Crémant de Bourgogne Tasting in Beaune

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Just a few hours from the fields of Champagne, Burgundy wineries are making their own version of golden, bubbly goodness. We headed down the Cote d’Or to Burgundy wine country for a tour of Veuve Ambal and a tasting of the tiny bubbles in Crémant de Bourgogne, Burgundy’s answer to Champagne. As you probably know, Champagne is protected under law to maintain its origin, quality, and exclusivity, and enjoying a bottle will put you back a few bucks in your wallet. Crémant is bubbly French wine, like Champagne, but made outside of the Champagne region and without the hefty price tag.CremantVeuveAmbalCremant-ProcessCremantbottle

We took a tour of the Veuve Ambal factory where we saw how the bubbly is made. Using a combination of the four grape varieties of the region, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Aligoté and Gamay, Crémant is made with different flavors and colors. The process is actually the same process as making Champagne, the difference is simply the grape and the region. In the autumn harvest the wine is produced and bottled and sent to the cellar to age depending on which Crémant it will become. After the aging process, the bottles are put through the meticulous riddling process where the bottles are rotated little by little by riddlers (who knew you could be a riddler?! Unfortunately, machines are the modern riddlers, so back to our day jobs we go) until finally sitting upside down, causing any aging residue to fall into the neck of the bottle. From here, the bottle necks are frozen, the frozen residue popped out, a little more sugar is added and the bottles are sealed and labeled, ready for any romantic evening that might conspire.

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Today the process is mostly mechanized, but with some many meticulous and careful steps to make one bottle of bubbly, it really does change the way you think about those tiny bubbles, and the ancient origins of Champagne are even more intriguing. After the tour, we headed down to the shop for a tasting. Our host was friendly and generous, and we tasted five different varieties of Crémant from Rosé to Brut to Prestige with clear explanations about each sip making the experience even more enjoyable.

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So, on Valentine’s day, if you are celebrating or not, indulge in a glass of bubbly! Enjoy it before your meal with an aperitif like a Frenchie, or like the rest of us, after the meal with a sweet dessert. Cheers to celebrating all the good things life, ensemble or solo, before or after the meal, for love or simply for pleasure. 

Besos, Dianne    ************************************************************************************************

For more info about visiting Veuve Ambal for a tour and tasting check out their website Veuve Ambal.

The tour is self guided, with a head set, and lasts about 1 hour. The tasting with a guide lasts 30mins to one hour.

France’s little winter secret: Tartiflette

Tartiflette , a French Winter Classic. A Beautiful Journey

When I hear about French cuisine the first dishes that pop into mind are snails, and frogs legs, croissants and chocolate mouse, ratatoulle and bouliabaise…no one every said anything about tartiflette. Until I moved to France that is, and suddenly, winter couldn’t come sooner as an excuse to enjoy the first tartiflette of the year (or a tartiflette pizza, tartiflette moules, tartiflette anything).

Real Frenchies don’t eat croissants and snails everyday, but they are proud of their local specialties and eat seasonally. And the reputation that French cooking has for super complicated impossibly butter dishes, not quite true either. Spring and summer bring on the barbecued meats and fresh salads and winter offers their unending abundance of simple, creamy, gooey cheese dishes. Tartiflette is at the top of the simple winter dish list.

Like a French interpretation of a baked potato (swimming in cheese sauce with bacon!) it is far from being a dish that you have to go to the Cordon Bleu to master. With the right ingredients, an oven, and a nice crusty baguette you’ll have typical french meal to impress with your friends with or to keep warm with while that polar vortex makes its way out. Serve with fresh green salad to balance out the gooey wonder, and Enjoy!

Making Tartiflette, a French Winter Classic. A Beautiful Journey

Tartiflette via Marmiton.org (France’s go-to recipe website)

240 grams Reblochon cheese (washed) **If you can’t find Reblochon cheese,  try using Brie or Camembert for a similar taste.

5-6 potatoes, peeled and sliced

3/4 cup bacon, cut into small pieces

One large onion, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 1 cup dry white wine (Apremont or a dry Savoie wine, if possible), and 1-2 cloves garlic crushed

How to Make Tartiflette, a French Winter Classic. A Beautiful Journey

Directions

1. Boil the potatoes in salted water until al dente.

2. While the potatoes are boiling, add about 1 tablespoon of oil or butter to a large pan and saute the onions until golden (add garlic option here). Add the bacon and brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Add potatoes to the onion and bacon pan (add optional wine here!) season with salt and pepper to taste and saute for about 15 minutes.

4. Transfer the potato mix into a casserole dish.

5. Cut the reblochon in half, making two discs of cheese, and place the cheese over the potato mix. (I used 1 1/2 discs, and saved the rest of the cheese to devour tomorrow with a fresh baguette.)

6. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden. These will have melted into the whole dish and be gooey and bubbling.

Tartiflette, a French Winter Classic. A Beautiful Journey

Serve with a green salad and crusty baguette and enjoy this easy, classic French winter favorite for a warm dinner while watching the Winter Games in Sochi! Let me know what you think!

Besos, Dianne

A Day Trip to Troyes, France

Troyes, France. A Beautiful Journey

Sometimes the budget calls for a day trip rather than a weekend away and if that day trip involves outlet shopping, even better, right? In October, we took an afternoon drive  to Troyes, a city most famous for outlet shopping than culture or history, for some shopping, eating, and a little fresh air. Troyes, France

We made our way to the outlets first, and I have to admit that except for the Le Creuset outlet, where I should have indulged in some cocottes and a Dutch oven, we didn’t find much. After a quick spin around the shops with no luck we headed downtown to find lunch.  Troyes, France. A Beautiful Journey

If you want to take a day trip in France, it is best to go on Saturday when the locals are out, and as hoped for we found the city bustling, terraces and restaurants packed, the carousel singing and a really nice feel in the main square. We made out way into the old narrow streets filled with leaning timber houses giving a really authentic medieval feel to the city. We found a great Crêperie for lunch, and choose a table on the old terrace sheltered by old timber details. Crêperies are a great budget option for travellers in France. Order a Crêpe salée or a Galette (buckwheat crêpe) for a filling lunch that will cost less than 10 euros a plate and finish off with a sweet crepe for dessert. A typical and budget meal, a Crêperie will give you a real taste of France.  GallettesTroyes

Troyes, France. A Beautiful Journey

Walking back to the car we took a little detour to the Cathedral of Troyes, where Joan of Arc stopped to say a prayer before heading off to battles, and strolled down the river and into the newer part of town. A simple but typically French town, a quick stop in Troyes can be more than just shopping.

Besos, Dianne