We must save visits to A la Maison in Ardmore for particularly cold evenings. Our last dinner there was in frigid weather and last Wednesday evening was almost as cold. Despite the chill outside it’s always warm inside this charming French bistro-styled dining spot on Lancaster Avenue. My friends Gerry B. and John G. and myself were in a good pre-Christmas mood and ready for a repeat of good food and wine.
We had a nice line-up of vino for the evening starting with my 2000 Whitehall Lane, Cabernet Sauvignon. This 10 yr old Napa cab had been resting comfortably in my rack for years and after a short time in the class it awoke and presented us with a bouquet of soft flavors. It may just have been surpassed though by John G’s delicious 2006 Conn Valley, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon which was outstanding and full of great floral smells and tons of the rich, dark berry fruit only found in the very best cabs. Gerry’s 2004 Oliviere, Chateauneuf du Pape could have been a star on most other nights but it’s muted flavors took a backstage to the two cabs. A 2004 Byron IO, Ryan Road, Syrah which was a recent Chairman’s Selection in the PA State Stores, delivered the smooth, peppery notes one would expect and proved an excellent value buy.
As our competent and enthusiastic server, Minnie, would attest, the real star of A La Maison is the food. As she recited the specials and opened our wine she told us what her favorite menu choices were and having been there previously, we knew that it was hard to choose something that wouldn’t please.
I had a bowl of the cheesy, gooey, oh so tasty, French Onion Soup. This one is really well made with lots of onion flavor and served at the perfect temperature. One could make an entire meal when this is paired with the house bread.
Gerry was quite enamored with his starter of Garlic Clams, natural jus, olive oil and parsley. Three large portions which quickly disappeared amongst little gutteral noises indicating joy.
John had little trouble selecting the Escargot, with garlic and parsley in a rich butter sauce. Six of the delicate snails were nicely presented and slowly devoured and we were ready for our main courses.
I might add that A La Maison is one of those BYOB’s that understands the importance of good stemware. They knowingly brought each of us separate glasses for each of our four wines. It may have made for a crowded tabletop but it means a lot to all of us who enjoy the difference that good wine can make with a meal.
Gerry had the lamb. I almost said, Gerry had a little lamb but I forget how the rest of the song goes. Anyway, he thought it was fantastic and I sampled a portion and even though I’d probably never order lamb, this one was really tasty.
Meanwhile, I was perfectly content with my Steak Frittes, NY Strip, Pommes Frittes and sauce maison. The steak was done just as I requested, the fries ok, although not exceptional, and overall a very good choice.
John ordered what I had the last time we were here, the Boeuf Bourguignone, short rib beef braised in Burgundy wine, pommes puree and vegetables. Just as on our previous visit the meat literally fell off the bone with plenty of flavor and he thought the potatoes were just perfect.
Profiteroles for me; A Creme Brulee for John and an apple tart with vanilla ice cream for Gerry made for a good ending to a fine meal.
As MacArthur said in Manila Bay…..”I shall return.”