Latin American Barbecue: A fantastic fiesta

So, the Latin American Barbecue last Wednesday looks good, no? It tasted even better…says the Tenant. I can tell you, as hot as the weather was, this was a terrific meal for it, because while we tend to think of barbecues as hot and smoky (at least over the grill!), the emphasis in this dinner was more on the cool and refreshing…even as it offered piquant, spicy flavors that danced on the tongue.

For starters, we were all served glasses of Marc’s Special Sangria, garnished with orange slices. This sangria has been available at the bar for quite a while this summer already, and it is truly the perfect cooling treat anytime, but especially for this dinner. Its rich mix of chilled fruits and spices prepared our palates for all that was to come.

The opening dish, Shrimp Ceviche, continued the theme of cool refreshment. The shrimp arrived plump and well-cooked from its time spent bathing in the pungent lime-juice marinade with the other chunks of veggies, fruits and herbs, from tomatoes to mangoes. The cocktail selected to accompany this course was a delightful caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil, a concoction of cachaca — sugar-cane rum — sugar and lime. It was intensely sweet and pleasingly powerful, very well mated to the ceviche.

Now that we were all relaxed quite well into the South American vibe, we were ready to enjoy the course of Smoked Chicken Empanada with Brazilian Black Beans. The savory, flaky little pockets of meat-filled dough sat atop the incredibly flavorful beans, dressed with a cool drizzle of creme fraiche. They could not have tasted better. We had wine for this course: ’09 Lo Tengo Torrontes, an Argentinean white with a bright, smooth flavor.

The next course brought us right back to cool — South American Style Jicama-Orange-Avocado Salad with Chili-Lime Vinaigrette. This “slaw” style of salad featured a gently fruity-spicy dressing and the juicy tang of fresh orange slices. The perfect touch! Another white wine was served alongside, ’10 Octave Vinho Verde, a light and airy Portuguese selection, dry and crisp.

Then it was time for the star of any traditional barbecue meal: the meat. And oh, what meat! This was beautifully cooked, thinly sliced Argentinean Grilled Flatiron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce, Plantain Chutney and Peruvian Corn Pudding. The savory, spicy green chimichurri enhanced the natural flavor of the already well-seasoned slices of meat, tender and pink on the inside, yet with those crispy dark edges that signify perfect barbecue. I had never had plantain before, and had been curious as to what this more savory version of the banana was like. Well, as chutney, I loved it, and it was a welcome addition to this beautiful dish in which meat, chutney and sauce were arranged on a generous slice of the corn pudding, one of my favorite foundations for any dish. It all added up to produce a spectacular sequence of flavors: sharply spicy, then savory and sweet. With this dish we were served the only red wine of the evening, ’07 Guentota Old Vine Malbec, a rich, full-bodied and bountifully flavored selection.

To top off the evening, a little crown of a dessert: Quesillo de Coco, Venezuelan Coconut Flan. It sat on the plate looking irresistible in its puddle of caramel, flanked by incredibly tangy fresh raspberries. I almost hated to break the surface of the glaze; it looked too pretty to eat. Of course, not eating it would have been a huge mistake, because these little Latin American versions of creme caramel were absolutely fantastic. The accompanying wine was ’09 Moscato d’Asti, a crisp, light, peachy, pear-y white with just a touch of sparkle and a wine that always works with dessert. A satisfying conclusion indeed.

If you missed this dinner, you missed one masterful barbecue — but all is not yet lost. Sign up for this Wednesday’s classic barbecue American style (Yes, an earlier version of this said Thursday — but it’s Wednesday!), and you’ll feel as if you’re truly enjoying what summer is all about. I’m already looking forward to it!

July barbecues coming your way…and more!

It’s as if there’s something deep inside us — especially those of us forced to spend so much time indoors during the winter — that calls to us when summertime hits and compels us to start a fire and throw something on the grill until it gets really crispy, juicy and tasty. At Bistro 185, we’re no different. That’s why July is going to be Barbecue Month in terms of our special dinners — even the vegan one!

We actually start out with the Vegan Barbecue, on Thursday, July 14. This will be another 3-for-$30 special, featuring Grilled Caesar Salad as the appetizer. The main course will be Smoked and Grilled Tofu Glazed with a Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Barbecue Sauce, Grilled Corn and Pinto Bean Succotash with Roasted Sweet Potato and Jalapeno Cornbread. We’ll top it off with Strawberry Shortcake for dessert.

The following week, it will be time for the meat eaters to gather ’round. On Wednesday, July 20 at 6:30, the Bistro will celebrate south-of-the-border spice with a five-course Latin American Barbecue Dinner. This $60 feast will feature the following courses paired with the following wines and other beverages:

Opening Beverage
Marc’s Special Sangria

First Course
Shrimp Ceviche
Beverage: Caipirinha

Second Course
Smoked Chicken Empanada
Brazilian Black Beans
Beverage:
Lo Tengo Torrontes

Third  Course
South American Style Jicama-Orange-Avocado Salad with Chili-Lime Vinaigrette
Beverage: Vinho Verde

Fourth Course
Argentinian Grilled Flatiron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Plantain Chutney
Peruvian Corn Pudding
Beverage: Guentota Malbec

Fifth Course
Quesillo de Coco: Venezuelan Coconut Flan
Beverage: Pisco-Rita

You will want to be in your seat for this exciting fiesta, so call and make your prepaid reservations now at 216.481.9635.

Is this all we’ve got planned for special fun this summer? Not quite. In August we celebrate locally grown food with our special dinners…but aside from even that, we’ve got some tricks up our sleeve that we’ll be revealing soon. Watch this space for more details to be announced!

Night at the Oscars: Giant and Ropa Vieja

For our “Night at the Oscars” special entree Thursday through Saturday, we’re honoring the film that won the 1956 Academy Award for Best Directing for George Stevens, the widescreen saga Giant. This movie about the effects of the oil industry — and a fierce personal rivalry — on two Texas ranching families deserves a dish with flavors as big as the Lone Star State itself. And some of the best of those flavors come from the influences of Spanish cuisine on American food, from the Southwest with its Tex-Mex cuisine to Miami and its Cuban, Caribbean and Canary Islands influences. Our entree is actually an example that originates in the Canaries, but which we’re treating with a Southwestern flair: ropa vieja.

Ropa vieja gets its name from the Spanish words for “old clothes,” possibly because of its “torn-up” look. But this concoction of shredded flank steak in tomato sauce tastes nothing like the laundry! We made ours by giving the steak the sous vide treatment overnight, heating it slowly in vacuum-sealed plastic with Southwestern seasoning to imbue it with plenty of tenderness and flavor. Then we combined it with bell peppers, onions, cumin, garlic, cilantro, tomato and jalapeño peppers to make it dance on your tongue even more. We’re serving it on a bed of corn pudding, accompanied by black beans prepared Southwestern style and topped with the Mexican cheese queso blanco. There’s freshly prepared pico de gallo sauce including chopped tomatoes, onions, chiles, lime juice and cilantro nestled in between the two. And we’re even adding freshly fried-up chicken empanadas for a finishing touch.

James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor never had it so good down on the ranch as you can have your dinner at Bistro 185 tonight. So come see us and enjoy a dish that will satisfy even a (wait for it) giant appetite. Olé!

The James Beard Project: Week 4

Here are the menus for Week 4 of the James Beard Project. (Of course, we will be closed Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving — Gobble Gobble!):

Monday, Nov. 23 — Basil Lasagna (Beard on Pasta, p. 157)

Tuesday, Nov. 24 — Halibut with Crab (James Beard’s Fish Cookery, p. 107)

Wednesday, Nov. 25 — Sole with Shrimp Sauce (James Beard’s Fish Cookery, p. 192)

Friday, Nov. 27 — Chicken Sauté with Figs and Cognac (James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, p. 166)

Saturday, Nov. 28 — Steak Au Poivre (James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, p. 159)

Tonight’s Specials: Oct. 5

Starters
Soup of the Day
Gravlax (house cured salmon) with potato pancakes, capers, chopped red onion and sour cream
House Smoked Duck Breast with mango chipotle glaze, sun-dried cranberries, potato pancake and sour cream
Chicken and Vegetable Pot Stickers with sesame-soy dipping sauce
Asian Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
Romaine Wedge Salad with Gorgonzola dressing, chopped hard-boiled eggs, red onion, bacon and tomato
Warm Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese Salad on a bed of field greens with balsamic vinaigrette
Roasted Organic Beets with goat cheese, honey and balsamic drizzle
Calymarna Brown Figs stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped with prosciutto, field greens and balsamic vinaigrette
Warm Wild Mushroom Salad with pistachios, field greens and raspberry vinaigrette
Coquilles St. Jacques: Baby bay scallops and shrimp in creamy Alfredo sauce with a Parmesan cheese crust
Escargot with Garlic Butter
Puff Pastry Wrapped French Camembert served warm with grapes and toasts
Medjool Dates stuffed with almonds and wrapped with bacon with balsamic drizzle and crumbled goat cheese

Entrees

Lamb Shanks with Baby Fall Vegetables (a Julia Project favorite)
Lamb Moussaka with Greek Salad (a Julia Project favorite)
Sautéed Pork Tenderloin in Prune and Port Wine Sauce with Mashers (a Julia Project favorite)
Steak Oscar: Medallions of beef filet topped with crab and shrimp, hollandaise sauce, tempura green beans and mashers
Boeuf Bourguignon: Boneless Black Angus short ribs slow-braised in a rich burgundy wine sauce with carrots and onions on a bed of mashers
16-oz. Bone-in Cowboy Ribeye Steak with onion straws, sautéed redskin potatoes and house tempura vegetable
Calves’ Liver, pan sautéed, with onion gravy, mashers and bacon
Roasted Half Duck with orange sauce, organic wild rice and house tempura vegetable
Limoncello Chicken: Pan-seared chicken breasts finished in a limoncello cream sauce, Meyer lemons, asparagus, artichoke hearts and snap peas with penne pasta
Chicken Parmesan with pasta marinara
Pan-Seared Day Boat Scallops with black truffle, chanterelle mushrooms and roasted butternut squash risotto
Sesame-Crusted Pan-Seared Wild-Caught Ahi Tuna with wasabi aioli and ginger mandarin drizzle, Israeli couscous and house tempura vegetable
Pecan-Crusted Bay of Fundy Salmon with sweet potato mashers and sautéed spinach
Pan-Roasted Wild-Caught Alaskan Halibut with tropical fruit and nut rum sauce and butternut squash ravioli
Wild-Caught Canadian Walleye finished with a lemon herb butter sauce, mashers and house vegetables, OR tempura style with sweet potato fries, slaw and tartar sauce
Lobster Ravioli with Seared Day Boat Scallops and Shrimp finished with a creamy lobster sauce
Ricotta and Spinach in Fresh Manicotti Pasta with marinara and a touch of cream

Behind the Dish: Steak Diane

A little inside baseball on how we’re preparing our Steak Diane for you tonight…

As Julia shows in the video we linked, Steak Diane is normally cooked in a pan, right along with the sauce with which it is served. Because we’re making a larger number of servings, however, it’s more efficient and logical for us to grill our filets of beef separately while preparing the sauce for the dish in a large saucepan. Fear not, however; the magnificent taste will still be there.

The basic elements of our sauce are butter, oil, brandy, shallots, parsley, mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, a bit of Marsala wine, and some pepper. To that we’re adding a unique Bistro 185 touch: black truffle paste and just a smidge of brown sugar.

When finished, our Steak Diane will go out on the plate with mashed potatoes and a little sautéed spinach on the side. Perfect for treating yourself or someone you love (or both of you!) at week’s end.

Julia Project Week 4 Is Set!

We’ve literally just selected our dishes for Week 4 of the Julia Project, August 31-September 5, and will be announcing them very soon. You will not want to miss these — we’re combining some amazing special-occasion dinner entrees with some terrific last-gasp-of-summer-style comfort food, and we’re even dipping into some of Chef Todd’s back pages to bring you one with a special touch from his past. Watch this space!

Join Us On Vacation — Here on the Blog!

Tomorrow we start our week’s vacation in Key West, Florida, a place where great food and fine dining are everywhere you look. Which is why, even though the Bistro will be closed tomorrow through the 30th, we’re not just leaving you at home pining for us to come back!

On our vacations, we never fail to discover new things and come up with fresh ideas to take home with us and share with you back at the Bistro. So, please drop in on the blog over the next week as we tell you about some of the sights, sounds and tastes we encounter during our trip. We’ll keep you up to date on what we’re experiencing, thinking about and planning to do next — and you can let us know what you think of them!

A preview of Week 3

We hope you were able to join us last night for Veal Marengo — tender veal in a flavorful tomato-and-mushroom sauce. Whether you were or weren’t, however, we’re preparing another treat for tonight: Loup en Croûte — Fish in Pastry, with hollandaise sauce and haricots verts (good old-fashioned green beans).

Julia Project Menu Week 3 is Ready!

It just keeps getting better! Here’s what we have planned for next week:

Monday, August 17 — Salmon Filet en Papillote with Shallots and Tomato, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Page 220

Tuesday, August 18 — Chicken Pot Pie, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Page 278

Wednesday, August 19 — Pork Tenderloin with Port and Prunes, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Page 358

Thursday, August 20 — Home Made Veal Sausage with Scalloped Potatoes, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Page 364

Friday, August 21 — Chocolate Burnt Almond Ice Cream, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2, Page 421

Saturday, August 22 — Steak Diane, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Page 314

In the French tradition — minus about three weeks — Bistro 185 will be closed for our annual summer vacation from August 24 through the 29th. We will reopen Monday, August 31, bringing more Julia Project dishes with us!