Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Burgundy Trip Continued: Dinner in Ladoix

Many restaurants in or near Beaune are closed on Monday nights, and this being the Monday after the Hospices de Beaune auction weekend, we figured that we might have to eat dinner at some chain restaurant such as the "Buffalo Grill," the oddly Texan-themed place we saw one day. But fear not, the knowledgeable staff at Hotel Villa Louise, our little hotel in Aloxe-Corton, pointed us in the direction of La Terrace de Corton, a place in Ladoix with a "Bib Gourmand", a recognition from the Michelin Guide that the restaurant offers a very good meal for $40 or less. This dinner turned out to be quite memorable, both for the food and the company, if sadly, not for the wine.

It was pouring Monday night and we were starving by the time go to the restaurant, located on Rte 74 - no backroad navigation necessary. The decor was pleasant, a country inn type of style with large fireplace in the front room. Ours was one of four tables occupied in the whole place - a slow rainy Monday night. A group of 6 guys sat at a large table loudly enjoying themselves, a suave looking middle-aged man dined alone, enjoying a half bottle of white with his first course and then a half of red with his main dish, and a handsome middle-aged blond woman sat at the table closest to the fire with her yellow lab for company. She had a 750ml bottle of red to herself.
BrooklynLady began with a local specialty, a slice of country ham with parsley. This dish appeared on almost every menu in Burgundy. A thick slice of ham, not too salty, a hearty chewiness, almost nutty in flavor, with a cool and mushy parsley gel, very fresh and green. A great contrast of texture and flavor, and the accompanying cornichons were delicious too.

I started with another local classic - poached eggs in red wine. I could eat this every day if my cardiologist would only loosen up. Three small perfectly poached eggs arrived on pillows of carmelized shallots, all on top of a pool of heavenly sauce made with red wine, more shallots, bits of thick slab bacon, plenty of butter, and I don't know what else - but c'est magnifique!

We then shared escargots prepared traditionally, marinated in Chablis for a while and then cooked with loads of garlic, parsley, and butter. Escargots in Burgundy are like pastrami sandwiches in New York: they are a part of what makes the local cuisine famous, but it is a dish that locals very rarely actually eat. Anyway, these snails were just yummy, so earthy, with flavors that stayed on your tongue after the plate was cleared. A long finish, I guess you would say.

BrooklynLady then had coq au vin - tasty, but this was truly a coq - a chewey rooster. I ordered a steak, which the chef trotted out into the dining room and grilled in the fireplace. He served it rare with 5 different mustards, including red wine mustard, almond mustard, and my favorite, the tarragon mustard.

Continuing our "when in Rome" policy, we ordered a half bottle of Ladoix wine, the 1999 Domaine Ravaut Ladoix 1er Cru Les Basses Mourottes. We picked this wine because we thought that it would be mature and ready for drinking. 1999 is supposed to be a great vintage for red Burgundy. Although opening a 1999 1er cru from a place like Chambolle-Musigny might be premature, we guessed that a lesser known Cotes de Beaune wine might be ready. It had nice cherry smells and a pretty light red color. But the palate was dominated by a yogurt like, crushed aspirin type of flavor. Very little happening in terms of a mid palate, and a strange vegetal finish. Maybe the wine was not ready for drinking, possibly it was an off bottle. It was not, for me, an auspicious introduction to the world of Ladoix wines.

By the time our main course had arrived, the suave gent had begun a clever tactical assault on the blond woman. He was an Englishman who lived in Spain, but was driving his 1950's Porsche to the one guy in Germany who could repair it. He stopped at this restaurant because it is also a hotel (convenient). She was Danish, travelling on business, missing her husband (for the first part of the conversation anyway). By the time there was only a little wine left in her bottle, she was giggling at enjoying everything he said. My favorite moment was when he said, after learning that she was also staying the night at the hotel, "So will that dog sleep quietly through the night in your room, then?"

BrooklynLady and I spent our drive back to the Villa Louise imitating their funny conversation, these people who were grandparents, enjoying their flirtation on a rainy night in Burgundy in the absence of their respective spouses for that night. I imagined that he walked her to her room, tried to buy an overnight ticket, and was rebuffed - that she was flattered but was never actually considering going further than flirting. BrooklynLady disagreed, and was quite certain that the dog was barking that night. If so, I hope that the next morning they stayed in bed and had poached eggs in red wine sauce.

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