Spent a week tucked into a lovely gite in the heart of Puligny-Montrachet. The gite, known as 10PM (it’s number 10 on the main road) had hands-down the best kitchen we’ve had in a rented cottage on two continents with a really terrifically stocked pantry. Cooking was a delight, and with such good nearby product…. The house had three bedrooms, each with dreamy en-suite baths and an attached smaller house that could be also rented with at least another two bedrooms. Even though it was January and rainy, we managed to find a few moments with some wine out on the raised terrace in front of the entrance with nice views of the vineyards and hills. Malheureusement (and not on their website or facebook page) Olivier LeFlaive was closed for several weeks. Was looking forward to stumbling home on foot after the tasting lunch… alors !
HOTEL RESTAURANT LE CHEVREUIL in Meursault. This was our travel day down from Paris so once we were settled into the gite with a few provisions (added to by the basket of goodies left by the host) we were happy not to wander too far and Meursault is just a quick hop through the vineyards. Had been once before and enjoyed the place so were happy to return. We each had the Menu Terroir: started with an escargot en feuilleté and a plat which tonight was a braised porc in a cassis sauce (quite yummy) accompanied by pomme purée and a couple of colorful and well-cooked baby vegetables. B had poached pear a I (natch) went for the cheese which was an assortment of regional happiness: empoisses, Délice de Bourgogne and comte. Shared a bottle of Chateau de Meursault Clos du Chateau Monopole. €94 including the wine €44.
LA CABOTTE, in Nuit Saint-Georges. Had been to this spot a number of times in the past. This tiny (though now twice the size – they’ve opened up the second floor) in the middle of the pedestrianized section of the village has always turned out inspired riffs on the classics. Case in point – this time out I started with the classic Burgundian Œuf en Meurette, eggs poached in red wine with lardons and mushrooms and onions. Their rendition, which I’d never encountered before, Œufs pochés et sauce au Chardonnay façon meurette, was excellent. B had a -Pressé de petit salé et lentilles au foie gras et jeunes pousses that was very good. Keeping up the cassis theme, he had the Plat du jour which was Chevreuil in a cassis sauce and I had the bouf bourguignon (when in Rome…) which was good. Most excitingly, they seem to have added to the menu a dish that we had as a special dessert on one trip there – a riff on a classic chocolat moelleux -- Biscuit coulant au caramel beurre salé et glace vanilla. Loved it then, and loved it again. Wowza. Extensive wine list (44 pages!). Shared a bottle of Domaine Prieuré Roch Ladoix Le Cloud 2014. Had their Aloxe-Corton a few years ago and loved it, I think a teeny bit more than this very nice bottle. €169 with the wine being €95.
FERME FRUIROUGE in the Hameau de Concœur up above Nuits-Saint-Georges. We have several times visited the charming small shop that Isabelle et Sylvain Olivier operate down the rue from La Cabotte and had once ventured up to the Hameau to find their home base but no one appeared to be home. They make divine jams, preserves and award-winning cassis. A sign in the shop window in Nuit indicated the shop was closed for the winter but listed the days they could be visited at the farm so we ventured up during the appointed hours. The stone house across from the eglise has some brightly painted barrels out front and inside the same delightful biologique products, indeed in one back room there was Sylvain himself stirring over five beautiful copper confiturier making their signature Beurre de Cassis. The daughter (I think) out front was offering samples. Bought a jar of it as well as the beautiful 2016 Cassis in a lovely wooden box. They tossed in a darling little sachet of lavande.
MA CUISINE in Beaune. Since we travel to France for Christmas and New Years and a week or to before or after we often get shut entirely out of places, but we’ve managed to visit this place a number of times, mostly thanks to one summer visit we made six years ago. Having not been back since, it was kind of the owner to remember us and greet us warmly. Started with a small amuse of a creamy carrot soup. I had the salad avec Foie de Volaille and B had Veloute de Champignons (both yummy) and B had the Cote de Veau and I had a Blanc de Poulet in cream sauce with Gratin Dauphinoise followed by a cheese plate. This was a minor miscommunication as what I wanted was the epoisse which was included in my menu, but when Madame asked if I was having frommage and I said yes I guess I should have said époisses. This was only disappointing as somehow, this place has always managed to serve big smears of perfectly appoint époisses that remains for me the best example I’ve had, among many. €157 including a Bouzereau et Fils Meursault €78
LA FERME DE LA RUCHOTTE in Bligny-sur-Ouche. DANG. Still haven’t been able to try this place. Shut out in the past, and now timing was off and they didn’t get enough reservations for the weekend after Nouvelle An (not surprising) and so they didn’t open. Double Dang. Been following them on Facebook for years and can almost not take the anticipation anymore….
AUBERGE DU MARRONNIER, in Châteauneuf-en Auxois. I love this charming hilltop town and we always visit when we’re in Burgundy. The meal options can be scarce in winter, but was very pleased with this charming little spot. It was (another) cold rainy day and this spot on the Place du Marche with it’s beamed ceiling, tile floor and toasty wood stove was just perfect. Started with Rillette de Porc which came with a side salad and some cornichons. B had Lapin Moutarde and I had Piece de Bœuf which was accompanied by a pile of haricot verts and some pommes de ratte, which I love. The bœuf was perfectly saignant and topped with a little button of Beurre de Maitre d’Hôtel. The youngish waiter/host couldn’t have been friendlier and though the place was fairly full, kept things moving fairly quickly. Finished with a gateaux de Noix which was quite good and a Tarte aux Pommes. €66 including €25,80 for 2 beers and a cinquante of Haute Cotes de Beaune.
LE GRENIER A SEL in Chagny. We were on our way back from the Marche in Chalon which was lively and diverse and loaded up with a few good things for supper chez nous but nearly too late for the narrow countryside lunchtime window. It being a Sunday, and these being the Hols, several places were closed, including Lameloise which is not really my type of place ($$$$, Tweezer-food), though enough people have recommended it that we’ll try it sometime if we’re ever there and it is open. This place, around the corner, seemed slightly promising in the last-minute Googling I did. At first when we walked in sans reservation we were told they were full up, and indeed there did seem to be only one remaining table in the large vaulted-ceiling room. We were half-way back to the car when a waitress chased us down and said there had been a cancellation and they gave us the table. From the looks of almost every table, it seemed the thing to have here was the fondue so we followed suit. We opted for the house multi-viande variety (magret de canard et Charollaise bœuf with four sauces- béarnaise, rémoulade, aïolis, and ??? on the side) and our own big vat of boiling oil to cook them in. B had frites on the side and I ordered Gratin Dauphinoise (shock!) and they first brought a baked potato by mistake but the waitress figured it out on her own and appeared with the gratin (whew!). €71, including a bottle of Bourgogne rouge €31.
LA CIBOULETTE in Beaune. Was striking out left and right trying to find places open in Beaune or that weren’t fully booked so we ended up at this spot which we’ve been to before. Always found the food to be fine if not revelatory, and the welcome warm in this seemingly always full spot but this time around the whole experience left me a bit meh. Maybe it was our frequent visits to ogle produce and products at the various local markets and having a terrific kitchen in the Gite that finally got me to realize I’d rather stay home and cook some of the fabulous food we were finding than pay so much more just to eat out… Started with Foie Gras and then Pave de Bœuf in some forgettable sauce…€158, including, an Aloxe-Corton €66.
CHEZ NOUS at the gite. It is STILL raining (just about every day in our three weeks, but usually not enough to keep us off our game) and it is Sunday and we know the options will be even further reduced so we decided in the morning to head to Chalon and pick up inspiration and supper. A very nice long line at one of the Rôtisseries said this was indeed THE place. Got in line and bought a just-off-the-spit Poulet Fermier. Wandering down one of the streets the market traverses Bman doubled back after we strolled past Foti Sandro, the Ravioli and pasta merchant (who evidentment frequents the Beaune, Chalon and Autun markets). Picked up a handful of petit ravioli stuffed with Agneau Roti (€3,15)and as we were approaching our last few nights, asked him to reduce the size of a morsel of Parmigianino-Reggiano (€2,09) they were selling which he happily did, giving us the perfect amount to bless our little entrée. Back at the gite we removed the chicken from the bones and set aside and tossed the carcass into a pot with a few herbs. This has been true every time I’ve done this in France: very quickly a beautiful rich stock is produced. This is something I do frequently at home – I save all the vegetable peelings and bones and bits and from time to time make stock and then freeze it in pint containers (the most useful size, I have found) and it has now been years since I’ve had to purchase stock—there is always some in the freezer. But following this protocol in France, which I’ve done a few times now, I’m astounded by how quickly, even without a diverse source material, these French birds make a very rich, very tasty stock, and quickly. The stock enriches a few sautéed onions and champignons and we are on our way to a very satisfying risotto (bless the pantry – there is Arborio). The ravioli are cooked quickly and tossed in some butter and parmesan (heavenly) and the risotto is slowly enriched with that surprisingly good stock. We start with the Montcenis butcher’s dried sausage, and an amuse of sautéed Morteau (love it) and end with a lovely Valençay procured along the way and having economized on staying in, happily justify a bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin.
THE CRAZY TALE OF THE TORCHON
LIEVRES ET FILS and LE MONTCENIS in Montcenis. Okay. Cards on the table: we’re NUTS. Good thing we have each other… Here’s the slightly embarrassing story. The lovely Gite happened to have in its collection of diverse and serviceable torchons, one with embroidered Bon Appetites around the edges that had the name and address printed in the center of it of a butcher in Montcenis – a place we’d never heard of let alone visited. Turns out it was about an hour away, just up in the hills outside of the industrial city of Le Creusot. Maybe it was the constant rain… anyway – off we go to find said butcher. Interweb seems to think he still exists and we’re now on the hunt, hoping in some little corner they have a pile of these charming torchons for sale. Not that we’re torchon nuts or anything, but we do tend to come home with usually a few vintage ones. They take a beating in our fairly busy kitchen at home and I love having a big pile of them when I’m really firing on all burners….so it’s nice to have some reinforcements from France… The views from this small town perched on the hillside are pleasing even if the City below looks less inviting. We find the butcher and they are open. No sign of torchons but I figure it couldn’t hurt to buy a few things and then ask. Glad we did. The house-made dry sausage, we would later learn, is excellent. I’m sorry we didn’t buy one to bring home. We selected a few other items and then I asked the friendly Madame (mere to that fils, I’m sure) if they sold torchons with their name on it. No, she explained, they are not for sale they are for gifts but they are all out this year. Merde. Then I explain that the gite we were staying in had one and we came searching for it, and crafty Bman whips out his iPhone and shows her the picture we took of the torchon. AH, she exclaims, that was last year’s torchon and I do have some of those… Would you like one? “C’est un souvenir de votre visite” she giddily exclaims. The family that came in behind us, ordering kilos of sauerkraut look puzzled, but the rest of us are happy. Ask me sometime about the common pichet for cidre I hunted down after our stay in Bretagne…. Oy…. Again – it’s good we have each other….
LE MONTCENIS in Montcenis. Having triumphed at the butcher, and now victoriously hungry we spied a place just down the road that looked pleasant and had a menu posted out front that looked promising. We walked into the lobby (it is also a hotel) and couldn’t find anyone at the front desk so I poked my head in through a nearby doorway and found a very stylish mature woman studying her reservation book. I asked her if she might have a table available and she smiled broadly and said bien sûr! She led us into the dinning room where only two other tables were full at the moment and gave us our choice of the remaining tables. Started with an amuse of soupe de foie gras et potimarron which was good. I then had a salmon parfait which was surprisingly good, nicely cooked bits of salmon with a custard underneath and delicate tiny sprouts, flowers, herbs and greens on top. B had a small molded heap of cold, cooked and shredded beef with capers and horseradish creame and a small pile of cooked carotte rapee. His plat was Pintade stuffed with chevre and served with eggplant and Romanesco and carotte. For me, Roti de veau avec noix (pancreas sweetbreads – which resemble walnuts….) caramelize and assorted baby vegetables. It was one of the best dishes of the last three weeks in France. B finished with a pistachio crème confection and I had cheese which included an Epoisses (natch)and a very nice Délice de Pommard, covered in Mustard husks from Beaune and a lovely Chevenet chevre that was so fresh you could taste the charollais grass. The service was attentive, if a bit stiff. Madame seemed so chic and stylish, yet the young uniformed girls all but curtsied after each course after reminding us precisely what we (had just) ordered, sometimes reading it off from the menu… in case we forgot?? But overall the experience was quite nice. We drank a bottle of Bouchard Monthelie. €118, including the wine €46.
Bourgogne – we’ll be back. Bien sûr !