It is almost time to say goodbye to France for another year but before I do I just had to put up a post about the most extraordinary culinary experience of our trip.
Sarolta and I love hosting our annual culinary tour in Paris because, well, we love the city and the amazing food and drink and markets and boulangeries and patisseries and fromageries etc. etc. We love cooking together with our guests and showing them around Paris and after all these years visiting we feel pretty good about finding our way around the culinary hotspots. But then again France is an amazing country! Sarolta and I started brainstorming about the possibility of offering a culinary tour that perhaps could offer the best of big, vibrant Paris as well as the small, bucolic countryside with it’s vineyards and pretty vistas of some other region of France. A place where the regional culinary scene is exciting yet steeped in tradition and the wine is amazing.
After last year’s tour my husband and I went on a little cycling holiday in Burgundy. Our first two nights were spent in Beaune and it was love at first sight. Beaune is a picturesque walled city with an amazing Saturday market and many great, family owned food shops. It is surrounded by some of the very best vineyards in the world and the art of eating well is taken very seriously here.
After this year’s Paris tour concluded Sarolta and I were able to take some time to do research for next year’s trip and so we decided this was the perfect opportunity to go and re-visit this beautiful part of the country. We hoped to see if somehow we could add on a few days next year and provide a taste of Burgundy that would complement the Paris portion of our current tour.
With my sweet Mum in tow we booked an apartment, packed our bags, took an easy 2 1/2 hour train ride and arrived in beautiful Beaune in the mid afternoon. It was everything I remembered it to be. Lovely light, amazing wine and a good number of foods shops and restaurants that looked inviting. It was then I remembered that I had seen an article in Food and Wine about a place called The Cook’s Atelier run by a mother and daughter duo who host culinary tours and cooking classes in a beautiful light-filled store and kitchen space right in the centre of the city.
Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini own The Cook’s Atelier and love good food, good wine and Beaune, Burgundy. We checked on their website and realized that we were right in between the days when they offer scheduled classes but Sarolta emailed Marjorie, who couldn’t have been more accommodating, and a private shopping tour/cooking class was soon booked for the following day.
It may sound strange for people who teach cooking classes to be taking cooking classes, but here is the thing: cooking is all about learning. Anyone who genuinely loves to cooks understands that they will never know everything there is to know about ingredients and techniques, that there is always something new to learn and taste. This is what inspires me everyday. Also, if we were to bring a group to Burgundy we would need to find someone who really knows the local markets and shops and wine scene. From looking at The Cook’s Atelier’s beautiful website I knew Marjorie and Kendall were not only living the dream in Beaune but they were also sharing, in a thoughtful way, all of their knowledge of a place they obviously love.
The day we spent with Marjorie and Kendall was beyond magical. We shopped at some of their favourite places and made our way back to their atelier which is filled with an interesting selection of small production wines from France, Italy and Germany, linens and carefully curated cooking tools. Antique (refurbished) mezzalunas, French rolling pins, vintage marble mortars with wooden pestles and gleaming copper pots. From the main floor retail area you climb a flight of stairs to the kitchen and on the very top floor is a welcoming dining room complete with a long, zinc-topped table that can comfortably accommodate 10 guests. Flea market silver, vintage white linens, cream coloured ceramic plates and bowls, small vases filled with flowers and plenty of flickering candles. The entire place in everything I love in a kitchen/dining space.
We headed to the kitchen, tied on our aprons and made the Burgundian classic gougeres. We snacked on radishes with demi-sel butter, thin slices of cured meats and enjoyed well-chilled glasses of Crement. We had the most delicious salad composed of perfectly ripe chanterais melon and San Daniele prosciutto with purple basil and glasses of Chablis. The main course was a seared duck breast with spring vegetables that Kendall paired with a local Pinot Noir followed by the most amazing cheese course featuring the classic cheese of Burgundy, Epoisses. Dessert was an apricot tart, served with a good strong espresso. Just for good measure there was a plate piled high with freshly baked madeleines. We were presented with small jars of homemade apricot preserves when it (sadly) came time to leave.
I loved it all. The conversation and the introduction to some great shops in Beaune. The instruction and hands-on cooking together. The tips and techniques that we picked up along the way. The amazing food we enjoyed and the perfect simplicity in the way it was plated. The thoughtfulness of the wine pairings. Seeing the real ease, but very strong work ethic, of a mother and a daughter working together to make their dreams come true.
We spoke with Marjorie and Kendall about our plans to bring a group to visit next June. They are enthusiastic to show us around the city, cook together and even arrange for a wine tour by car or bike.
We can’t wait to go back and hope that some of you will be able to join us. Paris/Beaune Culinary tour 2015. That has got a pretty nice ring to it!