GIVERNY, Ancien Hotel Baudy. Lunch.
We came here straight from the airport after we picked up our rental car as we had snagged the opportunity for a behind the scenes tour thanks to my partner’s museum colleagues. As we were leaving our gracious host and guide, after naming other alternatives, she said “The Baudy was where all the old guys (Monet, Sisley, Pissaro, Rodin etc) ate. Actually – it’s not bad” We sat in the agreeable shaded terrace across the narrow main street. Not bad indeed. We’d had no sleep in some 40 hours (I never can sleep in the teensy coach seats given my 6’3” frame) and this lovely, breezy spot was just perfect with a bottle of Rose. Terrine de Fois de Volaillle, and Tartare Avocat followed by Eminence de Vollaille & Brochette d’Agneau, both served with a Gratin Dauphinous. Desserts: Tourte aux Pommes and Sorbet Ananas. One (or was it two?) pichet de vin rose at 8,50€ each. 64€
PARIS, Le Gaigne, in the 4th. Dinner.
After Giverny we headed straight to Paris. We’re perched for one night on the Ile Saint-Louis and figured we’d be pretty tired by dinner time so didn’t want to venture too far away and decided to return to this spot we’ve always enjoyed. Started with a few warm savory shortbreads at the table (not unlike Michel et Augustin biscuits, which I am obsessed with…) I have a feeling there was some other amuse as well that I’m blanking on… This being our first trip in summer (7 Christmastime trips under our belt) there were some interesting discoveries. Each December, every menu seems to have Potiron soupe, and it seems in Juillette they all have Melon. Soupe de melon charentais, brunoise de pastèque, réduction de porto rouge. This one was particularly good with bits of watermelon thrown in and a small hollowed out square of melon with some sherry vinegar reduction in it, and the bowl had delicate cumin leaves dancing on top. B-man had Roulé au jambon blanc et macédoine de légumes à la saucisse de Morteau, poireaux vinaigrette. The real surprise here was the crispy warm piece of Morteau with a slightly chilled deviled egg on top: they were surprisingly sublime together. Next up for me on the Menu Degustation was Filet de Bonite mariné à l'huile d'olive de Kalamata et juste poêlé, purée et salade d'artichaut, concombres à la crème, followed by Pavé de cabillaud rôti, tartare de tomates anciennes, émulsion au basilic et mozzarella and then Côte de Boeuf Charolaise, poêlée de pomme-de-terre grenaille, sauce béarnaise. Thankfully all small plates, all delicious. B-man had Pintade de la ferme de M. Quintar au chorizo cuite en croute de sel, spaetzle poêlés au persil frais. I had Nuage d'Epoisses au Marc de Bourgogne, mesclun to finish and B-man had a dessert sampler with three different desserts, one chocolat, one fruit and one a sort of pudding. We had a bottle of Saint-Aubin, I think, and I think our total was around 120€
AUXERRE, Le Schaeffer, (near Rue Rene Schaeffer) Lunch
On our way down to the Cote D’Or for a few weeks we stopped in Auxerre for the first time. We’d done no research, and just wandered around til we found a place that looked reasonably inviting. Even on a grey day, this one did. We had Croque Madames with frites and salad, washed down with a small carafe of rose. With two cafes, I don’t think we spent more than 35€
Found our rented farmhouse between Autun, Arnay-le-Duc and not too far from Beaune. Ran to AUTUN and shopped. Ecallope de veau, avec champignons, lardons et sauce cognac. Salade avec Saumon fume. Du riz.
ARNAY LE DUC, Chez Camille, Lunch.
It being a Sunday our options were a bit limited, and it being my 50th Birthday, we wanted to go somewhere so we decided to try this spot nearby. We were seated in the fireplace room, others would call this the anteroom to the W.C. (indeed it was both) because we hadn’t reserved… or was it my madras shorts?? It did seem a fairly fusty place. Amusements were brought to the table: bits of saucisson sec, jambon perseille and this being Burgundy, gougere, biensur. I had Pressé de Homard, Mangue et Céleri,
Vinaigrette de Crustacés, Mini Coeur d'Artichaut en Barigoule. As is frequently the case, the Homard was tres chewy, the gelee kind of tasteless but the artichokes were good. B-man had Gelee de Lapereau a l’aEstragon et ses Rillettes a l”Aligote, Pruneaux Farcis a la confiture d”Oignon, Gaeteau de Carrottes. For plats we each had Feuillantine de Charolais au Foie Gras, Jus Réduit Périgourdine which was pretty good. Complementary Tuiles Géantes aux Amandes et au Cumin accompagné de Mignardises, Pain d'Epices et de Truffes au Marc de Bourgogne. B-man ended with an Abricot Souffle which was very tasty and was served with a warm apricot sauce and apricot ice cream. A bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin.
AUTUN Restaurant La Fontaine, Lunch.
Just opposite the fountain near the Cathedral. Nothing fancy, though a cozy room and reasonable menu. We had Salade Paysanne, and Poulet a la Crème. A demi of Cote de Nuits. Not sure, but I think it in the 50€ range for all.
BEAUNE, Ma Cuisine, Dinner
Had been once before and very much looked forward to going back. B-man started with smoked duck and melon charentaise, and I had Salade avec foie sauté which I loved. Next had a veal stew merango and B-man had Riz de Veau. I ended with epoisses and B-man some dessert. A bottle of Aloxe-Corton Clos du Chapitre (60€) 130€
SALIEU, Café Parisienne, Lunch.
Started menadering around the region. Ended up in Salieu and went looking for the famuse monger de fromage. Nearby we found this spot for lunch. Francois Pompon, Jean Genet, and Bernard Loiseau all supposedly frequented the place. Maybe it was the bravery of being on the other side of 50, maybe it was just the open and relaxed state of being on vacation or maybe I was just tired of being scared… I ordered the plat du jour.
Things started well enough with a Rillette du Porc avec salade. The Rillette was a bit densly mashed into a stiff mound, but was actually pretty tasty and the salade was fresh and had a few spears of white ausperges, a nice touch. Now on to the plat…
I've had this date with destiny, I suppose. I've been working toward my Chowhound Merit Badge, and I was pretty certain that one of the ways you can jump the line is to eat things that scare you. Mesdames et messieurs….je present le plat du jour: Andouillette en sauce Moutarde en Grain. That's right... the beloved by some.... sausage.... Shortly after my aromatic plate arrived we overheard the waitress explaining to a Dutch family what the plat du jour was.... "Traditional sausage" she said..... un hunh! ..... thing is.... I knew what I was in for, but I'm more afraid of being afraid than I am of things that scare me. So I ordered the menu du jour... this however... was as I feared... this sausage made from innards was too much like drawing the short straw and having to stay home to meet with the Honey Man... and for those of you not conversant in country ways... the honey man does not work with bees, but with septic systems. But I tasted, and I swallowed... maybe as many as three times. And then I stopped. It was no help that the restaurant also happened to be swarming with flies, and this coupled with the smell of the thing, and it’s general appearance was far more than I could take. Would it have been different in a place with AAAAA designation? I’ll never know. "C'est mon premiere fois" I explained to the waitress when she looked distressed I hadn't finished it... "C'est bon" I followed with, when she appeared to turn away, which although it translates as "It's good" in usage actually means "I'm done." And boy, was I.
DRACY-CHALAS. At home at the farmhouse.
After the adventuresome lunch I wanted something very simple for dinner. We’d been tipped off by our host about an unlikely place for good Charolais beef and after puzzling over the English (I think) oven, we broiled an entrecote, roasted fingerling pomme de terre, and had some lovely haricot verte. The farmhouse garden was blessed with a few Mirabelle Plum trees and they were at their peak so we ended with a lovely tart.
BEAUNE, Wednesday Market.
Not as big as the Saturday one but still plenty to consider. Bought beautiful Girolles and abricots and along the way discovered Mara des Bois. A few days later when we met up with French friends and I was still in the spell of their heady perfume and intense taste they hipped me to the generally accepted supremacy of these berries, and also put us on the look-out for La Reine Claude plums.
NUITS SAINT GEORGES – La Cabotte
Liked this place so much the last time we were in the hood that we went twice, and it did not disappoint a few years later. All the same crew are there: the stern looking chef, the benighted sous, and the chilly waiter. No matter; the food is dang good.
Soupe melon et rosette amuse, Salade de qunoa, tartare de saumon et vinaigrette au wasabi,(fresh and refreshing and delicious) followed by Dos de cabillaud, pousses d'épinards et beurre blanc à la citronnelle (frustratingly good as I make a similar dish, often- never this good). B-man started with Croustillants d'escargots, jeunes pousses et crème de persillade and then had Mignon de porc laqué au sirop d'érable et écrasé de pommes de terre. A plate of four small bites of fromage diverse and then we both finished with a perfect panna cotta with berries on top. A bottle of Rully, 1er Cru Margote, Domaine Vincent Dureuil-Janthial (30€) 87.50€
AUTUN. Le Chapitre, dinner.
A place we had tried to get to in the winter but they were closed for the holidays. Opposite the back end of the cathedral. Amuses were a small shot of melon soupe, some sort of vegetable quick bread (courgette?) and a handful of shrimp chips. I started with escalope de foie gras de canard poêlée, blinis, marmelade d’abricots et amandes and then had Suprême de volaille fermière cuite au beurre demi-sel, gnocchis de pommes de terre à la ciboulette et purée de brocolis aux zestes de citron vert. B-man started with Gaspacho de tomates, sorbet tomate/basilic et mozzarella “di bufala” frit (sort of an arancini floating in the soup) and then Selle (saddle) d’agneau cuit au four, houmous, artichauts à l’orange et jus d’agneau au curry. All pretty good but all the dishes a bit too sweet. In fact the menu seemed, here in July, to be full of fruit (every dish in fact) which is not something I’m all that fond of mixed with my savory. A cheese plate for me (four small pieces of a variety) and Vacherin cassis/ pain d’épices revisité (not sure how, exactly) for B-man. The service was attentive but very frosty and reserved, as was the room. Had a bottle of Pommard Domaine Picard (40€) and started with 2 kirs. 117€
CHATEAUNEUF EN AUXOIS – Hostellerie du Château, Lunch
Thanks to notes from our host we found our way to this small hilltop fortified town. Great views of the surrounding countryside and the Canal de Bourgogne below, a lovely antique shop or two, and an interesting small chateau to tour. A few spots for lunch as well. We started with an amuse of choufleur and cioboulette, piped firmly into a glass so I assume there was some gelatin as well… slightly odd texture. I started with Epoisses chaud et sa salade which was simply some warm cheese on toasts and mesculun, and B-man started with Terrine de Lapin au pain d'épice et Mesclum de saison and we both had Joue de porc confite au vin rouge. A bottle of Givry 1er Cru Domaine Steinmaier (15.50€) 59€
AVALLON, Hostelerie de la Poste, Lunch
Friends had eaten here and liked it so in the absence of anywhere else compelling we decided to try it. We both started with Salade Paysanne which included a poached egg served in a crisp crepe, and followed with Filet de Panga sauce Chablis. Had never heard of this fish before, thought it was okay until we left the restaurant and could see the carte outside once more. One quick google search and I’ll never eat it again: farmed in the worst ways, loaded with toxins. Ick. B-man had Saute de Porc Provencal. Thankfully, while we were still in the dark we switched plats (something we often do to try as many things as possible) so each of us had only half of the seemingly dubious poison. The room was very formal. Had a carafe of Chablis (13€) 52€
BEAUNE, Ma Cuisine, encore
Started with Salade de Saint-Jacques Poelee, Cote de Veau au Nadeu et Pomme Vapeur. B-man had Compote de Lapin and Riz de Veau a la Crème. Epoisses for me and Tarte au Praline Lyonnaise for him. Loved it. A bottle of Hubert Lamy Saint-Aubin, La Princee, 2009 (39.00€) 155€
CHALON SUR SAONE, Le Concorde, 25 Place Beaune
We came to town for the crazy Chalon Dans la Rue, hundreds of outdoor theatre performances out in the streets over three days. We were here just for the morning, and then before our parking meter ran out, grabbed a quick lunch at this busy café. Croque Madames, a basket of bread, a carafe of Rose and cafés before we set out on the road. All pretty good, and cheap. 32€
JULIENAS, Fete de Julienas…
We’re a bit early for our reservation at Le Cep, and it’s raining so we tootle around in the car in the hills around Fleurie. We end up in a charming little town I’d never heard of, with a wine that was new to us as well: Julienas. The main street was closed and there were tents and booths set up on both sides offering degustation. For a mere 5€, you got a tasting glass etched for the occasion, and a sweet little over the neck sack to hold the thing if you happened to decide to release your grip for a spell. True, we were late to the party--there was only a bit more than a half-hour left to the festivities, but that seemed plenty of time to amortize the investment and besides it had stopped raining for a few minutes and the surrounding skies of this hilltop town were filled with a beautiful and dramatic light. The mood was jolly and triumphant as it always is when one battles the weather and wins. We walked to the end of the row of canopies and as we headed back started degusting. Earlier in the day we had stopped at a few places in Fleurie and degusted (always spitting out, of course), and maybe it was the celebratory spirit, or the victory over the downpours, but there were several extremely quaffable offerings on the street that day, and they were all astonishingly cheap. We bought a few bottles from a delightful husband and wife team (we liked that both names were on the label) and were sorry we didn’t have longer to stick around in France to enjoy a case….
FLEURIE, Auberge Du Cep
Had tried to make it here in Decembre and missed them by a day. Of all cruelties, when we pulled into town they were holed up in there for some private do. Looked like a bunch of negotiants, and of course Madame Cagny holding forth. We went down the street and had a perfectly fine lunch but nothing that made us feel like hopping on a plane, as RW Apple said about this place. Finalement. We made it. I hadn’t quite expected Chantal Cagny to be quite so present, but this is her place from stem to stern. This was made abundantly clear when a tourist family showed up in sneakers and shorts and t-shirts and asked if they might have supper. Madame was summoned from the kitchen, consulting (merely as a courtesy, a mercy, in fact) the reservation book, and seemingly hitching an invisible belt, in some subtle way girding her loins, marched determinedly to the door, handed her card to the travelers and explained they should call and reserve (the empty tables remained exactly thus all night – this was not the point). I don’t think she ever said it, but with her subtle gestures to the attractive room it seemed she was also instructing them about proper attire chez elle.
We started with an Aperetif Beaujolais, which was brought to the table in a pitcher and pored table side. A combo of Beaujolais wine and heavy doses of cassis, chilled. It was delicious. I was going to say surprisingly delicious, but I’ve been known to drink red plonk chilled, and in fact, in humbler times, not quite so distant, our vin de jour was a gallon of Carlo Rossi Paisano (chianti) kept in the frigo and served that way. One day in our 18th Street apartment a dear friend stopped by with some French friends in tow (very un-New York-y of us, but we actually encouraged people to just drop in whenever they were in the neighborhood… only once in 12 years was this inconvenient, and it led to several impromptu parties) and with nothing else to offer but our chilled plonk even the hip Mademoiselle admitted it was “not disgusting”, which we all took as high praise. It was a lovely night. But I digress…. This chilled aperitif was soon accompanied by a small grilled ham and cheese (essentially) and a bowl of Soupe d’Epinards that was the essence of spinach, and both were quite delicious. Having popped out of the kitchen several times, reviewing reservations, and then approaching tables to take orders, Madame made her way next to us. I thought at first that she attended only the regulars but at least this night it seemed she collected every diners wishes. Noting that we had finished our Aperetif she immediately demanded a refill and this time the pitcher was left on the table. Despite her apparent devotion to black clothing more attuned to the mourner than the hipster, and her tinted glasses, she was in fact quite charming, and once our French passed muster, quite funny. When B-man asked for first Meurette d’Oeufs, cuit Mollet, sauce nu fonnée en sauce Beaujolais, and then some Boeuf in a red wine sauce Madame firmly said “Non”. This would be too similar for each of the courses. Instead she proposed going off menu and preparing for him a Chateaubriand ‘nature’ with some primeurs à coté. I started with Foie gras épices douces, en terrine, toast de pain de campagne and was reminded once again how buttery, subtle and delicious good foie gras can be and followed with Poulet Fermier aux morilles a la crème. While polishing it off I think I declared it one of the best things I had ever eaten. 160€ ( the tab for the Fleurie and the aperetifs was 55€ of this)
CHÉZERY-FORENS, Hôtel-Restaurant Blanc, Hotel-Restaurant du Commerce…
Not entirely certain what name this place goes by since it seems to use each of these interchangeably. Some friends from very nearby where we live in the New York happen to be travelling at the same time as us, and not far from Burgundy in the Jura, a region we’d never visited. Even better: she was raised there, and we would all meet up in Oyonnax and spend the day together. I think it was near an hour of extremely winding (Hairpin curve: virage en epingle a cheveux… we looked it up) but beautiful roads before we descended into Chezrey. Despite its incredibly remote location, our hosts tell us that German and Swiss travelers often show up here. They’re lucky.
As we approach the restaurant that inspired this vista-filled but slightly scary voyage, the patriarch of the spot, and it turns out, an old school-days chum of our hosts, is out on the umbrella-filled terrasse nursing the stub of a cigarette and taking in a few minutes of sunshine in what had been a very grey day. He summons us to join him, orders a bottle of Rousette, and we all settle in for a lively chat and the treat of Cake aux Olives. The mountains tower over us, the faint sound of a rushing stream can be heard, and though it is very sunny for these few moments there is a damp chill in the air, but the company and the apero warm immeasurably. Inside, this charming auberge has a lovely dining room with a timbered ceiling, large fireplace and many floral and copper accoutrements. We are counseled briefly by our local friend and order, as her father does, “Les Trois!”, which in this place means not choosing between two of their plat specialties, but having both. We begin with another specialty of the maison, a Saucisson chaud (similar to a Lyonnaise sausage, with pistache), and salade verte and brioche on the side. Next up, and raised in the lake nearby fed by that stream behind the restaurant, Truite de notre vivier, au bleu ou meunière. Thanks to requests for each from the table had a chance to taste both preparations. So fresh, so delicate, so flavorful. Have never had better trout and don’t expect I ever will. This was followed by Poulet fermier aux morilles à la crème. You’d think I couldn’t really have this several days in a row… but this was subtly different than the one at Le Cep, and oh so good. It was brought to the table family style with large, deep platters and very plump bone-in breasts that had been halved. The whole business was swimming in oncteuse crème and covered with dozens of morels. There was enough to easily feed another two people, but I’m pretty sure we polished it off. My one regret, however, is that I allowed the accompanying copper pans filled with Gratin Dauphinois to leave the table with another portion still inside. I adore Gratin Dauphinois: I would order Old Shoe if it was the sole dish accompanied by this. I order it often. This was the best; the potatoes perfect, the correct hint of garlic, the cheese (most likely Comte, here) was delicious and the top appealingly browned and slightly crusty. Even after this robust repas, I’ve never been known to turn down an offering of fromage, especially fromages de pays. Here, that meant Comte (biensur), Morbier and Bleu de Gex, a cheese that was new to me and very different from the blues I was accustomed to. It was delicate and sweet, a pate closer to gouda than the customary crumbles of most blue. A few brave souls had dessert, and I may have had a bite, but just one. This was one of the finest meals of my life. Each dish seemed the perfect representation of its kind. A few bottles more of Rousette, and a Morgon for those that wanted red accompanied. We were guests so I didn’t see the bill, but the menu for “les trios” was 42€ each which included the cheese and dessert.
LACANCHE, Restaurant L’Auberge de Lacanche. Lunch.
We try to at least occasionally just walk into places unknown and see what happens: it has only rarely been disastrous. This place was chosen because it was one of only two spots in this tiny town where we found ourselves out during our adventuring and the lunch time clock ticking: we know to try and be seated by 1pm or the odds veer sharply against us as it moves toward 2pm. Both places in town had a 13Euro Menu but this one had more cars, and an intriguing mix of fancy cars and trucks which we guessed to mean that the grub must be pretty good. We were ushered through the front room with the TV on over the bar where everyone else seemed to be taking their meals and into the empty slightly more formal dining room. We started with a Salade Paysanne which had a poached egg on top (bonus points) and then followed with this Faux Filet. This one was surprisingly cooked over charcoal and was delicious. The frites were perfect too--crispy and hot and the cheese plate surprisingly nice as well. We had a carafe of vin rouge for a few sous.
FLAVIGNY-SUR-OZERAIN, La Grange. Lunch.
The big wooden doors were closed the first few times we circled past on our stroll through this hilltop walled city, but the a la carte menu intrigued. Even though it was raining lightly, and we found nowhere to dodge the drops, we waited for this place to open at 12:30 as the ardoise out front leaning on the step promised. We watched a farmer drive up in a station wagon loaded down with trays of cheeses. She delivered them to a side door and then joined us out front. Several of us were waiting by the time the church bells rang half-past and the big doors groaned open. The big room, seemingly a former barn was tres sympa, set up with common tables throughout. All the food here was right off the farm (it is run cooperatively by several area farms) and incredibly fresh, cooked right there, some of it, as you waited. It is set up cafeteria style. Along one wall you pick up your tray and silverware and slide along past the entrée offerings of the day (3.60€) fromage (2€) and salade (2€) and ordered your plat. The counter had six or seven different dessert tarts and four savory ones if you wanted this for lunch. The other offerings of the day were Poulet or Canard Roti, Poulet a la Crème(10€), and omelette (nature or garnie 3-4€) They give you a little ticket and send you into the seating area to pick your spot. Once the hot dish is ready they bring it to you. On this day, first in line as we were, it seemed the chickens weren’t quite ready to come out of the oven so we had a bit of a wait but it was lovely to be out of the drizzle and smell all the wonderful aromas here and watch the place fill up. Seriously, even in this surprisingly chilly Juillet, how many times CAN I have Poulet a la creme???? This one too, was pretty divine. Had to have one of those oh so fresh cheeses, and opted for a small button of chevre washed in cassis. The frommagerie was L’Arbre Rond, Domenique Bertrand. I’d never had a chevre washed in cassis before and thought the flavor might be strong but it was ever so delicately floral. It was lovely with the delicate green salad and the big hunks of bread we grabbed near the register (.50€). We both finished up with fruit tarts, I think mine was pear, and then a coffee. Would go back in a heartbeat.
AUTUN, Le Relais des Urselines. Dinner.
Friends had liked this spot up behind the cathedral so we thought we’d give it a try. Lively, and cheap enough but the food was extremely unremarkable. Started with a pizza, (they have a wood fired oven) almost as a joke because we couldn’t ever really fathom having pizza in France anymore than I would want to try crepes in Napoli. Ok flavor in the crust but a bit soggy round the middle. Plat was Faux Filet which was pretty grissly, and came with a (soggy again) baked potato. I think a properly cooked, crisp, dry baked potato can be wonderful, especially with some butter, salt and sour cream. This weren’t it. Can’t remember if we had dessert. Skip. Carafe of rosé, I think… 70€ish.
GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN, Chez Guy. Lunch.
We’d been here a few years before, enjoyed the meal and were looking forward to going back. It was sunny and warm so we sat out on the terrace in front under one of the enormous umbrellas. Started with amuses of (quelle suprise!) Soupe au Melon. On the side of this little ovoid shot glass was another that was filled with a cous-cous made with shrimp. The combo of the two dishes was surprisingly good. I started with a smoked salmon plate which came with a bit of salad and a whipped dollop of butter and some crispy toast. Very good. B-man had Oeuf en Meurettes, then roasted filet of duck while I re-tried my dish from 2009, the Cocotte de joues de bœuf cuites 12 heures au vin rouge, pommes grenailles. The boeuf was as good as I remembered but the sauce didn’t quite have the thick, shimmery quality I savored the first time. Also, the pommes I found to be a bit bitter. Maybe it was just the skins, which were left on, as they often are, or maybe it is an expected taste with this varietal but I didn’t love it with the dish. The side of pommes vapeur that came with the duck were far superior. The service, this time round, was pretty frosty, verging on rude. Not sure what we did to annoy that waiter – maybe he was having a bad day… Demi de Charmes-Chambertin Grantet-Panisot, Grand Cru, 2007 (55€). 125€
BEAUNE, Le Gourmandin, Lunch.
Some pals from the Hudson Valley are here to visit Maman who lives near Chalon so we all agree to meet up in Place Carnot in Beaune (just about one of my favorite places on earth, not so much for it, though it is a lovely square, but for all the goodness that is nearby). Once assembled we dodge the rain (did I mention it has pretty much done this every day) and pop into this popular spot. B-man and I had been once before and were consigned to Siberia, the upper-most salon because we hadn’t reserved. Now, group of seven that we are, there is nowhere but the large and private table under the skylight on the mezzanine. Somehow it has gotten to be late-ish, and by the time the waitress comes to get our orders after delivering gougeres to the table, the Plat du Jour has been wiped out but the chef has improvised some other dish out of what’s left. In place of Coq au Vin, we’re offered Poulet a la Blanc, in a white wine sauce, but in truth it seems like the Coq sauce poured over a younger quisse: but on a rainy, cold day… ça marche. I started with Coquille St. Jacques and others had the Melon Soupe (oui, encore) though this one had the unique pool of petite pois soupe poured all around it, which made, I’m told, a lovely liaison. After the lunch a few opt for dessert, and I, in my usual fashion, ask for the cheese. A bottle of Savigny le Beaune washed it down. I think we were out of there for under 35€ each.
BLIGNY SUR OUCHE, Chemin de Fer de la Vallee de’ l’Ouche, Degustation Train.
This 1820 small gauge steam engine train runs through the Val d’Ouche twice a day during the summer. We happen to score seats on one of the three ‘Degustation trips’ they would make over the summer. Made our way out chto Pont d’Ouche, the engine switches sides and brings you back. Half way back, we stopped at Thorey Sur Ouche and debarked and trundled over a lovely stone bridge down to a small tree-shaded lay-by where a groaning board of produit regionaux awaits. There are local wine makers, charcutieres, boulangieres, confituriers. The baguettes are fab, the paté even better and the cheese a delight. We joked at lunch with our pals, at least a few of whom were locals, that we were doing this very touristic thing, but in the end, it turns out we are the sole non-French natives on the voyage (it probably helps that I only discovered this adventure on the French-only website of the Bligny tourist office). It turns out, the locals like the produit regioneaux as well. I can still taste the paté en croute… all so good, and the whole trip so jolly. B-man remembers doing a similar thing (sans degustation) in West Virginia as a lad. The steam laced with coal, somewhat a constant presence, was a deeply gratifying sensation for him. I don’t remember when we’ve smiled so much.
ARNAY-LE-DUC, Hotel Restaurant Terminus, Dinner.
Goodness knows we could have just gone home and gone to bed, but with a limited schedule (only 2 weeks!) and an insatiable appetite I wasn’t about to let a meal opportunity blur by, so we stopped into this boeuf place not far from (temporary) home. Much more casual in approach, but not dissimilar to Relais de l’Entrecote: pretty much boeuf is all that’s on the menu and you just tell them how you want it. There were a few other grilled viands, but the life-sized sculpture of a Charolaise you passed in the lobby when you enter tells you which way to order. Salad and frites come with. Despite our hesitation before entering out here in the hinterlands, the spot is fairly lively with locals and the steak is good. Not revelatory, but refreshingly straightforward (I really dislike when chefs feel they must heavily marinate a steak in an herb bath – give me ‘nature’ or give me death….) and I’d go back. Had the small (120g) of Chateaubriand (12€) each, and a bottle of Valrossa Rosé 2010 (15€) and we were out of there for under 50€.
BEAUNE, Dame Tartine, Lunch.
This place near the Hotel Dieu has always seemed crowded… I thought a promising indication, but now having been there I’d say it had to do with the inexpensive, re-worked leftovers they call a meal. We had some salad (Chevre chaud – fine, I guess, if you don’t mind sandy lettuce…) to start and then the porc stew plat du jour with Veg-All tossed on the side (imported, I’m sure to make the Yanks feel at home). Ick. Mistake. Go over to Fromagerie Hess, get some cheese and charcuterie, and sit in Place Carnot with a baguette and an Opinel from the kitchen store on the corner – you’re much better off. We had a bottle of Macon-Lugny Bouchard, 2009 which made the waiter/maitre fuss quite a bit… did we know how good this wine was???? I think the whole meal was cheap, but who cares. Skip.
BEAUNE, Ma Cuisine, dinner.
Our last night in Burgundy so we want to end where we know we’re happy. Started with Tuna Tartar, then had a roasted Coquolet. B-man had a seared Foie Gras plate, and then entrecote. Had the epoisse (natch) then a tarte au chocolate and tarte au figue.
A bottle of Chablis Grand Cru, Droin, Grenouiulle 2009 (57€) 156€
PARIS, Café St. Regis, Ile Saint-Louis
The way of all flesh I suppose.... oh my, oh my. This was the much beloved, very down market but sympa Cafe St. Regis. Seven years ago we stopped here and had a simple lunch of Croque Monsieurs and a carafe of wine while we waited for the caretaker to deliver keys to our apartment down the street. By "our" I don't mean to imply we own it, just that we keep renting it for short stints and pretending we own it. And always during our temporary perching on the Ile we would end up here for a coffee, drink or meal. It was lively, reliable, inexpensive and in a great location: you can just see the Pont Saint Louis and Notre Dame from the front of the joint. Two weeks earlier in this trip when we passed through the Ille we saw that St. Regis was under construction and we feared the worst (tee shirt shop? Le starbucks?...). Indeed, what we found comes close. A friend had recently shared a cautionary tale of a cafe in Paris actually coming to the States to study Pastis, the Keith McNally impersonation of a French Café in NYC.... Oh this may indeed have been it... Our humble cafe... now all done up. The music is all in English, and so are half the menu's dropped on the agreeable little tables.... The frites came in a small pewter cup "wrapped" in faux newspaper imprinted with The New York Times... Oy. Thank God the street cleaners and butchers still like to get their coffee here, and the same fast moving, witty waiter is ensconced, but (gasp) there are several folks in charge at the door, dressed for a night of le clubbing. The croque was fine, and so were the frites, but…. But….. A table of blinking, confused seniors settled in next to us, also surprised to find their old friend so gussied up. If you could strike the Times and other odd American touches it would all be fine, I suppose, but there is something very hollow about what’s left…an imitation of an imitation of a real thing. Croques and carafe: 38€
PARIS, Bistrot Paul Bert
Still often thought about the house steak we had here two years ago and the energetic and crowded dining room so we decided we’d go back. This particular evening I was under the weather and a bit off my game so we opted just to skip starters and just have the steak (which comes with a salad and frites and bread, biensur, and swims in a pool of creamy pepper sauce). Being off my game, and having been moved from where they first sat us, near the open windows facing onto the tables on the street (the waitress was very apologetic, someone had reserved that specific table – I didn’t mind) and re-settled nearby I somehow lost my page in the hefty volume of available bottles and ordered a bottle of white by accident and didn’t really realize until she poured... Even though it was an odd selection for the filet she brought it quickly and with no condescension. It was their last night before Les Vacances, and the place was, it being a Saturday, very busy. Another poster on this board was there the same night and complained about them running out of things (true), and how bad the service was, but I never found it that way. Both times I’ve been here it seems they get by with only one or two wait staff, like many places this size, and it requires fast moves, no wasted steps, and a heavy dose of patience: in this same atmosphere I also saw folks taking torturously long periods to quiz the waitress, ask numerous questions and drag their feet. I long ago came to think this is why the menu is posted by the door: do your planning, translating, and food-issue airing before taking a seat. Wendy Lyn has a very clear take on all this and Paul Bert on her blog The Paris Kitchen. The steak and frites were as I remembered them, and we polished them off, and I’d go back. Filets were 78€ and I think the bottle was probably 35€, whatever it was…
PARIS, Boulangerie des Deux Ponts
We’re up early and soon will have to pack up the rented car one last time and take it off to CDG, but before that we wander out looking for café. There are only two options at 7AM so we ended up back at St. Regis. After our coffees we stroll around the Ile and stop in at this recently renovated spot. We’re hoping it is the same owners, and the same goods, and if the baguette and croissant and pain chocolat are any indication, the same capable hands are still in the pate, as they say. The pastry crackles, the buttery interiors are tender and still slightly warm. I still have never found pastry in the States that comes close. We savor what we know will not be possible to enjoy until we come back to France.
Every trip we make is greatly aided by this board and the generosity, sincerity and discerning palates of Les Hounds and we thank you.