Dining well in Burgundy
The adjective that most commonly precedes chardonnay and pinot noir wines is “food-friendly” and when one travels to the cradle of chardonnay and pinot noir wines – Burgundy – you only have one thought: food. Since Burgundy vineyards cover a distance of about 150 miles north to south, one doesn’t need to travel elsewhere to find a wide range of wine styles – light to full-bodied, oaked or not, everyday to complex – that will pair with almost any dish.
The classic dishes to try when in Burgundy include jambon persille (ham terrine with parsley), coq au vin (chicken stewed in red wine), boeuf bourguignonne (long-stewed beef in wine) and escargots. You will easily find grenouilles, veal, rabbit and offal (sweetbreads or kidneys for example) too, as well as some seafood, but it’s more about the rich foods. Chicken, veal and beef are often prepared “a la Bourguinonne,” a stew or sauce based on red wine, onions, mushrooms and bacon. Cheese course is almost always a given and specialties include the washed-rind cow’s milk cheeses – creamy epoisses and semi-soft Abbaye de Citeaux.
In Beaune, the commercial center of Burgundy, you will pass by patisserie after patisserie. One of the great pleasures of being in France is that you will never want for freshly-baked, organic bread or pastries. Bistros and restaurants abound, but not all are created equal. Here are some of my favorite restaurants and bistros in Burgundy.
In the main town of Beaune:
- Ma Cuisine. You need to plan ahead for this. It’s tiny and casual, but the food and wine list are great, prices reasonable, so it’s always booked. Passage Sainte-Helene, 03 80 22 30 22, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Caves Madeleine. My new favorite place. If you couldn’t get that table at Ma Cuisine, come here. It’s a tiny place on Rue du Faubourg Madeleine, a cave(wine merchant) first that became known for their great food. The prices are reasonable, for example, a 26 euro fixed menu with classic options, and a great selection of Burgundy wines. I love it for its cozy ambiance and unpretentious hospitality, but equally for the simplicity of its dishes which reveals excellent execution. Make a reservation and be prepared to dine at a communal table. 8 rue du Faubourg, 03 80 22 93 30.
- Le Clos du Cedre. Our hosts said one could dress casual here, but it’s pretty fancy inside so if I were a guy, I would wear a jacket. The food is wonderful, Burgundy classics interpreted by a Japanese chef. Imagine a terrine of foie gras and tuna with sheets of nori and the barest hint of soy that gives extra umami to the dish. Or a breast of duck with a strawberry vinaigrette that I could swear had a touch of dashi. How about green tea ice cream dressed in white chocolate?
- Le Conty. Authentic Burgundy food, probably the most intensely flavored beef (cheeks) bourguignonne I have had. Whether you dine outside, inside or down in the cellar, you’ll feel true Burgundian ambiance.
In the Cote de Nuits:
- Le Millesime in Chambolle-Musigny. This was one of those happy accidents where we didn’t have time to dine in a larger town and looked for something – anything – in this small village. We had an appointment with an important vintner that we didn’t want to be late for and found this local restaurant. When we told our waiter our timing predicament, he smiled and nodded to the far table where our vintner was still dining leisurely with a well-known producer from Alsace whom we would later meet. So we could relax. The food was delicious and well-executed, service friendly. 1 r. Traversière F, 03 80 62 80 37, email@example.com
In Cote de Beaune:
- Restaurant Le Charlemagne in Pernand-Vergelesses about 4-5 miles south of Beaune. This Michelin star restaurant boasts incredible views of the Hill of Corton and Grands Crus vineyards. The modern French cuisine has creative Japanese influences and inventive presentations such as sea trout tartar with curry and confit breast of guinea fowl with sesame seed and wasabi crusted skin. The setting is very modern but comfortable. So what’s with the Asian fusion? One of my Japanese colleagues on the latest trip rued that when he comes to Burgundy, he wants to eat real French food, not fusion. Personally, I love it because it widens the flavor spectrum of standard Burgundian fare, with lighter touches and portions.
In Chagny, inbetween Cote de Beaune and Cote Chalonnaise, a good place to stop if you’re going down to Cote Chalonnaise or Maconnais:
- Pierre & Jean. The much more casual little brother of Michelin 3-star Lameloise, the restaurant offers French cuisine in a contemporary setting on two floors as well as an outdoor patio.