Mars brings the traditional flavors of Occitanie to Houston

After a holiday respite, Houston’s amazing critically acclaimed tasting menu March recently reopened with a menu dedicated to the flavors of Occitanie, a historic region in southern France where the Occitan language was once widely spoken. To create the seafood menu prepared using classic French techniques, Chef Felipe Riccio and Executive Sous Chef Matt Hamilton spent the winter holidays in Occitanie, researching and working with local ingredients.

Opened in 2021, March is dedicated to exploring the cuisines and even the culture of the fluid and multicultural regions of the Mediterranean. The pivot to France naturally follows March’s exploration through the Maghreb of North West Africa and the regions of Analusia and Murcia in Spain. Like those two, the Occitania menu can now be enjoyed in six or nine courses, with or without wine pairings selected by March’s team of beverage experts led by master sommelier June Rodil.

“Being able to see the basic ingredients — like the olives growing in the fish market — is helpful because it allows us to better understand their bounty so we can emulate it through our sourcing,” Riccio said. “[We] Tried to find signature dishes of the region like bouillabaisse and cassoulet, and we both found it very difficult. They are very traditional, often served at home and not often in restaurants. »

Inspired to bring these classic dishes back to Texas, Riccio and Hamilton have made modern adjustments to traditional recipes, while maintaining the integrity of the dish’s history and flavor. Stars include the traditional fortified seafood stew, bouillabaisse, served here with rock prawns and mussels from Pernod in an interactive, deconstructed presentation. Other modifications include a brandade with béarnaise sauce – rendered with fattier Murray cod from Australia rather than leaner salt turf.

“What we found were classic dishes seen through a modern lens – these dishes are still evolving in France. Our interpretation work in March also reflects this,” says Riccio. “We want to understand the foundation, see the evolution of these dishes in their place of origin, and then come home and create our versions.”

On the drinks side, Rodil shines a light on lesser-known places in Occitania, selecting, for example, a white blend from the former fishing village of Clos Sainte Madeleine in the often-overlooked region of Cassis in Provence as a pairing with bouillabaisse. Meanwhile, a rustic lamb tagine with North African influences, the Clapassade, is paired with an elegant Mourvèdre-Grenache blend from rising Languedoc-Roussillon winemaker Ludovic Engelvin.

A brandy-centric cocktail menu also skews French: Normandy Calvados, Gascon pruneau brandy and classic spirits like Chartreuse and Pastis all make an appearance, but also Austrian eaux-de-vie and even brandies Americans. “Working with France and French spirits for the season, we couldn’t overlook the role that absinthe and pastis have played in French drinking culture,” says bar manager Alex Negranza, who created the Pastis // Coco cocktail merging Herbsaint and verjuice with lime, coconut water and condensed milk.

Diehard March fans will be happy to know that the famous Dry and White Vermouth service is back, this time with an infusion of fresh mint, sage, rosemary, strawberry and dried lavender flowers. And if it’s your first time, remember it’s reservation only, so book yours through Resy now.

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