Dining in Burgundy
In a land where glorious wines define both lifestyle and cuisine, you'll find savory, soul-warming dishes, from garlicky escargots to coq au vin, both of which pair beautifully with the local wines.
While Burgundy's glittering wine trade imparts a sophisticated image to the region, Burgundy itself is basically prosperous farm country. Traditional cuisine here reflects the area's farm-centric soul, with lots of slow-cooked, wine-laced dishes. Distinctive farm-produced cheeses, such as the magnificent, odiferous Époisses, and the mild Cîteaux, made by Trappist monks, cap meals with rustic flourish. During a day of wine tasting in the Côte d'Or, dine at a traditional bistro to savor the jambon persillé, chunks of ham enrobed in a parsleyed aspic jelly, or a rich bœuf bourguignonne. In summer, be sure to spend a morning at one of the region's bountiful weekend markets—maybe Saulieu on Saturday. Afterward, enjoy a Charolais steak à la moutarde at a local café and raise a glass to the good life.
Some Like It Hot
Visit the 18th-century Maille mustard emporium at 32 rue de la Liberté to savor Dijon's world-famous mustards. Produced from stone-ground dried black or brown seeds macerated in verjus (the juice of unripe white grapes), these mustards accompany many dishes and heat up lapin à la moutarde, rabbit in mustard sauce. There is coarse-grain moutarde à l'ancienne or the classic, creamy, much hotter variety.
Burgundy's plump snails, which are found in the vineyards, appear on menus throughout the region. The signature preparation is à la Bourguignonne—simmered in white wine, stuffed with a garlicky parsley-shallot butter, and baked until bubbling. The delicacy is served in portions of six or eight on ceramic escargot dishes called escargotières, accompanied by tongs and a little fork.
Those immune to the true snail's charms may succumb to the luscious imposters made of solid chocolate and available at local candy shops and pâtisseries.
The greatest of Burgundian cheeses, the rich, earthy, cow's-milk Époisses is not for the faint of heart. This assertive—yes, even odorous—cheese with the russet-hue rind develops its character from a daily scrubbing with marc-de-Bourgogne brandy as it ripens, a process that inhibits mold but encourages the growth of a particular bacteria necessary for the development of its creamy interior and distinctive flavor.
Go to the modest village of Époisses and buy your cheese from top producer Robert Berthaut. But be sure to transport it in a tightly sealed container.
Bœuf à la Bourguignonne
Burgundy is the birthplace of this beloved beef stew, aka bœuf bourguignonne, and no place on Earth makes it better. A bottle or two of hearty red wine cooked down in the sauce is one secret to its success; the other is the region's prime Charolais beef. The beef is braised with wine, onions, bacon, and mushrooms, turning tender as the sauce reduces and intensifies.
Other wine-soaked specialties here include coq au vin and œufs en meurette—eggs poached in red wine.
This rosy and refreshing aperitif, combining an inexpensive white wine called Aligoté with a dose of crème de cassis (black-currant liqueur), was dubbed a "Kir" during World War II when the Resistance hero and mayor of Dijon, Canon Félix Kir, began promoting the drink to boost local sales of cassis liqueur.
Traditionally made, the Kir has four to five parts dry white wine to one part crème de cassis. In the Kir's aristocratic cousin, the Kir Royale, Champagne replaces the wine.
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