The eastern French city of Dijon is home to more than mustard. The capital of France's Burgundy region, Dijon, reigns over the multitude of wines created from the four types of grapes grown in the area.
"If you don't like the wine of Burgundy, it's because you haven't tried enough. Someone, somewhere should produce something you like. It's a small area, but everyone is a wine maker," said Laurent Delélée of Wine & Voyages, who gave me a tour of the Côte de Nuits near Dijon.
A selection of cheeses at Les Oenophiles in Dijon, including a chèvre (goat's milk) cheese rolled in spicy mustard seeds.
Artichokes from the Rousillion region in the south of France, which have a more intense flavor than green artichokes, at Les Halles market in Dijon.
The fountains of Dijon’s Place de la Libération, outside the Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne (Palace of the Dukes and Estates of Burgundy), now the city hall of Dijon.
Literally translated as spiced bread, pain d’épices is made from rye flour and honey and flavored with cloves, ginger, cinnamon and anise.
Light mousse with anis seed flavor topped with fresh fruits, served with mango compote and a chocolate spoon filled with mango sorbet at Les Oenophiles in Dijon, France.
Radishes from Nantes at Les Halles Market in the center of Dijon.
Strawberries at Les Halles market in Dijon. A hybrid of two types of strawberries grown in France, these have a perfume-like flavor.
You can find many flavors of mustard in Dijon, such as Mango and Thai Spices, Fig and Coriander, Dried Tomato and Espelette Pepper, Dried Apricot and Curry, Grilled Onion and Wild Thyme, Garlic and Lemon, Chablis and Morel Mushrooms, and Parmesan and Basil.
Un kir, a French cocktail made with crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and white wine, can be snazzed up by replacing crème de cassis with its sister flavors: strawberry, peach, blackberry, and even melon.
Théâtre en Mai, Burgundy's yearly theater festival held in Dijon.
The Côte de Nuits, whose vineyards lured Thomas Jefferson in 1787, produce some of the most expensive wines in the world, including Romanée-Conti, a single bottle of which was sold at auction for $10,953 in 2010. You can't buy these vineyards -- they're not for sale. You have to inherit them, and the only way to increase the your plot is to marry into a few more rows.
The city's boutique wine stores also sell crème de cassis, a sweet, dark red liqueur made from blackcurrants. The French mix the liqueur with white wine to make a kir, an aperitif so popular among women it could be called the cosmopolitan of France. In Burgundy, crème de cassis can be found in everything from gelatin candy to mustard.
Dijon's beautiful historic quarter is filled with artisanal food shops housed in timbered buildings dating back to medieval times. While the famous Maille shop, opened in 1747, is among them, serving one of the world's best known mustards straight from the pump, boutiques specializing in pain d'epices offer much more delectable tasting stops for the sweet-toothed traveler. Literally translated as spiced bread, pain d'epices is made from rye flour and honey, and relies on many spices, including cloves, ginger, cinnamon and anise, to give it flavor instead of butter or sugar.
One of the most famous pain d'epices shops, Mulot and Petitjean, founded in 1796, offers several varieties of pain d'epices. My favorite was filled with jam and garnished with candied fruit.
If you are looking for mustard though, Dijon is the place for you. An unimaginable number of mustard flavors are available in Dijon, from Mango and Thai Spices to Chablis and Morel Mushrooms. Just as crème de cassis can be mixed with a white Burgundy to make a classic aperitif, Dijon mustard heated with white wine and a touch of cream makes a simple but delicious pan sauce.
With so many possibilities, if you don't like the mustard of Dijon, it's because you haven't tried enough yet.
How to Make a Kir: Mix one part crème de cassis with three to four parts white wine. The cassis should be poured into the glass first, followed by a dry white wine. Champagne can replace the white wine for a Kir Royale.
- Fly into Paris and take a TGV highspeed train from Gare de Lyon to Dijon. You'll be there in only 1.5 hours. You can check fares at Air France (www.airfrance.us) and Rail Europe (www.raileurope.com)
Where to Eat:
- La Dame d'Aquitaine (www.ladamedeaquitaine.fr), an upscale restaurant housed in a 13th-century crypt, complete with stone columns and vaulted arches. The menu includes everything from pigeon and duck to beef topped with foie gras.
- Les Oenophiles (www.restaurant-lesoenophiles.com), a secluded but elegant restaurant with an extensive wine list and a cheese selection that includes chèvre rolled in mustard seeds.
Where to Stay:
- Best Western Hostellerie Du Chapeau Rouge (www.chapeau-rouge.fr): Don't let the word "hostellerie" fool you - this is far from a hostel. With a Michelin-star restaurant tucked into its ground floor, this quiet and centrally-located hotel is the perfect place to relax after a long day.
For more information:
- ATOUT France/France Tourism Development Agency (www.franceguide.com)
- Dijon Tourist Office (www.visitdijon.com)
Follow Olivia Katrandjian on Twitter: www.twitter.com/okatrandjian