Oct 10, 2014

The Flavors of Burgundy: Le Crémeux de Bourgogne


When you hear the word "Burgundy" you think, of course, of wine. And when you hear "Chablis", you think of a kind of white Burgundy.


But Chablis is not just a Burgundy, it's a town in the region of Burgundy. And the town is just as lovely as the wine, chock full of very good restaurants. The southern end of the old town is guarded by these 15th century towers (rebuilt in the late 18th century, which helps explain why they look so good!).


Chablis is not the only flavor of Burgundy -- the region not the wine, that is -- worth tasting. It just depends on how adventurous you're feeling. For example, you could have local andouillettes, a kind of sausage I like to call "gym locker sausage". Not because it's a good snack to keep in a gym locker, but because it smells and tastes like it actually was cured in a gym locker.


One day I drive to Flavigny-sur-Ozerain partly because it's classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France, and partly because I want to see where the candies are made. The funny thing is, I don't generally like these candies, but still I am drawn like a moth to a flame. At the factory tasting, I discover I do like some of the fruit flavors but really can't stand the black licorice, mint, spicy flavors.


The candies are made in an abbey founded in 719A.D. then renovated in the 15th century. The town goes back even farther, though, when Vercingétorix installed military encampments on this very hilltop in 52A.D. during the rebellion against Cesar.


The little medieval town is just the right mixture of charming, cleaned up, but still a little run down. The whole place kind of feels like you've walked into the Secret Garden. It's perfect.


And it's not overrun with tourists. In fact, it's the kind of place where a cat can fall asleep in the middle of the road and not have to worry about getting run over.


Certainly one of the most famous flavors to come out of Burgundy and cross international boundaries is Dijon mustard. Though I don't make it to Dijon itself on my trip to Burgundy, I certainly do enjoy the mustards. My favorite version is a cassis (blackcurrant) stongeground mustard, that's both sweet and vinegary at the same time.


The old bottles are hard to find, but beautiful when you do. And it just shows how far back this mustard goes -- the famous "Poupon" brand started in 1777.

Modern mustard jars can also be collectibles -- but in a different sense.


One of our favorite tastes of Burgundy, however, is roasted sunflower seeds. The sunflower fields are dying when we're there, and we help ourselves to some seeds (should I feel guilty?). It's actually a lot of hard work just to get a few handful of seeds -- pulling them out of the flower, shelling them, roasting them. They sure do taste delicious once they're done, though. It's like eating Burgundy sunshine.


THE CHEESE: Le Crémeux de Bourgogne

Le Crémeux de Bourgogne is a cow's milk cheese from, obviously, Burgundy. It also happens to be one of the very best cheeses I have ever tried in my life. It's as if a magician conjured up a fluffy cloud of creamy, savory deliciousness. It's a cheese so surprisingly light and airy that I actually cry out in surprise while trying it at a tasting party.

According to my research, it can also come in pasteurized versions. And can be made by many different producers. The one I try is a high-end version purchased at the Quatrehomme store in Paris, made of organic, raw milk.

And it's not just the texture. The taste is butter, salt, and sweet cream in just the right balance, with grassy notes.


Not only is Le Crémeux de Bourgogne an extraordinarily delicious flavor of Burgundy, it even says that right in the name.


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