During our travels, The Brooding Architect and I were lucky enough to spend a week eating our way around the coast and countryside of Normandy (in northern France). The highlights included, but were not limited to: drinking far too much apple themed booze – cider, pommeau and calvados – along the cider route, ‘almost-better-than-sex’ truffle infused Camembert and ridiculously cheap oysters.
The Cider Route
Being a cider fan, the Cider Route was on my ‘Must Do List’ while in France. The Cider Route is a clearly signed route, approximately 40km long, that passes through the producers of the traditional AOC Pays d’Auge cider. If you happen to get lost, just keep your eyes out for these signs marked ‘Route du Cidre’.
The route takes you through, narrow, apple tree lined country lanes in some of Normandy’s most beautiful villages. Best of all you can see how cider is made, taste it and buy it.
Along the route, we were also lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with a number of the very passionate and knowledgable producers. There is an amazing variety of cider produced in Normandy – ranging from light and dry Cuvée style cider (described as the champagne of cider) to pungent, sweet and sticky ciders (not for the faint hearted, or the designated driver).
Châteaus & ‘Almost-Better-Than-Sex-Cheese’
As a surprise, The Brooding Architect organised a night for us at a charming château – complete with an amazing 4 course meal! For me, this was without a doubt the food highlight of the entire trip (so apologies in advance for the limited photos – you will just need to use your imagination).
We ordered the 4 course Pays d’Auge Menu for the very reasonable price of 63 € ($85 AUD) – which consisted entirely of local specialties and produce of the Pays d’Auge region of Normandy. We also ordered the drink supplement for 15 € ($20 AUD), whereby local pommeau and cider from local apple orchards were matched to each course.
The meal kicked off with a local apéritif of pommeau in the saloon. Pommeau is a specialty of northern France, made by mixing apple juice with calvados (apple brandy). It is refreshing and light, the perfect drink to kick of a big night of eating, particularly when accompanied with a selection of the most amazingly wafer thin vegetable crisps you have ever seen.
I started with a dozen local oysters as my entree. The oysters were served with fresh, crusty bread, an amazing seaweed butter, as well as the compulsory lemons and a tangy shallot vingerette. The Brooding Architect ordered the most luxurious entree on the menu – a decadent and creamy lobster tartar, served with a salad of baby vegetables from the château’s garden.
For our mains, I had an amazing roast duck, which was brought to the table silver service style and carved right in front of me. It was very impressive. The Brooding Architect had a lovely salt bush fed lamb cooked three ways – including some melt-in-your-mouth braised lamb rolled into a crispy, flaky pastry cigar – served with more vegetables straight from the garden.
As a bonus, as soon as our waiter discovered that we were Australian rather than English, we were also being served ‘mini tasting courses’ between each dish. We had shot glass serve of deliciously sweet lobster bisque, as well as golden brown fried slice of the biggest mushroom I have ever soon. (I honestly thought it was a piece of fried haloumi at first glance).
We finished the meal with the most amazing cheeses – a washed rind cheese, which was crumbed, fried until crunchy and golden brown, served with spiced poached pear and a local creamy camembert, which had a secret layer of mascarpone and truffles in the centre. I won’t say that the truffle camembert was better than sex (as The Brooding Architect could take offence to such a comment); so instead I will say that this cheese was definitely ‘almost-better-than-sex’.
Just when I thought the truffle cheese could not be topped, our waiter suggested we end the meal with a fiery calvados, served in front of the roaring fire in the saloon. Without a doubt, the absolute perfect ending to this Normand feast.
Ridiculously Cheap Oysters
On our way to the Mont Saint-Michel, we stopped in the seaside town of Dinard overnight. Unforunately, we found the food options in Dinard a little touristy for our liking, so jumped in the car and drove to the nearby town of Cancale (near Saint-Malo) to gorge ourselves on oysters striaght from the boats.
The Cancale harbour is lined with dozens of seafood restaurants. Given that all of the oysters come from the same boats, I am sure that you could wander into any of these restaurants and have a fantastic meal.
We found ourselves at the aptly named, L’Huitriere (Oyster) and for the unbelievable price of 12 Euros ($16 AUD) per person, The Brooding Architect and I each feasted on:
- A dozen freshly shucked oysters;
- Mussels Marinara (mussels cooked in white wine and garlic), with France’s non-optional bread and butter to mop up the sauce;
- A piece of local Camembert; and
- Dessert – I had the creme caramel, while The Brooding Architect opted for pistachio and salted caramel ice cream.
Needless to say, now that I am home I am struggling to adjust to paying Australian restaurant prices for oysters!