The next morning, I was in a delightful mood after what turned out to be a pleasant evening. Arnaud welcomed me at the breakfast table, and I told him that I had decided to drive back to Beaune to visit the “Moutarderie” (I love this word). I was on a mission: very simply, to find the best mustard!
Sometime later, I was standing in front of a very modern steel glass façade surrounded by beautiful old houses. I didn’t want to think about whether I liked it or not. “What’s this?” I asked myself. It wasn’t what I was expecting. But my brain was jumping all over the place, (perhaps like mustard seeds in a hot pan), but I had to force myself to calm down a bit and “wait and see.” I strolled around and quickly discovered they offer tours of the place! Voilà, this sounded promising.
The tours started not far from the store in what seemed to be the original building. My curiosity grew when I entered the first room. My eyes were drawn to the vitrine filled with beautiful old decorative mustard pots. At the back of the room were old wooden crates once used to transport the mustard pots to faraway countries and now used as seats for us to watch a short and very informative video. To the left was an old wooden sack barrow, leaning against the wall, taking a break.
Scattered around were small round tables with cloches (I wondered what was underneath them )
We were taken to another room where the ingredients were displayed. Mustard seeds, vinegar, salt, water, and sugar, and pestle and mortars. But of course, the balance of the ingredients which are used for the recipe is a tightly kept secret.
“Where do the seeds come from?” I wondered. Local or from other countries.
Next, we saw the mustard “machine”…otherwise known as a “press”. It was an impressive wooden construction, built to last.
The best was saved to last: the mustard tasting. We learned of “gustatory” qualities ….I felt right at home here because it reminded me of a wine tasting when our guide
explained the different taste receptors on our tongues. After the tasting, we were even given cute little mustard jars to fill ourselves. How thoughtful of them.
Finally, we were invited to go to the boutique, which was sleek, very contemporary and colourful. It was inviting, with a WOW effect, pleasing to the eye, a symmetrical display, and warm with vibrant colours. The design of the furniture made it all appear rather aesthetic.
Before I committed myself to buying some mustard, I signed up for the second tour!! What a contrast! I had never seen such modern hi-tech in food production.
They showed us the whole process, from where the seeds are stored in silos, going through all kinds of fancy machines to finally being packaged. But tradition prevails, the seeds were still ground in several stone mills. Curiously, despite the production area being behind glass, (food hygiene), I still had a burning sensation in my eyes. The guide, a dashingly handsome young man, who could walk the talk, very entertaining and lovely to listen to, told us that there were some local mustard seed growers who supplied the moutarderie. And, our guide also mentioned (more than once) that they also produce the original Burgundy mustard, which was made with green grape juice (verjus) and not with the usual vinegar. It’s milder than the Dijon mustard.
I had already seen it earlier, the interesting mustard-tasting bar. Bar is the word because it was “mustard on tap”. There were many containers, and a dispenser put a blob of mustard on a wooden spoon. I licked my way around, and yes, the Burgundy mustard was totally different. It went on my shopping list.
Finally, convinced, I decided to tour the boutique for a spot of shopping.
The whole product range was up for grabs. I picked several jars of interesting mustard, basil, cassis, estragon, walnut, green pepper, and an Espelette chilli (!!). And of course, how could I not take some traditional grain mustard? I wasn’t so taken by the wine mustards (Chablis and Pinot Noir). Later perhaps! But the Burgundy mustard was in my treasured collection.
I left a small fortune at the cashier, but came away with lots of pretty jars, in pretty colours in pretty paper bags to take back home. I was very much looking forward to discovering new recipes and seeing which mustard I could use.
My lasting memory from this experience was the sheer enjoyment when the sharpness of the mustard got to my nose. (La moutarde me monte au nez !) as I was told.
Strolling through Beaune, I was reflecting on my culinary adventure, which was drawing to a close. I had seen and done much more than I expected. This beautiful castle, in such a tiny village, was a fantastic hotel. Not wholly unexpected. But then Arnaud and Hélène’s devotion towards their delicious wines embraced me, so that I had arrived as a stranger but would leave as a friend.
Always seeking the unexpected, I loved following my nose which, so I thought, is the best way to travel. Like when I was in England, I experienced that if you don’t ask, you will never find out. Of course, a little female charm can go a long way. I was lucky to have encountered people who love what they do and who could appreciate my desire to discover what they can offer. And Maurice and all the other charming people succumbed to my avidity for the good things in life.