Cut to the "Beaune"
Though reluctant to say goodbye to the beauty of champagne country, we left Reims early the next morning for the medieval walled city of Beaune in the Dijon area of France.
After endlessly driving around the narrow, cobblestoned streets searching for our hotel, Barry quipped that this was the last totally walled-in city left in France, so we needed to tour the city a few times to really capture its old-world glory. Ha, ha.
Charlie eventually figured out that our hotel was not within the city walls, but beyond them on the other side of the autostrada. Our Beaune “tour” finally ended and we arrived at the Hostellerie de Levernois, a member of the Relaix & Chateaux Group some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the world. We drove onto wooden bridge over a storybook brook to enter the property that was nestled in acres of gardens. I immediately wanted to move in. The rooms, decorated in country French florals (well, we were in country France), were set apart from the main building that housed the check-in desk and restaurant. Each room had a lovely terrace overlooking those gardens and, unlike any of our other hotels in Europe, this one had wash cloths. I was in heaven.
After settling in, we drove back to Beaune for lunch and more sightseeing… this time on foot. The city is truly out of an Alexander Dumas novel with worn cobble-stone streets...
A light lunch in the plaza at a charming cafe
and a whole roll of film later...
we returned to the hotel to get ready for dinner in the hotel’s world-class restaurant.
When I had packed for this trip I knew we’d be on our feet working ‘on location’ most of the time so I basically threw in “crew” clothes: cargo pants, jeans, tee shirts and comfortable ‘tie shoes’ and sneakers. But, just in case we had a fancy night out, I packed my DKNY black pants suit and a couple of silk shells. This was the night for DKNY and a strand of pearls.
Jason’s room offered the best garden view so we met on his terrace before dinner to share the bottle of vintage Ruinart champagne that Guy had given us as a farewell gift.
We sipped the smooth as silk wine and watched the sunset. As our reservation witching hour approached we finished the bubbly and strolled to dinner through the gardens
and over the expansive front lawn.
The hotel’s multi-star restaurant didn’t disappoint in upscale elegance and amazing food. Richard and Charlie each had the five course tasting menu that included sweetbreads. Richard had never before tried sweetbreads and wasn’t all that excited to see them included as one of his courses. Innards! Shiver! But in the spirit of our food adventure, he tasted them. He liked them. He really liked them. When Jason asked what they were, none of us had the heart to tell him. Jim had Bresse chicken with a sauce reduction that must have taken hours. Barry had a three course dinner that included red mullet sautéed with Provencal herbs. My dinner was baby rack of lamb and included a fois gras appetizer that I still dream about today. Jason? He ventured out of his shoe-leather-meat comfort zone and tried a filet of sole dinner which contained no food or ingredient that he hadn’t eaten in some way, shape or form back home in Knoxville.
The wines: Burgogne and Sancerre.
Desserts ran the gamut from chocolate delights to fruit pastries. But as delicious at it was, what I remember most about the meal was the cheese tray… though ‘tray’ is a gross understatement. It was a cheese cart. A big cheese cart. Two tiers! Filled with every imaginable French cheese. I realized that when the waiter asked me what cheeses I’d like to try I was suppose to select three or four – perhaps five at the most, but nooooooooo. I wasn’t going to be dining there again any time soon, so I went for it and asked to taste everything… the stinkier the cheese the better. I was in cheese heaven. All-in-all the restaurant, considered one of France’s greatest, lived up to its reputation.
The next morning we ventured to the gourmet mustard-making facility of Edmond Fallot to shoot the making of his renowned mustard.
As soon as we arrived we were given clear plastic cover-ups designed like scrubs to cover our clothes, shower caps to contain our hair and face masks to filter our breath. The plant was very sanitary.
The guys shot the bottling room, the labeling room and the packing room.
When they finished, we were led to the second floor where the 20 + varieties of mustard are made, including gingerbread mustard and black currant mustard and my personal favorite, walnut mustard.
The fermenting fumes of vinegar and peppers were overwhelming.
As Jason climbed a ladder to shoot inside one of the huge stainless steel vats, his eyes began to burn and tears rushed down his cheeks. He couldn’t see – not a good thing if you’re a cameraman. Every other guy was busy doing something, so I grabbed some tissues from a nearby table, climbed up a second ladder and wiped his eyes… then wiped my eyes… then his again, as he leaned over the vat and rolled tape.
There wasn't a dry eye in the house! But Jason was finally able to see his way through the taping.
The shoot ended with our Fallot tour guide taking us all to Le Benaton for lunch where ‘my’ guys shot the chef making a langoustine (tiny baby lobster) dish that he layered in tiers on our plates with Fallot mustards of the Gods. The dish was heavenly.
Lunch over, good byes said, it was onto Lyon.