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Le jour de gloire est arrive': Bastille Day at Baltimore's Petit Louis is Monday

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When Bastille Day comes to mind -- especially when it comes to dining -- traditional French fare hits the spot. Baltimore's Petit Louis will be the place to be! Of course, the value of liberte' has its place and Petit Louis steps outside the stricter edges of the box with local produce and some fun seasonal offerings. I was happy to be hosted to experience it!

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Monday, July 14 is Bastille Day: French independence day. It's the perfect time to head to Petit Louis. I have been a fan of what I refer to as "the P and the L" for several years; I live nearby. In fact, it's pretty much the only reason I bothered getting a Maryland drivers license, so that I could get there regardless if I had a dining companion or not . . .

I do have some favorite summer choices I always go for -- ah, fraternite'! -- such as vichyssoise. Okay, I'll admit that I got 2 for carry-out the other day. It's that good! I think there's a lot of heavy cream involved. I get depressed when it's take off the menu for the year.

But, in the thought of egalite', I figured I would give a chance to some things I was unfamiliar with. I'm glad I did: I have a new fave. The mussels are pretty tasty, with a generous portion in a light, summery tomato-wine-garlic-basil sauce. It's not goopy at all, though I did splash some on myself. I should have stock in Shout! But I have to admit, the Beignets de Crevettes -- shrimp beignets -- are outstanding. They're crispy and crunchy, like huge tempura shrimp, along with battered lemon, haricots vert and zucchini with garlic aioli. You'll be sopping up that sauce with bread, I don't care how many carbs you're counting.

One of the fun things about trying new things to eat, is that you'll be able to pair them with different kinds of wines than you're used to. One new thing I learned tonight that I will pass onto you: sparkling wine goes especially well with crunchy things. That's a good rule of thumb to live by!

Though they don't carry Fisher beer anymore, Jenlain Ambree' is pretty great with savory food.

One of the seasonal offerings this night was Quenelles of pike and lobster. Those are, for those of you who get the reference, a trayfe version of gefilte fish: little fish loaves. It was in "Sauce Americain," which apparently you can only buy in Europe. The recipe varies, but it might have fish stock, tomatoes, aioli, parsley and shallots. It was light and summery, for sure, more familiar to me as as dish that might be for others!

The preparation of duck breast this evening was fresh and fruity, without being overly sweet for a protein: there were stewed apricots and a blackberry gastrique. Their duck breast is perfectly cooked and marbled, fanned out on the plate in slices.

If you're a cheese-aholic like I am, Petit Louis' cheese cart holds familiar favorites and new discoveries. It's all what you're in the mood for. This night, I tried something quite new to me: creamy but meaty Langres. It's not as strong as Epoisses. Here's something that I discovered tonight . . . I knew how wines go with cheese, but I didn't realize how they can really bend their flavors. Langres on its own was a little strong for my palette, but with Potel Aviron Morgon Cote du Py 2010, it was magnificent! I might be willing to give Epoisses another chance with a good wine pairing.

Normally, I go for a chocolate mousse or in the Fall, poached pears. For dessert, I tried some seasonal fun things: Bavarois a la Framboise is cream-raspberry mousse-like layer cake garnished with pistachios. The fruit of the season was blueberries cooked with lavender and served with local berry sorbet. At first thought, I wasn't sure about a "cooked" fruit in the summer, but it's served at room temperature and cooked just enough and lightly sweetened to bring out the flavors.

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