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!

A great combination of creamy and spicy

That’s my Tenant verdict on the Julia Project dish of the day. The scallops are seared just right, with a little touch of golden brown — tender and soft. The risotto and the green sauce blended into it manage together to combine gentle creaminess and spiciness. You can really taste the earthy mushrooms, and the tang of the tomatillos and jalapeños lingers on your tongue a little, but is softened by the rest of the flavors. They changed things up a bit on us! Rather than topping it with a tomato salsa, Chef Todd and crew went with a grilled corn salsa instead, which turned out to be just right; it adds a little crunch and sweetness to what is in every other way a pretty soft and smooth-textured dish. Another bonus was a little spoonful of that salmon caviar they were talking about the other day. This has a saltier, fishier flavor and is a good contrast to the more subtle flavor of the scallops.

This is definitely a dish I would recommend to seafood and scallop lovers, especially if you’ve eaten lots of scallops-in-a-creamy-buttery-sauce dishes (often with cheese) and would like to try something a little different.

Behind the Dish: Sea Scallops and Wild Mushroom and Green Sauce on Risotto

Hi! It’s me, the Tenant, again! It’s my duty to bring to you the story behind today’s Julia dish, Sea Scallops and Wild Mushroom and Green Sauce on Risotto.

This recipe, being one of those in Julia’s “Master Chefs” series, came to her through Southwestern cuisine expert Robert Del Grande. You can find a link to a video of him preparing this dish on this page.

Just as with yesterday’s offering, this isn’t one typically considered “French,” except by Julia’s standards. But it does sound tasty, and I’m going to taste it tonight. If the scallops are cooked anything like they are in the Bistro’s lobster ravioli dish, it should be great. (The lobster ravioli!…my baby sis and I are crazy about that. If we could find a way to hook up an IV line to deliver that buttery cream sauce directly into our veins, we would.)

What goes into this particular dish? For one thing, a base. In the PBS video, Robert Del Grande makes corn pudding as his base, but the Bistro is using a black-truffle risotto instead. I love corn pudding like I love my life, but risotto is fine with me too. The important thing, I guess, is to have a nice creamy bed for the sauce and the scallops.

The green sauce is cooked separately. It consists of tomatillos — small, green, tomato-like fruit that grows inside a husk, with a tart flavor — husked, puréed and sautéed with serrano chilies and garlic. In the Bistro’s recipe, jalapeños will fill in for the serranos. The mushrooms will be shiitakes, cooked in chicken stock, salt and a little sugar added once combined with the tomatillos, if needed to balance out their tartness.

The scallops are seared in yet another pan. Again, keeping the liquid level low and caramelizing is important, to make sure the scallops are seared, rather than boiled, in the pan.

When everything is ready, the risotto goes down first, then is topped with green sauce and mushrooms, with the seared scallops set on top. A drizzle of heavy cream, a touch of tomato salsa and a sprinkle of corn nuts will finish it off.

If that sounds good, plan on coming in tonight and taste it for yourself. Otherwise you’ll just have to settle for my description after I try it!

Behind the Dish: Crêpes Suzette

Tonight’s new Julia presentation is a classic French dish served up as a dessert treat: Crêpes Suzette. We’re going to serve our crêpes with orange marmalade, orange slices and Grand Marnier.

We wanted to let you know we plan to make this blog more visual very soon, and feature quite a few things we think you’ll like, such as photos of our dishes and even a little video. In the meantime, to give you an idea of what goes into preparing a crêpe Julia-style, we’re presenting this YouTube video by Julia’s “nephew,” “Julian Child,” aka “The 99 Cent Chef”:

An advisory: we’ll be preparing our crêpes minus the wig, earrings and pearls. Just in case you wondered.

We are also reprising a Julia entree from earlier in the week: the Pork Tenderloin with Hot Fanny Sauce. If you missed it earlier, tonight’s your second chance to enjoy.

Week 5 Menu will be posted soon…

The Julia Project Week 5 is going to be great! Look for specials including duck with porcini mushrooms, lamb shank with fall vegetables, and scallops with green tomatillos and risotto. Part of the week we will have a guest chef subbing for us while we prepare the menu for and attend to our son Ari’s wedding. (More details on that later!) One of our featured Julia dishes at that time will be Spaghetti Marco Polo. Watch this space for more details!