PaperCity Magazine

May 2018- Houston

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58 oNE oLIVE oR TWo PoETS AND PASTRY L ured by the romance of the cafes in France, Paris-born Karine Favre-Massartic has opened the charming Café Poetes in Midtown. She grew up in France, with a father born in the Southwest region, where foie gras, black truffles, Bordeaux wines, cognac, duck confit, and seafood abound. Armed with a law degree and a doctorate in technology, for years she logged miles between Europe and Asia, working for multi-national companies — until this year, when she made a 180-degree career switch and launched her cafe. The quaint design was inspired by Les Jardins de Bagatelle — a charming example of l'orangerie architecture de jardin. Soaring ceilings give way to grand arched windows, while the patio blooms with potted citrus trees. Walls are lined with books, and the limestone and black-marble-tile floor is from France, as are the round brass-ringed tables — the same sort used at Café de Flore in Paris. Place your order for breakfast (eggs, bacon, croissants, and fresh-pressed juices, $4 to $6.50) or lunch (until 5 pm) at the counter. Find a seat at the handmade pewter-topped bar or in one of the cushy Louis XV-style, cane-back chairs. Order savory sandwiches and éclairs made with twice-cooked, airy paté a choux, which is cooked atop the stove first, then piped into shapes and baked. Favre-Massartic has devised a spice blend for the dough of each of her sandwiches, such as the éclair smoked salmon artichoke and éclair pho with marinated brisket, pickled carrots, and mixed greens ($10.50 each). Also on the menu are quiche and a beet-and-goat-cheese salad. For desserts, she eschews fondant, which she calls too sweet; therefore, the dark chocolate éclair ($6) is napped with a shiny ganache ($6), and the salted caramel éclair is drizzled with caramel ($5.50). Wine is offered, along with teas, coffee, and a rich hot chocolate served with a diluting side of warm milk. Stay tuned: We hear another location is in the works. Café Poetes, 122 W. Gray St., 832.335.2813, W hen you enter the glamorous new Fig & Olive restaurant on the western edge of The Galleria, in Saks Fifth Avenue's former location, the first thing you notice is that as the sun goes down, everyone inside the 7,000-square- foot space looks marvelous, bathed in a soft glow. Another hallmark: the piney aroma of fresh rosemary. I'm told this small chain of Mediterranean eateries (this is the ninth location nationally) spends more than $60,000 a year outfitting each dining room with the fragrant herb. With 160 seats inside and 40 outdoors beneath a canopy of olive branches, you can order up fare inspired by the olive-oil rich, coastal cuisine of France, Italy, and Spain. Begin with a cocktail — perhaps the Fig & Olive with muddled grapes, Lillet blanc, lemon juice, basil and gin — or a glass of wine and the signature crostini. We swooned over the chef's selection: a mighty slice of foie gras terrine with freshly grated orange zest atop and fig jam beneath, as well as toast layered with Ibérico ham over a smoked tomato concasse (three for $19). Executive chef Thomas Laczynski has stayed true to the healthful yet complex fare the restaurant is known for, but he's added Houston-only dishes such as the cured duck served with fresh apple slices and olive tapenade and drizzled with a precious balsamic ($17). Don't miss the seared sea scallop app served over a sunchoke purée (aka Jerusalem artichokes) and a dollop of ossetra caviar ($22). We also loved the tender balsamic-glazed short rib with crisp polenta and a light counterpoint, frisée tossed with bacon lardons ($36); and steak frites with a 20-ounce rib-eye — more than enough for two or even three ($53). For dessert, the chocolate pot-de-crème has a layer of cream to cut the richness, meringue, and praline sticks to provide a contrast of texture. Fig & Olive, The Galleria, 5115 Westheimer Road, 832.632.6632, Fig & Olive in The Galleria Café Poetes Cafe Poetes owner Karine Favre-Massartic JULIE SOEFER JENNY ANTILL CLIFTON

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