New Years Eve Chez Parker
A very simple New Year’s Eve, enjoying the best of some of my favorite foods, including the relatively rare and hard-to-get Taylor Bay Scallops, which are purchased live in their shells and, because they are extremely perishable, need to be cooked within 24 to 48 hours of receipt. They are tiny, jewel-like scallops with a unique flavor that reminds me of a hypothetical blend of a mussel and a sea scallop. They’re delicious, but they have to be cooked fastidiously, as just a touch of heat opens them, and they need to be pulled from the oven at that point, before they get tough. With that, I grilled jumbo heads-on prawns that Bryan Flannery manages to get from the Gulf of Mexico. They are super-fresh and loaded with flavor. We then followed up with his famed prime rib of beef cap, which is the very top section of an entire prime rib cut off and rolled up. It is decadent to say the least. It is delicious, but it needs to be cooked medium-well, which is more than I generally like beef cooked, but for this particular cut, it’s the best way. We finished with our friend’s chocolate mousse cake, a tradition we have had with the same people on New Year’s Eve for close to 25 years.
The wines started with a 1996 Dom Perignon Rosé. I love this rosé Champagne, but it is so frightfully expensive, I rarely pull the trigger and buy it any more. It may well be the last bottle I purchase unless there are some great deals that emerge, given the world economy. We followed that up with a selection of gorgeous Châteauneuf du Papes. Isabel Ferrando’s 2007 Colombis is virtually all Grenache and is a beautiful wine, with lots of kirsch, lavender, and Provençal notes. The 2005 Janasse Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes is a massive wine, powerful, rich, still somewhat tannic, but impressive. I love the wine, and I wanted to see how it’s drinking, but the best vintages for drinking now are the 2003, 2001, 2000, 1999 and 1998. The 2005 really needs another 4-5 years of bottle age. Another perfect example of one of the most profound Châteauneuf du Papes I have ever had, the 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus Ex Machina from Clos St.-Jean is like bottled essence of Provence, from the peppery incense smells to garrigue, black cherry, cassis, licorice, and earth. It is full-bodied and opulent, without a bit of the raisiny, over-ripe character that one often associates with this vintage. Somewhat of a myth, the biggest problem most 2003s had in France, at least the red wines, is that they were picked too soon, and the wines are green, astringent, tannic, and lack texture and flavor. Before bottling, the 2003 Pierre Usseglio Châteauneuf du Pape Deux Frères reminded me of Henri Bonneau’s great Réserve des Céléstins, even though it is made and brought up in a completely different way, and obviously bottled two or three years before Bonneau would ever bottle his wine. It’s another one of the great 2003s, full-bodied, powerful, with lots of beef blood, herbs, lavender, and rich fruit.
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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...