Things are growing beautifully on the roof!

How does our rooftop garden grow? Now that we’re hitting the middle of the summer season, you’re probably wondering. Here’s a little visual update for you. First, here’s how the tomatoes looked not long after planting:

Now, a recent picture:

Quite the change, no? The smaller varieties — the Sweet 100s and the Bonnie Grapes — are already starting to ripen:

There are plenty of green tomatoes on the bigger varieties, such as the Bush Goliaths, and with the fine sunny weather we’ve been having, they’ll be ripening soon as well:

Did we mention we put in cauliflower? That’s getting big too:

In their various varieties, the peppers are starting to pop:

The squash is emerging:

And the eggplant, you might say, is hatching:

In short, you’ll soon see plenty of rooftop veggies joining the rooftop herbs like chives, thyme and basil that have been thriving upstairs for quite some time. We are often asked “When are we going to be able to get those Caprese Salads with rooftop tomatoes?” As you can see, the answer is “Soon!”

But even that’s not all. As summer draws to an end, we’ll be reaching beyond our rooftop to add something special to our menu that will also be locally sourced. What will it be? Watch this space to learn more in the future!

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.

Our rooftop garden is blooming with flavor!

Summer is now in full swing, and it’s a Cleveland locavore’s favorite time of year. By “locavore,” of course, we mean someone who tries to eat locally produced food, over food shipped in from outside his or her home region, as much as possible. In this part of the country, our growing season is limited by the weather, so we’re all the more appreciative of the short period of time each year when we can truly enjoy eating local produce.

Here at the Bistro, our effort to source food as close to our restaurant as possible includes growing our own — right here on the rooftop! Each spring we put in new plants and welcome back perennials, creating a garden full of fresh delights to add to our menu all summer long.

We’re sharing some of our early bounty with you already, in the form of arugula and fresh herbs. Chives, German thyme, rosemary, mint and sweet basil are among our offerings, part of which you can see here:

We’ve also put in some green beans and some yellow squash. The squash is really growing at an amazing pace, as you can see:

We also have tomatillos in this year — a staple of Mexican and other Latin American cuisine:

Of course, what just about every Clevelander loves about summer is the opportunity to quit settling for those mealy-textured pink supermarket tomatoes and enjoy fresh, ripe, red ones right off an Ohio vine — tomatoes grown for flavor rather than for shipping well! Obviously at Bistro 185 we’re no exception, and once again we’ve put in lots of tomato plants on the rooftop:

We like to grow several tomato varieties — from those that produce fruit early to those that last later into the season, as well as types that are especially suited to particular uses, whether fresh for salads or cooked in sauces. And our efforts are beginning to show rewards:

Mmm, you can almost taste them now, can’t you? One of our favorite things to do this time of year is head up to the garden with a knife and a shaker of salt, just to taste how fresh and flavorful our tomatoes are with nothing but that small enhancement. Amazing.

What all this means for you, of course, is that when you come to the Bistro, you’re going to have some incredible local produce on your plate very soon. Whether it’s fresh tomatoes in your caprese salad, rooftop squash in your ratatouille or risotto, spears of rosemary flavoring your lamb shanks, or a pasta sauce with the kind of flavor that only comes from tomatoes that haven’t taken a long trip from California to your table, you’re in for some great summertime eating. These herbs and veggies will be making a very short trip to you: down a flight of stairs and through a hall! Sure beats a cross-country trip when it comes to flavor!

Yes, the rooftop here at the Bistro is a wonderful place this time of year, and for more reasons than one. We’ve oftentimes had patrons ask if they can be seated on our rooftop deck during the warm months, and as a result, this summer we are opening our rooftop garden for private, catered parties. We will cater a special wine dinner for your group of eight on an evening you choose in advance. Our garden is a wonderful place to be on a warm summer night, and it just may be the ideal spot for that small get-together you have in mind. Whether it’s a birthday, a graduation, an engagement, an anniversary or just an opportunity to celebrate our all-too-short summer season, all you need to do is call 216.481.9635 to get Chef Ruth started on planning a menu that’s just right for summer dining al fresco.

Summer will only be with us for a little while. Make the most of it by stopping by and enjoying the bounty of our rooftop garden soon!

Perfect pesto pasta for Vegan Night

Wednesday’s Vegan Night featured a great taste treat in Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto with Tofu, Vegetables and Penne Pasta. This dish combined the delightful fresh flavors of sun-dried tomatoes, basil, grape tomatoes, green and yellow squash and asparagus to make a very pleasing spring meal. Keep your eyes open for more vegan items like this one from your friends here at the Bistro!

Chef Todd throws us a change-up this week

You have to give credit to Chef Todd, because he’s really been busy this week coming up with fresh ideas for the specials menu. Yes, he has added Rum-Painted Grouper to our offerings (and for more details on that, check this blog later tonight), but he has created not one, but two, specials for this week. His other new special is Yogurt-Marinated Leg of Lamb, and it’s like the best gyro you’ve ever eaten, only without the pita bread. Slices of tender, perfectly cooked lamb cut right off the leg (not processed meat, like your typical gyro!), accompanied by circles of yellow and green squash sautéed in oil and garlic and a cool, refreshing raita sauce — a traditional Middle Eastern yogurt-based sauce. It is also served with a delicious timbale of rice seasoned with Middle Eastern spices, raisins and almonds. If you enjoy Greek and Middle Eastern-style food, this one is a must!

But we don’t want to give short shrift to the grouper, so keep posted here for a description of that dish. And if you have yet to try Todd’s Meyer Lemon Chicken Française with Basil Cherry-Tomato Arugula Salad and Potato Tostones, you still have a chance!

A few other notes from our specials menu: we’ve added the Lollipop Lamb Chop Milanese with Vegetable Barley Risotto that was so popular at our most recent “Spring Into Whites” wine dinner. And if you love Asian food, tonight, skip the Chinese restaurant and come here instead for our Asian Trio. It’s grilled beef, shrimp, chicken, potstickers, and tempura vegetables, served with three different dipping sauces: coconut curry, Asian peanut and spicy plum ginger.

Vegans! Remember that wonderful Massaman Curry we kicked off our Vegan Dinner Series with? It’s now on our specials menu, full of tofu, coconut and Thai-style veggies, served with brown rice. And of course, there are plenty of other great staples on the specials menu — ones you’ve come to know and love and ones you haven’t tried yet. So what are you waiting for? Plenty of pleasures await you at the Bistro right now!

Behind the Dish: Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Pork Chop

Stuffed Pork Chop Wrapped in Bacon

Time for another “Behind the Dish” feature, this time spotlighting one of our fall menu specials. (Look for more such features in the days to come!)

Our fall pork chop dish is stuffed with aged provolone cheese, apple slices, and proscuitto. The boneless chop is seasoned and wrapped in thick-cut bacon and then cooked using the sous vide method — that is, it’s vacuum-sealed in plastic and heated for an extended period of time at relatively low temperatures. This helps it keep its original appearance, prevents it from losing excess amounts of fat (which would detract from the flavor) and provides it with a great texture.

Once the chop is thoroughly cooked, we crisp the bacon to make it flavorful and crunchy. Then we top it with a reduction of ginger syrup, maple syrup, apple schnapps and butter. That sauce also flavors the vegetable accompaniment of Brussels sprouts, pecans, a small dice of zucchini and yellow squash. (If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, just try them with this sauce. You will never think of them the same way again!)

Add a bed of mashed sweet potatoes, and you have one fantastic dish to warm up a cold fall night. Stop in tonight and taste for yourself!

“A one-dish flavor fest”…

That’s how one patron sums up the Veal Sausage dish tonight. “If ever there was a dish worth going out in the rain for” — that’s the verdict!

With veal slices savory, crispy and bursting with the flavor of sage; creamy, oniony paper-thin scalloped potatoes, a wonderful contrast in texture and feel as well as flavor; sautéed caramelized slices of summer squash, zucchini and red onion, with garlic and Parmesan cheese…all sauced with veal demiglace and mushroom with a little hit of brandy…this one just explodes with wonderful layers of tastes.