19 May 2008

Le Relais

While in Louisville recently, I had the pleasure of dining at Le Relais (French for "relay races") located in the original building of Bowman Field, built in 1919 and Kentucky's oldest civilian airport. Now it's mostly used for private aircraft, but a third of the building is devoted to a classic French restaurant. Not dressed appropriately? You can always sit outside on the deck, located right on the tarmac. Oh, please don't throw me in that briar patch. Don't make me sit right next to a lovingly restored biplane and a Lockheed Lodestar*.

Alas, I was properly attired and sat inside, where I got to gaze at vintage 1930s Air France posters while dining. I had the carpaccio of beef followed by the pheasant breast stuffed with a wild game mousseline and accompanied by roasted fingerling potatoes and carrots. This place has a huge wine list including a great selection of half-bottles that's distinct from the main list. I finally settled on a half-bottle of the 2005 Domaine Bosquet des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Still bright, a little tart with the cherry flavor, but increasingly mellow and delicate as it breathed. I later got hints of eucalyptus, a touch of tobacco, and a little stewed fruit underneath. The name of the AOC translates to the "new house of the Pope", a reference to the Avignon Papacy and the producer is something like the "thicket of the Popes".

Dining at Le Relais is a true joy: amazing food, intriguing location, and classy atmosphere. The light jazz on the music system helps contribute to an overall but not overwrought connection with Rick's Café Américain in Casablanca. Most importantly, if you visit I promise it will be the best experience you've had at an airport in nearly a decade. Due to my father I grew up around aviation both private and commercial. At times it's easy to forget that many of the smaller airfields in this country don't require heavy security and surrender of your dangerous 4 oz. liquids. For the first time in years I sat just yards away from aircraft and a runway, having a wonderful meal and watching the planes take off. And everyone around me was happy, relaxed, and smiling...

*Thanks to Dad for the ID on the Lodestar, a plane I clumsily identified as "a small DC-3 with the tail of a B-24".

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