Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dijon: City of Mustard

The train to Dijon was fairly unremarkable, aside from the beautiful landscape of course. The train system in Europe is a spectacular way to see the countryside. We arrived in Dijon in the mid afternoon and found a small, very inexpensive hotel near the train station and then went out to explore the city. We had looked up a couple restaurants and done some reading about the city on the train ride in and were looking forward to it. One of the things we had read about was a mechanical music festival that was going on that weekend. Neither of us knew what mechanical music was, but we soon found out.

We saw these giant trailers as we were walking through town that turned out to be giant music boxes. They were incredible. They had full organs on board as well as many other musical devices and they were playing a wide range of music from traditional polkas to the Beatles, and modern music. About half of them were hand cranked, but some had been updated to have an electric motor which turned the crank. Other than that, there was no electricity involved. It was incredible and amazingly intricate.

The book had recommended two restaurants. One was far away from our hotel, and served traditional dishes of the region and was supposed to be good. The other was located in a 13th century cellar and was also supposed to be very good. It was closer to our hotel so we headed over that way.

Let us preface this a bit. The book we have is a guide to Europe on a budget and lists many very inexpensive hotels and restaurants as well as places that are good quality. They're usually off the beaten path for the tourists and you get to experience something that you wouldn't find unless you knew someone who lived there. Sometimes though, the book is not totally up to date or they get something wrong. They had told us that this restaurant was inexpensive but good, but that wasn't quite the case. Instead of being inexpensive and good, it was expensive and amazing.

We were the first customers in the restaurant that night, but it very quickly filled up, and soon the food was on its way.

We had ordered the cheapest set menu, which involved three courses as most of the other restaurants that we had been to, and two glasses of wine. The wine was a local white from the Burgundy Region and it tasted divine.

The first dish that was sent out was an amuse-bouche, or palette "teaser." It was a zucchini gazpacho topped with a savory whipped cream. It was incredibly flavorful and smooth.

Next we were provided with some bread which was made in-house as well as the entrée (appetizer). The entrée was an exceptional mixed green salad with escargot, mushrooms, poached quail eggs, and a light vinaigrette dressing. All the lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, and cucumbers were very fresh.

Now that we had finished those dishes, we couldn't wait or imagine what our main course was going to be like. The main course consisted of a cube of tender pork rib meet, cooked to perfection and dressed in a light creamy mustard sauce. You could cut through this 3x3x3 inch cube of pork with the side of your fork. The pork was accompanied by sautéed potatoes and fresh, local seasonal vegetables such a string beans, carrots, broccoli, and peas. All of this was cooked to perfection; the vegetables and potatoes were not too hard or too soft. The wine went exquisitely with the dish. It was best wine pairing we had ever had. The wine brought out amazing flavors in the pork and the pork brought out amazing and the subtlest of flavors in the wine.

The next dish was dessert. Even though the restaurant was full, each dish was brought out with perfect timing. Desert was fantastic. The dish consisted of a cube of pumpkin crème brule topped with thin cookies. The plate was decorated with a thin strip of caramel sauce, a sugar spiral, and two thinly cut fresh picked strawberries. It was delicious! This was the best meal we had on this trip so far and quite possibly the best of our lives. To top off the amazing food, the restaurant had an amazing atmosphere. It was in a 13th century cellar, well preserved and just beautiful. It was a great experience. After dinner, we slowly walked back to the hotel and went to bed.

The next day Alexia was very sick. She had only gotten worse since the cigarette room in Avignon. We ended up staying in Dijon the next few days to take it easy and see a doctor. We took short strolls around the town and looked at the cool old buildings and gardens. We found a doctor and Alexia was prescribed some antibiotics since she ended up having strep and tonsillitis.

We stayed a few extra days so Alexia could recover. On the last day of our stay in Dijon we cleaned out a store of its mustard. We bought 4kg of Dijon mustard, several different flavors of course. Then we packed this mustard in our summer clothes from Cyprus and shipped it off to Seattle. We then had lunch at the second restaurant mentioned in our book. It was local cuisine at a reasonable price. Ellis had the beef dish and an plate of dessert and Alexia had the rabbit dish and the same array of desserts. It was quite good. After our lunch we hopped on another train, this time to a different country!

1 comment:

  1. I certainly love reading your and Alexia's up-to-date adventures around some parts of Europe. I look forward to hearing more when we meet again in Seattle with friends someday soon to hear your adventures. I would love to meet Alexia, too. Have a safe quest. :)