Say cheese!

Tomorrow marks National Cheese Lovers’ Day in the USA, an occasion so worth celebrating that, even though we’re not American, we just had to jump on the bandwagon! After all, Normandy is renowned around the world for being a cheese-producing region, thanks to the abundance of rich milk produced by its many lovely Norman cows.

If you are a fan of soft cheeses, Normandy really is the region for you, boasting four world-famous AOC (quality-certified) cheeses – Camembert de Normandie, Livarot, Neufchâtel and Pont-l’Evêque – which are best enjoyed with fresh crusty bread and washed down with a glass of local cider or Calvados.

All you need to know about the four Norman cheeses:

Camembert de Normandie

Round in form, Camembert de Normandie is a soft cheese with a floury rind left to ripen for 35 days. The cheese was perfected in 1791 by Marie Harel, a lady farmer from the village of Camembert, following the advice of the priest Abbott Bonvoust, who hailed from the town of Brie and had been staying with her. Camembert de Normandie was given to French troops during World War I, making this cheese firmly entrenched in French popular cuisine culture as a result. Over 50 million AOC Camembert de Normandie rounds are produced a year!

shutterstock_382891081 ©HandmadePictures Camembert
© Shutterstock / Handmade Pictures

Livarot

One of the oldest and greatest Normandy cheeses, Livarot is a monastic French cheese originating in the village of Livarot. This cheese is called ‘The Colonel’ because of the five strips of raffia that are wrapped around each cheese, similar to the stripes worn on French colonels’ uniforms. With its distinctive orange rind and its pungent aroma, Livarot requires up to two months of ripening in warm, humid cellars in order to obtain its delicious and unmistakable flavour.

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© Fromagerie E. Graindorge

Neufchâtel

The oldest of the Normandy cheeses, Neufchâtel is almost a thousand years old with traces of its existence dating back as far as 1035. Produced within a 30km radius of Neufchâtel-en-Bray in the Seine-Maritime département, Neufchâtel is ready to eat ten days after being made. It is a lightly salted, cream and smooth cheese with a white, floury rind and is often heart-shaped. Legend has it that during the Hundred Years’ War, young girls offered Neufchâtel cheese to English soldiers as a token of their love!

I love cheese
© D. Whitfield / Fotolia.com

Pont-l’Évêque

Originally produced in the monasteries of the Pays d’Auge, the first mention of Pont-l’Évêque dates back to the thirteenth century, when manuscripts of the time mention ‘Angelot’, the cheese from which Pont-l’Évêque evolved. In 1263 AD, Guillaume de Lorris proclaimed in his book Roman de la Rose that ‘a good table wine always finishes with a dessert of Angelot’. Left to ripen for six weeks, the square-shaped Pont-l’Évêque cheese has a soft ochre or golden-yellow rind and a smooth, creamy texture.

Pont-l'Eveque © iStock.jpg
© iStock

And there you have it – the four Norman cheeses! Why not treat yourself to some this weekend? While Livarot can be found in specialist cheese shops across the UK, Camembert de Normandie, Neufchâtel and Pont-l’Évêque are widely available in UK supermarkets, so go pick some up later and let us know which one’s your favourite – bon appétit !

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

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Cover photo © J.P.C. / PROD Fotolia.com | Writer: Fran Lambert

5 foodie hot spots in Normandy you may not know about

Suffering from the January blues? Why not book yourself a weekend away in Normandy this winter and enjoy one of the many foodie hot spots in the region? With many hotels in Normandy offering fantastic restaurants on site – in some cases, a Michelin star or Bib Gourmand too – once you arrive, you can kick back in the warm all weekend if you want to!

Get inspired by our sumptuous selection of gourmet accommodation:

1. Bagnoles-de-l’Orne: Le Manoir du Lys****

Need to recharge the batteries with a country break? The Manoir de Lys is just the spot; an old hunting lodge in the heart of the Andaines forest, close to the spa and golf course in Bagnoles de l’Orne. Enjoy top quality comfort throughout the manor house, as well an an indoor and outdoor pool, not to mention one of the region’s finest restaurants – everything you need, in fact, for a relaxing stay.

Chef Franck Quinton is in charge of the kitchen, serving creative and delicious dishes with a highly personal touch. A Michelin-starred chef for the past 19 years, above all, his priorities lie in seasonality, local produce and regional specialties.

“My cooking is of the moment, and I want it to be as wonderful as nature. I’m happy with my hallmark, which is nature and natural.”

Our favourite dish: It has to be the assorted forest mushrooms fresh from the Andaines forest – delicious!

Set menus start at €46 | Rooms start at €109/night

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© Manoir du Lys

2. Étretat: Domaine Saint-Clair Le Donjon***

In a prime position overlooking the town, the Domaine Saint-Clair Le Donjon resembles a film-set, with its 100-year-old crenelated tower. The atmosphere continues inside this rambling seaside villa, with baroque-style bedrooms, all extravagantly decorated. After a visit to the spa, dine by candlelight with a view of Étretat’s famous cliffs.

Discover delicious flavours at the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, which has been awarded 3 forks in the Michelin Guide. On the menu is local cuisine, traditional dishes revisited and a seasonal menu. Depending on what produce is available at the market, the chef gives free rein to his inspiration, transforming ingredients into sublime dishes, with particular emphasis on seafood. Between March and October, dishes feature fruit, vegetables and herbs fresh from the kitchen garden.

Our favourite dish: Without a doubt the chocolate orange dessert!

Set menus start at €29 | Rooms start at €90/night

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© Domaine Saint-Clair Le Donjon

3. Audrieu (near Port-en-Bessin): Château d’Audrieu****

Situated between Caen and Bayeux, the Château d’Audrieu is an 18th-century listed historic monument, surrounded by 62 acres of English and French gardens and fruit and vegetable patches. Decorated in true 18th-century style with all mod cons, a spa and a heated outdoor swimming pool, the Château d’Audrieu is the epitome of luxury.

Chef Olivier Barbarin proposes a constantly evolving menu at the hotel’s lavish restaurant “Le Séran”, which boasts three beautifully renovated dining rooms complete with a 600-bottle wine cellar covering one entire wall!

“My thirst for discovering new things coupled with my exciting career alongside top Michelin-starred chefs allows me to offer a cuisine that is both simple and delicious. By showcasing the flavours of the huge range of products from Normandy and vegetables from the château’s kitchen garden, I want to offer everyone who comes to eat at “Le Séran” a unique experience.”

Our favourite dish: The filet de boeuf à la foie gras – simple, succulent and cooked to perfection.

Set menus start at €65 | Rooms start at €264/night

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© Normandy Tourist Board

4. Saint-Germain-sur-Ay (near Lessay): La Ferme des Mares***

Overlooking picturesque marshland, a haven for migratory birds, the Ferme des Mares sits close to the coast in the village of Saint-Germain-sur-Ay. This large 17th-century farm has had a complete makeover, individually decorating every bedroom, some traditional, others contemporary, all exquisite. A stay here is a breath of fresh air in every sense of the word.

In the elegant dining room, a relaxed atmosphere and top service provide a memorable dining experience. The chef has a refreshing outlook on food, showcasing locally sourced seasonal produce and natural flavours, producing eclectic dishes that taste every bit as good as they look!

“Above all, we set out to be thorough in all that we do. We pay equal attention to French culinary heritage and the sourcing of the very best that local producers have to offer. That’s the melting pot from which we aim to create something brand new.”

Our favourite dish: The squid-ink linguine with cod and squid – fresh, fragrant and flavourful!

Set menus start at €27 | Rooms start at €86 / night

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© La Ferme des Mares

5. Surville: Manoir de Surville****

Amidst cornfields between Évreux and Giverny, the beautiful Manoir de Surville has kept its timber framing, stonework and 14th-century roof tiles, while the former cattle barn has been transformed into superbly decorated and furnished bedrooms. With recliners in the garden and the spa for that all-important ‘pick me up’, this is the perfect place to unwind.

The philosophy of Chef Jordan’s kitchen is to serve seasonal and creative gourmet cuisine, concentrating on both authenticity and simplicity. High-quality ingredients are of the utmost importance, and there is only one menu which changes every day to reflect what is available at the market, comprising a starter, main course, cheese plate and dessert.

Our favourite dish: The citrus fruit and meringue dessert with basil makes for a tangy taste explosion!

Set menus start at €39 | Rooms start at €180 / night

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© Manoir de Surville

For more information on gourmet accommodation in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

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Cover photo © Manoir du Lys | Writer: Fran Lambert

A Norman rehash of bangers and mash

Happy National Sausage Day to one and all! Yes, 5th January is the UK’s dedicated day to celebrate all things sausage.

Fittingly, we’ve thought of a warming winter recipe from Normandy (sausage-themed, naturally) to keep the cold out this crisp January morning: black (or white) pudding with apples, served with a healthy helping of pommes de terres purées.

Sound good? Read on…

If black pudding isn’t your thing, why not try white pudding or butcher’s sausages instead?

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Here’s what you’ll need for a bangers and mash banquet for four:

  • black pudding 500g (cook whole, not sliced)
  • 4 cox apples
  • butter
  • 1.1kg potatoes
  • 60g butter
  • parsley
  • 1 tbsp grain mustard

Set the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Peel and chop the potatoes then then put in a saucepan of water. Bring the water to the boil, add a decent pinch of salt then lower the heat and leave to cook for about 20 minutes until soft.

Chop in half and slice the apples then place in a greased roasting tin. Place a knob of butter on each and bake for 15 minutes. Slice the black (or white) pudding into 4 pieces and place in the roasting tin next to the apples with a knob of butter over each. Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes until the black (or white) pudding is sizzling and the apples are fluffed up.

Drain the vegetables then either mash the mixture by hand or using a blender. Add the butter, then beat till soft, light and creamy. Fold in the parsley and mustard then seasoning with black pepper. Place the black (or white) pudding and apple pieces on each plate, garnish with a sprig of parsley, add a healthy dollop of mash and serve.

Bon appétit !

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For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

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All photos © iStock | Writer: Fran Lambert

 

 

See in the New Year with some Norman cheer

To be frank, I have always had a bit of a problem with New Year’s Eve, which can be the ultimate in anticlimaxes. However, last year my husband and I treated ourselves to an evening out at a local gourmet restaurant. The menu was surprising, the food exquisite and the wines were chosen for us to accompany the six-course meal and included a trou normand and champagne.  Looking around in Normandy for this year, here are my top five recommendations for great places to eat out on New Year’s Eve:

Hôtel Barrière Le Normandy Deauville

This is a 5-star gourmet break with a difference, including an overnight stay, dancing, a special New Year’s Eve menu and a bottle of champagne at restaurant La Belle Époque. The Hôtel Barrière Le Normandy Deauville oozes charm and sophistication, and is handily positioned on the seafront for long walks along the beach on New Year’s Day.

Le NORMANDY BARRIERE Deauville
© Fabrice Rambert / Hôtel Barrière Le Normandy Deauville
La Belle Époque 2 © Fabrice Rambert Hôtel Barrière Le Normandy Deauville
© Fabrice Rambert / Hôtel Barrière Le Normandy Deauville

Manoir de Lys, Bagnoles-de-l’Orne

Tucked away in a quiet spot in the Andaine forest, on the edge of the cosy spa town Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, Le Manoir de Lys is a sumptous Relais de Silence hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant. The New Year’s Eve menu, which includes foie gras, caviar, scallops and camembert, is mouthwatering and there is musical accompaniment to while away the evening.

Restaurant © Le Manoir du Lys
© Manoir du Lys
MANOIR DU LYS
© Manoir du Lys

Le Domaine Saint-Clair Le Donjon, Etretat

This quirky, boutique hotel offers wonderful views over the iconic seaside village of Étretat, much loved and painted by Monet. For the New Year’s Eve menu, the accent is on excellent local food with scallops from Fécamp, Rouen-style duck and traditional French onion soup in the early hours! A warm welcome awaits in the recently restyled restaurant with its brightly painted murals, overlooking the sea.

CREATEUR FIN JOURNEE © Domaine Saint-Clair Le Donjon
© Domaine Saint-Clair Le Donjon
Entrée - Mai 2013 © Domaine Saint-Clair Le Donjon
© Domaine Saint-Clair Le Donjon

Le Moulin de Connelles, near Les Andelys

The old school charm of this mill on the banks of the River Seine with its duck egg blue half-timbered façade is the ideal spot for a romantic get away for a New Year’s Eve en amoureux. There is a playful gastronomic menu on offer for 31 December with some French classics and nice Norman touches, including  a velouté of oysters from Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue.

Noel © Moulin de Connelles
© Le Moulin des Connelles
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© Le Moulin des Connelles

La Toque aux Vins,  near Avranches

The New Year’s Eve menu on offer in this resolutely modern restaurant combines the joint passions of the chef,  Emmanuel, and sommelier, Joachim, to give you the perfect dining experience. Not far from Avranches, at the southernmost point of the Bay of the Mont-Saint-Michel, La Toque aux Vins is the ideal spot to enjoy the best of local food, including Granville oysters, as a treat to see in the New Year in style.

2 © La Toque aux Vins
© La Toque aux Vins
© La Toque aux Vins
© La Toque aux Vins

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

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Cover photo © Domaine Saint-Clair Le Donjon | Writer: Alison Weatherhead

How do you like them apples?

Ever seen a red-fleshed apple? Me neither, until I visited the Clos Cérisey farm in the Normandy département of Eure!

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© OT Grand Évreux

Cider production in Eure dates back to the 16th century. According to historical records, by 1868 there were already 13,600 cider trees in the area, a figure that has increased significantly thanks to local producers keeping the tradition alive to this day.

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© Normandy Tourist Board / M. McNulty

Situated in the village of Gauciel, the Clos Cérisey farm has been run by the Van Tornhout family since 1929. Originally a mixed farm, the first apple trees were grown in 1985 by Étienne Van Tornhout, and now total around 28,000. Keen to grow apples that set his farm apart from the others, Étienne and his son Stéphane discovered an apple with red skin and flesh, known as the Canadian blood apple, while on a farming internship in Quebec in 1990.

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© Normandy Tourist Board / M. McNulty

Intrigued by how this type of apple might be farmed back in France, they imported the Canadian blood apple to the farm in Normandy, where Stéphane and his wife Martine developed methods for transforming its unique tangy taste into delicious sparkling apple juice, aperitifs and cidre rosé [pink cider].

Stéphane le Cerisey
© Normandy Tourist Board / M. McNulty
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© Normandy Tourist Board / M. McNulty

In addition to lending itself well to the production of beverages, the Canadian blood apple’s acidic taste is also particularly suitable for the production of confectionery, macaroons, chutneys and other homemade products, which Stéphane and Martine sell to visitors in the farm shop.

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© OT Grand Évreux

The Clos Cérisey is open all year round (10am-12pm and 2pm-6pm, by appointment), so why not pay a visit and find out out how all these products are made, and buy some tasty treats to take home with you?

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© OT Grand Évreux

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

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Cover photo © Normandy Tourist Board / M. McNulty | Writer: Fran Lambert

Not your ordinary caramel

I am sitting in a crêperie on the Quai Henri IV, the quayside overlooking Dieppe marina, on a sunny October Sunday. After a pleasant savoury galette, the time has come to please my sweet tooth. Among the usual crêpe toppings on the menu, such as whipped cream, Nutella and jam, one item stands out: Caramel de Pommes Dieppois. Caramel is a favourite in France when it comes to garnishing pancakes, and warm slices of apple are particularly appreciated here in Normandy. What about the two flavours combined then? Apart from in Dieppe, few people have heard of Caramel de Pommes Dieppois, but once you taste it, there’s no going back! It’s simple. It’s heavenly. It’s memorable.

Caramel de Pommes © Les Ateliers d'Etran.jpg

This soft apple spread with hints of caramel was invented by local chocolatier Jean-Pierre Roussel and only has four locally-sourced ingredients: apple purée, soft butter, salted butter and granulated sugar. At first, it was simply a filling for one of Roussel’s chocolate sweets, but proved so popular that the Chocolatier decided to produce a smooth spread version and sell whole pots of the delicacy. He then passed on the recipe to Les Ateliers d’Etran, a workshop and professional integration centre located on the outskirts of town which mainly employs people with disabilities. Every day, the ‘marmitons’ mix the ingredients in a big copper pot and slowly increase the temperature until they reach the perfect texture.

Jean-Pierre Roussel © Les Ateliers d'Etran.jpg

What’s great about the product is the fact that it’s so simple, yet tastes so different to anything else. Just imagine your favourite caramel sweet melted into a smooth Norman apple purée and sprinkled with a touch of salt. Yes – it’s that good. So many foodies have fallen for Caramel de Pommes Dieppois that it now comes in several flavours, including ‘beurre salé’ (with extra salted butter – a best-seller) and cinnamon. It tastes absolutely divine on crêpes, toast, waffles and especially on croissants. It will also add a distinctive sweet touch to chicken, foie gras, scallops and cheese. The spread never fails to impress!

© Les Ateliers d'Etran.jpg

Recently, two new ranges have been introduced: Pomme en tartine (apple on toast) and Pomme en cuisine (cooking apple). The sweet version consists of Caramel de Pommes and somewhat exotic flavours such as candyfloss or marshmallow. Kids will like them. The cooking spread will add a certain je ne sais quoi to all your dishes, with notes of carrot and coriander or ginger and Calvados.

Caramel-de-pommes-dieppois

Caramel de Pommes Dieppois is available in many supermarkets, bakers and épiceries fines, and is also on the menu in several restaurants across Normandy. You won’t find it in the UK for the moment, but if this post has got your taste buds tingling, you can always order pots online – the perfect stocking filler!

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

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All photos © Les Ateliers d’Etran | Writer: Ben Collier

Conquering Bayeux

Bayeux: this medieval city is undoubtedly best known for the world-famous UNESCO-listed Bayeux Tapestry, which resides there to this day, and is a fascinating 70m-long embroidery depicting the story behind the Norman Conquest. The tapestry itself, which now resides in the Bayeux Museum, is a marvel to behold. For an artifact that dates back to the 11th century, it’s in impeccable condition, and I would recommend anyone visiting Bayeux to go and see it!

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© Ville de Bayeux

In the heart of the old town, the marvellously preserved Notre-Dame Cathedral is a gem of Norman architecture, and the original home of the Bayeux Tapestry. The cathedral was consecrated in 1077 in the presence of William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England. It was later extended in the Gothic style, which is how you see it today.

La Cathédrale de Bayeux © CB OT Bayeux Intercom (6)
© CB / OT Bayeux Intercom

Always keen for an excuse to spend time in this quaint city with its half-timbered houses and turrets, I was delighted to be invited to a new event last Christmas, called William’s Cathedral. This spectacular winter event, which took place in Notre-Dame, involved a spectacular display of the Bayeux Tapestry, projected onto the cathedral walls with the aid of cutting-edge technology. The light show begins with an overview of William’s epic adventure. On either side of the nave, where it is believed the Bayeux Tapestry first hung, both the tapestry and architectural details of the nave are brought to life, while the stained glass windows in the choir are highlighted in vibrant colours. Period music adds to the whole medieval ambiance. William’s Cathedral is returning to Notre-Dame in Bayeux this year on Saturday 2 December, so make sure you don’t miss it!

La Cathédrale de Guillaume 2016 © G. Wait OT Bayeux Intercom (4)
© GW / OT Bayeux Intercom
La Cathédrale de Guillaume © C. Beauruel OT Bayeux Intercom (9)
© GW / OT Bayeux Intercom

Bayeux is spoilt for choice when it comes to good places to eat. Despite its small town feel, the city is in fact home to 15,000 people and it certainly knows how to keep them happy! Here’s a selection of my favourite haunts:

Le Volet qui Penche: Tucked away down a narrow medieval street by the river Aure, this little gem of a bistrot serves delicious tartines and daily specials, as well as an impressive selection of wines. Its extensive charcuterie board is a must for the meat-eaters! Impasse de l’Islet, 14400 Bayeux. www.bistrot.levoletquipenche.com

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L’Assiette Normande: Within easy walking distance of the cathedral, this popular lunch spot serves all the Norman classics, from cheese and chicken to fish and seafood dishes, some even garnished with a slice of proverbial Normandy apple. Reasonably priced,  good hearty food! 3 rue des Chanoines, 14400 Bayeux. www.lassiettenormande.com

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Chez Paulette: In the heart of the old town, this lunch spot’s quirky decor is heaven for anyone with a penchant for bright colours and 1950s formica. The food is pretty amazing too: fresh salads, tarts, quiches and bagels, generous portions and reasonably-priced set menus. 44 rue des cuisiniers, 14400 Bayeux. www.facebook.com/chezpaulettebayeux

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Le Pommier: Two doors down from Chez Paulette is the elegant Le Pommier, where Norman fare is given a modern twist. Whether you choose a set menu or go à la carte, Chez Paulette’s cuisine, with its fresh, locally sourced ingredients, is sure to delight your taste buds. 40 rue des cuisiniers, 14400 Bayeux. www.restaurantlepommier.com/en

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Au P’tit Bistrot: This cosy spot opposite the cathedral is very popular with tourists and locals alike thanks to its central location and delicious cuisine! With a new menu every six weeks and a great selection of wines, it’s easy to see why its regulars keep coming back.  31 rue Larcher, 14400 Bayeux. www.facebook.com/auptitbistrot

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Tempted to conquer Bayeux this festive season? William’s Cathedral begins on Saturday 2 December 2017 and will run on Fridays and Saturdays until Saturday 6 January 2018 (plus Tuesday and Thursday evenings between 26 December 2017 and 4 January 2018). Shows are at 6pm, 6:30pm, 7pm, 7:30pm and 8pm, and entry is free. For more information, visit the Bayeux Tourist Office website.

Visit Normandy Tourist Board’s How to Get to Normandy webpage for tips on the best ways to get to Bayeux, or check out our Food and Drink webpage for more information on all of the culinary delights in the region!

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Cover photo © GW / OT Bayeux Intercom | All other photos: CB / OT Bayeux Intercom | Writer: Fran Lambert

Andouille de Vire, a bit of a banger

Vire is a cosy market town in the bocage hinterland of Normandy and is world famous for being home to andouille, the local smoked chitterling sausage. Over recent years, andouille has become increasingly more popular over the Channel and is now quite a trendy ingredient for foodie fashionistas. Vire is the nearest big town to my rural retreat, where my kids go to school and where I do my weekly shop, usually on a Friday when it’s market day. My son is particularly fond of this unique charcuterie, and used to call andouille ‘the black sausage’ when he was a lot younger because of its dark skin, a result of the smoking process.

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© Office de Tourisme du Bocage Normand

Pork chitterlings are used to make the sausage and it’s well worth taking a look at the Asselot Andouille factory website to see just how the andouille takes shape. For those who would like to see the andouille artisans in action, it is also possible to join a guided tour (in French) of the Asselot factory in Vire, which takes place Tuesday-Friday in the mornings and afternoons and costs just €2 per person. This is a great way to see just how andouille is made, sample some sausage at source and buy some to take home. There is also the excellent Paul Danjou shop in Vire which sells andouille to local charcuterie connoisseurs, prepared on-site and displayed elegantly in the shop window.

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© Office de Tourisme du Bocage Normand

My husband likes a few thin slices of andouille served with a glass of full bodied red wine as an appetiser. Andouille is an acquired taste and it is best to eat a few slices and not the whole sausage in one sitting. If you are feeling adventurous and happy to brush up on your French, Paul Danjou have a YouTube channel with some fun recipes to try out!

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© Office de Tourisme du Bocage Normand

If you become a true fan, you could always head to Vire for the annual Fête de l’Andouille which is generally held at the end of October and is fun for all the family. This year, Portugal was the guest of honour and there were lots of cooking demos with local chefs, tastings and a special competition to find the person who makes the most realistic pig noise!

For lovers of good food, Vire is also home to some wonderful restaurants, including the sumptuous Manoir de la Pommeraie run by the dynamic young chef Julien Guérard who has previously worked in the UK and speaks excellent English. With his Japanese wife, who is a wonderful pastry chef, they serve exquisite food and use all locally sourced ingredients. The three-course lunchtime menu costs less than €30 and is excellent value for money. Vire is also home to Degrenne who produce fine crockery and cutlery in their local factory and who are proud to count the Elysée Palace and Air France among their clientèle. A factory visit (in French) or a spot of shopping in the factory shop make a trip to Vire complete!

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The pretty Norman town of Vire © Calvados Tourisme

For further information on food and drink in the region, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

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Cover photo © Calvados Tourisme | Writer: Alison Weatherhead

All you need to know about aperitifs à la Normande

Apéro’clock: that time of day when you head out for a glass of something cold and alcoholic! In many parts of France, you might see people reaching for the wine, but did you know that in Normandy the drinks menu revolves not around grapes, but around apples and pears?

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© Normandy Tourist Board
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© Normandy Tourist Board

From fruit…

Normandy cider, poiré [pear cider], Pommeau and Calvados are all made with a mix of bittersweet, sweet, sharp and bitter apples and/or pears, chosen from the hundreds of varieties that grow in the region. Here is a breakdown of the main ones:

Bittersweet: Low in acid and high in tannin, these characterful and flavoursome apples add a subtly sharp and bitter notes to cider. Examples: pisque, binet rouge and bedan.

Sweet: The blandest of all varieties, these apples are low in acid and tannins and are often used to balance more strongly flavoured notes. They also encourage fermentation and raise alcohol levels. Examples: rouge duret and douce coetligné.

Sharp: These acidic apples bring freshness or ‘bite’ to the cider, and balance out sweet varieties. They are low in sugar and tannins. Examples: petit jaune, rambault and cidor.

Bitter: Known as ‘spitters’, these apples and pears are rich in tannins, which provide texture and that fuzzy dry feeling in your mouth. They are used to add body and depth to cider. Examples of apple: fréquin rouge, mettais and moulin à vent. Examples of pear: plant de blanc, rouge vigné, gros blot, plant roux, de cloche and gaubert.

1104-Calvados Ch+óteau du Breuil 038 (c)Eric Lorang-(c) Eric LORANG
© Eric Lorang
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© Normandy Tourist Board

…to flute

The distinctive flavours of Normandy’s numerous apple and pear-themed beverages are produced using centuries-old family recipes and traditional aging methods. Here are some of the main tipples on offer:

Cidre bouché: Has a lively natural sparkle, golden colour and full-bodied but fresh taste. Ideal for sharing on a summer evening.

Cidre doux: Sweet and generally low in alcohol (around 3%). Often cloudy with a slight golden orange hue, with gentle foam on top.

Cidre brut: Dry with acidic notes and a higher alcohol content than sweeter varieties (4.5% and above).

Cidre demi-sec: Fruity and sweeter than dry cider, this refreshing drink (3-5%) goes down a treat with crêpes or tarte tatin.

Poiré AOP: Made up of at least 40% plant de blanc pears, poiré is pressed then left to naturally ferment, resulting in a dry, lightly sparkling drink with a distinctive floral bouquet.

Pommeau: A sweet, amber-hued aperitif (16-18%) made from two parts freshly-pressed tannin-rich apple juice and one part young Calvados.

Calvados AOC et Pays d’Auge AOC: Traditional brandy made from cider, which is distilled and aged in oak barrels for at least two years. The longer Calvados is aged, the smoother it becomes. Younger Calvados has bittersweet, fruity flavours while older Calvados develops nutty aromas and complex coffee  and chocolate notes.

Calvados Domfrontais AOC: Calvados Domfrontais differs from other types of Calvados on account of the high percentage of pears used alongside apples. The granite soil of the Pays de Domfront and distillation process also contribute to its uniquely floral, fruity taste and mineral characteristics.

Cidre
© Nathand / fotolia.com

Which Normandy tipple tickles your fancy? Take our thirst-quenching quiz to find out!

Question 1. When would you like to have your drink?

a) Before dinner (go to Question 2)

b) With your meal (go to Question 3)

c) Between courses (go to Question 4)

d) After I’ve finished, thank you (go to Question 5)

Question 2. Do you have a sweet tooth?

a) Certainly not (go to Answer 1)

b) Perhaps I do… (go to Answer 2)

Question 3. Are you having meat, cheese, fish or seafood?

a) Meat or cheese (go to Answer 3)

b) Fish or seafood (go to Answer 4)

Question 4. Do you need a palate cleanser?

a) I’m fine actually (go back to Question 3)

b) Well, that chicken stew was rather rich… (go to Answer 5)

Question 5. Are you ready for bed?

a) Almost (go to Answer 6)

b) No way, the night is young! (go to Answer 7)

1106-Cidre studio (c) Eric Lorang-(c) Eric LORANG
© Eric Lorang

Answer 1. Neat Calvados

Serve chilled or over ice to awaken your appetite before a large meal. The ultimate aperitif!

Answer 2. Pommeau

Calvados blended with cider apple juice, served chilled or over ice

Answer 3. Trou normand

Otherwise known as ‘the Norman hole’, this is neat Calvados with apple or pear sorbet, taken between courses to cleanse the palate

Answer 4. Cidre

Refreshing, fruity and not too strong, this is the perfect accompaniment to rich stews, chicken, beef, cheese and creamy sauces

Answer 5. Poiré

Dry, crisp and lightly sparkling, poiré is ideal with fish or seafood

Answer 6. As a digestif with coffee

To aid your digestion before bed, why not enjoy a smidgen of neat Calvados served at around 16-20º, alongside your coffee?

Answer 7. Calvados cocktail

Not ready to hit the hay? Ask the bar tender to whip you up a cocktail! We recommend the Calvados Royal (Calvados, strawberry liquor and Champagne) or the Calvados Mojito (Calvados, lime juice, cane sugar and soda water)

Santé !

For further information on food and drink in the region, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

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Cover photo © Eric Lorang | Text: Adapted from The Sawday’s guide to Normandy cider 2015

Traditional cider in Le Sap

The Fête du Cidre à l’Ancienne [Traditional Cider Festival] takes place every year on the second weekend of November in Normandy’s cider country, the Pays d’Auge. The festival’s picturesque backdrop is the Ecomusée de la Pomme au Calvados museum in the village of Le Sap, which was a cider farm until 1937. The museum contains an exhibit on the traditional cider production methods of yesteryear, a large copper still and an antique wooden press dating back to the eighteenth century.

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Over the two days of the festival, you can watch cider being made the old-fashioned way, namely with the help of a Percheron workhorse to power the cider mill, and using good old manpower to load the press.

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In addition to ample opportunities to sample tasty cider (traditionally produced, of course), you can peruse the many stalls where local producers and craftsmen are selling their wares, and try out some Normandy cheese (or snails!)

Cheese counter 2 PLEASE DISPLAY PHOTO CREDIT ©M. McNulty+Normandy Tourist Board

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Anyone feeling brave can even join in the dancing with the Mayor of Le Sap and local villagers, who are all dressed in traditional Norman attire. Watch the video below to see how the lovely Elise from the Portsmouth News got on at last year’s festivities!

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After exploring all that there is to see, you can then sit down at long tables, and enjoy some tasty local grub, accompanied by a refreshing glass of (you guessed it) Normandy cider.

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The Fête du Cidre à l’Ancienne  takes place this weekend, so if you’re in the Pays d’Auge, make sure you don’t miss it!

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For further information on food and drink in the region, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

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All photos © F. Lambert / Normandy Tourist Board | Writer: Fran Lambert