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Restaurants & Bars

Good food, distinctive wines, and delightful traveling in the Jura

Jake Dear | Nov 11, 201504:38 PM     28

In light of changes to the dynamics of this site, including the less frequent participation by some of the contributors who, like us, enjoy getting out well beyond Paris, I’m wondering whether a post like this, reveling in the hinterlands, will have much of an audience. But out of a feeling that we should report back after receiving such helpful information from jhannabanana, emilie, and rrems on this thread -- http://www.chowhound.com/post/june-tr... (and others) -- here goes:

In early September we took the TGV (and of course had a picnic on board from fixins collected that morning) to Dole, a nice little city itself, picked up our rental car, and drove through the countryside to Arbois, a small town with much more charm than we had expected. We stayed four lovely days and nights at Patricia Chatelain’s “Closerie les Capucines” www.closerielescapucines.com, an ancient set of buildings backing on to the pretty and characterful little Cuisance river, which meanders in graceful and sometimes dramatic fashion through the town. Patricia is a delightful woman, appropriately confident in her own sense of style, and we enjoyed the visit so much we’ve already made return reservations for early next year.

During the days we are out and about, driving and walking, visiting the caves of at least 14 different family-production vignerons in Montigny-les Arsures (just north of Arbois), Pupillin, Poligny, Etoile, Arlay (where we had an especially fine time at Bourdy), Chateau Chalon (where we had especially fine visits at Macle -- with delightful Madame! and at Berthet-Bondet, with an impromptu cellar tour), and Voiteur (where we enjoyed the Fruitiere Vinicole). In making these visits we relied on Wink Lorch’s fine book, “Jura Wine” (2014), and during these back road excursions we lunched at:

La Sergenterie, www.lasergenterie.com, in Poligny: Standouts were trout in a light vin jaune sauce; and perch in vin jaune with morels. This underground and rather stylish place (ancient vaulted cellars) in the center of town is open every day for lunch and dinner. Pas mal, and reasonable prices on local wines.

Hostellerie Saint Germain, www.hostelleriesaintgermain.com, in St Germain Les Arlay. This very modern and airy place with an accompanying hotel is centrally located near Jura’s main wine areas, in a very quiet town. The chef, Marc Tupin, puts out bright and lively plates. As usual for lunch, we concentrated on fish: trout with raviolis, and “rouget barbet bello” -- a lovely dish with a very south of France feel, with delicate artichokes and dried tomatoes. We’d happily return here for dinner.

Restaurant La Comedie, http://www.restaurant-lacomedie.com/f... Lons Le Saunier. (Note, for those interested in vin jaune, the 20th annual Percee du vin Jaune, http://www.percee-du-vin-jaune.com/ , will be held in this small city -- by far the largest in area -- in early February 2016.) We especially enjoyed this, another bright and modern place, which we visited right after our stop at Macle, and so of course we had to order the Macle Cotes du Jura. Standouts: Crayfish with thinly sliced cured mountain ham atop polenta; and sautéed perch in a light foamy vin jaune sauce with perfectly cooked vegetables.

Back home each evening in Arbois at les Capucines, we walked a few minutes to three dinners:

La Balance, www.labalance.fr. This was our first night, and I was set on the traditional chicken and morels in vin jaune with rice on the side. It was good, but frankly I found the sauce a bit thick and almost glumpy. My wife’s stuffed little bird (guinea fowl) was quite perfect. The standout entrée (starter) was a wild mushrooms with a sea creature I can’t recall. The staff and waitresses were especially friendly and pleasant, and I was impressed that when we ordered a 2006 Jacques Puffeny Arbois vin jaune, they immediately suggested decanting it -- and that allowed it to come alive.

Jean-Paul Jeunet, http://www.jeanpauljeunet.com/fr/inde... . As johannabanana said in the earlier thread, “this restaurant thinks of itself as the fanciest place around, and resultingly displays a little too much pomp in its slightly unnatural service -- but the waiters aren’t unfriendly.” We were prepared to find it a bit stuffy, and so it was to some extent, but still we really enjoyed it from a perfect table in the middle of the room, and found the staff, and later in the evening, Madame proprietor, quite delightful. We each had the middle of three menus -- “saveurs du mois” -- but because I forgot to take a photo of the carte, and my wife forbade even fast/ furtive photos that evening, I recall nothing more. We do remember an excellent cheese cart at the end . . . . We will gladly return for another diner here. (And as johannabanana noted, the wine list had a fine selection of local bottles -- at pretty good, but hardly bargain prices.)

Le Bistronome, https://www.facebook.com/Le-bistronom... . Emilie gave this bright and modern place only a slight recommendation, but because Patricia recommended it over two other local places we suggested to her (among them Bistro des Claquets), we decided to follow her advice. It bills itself as “cuisine maison et de saison.” It was pretty good, and it certainly felt quite local -- the old fellow next to us reading his books was clearly a regular. And it’s a nice location right on the little river. We each had the bargain 25 euro “formule du bristro,” but all I can remember is that that the food struck us as simple and local. The wine list was short and quite limited; I saw none of the high end producers. I do recall that for the cheese plate, we were introduced to Cancoillotte, as we learned, a “sepecialitee fromageri Comptoise” -- lovely. We might return here, and in in any event it would be a nice place for lunch on the river in Arbois. (Speaking of lunch on the river, unfortunately, Bistro de la Tournelle, which is about 80 steps from Closerie les Capucines, had just closed for the season; but that looks to be a good spot as well.)

Le Grapiot, www.legrapiot.com . Finally, one night we took a short taxi ride up the hill to Pupillin. This is a winemakers’ hangout, or at least it feels that way. It’s another modern place -- the metal and wooden structure resembles an ark built into a hillside. (The village appears to have no other commerce except for many small scale family vignerons with their “ouvert” signs displayed, along with notes advising to ring and be patient; one even gave a phone number, saying he was in the vineyard and would show up in 5 minutes.) Here the cooking was bright and fresh. Standout dishes: veal with girolles; and very nice cheese plates from a trolley, served by a bored young woman who didn’t know much, or at least she was unwilling to engage. Speaking of that, our servers kept changing, and that impaired a sense of continuity with the house and the courses. Overall, we expected to like it more than we did. Part of that slight disappointment may be linked to the wine pairings, which we found surprisingly tame. All throughout the Jura, we were constantly asked, “do you know [or understand] Jura wines?” -- they are obviously aware that some might recoil upon tasting the bracingly acidic and oxidative sous voile/ “traditional” styles of some of the local wines. But here, having ordered the pairing with each of five courses, we were served almost exclusively fresh and tame wines, and that was a bit of a let down. Still, we’d probably go back, and be in charge of our own wines next time -- the list was, after all, quite good, and with reasonable prices.

From Arbois, we lugged 16 bottles of vin jaune in our bags (and a superb but costy box of chocolates from Hirsinger, in downtown Arbois) -- stopping after driving about an hour for a time warp (back to the 1950s) lunch at Hotel Cheval Rouge in 71500 Louhans, where we had super whole fried trout and a dandy breast of chicken in cream. From here we spent four lovely days in the northern Beaujolais (two in Saint Amour-Bellevue) and the Mâconnaise (two in Fuissé), and then three nights in equally delightful Lyon, before taking the TVG (and another rolling picnic), back to Paris.

For those looking for a countryside break, and who appreciate truly distinctive wines, the Jura is, we think a lovely destination. -- Jake

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