22 August 2016

n.d.p. in lyon: le fleurie, 69007

Far-flung Lyonnais wine bistrot Le Fleurie exists in a wonderful parallel universe where the old Léon Daudet chestnut - that Beaujolais wine comprises the “third river” nourishing Lyon, after the Rhône and the Saône - still rings true.

Le Fleurie’s cuisine is solid and satisfying and co-proprietor Jacinthe Gomes’ concise, inspired wine list is the model of what a fine Lyonnais list should like: reds divided evenly between Beaujolais and the northern Rhône, with whites deriving mainly from Burgundy, the Mâconnais, with a dab of Rhône. Classic selections all, and at great prices!

Yet the fact remains that the population of Lyon, at time of writing, famously prefers almost anything to Beaujolais, and tends instead to identify with Rhône wines. Just why is a matter of speculation, into which I’m happy to delve at length later. For now, another fact remains: most people are idiots. Most Lyonnais, most French, most Americans, most drinkers, most humans. The rest of us are happy to go out of our way for lunch at Le Fleurie.

12 August 2016

n.d.p. in beaujolais: l'auberge du moulin, saint-didier-sur-chalaronne

During les trentes glorieuses - the thirty-year heyday of post-war French economic expansion, roughly the late forties through the late seventies - the D906 from Mâcon to Lyon was perennially swarmed with vacationing families and business travelers, who provided a steady clientele for restaurants like Paul Blanc’s Le Chapon Blanc in Thoissey (closed: 2004). Such restaurants have since gone the way of most tourism in the surrounding Beaujolais countryside, succumbing, variously, to the construction of the A6 autoroute, the rise of low-cost airlines permitting cheap pan-European travel, and the Lyonnais population’s notorious (and not-so-mysterious) turn away from Beaujolais wine in the 1990’s. In many towns, all that remain nowadays are cheap roadside PMU’s, often housed in stone buildings bearing sun-bleached, elegiac paint advertisements for the region’s disappeared gastronomic restaurants.

I was therefore overjoyed the other evening to visit L’Auberge du Moulin, a shady terrace that offers, just off the roadside in the sleepy, mouthful town of Saint-Didier-sur-Chalaronne, an immaculately preserved throwback to the fine regional cuisine of yesteryear. The restaurant is acclaimed among local vignerons for its sharp Beaujolais-Maconnais wine list, its delicate fried fish, and its heaping portions of whole frogs.

Yet over a round of eau de vie, long after sundown when mosquitos began urging everyone homewards, I was dismayed to learn that L’Auberge du Moulin, too, will soon close. From September, iron-haired owner Patrick Piron will convert the restaurant, which presently offers lunch and dinner service and one rentable room, into a table d’hôte offering four rooms and private meal service by request. I may be getting distraught over what is merely a modification in service-style, but the fact is that the restaurant, already rather hidden, will become almost imperceptible. And this is indeed a shame, for like its only nearby peer, the Auberge du Col du Truges in Villié-Morgon, L’Auberge du Moulin is a moving demonstration of the heights of Beaujolais cuisine.