On the strength of a weeklong visit to Houston to visit friends and family, Philippe Verpiand took the ultimate gamble in 2012, moving his family lock, stock and barrel from San Diego to Houston and opening the modest yet refined Etoile Cuisine et Bar in Uptown Park. It was a gamble that paid off. This charming restaurant consistently wins hearts for its menu of well-executed French standards. Think steak frites, escargot, house-made pâté de campagne and cassoulet. His apple tart, paper-thin and drizzled with caramel, is the best in the city. Add to that a new bar program, an affordable wine list and a vibrant social hour, and you've got a place that is undoubtedly très, très bien. This year, Verpiand was also recognized by his peers when he was inducted as a Maître Cuisinier de France (Master Chef of France) by the elite international organization of chefs who are masters of French cuisine.