Monday, April 2, 2012

Tender Beef in Wine Country France

Almost every French province has its own version of a beef stew, but vine-rich Burgundy’s boeuf
bourguignon has to be the most famous, and nowhere is it better made than in its birthplace.
Perched in the center of the Côte d’Or wine region, the pretty town of Beaune is the perfect base
for exploring the vineyards and cuisine of this exceptional part of France.

Burgundy has more than its shareof legendary, grape-related names: Pommard, Romanée-Conti, Nuits- aint-George, Montrachet. Thered wines of this region are made from Pinot Noir grapes, the whites from  hardonnay. The greatest Burgundies hail from the celebrated Côte d’Or, which is divided into the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune – and the latter begins just north of the town of Beaune. Each village in the  urgundy region is like a small realm in the empire of wine, and majestic Beaune is its proud capital.
Historic buildings with multicolored tiled roofs line the cobbled streets of Beaune. Two of the most
outstanding are the Hôtel des Ducs, now a wine museum, and the Hôtel Dieu des Hospices de Beaune,
a masterpiece of medieval architecture built in 1443 as a hospital for the poor, dubbed the “Palace of the
Poor” because of its Gothic grandeur. Now a museum, each November it throws open its doors for a charity wine auction, at which wines from vineyards gifted to the Hospice go under the hammer. The auction
dates back to 1859 and a portion of the money raised still goes toward helping the sick, these days via the
modern Beaune Hospital.

Beaune’s streets are filled with palate-tempting restaurants and shops selling homemade jams, chocolates, cakes, aniseed candy, and fruit liqueurs.
The twice-weekly market in the center of the old town is always a hive of activity, and the place to gather
ingredients for a picnic lunch among the vines: cabrion (a goat cheese ripened in grape husks), farm-fresh
terrines and pâtés, or a just-roasted Bresse chicken with crispy baby potatoes.

Local cooking is, unsurprisingly, awash with wine. “A la Bourguignon” denotes a dish made with plenty of wine, little white onions, a few mushrooms, and bacon – such as boeuf bourguignon, or oeufs à la bourguignonne (eggs poached in red wine). Burgundy’s boeuf bourguignon isn’t just a pot of stewed beef; this perennial wintry favorite must be made with Charolais beef, France’s most tender and the region’s best, doused in nothing else but a Burgundy red. The meat is braised with the wine, stock, onions, bacon, and mushrooms, so that as the sauce reduces, the flavor intensifies. In days gone by, before it morphed into a highbrow classic, boeuf
bourguignon was simple farmers’ food, and the long, slow cooking process evolved to tenderize tough cuts
of meat. Even today, this is not a dish in a hurry.

A Day in Beaune

Beaune, an important cultural center in the Middle Ages, is a medieval city rich in
history and tradition as well as a great place for food, wine-tasting, and shopping.

 Soak up the past at Hôtel Dieu des Hospices de Beaune, pausing at
red-curtained cubicles lining the “Room of the Poor” where the sick once languished,
before stepping into the courtyard to see the dazzling glazed tile roof. Visit the
12th-century Basilique Collégiale Notre Dame for a glimpse of Gothic Beaune.
 Explore food and wine shops in rue Carnot and rue Monge. Join a mustard-tasting tour at La Moutarderie Fallot, a family mustard mill in operation since 1840, or visit a wine cellar in town, such as Bouchard Père & Fils. This has one of the greatest collections of Burgundy vintages and is housed in the glorious 15thcentury
Château de Beaune; the underground cellars have 23-ft- (7-m-) thick walls.
Stroll the old town to see the antique tiles and facades of buildings lit up against the night sky. Cozy up on a terrace with a velvety Burgundy.

Aéroport Dijon Bourgogne is 18 miles (30 km) from Beaune. High-speed trains operate from Paris, Lyon, and Dijon.


Les Jardins de Loïs (inexpensive) is a serene
and smart B&B.
Via Mokis (moderate) is a modern hotel in the
heart of the old town.
Hôtel de la Poste (expensive) is Beaune’s
oldest hotel; its stylish rooms feature French


1 rue de l’Hôtel-Dieu;

The Best Places to Eat Boeuf Bourguignon

Ma Cuisine inexpensive

Tucked down a side street off the Place Carnot,
this cozy restaurant run by husband-andwife
team Pierre and Fabienne has amassed
thousands of fans over the years, not just for
the well-cooked regional specialties they turn
out but equally for the wine list (featuring more
than 700 bottles) – this is Burgundy, after
all. Ma Cuisine is resolutely, unrepentantly
old-fashioned, and that’s exactly why people
keep coming back. If you crave waistlinefriendly,
edgy food, give this rustic roost a wide
berth. The entreés sound a roll call for old rural
France: jambon persillé (cubed ham with parsley
in aspic), Burgundy’s famed escargots (snails)
served in their shells brimming with parsley
butter, and wobbly oeufs en meurette (eggs
poached in red wine). Main courses run from
roasted whole pigeon to soul-warming favorites
such as coq au vin (chicken in – of course – red
wine) and plush, dark, meltingly tender boeuf
bourguignon. To finish, try a fresh fruit tart or an
eggy crème brûlée.

Passage Sainte-Hélène, Beaune; open for lunch
and dinner Mon, Tue, Thu & Fri; +33 380 223 022

Also in Beaune

The cool contemporary decor of Bruno
Monnoir’s Le Benaton (;
expensive) is typified by the tan ostrich-leather
chairs. It is advance warning that there are no
fusty old classics here; instead, you can expect
a sophisticated and inventive reworking of
Burgundy’s culinary traditions. Monnoir’s highly
refined take on boeuf bourguignon features
“nuts” of beef cheek confited in red wine.

Also in France

Those old-world Paris bistros with proper linen
tablecloths and food that deserves a return
visit seem to be a disappearing breed, but
Josephine Chez Dumonet (+33 1 4548 5240;
moderate), in the city’s 6th arrondissement,
is valiantly fighting the trend – and winning.
French classics dominate this menu: steak
tartare, crispy-skin confit de canard, omelet with
truffles (in season, of course), and spoon-tender
boeuf bourguignon. This restaurant is reason
enough for a Paris stopover.

Around the World

Bustling Brasserie Les Halles (www.leshalles.
net/brasserie; inexpensive) is a typical Parisian
restaurant serving up a host of French classics –
except it’s doing it in New York. The kitchen
home of chef, author, and straight-talking
television host Anthony Bourdain, the restaurant
takes its name from Paris’s once-thriving,
now defunct, market district Les Halles. It’s
open from noon to midnight, so you can slake
a craving for rib-sticking boeuf bourguignon
almost any time of day.

Cookery Classes

A cooking class at The Cook’s Atelier (www. kicks off in style with a
glass of chilled crémant, Burgundy’s bubbly.
Marjorie Taylor’s menu pays homage to the
small artisan producers of the region.
La Terre d’Or ( will
arrange a session at the stove of a Michelinstarred
restaurant with a winemaker on
hand to discuss the best partner wines.
Learn how to visually recognize, smell, and
taste regional wines in a three-hour crash
course at Ecole des Vins de Bourgogne
Longer sessions are also available.

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