Our search for language-learning opportunities, good food, and educational experiences continues! This week, it took us to Saulieu. This little town was suggested to me by our rather sour part-time neighbor, who only visits from Paris every so often. He’s critical of nearly everything (“At the market in town, you can get food as bad as in the United States!”), but gave rave reviews of the food in Saulieu, in particular a fromagerie and a relais. He was right about the fromagerie, or cheese shop- it was wonderful. The relais, which means “roadside cafe,” was anything but a roadside cafe. It is in fact a very, very expensive, very fancy restaurant, probably with Michelin stars though I didn’t check. He was probably right about this too, but with the least expensive menu beginning at 89 euros per person, it didn’t seem like the place for the kids and I to dine.
Did I mention that this neighbor drives his Porsche in from Paris, where he is in banking? I suspect that we do not have the same budget.
However, his recommendations did get us to Saulieu, which was definitely worth the trip. Burgundy is known for its food, and apparently Saulieu is known for some of the best Burgundy has to offer. The cheese shop was definitely one of those places that is filled with the best of Burgundy. A tiny little space in the center of town, it’s possible that you could follow your nose to find it. My kids, especially my daughter, were not impressed with the smell inside the shop. And I must admit, it was not good. But oh, the cheeses that were inside this tiny place! A variety of different types of chevre, varying from the fresh and white to the ancient and gray-looking (those kind of scare me), filled one side of the shop. In the middle, on a sturdy table, were several large wheels of cheese: an Italian Parmesan, an Emmental, a Comte, a Cantal- it reads like a list of some of my favorites! We sampled a few different cheeses, and ended up buying a small crottin (this translates either as “dung” or “a small round goat cheese”), a slice of Emmental, and a small piece of Cantal. And, I couldn’t resist some fresh farmer-made butter to take home as well…
We also came across a little “epicerie” selling fresh vegetables. I picked up a couple of sweet potatoes and a handful of the best brussel sprouts I’ve ever eaten- I roasted them for nearly an hour with olive oil and sea salt- delicious. Like sweet little brussel sprout french fries… And we found (but did not enter) an amazing looking patisserie. And a toy store. And a sign saying something to the effect of “Napoleon Stayed Here When He Left Elbes.” I think.
And then, we found a beautiful old church surrounded by a cemetery, including a cemetery for soldiers from World War II. I’m always so intrigued and touched by anything concerning World War II here. It happened here, after all, and history where it actually happened fascinates me.
I figured we earned a good lunch after all that walking and history learning. So, though we did not eat at the “Relais”, we ate next door, and had a fabulous meal for the much more reasonable price of around 15 euros. I had a terrine followed by coq au vin, and finished my meal with a cheese plate in keeping with my cheese theme for the day. I was presented with about 7 different choices, and I picked a rather dry chevre with some pretty funky mold growing on the outside, a tomme, and an epoisse affine http://www.cheese-france.com/cheese/epoisses.htm. I probably wouldn’t have chosen this one, but the proprietor suggested it as a specialty of Burgundy and so, well, what could I do? But, it was delicious. Kind of salty, with a melting sort of texture- I can’t believe that I loved it, but I did. Now, it didn’t smell as horrid as the Muenster I had in the Alsace, which I would compare to the odor of rotting flesh, but it did smell rather awful. But oh, so delicious it was!
And between this cheese and the Muenster, I’ve come up with a new rule for living well in France: Don’t smell your cheese before you eat it. You’ll miss out on a lot of good stuff if you do.
What, you might ask, did the kids learn from this crazy day of exploring? Besides a little history where it happened and how to choose a good cheese plate? My daughter received her first compliment on her French. And I am absolutely beside myself with glee.