Normandy: Out of this world food closer than you think
- Credit: Contributed
Normandy – the land of the Bayeux Tapestry, the D-Day landings and decent cheese.
Cream, Camembert, Calvados and Coquilles St Jaques – scallops to you and me.
For dedicated foodies Normandy has much to offer.
The verdant scenery, the quiet roads, sleepy little villages along the way – Normandy is a charming part of France with much to see and do.
And the food is excellent.
By first you’ve got to get there and by far the most comfortable way is to take the ferry.
I love a cross-Channel ferry – something about the excitement of travelling by sea – and Brittany Ferries offer a reliable and easy way of getting across to Normandy.
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With restaurants and shops and cinemas on board there’s plenty to do and see while you while away the crossing.
If you take the night ferry the cabins are lots of fun with their own en-suite facilities and pull down beds.
The next morning you wake up in Ouisterham – Normandy’s main port of entry – and you’re soon on the road ready to explore.
The French are proud of their local produce and rightly so. Each region has its own specialities and Normandy has many to be proud of – cider, calvados, camembert among them.
So proud, in fact, that many farms and producers are pleased to show off their skills and explain the production process to visitors.
Just outside the wonderfully named Silly-en-Gouffern in the Orne – one of the several departments that make up Normandy – the Perigault family have been making cider for generations.
Gerard Perigault will show you round his operation explaining the process from the moment the apples arrive through to distillation and the final products.
Of course there’s a chance to buy some cider, pommier – an apple based aperitif, or some distilled cider known as calvados.
For the more adventurous of you there’s the chance to try some escargots – snails – at snail farm L’Escartgotiere just outside the sleepy town of Chaumont.
Here, for less than five euros, you can visit the snail farm and enjoy – if that’s the right word – a tasting afterwards.
Passionate about his business, owner Alain Marty will explain how he farms some 250,000 snails a year, how they breed and how they are looked after and kept safe from predators like badgers and birds.
Alain will also tell you how to cook snails and offer some recipe suggestions – like snails in a camembert sauce.
With all that tasting out of the way it’s probably time for lunch and La Maison d’Horbe in La Perriere is a treat.
Decorated eclectically with antiques and objets d’art, cooking is done in the kitchen. Using local ingredients – I had the scallops in truffle vinegar – this is a delightful place overlooking the village square.
After a lazy lunch why not try some more local produce at Belleme about 15 minutes away.
It is here you will find artisan chocolatier Charles Bataille. Charles is, as you would expect, passionate about his chocolate and keen to show off how he puts together his selection of pralines and truffles and all things nice. You can watch his team as they create and hand decorate chocolate sculptures and make the products sold in the shop next door. It is an experience not to be missed for chocoholics.
Of course no foodie trip would be complete without a trip to a cheese maker and the Ferme de L’Aritoire is the place to go for goat’s cheese lovers.
Milk from a herd of 36 alpine goats is used to make the cheese which is made by hand in the traditional way. Soap – infused with various herbs and spices – is another goat’s milk product and can be bought in the farm shop alongside a selection of cheeses.
Normandy has a wide range of accommodation available. The Domaine de la Louveterie just outside the picturesque village of Moutiers-au-Perche is a lovely chamber d’hote – a bed and breakfast – where dinner is cooked and served by hosts.
Each room is decorated in a unique style – mine had an 18th century theme – the beds are large, the facilities extremely comfortable. This is a peaceful place to stop for a night as well as a convenient base for exploring the area. The food is delicious and the menu elegant with much emphasis on local produce – even the yogurts at breakfast are from just down the road. Markets are part and parcel of French life and the market at Mortagne-au-Perche is a great way to discover a range of local products like boudin – black pudding.
Lunch at the Hotel Du Tribunal is popular among locals where the menu offers typical regional dishes cooked with ingredients bought that morning by chef Frederick Pommier.
On the coast seafood dominates the menus. And the luxurious Chateau La Chenviere in Port-En-Bessin – a town famous for its annual scallop festival – offers the chance to learn to cook with this regional delicacy.
This stylish hotel, in lovely grounds, offers elegant dining, first class service and rooms for around 320 Euros a night, perfect for a treat.
The fabulous food aside, Normandy is full of interesting places for history buffs from the famous Bayeux Tapestry to medieval castles to the poignant Normandy landing beaches.
All within easy reach, Normandy makes an unforgettable break away from it all.