I’m a mustard fan. I like it yellow, brown, grainy, hot, sweet. I eat it with sausage, cheese, potatoes, cooked carrots, and of course in salad dressings. Whenever I go to a new country, I always check out the mustard. It’s an inexpensive condiment, goes with many different foods, and, the best part, has hardly any calories! So when Peter and I decide to go camping in France for a week, we set our sights on Dijon and the surrounding Bourgogne (Burgundy) region. I’m a wine fan, too, so learning about this famous wine region also appeals.
Little did we know what other culinary treasures can be found in the region. Of course, the French palate is known to be discerning, so Peter and I are excited just going to the grocery stores. Then there’s Dijon’s beautiful indoor market, where foodies will swoon looking at all the fresh produce, seafood, charcuterie, cheese, spices, and fresh herbs.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Come along to Burgundy and Dijon for a culinary adventure that will make you swoon!
Learn about Wine at Imaginarium
Taste Chardonnay that’s like “A Bakery in a Glass”
I remember my dad buying jugs of Carlo Rossi burgundy wine when I was little. I inherited his love of red wine, for sure, but cheap jug wine? Not for me. In fact, true Burgundy wines from France are at the opposite end of the price spectrum. Most are in the $40-50 price range (and many sell for much more), a bit beyond my budget. But the wines are exquisite!
I get my first taste at a wine-centric attraction called Imaginarium in Nuits-Saint-Georges, just south of Dijon on the Burgundy Wine Route. The informative visit consists of a self-guided tour of an exhibit devoted to Cremant, or the local sparkling wine, as well as a multi-media journey through winemaking tools that tells the history of winemaking in the process. At the end is a puppet show that introduces the local wine society, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (more on this later).
At the end of the visit, we meet Melina, who pours us tastes of the local wines. First, we sample Louis Bouillot Rosé, a Cremant de Bourgogne. This delightful sparkling blend of chardonnay and pinot noir (the two grape varietals for which the region is famous) is dry, fresh, and pleasant. Next, we taste a buttery, oaky chardonnay, 2019 Chateau de Rully Premier Cru. This golden wine is so rich and decadent, it’s “like a bakery in a glass,” according to Melina. Last, but not least, a 2021 vintage by Jean-Claude Boisset, whose winery is in Nuits-Saint-Georges. This pinot noir blew me away with its balanced tannins and notes of blackberry and black currants. Every sip is revelatory, meant to be savored.
Not far is a beautiful chateau called the Chateau du Close de Vougeot, which rises up amid the grapevines. It began as a farm estate run by monks, who grew grapes and experimented with wine making. Peter and I view a film about the chateau, which is now owned by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (the Brotherhood of Knights of Wine Tasting). It’s a prestigious, members-only organization that began in 1934 when the world was still recovering from the Great Depression. Two young men from Nuits-Saint-Georges decided the time was ripe to bring more joy and comradery to a world that was largely depressed and struggling. After all, there were cellars full of delicious wines!
Since its inception, the Brotherhood’s mission has grown to include promotion of all things Burgundian—first and foremost, the wines, but also the region’s feasts, festivals, customs, and folklore. With 12,000 members, the Brotherhood has chapters around the globe and meets every November at the chateau for a feast known as the Trois Glorieuses. Melina told us these dinners run upwards of 800 euro to attend. Want to become a Knight? The induction process is not easy and requires you to be sponsored by two members. If you make the cut, you’ll join world leaders, celebrities, and oenophiles who worship Burgundy’s wines and culinary delights.
Speaking of culinary delights, it’s time for lunch, so Peter and I stop in a café near our campground called Café Venus, where I order the regional specialty, Beef Burgundy—what else? It’s a silky stew of tender meat, potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms, bathed in a rich wine sauce and served with buttery scalloped potatoes. Of course, a local pinot noir is the ideal pairing. Peter has poached eggs bathed in a rich gravy served with toasted baguette slices. Mmm.
Discover Why Cassis is a Superfruit
Taste Creamy, Delicious Handmade Cheese at Gaugry
The next day we visit the Cassisium also in Nuits-Saint-Georges. This attraction is all about the local cassis (or black currant) liqueur. First, we explore an interactive museum all about the small black fruit. Considered a superfruit, cassis has many health benefits. Next we see a movie that explains why cassis is an important local product. Then we take a tour with Paul through the factory that makes the cassis liqueur along with many other flavored spirits and syrups.
Cassis was popular as an aperitif in the 19th-century, and in 1904 a bartender in Dijon created a drink known as kir, which is still popular today: 1 part cassis liqueur and 2 parts white (or sparkling) wine. At tour’s end Paul pours samples of cassis, as well as other specialty spirits, and non-imbibers and children are invited to taste the syrups, ranging in flavor from anise to watermelon.
Time to explore local food pathways. Let’s start with cheese. A local cheese-making house called Gaugry offers a free self-guided tour of its factory and a cheese tasting for a nominal fee afterwards. I’ll admit to being a bit wary about this style of soft French cheeses since my experiences with overly ripe brie and camembert haven’t always been pleasant, but I was excited to learn about the cheese-making process. Visitors view factory activities through large plate-glass windows while videos provide explanations in English as you walk down the hall.
We don’t have a reservation for a cheese tasting. When I ask an aproned gentleman about ordering a tasting, he answers me in French. I nod, but have no idea what he says. So Peter and I walk around the cheese store, and soon he reappears with a smile and leads us to the tasting room, where he’s prepared a plate of five cheese samples, which Peter and I share.
I am now officially a convert. I LOVE the cheeses. They taste like a cross between a light, airy, flavorful cream cheese and a buttery brie. The cheeses have subtle flavor differences—some are saltier, stronger, creamier, even sweet. Honestly, it’s some of the best cheese I’ve ever had—and very affordable in their factory store.
One day we drive into the country for a truffle demonstration and tasting. We meet Nicholas, the guide, who tells us about the four varieties of truffles: summer, Burgundy, Black Perigord, and Alba or white truffle. Nicholas and his dog, Taiga, will hunt for the summer truffle in a patch of woods behind the tasting room and store. We know in advance that the “hunt” is really just for show. Nicholas planted the truffles before the demo started, and his smart dog knows exactly where they are. But Taiga wants more treats so she doesn’t immediately find them all. “She’s mocking me,” Nicholas says. “She knows where I buried them.”
After the demo ends, we sample a truffle liqueur and a few nibbles made with truffles: poultry terrine, guniea fowl terrine, rabbit terrine, cream cheese with truffle, Italian tapenade with truffle, goat cheese with truffle honey (my fave), and panna cotta topped by a slice of truffle. Yum!
Back in town we lunch at Resto Jeannette, an eclectic eatery I had read about. We sit on the terrace under shady trees and enjoy delicious salads with smoked trout, fresh greens, tomatoes, and small potatoes. The dressing? A divine Dijon vinaigrette. The wine? A local pinot noir, what else?
Peter loves anise, so a visit to a factory that makes anise-flavored candies is on the itinerary. Called Les Anis de Flavigny, the factory, about an hour from Dijon, has deep roots. Legend has it that Julius Caesar brought anise seeds with him from Italy to treat his troops for digestive ailments, which prompted the growth of anise in the region. Eventually, local monks began creating a sugary candy with an anise seed in the center.
Today these sweets are sold around the world and still contain anise seeds. The family-owned company has a delightful museum and tour and, of course, a candy store where you can buy the sweets. Not a fan of anise? No problem—flavors include mint, ginger, lemon, cassis, and violet, among others. We enjoy our tour with Lucie, who speaks excellent English, having lived and worked in Alberta, Canada, and walk out with a bag full of candy.
Visit Fallot Moutarderie for Extraordinary Mustards
Explore the Dijon Market and Be Prepared to Swoon
Finally, it’s time for our mustard tour at Edmond Fallot Moutarderie, a family-owned mustard factory in Beaune. I emailed at the last minute, and their marketing director (and it turns out their CEO), Marc Désarménien found a spot for us the next day. The tour is wonderful, and we learn from Sophie, our tour guide, that the Fallot Moutarderie was founded in 1840 and still uses millstones to grind the mustard seeds.
“All Fallot products are made here in Beaune,” she explains, “using mustard seeds grown in Burgundy.” Mustard seeds come in a few different varieties, and Sophie lets the tour group taste brown seeds, which is the kind they use in their mustards. “You have to chew them a while until they soften,” she says. Then, pow, the mustard flavor explodes in your mouth!
Next we look through windows and see the grinding stones at work. I notice my eyes start watering a bit, and Sophie says the mustard fumes cause this reaction. Then we go down to the packaging area, and by now, everyone’s eyes are watering from the fumes. It’s strong, but part of the experience, says Sophie and passes out tissues and free samples of their mustard.
In the shop, visitors can taste the different mustards—there are sixteen ranging from the classic Moutarde de Dijon, made with vinegar, and Moutarde de Bourgogne, made with white wine, to varieties with curry, basil, tarragon, and Pinot Noir. Believe me when I say, the mustards are extraordinary. I can’t wait to try one in a vinaigrette and serve it on a beautiful Salade Niçoise. Marc meets us at the end of the tour and presents me with a few more samples and a book about mustard containing luscious recipes. The company ships their mustard around the world, so the next time you’re in a gourmet food store, look for Edmund Fallot mustard and buy it. You won’t be disappointed.
We only have one day left to explore Dijon and, after our busy agenda, decide to take it easy and relax in this cozy city. We stroll around, sit on a terrace, and “inhale history,” as Peter puts it. Our favorite part of Dijon is the amazing market, where we drool at all the beautiful vegetables, herbs, tomatoes, and lettuce. I grab some French lettuce, a mixture or red and green leaves, for salads back in the camper and some parsley to make tabbouleh.
I look longingly at the oysters, and thinking back, I should have splurged on a dozen. No worries. We’ll be back in France again one day and I know there’ll be more food pathways to explore. Until then, bon appetit!