Rich, creamy and pungent Époisses was first made by Cistercian monks at the Abbaye de Pontigny and the Abbaye de Fontenay in the 15th century. The secret to its unique flavour is Marc de Bourgogne, the local brandy in which the cheese is dipped daily for two months during the ageing process. Other varieties are dipped in Chablis (Affidelice), coated with ash (Aisy Cendre) or salted (Soumaintrain) – but try the original first.
Traditional Époisses features on the cheeseboards of restaurants throughout the region and is delicious and indulgent as a sauce on steak or in a Croque Monsieur. Visit Burgundy’s main producers: Gaugry in Brochon near Dijon, which offers guided tours of the entire production site; and Berthaut based in the village of Époisses itself, which has been making the cheese since 1956. This is a serious cheese for serious cheese lovers.
The strutting Bresse chickens that you occasionally glimpse from the roadside while driving through rural corners of Burgundy have all the right colours for a start: with red crests, clean white feathers and blue feet, they are the animal embodiment of le tricolore. Fed solely on cereals (corn) and milk-derived products and left to wander free range, they produce a delicious meat highly prized in the region. Consider booking in for lunch at Le Saint Sauveur in Varennes St-Sauveur, where chef Pascal knows his chickens and roasts them to perfection – with just a little seasoning and herbs sprinkled on the skin, and served with a reduced stock jus. The skin is thin, crisp, golden and unfatty, while the meat is succulent, firm and packs a flavour punch way above its weight.
Escargots are eaten all over France – but Burgundy snails (helix pomatia, also known as Roman snails) are an iconic regional delicacy and generally larger, plumper and sweeter than their petits gris counterparts. One characteristic that sets them apart from other snails produced for eating is that they die in captivity and can only be cultivated in the wild – so there are strict controls over their harvesting of them, making them relatively rare. After being cooked in bouillon (stock), Burgundy snails are dressed in their shells with butter, parsley and finely chopped garlic and baked in the oven. Try them with a dry white wine with a touch of minerality – Chablis is ideal – at specialist establishments such as Hélice-l’Escargotier Beaunois, or the numerous other restaurants in and around Beaune.
Anis de Flavigny
These little white aniseed sweets are a symbol of Burgundy, still manufactured today using the same ancestral methods in the former abbey of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain by the third generation of the Troubat family. Legend has it that a Roman traveller brought aniseed back from Syria to modern-day France, which was later cultivated in Flavigny, coated with sugar and offered to guests as early as 1591. A range of different flavours are made – orange, mint, liquorice, rose, lemon and violet – and their tin boxes have even become collectors’ items.