Everest has been one of the bastions of top-flight French cooking in the United States for many years. Chef Jean Joho, an Alsatian native, has long been highly respected for his brilliant cooking in a beautiful venue that overlooks the Chicago skyline. This was a terrific meal from start to finish. The lobster salad included a beautifully cooked lobster in a coulis of cauliflower and watercress. The match-up with the nearly perfect 1983 Trimbach Riesling Clos St.-Hune VT was to die for. No one does foie gras better than the Alsatians, and the sauteed foie gras with celeriac was done to perfection. A beautifully flavorful filet of northern pike served on wonderful wild snails was also a gustatory success. One of the greatest dishes I have had recently was the tournedos of squab on a bed of macaroni gratin and perhaps the greatest sweet green peas I have had in years. That was followed by an impressive array of cheeses, all from mid-western farmers. If Everest were in France, it would easily qualify for 2 or 3 stars in the Guide Michelin. This was a brilliant meal from a great chef who is at the top of his game.
The wine list at Everest is superb, and praise is in order for the young sommelier, Alpana Singh. Not surprisingly, it is filled with impeccable selections from Alsace. A great discovery for me was the non-vintage Klipfel Crémant Rosé, a tasty as well as reasonably priced Champagne look-alike. We followed that with the spectacular 1983 Trimbach Riesling Clos St.-Hune VT, a wine that at 21 years of age still seems young, with one or maybe two decades of life ahead of it. It is one of the greatest Rieslings I have ever tasted ... from anywhere. Next came a still young 1989 Zind-Humbrecht Tokay-Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl VT. This was another great wine/food match-up as it worked marvelously with the foie gras. Since one of the guests was born in 1954(a very difficult vintage for top wine), we had the Vina Tondonia Rioja Gran Reserva. Very Pinot Noir-like, it possesses a medium plum/ruby/garnet color as well as complex notes of red fruits, earth, mushrooms, and sweet cherries. This 1954, which had no sediment, was lively as well as reasonably authentic. It's a shame they do not include the bottling date because the youthful looking cork and the fact that there was no sediment suggests the wine had been bottled within the last 5-6 years. It went beautifully with the filet of northern pike and wild snails. The spectacular squab on macaroni gratin was accompanied by the last great Rayas, the 1995, a wine that is moving into adolescence, but was one of the candidates for the wine of the vintage in Châteauneuf du Pape. Beautifully elegant and complex, it possesses abundant quantities of kirsch liqueur, licorice, and spice box as well as medium to full body, great purity, and wonderful raspberry coulis notes in the finish. It is just beginning to open and drink well. One of the most profound Châteauneuf du Papes ever made is undeniably the 1998 Les Cailloux Cuvée Centenaire. From magnum it's a baby ... but what a baby! Incredibly opulent, rich, and decadent, this is a full throttle Châteauneuf du Pape where the ancient Grenache vines (planted in 1889) that represent 80% of this cuvée dominate the wine's character. It is a sumptuous wine that should continue to evolve for another 10-15 years.
We finished the evening with a wine I have never before tasted. Easily equivalent to the William Chambers' greatest fortified Muscats, the Seppelt 1899 Para Vintage Tawny Port was over the top in richness and honeyed complexity. It boasts notes of crème brûlée, toffee, and melted caramel as well as amazing flavor intensity. Yet it is neither heavy nor cloying. Great acidity gives vibrancy to this worldly elixir.
I can't recommend the food and wine at Everest enough. Moreover, the staff, including the sommelier, Alpana Singh, is extremely knowledgeable.
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Petit Louis Bistro
A lookalike, authentic French bistro, Petit Louis in Baltimore's Roland Park is the creation of restauranteurs par excellence Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman. You feel like you’ve walked into a bistro on the Left Bank of Paris when you enter Petit Louis. The food is classic bistro, and they do it well. All of the courses we had were flavorful, sometimes a trifle rustic, but delicious in their intensity. This was good comfort food prepared extremely well. The wines started with one of the major surprises for me over the last year, the 2006 sparking wine from Tony Soter in Oregon. I had this several times while I was out visiting Oregon, and I had always been impressed, but this is a 10-year-old sparking Rosé that is just sensational, and I’m talking world class—it’s that good. Something this good from France would cost at least two to three times as much, so kudos to Tony Soter. The 1995 Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu was oxidized and undrinkable. The 1996 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St. Urbain Rangen de Thann was sweet, and although it went well with the foie gras, it was just a little too unctuous and sweet a wine...