October rolled around and it was time for Alex and me to go on our annual “foodie weekend”. After Cheese in Bra, the Salone del Gusto in Turin and last year’s trip to Bologna, we decided it was time to enjoy French delights again. Interestingly enough, we started this annual tradition with our first trip to Paris six years ago and it was our first “foodie weekend” in France since then. As always, our criteria are regional specialties, a food tour or factory we can visit, and a place we can reach by train within a reasonable amount of time. Dijon was the perfect place to go. As soon as we got settled in our seats, I unpacked our picnic lunch and she pulled out two mini bottles of bubbly. We were off!
As soon as we drop off our bags at the place we’re staying, we head out to explore the old town. There are many narrow streets, courtyards, and even an older part of town with half-timbered houses.
Stepping into these courtyards you feel like you’re in a different world. They are quiet and secluded, even though the busy streets are just a few steps away.
The next morning it is rainy and cool and we take a 20 minute train ride to Beaune. Beaune was recommended to me by a colleague who has been to the area several times. After finding out that the Fallot mustard factory is in Beaune and open for tours, our decision was made. The tour is extremely interesting and we learn that Fallot produces 2000 tons of mustard a year. The seeds are grown in the area around Dijon and, unlike other competitors, are not imported from Canada. The seeds are gently ground, taking great care not to overheat them. If mustard becomes too hot, the delicate aroma disappears. When using mustard in the kitchen, it is important to only gently heat and not cook mustard. After the tour we taste our way through every mustard flavor possible and of course buy a huge amount to take home with us. It may have been smarter to leave the buying until the afternoon, but it was too late once we noticed that our bags were so heavy.
It was still raining after the tour so we decided to visit the Hôtel-Dieu. We grab an audio guide and walk around the buildings which are now a museum. The hospice was founded in 1443, as a hospital for the poor and had patients up until the 1980s. The buildings are beautiful, and I’m actually glad we were there on a rainy day. It gave you a feeling of what it was like during wintertime. The large Room for the Poor had two rows of beds with curtains. The visitors sat on the outside in the big hall while nursing nuns could walk along on the other side between the wall and the beds. The curtains could be closed on the visitor side to give the patient privacy when needed. Each bed could accommodate two patients and considering that the room didn’t get much warmer than 14°C/57°F in winter, one may have been happy to have another warm body in bed!
After lunch, the rain had stopped and we walked around Beaune, exploring the hidden corners. It truly is a beautiful little town and well worth a visit.
My colleague had suggested we visit the wine cellar of Patriarche, one of Burgundy’s oldest and most important vineyards. We are given a map and a headset and head down into the cellar. It’s just the two of us along with thousands of dusty bottles of wine and endless passageways below ground. Every now and then we pass a sign that says we are passing below a street. Later, we have a look at a map of the city and marvel at the size of the underground cellar. At the end of the self-guided tour we are allowed to taste 10 wines (6 white and 4 red wines) using a traditional tastevin (a small silver saucer with a handle). The whites, especially the more expensive ones, were good, but we decided we were not fans of the reds. At the end of the tour we were allowed to taste their Crème de Cassis, Marc de Bourgogne and Brandy. By then we were somewhat drunk and decided the best thing they made was Brandy!
Our last day was spent strolling around Dijon, wishing we could buy all the goodies at the market hall which was designed by Gustave Eifel, walking through the cathedral and various other churches, and visiting the Museé de Beaux Arts and Musée Rude (all museums in Dijon are free). We stopped for coffee and cake in the afternoon and due to the sugar shock felt so sick afterwards that we rushed into Maille to taste more mustard. Of course we bought more mustard, because one can never have enough mustard, and I treated myself to a light mustard made with Rosé from Provence which came in a pretty rose colored mustard crock.
In the late afternoon we climbed the Tour Philippe le Bon for a view of the city. Every destination we visit we climb a tower or high building. The Tour Philippe le Bon can only be visited with a tour guide and although it’s only 46 m / 150 ft high, we have a fantastic view of the city.
And just like that our weekend was over. Head over to Alex’ site for her description of our weekend (in German), along with pictures of what we ate. We haven’t made any plans for next year, yet, but I am already looking forward to our weekend together.
Where to eat/drink:
- Monsieur Moutarde: A stylish bar in an old building with amazing signature drinks.
- Le Pré aux Clercs: A modern restaurant with tasty food, but nothing special. It was given raving reviews but we weren’t overly enthusiastic.
- Ecrit’Vin (Beaune): A small bistro serving delicious regional food. Be sure to order a Kir as an apéritif and if you’re feeling fancy, opt for the Kir Royal. It’s always a good idea to drink champagne!
- Fromagerie Grapillotte: A small cheese shop and the perfect place to buy some for a picnic lunch or dinner
- Mulot & Petitjean: Classic pain d’epices (spiced bread similar to gingerbread) along with various flavors
- La Dame d’Aquitaine: Gourmet restaurant in an vaulted cellar with very good food. The chardonnay, along with the other wines they serve is perfect. The waitstaff is very friendly.