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L'Oulette, Paris

Mervyn Rothstein
Posted: July 21, 2005

(continued from page 1)

Speaking of calories, the cheese course came next, and it was a generous selection of the best (mostly of the southwest, of course). These raw-milk cheeses are usually not available in the States, and L'Oulette provides a great chance to sample them. They were accompanied by an assortment of nut breads and a fig jam.

Desserts? How about pain perdu, the true French toast, with a touch of cinnamon, dipped into a crème anglais that's wittily presented in an egg shell, with, as a final touch, a scoop of nougat-honey ice cream. Or, as another choice, a heavenly dark chocolate cake, its center filled with raspberry puree.

Throughout the meal, the service was exactly what you would expect in a restaurant like L'Oulette, gracious and friendly, unobtrusively faultless, with not the slightest trace of hauteur.

Like the meal, L'Oulette's wine list is a revelation. The emphasis is similarly on the southwest, in this case, on small-label boutique wines that don't usually travel west (much to our loss). Yes, you can opt for standards from Bordeaux and Burgundy, like a Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot de J. Faiveley 1999 for about $150, or a Puligny-Montrachet du Domaine Michelot 2000 for about $95, or, if you want to reach for the sky, a Château Mouton-Rothschild 1994 for about $300. There's also a good selection of less expensive wines from these regions. But why not choose from among the 17 wines from Cahors, the 23 from the "grand southwest" or the 28 from Languedoc-Roussillon.

"The top winemakers from Bordeaux are buying properties in Languedoc-Roussillon these days and producing good wines," says Marie-Noëlle Baudis, Marcel's wife and the restaurant's hostess.

The light fruit and distinctive spice of a simple Gaillac, Domaine de Cailloutis 2002 de Bernard Fabre, which came with the meal (it's about $30 à la carte), went flawlessly with the first courses, the tuna and the chicken terrine. And a Saint-Chinian Domaine Rimbert "Les Travers de Marceau" 2003 de Jean-Marie Rimbert (which also came with the meal and is about $32 à la carte), was just right for both the rascasse and its spices, and the duck and its gentle richness. The Saint-Chinian had small tannins, a little fruit, subtle spices and an appealing nose with a touch of strawberry and spice; it had a mildly assertive finish and it lingered agreeably on the palate.

"It's a wine with character," Mme. Baudis said. "In the old days, Saint-Chinian wines were mass-produced and had a bad reputation. That's changing. There are now really good vineyards in the Languedoc, and they are becoming better known."

After the dessert came espresso. Then it was time for the cigars from L'Oulette's rolling humidor. The choice is good, and considering the dollar's losing battle with the euro, the prices are not bad. A Cohiba Robusto (still and always my favorite) is about $30, a Cohiba Siglo IV Corona Gorda $27. Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 and No. 3 Robustos are $19 and $20, respectively, and Romeo y Julieta Churchill Julieta No. 2s are $27. A Montecristo No. 2 is $23. For Partagas partisans, the Serie D No. 4 Robusto is $20, the 8-9-8 Lonsdale is $24 and the Lusitania Double Corona is $28.

For me, there's nothing like a Cohiba Robusto to end a meal -- it's a smoke that lasts, but that doesn't last forever, like some of the bigger cigars. And when it's been kept the way it should be, as it is at L'Oulette, the result is pure pleasure.

Indeed, for me, the definition of a meal at L'Oulette is total bliss. I've been there several times, and the restaurant and Chef Baudis just keep getting better and better. In the old dialect of Languedoc-Roussillon, Mme. Baudis says, an oulette is a little cooking pot. At L'Oulette, the contents of that pot create smiles of contentment.

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