The mint façade of 10 Rue d’Alsace belongs to Les Pôpiettes, a trendy wine bar and restaurant in the center of Beaune. You can’t miss it. It came highly recommended by our B&B hosts who also suggested we make a reservation because “the place gets booked,” thanks to the talented chef Giada Scarton and the innovative spin she puts on quintessential Burgundian cuisine.
It was our first dinner in Beaune. We were still high on the excitement of finally being in Burgundy to enjoy all the wonderful food and wine Jonathan and I had been talking about for years. With a modicum of confidence we decided to pick a bottle from the wine list as if the two wine tastings and a brief exploration of a couple picturesque wine villages on foot was enough to make us sommeliers in training. We went with a Savigny-Les Beanue by domaine Dubois Bernard & Fils since we recognized the name Beaune. It was just okay at first, but definitely got better as the meal progressed having had the chance to breath.
SIDE NOTE: Unless a Burgundy red has been cellared for a long time, it will usually benefit from breathing for up to an hour, or even overnight if you open the bottle and just shove the cork back in.
We chose the tasting menu, which was reasonably priced and gave us the option of choosing one entrée (which is a starter in France and Europe), one main course, and a dessert.
I started with the escargots (snails) served outside their shells in a thick umami flavored cream of potato the consistency of a thin puree. The plate was garnished with parsley oil, edible flowers and herbs. It was so precious and perfect that I struggled with taking my first bite.
Jonathan had the smoked arctic char with a sesame glaze, apples, shaved beets, and a crème fraîche with a hint of horseradish. This was amazing. Soft and crunchy, sweet and salty, each bite a wave of freshness comforting your mouth. Appealing to the eye as well with bright purple and orange hues popping like the first few brushstrokes on a newly stretched canvas.
For my main plat I had the duck leg confit or “cuisse de canard confite.” I love duck and have always felt the French cook it to perfection. I think my favorite duck dish of all time was the French Laundry plate we had for Jonathan’s 30th. This dish did not disappoint. The hearty portion of duck leg was moist and falling off the bone. Underneath a puree of pommes (mashed potatoes) that were rich and creamy as mashed potatoes should be. They also had a subtle hint of sweetness, which balanced the salty reduction drizzled like a gravy over everything.
Jonathan figured he had to order the “beuf bourguignon,” at least once while we were in the area so that’s what he got. It is the signature dish of Burgundy for a reason, but it can be very heavy if not done right. Gladly it was one of the best versions of beef burgundy we’ve ever had. The flavors were true to the traditional dish, rich and full of glutamates, but somehow each bite felt less like a bomb of acid reflux than what we’re used to when we think of Beef Burgundy. Kudos to Les Pôpiettes for achieving this.
For dessert I went for the plate of assorted cheeses, “assiette de fromages.” The lesbians in matching button-down plaid cardigans sitting next to us got their cheese plate a few minutes earlier, and it looked amazing. I also figured the cheeses we enjoyed at our B&B that morning were so good that anything Les Pôpiettes put in front of me would be delicious.
The Époisses was awesome—as it always is. The Brillat-Savarin cheese was my favorite though. It’s a young soft white-crusted cow’s milk cheese that is luscious and creamy as it melts in your mouth. It’s not stinky, only slightly sour, and pairs well with bread and whatever jam you can find—or in this case, some rose syrup soaked fruits. The other cheeses were an aged goat, a gruyère, and one more I can’t remember. I ate them by themselves and with some of the soft speculoos short bread (like a soft ginger bread cookie) sprinkled on the platter. Yum!
Jonathan almost went for the familiar “pot glace Ben & Jerry’s,” but figured he’d go with the slightly less familiar choice and went for the chocolate crème brûlée that came with a giant scoop of raspberry sorbet on top for that perfect play of tart vs rich sweetness. Another triumph.
The plates were cleared and the bill was paid. We stayed at our table and nursed what was left of our Savigny-Les Beanue, trying to prolong the evening in hope our first day in Beaune would never come to an end. But the Sunday evening had come to a close. Locals and tourists alike, holding hands and strolling through the old city illuminated by the center church, surrounding bistros and wine merchants windows made their way back to their B&Bs and boutique hotels. And when it seemed like we’d done enough damage to our cholesterol levels and before they closed the restaurant down around us, we left. Dragging our feet as we took a long walk around the city to breathe as much of it all in before turning out the lights on what was a magical beginning to our vacation.
If you’re traveling to Beaune I highly recommend you make a reservation in advance at Les Pôpiettes. I wasn’t able to call them so I just contacted them through their Facebook page and they were very responsive!