I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tour of Burgundy

One more trip into France here on the blog, this time with a sip bottle of wine thanks to a lovely tour of Burgundy with Ivan of Authentica Tours. I learned so much on this wonderful tour and hope to pass some of that along to you without completely bogging you down with too many confusing details.
Burgundy is one of the most renowned wine regions in the world, known for its gorgeous pinot noirs and elegant chardonnays. The terroir (the land, climate, soil, etc. that contributes to the wine's flavor) is known for producing the best wine possible out of these grapes and they've been doing it for hundreds of years so they know what they are doing. French wine regions and distinctions can be a little difficult to wrap your head around, and is a lot of info to try to fit into one blog post, but "Wine for Normal People" has a great 101 tutorial for Burgundy here.

The gist of it all? If you are drinking a wine from Burgundy it is either Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or Gamay (if drinking a Beaujolais). There are different classifications, which are based on terroir and history, which can help to guide you in terms of the quality of the wine you are about to drink right there on the bottle and can tell you exactly where the grapes in your wine are coming from: starting with the top at Grand Cru level, to Premiere Cru, Village, and ending with Regional.

This tour completely schooled me on my knowledge of Burgundy wines--which I thought was decent but realized quickly was not quite so. I had very little idea of the specifics, which are what make these wines truly spectacular. As we took the tour, we drove the back roads through many Premier and Grand Cru vineyards of the Cotes Nuits (a decent map of the region here. We drove the back roads from Fixin to Ladoix and then the highway to Beaune for a little personal wandering time). I learned that all of the villages and the vineyards bump right up next to one another--barely discernible to the normal eye. And within each vineyard there were multiple owners--one person does not own a whole plot of land. Because of certain laws within Burgundy, a parent's plot of land is divided up among all of their children, meaning there are certain plots that only contain a few rows. And barely noticeable changes in the land make up the different sub-regions, so many times nothing but a small road or a few feet separate a grand cru from a premiere cru vineyard.

We pulled onto the back roads of the vineyards near Fixin, the village where Ivan our tour guide grew up. A tiny, charming village on the hill.

 In Burgundy the rows are planted 1 meter apart and the vines are planted 1 meter apart. The vines are kept low to the ground (only at knee height) to help keep production low and to allow the soil keep the vines warm during the colder months. There are only two branches kept on each vine--one long to grow the grapes and one short to use the following year. This also helps keep grape production low, which means each grape gets more nutrients and is packed with more flavor. Even with so much pruning back of the vines, they still cull some of the bunches from each vine as they grow. Two vines will make one bottle of wine.
Our guide, Ivan, talking about the reasoning behind the height of the vines in comparison with those in California.

Old French vines grafted onto American roots.
 You can see the graft where the French vines are attached to the American roots--necessary after the Phylloxera outbreak wiped out grape vines all over Europe. European roots are susceptible to the blight, but the American roots are immune.

You can tell by the thickness of the vines that these are a little older. If taken care of a vine can live for 80-90 years. Then the growers will pull up the old vines, let the ground sit vacant for at least 5 years to allow the soil to regenerate some of the nutrients. They they will not use the grapes from the newly planted vines until they are at least 5 years old since older vines produce more flavorful grapes and better wine.

"Downtown" Fixin

This church dates back to 902.

These trees remind me of the Whomping Willow...

The land is so valuable, no bit is wasted. Vines grow right up to the edge of cemeteries throughout the countryside.

Just a road divides the terroir of these two vineyards.

Chateau de Vougeot

 This tiny plot of land is part of a Grand Cru plot that extends on the other side of the road. The terroir of this plot is worth so much that a grower did not want to waste any bit of land.

Romanee Conti. The wine from these vines is the most expensive to come out of Burgundy. You have to get on a waiting list of a few years just to have the honor of spending thousands of euros on a case that has 1 or 2 bottles of this mixed with other bottles from Burgundy.

You can see the differences between some plots showing how each grower has a different manner of caring for their vines.

A closer look at the soil--where it all begins.

The cross that is shows the edge of the Romanee Conti vineyard and is displayed on its bottles. This vineyard, whose wines are worth so much, is only 4.3 acres.

Chateau de Corton-Andre. Where we would finally taste some wine.

The line-up. The wines are all from Pierre Andre.
When we finally made it to the chateau we tasted two whites and three reds from Pierre Andre.
Savigny-Les-Beaune 2007 Lemon, floral, big on the nose. Finishes like a lemon Starburst.

Mersault Premier Cru 2009 Honeysuckle, round, long finish.

Ladoix 2005 Pepper, garlic, like Provence on the nose. Light, easy drinking, easy tannins, slightly tart, rose and nutmeg.

Corton Grand Cru 2009 Plum, violet, slightly more tannic. Long finish.

Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2007 Brick colored, tannic, pepper and tomato jam.

Creme de Cassis We also got a taste of the sweet liquor made by the winery. It is mixed with the cheap white wine (aligote) of the region for an aperitif, or is used to drizzle on desserts or in recipes. Actually pretty lovely in small doses if you find the right producer--the one from Pierre Andre was luscious, thick and perfect for drizzling over a scoop of ice cream.
Ivan explains how the shape of the glass can affect how you taste the wine.
"Everything matters when you are tasting wine: temperature, the shape of the glass; if you are with a good friend the wine can taste better!" --Ivan

Our tour group excited to finally taste the wine we've been learning about all day.

Wine being aged in the cave below the Chateaux. The temperature down here is nice and cool all year round despite the weather outside, perfect for keeping the wines at an even temperature.

Unlabeled wine aging in the cellars.

The gorgeous tasting room in the caves.

The view from the front door of the Chateaux. We tasted wine made from the grapes right beyond the trees/car (Ladoix).

Wandering around Beaune for an hour before our return trip to Dijon
The tour was so packed with information that my head was left full and spinning when it was over (though the wine perhaps lent a little to that...). I highly, highly recommend it to anyone who will be spending any time in Dijon or Burgundy (just a short trip from Paris!).

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Eating in Paris (and Dijon)

The number one reason I couldn't wait to go to Paris? To eat. And drink wine. And then do it all over again.

If I have to be 100% honest, the food on this trip wasn't overall as mind-blowing as what I remember eating in Barcelona. However, every single restaurant seemed to have solid, delicious food--even the touristy spots. I was rarely disappointed with a dish and never dissatisfied with a meal. Plus there were a few dishes that were among the best I've ever eaten. Really, can you go wrong when foie gras, escargot, oysters, sweetbreads, bone marrow and cheese are found on most every menu you see? The answer is a resounding "no".

I made this reservation for us for our first night in Paris. I knew we probably wouldn't want to just wander around hoping for a good meal after such a long plane ride and I have heard amazing things about this place. For good reason. The first two courses were seriously some of the best dishes I have ever eaten. Specifically the first dish was unlike anything I've tried: raw fish topped with goat cheese (!) hazelnuts, mushroom granita, anise. And the follow-up was supremely tender baby leeks with speck, poached egg, leek puree and perfect bread crumbs (there is such a thing as perfection in this simple ingredient). Unfortunately I became suddenly very sick by the 3rd course and couldn't stick around to finish out the meal. The staff were so helpful and wrapped up my veal steak for me to take home and got the husband his dessert as he took care of the bill. Unsure what happened (allergic reaction? plane food catching up to me??) but very disappointed to not be able to finish this one out. The wine and champagne were also possibly the best we had on the trip (wine was Les Foulards Rouge, La Soif du Mal, Cotes du Roussiollon 2011).

Vivant Table
The only other reservation we had for the trip. Beautiful space (in an old exotic bird shop), friendly staff, food that was not anything fancy or shocking but was perfectly executed in every step.

We stumbled upon this wine bar one night looking for a simple snack and some wine for dinner after a huge lunch. One of the other clients at the bar asked how we found the place and when we let him know we just walked by and thought it looked like our type of place he told us: "You are so lucky." Casual, with excellent wine and simple yet delicious nibbles, we felt like we were in our favorite neighborhood joint back at home. Highly recommend.


Yet another place we were insanely lucky to stumble into. A wine bar with a simple menu divided up by how long you'd like to stick around (i.e. "here just for an hour", "here for the night", etc.). We had just had dinner so only wanted some wine but our server told us he had the best cheesecake in Paris. With that bold statement we knew we would return another night to try it out and I can say that it is absolutely delicious, with an unbelievable crust. The cheese/meat/cured fish board was perfectly curated. The vibe is like you are passing the evening at your best friend's home.

Cafe Roussillon

On the north end of Rue Cler street market. Classic, hearty fare. Huge portion of gorgeous bone marrow with grey salt.


The ice cream gets a lot of attention, but somehow all of the good reviews did not prepare me for how perfect this ice cream is. Honestly have never had better. Salted caramel for me and wild strawberry for the husband.

Mireille Meringues
133 Rue Vielle du Temple
I love meringues and these were the most beautiful I saw in all of Paris. Huge piles with a variety of fun flavors.

Munoz Traiteur
33 Rue Rambuteau
A small shop in the Marais that sells many prepared foods. A great stop before a picnic or if  you are having a dinner party, if you are so lucky to live in Paris. Right next door to a bakery since you'll want some bread with that. I highly recommend the "Foie Gras Cone" filled with black truffles. Not to shabby for a picnic along the Seine.

Le Blanc Cassis

6 Rue du Petit-Thouars
A lovely spot for an aperitif. Perhaps a kir, rose, or absinthe?

At the top of the Marche d'Aligre, this fishmonger has a few tables and serves up oysters and seafood pulled right off their market shelves. They have an oyster special where you get 6 oysters, a glass of white wine, bread and flavored butters for 11 Euros. Lovely spot for people watching as well.

Bozart Bistrot
9 Rue JP Timbaud, 11th arrond.
Our last night in Paris we wanted to make sure to have an amazing meal. When we walked by this place, we knew that's what we would get. Scallop carpaccio with passionfruit vinaigrette, tartine with goat cheese, smoked duck and poached egg, cod crusted with chorizo: it was all good. Charming service, changing local art on the walls, regulars sharing wine at the bar, perfect cheese for dessert. Exactly the note we wanted to leave Paris on.

Grill and Cow
In Dijon, next to Les Halles in the old part of town. The decor is cheesy, and I probably never would have chosen to eat here if it wasn't Sunday and everywhere else was closed, but surprisingly the food was really good and I would recommend it to others passing through Dijon. Excellent steak and you get to choose from a large variety of sauces to accompany your meal (like an Epoisses sauce or Au Poivre).

Le Bistrot de L'Amiral
In Dijon. The man who ran the restaurant, the bar, and served us was warm, friendly and had a long conversation with everyone who was eating here. So pleasant and inviting. Lots of great classic Burgundy dishes, especially fond of the escargot in a Epoisses sauce.

E. Dehillerin

Of course we couldn't visit Paris without a trip to the well-known kitchen supply store. I came away with a couple of escargot dishes for our future French meals at home.

I'll leave you with a bit more French food porn:
In heaven oggling the cheeses at Marie-Anne Cantin (off of Rue Cler)

So many types of poultry and all more gorgeous than any we see in the states.

French breakfast radishes. 

Farmer's market fish stall.

Farmer's market cheese stall.
Pastries for breakfast.
Cake filled with a creamy, pudding-like interior, topped with crunchy sugar bits? Ok.

I'm obviously into that.

Making our Breton crepe at the Bastille Farmer's Market.

And enjoying said crepe. 

Picnic behind Notre Dame.