For many French people, mention of Burgundy's capital, Dijon, conjures up images of round, rosy, merry men enjoying large suppers of bœuf à la Bourguignonne and red wine. And admittedly, chances are that in any decent restaurant you can find at least one Dijonnais true to the stereotype. Dijon ranks with Lyon as the gastronomic capital of France, and Burgundy's hearty traditions help
explain why. It all began in the early 15th century when Jean, Duc de Berry, arrived here, built a string of castles, and proceeded to make food, wine, and art top priorities for his courtiers. Today, Parisian gourmands consider a three-hour drive a small price to pay for the cuisine of Burgundy's best restaurants, such as L'Espérance in Vézelay, Le Pré aux Clercs and Stéphane Derbord in Dijon, and Relais Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu.
Dijon is not quite the wine–mustard capital of the world it used to be, but the happy fact remains that mustard finds its way into many regional specialties, including the sauce that usually accompanies andouillette, a fabled sausage made with pork chitterlings (intestine). Other sausages—notably the rosette du Morvan and others served with a potato puree—are great favorites. Game, freshwater trout, coq au vin, poulet au Meursault (chicken in white wine sauce), snails, and, of course, bœuf à la Bourguignonne (incidentally, this dish is only called bœuf bourguignon when you are not in Burgundy) also number among the region's specialties.
The queen of chickens is the poulet de Bresse, which hails from east of the Côte d'Or and can be as pricey as a bottle of fine wine. Ham is a big item, especially around Easter, when garlicky jambon persillé—ham boiled with pig's trotters and served cold in jellied white wine and parsley—often tops the menu. Also look for saupiquet des Amognes—a Morvan delight of hot braised ham served with a spicy cream sauce. As for desserts, pain d'épices (gingerbread) is the dessert staple of the region. And, like every other part of France, Burgundy has its own cheeses. The Abbaye de Cîteaux, birthplace of Cistercian monasticism, has produced its mild cheese for centuries. Chaource and hearty Époisses also melt in your mouth—as do Bleu de Bresse and Meursault.
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