There were no surprises at l’Ami Louis where my wife and I enjoyed a sumptuous meal in early November, 2012. We started with the house foie gras, which is good rather than great, but the Burgundy snails were as sublime as I remembered. I have been dining here three or four times a year since the mid-seventies, and this dish always blows me away. The sweetness of the parsley and butter, what must be the finest quality garlic money can buy, and the oversized, monster snails are all fabulous. And the time-honored French tradition of soaking up the butter with crusty bread is a habit I will take to the grave. It was the beginning of the season for the freshly shucked scallops that come from Britanny’s coastline, and the resulting dish was also fabulous. The Coquilles St.-Jacques were small for this time of year, but they were beautifully fresh and I I always eat the roe, which can be extraordinarily dangerous if it is not super-fresh, which it always is at l’Ami Louis. It is basically the same garlic, butter and parsley sauce, but the scallops add a different flavor profile. We finished with their famous roast chicken, which came from the Burgundy region of Chalon. It was cooked perfectly, and was served alongside the matchstick French fries, and what for me is the finest potato dish in the world, l’Ami Louis’s pommes béarnaises. To reiterate what I have said in the past, these potatoes are sauteed in bird fat (usually duck) and then put in a skillet that goes into a super-hot wood-burning oven until they get crunchy on top, and are then served with copious quantities of finely chopped parsley and fresh garlic spread on the top. It is about as simple a dish as one could prepare, but the explosive flavors and intensity as well as its pure hedonistic appeal are priceless.
Since most of their top Châteauneuf du Papes had been sold out, we drank one of my favorite rosé Champagnes, the 1999 Deutz Cuvée William Deutz Champagne, which is just beginning to fade ever so slightly. However, it is still an impressive rosé Champagne. We also enjoyed the 2007 Guigal Côte Rôtie Château d’Ampuis, which my wife found still too young, unformed, and oaky for her taste. So, I ordered her a bottle of 2009 Gigondas from Domaine Bouissière, which was the perfect antidote for her anti-oak sentiments. As the Guigal sat in the glass, the oak was pushed to the background, but this wine is unquestionably too young to drink at present. The Gigondas was ideal since it does not see any new oak. Its wonderful plum, fig, lavender, licorice, black currant and black cherry fruit are a perfect match with the roast chicken. It was an expensive but fun night, and I will continue to go to l’Ami Louis for as long as I am able, even if I have to get pushed through the door in a wheelchair. It’s that special of a place!
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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...