Indulging in the passion for food, restaurants and traveling is one thing, but being able to share this very passion with other foodies from your closer circle makes every experience even more special. so a while ago some passionate soulmates and i found our very intimate circle of gourmands, with the goal of traveling the globe on the search for the best restaurants.
after having travelled to NOMA in may (a nomalicious trip to copenhagen) for a fantastic and futuristic food experience, we decided that the next trip should take us back in time, back to when the french solely cooked with butter and cream and their white sauces overwhelmed any possible fine and individual taste. yes, we wanted to visit the master of buttery food, no one other than paul bocuse himself.
so let me share with you and insight of our foodiests diary from a trip to Bourgogne which took us to places such as macon, saint amour, puligny-montrachet, dijon and lyon …
You either love the french or you truly dislike them. me i am definitely one of those that do love the french for their beautiful country, language, style, movies and of course for their food, but what strikes me the most, anytime that i visit the “Grand Nation” is their endeavor towards pleasure and most definite their way of life … savoir vivre ….
the beauty about being a foodie in france is that you can indulge in your pleasure for food 24/7. good food is so intrinsic to france and the french that there is literally no way you can beat your foodiest cravings. nowhere else, not even in italy, do you see such vast food markets, every little village has the most opulent daily or weekly market where you can buy anything from baguette to oysters and the best produce.
the first stage of our journey took us to a marvelous place, a village with the charming name Saint Amour, situated in the wine growing region of Beaujolais. our hosts for the night were Valerie & Cyril, the owners of a lovely hotel de caractere, Auberge du Paradis.
this place is a little gem in the middle of beautiful vineyards. the entire design literally engulfs you in a charming world of lovy dovy hearty details representing a namesake of this tiny village.
each of the 8 rooms carries the name of a spice and is individually decorated. you can enjoy a glass of wonderful champagne in the back yard, take a nap at the pool or just wonder around the village and try to get control over the overwhelming feeling of anticipation for the 6 course tasting menu prepared by cyril himself.
dinner was amazing, no words to be found to express this journey of taste. the only question arising was … how am i every going to eat again after this diner .. and bocuse was still ahead of us.
another milestone of our brief stay at the charming auberge was the breakfast, one might have thought that the intake of food was impossible after the dinner but it is amazing how easily you can continue to indulge if the quality for the eye and the tastebuds is outstanding and extraordinary and comes in the shape of a heart ….
the journey must go on, so we boarded our car and followed the “route des grands crus” which lead us to the more sophisticated village of Puligny de Montrachet.
As much as i would love to solely write about our perfect encounters with indulgence, the truth is that there are still many traitors of passion out there. the village is like a painting out of Wisteria Lane, perfectly refurbished stone houses representing the absolute antithesis to shabby-chic, parks and backyards that come close to examples out of british gardening magazine, expensive cars and a cheese platter for one that costs more than a bottle of fine vine anywhere else. we spent the night at the vinery of Olivier Leflaive. the vinery has nice rooms however the overall ambiance was more that of a tour hotel and the tasting menu was quite hideous and reminded me more of a 2star conference center menu. thank god cyril had fed us properly the night before so we were all actually happy for not having to empty our plates that night.
a croissant in hand from the local boulangerie and off we went, on route to lyon …
i am an absolute mustard lover, and therefore dijon was our choice for a brief visit, and a lunch break. and what a perfect decision it was. this town is a very charming medieval gem. narrow streets, unique architecture, lovely cafes and many many possibilities to purchase yourself some Dijon mustard. although the dijon is no longer produced here, it makes all the sense in the world to visit this town.
go to “le saint fiacre” for some delicious french bistro food, sit outside in the sun while sipping on a glass of champagne and let life do its thing. savoir vivre at its best ….
this was our final stop before we arrived at lyon, the mecca of paul bocuse!
Lyon is a beautiful city with a lovely old town that is crowded with the famous bouchon lyonnaise, but for us there was no time to eat, we had to rest before the big showdown.
anticipation at its best, i would call the hours before we finally got into the cab which took us to the true inspiration behind the movie “ratatouille” . the colorful walls which are the home to the only restaurant that has managed to keep his 3 michelin stars for 50 years.
being true foodies we didn’t leave anything to chance and informed ourselves before hand about the menu options and knew that there was only one way to go as first time bocuse visitors (… and in retrospect last time bocuse visitors) .. the Menu Grande Tradition Classique ….. only the risk takers win …..
This menu was the epitome of french cuisine alla Monsieur Bocuse. the second course was the much sought after “soupes aux truffes noires”, invented by the chef himself in 1975 for a dinner at the Elyssee Palace. can anyone in the world tell my why this soup costs €82,00 when you order it a la carte? the soup is covered with a rather large puff pastry helmet and tastes quite ordinary and neither of us was struck by the expected tastebud firework . the next course was a fish and pasta dish covered with at least a cup of heavy cream and then on top of all it was au gratine, like a creme brulee. it definitely looked more like a desert than a main course.
at that point i had already reached the level of fullness that normally leads to a full stop of food intake, but then came along something so extraordinary and sci-fi like that my mind was distracted from the thought of how to justify a human “explosion by food”. the waiter came towards us with a plate carrying something which from afar looked like an oversized ostrich egg, only that it wobbled and wasn’t as solid as an egg. this was our next course, a chicken cooked in a very traditional manner by being placed inside a pork bladder …. wow, did not know that was possible.
the chicken meat was interestingly soft and not dry at allow but once again smothered in a rich, creamy white sauce that did not allow for any other flavor to satisfy my taste buds which at that point were literally crying out for some finesse and distinctive taste other than BUTTER.
this rather interesting culinary experience continued with two more courses, some cheese and desert. for us desert was just a simple plate of raspberries, since there was definitely not more space left for solid food. the only craving remaining was the one for some strong digestive to help digest the truckload of butter and cream that i had just introduced to my system.
we were the last guests to leave the restaurant, we have had a blast of an evening, i haven´t laughed as much as i did that night in a very long time … we were all so shocked, so dissatisfied but so happy for having done this, just to know that we will never ever return again to the palace of the famous Paul Bocuse ….
The next day, sunday in lyon, was a beautiful day for us to walk off our buttery experience from the night before. we visited the local sunday market, strolled alongside the rhone river, had a coffee at one of the many pretty squares in the old town and reminisced about our experiences. the differences between the cuisine at Noma and Bocuse couldn´t have been more divergent. no wonder Noma is among the 5 best restaurants of the world and Bocuse is nowhere to be seen on this list.
i remain in great anticipation for our next trip de gourmand to san sebastian, spain!
Au revoir France ….