I should have a lot to do today, but I’m currently being held hostage waiting for a FedEx delivery. So here are a few things I took away from our trip:

Small-town priorities: We were staying in a medium-sized town of about 20,000 people in the “metro” area, but the center of town is perhaps only a couple of square kilometers–it would be easy to walk up and down every street in a few hours. However, in that bitty space, there were enough charcuteries, fromageries, patisseries, boulangeries, wine shops, and chocolatiers to service a major American city. You have to admire a small town that can support so much pork, cheese, pastry, bread, wine, and candy consumption.
Charcuterie, Beaune

Food: Wow. The smaller the town and/or restaurant, the better the food seemed to get. We had, respectively, delicious lunch and dinner at the non-showy Le Chassagne and Ma Cuisine (both reviewed here by Patricia Wells), but the highlight for me was our lunch at La Ruchotte, a farm about 10 miles up in the hills above Beaune. This place is literally in the middle of nowhere; we traveled several miles through fields and woods along a single-track road to this cluster of buildings where we saw a man driving a small flock of sheep into the barnyard. When he saw us, he slipped off his jacket and Wellingtons to change into his chef’s whites and clogs. Everything served at the restaurant (really a converted farm kitchen with seating for about 10 people) is raised on the farm there, which is famed for preserving heirloom breeds of pigs, chickens, and geese. As two friendly dogs and a cat made the rounds of visiting new people, we went through plates of foie gras, soup of chicken gizzards and greens topped with poached eggs, chicken stewed in an amazingly rich butter-cream broth, potato galettes, goat cheese, and sizzling crepes Suzette.
Poulet et galettes des pommes de terre
By contrast, the meals we had in Dijon, Lyon, and Paris were, though tasty, much less remarkable.

Wine: Again, wow. We visited three local wineries–one a little ways south in St. Aubin, famous for its chardonnays; one a little ways north, in the Cote de Nuits, famous for its rich red pinot noirs; and one right in Beaune, famous for all of the above. Respectively, each winery was small, medium, and large, and it was interesting to note the similarities and differences in their approaches to winemaking. The major commonalities seemed to be the almost mystical reverence for the “terroir,” the special qualities that each different little plot of land imparts to the grapes grown there; and how little modern technology is involved in the process, even at the very large producers. Across the board, they handle the grapes as little as possible, add nothing other than natural yeasts, and use only two grapes: chardonnay for the whites, pinot noir for the reds (no blends as in the wines of Bordeaux, which the Burgundian winemakers tend to damn with very faint praise). Determining when wines are ready for their next steps of production is still up to the palate and judgment of individual managers, not any scientific formula.
Damien, Michel

Independence: Everywhere we went, there was a lot of emphasis on how strongly Burgundy did not want to be part of France; they were finally incorporated by the end of the 15th century, but even still, there is a great deal of pride expressed at how powerful the region was for many centuries on its own, as well as a certain insularity despite the wonderful hospitality.

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