Day 35: The French Connection

When one things of empires in the West, perhaps the Greek, Roman, or British empires come to mind.  The French empire, encapsulating parts of the Americas, Europe, most of West and North Africa, an extensive portion of the Middle East, and parts of South and East Asia, was no less impressive than these empires.  Currently, the Francophone world includes almost a half billion French speakers across 56 countries.  In fact, two out of three French speakers is outside of France.  Houston's international community is no less representative of this global phenomenon as the city is home to diaspora peoples from dozens of French speaking countries.  If you charted the languages of Houston, French would come in if fifth or sixth place, depending on whose numbers you use.  While there are many culinary manifestations of the Francophone world in Houston, we turn our attention today to the French countryside.

Lapin aux Haricots Verts (Roasted Rabbit) is a typical country dish.

The Strange Case of French Cuisine

When people think of international food, they often worry about eating "strange" food.  Minds immediately wanted to countries about which they know little.  Meanwhile they look with envy to French Cuisine.  If we were to rate countries on our journey through the world of Houston thus far, we would have to rank French food among the oddest, and at the same time among the tastiest.  Through the migration of European peoples to the United States, and the subsequent melting-pot culture, much of European food has been americanized in order to make it marketable.  Only the most accessible of dishes has remained while many daily foods, through their rarity, oddity, or lack of marketability vanished.  For example, we love the irony of people telling us that they love Italian food, which they believe to be exclusively pizza, lasagna, and spaghetti, and in the same breath saying how they do not like seafood, which is a significant part of Italian food as Italy is surrounded by a sea.  French country cooking takes one back to a time and place in rural Europe where through subsistence farming and poverty, people ate whatever they could get their hands on, and ate all the parts of whatever animal they found.  

Because of the quality of French food, many of these traditional dishes are still around.  Bistro Le Cep is your local avenue for this culinary walk through time and space.  Start your meal with the famous appetizer, Escargots, which are snails cooked in an herb butter au Gratin and served on bread.  Round your meal out with Poêlé Foie de Veau aux Pommes (Calf liver with apples, bacon, and potatoes), Lapin aux Harricots Verts (Pan roasted Rabbit), or Canard à l'Orange (Roast Duck).  Our personal favorite is Coq a Vin (Literally "chicken in wine") and the dish involves lighting a cognac laced stew on fire in order to glaze the sauce to the meat.