Saturday, October 31, 2009

Food Field Trip France: Caveau Des Arches

After Paris, we headed to Beaune, a walled hill town in the middle of Burgundian wine country. We chose Beuane to enjoy the wines and had the opportunity to bike from the center of this city through the wine towns of Pomard to Volnay and onto Meursault via a wonderful, and deserted bike path (this could have been because the weather was a tad cool -- 48 degrees in the sun, but we had come to France in part for this purpose, so we layered up and ended up really enjoying the ride).

Wine caves are prevalent in and around Beaune; we spent the afternoon sipping wine in them and then had dinner in a restored one at Caveau Des Arches ( More on that later.

First was the bike journey. The bike rental place recommended Chateau de Meursault ( and after almost giving up on finding the place, we finally prevailed. For 15 euros each we were allowed to roam around the Estate including through a series of underground caves, some dating to 12th century stocked with hundreds of thousands of bottles and thousands of barrels of of estate wines.

At the end of this eerie, dusty, and really cool maze, we were treated to some very generous pours of wine. It felt like trick-or-treating for adults; each new cave room we entered was set up with another barrel atop of which was placed the next wine to try.

The Mersault area is known for its whites, which actually have the mouth feel of a good red, and a smooth flavor. We normally favor red wines, but these whites were fantastic.

The whole experience was wonderful, but in many ways overwhelming as Beaune is the center of the Burgundian wine trade and the place where wine experts gather to bolster their Grand Cru collections. In fact, there was a conference of sommeliers from New York City at our hotel. We did buy a bottle of wine in town, which we will put in our state of the art wine cellar (cellar=closet in our guest bedroom). We are not quite at Grand Cru collector status yet...

When we circled back into town it was dusk and the temperatures had really dipped, so we were ready for a hearty dinner to warm us up. We had fortunately made reservations at Caveau Des Arches months earlier. The design job merged both ancient and modern accents. The restaurant focuses on traditional Burgundian cuisine, and, as with most restaurants in the country, had several prix fix options.

We opted for a wine with dinner from where else but Chateau de Meursault. We went with a rich red, somewhat similar to an American Pinot Noir, as we both planned on and needed meaty dishes for dinner after our bike ride through some very rolling hills.

We started with the escargot--succulent snails cooked in the traditional rich garlic, herb butter sauce and served with a rustic, crusty bread.

Next, it was onto steak tartare for me with potatoes lyonnaise served in a cast iron skillet. My main course was the paradigm of steak tartares. The meat was a beautiful, deep red color seasoned perfectly to bring out the flavors of this amazingly tender steak. The mixed greens were a nice crisp, tart compliment, and the potatoes were really just gratuitous, but nonetheless excellent, crispy, and full of flavor.

B opted for the duck breast in a wine demi-glace served with roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes. The duck was cooked medium rare and was exceedingly tender and very rich.

Then came the cheese course. The menu here was entirely in French, so I could not tell you the names or types of these cheeses. Both were soft, and the one in the front of the photo was smooth and tasted similar to a camembert. The latter had much more of a bite to it and I was glad that the waitress explained to eat them in that order.

I went with a molten chocolate cake dessert (knew I was getting chocolate, but had no idea what form it would take due to my knowledge of French being limited to 4 years in high school). The cake was made with dark chocolate and surrounded by creme anglais and also with a rich vanilla ice cream.

B had the creme brulee, which as you can see below was delicately caramelized. It had a great crunch with a rich custard finish.

This three-hour feast enjoyed under the city of Beaune in a wine cave was 85 euros.

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