1. Oysters in Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue (EuroVélo 4)
Did you know that oyster farmers in Normandy produce roughly a quarter of all oysters produced in France? If you’re a lover of oysters, Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue in the north-east corner of the Cotentin Pensinsula is a particularly good place to go. Saint-Vaast oysters are well known for their subtle nutty flavour, and are delicious eaten raw, whether with zingy lemon juice or sharp shallot vinegar. Particularly popular in the winter months, no Christmas table in Normandy is complete without them. In summer months, local oyster farms run tours of the oyster farms in the area, and visitors flock to the pretty harbour area of Saint-Vaast to enjoy oysters outside on the restaurant terraces.
Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue is located on the EuroVelo 4 cycling route and is the perfect place for an overnight stop-over. Why not sample oysters at Le Débarcadère and enjoy the view?
2. Poiré in the Pays de Domfront (Veloscenic / Vélo Francette)
Poiré (or perry) is apple cider’s more refined cousin. A pale yellow, lightly sparkling beverage, poiré may not be as popular as cider but has earned itself the nickname ‘Normandy’s answer to champagne’ thanks to its light, bubbly character. Poiré has been produced in Normandy for hundreds of years; in fact, the first records of pears growing in the region date back to the 11th century! With more than 100,000 pear trees and almost 100 varieties, the Pays de Domfront produces around 25,000 tonnes of pears that are then used to make poiré.
Domfront is situated right on the crossroads of the Vélo Francette and the Véloscénie so is a great place for an overnight stop-off. Why not sample the local tipple at a poiré farm like the Ferme des Grimaux and explore Domfront’s beautiful medieval town centre?
3. Neufchâtel, the heart-shaped cheese (Avenue Verte)
Made from cow’s milk, this soft, slightly crumbly, mould-ripened cheese is one of France’s oldest varieties, dating back as far as 1035. Usually sold in the shape of a heart, legend has it that the young farm girls of Neufchâtel-en-Bray fell in love with English soldiers during the Hundred Years War and started making heart shaped cheeses for them to show their affection. Neufchâtel’s taste and texture is reminiscent of its more famous cousin Camembert, only with tones of nuts and mushrooms, and it is the perfect accompaniment to a glass of cider or red wine.
Neufchâtel-en-Bray is situated on the Avenue Verte route, about 35km inland from Dieppe. Why not visit the annual Neufchâtel-en-Bray Cheese Festival in the autumn or see how Neufchâtel is made at one of the local cheese diaries?
4. Calvados in the Pays d’Auge (EuroVélo 4)
The Busnel Distillery is one of the oldest producers of calvados (apple brandy) in the Pays d’Auges, a ‘controlled designation of origin’ (AOC), meaning that anything produced in this area receives a quality label. The distillery arguably performs nothing short of a miracle, turning apples into cider, then distilling cider to producing eau de vie, then distilling eau de vie in oak casks for years until it becomes the golden calva that is used to make calvados. The Busnel Distillery runs guided tours in English which lets visitors see the different stages of distilling and sample a selection of the distillery’s best-selling products – but best have a break before you hop on your bike again!
The Busnel Distillery is located in the town of Cormeilles, which is 12km away from Saint‑André-d’Hébertot on the EuroVelo 4 cycle route. Why not combine your tour of the distillery with a lunch break at nearby foodie hotspot, Gourmandises?
5. Chitterling sausage in Vire (Tour de Manche)
Chitterling sausage (known in French as andouille) is a Norman specialty. Made from pig intestines, regarded as somewhat of a local delicacy, and seasoned with Guérande sea salt, andouille was first cooked by local butchers in the town of Vire, and its distinctive earthy taste has contributed to the popularity of this French region with foodies! A staple dish in many Norman restaurants, this tasty sausage has been perpetuating the traditions of gastronomy in the region for centuries. Enjoy it cold with farmhouse bread or warm with a salad, caramelised onions or apples. For lovers of simple, rustic French food, sampling andouille is a must!
Vire is located on the Tour de Manche, EuroVelo 4 and Plages du débarquement>Mont-Saint-Michel cycle routes. Why not visit the annual andouille festival in late October/early November or visit a local producer to see how it’s made?
For more information on food and drink in Normandy, and for a list of all of the main food festivals in the region, visit the Normandy Tourism website.
Cover photo: Normandy Tourism / Danielle Dumas | Text © Fran Lambert