Saturday, August 12, 2017

Lunch at mine, Sunday 6th August

Last Sunday, the boys came round for lunch at my place. Supplies had been procured the previous day, as witnessed by my brother and sister-in-law who bumped into me carrying about 50 kg of food back along Goodge Street, and the pork was in the oven by 7.30 a.m. Fortunately we seem to be into autumn in London now so it wasn't unbearably hot. I'm sure the neighbours enjoyed the smells emanating into the corridor!

We started with a fizz brought by ACC, which was this Vin Petillant Naturel made by Romain Chapuis.

We loved the label, and the wine too. It was very refreshing and we wondered if the grape was muscat, because it was quite grapey. It turned out it was gewurztraminer! I would never have guessed.

Not what we were expecting

I got up to sort out the smoked salmon and left G to decant the next wine, a white Corton 2008 from Domaine Parent. As G began to pour it into the decanter, we all got a shock. It was red! And yet clearly in a bottle with the white label - the gold trim rather than the red. Not sure what happened there. G and I drank it the next day and we'll never know what it actually was, but felt that it wasn't a Corton as it was lacking that wild quality, so probably a Pommard with some age on. It had big shoulders and was fully mature. No hardship.

Fortunately, past experience has shown it's always a good idea to have a backup white, and I was very glad I'd taken the precaution of putting this Chablis 1er cru Montmains 2010 from La Maison Romane in the fridge. It was stunning as usual, rich and bigger than your average Chablis.

I'd remembered that I had this magnum of Moulin a Vent 2009 from Trichard tucked away and given that Beaujolais has a great affinity with pork, decided this would be a good opportunity to drink it. The four years or so it had spent in the wardrobe had done it no harm at all. I chilled it slightly, and it positively whizzed round the table. It was magical, with a heavenly perfume, very smooth and drinking perfectly now.

Rare sighting of a green vegetable!

With the cheese course, we had another wine from La Maison Romane (in fact the Oroncio sub-brand) - a Chateauneuf du Pape La Primaute 2007. G picked this up from a shop in Beaune on our recent visit. We'd never come across it before and I have a feeling it was the last bottle in the shop. It was splendid, the Platonic ideal of Chateauneuf with ripe Grenache fruit, juicy and sweet. For once, the bottle admitted to 14.5% as opposed to Oronce's usual 12.5%.

The Baron goes in for some cheese

We finished off with coffee, some lovely artisinal chocolates brought by the Baron, and a couple of digestifs - this Calvados which I picked up in Beaune, and a Marc de Bourgogne "hors d'age" from Pierre Fenals which recently landed and is available from the Burgundy Portfolio. The Baron gave us a wonderful reading of Arabella Fotherington-Tomas's school song from the Compleet Molesworth, and our Sunday afternoon was complete. Thanks to all!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lunch at Le Bouchon du Palais, Dijon, 27th June

On Tuesday morning, there was just time for a final trip to Mes Bourgognes to pick up some goodies to take home, and then we packed up our belongings and travelled slowly in convoy down to the station, fortunately only a five minute walk. We caught the train to Dijon and then attempted to make sense of the left luggage situation. Fortunately the boys had prior experience of this, which involves buying a ticket at the station but then depositing the actual luggage at a hotel a couple of minutes' walk away.

Duly unburdened, we strolled into town to our lunch destination, Le Bouchon du Palais. ACC and G discovered this place last year, and had raved about it, so I was intrigued. It's tucked away in a sleepy little square behind la Place de la Liberation, and there were tables set outside, so we decided to sit at one of those.

First up were some aperitifs. I foolishly went for a glass of cremant, while G ordered a Pontarlier which turned out to be an extremely superior anis and much research since we've been home reveals that it's not available in the UK, sparking dreams of starting an import business.

We had a pot of white wine with our starters.

G had this house terrine...

...but I was thrilled to get this fried camembert which was absolutely huge, in case you can't tell. And this was a starter! It was cooked to perfection, all gooey inside.

For our red, we had this Beaujolais Le Ronsay 2015 from Jean-Paul Brun, which is one of these very pure, natural Beaujolais which I particularly enjoy.

As a main course, I went for this chicken dish which I'd heard was the thing to have. The waiter asked me if I knew what it was, and as I wasn't entirely sure, he then explained it to me. It was a chicken supreme swimming in a cheesy sauce made with three different cheeses. Amazing.

For pudding, G had ice cream, while ACC and I went for profiteroles, which was scarcely necessary in my case, but I justified it to myself on the grounds that we weren't going to have time for dinner that evening.

We lazed around for a bit in the sun and watched a little dog wandering around the square. I had spotted a sign for "Luxury Flat in Dijon" on the wall behind us and it appears that they have three flats right next door. The temptation to pack it all in and just move there was very strong!

We also spotted an open window into some legal offices and ACC reminded me of the scene in Engrenages when Monsieur le Juge had his diary stolen. I was just waiting for Josephine Karlsson or Pierre Clement to walk past, but we were a far cry from that gritty series.

In case it's not obvious from the above, I loved everything about Le Bouchon du Palais. The drinks, the food, and the relaxed yet charming service were all perfect and this was possibly my favourite meal of the entire trip.

There was time for a wander round Dijon before catching the TGV back to Paris. I'd made the schoolgirl error of booking the Eurostar before booking the TGV and then finding that there wasn't a TGV that gave us a comfortable time to get across Paris, so there was a crazy rush involving the dystopian RER system, followed by the dystopian passport control at the Gare du Nord, but fortified by cheese, chicken and profiteroles somehow we made it onto the Eurostar train with seconds to spare!

Many thanks to ACC for organising yet another fabulous trip. We packed so much in to a short space of time and as always it was great to be in Burgundy, the place where the magic happens. Until next time...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Evening at La Dilettante, 26th June

Just a short one today... On Monday evening, we met up with ACC and Vincent Perrin at La Dilettante, and spent a cheerful evening discussing everything under the sun and drinking some excellent booze, see below. As at the old Caves Madeleine which Lolo used to run before opening La Dilettante, the wines are set out on shelves and make for exciting browsing - it's almost like being in a bookshop!

This was an Arbois white from Domaine du Pelican, which is the Marquis D'Angerville's outpost in Jura, and G recalls that it was very pure.

Then we had an Arbois pinot noir, l'Aide-memoire, which was relatively light and just 12.5% alcohol.

We finished off with the amusingly-named L'arselle Collines Rhodaniennes from Bouillot-Salomon, which was from the Rhone, heftier and more animal.

At one point Vincent was talking about labels, and it's noticeable that many of these wines now have much more artistic, eye-catching labels than the traditional Burgundy label. It seems to be the way forward.

We also talked a lot about Saturday night at the Elegance des Volnays dinner and how interesting it had been for us to try so many different vintages of the same wine. Vincent used the word "partager" (i.e. sharing) several times, and indeed that's what it was all about really. And we talked about bottle sizes and how wines from magnum really do seem to age better, even further down the spectrum. The white St-Romain from Domaine Perrin being a good example. Apparently Guillaume has been keen to bottle in magnum and Vincent is coming round to his way of thinking!

An honourable mention should go to the food at La Dilettante. We had an amazing charcuterie plate, an amazing cheese plate, an amazing salad (dressed with hazelnut oil) which perked us up a lot, and the best croque monsieur I've ever had. I'm looking forward to going back and having it again!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tasting at Domaine Audiffred, 26th June

As if the day hadn't already been very enjoyable, in the afternoon we travelled up to Vosne-Romanee to visit Henri Audiffred at his domaine. This was my fourth visit here, and always a good time is had.

In fact, on the Eurostar trip up on the Friday, we'd been feeling a bit stressed out right up to the point where I opened a bottle of Audiffred Bourgogne Rouge 2011, which I've just got out of storage, and the world suddenly became a much happier place.

We were slightly early, so loitered suspiciously by the vineyards while curtains were twitched in the house across the road. Then Henri came along riding a little tractor thing (technical term) and it was time to begin!

Four wines were laid out for the tasting, and some extras were added in along the way. For once, I made proper tasting notes so can give a more comprehensive report. We started with an Aligote 2016 which had been put in bottle just last week - it still had a slight prickle. This had a lovely nose and was floral and fresh, with great acidity, precision and elegance. I could easily have got stuck in there and then!

Next up was a Beaune Blanc 2015. This had notes of tropical fruit (G said passion fruit, I got mango) and was very attractive. We thought it was one to drink sooner rather than later, as seems to be the case with the 2015 white wines in general.

The third wine was a Nuits-St-Georges Les Argillats 2012. For me, this smelled like summer berry compote and was on the light and elegant side for Nuits, which suited me just fine.

The Pommard 2013 was very different, with earthy notes and, for me, prunes, while ACC mentioned black cherry. It was heavier but still light by most Pommard standards.

Want. It. All. 
Then it was on to the Vosne-Romanee 2012, which is made from three different parcels. "God, that's good," state my notes, while ACC said it was very stylish. There were notes of blackcurrant and it was quite light again and with a great finish. Pure pleasure, and a great expression of the village.

At this point, Henri offered us a mystery wine, which put us on the spot! What could it be? It was very purple in colour and quite sweet with a lovely texture. I guessed that it was a Gevrey-Chambertin. Wrong! It was Cotes de Nuits Villages 2015. Very impressive and, as usual with Henri's wines, playing in a league at least one notch up from its appellation.

Finally, we did get to taste an actual Gevrey, possibly to show us the difference, the Gevrey les Marchais 2012. It was absolutely lovely, relatively delicate and elegant for a Gevrey and I detected strawberries but the classic liquorice thing was also present and correct. G's notes report that "animal noises of pleasure were made" and go on to say "Buy all the wine!" I can't argue with that.

Thanks very much to Henri as always for a wonderful tasting. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lunch at Le Montrachet, 26th June

Lunch at Le Montrachet, the hotel in Puligny-Montrachet, is always a treat and I launch a campaign for it to happen every time I go to Burgundy. This year we were able to find time to fit it in on the Monday, and Julien very kindly dropped us off right outside, en route back to his vineyard in Corpeau.

The woman on the front desk was very friendly, handshakes all round, and then we proceeded up the staircase to the wine bar where we were greeted by the maitre d' and the sommeliere. With such good weather, we were able to sit out on the terrace which is next to a large lawn covered in clover flowers. It was good to be back.

They have a very comprehensive and interesting wine list, and ACC selected this white to start with. I was excited to see several young women who seemed to be sommelieres-in-training, and immediately started planning a Mallory Towers style Sommeliere School series. If Netflix are paying attention, I'll be happy to discuss further with them. Anyway, one of them had the unenviable task of uncorking this bottle in front of an audience of three which I found pretty nerve-racking on her behalf, but it was all fine, and a very good bottle of white it was too.

We had the excellent value 32 euro set lunch menu and were amused at the translation of something as "sir-fired" which certainly confused the table of Americans sitting nearby. What could it possibly mean?

G didn't have time to take a photo of the usual plate of amuses-gueles before they were wolfed down. The starter was this take on a Caesar salad.

I'm trying for the life of me to remember what exactly this was! Damn le Montrachet for changing their menu every month so I can't check. Update: G has reminded me it was veal, ratte potatoes and peppers.

There was some excitement at this point as the main course had been served but we didn't yet have our red wine to go with it. Fortunately this was soon rectified by the head sommeliere herself (I love her little pin which is a bunch of grapes)!

We went for this Moulin a Vent from Jean-Paul Dubost - check out the trendy label. My only quibble was that every time our glasses were refilled, it was assumed that the boys would be partaking but I was always specifically asked if I wanted any more, which made me feel like a dreadful drunken woman. I'm probably way too prickly on this point, but this kind of thing irritates the hell out of me and I wish they wouldn't do it. Anyway, end of rant.

For pudding, I had this strawberry shortcake thing.

We also got a round of petits fours, which were beautiful to look at.

And finally, a glass of Roulot marc de bourgogne for the road.

We had some time to kill before our taxi was due, so found a nearby park bench on which to sit, and G took a photo of the fountain. The perfect reflection across the square indicates how little fountain action was actually going on. It was an incredibly peaceful place and just right for a half-hour snooze.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Trip to the Domaine de la Roseraie vineyards, 26th June

On Sunday evening, after bidding adieu to the Baron, we dined at La Ciboulette which can always be relied upon to provide the usual menu.

We were ushered to the corner banquette and had a very enjoyable meal - the pork cheeks still on good form as was the assiette du chocolat, and a lovely bottle of red Pernand-Vergelesses from Domaine Rollin to drink.

The atmosphere at Cibbers is always very good, and now that I've installed an audio recorder on my replacement phone, next time I might record the ambient noise so that G can use it as a sleep soundtrack... particularly the bits where the hostess turns away people who haven't booked.

We wandered back via Place Morimont and G took a photo of the old Darviot maison which we all wish we had bought back in the day (not that we could have afforded it)!

On Monday morning, we got a taxi to the outskirts of Beaune to visit Julien Petitjean who runs Domaine de la Roseraie. I was delighted to see a scraggly white cat hanging around and quickly made its acquaintance. Julien said it had turned up last week and was a "chat de garde" which initially I mistranslated in my head as guard cat. This seemed improbable given that it was elderly and wheezing at us in a friendly way.

Anyway, we all got in Julien's car and he drove us out to Corpeau, which is just beyond Puligny, and which we had passed on the train going to Chagny the day before. The train tracks are just where the trees are in this photo.

This was a new vineyard for Julien (named Le Chat Blanc, which seemed quite a coincidence) and he will be making Bourgogne Blanc from the grapes.

The domaine is biodynamic and there were lots of wild flowers and even wild fennel growing in at the ends of the vines. It was really very idyllic in the sunshine, and the day got even better when Julien produced some chilled Bourgogne blanc from the boot of the car.

After that, we returned to Beaune and drove up to the "mountain" to look at more vineyards, in particular, Beaune Montée Rouge, which gets its name from the iron in the soil.

As you can see from the photo, this vineyard was steeply raked and it was extremely hot by this stage - it must have been about midday.

We were able to taste in situ some wines made from the different parts of the vineyard, which was very exciting. The 2015 Beaune blanc had excellent grip and apricots, while the 2014 Beaune Montee Rouge was very fine, well-balanced and with lovely fruit aromas, but would be worth keeping a while. Finally, the 2013 Beaune Vielles Vignes Rouge made from 55-60 year old vines was bigger, with more tannins.

Julien showed us how he was introducing new vines by a very painstaking method, and they won't be ready for about eight years if I understood correctly. No shortcuts are taken here. As we were driving away, he told us about the valerian flower which he uses to make a tea and gives it to the vines. This biodynamic approach certainly seems to be paying dividends.

Thank you very much to Julien for a wonderful morning - this is only the second time I've gone into the vineyards with a winemaker and it gives you a much better understanding of the terroir. Thanks also to ACC for arranging it and for taking this video, which I've borrowed (with permission) from his Instagram. Seeing Julien in action with his shears is a great reminder of the occasion.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Visit to Chagny and lunch at Pierre & Jean, 25th June

On Sunday morning, we tootled down to the station and got a train to Chagny, which only takes about 15 minutes.

At Chagny station, there's this rather impressive piece of ironwork which we admired.

Then we walked into town, ACC demonstrating excellent navigational skills. The market was in full flow and we wandered around it.

Once again, the sight of so many apricots made me long to live in France...

I was amused by the presence of a Casino supermarket next to this amazing outdoor market. No contest.

And G was amused by this artisinal blue curacao. He didn't buy any though! I wonder if that had anything to do with the famous Blue Curacao Incident of 1996... let's say no more.

Baron McG procured his honey and thyme mustard, and the shopping was complete. Then it was time for lunch, hurrah! ACC had booked us into Pierre et Jean, which I understand is an offshoot of Lameloise, the 3 Michelin star restaurant over the road. We were able to sit in the garden, on the lawn under a giant shade, which was a lovely place to be on such a hot and sunny day.

This Bouzeron 2015 from Domaine Michel Briday was very refreshing and just the job.

To start with, most of us had pate en croute.

The red was a 2015 Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune from Delagrange, which we enjoyed very much. I've omitted the photo of the main course, because G had eaten most of it before he remembered to take one, and also because it had the kind of foam on it which a certain friend refers to as looking like effluent, but it all tasted fine.

However, the piece de resistance was the pudding. G and I both had this rhubarb thing which was sensational. Best. Rhubarb. Ever.

ACC and the Baron both went for a chocolate thing which was also very pretty.

All in all, while I've enjoyed my two visits to Lameloise, Pierre et Jean was more informal and just the ticket for Sunday lunch on a hot summer's day.