Review: Spanish Regional Wine Dinner

The Tenant’s back again…first, let me ask all of you who regularly come to these wonderful dinners: Where do you put it all? I always end up at the end of one of these Bistro 185 wine dinners feeling as if I am filled to the very top of my body with wonderful food, unable to fit in one bite or one drop more, and the rest of you are just sitting around sipping the rest of your wine, or ordering coffee…how do you do it??

If that gives you the impression that last night’s dinner was a winner, it should. It was a real feast of incredible food Spanish-style, paired with wines that fit the mood and the dishes beautifully.

I can’t say I’m a wine expert, but I enjoy tasting the different kinds offered and seeing how well they go with the courses, and it’s always an adventure.

First came the tapas. You got to see yesterday what the tapas trays looked like, and they were filled with delicious treats. From the olives, nuts and cheeses to the specially prepared items like the crabmeat-stuffed deviled eggs, the salt cod fritters (passed around separately) with garlic aioli, and the Spanish tortillas — alternating layers of tortilla and potato slices, served cold with more of the aioli — these were a great exploration of appetizers Spain-style. So were the gazpacho shooters: narrow little shot glasses of cold, spicy Spanish vegetable soup, each topped with a shrimp. The wine for this course was Ramon Bilbao Crianza 2006: a deep cherry-red wine with a fruity, smoky flavor. All the Ramon Bilbao wines are produced in the Rioja Alta wine region of Spain.

Next came a bowl of tiny sautéed clams, swimming in the chorizo broth you saw a picture of cooking up on the stove yesterday. The little clams absorbed the rich, spicy flavor of the sausage-filled broth, so delicious that after having picked the clams out of their shells with the clam fork to eat them, you needed to switch to your spoon to scoop up every flavorful drop of the chorizo sauce. The original plan was to serve this course with Ramon Bilbao Limited Edition 2006, but as it turns out the 2006 vintage isn’t ready yet, so we were supplied with the 2004 vintage instead, which made a fine accompaniment.

Next came the Chicken Marbella. How did it taste on top of Yukon Gold mashers? Absolutely delicious! Because this was Spanish food, many of the dishes were spicy and pungent, with a heat that lasted long on the tongue. But the astringency of the green olives in this dish was counteracted beautifully by the addition of prunes, which contributed a special sweetness and made for a nice change of pace. And the mashed potatoes did a wonderful job of soaking up the sauce! It was accompanied by Volteo Viura Sauv Blanc Viognier, a blended wine whose lighter, fresher, flowery-buttery flavor also provided a contrast to many of the heavier red wines on the menu. Volteo wines come from Castilla-LaMancha, the world’s largest vineyard.

By the time you’ve enjoyed appetizers and a few courses at a dinner like this, you’re ready for a light, refreshing salad course, and that’s just what the Orange and Fresh Fennel Salad provided. The organic honey and lemon vinaigrette was the perfect taste to go with the combination of greens, orange slices and slivers of fennel — a sweet, juicy, delight. The wine, too, was just right for it: Volteo Rosé Garnacha, full of fruity scents and crisp flavor.

Last, but certainly not least, of the main courses was the South African Lobster Tail, Sea Bass and Scallop in Saffron Broth with Timbale of Saffron Rice with Peas and Roasted Red Peppers. Mere words cannot describe the pure, smooth, buttery sublime flavor of this lobster tail. The sea bass, coated wonderfully with the saffron broth, tasted almost as rich, as did the scallop. I overheard another diner saying he had never in his life eaten such a well-prepared scallop. The rice was a nice addition as well; it served as a little starch to play off the richness of the seafood. The wine for this course was Cruz de Alba Crianza 2006, an unusual choice to my mind because it’s a heavier, redder wine than I’m used to thinking of as ideal for a seafood course, but it worked well. This wine is produced in one of Spain’s fastest developing wine regions, Ribera del Duero.

I must admit that by the time the dessert course came around, I didn’t have much room left for both the desserts and the Drysac Sherry served with them (although it was very good). The treats assembled for us on this plate were a rich, eggy Spanish flan, blanketed in caramel; an almond cake deep with flavor, topped with sliced almonds; a tiny chocolate mousse in a chocolate cup, with a strong mocha-coffee flavor; and a deep, dark, rich chocolate truffle that just melted in your mouth and flooded it with heavenly chocolate flavor. What a way to end our mini-visit to Spain! Hats off to Chef Ruth Levine and her staff for making this another wine dinner to remember.

If all this doesn’t persuade you that the next Bistro 185 Wine Dinner, set for December 15, is not to be missed, I don’t know what will! Watch this space for more details.

Sneak Preview: Spanish Regional Wine Dinner

Those of you who made reservations for tonight’s Spanish Regional Wine Dinner are in for a real treat. Here’s a little sneak preview to get your mouth watering:

Here’s one of the tapas trays, full of almonds, olives, cheeses and other delights.

The salt cod fritters are fried up and just about ready to go.

The sautéed clams and chorizo are bubbling on the stove, and the sauce is the soul of spicy perfection.

And the Chicken Marbella is lying in its tray, swimming in olives, white wine and spices, ready to be plated up with Yukon Gold potatoes for tonight.

Your appetite sufficiently whetted? (And we haven’t even gotten to the wine!) Good — be sure to be here at 6:30 on the dot tonight to take off for your tour of the regional cuisines and wines of Spain…no luggage or passports necessary! Just bring your appetite and your appreciation of great food and wine!

Not signed up for tonight’s wine dinner? That’s too bad — you’ll have to settle for reading our review of it here later. But you can still be sure not to miss another one. Get on our mailing list and you’ll receive advance notice of every special event at the Bistro!

Visit Spain without leaving Cleveland: Enjoy our Spanish Wine Dinner Nov. 17

If you love the rich history and savory flavors of Spanish cuisine — or if you’re a fan of wine in general or Spanish wine in particular — Bistro 185 has the perfect event for you this month. Our November 17 Spanish Wine Dinner will feature a selection of classic Spanish-style tapas, followed by five courses of specially crafted Spanish cuisine. And, naturally, each course will feature an accompanying carefully selected wine from Spain.

MENU

Tapas
Selection of Dried and Cured Olives
Marcona Almonds
Manchengo and Cabrales Cheeses
Crabmeat-Stuffed Deviled Eggs
Salt Cod Fritters with Garlic Aioli
Spanish Tortilla
Gazpacho Shooters with Shrimp Garnish

First Course
Sautéed Clams and Chorizo

Second Course
Chicken Marbella — Chicken braised with garlic, green olives, oregano and white wine with Yukon Gold potatoes

Third Course
Orange and Fresh Fennel Salad with Organic Honey and Lemon Vinaigrette

Fourth Course
South African Lobster Tail, Sea Bass, Scallop in a Saffron Broth with Timbale of Saffron Rice with Peas and Roasted Red Peppers

Fifth Course
Spanish Flan, Almond Cake and a Selection of Chef’s Whim Desserts

Cost of our Spanish Wine Dinner is $50 per person, tax and gratuity additional. To enjoy this special evening, make your reservations now at 216.481.9635.

Vacation almost over…

Hello again from the Conch Republic!

Last night we went back to Michaels and ordered the 4-cheese fondue. We were disappointed in it. As Ruth said to Marc, “It looked better on somebody else’s plate.” The fondue itself was OK, but the dipping items were breads, salami, cold roasted chicken, broccoli, carrots, raw zucchini and yellow squash. Large hunks! Just not something we would ever order again. We had maple pecan ice cream for dessert — but we think the ice cream we make is so much better.

We did sit next to two very interesting men who just came back from California — the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. They were very much into wine and food. They talked about having dinner at The French Laundry. They made their reservation six months in advance — dinner for three people — which was $1,400. You read that right! And guess what: They didn’t like it! On the other hand, they have frequented another Thomas Keller restaurtant, Bouchon, many times and really like it there. They did say the wine selection at The French Laundry was wonderful — go figure!

Our bartender last night was really nice. She moved here 14 years ago from Manhattan — talk about a lifestyle change! She came down here for vacation and never went home. We can definitely see doing that. It is such a laid-back and easy place to be.

Today, we are going snorkeling, and then back to Louie’s Backyard for tapas on their upstairs patio. Some of the restaurants we wanted to go to are closed for vacation, as this is the off-season.

We are leaving tomorrow. Oh well — back to reality!