June is blooming with Asian vegan delights, Spanish & Portuguese wines

We’re ready for summertime at the Bistro, and kicking off its official start with a summery Asian take on vegan cuisine and a dinner featuring the finest white wines from Spain and Portugal. Here are the details:

VEGAN ASIAN DELIGHT:  Our June Vegan 3-for-$30 Dinner available Thursday, June 21, from 5 to 9:30 p.m., includes these courses:

Starter
Thai Summer Roll with Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce

Entree
Mongolian Bar-B-Q Tofu
Asian Vegetables
Basmati Brown Rice

Dessert
Chocolate Molten Lava Cake

“WHTE WINES OF SPAIN AND PORTUGAL” DINNER: Looking for some refreshing and different white wines for your summer dining? You’ll find them at our  “White Wines of Spain and Portugal” Dinner Thursday, June 28 at 6:30 p.m. This $65-plus-tax-and-gratuity dinner pairs five courses of sunny Spanish and Portuguese cuisine with five wines native to the area.

Aperitif
Marc’s Special Sangria

First Course
Yellow Tomato Gazpacho with Cilantro Oil and Avocado
Wine: Pazo Serantello Albarino

Second Course
Shrimp with Romesco Sauce and Saffron Rice
Wine: Twin Vines Vinho Verde

Third Course
Potato Torta with Chorizo
Wine: Acustic Blanc

Fourth Course
Braised Chicken with Almonds and Pine Nuts
Wine: El Hada Verdejo-Viura

Fifth Course
Caramel Flan with Fresh Fruit
Wine: Warre’s White Port

Make plans now to celebrate the beginning of summer with us by calling 216.481.9635 and making your reservations for one or both of these dinners. You’ll be very happy you did!

White wines announced for next week’s “Hello Summer” Wine Dinner

We’ve got our wine list ready for next Wednesday’s “Hello Summer” Wine Dinner! Check out the menu here, and if you haven’t reserved yet, please do! It’s the perfect way to kick off the official beginning of summer!

Join us for one (or both) of our “Hello Summer” dinners

The Memorial Day Weekend is the perfect weekend for us to announce our next set of special dinners coming your way in June.

First, on Thursday, June 16, starting at 5 p.m., we’ll present our next 3-for-$30 Vegan Dinner, “Hello Summer,” featuring just the right flavors in vegan dining for summertime:

Appetizer
Wild Field Greens Salad with Blueberries, Strawberries, Sunflower Seeds and Toasted Almonds with Blueberry Vinaigrette

Entree
Gardein “Chicken” Scallopini
Asparagus, Pea, Meyer Lemon and Basil Risotto

Dessert
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble

The following week, on Wednesday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m., we’ll seat our “Hello Summer” White Wine Dinner, featuring five courses and five white wines for $60 per person plus tax and gratuity. The menu is just as cool and summery as our Vegan Dinner menu:

First Course
Seared Day Boat Scallop
Risotto with Peas and Asparagus
Truffle Oil Drizzle
Wine: Henri Bourgeois Les Baronnes

Second Course
Field Greens Salad with Strawberries, Blueberries, Almonds and Sunflower Seeds
Strawberry and White Wine Vinaigrette
Wine: Brandborg Pinot Gris

Third Course
Crispy Duck with Star Anise-Rhubarb Sauce
Wine: Clayhouse Adobe White

Fourth Course
House-Made Artichoke and Ricotta Ravioli
Rooftop Garden Herb Cream Sauce
Wine: Buried Cane Dry Reisling

Fifth Course
Fresh Berry and Mascarpone Phyllo Cup
Wine: Andrieux & Fils Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise

To make your reservation for either, or both, dinners, call 216.481.9635 and ensure your place now. There’ll be fabulous dining this summer at Bistro 185, and our “Hello Summer” offerings are just the beginning!

Vegan Night features a savory trip to Paris!

The Tenant here, having eaten vegan again tonight! I’m here to tell you the 3-for-$30 Vegan Dinner served up this time around was another fine stop on the Bistro’s world vegan tour.

The festivities began with the Ratatouille Niçoise Salad. This was a rich and spicy combination of fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, yellow squash, and eggplant, accented with fresh and roasted fennel seeds, orange zest and white wine that really brought the flavor alive. It was served on a bed of greens, garnished with niçoise olives and capers, and drizzled with a balsamic glaze that added a little sweetness to balance out the spice. The flavors were both hearty and just right for springtime. A couple of tender mini-croissants were tucked alongside and came in handy for soaking up excess sauce.

The main course, Gardein “Chicken” Française Finished with a Meyer Lemon Sauce and Imported Lemon Oil, was one in which the sauce truly made the difference. The gentle sauce had just enough lemony bite to accent the “chicken” cut beautifully, and the Potatoes Lyonnaise were rich with saucy flavor. The Haricots Verts Amandine were perfectly green, fresh beans with a spring-y snap and fresh flavor that tasted buttery even without butter. This course was plated up beautifully as well–a feast for the eyes.

I knew I was going to love dessert, because once you say “marzipan,” I am there. The Apple and Marzipan Tart was sheer heaven, dusted lightly with cinnamon and drizzled with both the crème anglaise originally announced and a dark sauce that I forgot to ask the identity of! Whatever it was, it was a perfect complement for the fragile and wonderfully tasty pastry concoction, packed with slender slivers of apple and a layer of yummy marzipan. To my mind, this one should be in the dessert case all the time, vegan or not! It would be a shame for people who don’t normally try the vegan dinners to not get a taste of it. True, it could be made non-vegan as well, but the fact that it was made so deliciously without any animal products is a testament to the versatility shown in the kitchen by Chefs Ruth, Jakub and Todd whenever they’re at work.

Once again, I found myself enjoying a full vegan dinner without feeling I was missing out on any flavor at all. I highly recommend the experience to others…and if you’re vegan, you’ve got to love it! Keep in kind that next month is a multicourse Vegan Sake Dinner. If you love Asian food, you will want to make plans now to attend.

Private Reserve wine tasting: eight high-quality wines for only $20

The Tenant returns with a brief review of this past Tuesday’s wine tasting featuring wines from Purple Feet Distributing and Private Reserve Wine Distributors. If you’re a wine lover, tastings like these are a deal you shouldn’t miss: you have the opportunity to taste eight high-quality wines for only $20. If you don’t know much about wine (that would be me), these tastings help you become acquainted, for not much money at all, with what kind of value you can get for your dollar if you learn a little about what’s out there.

Allow me to speak for a moment to my fellow wine naïfs (oenophiles, forgive me). If you’re like many people who don’t know much about wine, you may have come to the conclusion that only expensive wines can really be any good. And you might think that for sure, no good imported wine is going to be inexpensive. Wrong on both counts, as we saw, and tasted, Tuesday night. Of the eight wines we tasted, only one cracks the $25-a-bottle ceiling, and two are available for about $9 per.

A small word about the food. For the wine tasting, the Bistro extended its $5 Happy Hour appetizer policy until 8 p.m. This meant that while appetizers were additional, it was possible to purchase one or two and eat both inexpensively and well. My choice was the Pot Roast Sliders. I’ve had the Bistro’s regular burger sliders before, but not these, and they were exquisite: thick little squares of juicy, melt-in-your-mouth pot roast, on the traditional tiny buns, lavished with as many caramelized grilled onions as the burger kind. Accompanied by a generous mound of sweet potato fries, these make a great meal. (I recommend asking for a side of ranch or Gorgonzola dressing for your fries.)

Now, about the wine. Selections consisted of six reds and two whites, so for the red-wine fan especially, this was a treat, and each wine had something to recommend it.

We got a taste of both the white and red Esporao Monte Velho wines from Alentejo, Portugal. The white was described as “Aroma of floral and spicy fruit. Intense, elegant and well balanced” and a good accompaniment for grilled fish, shellfish, cheeses, and vegetarian dishes. It does seem suited to that purpose; it struck me as fairly dry, but with a nice soft fruity quality. As for the red version, if I were to pick a favorite amongst all the wines, this would probably be it. I really liked the intense ripe berry bouquet that this one gave you right off the top, not to mention the taste, which seemed a bit oaky without being extremely so. And at $9.99 a bottle for either wine, they’re a steal. If you want a really good, yet inexpensive, foreign wine, try the Portuguese.

Not to say that California doesn’t have decently priced, very good wines as well. We were poured two Havenscourt wines, 2008 Chardonnay and 2008 Pinot Noir, and each had things to recommend it. The Chardonnay has “creamy vanilla and lemon flavors enhanced by toasty oak aromas,” our literature said. I found it less dry than the Monte Veho, but not overly sweet either, just a nice balance. The Pinot Noir, with a taste that “hints of currants, ripe berries and violets,” had a powerful bouquet but a smooth, not highly intense flavor on the tongue. These are $8.99 a bottle — terrific bargains indeed.

The Castelnoble Tempranillo, from Spain, provided yet more proof that “foreign” and “good” doesn’t have to mean “pricey.” This wine, described as having aromas and flavors of black currant, raspberries, and toasted vanilla, had a bright flavor with a full, heady bouquet, with a spicy feeling in the mouth. It also sells for $9.99 — very affordable if you want a wine for an elegant dinner that doesn’t cost more than the dinner.

It was back to California for the 2007 Tin Barn Napa Valley Zinfandel, and it was a nice trip. Strong bouquet, nice and smooth drinking with a fruity, peppery-spicy flavor. This one is a little more costly at $19.99.

The Urano Malbec, an Argentinean selection, was described as “intense red fruit, hints of spice, subtle French oak, touch of coffee and tobacco. Solid with a pleasant finish.” I found it dense, fruity, and quite smooth and silky, but not with a terribly intense flavor — more subtle. If you like something that really jumps on your tongue, this one may not be for you, but if you like a really silky-smooth wine, it could be a perfect match at $12.99.

Last was the 2006 Ahnfeldt Provocative Cabernet. This Cab is actually a blend of 75 percent Cab, 14 percent Merlot, 1 percent Petit Verdot, and 10 percent Syrah. It makes for a spicy-cinnamony red wine that’s smooth with subtle hints of sweetness (cherry, milk chocolate, caramel, and currant, so the literature says). It was the priciest wine of this group at $25.99, but also a very nice choice in red wines.

If you couldn’t make it to this tasting, because of the weather or for some other reason, there’s still plenty of time to call 216.481.9635 and make reservations for the $10 tasting on Tuesday, the 25th. It’s sure to feature more very drinkable and affordable wines to tempt your palate.

Austrian Wine Dinner a delicious success!

Hope you enjoy this new video of our latest wine dinner last Wednesday, featuring wines from Austria and Germany paired with a menu of classic Austrian dishes.

The Tenant has once again popped in here to provide a review of the latest, and you may not be surprised to hear that I felt it was delightful! Here are the details.

The dinner kicked off in fine form with a first course of House-Smoked Pork Tenderloin accompanied by an Apple Galette with Ginger-Cream Sauce. I don’t know how to describe how delicious this was. The pork was smoked to perfection and the ginger-cream sauce was the ideal addition. But the real revelation was the tender and flaky apple galette, which included sweet caramelized onions and crispy bacon pieces; it was sheer heaven! The Lois Grüner Veltliner 2008 served with this course went very well with this symphony of flavors without overpowering it.

From there, the meal continued with one of the favorite ethnic dishes of this and many other parts of America, schnitzel. But what a schnitzel! So tender and so gently breaded, and topped with a delicate Meyer lemon sauce combining just the right amounts of sweetness and tartness. Each was topped with a fried quail egg and a stripe of anchovy for a little extra savory bite. All of it lay atop a bed of exquisite redskin mashed potatoes. Very satisfying, especially paired with with a 2007 Heinrich Red that was a mixture of 50% Zweigelt, 30% Blaufran-Kisch and 15% St. Laurent. This combination made for wine that, despite its heady bouquet, was not as heavy as I tend to expect reds to be. It seemed to have a more flowery, light taste than the average red — not so much a “red meat” wine as a wine that would go with many different kinds of dishes, and was a good match for the schnitzel.

The always-welcome third salad course, this time of ruby red grapefruit, avocado and arugula dressed in a white wine vinaigrette, was a wonderful and refreshing palate cleanser. I especially love avocados, so this was a winner for me. The wine was a Zweigelt Classic Gelt 2008, and complemented the fresh, crisp flavors of the salad.

The fourth course, Wild Forest Mushroom Ragu with Asparagus and Pappardelle Pasta, was like the exact opposite of the salad course: dense, woody, peppery, in a rich and flavorful brown sauce. It was somewhat similar to Chef Todd’s ragu with spinach, and the Blaufrankisch Classic Frank 2008 was a successful match here, with enough body and dense fruitiness to not be overpowered by the richness of the dish.

In course five, the exact right things came along at the exact right time. The Juniper Berry House-Smoked Trout — yet another great product of the Bistro 185 smoker — had just the perfect pungent, savory flavor for this point of the meal. It was unlike anything else and positively delicious in its contrast. Speaking of contrast, it coexisted on the plate with a polenta cake whose texture and flavor was also perfect for the dish, as was its savory mustard sauce. The wine here was a switch from the original plan; the Heinz Eiffel Kabinette 2009, originally planned for the dessert course, was served with this one instead, and it was a wise choice. The German Riesling was just fruity enough to complement the dish without being too dessert-y sweet.

Finally, the dessert course featured two classic Austrian tortes: the Sacher, layers of chocolate sponge cake sandwiched together with apricot preserves and topped with dark chocolate ganache, and the Linzer, a tart of latticed almond pastry and raspberry jam. The two examples baked up by Bistro 185 were purely delicious. The wine that accompanied them, Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2007, was a really enjoyable, crisp, fruity Riesling perfect for dessert but also, like so many of the lighter wines at these dinners, something I’d be happy to drink on its own.

It was a pleasure to spend this dinner with the wine lovers of Bistro 185 and Greg Webster of Wine Trends, who provided the selections for the evening. If it sounded good to you, but you missed this particular dinner, don’t miss the next one, which is now planned for Thursday, May 27 (courses and wines to be announced). If you’re interested in wine tastings but would prefer to keep your emphasis on the wine, or would appreciate a less expensive way of trying new wines, sign up for one of the Bistro’s $10 “Light Tastings,” which feature hors d’oeuvres instead of a sit-down dinner, scheduled for next Monday, May 10, and Monday, May 24. Call 216.481.9635 and prepare for a wonderful wine-filled evening!

A flurry of activity going on now!

So much is happening here at the Bistro that it’s hard to even keep up with it all. To bring you up to date:

WINE TASTING TONIGHT: We’re having a special $10 wine tasting tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. with light hors d’oeuvres, featuring Vino Con Brio Wines: “Matzin” Old Vines Zinfandel, Vino Con Brio Pinot Grigio, Vino Con Brio Petit Sirah, Vino Con Brio “Late Harvest Matzin” and Old Vines Zinfandel. Availability is limited, so if you’re interested, call to reserve a spot.CHEF TODD SHOWS OFF HIS MUSSELS: This week’s new Chef Todd Special will be added tomorrow night. In the meantime Todd is continuing to offer specials from last week. One we hadn’t yet mentioned here (yes, he ultimately came up with three!): Mussels Provençal, steamed in garlic, white wine, roasted red pepper and tomato, flavored with roasted garlic cloves, parsley and scallions, served with thin spaghetti. Try this one for a hearty seafood-and-spaghetti dish!

WEDNESDAY NIGHT IS VEGAN NIGHT: This Wednesday, Bistro 185’s new featured Vegan Dinner Series entree of the evening will be Sundried Tomato Pesto with Tofu, Sauteed Vegetables and Vegan Parmesan over Pasta. Don’t miss this one!

IT’S SWEET TO TWEET: Also, if you take a look at the right column of this page, you’ll see our big news: Bistro 185 has joined Twitter! (We’ll be adding a similar widget to our Web site and Facebook pages shortly.) If you’re on Twitter, please add us to your Follow list; if you’re not there as yet, you can still follow us by searching for “Bistro185” on the Twitter Web site or just following our activity here and on our Web site and Facebook.

Twitter is the place to read our “short bites” on the latest on what’s happening at the Bistro, and also where you can take advantage of special time-sensitive offers available only to those paying attention to our tweets. So keep your eyes on us — it might just pay off! Also, we’d love to hear tweets back from you — did you enjoy your latest meal with us? What would you like to see on the menu in the future? What’s gone that you miss? Let us know!

Review: “Spring Into Whites” Wine Dinner

The Tenant is back, to tell you that the Bistro 185 “Spring Into Whites” Wine Dinner was a real spring fling! This special dinner featuring nothing but white wines was a fine introduction to the season we look forward to here in Cleveland so much.

The first course, Sea Bass Veronique, featured a slice of tender pan-roasted sea bass atop a tiny slightly sweet, light-as-air polenta-mascarpone cheese cake. The Veronique was topped with a chive beurre blanc accented with green and red grapes. The gentle, subtle flavors of this dish were enhanced by the Scharffenberger Brut sparkling wine, a blend of two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay, equally light and soft in flavor as this dish.

Lollipop Lamb Chop Milanese was the second course: a pair of lollipop-style lamb chops in spicy breading atop a cake of orzo risotto and accompanied by a sweet peach-ginger chutney that was an ideal complement for the flavors of the lamb. The Conundrum White Blend served with this course, an intriguing blend of California white grapes, had a sweet overall touch that combined well with the chutney.

Next came the salad course, with something special indeed: Grilled Pineapple Carpaccio with Fresh Raspberries and Arugula, drizzled with a champagne vinaigrette. Grilling the thinly sliced pineapple really caramelizes it and brings all its sugars to the fore, and it made for a delicious salad, with a wine — Yalumba Viognier — that made for a beautiful and light companion.

The fourth course brought richer and spicier flavors: Chicken Wellington with Shiitake Mushrooms and Spinach in an Herb Crêpe Beggars’ Purse, tied with a ribbon of leek and seated in a creamy roasted red pepper and basil sauce. It was a dish of contrasts: the creamy, tender chicken and the spicy pepper sauce. The Cloudline Pinot Gris, a fruity but drier wine than many of the preceding wines, worked well with this dish.

Course number five had an Asian touch, with Thai Seafood Coconut-Mango Curry. This was another opportunity to enjoy one of Chef Ruth’s perfectly seared grilled scallops, topped with a perfect shrimp and dressed in a curry sauce rich with mangoes, coconut, red pepper, corn and Thai basil. The wine for this dish was Valley of the Moon Chardonnay, a 100% Chardonnay that was very enjoyable.

The delicious conclusion to it all was a dessert that continued the Asian theme: Phyllo Wrapped Roasted Banana and Caramel, along with an assortment of “chef’s whim” delights. The banana was heavenly sweet and delightful; the “chef’s whims” consisted of tiny lemon tarts topped with a raspberry and mini-mocha mousses in tiny chocolate cups. The wine for this course was Von Wilhelm Haus Riesling Beerenauslese, a very appropriate wine with a nice hint of sweetness.

Much thanks to Vintage Wine Distributors and Jonathan, their representative, who joined us and helped me, especially, learn more about the wines we enjoyed.

If you have yet to make it to a Bistro 185 Wine Dinner, but your mouth waters when you read about this and the others (and watch the video!), you should take advantage of your next opportunity to enjoy one — Wednesday, April 28. We’ll be announcing our menu and wines soon, so keep an eye out here for it!

White Wine Dinner and Beer Dinner coming up!

Bistro 185 has not just one, but two special dinners on our schedule in the near future — one for wine lovers and another for beer aficionados. Whatever your taste (or if you like both) you’ll want to mark your calendar for these events!

“SPRING INTO WHITES” MARCH 24: Springtime is the time when our thoughts turn to wearing white (and not the snow on our boots!) and drinking white — those delightful white wines that so well complement the light, fresh flavors of spring. We’re celebrating with a “Spring Into Whites” White Wine Dinner on Wednesday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m., highlighting a variety of the finest in white wines.

Here’s the menu:

First Course
Sea Bass Veronique: Pan-Roasted Sea Bass with Chive Beurre Blanc and Green and Red Grapes
Wine: Scharffenberger Brut

Second Course
Lollipop Lamb Chop Milanese with Peach-Ginger Chutney
Wine: Conundrum White Blend

Third Course
Grilled Pineapple Carpaccio with Fresh Raspberries and Arugula Salad in a Champagne Vinaigrette
Wine: Yalumba Viognier

Fourth Course
Chicken Wellington with Shiitake Mushrooms and Spinach in an Herb-Crêpe Beggars’ Purse with Leek Ribbon, Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Sauce
Wine: Cloud 9 Pinot Gris

Fifth Course
Thai Seafood Coconut-Mango Curry
Wine: Filadonna Pinot Grigio

Dessert
Phyllo-Wrapped Roasted Banana and Caramel
Assorted Chef’s Whim
Wine: Valley of the Moon Chardonnay

Cost of our White Wine Dinner is $60 per person, gratuity and tax to be added. Call now to make your reservations at 216.481.9635 and get ready to “Spring Into Whites”!

If you need any further persuasion to join us, take a look at our latest wine dinner video and the accompanying review from our “Passport to Romance” event February 15.

NORTH COAST BREWING COMPANY BEER DINNER APRIL 14: One of the pioneers of microbrewing in 1988, North Coast Brewing Company of Fort Bragg, California is famous for its Red Seal Ale and many other craft beers that have won more than 70 awards in national and international competitions. Now, you can enjoy a variety of North Coast brews, selected to complement a six-course chef-driven menu, Wednesday, April 14 at 6:30 p.m. Cost of our beer dinner is $50 per person, gratuity and tax to be added. Seating is limited, so make your paid reservations now at 216.481.9635. We’ll be posting a menu soon!

The James Beard Project: Coming full circle this week

This week marks the return of the James Beard Project, and to start with, we’re bringing back the same slate of dishes we featured in Week 1. That means if you missed any of these great dishes the first time around, you have another chance to enjoy them!

Monday, Jan. 11 — Noodles with Cabbage
Sautéed Medallions of Pork Tenderloin with a French Grainy Mustard and Horseradish Cream Sauce (Beard on Pasta, p. 88)

Tuesday, Jan. 12 — Coq au Riesling
Braised Chicken in Riesling Wine Sauce (Beard on Pasta, p. 116)

Wednesday, Jan. 13 — Walnut-Breaded Filet of Sole With Lemon Aioli, Grape Tomato Salad and Roasted Baby Redskin Potatoes (The New James Beard, p. 199)

Thursday, Jan. 14 — Roast Duck with Cherries and Wild Rice (The New James Beard, p. 338)

Friday, Jan. 15 — Ossi Buchi with Orzo
Braised Veal Shanks with Orzo (Beard on Pasta, p. 140)

Saturday, Jan. 16 — Lamb Shanks with Beans (The New James Beard, p. 399)