December 3, 2013 – I stood surrounded by the most somber of American history on one side and the brightest of French culture on the other. I was on the 500 block of Tenth Street, NW, Washington, D.C. Even 148 years later the emotion lingered.
Across the street was Ford’s Theater. Now all modern steel and glass and light. Still very much a working theater. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is playing there this month. 148 years ago it was the site of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
To my right was the house to which the mortally wounded Lincoln was carried and in which he died early the next morning. It’s still brick. Still 19th century. Now overseen by the National Park Service.
A very somber moment.
Next door was Bistro d’OC, a restaurant recommended to me by a friend. I left the worst of American history behind and stepped into the southwest of France. With its red walls and yellow accents, the cheerful presentation of the restaurant was a welcome relief from the dark history hovering just outside.
Chef/Owner Bernard Grenier is from the Languedoc region of France. Languedoc translates into English as “the language of Oc.” Yeah. There’s a language of Oc still spoken by a few families in the region. Similar to French but not quite.
Chef Grenier’s wife, Thasanee, is Thai, which accounts for the Thai influence on the menu. Their son, Benoit, works with them in the restaurant. It’s a family commitment.
I ordered a glass of Cremant de Limoux, a traditional sparkling wine of the Languedoc region, produced by Tocques et Glochers. Incidentally that translates into the tall, white chef’s hats with which we’re all familiar and cathedral bells. Don’t ask me why.
It is believed by some wine historians that the first sparkling wine was created in Languedoc in 1531 by monks. All I know is it was a grand glass of wine. A dry sparkling wine that made me crave a second glass.
I ordered the duck liver pate as an appetizer. It came as a cold, substantial slice of goodness. Accompanied by a fig compote and, more importantly, cornichons, those tiny, sour French pickles that I love.
For an entrée I ordered Travers de Boeuf au vin de Languedoc. In other words, braised short ribs with mushrooms and rosemary polenta. The short ribs were served boneless and, while I prefer them on the bone, the dish was excellent. A perfect late fall dinner. Hearty. Comforting. Satisfying.
For dessert, I wanted light and refreshing. I chose the house made mango sorbet. It made me thankful for 21st century technology that allows a kitchen to make a frozen dessert in mere minutes.
Dark American history. The light of southwest France. Excellent wine in an ancient style. Braised beef. Technology that produces a delicious fruit sorbet in a few short minutes. What a world!