This casual, fun, noisy, hip San Francisco venue located in the panhandle, or Haight-Ashbury district is an attractive brasserie/bistro with fresh, lively food as well as a terrific wine list. I sent some Bordeaux wines from my cellar that arrived only two days before the dinner, so they had barely enough time to settle down in the bottle. The 1976 Ausone, one of the finest wines from that difficult vintage, was still intact, but it was beginning to fade. However, all the other wines performed beautifully although my notes were relatively conservative simply because I was paying more attention to the food than the wines. All the wines performed as I expected with the exception of the 1990 Latour, which was truly impressive (I have had some bottle variation with that vintage), and the 1982 Château Margaux, which was absolutely fabulous. Except for the 1996 Lafite Rothschild, it may have been the youngest wine in the tasting. I was astonished by how primary the latter wine was. I have had this wine on a number of occasions and it has never seemed this young. This particular bottling easily warranted another 15+ years of cellaring. The 1998 La Mondotte was the blockbuster of the group. It was huge, massive and showing beautiful fruit, as was the 1990 Latour. The fully mature 1990 Canon La Gaffelièreshould be drunk up. The 1989 Lynch Bages was another baby that tasted more like a 5- to 6-year old Bordeaux than one that is nearly 23 years old. A problem for old geezers like myself is that in a cool cellar, these wines age so slowly, but you have to keep them in such an environment to ensure that you get the purest bouquet and flavor expressions. The 1982 Pichon-Lalande fell just short of perfection. It has, seemingly, been fully mature for the last two decades or more, but it continues to hold on with lots of cedar and cassis notes as well as a full-bodied mouthfeel and a terrific finish.
As for the food, my favorite dishes included the wonderful little fried fish, which some identified as anchovies and others thought were sardines. We ate the entire fish, including the head, since they were so small. I also loved the flatbread of tasso spiced ham and the wood baked gigante beans. The grass fed hamburger was terrific, but the dish that blew me away was the country pork chop (which I shared with my neighbor). It had a wonderful caramelized coating as well as an incredibly moist flavor with intense porkiness.
This was a wonderful night of wine, food and people. I would return to NoPa in a New York second.
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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...