My husband and I don’t plan traditional vacations to go museum hopping or take guided tours to learn about the history of an area. Instead, for us there is usually only one major criteria when planning our holiday destination: what will we have to eat?
Being true foodies, the thrill of culinary delight is often what draws us to a location. Our first trip to La Bourgogne (Burgundy), France was centered around tasting just one meal. I had become acquainted with Jean-Charles, a négociant (wine maker) and restaurateur in a little town just south of Beaune- Corpeau, through a simple conversation on Twitter. He had invited us to come try his wine and food. We agreed, and soon found ourselves with train tickets and hotel reservations in Beaune, setting off one Easter weekend to what would soon become our favorite region of France.
Beaune is a quaint little historic city in La Bourgogne a little ways south of Dijon, complete with large stone buildings, ancient doors, decorated rooftops, and centuries-old wine cellars that lie underground, stretching from one end of the old town to the other. Just north and south of the city stretch some of the most famous wine areas of the entire world, the famed Côte d’Or. To the south of Beaune lie the renowned chardonnays and just to the north the equally famous pinots, each reflecting the defining characteristics of their respective terroir.
Our entire trip was a delight to the senses—smelling the fresh spring flowers, running our hands along the textured old walls, listening to the pitter patter of the light showers falling on the cobbled streets, and letting delicate macaron cakes melt in our mouths.Dinner at Jean-Charles’s restaurant was no exception. Jean-Charles, whose charisma warms the room with excitement and energy, immediately greeted us at the door with a smile. Down into le cave we went to taste some of his wines as he explained the different nuances of wine making and grape growing in the region. He explained to us that the Côte d’Or (translated to “Golden Hillside”) gets its name from the blazing golden hue of the hills in the autumn when the leaves on the vines change color from green to yellow.
After wine tasting, English-speaking time was over. “Maintenant, il faut apprendre le français (You must learn French now),” he told us. So we had dinner in our best French, which certainly wasn’t great at that point, only having been in Europe just a few short months, and was probably more practice than I ever had in Frenchspeaking Switzerland.
We snacked on jambon persillée (ham in a parsley aspic) and I tried the famous Burgundian snails while my husband feasted on scallops. We savored beautiful wine and let the ambiance of the grill on the fireplace set the tone of an inviting and cozy atmosphere. There was no issue with being gluten-free. Jean-Charles understood completely. In fact, we found every place we dined during our stay extremely understanding of the needs of being gluten-free.
From that moment on we fell in love with the romantic dream that is La Bourgogne and have returned since to sample wines, spend time with friends, enjoy great meals, and most of all just relax and take in the beauty together in this enchanted place.
Written by Jenn Oliver, author of the blog www.jenncuisine.com