Saturday June 20 1998
Bourgogne was already an institution half a century ago when Georges Simenon
identified it as a favorite haunt of Inspector Maigret, who embodied the author’s love of classic
bourgeois cuisine. This was so heart-felt, and so detailed, that Robert Coutine could recreate the recipes in a splendid little
volume with Simenon’s imprimatur. You’ll still find this sort of fare at Ma
Bourgogne: simple old-fashioned dishes that elsewhere have become clichéd and,
in the process, cheapened and corrupted.
so witheringly hot that I opt for a cold lunch: gazpacho
followed by steak tartare and finishing with cantal cheese. How boring this could be! And yet the cold
soup is dense, rich and spicy, with identifiable fragments of ripe tomato,
pepper and cucumber. The robust steak tartare has the
deep red color and the melt-in-the-mouth texture of
expensive lean meat, not the tough fatty scrag ends
that are so often ground through the mill in tourist traps. And finally, the cantal: rich and crumbly like Mrs.
Montgomery’s farmhouse cheddar, with a thick moldy
crust, just as Quentin Crew describes it in Foods from France--a million miles
from the factory-made blocks of rubber that now pass for cantal
in the supermarkets. I comment to the waiter on its quality and he affirms that
it still comes to them straight from the mountains of the Auvergne (perhaps
from the high pastures of Jules Porte himself).