Barbizon, Beaune, Charolles, Macon, Cluny… random Burgundian notes. (LONG)
Some places included in an effort to populate the boards with some mentions in some of these more remote places. Outside the major cities, or major foodie destinations, however rural or obscure they may be, there are vast parts of France where a search on Chowhound turns up nothing. So in that spirit - onward…
Doesn’t really fit the Burgundy category but I may as well start with Barbizon, where we had our first official meal in France this trip. We strolled the village looking in windows where we could and reviewing menus and tried to guess where was best to land ourselves for lunch. It being a Sunday in December, town was fairly quiet and most places completely empty, which is never all that inviting. Ended up at a place called La Boheme. A handful of families having Sunday lunch, and a decent one at that. Started with sautéed pleurots and lardons on greens, and then choucroute. My partner had the Pot au Feu, and finished with profiteroles while I had the real star of the meal… an absolutely perfect piece of Brie de Meaux (nearby). A bottle of very nice St. Joseph (36€), and café. 91€
Beaune was a bit tough on a Sunday, too, and this close to the Hols. Much beloved Ma Bourgogne was already on congé annual as were several others offered in my earlier query (thanks houndies). Landed at La Ciboulette, a comfy, lively place we’d been before with pretty good food. Started with a small casserole of escargots, and had filet epoisse, primeurs and après a small assortment of cheeses. Partner had magret. A very nice Ladoix (49€) to celebrate our return to Burgundy. Oh, and started with a couple Kirs, natch. Finished with Vielle Prune. 128€
Spent the night at Le Cep, which we love, and headed toward our rented gite in the Macon. Stopped in Tournus (where we would leave the A6 to head west toward Cluny) and sniffed around for lunch, passing, on the way, the studio of Gabriel Fauré. Had a very nice lunch at a small mom and pop called Le Charles V close to the central square, and a block from the very swollen (as all the rivers were from the snows) Saonne. Salade Landaise, Poulet Roti (quite yummy) and Tarte Tatin Chaude (very good). A pot of St. Veran. (13€) 40€.
Drove, purposefully, on small windy roads to Cluny and then on to where our gite was in Sivignon near the Butte de Suin. By the time we unpacked ourselves and foraged for provisions it was getting quite late and we were nearly completely out of luck for supper. Headed into Cluny and everything seemed closed on this Lundi. It was 9pm, which seemed quite late in this small town. Found the small, modern Brasserie du Nord right next to the Abbye entrance, possibly the only place open. Monsieur looked less than thrilled that his night just got a bit longer but agreed to feed us if we’d order off the smaller, bar menu. Faux Filet and frites, and a small salad, and a pot of Macon rouge. Cheap. Totally forgettable, but edible.
A less than stellar introduction to the region for us. Headed to Macon the next day and poked around in the accumulating snow. Ducked into a place on the river called Café Francais on the Quai Lamartine. We were freezing and they had wifi and an inexpensive lunch menu. Had Blanquette de Veau and I a lame moelleux… pot of Macon Rouge. Cheap, forgettable, edible.
The snow continues and by the time we get back to the gite it is clear we’re eating in. Made a quick tarte, but couldn’t figure out the “professional” oven, at all, not sure what it’s origin was (British? German?) but we souffléd the eggs instead of baking gently…. Rather crunchy.
Headed back into Cluny the next day hoping to have better luck but failed. Most of the places open were offering take-away fare. After walking pretty much all around town looking for options, finding few, we ended up in a place near the Abbye called Le Cloitre. Cheap, at least a few other diners…. But I’d say pass. Very unpleasant smelling dining room.
La Neige Continu. But I couldn’t take another night of unremarkable fare, so we saddled up, tightened the seat belts, and headed down the steep, narrow road that led out of the village toward Charolles, and Frederic Doucet at the Hotel de La Poste. The 20km drive took 1h30… and by the time we arrived, covered in the now heavy snow, we were relieved that the restaurant happened to be in a hotel. We started with an apero in the comfy seating area of the lobby, a little house number called a Charollais which was like a cardinal (pinot noir, cassis) but also with crème de mur and a bit of gin. Was lovely, especially after the harrowing drive, and knowing that we could settle in for the night. Right from the amuses, which they brought to us there, it was clear we were in very good hands. Three different riffs on salmon, each delicious: cappuccino de pomme de terre; mousse avec millefeuille, and tartar avec cucumber, sprouts and a touch of (?). I sprang for the degustation menu and was rewarded with possibly the best overall meal of my life. We both were served a delicious potage potiron. Travelling in France in winter, as we do each year, this soup often appears before us, and it is interesting to see where it really sings. This one did. Then I had St. Jacques two ways, one of them simply seared and in a small bowl with some onctueuse sauce, and the other, Carpaccio style with a citrusy dressing, three small spinach leaves. Next up, a tender, delicious filet de Bar, on mashed, with truffle slices, and all surrounded by a dark, clear broth. The St. Pierre that followed was very different and surprising: diced potiron and pineapple underneath, (surprisingly harmonious) and some delicate citrusy sauce that was pored over all from a small pitcher. The Filet Charollais, with a refined, minimalist bordelaise was perfectly cooked, if a bit less exciting than the other courses. Partner had a warm chicken salad with puff pastry to start and then liévre two ways, one roasted, one confited in a pot. He loved them both. Out wheeled the enormous and heavy (there was an entire wheel of Comté on it) chariot de frommage. At this point, cheese lover that I am, and with a fairly hefty appetite, even I had to limit myself to just two very teeny wedges. I forget what my dessert was called (Coco Mange perhaps?) but I had no intention of putting a dent in it. I finished it. It was delicious. Pineapple, mango, coconut ice cream all on top of a flakey, buttery cookie with a fruit reduction. And biensur, not only were there mignardises, but there were many. Homemade marshmallows, caramels, tiny cookies, and jellied fruits. A very nice St. Joseph. (56€) 181€
The next day, driving back in the sun, on the snow covered rolling hills, we decided to try and make our way up to the Butte de Suin and take in the long views. After we stopped for lunch nearby in St. Bonnet de Joie in possibly the only place that seemed open (you getting the leitmotif here?). True, I was put off by the sign for pizza, and buffet, but there were a fair number of trucks out front and I tend to think this means decent grub. Or maybe it confirms that this is all that’s around….. hmmm. The buffet aspects of the meal were the entrées and desserts, and one selected from two plats chaud. The other was some kind of offal, and though I’m eager to muster up the courage to be adventurous in my ordering, this didn’t seem to be the place to brave it: Faux filet for both of us, this time accompanied by des pates et tomates. Rather like beef-a-roni, and in truth we didn’t mind it. The buffet actually had a number of interesting things on it, dozens in fact (rilettes, pates, salade de boeuf…), and they were all fairly decent and ditto the desserts and we left fairly well sated.
After the sunny afternoon we thought we were in the clear. No such luck. In comes another storm. At least this time we’ve got slightly better offerings in the home larder. A roasted free-range local chicken, with roasted potatoes. And even though the gite advertised itself (among other misleadings) to have a working fireplace, supper was provided a bit of ambiance because we were determined (and succeeded) at making a fire even without a single fireplace tool! Sheesh.
The next morning for reasons I’ll leave off a food site, we had to abandon the gite because of a problem with the plumbing. We decided to throw clothes in a bag and head for Lyon… more to come...
Gman, thanks for all your Burgundy descriptions. In the past when cycling the Voie Verte, we had never found a good place for lunch in Cluny. However last September we stopped for lunch at Hostellerie d’Heloise in Cluny. The following was written by one of our crew:
We take the path from Cormatin through the wood to Cluny…passing an incredible chateau; a mountain goat; a new foal; lots of Charolais. Lunch is a find! A hotel on the river, across from the old train station and the Voie Verte bike path with a waiter and his boss that were incredibly gracious and spoke some English (thank goodness). Starting with kir we had amuse bouche of Palmier (crispy cheese bread) and tomato and mozzarella with a tomato basil bisque. We are getting really used to this way of eating! We had a bottle of Macon with our Foie Gras we shared; and then we shared escargot (the BEST I have ever tasted); a soufflé of mushroom; and a langoustine shrimp salad that was incredible! Coffee was on the terrace and the ride back had us accomplishing my personal best of 30 kilometers…and FAST… averaging about 20K/hr. It was so beautiful! And Flat!