Beautiful, buccolic Burgundy

This morning I did my usual troll through Google news sites and came upon a bunch of articles about a Chicago lawyer, Shaun Sperling, whose Bar Mitzvah in 1992 had a Madonna theme.

In addition to wondering why this was headline-worthy after 20 years, I couldn’t help thinking that it’s more than a little incongruous to theme your Jewish coming-of-age event around the Mother of the Christian Lord. Then I realized that Shaun meant Madonna, the singer, and I thought, “Yet another reason people think Jews are weird.”

And how, you may wonder, does this relate to my being in Burgundy? Other than that I stumbled across the articles while in Burgundy, not much. Except that here, in this beautiful corner of France, a couple of hours from Switzerland and surrounded by peaceful countryside, I can’t imagine anyone even cares about Bar Mitzvahs, Madonna, or Kabbalah. Here it’s all about cows, goats, chickens, and ham.

I call this one “Chicken Red Riding Hood.” He lives up the hill.

 I’m afraid we ate some of their relatives for dinner last night.

Notice I said ham, not pigs. That’s because I haven’t seen a pig in its entirety. However, I have seen many, many pig products: jambon (that’s ham), lardons (that’s little pork bits), and dozens of varieties of salami at the local E LeClerc supermarche.

Meanwhile, I haven’t seen all that much beef or chicken, but there are cows and chickens and roosters all over our temporary home, the hamlet of La Cote (don’t bother trying to find it on a map; it’s right next to Saint Symphorien-de-Marmagne, which itself is almost too small to make it onto a map).

My point is, I think the reason we haven’t seen any pigs is that they’ve all been turned into food. And the reason we haven’t seen any beef or chicken at the store is that no one’s managed to turn the cows and chickens into food. Or maybe we haven’t looked hard enough.

In addition to the livestock, this part of Burgundy is home to some of the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen. There are roses everywhere, in all different hues. Yesterday we visited Cormatin castle, where there were sunflowers that are nearly 10 feet high. And topiaries in all kinds of animal shapes.

Roses at Cormatin Castle

Flowers in Saint-Symphorien-de-Marmagne, near where we are staying in Burgundy

Flower at Cormatin Castle

Rose petals in Autun

One of many topiaries at Cormatin Castle 

I’d promised a description of Sketch, the restaurant in the Mayfair district in London where our friend Chris Baldwin sent us for dinner Monday night. It’s located in the former House of Dior, and it’s the most whimsically designed place I’ve ever seen, largely because the Gallery, where we ate, is actually the design project of UK artist Martin Creed. (

Nothing matches: every chair, table, napkin, piece of cutlery and serving dish is different. Each of the four walls in The Gallery is painted differently. The bathroom is a collection of pods that are shaped like eggs and look as if they were dropped out of a spaceship piloted by aliens.

The menu is equally inventive, and the food is superb. I had melt-in-your-mouth lamb with a variety of fancy ingredients that included Paimpol coco beans (they’re not chocolate. they’re white) and aubergine caviar (a smear of eggplant). Noah had Udon noodles with a variety of fancy ingredients that included Judas ear mushrooms and girolles (wrinkly mushrooms). Elizabeth had salmon poached in Guinness (the beer, not the book). Dave had Swiss chard ravioli with a variety of fancy ingredients that included pine nuts and basil brunois (no idea).

For dessert we had something called La Rochelle (not the Westchester suburb), which was a collection of sorbets, fruit, and homemade marshmallows in a giant bowl with what can best be described as a meringue slide. We also shared Dave’s choice, which was called Indian Jelly, which sounded disgusting but was actually quite tasty: it had ice cream, coconut lassi, caramel and little squares of what must have been marmalade but reminded me of candied fruit (which, actually, is just another form of jelly, isn’t it?).

The meringue slide dessert

Indian Jelly


2 Responses

  1. Those are some gorgeous flowers–I’d be happy to go to France just for the gardens!

  2. I love your page, It is beautiful.

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