Picture this. I am sitting in a restaurant courtyard on a perfect June evening. There is a fountain bubbling gently nearby and my glass of wine is so cool and crisp that condensation is forming what looks like crystal balls. Even though the name of the restaurant is the Black Cat Bistro, I am feeling very lucky. And I foresee nothing but good things ahead. Editor Emily breezes onto the patio as I am knee deep in an appetizer dilemma. Should we get the Lobster Mac and Cheese Tots with roasted tomato ragout or the Chicken Lollipops with jalapeño honey over cornbread? Of course, we went with the Peanut Encrusted Goat Cheese with caramelized onion and saffron honey. What can I say? All the adjectives had me spinning. And how can you ever go wrong with fried cheese? The goat cheese had a wonderfully crunchy exterior with smooth, sharp goat cheese oozing in every direction. Smeared on a crostini with sweet onions and honey, it was a marvel for the mouth. Insert sip of crisp, cold wine. Yum! Next up was a fresh and zippy salad. Shaved asparagus and arugula shared the plate with bacon, red onion and oranges. The vinaigrette was snappy and clean. It kind of revived us from the decadence of our appetizer. A palate refresher, if you will. Dinner turned out to be less of a moral dilemma for me than our appetizer choices. I went straight for the special. Local walleye with a mushroom and tomato ragout over garlic mashed potatoes. The fish was perfectly seasoned. Tender and flakey with just a touch of seared firmness on the outside. The ragout wasn’t a typical ragout, but it was a flavor powerhouse of garlic, wine, mushrooms, tomatoes and a touch of cream. I loved it. I was wondering if the potatoes may be too heavy with the fish but it was all so flavorful that it really didn’t matter. Insert sip of crisp, cold wine. Editor Emily took a little more time with the menu. She perused the chicken with a mango and coconut salsa, the salmon with the cilantro lime crème fresh and the chorizo and apple stuffed pork chop with the balsamic adobe sauce. In the end she went with the skirt steak and fries. When she dove in, she happily reported that the flavors were singing. Marinated in lime, garlic and oregano and topped off with a classic Chimichurri sauce, she was entranced. Me too, as I of course, helped myself to my fair share. The Chimichurri sauce accomplished something interesting. It was spicy, but its heat never overpowered. It must have been from the bright vinegar notes. Whatever it was, it was delicious. As were the fries, a lovely mix of both russet and sweet potatoes covered in sea salt. These were no amateur fries. Me likey. No meal is complete without a touch of sweet (patent that). Enter the Roasted Pineapple Rum Cheese Cake with caramel cinnamon sauce. Is that enough said? It was rich without being overbearing. The cinnamon caramel sauce is my new best friend (see below as to why). And it went great with my wine. I have a confession. I recently acquired two cats. My friends are campaigning to rid them from my life. It was proclaimed by one of my favorites (friends that is) that the Black Cat Bistro should be the only feline love in my life. I may have to consider this. PS: Brunch looks great. There is a special bloody mary menu and such offerings as crème brulee battered French toast and crab cakes benedict.
Colette Evangelista sells certified organic, non-toxic beauty, health, baby and home products at www.healthandhopeorganics.com. Twenty percent of her profits go to Ascending Above Autisim, a charity that helps parents pay for autism treatment.