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Bistro des Amis

Odile de Maindreville and her brother, Bernard Cuillier, are from Biarritz, in the southwestern edge of France, on the border with Spain's Basque region. They have just opened Bistro des Amis (2347 University, 713-349-8441) in Rice village, a really authentic, cozy French bistro.

"I've lived in Houston on and off for 20 years," says de Maindreville. "My son lives here, and I used to go back and forth to France all the time, but now this is home...This is a very, very French bistro -- very simple, very intimate and very warm. We have things like soupe à l'oignon, escargots in puff pastry, boeuf Bourguignon and many vegetarian dishes. Everything we make is homemade...our pâté and even all of our desserts, like the crème brûlée and the gâteau Basque, which is a specialty of the region where we come from."

Cuillier is the chef. "For many years I worked for cruise lines, and then I taught culinary arts," he says. "I cook what I like, and I change it every day. Since our place is very small, if people want something special, they can call ahead and I'll make it for them. We have a prix-fixe menu for $19.95, which includes an appetizer, entrée and dessert, and people say they really like that."

Cafe Bites sampled the ragout de champignons, which is a medley of wild and domestic mushrooms sautéed in port wine with shallots and lots of garlic, then stuffed inside puff pastry and baked. If you like mushrooms, you'll love this dish.

 
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