All Things France! is the home for my photos, travel observations, places to visit, even a recipe now and then. If you’re a Francophile or even plotting your first visit to Burgundy, I invite you to visit All Things France!
All Things France #3: Burgundy’s celebrated wines
Last year, I noticed a film title that sounded something like the title of my new book: “A Year in Burgundy.” It turned out to be a documentary about seven winemakers who tend their precious hillside terroirs and produce their unique vintages in a tightly choreographed rhythm with the sun and the weather. If you like knowing about French wines, you’ll enjoy the film.
When I’m in the towns near the fictional home of Catherine and Michael Goff, I look at the labels, ask questions about the appellations, but leave the imbibing to others. So, I asked my agent, Kimberley Cameron, of Kimberley Cameron & Associates, who is a noted wine collector and a true francophile, if she would share her five favorite Burgundy wines. (The reds are made from Pinot Noir grapes and the whites from Chardonnay. There’s a handy map of what’s grown where at http://winefolly.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Burgundy-Wine-Map-wine-folly.jpg# )
I spoke with a woman sommelier in Noyers-sur-Serein’s noted Millésimes restaurant, charcuterie, and vintner about the mysterious Irancy wines I photographed and she said some people love them, others hate them. “It’s the tannins, you know?” she explained. As you can see, there are a great many wines to choose from.
And here are Kimberley’s favorites: “Quelle bonne idée!!! Et oui, madame… j’aime les bourgognes!!!! These are my favorites!”
- Nuit St. Georges
- Gevrey Chambertin
All Things France #2: Burgundy’s signature foods
If we were to take a culinary tour of the region’s elegant restaurants, bistros, cafes, and food shops, here are a few of the special treats that Burgundy is famous for and that you will find at one or the other of its dining levels. Bon appetit!
Start with gougère, a cheesy, puffy pastry that is served small as an appetizer or large as a breakfast option. Think of profiteroles or cream puffs, only with cheese in the dough.
Escargot – snails – are some kind of emblem of Burgundy. I’m still researching, but I can tell you that, while at this stage of your dinner they are smothered in garlic, herbs and butter, they also show up as molded chocolates after dinner.
You might be offered a fish course, most likely fresh water fish from the region’s many rivers. People fish from vacation barges, and Burgundy’s 250 kilometer, man made canal has generated a major tourist industry.
When you get to the main course, you’ll recognize the crowns of Burgundian cuisine that incorporate its famous wines: the rich beef stew called Boeuf Bourguignon; Coq au Vin, chicken cooked to tender perfection in red wine; Filet au Poivre, which seems to be a point of pride around Lyon; and Andouillette, a spicy pork sausage that was, for me at least, an acquired taste.
You’re in a part of France that is justly renowned for its cheeses, so don’t skip the cheese course. Epoisses is named for the town where it is produced (complete with a chateau and grounds you do not want to miss). You may already know Soumaintrain, which you can find in the U.S. – you’ll know it by its orange rind. Fromage Blanc, which people buy at the supermarché in large tubs, is a little like whipped cream cheese, but not. There are dozens of local cheeses that will tempt or challenge you. I discovered one that was new to me on my winter visit to a small shop that proudly sold only Burgundy cheeses: “Domes of Vézelay,” small pyramids of a semi-soft, flavorful cheese covered in grayish (tasty) mold.
I hope you’ve left room for dessert, which is served last. Tarte Tatin needs no introduction and I doubt Clafoutis does either, with its custard base on which fruit is set. There’s more but if you’re like me, you’re too full to think about food at this point.
All Things France #1: The Mairie
Le mairie is the town hall, an important part of life in French towns as in American ones. The elected mayor has an office there as does that most local branch of the French police system that deals with the minor conflicts and issues in the town’s life—late night noise, illegally parked cars, a stolen tractor. If someone calls in with what might be a significant crime, the local policeman tells the mayor immediately, and the mayor contacts the gendarmerie, the larger police station staffed by trained and armed national police. Every hamlet has its own mairie, but the gendarmeries are located in larger towns. If terrorism or some other larger scale crime is suspected, the gendarmes in turn call in the national police headquartered in Paris.
In Love & Death in Burgundy, the sheriff of fictional Reigny-sur-Canne and the mayor are quick to call in the gendarmes, but unwilling to miss out on all the excitement.