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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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.

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!”

Join us for our Sake Dinner July 28

Whether you’ve already experienced the pleasures of a sake dinner at Bistro 185, or you’ve never tasted sake before, our July 28 “Sake To Me II” Dinner is an evening you shouldn’t miss — especially if you’re a fan of Asian-inspired cuisine. We’re planning a delightful evening of six courses perfectly paired with a selection of six sake wines that is sure to leave your tastebuds delighted. Here’s the menu:

First Course
Seared Day Boat Scallop with Golden Trout Caviar
Forbidden Black Jasmine Rice with Chinese Sausage
Ginger Beurre Blanc
Murai Family Pearl Genshu Sake

Second Course
Pistachio-Crusted Chicken Tonkatsu with Curry Aioli
Grilled Korean Beef Lettuce Wrap
Sesame Japanese Eggplant
Moonstone Asian Pear Sake

Third Course
Scallion Dumpling Soup
Choya Umensu Sake

Fourth Course
Soba Noodles with Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce
Tempura Shrimp
Moonstone Raspberry Sake

Fifth Course
Yuzu Ahi Tuna — Sashimi Style
Daikon-Carrot Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing
Moonstone Plum Sake

Sixth Course
Lychee Ice Cream
Sake-Marinated Assorted Melons
Custard Tartlet
Murri-Sugidama Sake

Cost of our Sake Dinner is $65, excluding tax and gratuity. Our Russian Champagne and Vodka Dinner sold out, so be sure to make reservations for this one early to secure your place. Call 216.481.9635, and accompany us on a culinary journey to Asia that you’ll never forget!

Beer Dinner Night Menu for April 14

We hope you’ll be all done with your taxes by Wednesday, April 14, because the Bistro 185 Beer Dinner, featuring beers from California’s North Coast Brewing Company, will be the perfect way to celebrate. Here’s the menu we have planned:

Cheese Fondue with Homemade Soft Bavarian Pretzel
Beer: Scrimshaw Pilsner

House Smoked Duck Jambalaya
Beer: Red Seal Pale Ale

Sausage, Kraut and Potato
Beer: Brother Thelonious Belgian Dubbel Style Ale

Watermelon, Tomato, Basil and Feta Salad
Beer: PranQster Belgian Style Golden Ale

Low Country Shrimp and Grits
Beer: Old Stock English Strong Ale

House Made Stout Ice Cream with Caramel and Fleur de Sel
Assorted Chef’s Whim Desserts
Beer: Old Rasputin Imperial Russian Stout

Our Beer Dinner is $50 per person plus tax and gratuity. If you haven’t made your reservations yet, what are you waiting for? Call 216.481.9635 and get ready to enjoy a hearty beer lover’s dinner!

Mind if we smoke?

We don’t think you will. In fact, we think you’ll thank us for smoking.

You’ll thank Marc for smoking, anyway. Since he got his big opportunity to smoke as much as he wanted at our house, he’s become quite the heavy smoker. Lately, he just can’t seem to quit smoking. Yeah, go figure, it’s a new year and everyone else is making resolutions to quit smoking — and this guy resolves to smoke more. In the past week, especially, Marc has been smoking like crazy.

Meat, that is. (What, you thought we were talking about smoking something else?)

He’s been smoking beef brisket (and if you’ve ever had our brisket, you’ll be delighted to hear that), he’s been smoking ribs, he’s been smoking pork chops, he’s been smoking sausage and he’s been smoking turkey. Now, you can benefit from all his smoking, in the form of this wonderful Choucroûte: an Alsatian smoked meat platter.

Meat platters like this are the quintessential bistro dish in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, so influenced in the kitchen by Germany: great quantities of smoked meat, roasted to a turn, served with boiled potatoes, sauerkraut and flavorful mustards. This is our version. You get a plateful of smoked ribs, sausage, turkey and a pork chop. On the side, boiled baby potatoes and plenty of sauerkraut, made with Ruth’s special recipe that combines a touch of sugar and bacon to render the shredded cabbage sweet-tart-savory, not sour. The whole thing comes accompanied by two mustards — a hearty grainy mustard and a mellow honey mustard — and we suggest you ask for some bread as well, because you’re going to want some to soak up the sauce and juices. Order up a beer with this, and — ach du Lieber! — you can’t get a more heartwarming or satisfying winter’s meal. It’s on our specials menu this week; you need to get in here and taste it!

If for some reason that doesn’t ring your bell, though, we still have plenty of other delights with which to tempt you. Such as veal osso bucco; roasted half duck with cherry port sauce; long bone double cut pork chops wrapped in bacon and stuffed with prosciutto, Gruyère and apple with port and dried plum ginger sauce; slow braised lamb shank with rosemary-mint demiglace; a spicy jambalaya; four-cheese mac and cheese with smoked chicken and black truffle; Portuguese fisherman’s stew; mahi mahi with raspberry-chipotle glaze…

Come on by and fill your stomach and your soul with a lovingly prepared dish this week. Because at Bistro 185, we smoke ’em if we got ’em.

James Beard Project: Week 3

Here is the menu of nightly specials for the James Beard Project, Week 3:

Monday, Nov, 16 — Linguine with Tomato Shrimp Sauce (Beard on Pasta, p. 98)

Tuesday, Nov. 17 — Filet of Sole with Scallops Mornay (James Beard’s Fish Cookery, p. 201)

Wednesday, Nov. 18 — Chicken Kiev (James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, p. 203)

Thursday, Nov. 19 — Sautéed Calves’ Liver with Shallots and Madeira (The New James Beard, p. 451)

Friday, Nov. 20 — Viennese Goulash with Pappardelle Pasta (James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, p. 141)

Saturday, Nov. 21 — Braised Lamb Shanks with Tomatoes and Sausage (The New James Beard, p. 414-415)

Also — watch for a surprise James Beard dessert!

Behind the Dish: Lamb Shanks with Beans

Tonight’s James Beard dish is pretty basic on the surface: lamb shanks braised in red wine and beef stock with a bit of tomato paste, bay leaves and other herbs. But as usual, we at the Bistro like to change things up a bit, so we couldn’t just serve plain old white beans alongside: our beans are a bit dressed up with bacon, onions and shallots, and some fresh rosemary and thyme. You can really smell the perfume of the herbs coming off this dish and making the beans and the lamb even more flavorful.

But, of course, that’s not all. We’ve got a full lineup of other standards and specials to tempt you. Like a little spice? Has the great weather today made you feel like pretending for a while that you really do live someplace where it’s always warm like this? Go Jamaican tonight with a jerk barbecue mahi-mahi accompanied by tropical fruited rice, rich with bananas, papayas, pineapple and coconut. Or try something else on the specials that’s caught your fancy. For example, the Four-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese with Smoked Chicken and Black Truffle:

This is creamy, smoky, cheesy comfort of the best kind. Or maybe you’d prefer a “Petit Poulet” (chicken) wrapped in bacon with cornbread-andouille sausage stuffing and a cranberry-orange chutney. Or an Italian seafood cioppino, rich with South African lobster tail, scallops, shrimp, mussels, clams, crab leg, Italian sweet sausage and penne pasta in a spicy marinara broth, topped with tempura calamari.

Whatever you do, again, you want to keep one more course in mind, because, as always, there are some beauties in our dessert case. Some of the ones we have on hand right now: pumpkin pie topped with maple-brown sugar whipped cream; triple chocolate cheesecake; and fresh vanilla-bean ice cream. Oh, and did we mention we still have Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Pie?

It’s Saturday night, and it’s going to be a beautiful one. Come celebrate it at the Bistro!

Perfect paella!

Yes, if we say so ourselves…really, this is a great dish and if you love seafood, it’s not to be missed. Cooking the rice-vegetable-sausage-sauce mixture separately from the seafood and chicken makes the difference, we think…while the sauce mixture simmers long and picks up lots of flavor, the seafood and chicken in the tomato broth heat up a much shorter time, just enough to cook all the way through without turning tough and rubbery. The end result is tender bites of everything from clams to crustaceans, swimming in a thick, rich sauce with the heat of spice and that special touch of orange peel to add just a kiss of sweetness.

We’re going to have to offer this one again, because it’s been flying out of the kitchen tonight as if shellfish had wings.

Behind the Dish: Paella with Chicken, Lobster, and Clams in Saffron Broth

So, what goes into Paella with Chicken, Lobster, and Clams in Saffron Broth…besides the obvious? Well, you start with a recipe inspired by Julian Serrano of the Picasso restaurant in Las Vegas (you can find a video of him making it at the link provided here). Ours is flavored not only with the saffron necessary to give all paellas their beautiful yellow color, but with lots of onion, garlic, and red and yellow peppers. Although the recipe in Julia’s Master Chefs cookbook calls for using chorizo sausage, we’re going with andouille sausage instead (maybe that makes it more French than Spanish?). It’s cooking in fish stock we prepared ourselves earlier in the week from the red snapper we used as an earlier Julia entree. We’re also adding a little orange zest for more flavor.

Many cooks who make paella use plain old conventional white rice in their recipe. We prefer to use arborio rice — the kind used in making risotto — because its high starch content makes for a creamier, richer sauce, the same way it “creams up” risotto without the addition of milk or cream.

All these ingredients cook in one pan. In another go the heavy hitters of the seafood component of the dish: South African lobster tails, crab legs, shrimp, mussels, clams, and a little red snapper, along with some chicken thighs. We’re simmering them in a tomato broth made with our fresh rooftop tomatoes. When everything’s done, we’ll plate up the spicy rice-and-sauce mixture, ladle the seafood-and-chicken mixture on top, and there you have it: paella!

Hmm. Considering all we’re adding to the mix, maybe we should call it Paella with Chicken, Lobster, Clams, Crab, Shrimp, Mussels, and Red Snapper in Saffron-Tomato Broth. One thing’s for sure, if you’ve been craving seafood lately, this one’s going to satisfy you — and it’s going to bring the spice, too!

Not into seafood? We’ve got yet another reprise of our Pork Tenderloin with Hot Fanny Sauce as well. When we put it back on the menu last night, it sold out! Looks like this one is a definite winner. If you still haven’t tried it, or you did and liked it so much you would love to have it again, tonight’s your night!

Holiday Closing: After tonight’s dinner, we will be closed until lunch Tuesday for the Labor Day holiday. We hope you have a good one, but don’t stay away long — the Julia Project resumes with Week 5 Tuesday night (menu schedule to come soon)!