I’ve just returned from a week in Normandy, France, en famille. As our trip seemed to revolve around meals, I thought our discoveries might be of interest to others travelling around the region.
Normandy is noted for its food. It has plenty of fresh seafood from its ports and apple products from its orchards, not to mention being the home to Camembert cheese. Like nearby Jersey, Normandy is renowned for its cream products and they often appear in dishes.
Enjoying a long coastline, seafood features prominently on Normandy menus. Scallops, oysters, prawns (shrimp,) mussels, salmon and a wide variety of cold water white fish. One restaurant we dined at (La Cale, see below) even listed the fisherman’s name in the fish section.
The freshness is reflected in the taste. Prawns often tasted like they were harvested when we placed the order.
Below, oysters filled with a flavourful cream sauce and grilled. Home-smoked salmon is common, as shown in the bottom right image.
Apple orchards are another hallmark of Normandy and the fruit is a common ingredient. Salads feature segments, duck and mussels are cooked in cider, pork is glazed with it, tarts showcase it, the list of apple dishes in Normandy is endless. It’s certainly the place to be if you’re an apple lover.
Normandy’s most famous contribution to the world of cheese, Camembert is found in salads, savoury dishes and cheese courses.
Seen on the right of the cheese plate below, you can appreciate how runny it is when served properly. On the right image, vegetables and camembert make up the inside of a Normandy spring roll.
Also commonly seen, a galette is a savoury buckwheat pancake (seen below with scallops in a cream sauce.) Pate is also a menu mainstay.
Though tempting, we tried to save the multi course meals for dinner and generally opted for salads at lunch. Most places we went had at minimum 3 types of salad (usually 4 or 5.) We rarely saw the Salad Nicoise – they have too many good salads of their own to offer.
A favourite at our table was the salade Normande. Over the course of the week we saw six. A salade Normande is with camembert and apples and either bacon or ham. Sometimes the cheese and apples are warm and sometimes cold. Often there is also eggs or walnuts. One thing is for certain, we liked it enough to have it nearly every day.
Other favourite salads were the French version of the Caesar salad, chevre (goat’s cheese,) vegetarian, chicken pineapple, ham & melon, and seafood. Normandy is a salad lovers paradise. (The green in the melon salad is mint chantilly cream.)
We did, however, steer clear of salad with intestines (andoulliette) and/or gizzards (gesier.) There was no shortage of these salads on offer. Blech.
The desserts were incredible and we caved into them at least once a day. One day we decided to have a bag of doritos for supper in order to leave plenty of room for pudding – and we had no regrets.
Apple desserts, most commonly tarte tatin, were our favourite, including the most drool inducing dish of the trip, warm apple caramel (see La Cale below.)
We also fell in love with the ‘cafe gourmand.’ A wonderful way to finish a meal, it’s a coffee with a trio of mini desserts. Genius!
l-ecume in Dieppe, The first restaurant of our trip. We stopped in for lunch and dined on amazing salads with perfectly poached eggs on top. They set the bar for all salads on our journey – though most were excellent, none were as good as those on our first meal. www.l-ecume.fr
La Cale in Asnelles. Unassuming from the outside, we were unprepared for the quality of the food and lovely interior. It was here we had the best dessert of the trip, the incredible warm apple caramel tarte. The mains were all yummy, as was the complimentary amuse bouche. If in the area of Arromanche-les-Bains it is definitely worth stopping in for a meal. http://restaurant-lacale.fr/
Le Clos Saint-Marc in Rouen. Located beside the St Marc market, this lunch spot has massive, tasty salads for reasonable prices. Also mouth watering classics like the croc monsieur.
We certainly ate well (though I wish I could have left those extra pounds at the border.) Normandy surpassed the culinary experiences I’ve had in other parts of France. Apple desserts were my favourite, so much so that I bought a Normandy apple cook book written in French, a language I don’t speak. For me, it’s worth learning a language just to recreate some of the delicious food we had on our trip.