"The beginning and root of all good is the pleasure of the stomach; even wisdom and culture must be referred to this." Epicurus
The Food Most of the food dishes prepared at the Metro Bistrot come from the French family recipes of co-owner Marie-Paule Marthe. However, we check these recipes against the writings of the giants in the world of traditional French gastronomy. These include but are not limited to Auguste Escoffier, Raymond Olivier, Paul Bocuse, Pierre Franey, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, Jacques Pepin, Dione Lucas, and Elizabeth David. In addition, we use some of the recipes found in their works with minor adaptations and changes given the ability to find the ingredients in the area and our limited cooking facilities. Most of these dishes are made by Jay Livernois and include the Bistrot's cassoulet (Pierre Franey via Avignon), choucroute (Pierre Franey via Chez Jenny in Paris), ragouts, roast pork, chicken livers (Julia Child), daubes, boudin noir, duck confit, roast stuffed quail, and grilled beef filet, sausages, and fresh lamb chops.
We do not serve butter with our bread or oil with spices (that's not even Italian, but San Franciscan), much to the shock of many a customer. These are Anglo-American creations and not what is served in your typical French bistrot, except those which have become Anglo or Nordic or touristed, especially in Paris or in certain areas in the south of France. Still, if you like, you may BYOB (bring your own butter).
Also, our style of food is, mostly, from the south of France, known to the French as France profound (deep France). This style, and in contrast to other areas, is argued over even in France and can lead to conflicts in the Bistrot especially with our more well traveled clients who have experienced a consistent yet different style of eating there (again, usually in Paris or the Riviera of Provence). So, yes, we do serve our cold, small salads (crudités) with our hot main course and Syrian-style rice (white or red) or French mashed potatoes. And yes, our ratatouille is served hot or refrigerator cold; US health regulations do not let us serve it at room temperature, as they do in France in the summer in the midi (although I have never had it at room temperature there in a restaurant).
In addition, we are reluctant to serve you iced water from the tap just as they tend not to in France. The French tradition is to drink bottled water, and we encourage you to do the same in the Bistrot for health reasons which I do not care to go into here. However, we buy our ice, and it is made with purified water. We do not make our own on site with tap water.
The American Hot and Cold Food Mania
Last weekend a customer was upset that the lamb ragout I served was warm and not scalding hot. I often have requests for our soup to be served not just warm to hot, but boiling. And then there are the demands for most of the beverages to be cold (or "chilled") even the red wine customers bring, and of course, often, American women put ice cubes in their white wine to get it to the right frigidity for them. Then let's not forget the American male mania for cold beer. This all made me question what this is about? I then remembered that years ago, the great gastronome and depth psychologist, James Hillman, pointed out to me and Charles Boer in his kitchen in Thompson, Connecticut, this American mania with hot and cold food and drink. I seem to remember that he came up with a sweeping psychological indictment of American culture, something on the line that Americans want to be protected from beauty or pleasure, i.e. anaesthetized or more clearly, it is part of our neo-Victorian and pioneer heritage to be anti-aesthetic and anti-pleasure, otherwise we might not work as much. Although satisfying in a culture-bashing way, I think it is more simple than that. It seems that: 1) we are afraid of tasting something other than what we are used to (i.e. fear of new textures especially in eating organ meat), and 2) we do not want our foods and beverages to taste, because if we did, we might discover that some of them are infantile and disgusting (i.e. canned soups, chemically enhanced lite beers, and cheap, sweet, white wine). This might get us to turn to other foods and beverages that would probably cost more, be smaller in size, and give us a party in our mouth yet leave our inner child petulant.
Finally, certain items must be cooked in a certain way, and if not, are terrible. We will not ruin a dish to please a customer. We know that everyone has to cook enough meals at home and can ruin food for themselves. We believe that we should not have to do that for them, even if it means not making someone feel pleased.
Oh yes, and contrary to certain fraudulent reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp, we do not microwave ANY food at the bistrot. We do not have a microwave at the Bistrot or own one at home. We use convection ovens and induction burners for cooking and warming dishes. Any microwave sounding type beeps you might hear in the bistrot are from the convection ovens' safety timers going off or our credit card machine processing purchases. That is all.
Southern French Goat Ragout This recipe comes from the south of France via the former French Indian colony of Pondicherry. It uses a light curry with either wild, button, or shiitake mushrooms. It should not be a hot curry but have just a hint of heat.
4 lbs. of goat with bones 1 chopped large onion (not too coarsely or too fine)
1/4 lb. of butter 4 cloves of fresh garlic pressed
1/4 lb. of dried mushrooms (wild, shiitake, or button) soaked in one cup of chicken broth.
1 tablespoon of turmeric 2 tablespoon of coriander 1/2 teaspoon of cardonum
1 tablespoon of ginger 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon pinch of hot pepper
1 teaspoon of white pepper 1 teaspoon of black pepper
4 cloves salt 2 bay leaves
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven, add the onion and garlic and all the above spices. Cook the butter, onion, garlic, and spices for 8 to 10 minutes in an oven (425 degrees) or stove top (medium high). Trim the goat of as much excess fat and tough tissue as possible, and cut the meat into cubes the size of one's thumb. Brown the meat in a separate pan and remove any liquid produced. Next, add the meat and dried mushrooms with the broth and stir with the curry mixture so all the meat and mushrooms comes in contact with the butter and spices. Cook for three periods of 25 minutes in an oven (at 425 degrees) or stove top (medium high). After each 25 minutes, let it cool, and then cook it again. Should the dish appear dry add more broth or water. Refrigerate over-night or cook it a fourth time for 25 minutes. The meat should be tender and pulling away from the bones, which should be white with the meat falling off. The sauce should have thickened from the bone marrow. Serve with mash potatoes, red rice, or a good basmati done in Syrian style.
SPECIFIC DISHES Our Best-sellers Escargot—Snails in the shell; we import these from France. The French eat 500 million snails per year, and yes, they are very healthy for you, loaded with nutrients and minerals. They are the ur-gourmet chthonic food. Tourin soup—A tomato, bread, and garlic soup made with San Marzano tomatoes grown on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius in Italy, an artisanal bread made in Southbridge, and garlic and sweet onions. Salmon in parchment— Gratin de Venus— Cassoulet— Duck confit— Sautéed Beef Filet and Foie Gras— Dishes Nobody Else is Making Soupe au shiitake—made with either a dark vegetable boullion or beef boullion, spiced with nutmeg and using fresh shiitake mushrooms. The basic recipe comes from a French restaurant, The Grape, in Dallas I worked in in 1980. The original recipe comes from Paris and was brought there by a French trained American chef when they opened in 1970, founded and run by two blonde, attractive Texas women (one had been The University of Texas Beauty and Homecoming Queen in 1968).
Soupe St. Hubert—
Setoise Squid Pie—
Roast Stuffed Quail—
Lamb Shank Confit—
Bananas in Goat Cheese—
Clafoutis— Dishes We Used to Cook (but do rarely now) Escargot gratin—This dish recipe comes from Marie-Paule's maternal grandfather who came from the Ariege region in the Pyrennes mountains. He was a WWI veteran who received the Croix de Guerre for his actions in the battle of Verdun in 1916. The base for this gratin is made with sautéed mushrooms, garlic, parsley, and roux, which is cooked in French white vermouth. This is placed in a small casserole with six snails, which have been sautéed in butter, and then thin slices of guyere cheese. Each casserole when ordered is then baked for ten minutes in the oven. Crêpe de fruits de mer—an in house made crêpe (which can be made gluten free if reserved) with fresh lobster and sea scallops from New England, Gulf shrimp, and fresh mushrooms with a filling from a recipe of Marie-Paule's grandmother from her 1907 French cookbook. This is then baked with grated cheese on top. Parmentier— Sweetbreads— Chocolate mouse—made with Belgian 60% cacao chocolate (Bouchard's), rhum vieux (aged French Caribbean rum) or brandy, and local eggs.
"The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art,
one of the joys of civilized living." Dione Lucas
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