A brief guide to Normandy’s food delights
Normandy is the largest producer of huîtres creuses in France – so much so that one in every three oysters consumed in France comes from Normandy. Oyster culture thrives in Normandy as the region has the strongest tides in Europe. Some of the regions finest oysters come from St-Vaast-la-Hougue followed by the Bay of Mont St-Michel and the Isigny-Grandcamp coast.
Equally popular in Normandy are coquilles St-Jacques (scallops) that take pride of place in most coastal restaurants in the Winter as scallop fishing is only allowed from October to May. Normandy is the number 1 region in France for scallop fishing, producing between 50 and 75% of the country’s scallops!
Lower Normandy, and in particular the department of La Manche, produces 25-30% of France’s mussels. All of Normandy’s mussel producers market the mussels under the collective national brand Moules de Bouchot, which was registered in 1994 and guarantees a method of culture that will produce high-quality mussels.
Sole has traditionally been the most highly regarded fish in Norman cooking, especially along the coast of the Seine Maritime but turbot, sea bass and sea bream are all popular.
Dairy products are serious business throughout Normandy and butter is known by “crus”, just like wines and champagnes. The AOC are of Isigny is particularly renowned for its butter and cream production. Cheese too features large on any menu and restaurants in Normandy tend to keep up the proper tradition of the cheese course. Three of the best known are Camembert, Pont l’eveque and Livarot.
Cattle in this major dairy area are more often served to eat as veal, from male calves, than as beef. Pré-salé lamb is a particular speciality of the western Manche coast, reared on the salt marshes of the Mont Saint-Michel Bay area as well as on the salt meadows of the coastal havres and providing tender meat with distinct taste.
Apples, cider and Calvados
Normandy is the largest region of France that does not contain a single vineyard. It is, however, apple orchard country with quantities of cider farms. It is not therefore surprising that cidre is the region’s traditional drink. Most Normandy farms also produce Calvados, Normandy’s famous apple brandy as well as a variety of other apple and pear-based alcohols, such as Pommeau and Poiré. Pommeau is a mixture of cidre apple juice and Calvados and is a typical Norman apéritif. Poiré is like a pear cidre and makes a refreshing change to the traditional apple cidre. Of course, Norman deserts rely on the classic ingredients of apples and Calvados with tarte aux pommes being the most popular.