Franche-Comte/Bourgogne dining report - Arbois, Morteau, Bourg-en-Bresse, Beaune, Dijon, Sens
My partner and I just spent a wonderful week in Franche-Comte and Bourgogne.
We arrived on Sunday in Arbois. I had reserved for dinner at Les Caudalies, so we strolled the few blocks from our hotel, and enjoyed a fabulous meal. Starting with a fabulous aperitif of (I think) white wine, cherry liqueur and cherries (7 euros each), accompanied by canapés. Next came an amuse-bouche of roasted tomato soup topped with some sort of cream (wish I could be more specific, but trust me it was superb). We chose the 4-course “menu plaisir” at 38.50 euros. We began with gratin of ecrevisses and a torchon of foie grason a bed of strawberries. Next came a palate cleanser of Mirabelle sorbet, then boneless chicken breast in vin jaune cream sauce with morels and the surprise fish which was a romble chevalier (a type of trout from Lake Leman) on a shellfish reduction with artichoke and purple carrot. The cheese course was magnificent, with everything at the perfect point of ripeness. For dessert we chose a panna cotta layered with fruits and a sable topped with figs and grapes. A bottle of Arbois Poulsard 2007 from Domaine de la Pinte was perfect and only 23 euros.
On Monday we took a day trip to Bourg-en-Bresse and visited the royal monastery and church in Brou. Right across the street is L’Auberge Bressane, an elegant restaurant with a very reasonable lunch menu. We opted for three courses at 32 euros. After an amuse of beet puree topped with beet whipped cream, first courses were a rabbit with carrots en gelee . with a kiwi puree, greens and haricots verts on the side, and a mussel veloute. Main courses were roast Bresse chicken with potato gratin and vegetables, and chicken liver mousse with quenelles de brochet in a shellfish cream sauce with assorted mushrooms. The desserts, which were massive (each could have served two) were oeufs a la neige in strawberry puree with a few raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, topped with vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce, and a gratin of strawberries . Then came petit fours. A nice bottle of Beaujolais was 26 euros, and coffee was 4 euros each. This meal was right up there with that of the previous night.
Monday evening we headed to the Michelin 2-star Jean-Paul Jeunet in Arbois. We had a spectacular meal, but unfortunately it will be difficult for me to describe in detail as each dish was so complicated I cannot recall all the ingredients, particularly without English translation. The 57 euro menu was comprised of four courses, and there are no choices. The house aperitif, which contained peach juice, sparkling wine, and a liqueur that I can’t recall, was 10.50 euros each. With it we were presented with an assortment of four canapés. Then came an amuse-bouche in three parts. After that the first course, ballotine of duck breast stuffed with foie gras. The main course was porcelet, the belly and another part, and various other garnishes. Next a wonderful cheese cart, and dessert of poached pears on fig gelee with caramel ice cream on a sable. Last a selection of four mignardises. We had a bottle of Arbois Ploussard 2006 from Pascal Clairet (28 euros). As long as you don’t mind the lack of choice, this is a steal for the price, considering the quality of food, the atmosphere and service. The two stars are well-deserved, and aside from the charm of the town and the region, it is worth a trip to Arbois just to dine here.
On Tuesday we headed off to the northeast part of the Jura, passing through Pontarlier and ending up in Morteau for lunch. The portion of the drive between Pontarlier and Morteau is particularly notable for its unusual rock formations. We had lunch at the Auberge de la Roche, which has a Michelin star. There are several menus, from which we chose the one for 25.50 euros, four courses plus canapés and amuse-bouche, and a bottle of 2009 Troussard from Domaine Pignier. The amuse was a gazpacho, followed by the first course of chicken liver terrine with greens, several sauces and pickled mushrooms, then the main course of pork cheeks with vegetable purees. Next came a selection of regional cheeses, and a dessert of berry sorbet with fruits. Coffee was 3.80 euros each and came with mignardises. The welcome and service were charming, and the food was right up there with Les Caudalies and Auberge Bressane.
For our final dinner in Arbois, we went to Le Caveau d’Arbois. We chose the menu at 28 euros for four courses, and a bottle of Arois Pupillin 2009 for 24 euros. We began with the house aperitif, a sparkling with grand marnier and orange juice. After an amuse bouche of chicken terrine, we began with smoked duck breast in a vinaigrette and terrine of pikeperch wrapped in cured ham. Next we had coq au vin jaune with morels and monkfish (lotte) with a trousseau wine sauce and morteau sausage. Both came with zucchini and carrots. Then came an assortment of three cheeses with salad, and finally parfait of marc de jura with raspberry sauce. It was all delicious and the atmosphere and service lovely.
Our last meal in the Franche-Comte was Wednesday lunch in Dole, where we stopped on our way to Beaune. We chose the restaurant La Chaumiere, which has a Michelin star and offers a weekday lunch of a main course and dessert) for 20 euros. This was an amazing bargain as it included canapés, amuse-bouche, a glass of wine, and mignardises. The food was top-notch. The amuse was a vichyssoise with shredded radish, main course was cod fillet with tomato and olives, served with poached celery and cabbage, and dessert was roasted quince with caramel sauce and mango sorbet and a pistachio wafer. After mignardises, we had coffee, which came with a amall glass of chocolate pudding topped with a coffee granite. Everything about this meal was perfect.
Dinner in Beaune on a Wednesday offers limited choice. We picked Le P’tit Paradis, and it was a good thing we reserved, as walk-ins were turned away. This is a lovely place, small and cozy, and the food is simple but delicious, traditional with a creative touch. We had the 28 euro menu of three courses, starting with a tartine of mackerel and pea soup, continuing with sweetbreads with black trumpet mushrooms (3 euro supplement) and veal tenderloin with girolles (2 euro supplement). For dessert we had roasted pineapple with pina colada sorbet and banana charlotte with caramel sauce. We picked the cheapest Bourgogne red 2009, which was 28 euros for the bottle, and it was utterly delicious. With aperitifs of Crème de Bourgogne with liqueur de pains d’epice (7 euros each) the total was a very reasonable 103 euros.
On Thursday we visited Dijon, where we had lunch at the Michelin-starred Le Pre au Clercs . Once again we made a fine choice. For 35 euros, we had 3 courses and a glass of wine. After an assortment of canapés, we started with a puree of mushrooms topped with a poached egg. This was a stunning dish, very intense mushroom flavor that was beautifully complemented by the richness of the egg. For main courses we had filet of rascasse and calves’ liver, both cooked to perfection. Dessert was a “coupe au fraises”, a moist coconut cake on a biscuit topped with strawberry sorbet and surrounded by strawberries. Very delicious. We also had a nice selection of mignardises. With coffee (4 euros) came chocolate cookies. The restaurant is in a beautiful space looking out on the ducal palace across the square. The welcome was a bit perfunctory but service was nice.
Back in Beaune for dinner, another one-star, Le Benaton. Prices are high in Beaune, so even though this was the lowest of the high-end places at 50 euros for 4 courses, it was nonetheless the most expensive meal of this trip, as the wine we ordered, a Savigny-les-Beaune 2008 at 43 euros, and the aperitifs (15 euros each!) brought the total to 173 euros. The food was superb, though. We began with a chunk of foie gras wrapped in a blackcurrant gelee, with smoked eel, several sauces and a brioche, and a tomato dish that included a tomato gelee in a green tomato sauce, three grilled shrimp, and a slice of rolled bread with tomato. We both had pigeon for the main course, a roasted breast and a croustillant of the leg meat, with almond cream and girolles. Next was a “bouchon” of Vougeot cheese with a cassis sauce and salad, then a plate of mignardises and dessert. For dessert we had a lemon cremeux on chocolate biscuit with strawberry sorbet and roasted figs on a fig gelee on a graham cracker with vanilla ice cream. All in all, a pretty good deal.
On Friday we headed to Paris, but stopped in Sens where we had lunch at Clos des Jacobins. They offer a lunch menu at 22 euros, consisting of amuses bouches, two courses, a glass of wine, and “café gourmande”. The first course was avocado with crayfish and grapefruit, second was salmon and cod(?) with a basil cream sauce and a zucchini custard. With the coffee, a small chocolate crème brulee, sorbets and a baba au rhum with whipped cream. The food was very tasty, and the room elegant. An excellent deal.