Dinner in Jura at Bistrot La Minette

When I read that Bistrot La Minette was holding a dinner featuring the food and wine of Jura, I was thrilled. We don’t attend as many of these types of dinners as we’d like, but luckily Bistrot La Minette’s extremely reasonable price point ($35 for four courses, $20 for wine pairings) made this event feasible. Several years back I had attended a Jura wine tasting at my beloved Wine Country and have been haunted by the wines ever since; they are truly among the most “interesting” wines I’ve tried, and they are not easy to find. In my opinion, a tasting menu is the perfect way to experience these wines, as 1) the food pairings give them context, and 2) a little goes a long way; a bottle would be too much for me, but a few glasses is just right.

We had never been to Bistrot La Minette, but it has been on our Short List for quite some time. The interior was warm and charming, with a simple French bistro vibe. The seating was tight and cozy, but we made friends with our neighbors. Despite it being a full house, we had attentive service from our servers. The lighting was not too dark, but just low enough that we didn’t feel we could take any pictures that would do the meal justice.

Our dinner began with a tartelette au fromage (cheese fondue tart), with a side of bitter greens, served with François Montand sparkling rosé blend (Jura, NV). The cheese tart was quite tasty, with a flaky crust and moist cheese filling, and the bitter greens made for a nice contrast. On its own, the sparkling rosé blend was a refreshing, pleasant sipper, with some pinot noir fruit notes. When paired with the food, I was really impressed how its acidity complemented the richness of the cheese fondue, as well as the fact that it didn’t clash with the bitter greens (salad pairings are surprisingly difficult, especially when bitter greens and vinaigrette are involved). The versatility of this wine makes it an excellent candidate for something I’d like to be able to buy for home consumption, but unfortunately it’s only available for special order by the case at the Pennsylvania state stores. Ah well, at least it’s available by the bottle on Bistrot La Minette’s regular wine list.

The second course was a grilled Morteau sausage, potato crique, morbier sauce, and chanterelles, paired with Domaine Tissot Arboise Poulsard (Jura, 2011). This dish highlighted several Jura specialities, including the smoked pork sausage and morbier cheese. The preparation was delightful, with the sausage layered on top of a pie-like slice of potato pancake, resting on a pool of cheese sauce, with chanterelle mushrooms sprinkled on top. Having tasted morbier cheese before, I had thought the flavor of the sauce would be stronger, but I was pleased that it was so subtle. The chanterelles, potato, cheese and sausage all came together wonderfully, and I especially liked the char-grilled smoky flavor of the sausage. The wine was a very light bodied red, with a surprising “old” earthy flavor (considering it was actually a young wine) and pale red-brown color. The Poulsard grape is fairly unique to Jura, so it was another special treat, not normally available at the restaurant, nor at the state store. Altogether this course made for another excellent wine-food pairing.

The third course may have been my favorite: poulet au vin jaune et aux morilles (chicken cooked in cream, morels, and vin jaune), paired with Jaques Puffeny Arbois Chardonnay (Jura, 2007). Vin jaune is Jura’s famous “yellow wine,” fermented with a method used in Spain for sherry. Since I had tried a vin jaune before, I was very much hoping to enjoy it again at this dinner, even if only via the cream sauce on this dish. The leg of chicken was perfectly cooked, with tender meat falling right off the bone. The morel mushrooms were a decadent treat (I think I’d take morels over truffles any day), and it all came together with the earthy vin jaune cream sauce. I was infinitely pleased that the chardonnay, while not technically a vin jaune, shared many of vin jaune’s signature characteristics, including that distinct dry sherry aroma and dusty flavor, which went wonderfully with the food. The whole experience of this dish and its wine pairing was heavenly.

We finished with a dessert of tarte aux brimbelles (blueberry tart topped with blueberry sorbet), paired with a kir royal of Crème de Myrtilles (blueberry) and François Montand sparkling chardonnay (Jura, NV). There was a symmetry to both beginning and ending the meal with a tart, and it was fun to have an all-blueberry dish. I especially enjoyed the blueberry sorbet and found this a refreshing way to end the meal on a not-too-heavy note. The kir royal was a nice touch, especially since it’s so unusual to find a drink made with blueberry liqueur. What a lovely ending!

(Bonus: being on this side of town meant stopping for a cocktail at Southwark afterwards!)

All in all, the meal was a wonderful journey through the flavors of Jura via its food and wine. Moreover, it was a reminder of how good French bistro food can be rustic and comforting, while simultaneously being amazingly subtle and delicate. The meal was just the right amount of food; we left satiated without being overly stuffed. We are definitely looking forward to coming back to Bistrot La Minette to try their regular menu. As always, we feel so lucky to have such wonderful dining experiences available to us here in Philadelphia.

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