Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stay Stinky Burgundy

Cheese bust behind us, we head southeast to the country of France...otherwise known as heaven. We were very lucky to find a special price to enjoy a stay at the lovely Le Cedre in Beaune, which is the hub of the larger slice of heaven, Bourgogne (Burgundy). Our Hotelier at Le Cedre was perhaps the most pleasant lady in all of Burgundy and immediately set us up with 2 amazing reservations for each night of our stay.
The first of our reservations was for Caveau des Arches, which was recommended as traditional Burgundian style restaurant (you know, where the locals hang). So, I'm expecting maybe a step up from the local bar & grill, and the Frenchies impress once again. After cracking a bottle of 2003 Primer Cru Santenay Burgundy, Mum ordered the traditional pre fixe including escargot, oeufs en meurette (egg poached in a delicious red wine sauce), & beouf bourgonge (shown on the right with Mum, happy-as-a-clam). I went a la carte & had the best mussels of my life, duck with morels in a dreamy red wine sauce, & for a grand finale...a cheese course delivered by the most delightful cart of local and oh-so-stinky cheeses. Included in the plate you see being served up below is a fresh chevre rolled in mustard seeds (the town of Dijon is just a curd throw away from Beaune), Ami du Chambertin (a soft ripened washed rind cheese made form raw cow's milk...stinky), Reblochon (another washed rind soft ripened cheese from the neighboring Savoie region...stinkier), and the king of stink, Epoisses. This notoriously stinky cheese dates back to the 16th century (this was Napoleon's it has certainly been around the block a few thousand times) & was originally produced by monks in a town called, you guessed it, Epoisses. The unique stink of this delightful cheese is caused by the washing process. Once the curd is removed from it's mold to dry, it is washed with salt water & set to rest for one month, after which it is washed 2-3 times each week with a rainwater & Marc de Bourgonge (a spirit made from pressing leftover skins, pulp, & seeds of the pinot noir grapes) mixture. In between washes it is carefully brushed by hand to allow for equal distribution of bacteria forming a vibrant orange rind...and the stink. Past that beautiful rind is a wonderfully rich & milky, sweet & salty pate that is the one & only, Epoisses.
The meal was flawless & delicious. I think it was Mum's favorite of the trip...and rightfully so.

The next day we scoped out the town of Beaune, which is classy, quaint, & bursting with seductive Le Creuset cooking gear (at about 30% off the prices in the US...I seriously considered carrying on the 6 qt french oven as my 'purse' for my flight back). For dinner, we head to the nearby town of Chagny for a highly anticipated dinner experience at Lameloise, a 3 Michelin star beauty. We both ordered the 6 course tasting, which was of course supplemented by a few extras (5 part amuse, palate cleansers, & petits fours) resulting in a a remarkable 4 hour dinner. It went a little something like this...Amuse Bouche included an array of treats as you can see to get the taste buds going.

Pre-first course palate cleanser of melon soup for the sweet & a cured ham & goat cheese delight entertained both sweet & savory buds. Just behind to the right you see our slice of flavorful local butter...sadly your computer screen is not scratch & sniff.
Now, for the official first course Foie Gras terrine with frozen figs (sorry...I just had to do it. It may even be my last foie gras experience unless they discover another way to create this tasty treat). Mum went for the less controversial Langoustine in a tomato gaspacho. Langoustines are essentially miniature lobsters found in the north-eastern Atlantic or North Sea. Once the meat is removed from the shell it strongly resembles a large prawn, but the flavor is much sweeter. Yum!

Second course is a Seared Dorado with a mushroom & caramelized onion risotto. The fish was seasoned & seared perfectly & the risotto was bursting with flavor from freakishly uniform chanterelle mushrooms.
The next course was also a water dweller, Lobster with a stuffed courgette flowers & cardinal sabayon. First, have you ever seen the meat of a lobster claw removed so flawlessly? I was baffled. Second, courgette flowers are essentially the french version on squash blossoms. Lastly, 'cardinal' sabayon is essentially a whipped crustacean flavored hollandaise. Please don't try to eat your computer (Dad...seriously, step back from your computer screen).
That brings us to the meat course, where Mum & I diverge once again. I choose the Poached pigeon in truffle consomme. After working in a kitchen & making consomme, I feel obligated to order any dish with it as a featured ingredient, the truffles just sealed the deal. Consomme is a stock that has been clarified by creating a raft, usually composed of lean ground meat, egg whites, mirepoix (chopped onions, carrots, & celery...just in case), & an acid (lemon juice, tomatoes, etc). The raft floats to the top of the stock & as the stock simmers, the raft catches all impurities & fat leaving behind a crystal clear & intensely flavored soup. This picture does not quite do it justice, but it was a beautiful dish. Mum enjoyed the Veal sweetbreads with citrus zest & a very interesting roasted buttery tube-o-potato. I had a few bites myself & it was as tender & tasty as can be.
The fifth & perhaps favorite course comes to our table on wheels! is the CHEESE COURSE! This cart was a cheese masterpiece & released some serious stink when they finally opened it to plate up our cheese course. We selected 8 cheeses from Burgundy & the surrounding regions, each with a unique flavor & texture exhibiting how the perfection of French artisan cheese. The Roquefort was insane & I just had to have another dose of epoisses. Unfortunately, the crabbiest of our servers helped us with the cart, so there was not much conversation post cheese selection. I think I may have frightened him with my enthusiasm? Yes, I am almost sure of it.
Bursting at the seams or not, the dessert course was on it's way. Passion Fruit Souffle for moi & an array of Chocolate for Mum. Of course this was followed by not one, but two plates chock-full of petits fours (you can see them arriving in the background of the souffle pic), which we promptly had them box up for breakfast.
Four hours & two delighted stomachs later, we are the absolute last table to stroll out of Lameloise...happy as pigeons in truffle consomme! It was a 'treat for the soul' just as our friendly hotelier had suggested it would be.

Reluctant to leave heaven (obviously!), the next morning we would leave Beaune & head for the Jura Mountains in search of Comte.

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