Ripaire de Cartouche
The six foot, four inch tall Chef Paquin creates some of the most heartfelt, terroir-based cooking in Paris at Ripaire de Cartouche, a restaurant that is not easy to find, but is well worth the effort. Paquin is big on game in season, and when we visited in November, 2012, there was plenty of baby venison (cerf) as well as an assortment of game birds. The cooking is super-flavorful as well as abundant. The service is typical bistro – rushed but friendly, and the interior is reminiscent of a rustic French hunting lodge. Prices are reasonable. Our wine selections included a bottle of Chef Paquin’s favorite Crozes-Hermitage made from Roussanne (which is difficult to find), the 2010 Dard et Ribo. It was very good, but the killer wine was the 2010 Ceps Centenaires from Domaine Gramenon. Made from 100+ year old, head pruned Grenache vines, it is still a baby with some unreleased CO2.. However, as it aired out, it got better and better. As often happens, the last glass was the best, which tends to irritate me, but that’s the way it is.
I love the food and ambiance at this venue, and the greeting from Chef Paquin is always sincere and warm. The wine list, with its emphasis on France’s Rhône Valley and the Languedoc-Roussillon, is filled with treasures from these two viticultural regions.
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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...