Vegan “Farm to Table” fresh and delicious

Apologies for the delay! The Tenant is back with a description of the Vegan Farm to Table Dinner of Wednesday. It was delicious from beginning to end — and the notable thing about this one was that Chef Ruth cooked it on her own, without any of the customary assistance from Chef Jakub. Looks like she’s got this vegan thing down cold! Or, should I say, hot and delicious!

Vegan Corn Chowder and Jalapeno Muffin

The starter course, Ohio Corn Chowder with Jalapeno Corn Muffin, could not have been better for me. I am a corn lover, and this is the time of year to grab that Ohio sweet corn and make amazing things out of it while you can! Ruth did just that with this incredible chowder. It was full of all the savory sweetness of the corn, yet with a special kick of heat enhanced by the red-pepper “cream” swirled atop it (which I believe was made with the assistance of almond milk). This is the kind of soup that, like the chestnut soup from Thanksgiving, makes even non-vegans say “What’s that you’re eating? Looks delicious.” It’s delicious, all right, and the muffin was perfect for sopping up any extra soup the spoon didn’t catch.

Organic Vegan Ratatouille and Gardein

On to the entree: Local and Organic Ratatouille with Rooftop Garden Herb-Crusted Gardein and Roasted Local Fingerling Potatoes. This was a concoction of classic ratatouille vegetables (including yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, red peppers) with garlic and rooftop herbs, combined with the crispy-outside, tender-inside tiny potatoes, and the crunchy-coated herbed gardein sitting atop it all. The melange of flavors was pure summer, and as I mentioned earlier, I like the chickeny texture and flavor of gardein myself, so I found this dish perfect for me.

Finally, dessert, and I’d already heard tell that this was going to be something else. Many times, cooks think of grilling meat but don’t consider what kind of amazing flavors grilling can impart to other foods (even lettuce, as I once learned at an earlier Bistro dinner). In this case, the Grilled Stone Fruit Compote demonstrated how succulent and tasty stone fruit (I believe this was peaches and apricots–not sure if there were plums too) can become when subjected to the grill, and what an incredible saucy glaze can be made from them as well. As for the Olive Oil-Lemon Cake…wow. You might be inclined to think “Wouldn’t olive oil ruin the sweet flavor of a cake?” But of course, there are many different kinds of olive oil, and not all of them have that “olive” taste. In the case of this cake, all the olive oil did was make it moist and spongy, with a tender, light, crunchy crust. The cake soaked up the fruit glaze beautifully and itself had just the slightest dusting of powdered sugar. Snuggled beside it was a mound of almond-milk whipped cream, boosted, I believe, with a touch of tapioca that made it a bit firmer and more puddinglike. Altogether, it was a tasty treat of the kind easily as enjoyable by non-vegans as by vegans.

This dinner was more than enough to rev my appetite for next week’s wine dinner. I’ll be there, and I hope you’re signed up to join us this Wednesday as Larry Laurello tells us about his wines and we enjoy dishes made from ingredients just as local as the wines. The growing season here is at its peak…come enjoy it at the Bistro!

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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.

Vegan Night is on!

And not only is Vegan Night on, but tonight you can enjoy a complete three-course vegan dinner at Bistro 185. For an appetizer, pictured above: a Flatbread Pizza based with whole wheat and flaxseed flatbread and topped with roasted zucchini, yellow squash, basil and garlic, topped with vegan Parmesan “cheese.” For your main course: a Mexican Stew rich with plantain, sweet potato, pineapple and Gardein “chicken.” For your dessert: a Roasted Banana “Cheese” Cake topped with pecans and maple-rum-agave syrup. From start to finish, we’ve got tastes to satisfy you at Bistro 185 tonight!

Night at the Oscars: Platoon and Pho

Our “Night at the Oscars” featured special for Thursday through Saturday this week takes us back to the 1986 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Platoon. No, we’re not serving Army rations. Instead, we pay tribute to the native cuisine of Vietnam with a Vietnamese Pho composed of halibut, shrimp, shrimp dumplings, julienne of carrot, zucchini, yellow squash, baby bok choy, and rice noodles in a lime leaf, lemongrass, and star anise-infused broth. We think you’ll like it.

Behind the Dish: Sautéed Calves’ Liver with Shallots and Madeira

Disclaimer: In James Beard’s recipe for sautéed calves’ liver with shallots and Madeira, we’re improvising on one of the main elements. Oh, don’t worry, we’re not skipping the calves’ liver — but the dish really should be called Calves’ Liver with Shallots and Sherry (try saying that five times fast), because we’re subbing sherry for the Madeira.

It’s pretty simple: finely chopped shallots (red onions can sub in a pinch) are sautéed in butter and oil, then the floured calves’ liver is added and sautéed, then seasoned with pepper, sherry and parsley.

Our liver enjoys a bed of mashed potatoes and an accompaniment of shoestring vegetables — carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, slivered fennel and green onions. If you’re a liver fan but never had it served up this way before, this is your night!

Another option: if you missed last night’s Chicken Kiev but would like to try it, it’s back on the menu tonight.

Behind the Dish: Salmon Provençal

What makes James Beard’s Salmon Provençal so Provençal? Well, the cooking of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France is distinctive in that it is heavily influenced by Mediterranean cooking. That means hot spices and seafood play a large role and, because the region is mountainous rather than farm country, dairy products figure in only a small fashion (such as in the use of goat cheeses). What you will find in Provençal cuisine is an emphasis on garlic, olive oil and olives, and the herbes de Provence, including savory, fennel, basil, thyme and lavender.

James Beard’s Salmon Provençal uses several elements of this cuisine — salmon (the seafood), olive oil and garlic — and we’ve added another — basil. Otherwise, our recipe is quite similar to his. It involves preparation of a rich sauce created by sautéeing onions and garlic in olive oil, then making a roux with butter and flour and adding white wine, parsley and basil. To this chopped tomatoes are added and stewed until the sauce becomes thick and full of flavor — a perfect complement for the baked salmon fillets.

We’re serving our salmon with a vegetable accompaniment of zucchini, yellow squash and spinach, on a bed of pappardelle pasta.

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!

Licking your chops for these chops

The Tenant just came back from my experience with the Côtes de Porc Robert, and a yummy one it was! The pork chop is incredibly thick, and the marinading process makes it succulent and full of flavor. The tomato-onion sauce is terrific and the red potatoes are so crispy and roasty they’re just heaven. The little unexpected touch on the side was tempura-battered zucchini strips — a great idea to go with a tomato sauce. Chalk up another win for Bistro 185!

“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.