Tastings,” which feature hors d’oeuvres instead of a sit-down dinner, scheduled for next Monday, May 10, and Monday, May 24. Call 216.481.9635 and prepare for a wonderful wine-filled evening!