10. une expérience gastronomique
Up until this trip, the only experience I had of Dijon was mustard. It's my go-to for sauces and salad dressings. And now here we are!
Speaking of mustard, the Romans were supposed to have made mustard first by mixing together fresh grape juice and ground mustard seeds. They probably took the idea to Gaul (France), because by the 10th century, monks in Paris were producing their own version. Dijon started producing it too, because guests ate 300 litres of mustard crème at a posh party held by the Duke of Burgundy in 1336. It must have been a big party!
But let's talk about the dinner last night! A quick photo to remind you of the beautiful setting. I had finished my post in the afternoon so that I could feel relaxed for the coming degustation dinner based mainly on local food and wine.
The chef at La Cueillette is Maxime Kowalczyk, a very young chef who won Le Meilleur Apprenti (best apprentice) de France 2009. He lives in Meloisey where we walked the other day. The hotel kitchen is downstairs with a big round window to the corridor outside. I took this photo through it. That's Maxime on the right, looking as if he should still be in school. It must be difficult for the waitresses to serve food using a lift to take it to the dining room on the first floor.
First a pre-dinner drink in the sitting room. By the way, when I re-read my post from last night, I thought that I didn't make it clear that the part of the salon I'd like to refresh was not the beautiful faded chesterfields!
A few of the other guests were having their late afternoon drink out on the terrace in the blinding sunlight, albeit with this lovely view. Have you noticed that Europeans seem to be so scarred by the long cold winters that they worship the sun and will do anything to sit in it. Most of the outdoor cafés have their seating in open sun, and they're full, while inside is empty. There must be no hat industry whatsoever - no one wears one. Not even the vineyard workers. If we see anyone wearing a hat, we assume they're Australians!
I put my champagne down while I took the first photo. It looked so pretty I took a photo of it too. John had a dry martini.
We were served our hors d'oeuvres on slate. From left to right: cucumber and coconut milk balls with mousse inside and jelly outside; beetroot brûlée; goats cheese cones with honey coated in poppy seeds.
While I can generally make myself understood in French, I find it difficult to comprehend quickly spoken French, more particularly for a specialised vocabulary as in cooking. So these dishes are my best guess.
I think the stem was a stalk of red basil.
Once we were seated in the dining room, an amuse bouche was served which really did amuse us. A tiny serving of gravlax sitting on top of a huge apple shaped dish. It was simply delicious, a slice wrapped around a cream cheese and wasabi mousse, with chopped roasted pistachios.
The wine to accompany the entrée was a Saint-Romain (so a village appellation). Made with chardonnay grapes of course. Wonderful.
We both adore French bread. Who doesn't? Different varieties on offer too.
I love butter to be hard. This was a hard butter ball with chilli, in its own little stone container.
John's entree was fish - trout encased inside a fluffy ball, decorated with lemon caviar and a spinach sauce.
You know how you start to long for vegetables when you're travelling? This was my choice of entrée. Seasonal spring vegetables, slightly cooked and raw: carrots, cauliflower, radish, squash, beetroot, fennel with a wonderful creamy lime beetroot dressing. I like the way Maxime is having fun putting food asymmetrically on the plate. It's as if the vegetables are waiting for something. It was sensationally delicious.
This next wine is made from the grapes from the vines you can see in very top photo. While Jean Garnier, the owner, doesn't own the vineyard, he buys the grapes from the owner to make his own wine. Another village appellation. It was very very nice!
Next came the fish dish. A Corsican maigre with chorizo risotto and sorrel. Don't you love the way the croutons are trapping the risotto inside??
A friend of ours has always said that there is no better fertiliser than the footprints of the owner. While we were eating, Jean Garnier the owner of the château came into the restaurant and spoke to the diners at each table. I recognised him from the day before, when I'd been taking photographs in the dining room. I had said to him at the time 'Isn't this the most beautiful room?' This morning before we left, he was out on a ride-on mower, then standing with his wife, holding a tape measure, discussing the garden. Such a 'regular guy', as the Americans would say.
To accompany the main course, a Côte de Beaune pinot noir. Loved it.
You can imagine that we were starting to slow down by this time. Our main course was a lamb chop from a farm at Clavisey, with hazelnuts, wild garlic, chard pesto and carrot purée. I ate a little meat and all of the vegetables.
I'm a big cheese fan but had no idea what to choose from this selection. The waitress Marie kindly did it for me. I had the cheese branded for the Château, called Citeaux, semi-soft and mild. A Bleu d'Auvergne which she is cutting here, and a Pommard with a creamy texture flavoured with mustard. Loved every one.
We thought this was dessert. Mais non! Another amuse bouche. It's called croustillant chocolat feve tonka. I'd given up trying to translate. I think it was a chocolate icecream encased in a denser chocolate coating, with a brandy snap.
This sticky was from Alsace. Beautiful. We sipped but that was all.
Just when we thought we couldn't eat any more, we could! Almost the most amazing dish of all. The apple is an apple flummery encased in jelly, on a bed of chopped apple and lemon juice, with a dill sorbet. When I first tasted the dill sorbet, I couldn't for the life of me place what it was. It was so unexpected. And so sensational! I'm sure that Marie said there was some celeriac in there, and i think that it might be the piece above the sorbet which was a sugared leaf. Or was that angelica? And there was some nutty praline too. They're cake cubes around the outside.
We decided to call it a night as soon as we had finished our dessert. It was late, we were full of food, and the only diners left in the restaurant. Just as we stood to leave, Marie came back again with more! We both laughed and said 'Non, non!' She insisted we take the plate back to our room, where it stayed until breakfast this morning. Yes, we did eat them!
I keep thinking about the different courses, the different wines, the presentation, the novelty. It was truly a memorable evening. I hope you enjoyed the words without the calories!
Before I went to bed, I uploaded the day's post to the website and sent you the link. I have no idea what went wrong, because it's in my sent box. I've always thought when that happens, it's actually gone to the recipients. So don't trust your sent box!
We had ordered our car to come to Dijon for 11am so that I could have a massage at the château's spa before we left. There's a heated swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, and some treatment rooms. They have created their own brand of product based on berries. They call it fruitithérapie. When I first read about it, I immediately had a vision of clients leaving the spa with faces stained red with mulberries, white towelling robes looking a mess. Of course the products aren't coloured or even pink. The massage was simply heavenly.
We were welcomed to our boutique hotel in Dijon by the owner Marie Hélène who is an absolute delight. A gorgeous Dijonnaise (did I make that word up?) helped choose what to eat for lunch at a salon de thé and then we wandered the streets for a couple of hours today. Dijon is simply stunning as you'll see tomorrow.
We won't go to the Abbaye Fontenard (we're simply not destined to go to an abbey!) as the train workers have been striking and we don't want to risk being stuck. Plus we haven't yet seen the Museé des Beaux Arts, or been up Phillip the Good's tower, and several other sights of the town. And there are some very nice looking shops if I have time!
Hope there's no glitch with the link tonight my travelling mates. Until tomorrow, I wait you.