L'Ami Louis, Paris, France

My favorite restaurant in the world, and a place to recharge my batteries after working ten straight 12 hour days, L'Ami Louis is a palace for incredibly fresh raw products roasted to perfection in the extraordinarily hot wood-burning ovens. It is outrageously expensive, but it could cost twice as much and I would still eat here four or five times a year. January through March is my favorite time to visit because of the availability of what to me are the greatest coquilles St.-Jacques and baby leg of lamb in the world. Their starter dish, the terrine of foie gras, is never great, but a good start. The snails are the finest I have ever had in France. They are big, succulent Burgundy snails that are brought in live in their shell, and cooked to perfection with oodles of garlic and butter. The Provençal way of preparing scallops is to roast them at incredibly high heat. At L'Ami Louis they are purchased in their shells, shucked about an hour before dinner, and roasted in hot ovens with gobs of garlic and butter. They are served with the orange rol on the side, something rarely seen in the United States because it deteriorates so quickly. This spectacular dish was followed by L'Ami Louis's glorious leg of lamb and their famous potato cake sautéed in goose fat then roasted in hot ovens with gargantuan quantities of fresh garlic and parsley dumped on it as this gluttonous dish emerges from the oven. An amazing dish, it is the greatest potato dish I have ever eaten.

As for the wines, the 1995 Cuvée William Deutz is a beautiful, crisp, fresh Champagne with vibrant acidity, and loads of bread dough/wheat thin-like flavors presented in a medium-bodied, stunningly pure style. Both magnums of Châteauneuf du Pape are superb efforts from Chapoutier, with the Barbe Rac getting my nod as there is more Provençal typicity in this sumptuous, full-bodied, blockbuster Châteauneuf. The Croix de Bois is nearly as good. Both are typical of the 2000 vintage being delicious young, with loads of fat and glycerin, but capable of lasting 10-15+ years. Another night of food and wine worth remembering.

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