L'Ami Louis

This is my favorite restaurant in the world when you simply need to eat ... superbly. As the late, great A. J. Liebling said, this is a restaurant for "feeders." Since 1975, I have visited L'Ami Louis 3-5 times a year, and nothing changes. When the bill comes, it is easily the amount of a three-star European restaurant, yet with the quality of the products one gets, who cares? If you're not into eating, forget this place. It's outrageously expensive, but no one prepares roast chicken, leg of lamb, scallops, frog legs, and potato cakes better than this ancient restaurant founded in 1924. The food was absolutely spectacular on all levels. It's the type of cuisine I can go back to time and time again as it is the timeless classics that no one in the world does better, from their huge oversized Burgundy snails in garlic butter, to amazing scallops, to the best lamb in the world, and often the world's finest roast chicken. Combine that with the world's greatest potato dish, the extraordinary terrine of scalloped potatoes served like a cake, with the potatoes sauteed in goose fat, then roasted in a 500-600 degree oven, and then piles of fresh garlic and parsley are dumped on the top, and the dish is sizzling hot when it comes to the table. This is the food of my dreams.

The wines were also spectacular, starting with a brilliant bottle of 1996 Deutz Cuvée William Deutz champagne, and then moving into four magnums of amazing Châteauneuf du Pape. The 2001 Bois de Boursan Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée de Félix almost tastes like a great Pinot Noir. It is the most elegant, restrained, and discrete of these Châteauneufs. The old ancient Grenache-based cuvée of 2000 Les Cailloux Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Centenaire was pure kirsch liqueur. From magnum, this was the best bottle I have yet tasted of this wine which has never quite hit the heights of the perfect 1998 or the more backward, tannic 2001. It is an extraordinary wine, but it is more open-knit and evolved than the Bois de Boursan. A magnificent bottle of 2001 Marcoux Châteauneuf du Pape was the hit of the table as it was drinking so well. It revealed that wonderful wild blueberry, blackberry, crème de cassis character, magnificent texture and richness, and a long, full-bodied finish. Perhaps the greatest wine on the table, but one not yet ready for prime time drinking was the 2001 Janasse Vieilles Vignes. A huge, black-colored Châteauneuf du Pape with marvelous density, texture, and power, yet wonderful purity and elegance, it will make a great bottle, but needs another 2-4 years of cellaring.

An adorable side story is that as we were eating, my back was to the front door, and my wife, who is by no means a fan of most actors and actresses (she just doesn't care), looked up and said, "Oh my lord, guess who just walked in the restaurant? It's Johnny Depp!" As it turns out, the screen saver on my 17-year old daughter's computer is a picture of Johnny Depp, her favorite actor in the world. I must say that even though, like my wife, I am not moved one way or another by most actors or actresses, I have a real fondness for Depp because of all the unusual/unconventional roles he has played over the years, and also because he has lived in France for a number of years. I like the fact that he is a maverick, and a guy that walks to the beat of his own drums. My wife, who never does such things, waved to him as he and his party sat down parallel to us, and he smiled as he waved back. Of course, I was then given the responsibility of getting his autograph for our daughter. I am not one to ever want to interrupt other people's meals, whether they are famous or not, and I did not want to invade his privacy, arguing with my darling wife that we should leave him alone. After thirty minutes or so of debating the merits of asking him for an autograph, I called over Louis, one of the restaurant's owners, and asked if he thought Depp would mind signing my daughter's high school picture. Louis said he's a "great guy" and it should be no problem. So I wrote him a little note, apologizing for the intrusion, and explaining that my daughter was a huge fan. As it turns out, he not only wrote her a wonderful long, gracious message, but he came over to our table and told me what a pleasure it was to meet me since he had all my books, and had become a huge fan of Rhone wines. He didn't think he would ever have the chance to meet somebody whom he considered "one of his heroes." This all took place in a full restaurant with a number of my friends, and I'm sure everyone in the restaurant was saying,

"who is that old guy Johnny Depp seems to care about?"

 To make a long story short, he was incredibly gracious. We talked about wine and his movie projects, and I left the restaurant thinking what a truly gracious and generous human being, and I wanted to share this with readers. Here's to Johnny Depp!

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