Whether you’d rather kick off your day with a Pain au chocolat or stuff your face full of creamy Camembert, there is no disputing that France is a foodie’s paradise. You may be familiar with the different wine regions in France (Bordeaux, Champagne or Beaujolais anyone?), but you may not be aware that French cuisine varies quite noticeably from region to region.
Burgundy is not only one of the best food and wine regions in the whole country, but it’s also a beautiful place to visit. With the scenic waterways of the Loire Valley, the gorgeous towns of Pouilly Fume and Sancerre and the Roman history of the Burgoyne region, you’ll never be stuck for ways to work up an appetite.
To get your imagination (and tastebuds) running wild, here are some of my favourite foods from the Burgundy region you simply must try when you visit.
Crottin de Chavignol
When I think of France, I think of cheese. And pastries and wine and berets and art. But mostly cheese. And when it comes to the finest cheese in the land it’s hard to go past Crottin de Chavignol. It’s an exceptional goat cheese produced in the Loire Valley in Burgundy and has been gracing our mouths with its presence since the 16th century. This hard cheese is white in colour and has a strong, nutty flavour. Interestingly, unlike most goat cheeses, it can be eaten at various stages of maturity, becoming stronger in flavour the longer it matures. So, get yourself a nice glass of Burgundy Pinot Noir to go with it and enjoy.
Boeuf Bourguignon (also known as Beef Burgundy) is a rich beef casserole. What sets is apart from other beef stews is that it ALWAYS includes a bottle of delicious Burgundy red wine. Cooked slowly in the wine with shallots, garlic, herbs, mushrooms and a generous amount of butter, this hearty meal is perfect for a wintery night in front of a fireplace, with – you guessed it – a bottle of red. Traditionally made with special Charolais beef from the Burgundy region, nowadays there is an annual festival celebrating the prized beef. Everyone in the town will gather to enjoy music, festivities and of course, a bowl of Boeuf Bourguignon.
When it comes to Duck Rilletes, picture pulled pork – but more decadent and even more delicious. While pork is in fact a popular type of rilletes around other parts of France and Europe – the duck variety is a speciality to Burgundy. To cook: simply roast up a whole lot of duck legs, shred the meat and then add to a pan with duck or goose fat. Season with a delicious mix of herbs, pack into a pot and refrigerate and you’ve got yourself the perfect pre-dinner treat to serve on toasted bread, much like a pate.
Coq au vin
Another casserole style dish, Coq au vin literally translates to ‘rooster in wine’. To be quite honest, this braised stew is not that different to Boeuf Bourguignon, with the obvious exception that it is made with chicken rather than beef. Originally, this dish was seen as a peasant meal and was cooked with rooster which was easier to come by, but also much tougher than chicken. Due to the toughness of the meat, Coq au vin had to be slowly cooked over a longer period of time. Any root vegetables can be added to the mix, which makes for a hearty and reasonably nutritious meal. Nowadays, fancier renditions sometimes suggest marinating the chicken overnight in wine before cooking it, and only cooking the meat for a short time before removing it from the vegetable and sauce mix, so it doesn’t overcook, before adding it back in at the end.
This humble upside-down apple tart was first created on the outskirts of Burgundy’s Loire Valley – at the Hotel Tartin. Legend has it, the chef accidentally burned the apple mixture she was cooking for an apple pie, so threw pastry on top of the pan and put the whole thing in the oven to brown the pastry – and voila, the Tarte Tatin was born. The most important thing for a good Tarte Tartin is picking a type of apple that will hold its shape, rather than disintegrating into apple sauce.