David’s Discoveries: A great bistro in Burgundy — L’Auberge de Jack, Milly Lamartine

Fred Flintstone might recognize the giant ribsteak served at L’Auberge de Jack. This poster-hung, cozy country bistro in Milly Lamartine is one of my favorite locales in Burgundy. Draw up a wooden chair and eat and drink with the locals. It’s unpretentious, affordable, and, à propos of locales, entirely local in its sourcing. It’s fun, too: a joyful dining experience.

Fred Flintstone would feel right at home: scenic, stone-built Milly Lamartine perches on a hillside a few miles from a famous prehistoric site, the Roche de Solutré, known for its bones, stones and wines.

Owners Sylvie Bouschet and her chef-husband Jack are from Mâcon, 10 miles east of Milly Lamartine. They’ve never heard of the Flintstones or locavores, either. But eaters of local food worldwide might want to make L’Auberge de Jack the template for their movement: there’s no mission statement accompanying the Charolais beef, raised by a family farmer near Charolles, 20 miles away, and served rare with thick-cut, housemade fries, some of the best you’ll ever eat. Sylvie and Jack don’t trade on common sense: for 30 years they’ve been buying wholesome, quality products from trustworthy people nearby.

But ask and you’ll discover the plump pork sausages simmered in Beaujolais come from Monsieur Girard, the butcher in Pierreclos, another handsome village, down the road a piece. The Beaujolais comes from over the bluff, near Solutré, ten minutes south by corkscrew road. That’s where the Burgundy and Beaujolais regions overlap. Excellent, underrated wines come from the eroded, limestone escarpments: Pouilly-Fuissé, Saint-Véran, Moulin à Vent and others.

Foodies know that cheese is part of the French dining experience codified by UNESCO. Sylvie and Jack haven’t heard of UNESCO’s efforts to protect French fare. No matter. Their snow-white or moldy goat’s milk chèvres are handmade from raw milk. Local dairy farmers continue doing what they’ve always done hereabouts – making cheese, modestly.

Admittedly, the chocolate in Jack’s monstrously exquisite Marquise doesn’t come from here. That’s the trouble with chocolate, unless you live on the equator. Happily, the coffee isn’t local either: it’s roasted in Italy. Maybe that’s why it’s good. Most French coffee is undrinkable.

Not so the wine: Burgundy’s whites (from Chardonnay) and reds (either Pinot Noir or Gamay or both) have rarely been better.

On the list at L’Auberge de Jack most of the wines are made in small quantities within a radius of a few miles. From the main road you see Olivier Merlin’s vineyards at La Roche Vineuse across the way. True, Merlin’s red comes from Moulin à Vent, 10 miles south. But it proves that humble Gamay can achieve greatness.

The most astonishing bottling on Sylvie and Jack’s list is from Domaine des Héritiers du Comte Lafon, a few hundred yards away, an offshoot of the celebrated Meursault winery. Their Mâcon Clos de la Crochette exudes not only citrus. It’s infused with the minerals unique to this area. And it’s blissfully free of oak.

Maybe a new term should be coined: “Locabiber.” A drinker of local wine. Burgundy’s a good place to start the movement.

L’Auberge de Jack: Milly Lamartine. Tel: 03 85 36 63 72. Open for lunch only Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, for lunch and dinner Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday dinner and Monday.

[flickr image via filtran]