Julia Child said in her book, My Life in France, "...Our first lunch together in France had been absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life..." Julia is able to sum up in just a few words my own feelings about France. It was love at first bite.
France, like many European countries, has very strong regionality and marked cultural diversisty within each region. I simply love this, because when I discover a new region of France, and it's food and wine, it is like falling in love, with la belle France, all over again.
Often when travelling to France, Mr K and I have found ourselves in the hot sunshine of the south, the spiritual home of so many of the great artists and writers. On this trip though, it was the lure of vines, wines and snails that drew us into the absolutely stunning region of the Bourgogne.
The fabulous apartment, that we had the very good fortune to stay in, was right in the radiant heart of the Bourgogne, Beaune. A stunning medieval town, Beaune was splashed with the bright yellow, red and green glazed roof tiles and was filled with a beautiful, warm, filtered summer light. There were planter boxes on every corner, packed with the most exquisite flower arrangements, which in true French style looked as though they had been casually thrown together. The town also boasted opportunities for considered degustations (wine tasting) at every turn.
The gentleman who served us at Cave Moillard was particularly charming and helpful. He assisted us to select a beautiful rich syrupy cassis to partner with a fresh Cremant from the region, to make the classic Kir Royale. Our selection, the Joseph Cartron Crème de Cassis de Bourgogne cost 14 euros and was thick, tart and and utterly luscious. This particular brand can be purchased in Australia and many other countries online.
|Our version of the Kir Royale|
Cassis is made from black currants, which grow exceptionally well in soil that is meant for vines. So well associated with Bourgogne, Cassis came into popularity through misfortune. In the 19th century, phylloxera (a disease that only effects grape vines) had nearly wiped out all of the vineyards in Bourgogne. To avoid complete devastation, the enterprising people of the Bourgogne planted black currants. The currants were soaked in alcohol and this product, Cassis, temporarily replaced wine in the region.
The cocktail itself came about when in the 1950s, the mayor of Dijion - Monseiur Kir, added a splash of Cassis to the local white wine and serve this little number at official functions and et voila! The Kir was born. The difference between a Kir and a Kir Royale is the wine that is used. A Kir uses the local white wine, Aligote, which is usually attractively fresh and appley, but sometimes acidic. A Kir Royal, on the other hand, uses Cremant de Bourgogne.
Cremant refers to French sparkling wine made in the traditional method outside of Champagne. The one we selected from Moillard was softly effervescence, creamy and crisp -showing off all of its cool climate Chardonnay fruit. A similar Cremant, which can be purchased in Australia is the Cave De Lugny Cremant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs NV, Burgundy - which will set you back around $18AUD. Annoyingly this drop only cost around the 5-6 euro mark in Beaune and with the Australian dollar they way it currently is, it was an absolute steal. But there you go - that's the cost of flying wines around the world and just one of the reasons why it is so good to travel to France. Exceptional wines at very, very good prices.
1 x bottle of Creme de Cassis
1 x bottle of Creamant
Pour 3 teaspoons creme de cassis into each champagne flute and top with sparkling wine and serve immediately.
We enjoyed our Kir Royale from the geranium bedecked balconly of our stunning apartment in Beaune. Luckily for us, our kind and generous host Joce had also left us a chilled bottle of Aligote in the fridge, so we could try our own little tasting comparison between the Kir and the Kir Royale!! Not only had Joce left us the Aligote, but every thoughtful detail had been taken care of in this stylish and perfectly located apartment, Le Beaune Rousseau.
|Our host, Joce, had thought of every detail - right down to the cocktail cabinet and champagne glasses|
|The gorgeous dining room in the apartment|
|The view from our apartment in Beaune|
After finishing our aperos, we took a short stroll around the town centre of Beaune. To my absolute delight we discovered Athenaeum - a small department style store that was packed from floor to ceiling with cookbooks, books on wine and every wine related gadget you could think of. I could have spent hours in here devouring these beautiful books. While they were mainly written in French, Athenaeum also offered a good range of books written in English. The amount of time I spent in this store was quite significant, by the time we left the light was starting to fade. It was then that we discovered Beaune has the most amazing and very, very stylish light show throughout the town. Las Vegas this is not - artistic, creative and relevant to Beaune it is!!
|The Sun God rising on one of the churches of Beaune|
|Angels on the walls of the Hospices de Beaune|
|The finale at Beaune's main cathedral|
|The streets of Beaune aglow|
The next morning we set our sights on visiting the historic Hospices de Beaune. Founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of Burgundy and his wife, Guigone de Salins, the building was originally used as a hospital for the poor of Beaune and one section still serves today as a retirement home for the elderly of Beaune. The building itself is awash with high gothic architecture, from the glazed roof tiles to the intricate patterned floor tiles.
For those who love wine, the hospices is also known for another reason! The Domaine des Hospices de Beaune is a non-profit organisation which owns around 61 hectares of donated vineyard land, much of this classified Grand and Premier cru. A charity auction has been arranged annually since 1851, taking place on the third Sunday in November, where professional and private buyers do battle for these exceptional wines. The auction also serves to give some indication of the trend in expected wine prices for wines from Bourgogne, in that particular year.
|The beautiful floor tiles, which the creator of the Hospices dedicated to his wife. They read, my wife is my star|
|The Hospices de Beaune|
This post started out with a quote about the perfection of French food, and the food of the Bourgogne is no exception. After absorbing the beauty of the Hospices de Beaune for a number of hours we had certainly worked up an appetite. Our stomachs and palates were rewarded by the absolutely divine offerings at Caveau Des Arches, a resturant set in an amazing vaulted cellar right in the centre of Beaune.
|The delicious cheese puffs, native to Burgundy|
We settled on the 25.50€ menu and it is really of the greatest bargains and culinary gems of France. The wine list is also excellent and very well priced. To start the meal, as our wine was being poured, we were offered a complimentary plate of gougeres - a choux pastry appetiser filled with a moreish Comte cheese.
For the starter we chose the escargot, which also came with a single oeuf en meurette - an egg poached in red wine with bacon, mushroom and shallots. The escargot were swathed in pungent garlic, butter and parsley. The snails I have eaten in Australia were always like tough, nuggety little mushrooms. These, on the other hand, were simply exquisite. The snails themselves had a decidedly earthy flavour and we did not waste an ounce of the herby garlic butter, sweeping up every ounce with crunchy French bread.
Next was a thick, rich boeuf bourguignon, served alongside a fluffy pommes de terre that was absolutely dripping with creamy, white French butter. As you will see from the photo, there was a token offering of vegetables - in the form of a little flourish of spinach. The luscious sauce of the boeuf was a meat eater and wine drinkers delight. It had a beautiful smokey warmth from large juicy lardons of bacon and liters of local red wine. The beef itself was so moist and tender that it completely melted as you placed it in your mouth.
While I could have exploded at the point - with contentedness as well as the fullness of my stomach - it was time for dessert. The coupe dijionaise a la creme de cassis (cassis sorbet with whipped cream, toasted almonds and mint) was a revelation. The gelato I had tried in Italy, although supremely good, was no match for the explosion of tart black currents, with a divine creamy texture. The intensity of the flavours of the berries in this sorbet was nothing short of astounding. I could have died with culinary happiness at this point, but then it was time for coffee and sweet, caramely madelelines, which were also complimentary.
Like the meal we had at Caveau Des Arches, the town of Beaune is simply perfect. I could not recommend more highly staying at Le Beaune Rousseau. If you are travelling to France this town is a must visit! As for myself, I can't wait until my next trip back. I will just have to content myself with trying to recreate the black currant sorbet, until I can return.
Le Beaune Rousseau, private apartment
Rue Rousseau Deslandes
(apartment rental number 644701a)
8, place de la Halle
Athenaeum de la vigne et du vin
7 Rue de l'Hôtel-Dieu
Hospices de Beaune
Entry 7€ per adult
Rue de l'Hôtel-Dieu
9am - 11.30am and 2pm - 5.30pm
Caveau Des Arches
10, boulevard de Perpreuil
03 80 22 10 37
Beaune in images and lights
From June to September, each year
Check with the Beaune tourist office for specific dates