Ah Brittany – how I miss you!! Even though it was bitterly cold some days and it rained on others, you made for a mighty fine New Year’s destination! The cider, the cheese, the crêpes, the salted butter caramel…. So here’s a tribute to some of the fine tastes we enjoyed thanks to you.
As we sped around the Breton coasts, we made sure to have some very appropriate reading handy:
So the person in charge of the map and directions for the day would also check to see if the towns we were visiting had any “must-eats” or “must-drinks”. Very important, you know! We also made sure to always have snacks handy in the car, because you never know when some shop, or even whole town, might be “fermé” for no apparent reason.
Oh and some leftover macarons. As you do.
Ok, then onto Brittany and its delices…
Honestly, we drank so much cider, I felt like it we could have passed for good Bretons. It’s the perfect drink – not too alcoholic and actually pretty thirst quenching. We had it most days with lunch and I believe our New Year’s festivities began around 3pm with a bottle between the four of us, just because…
According to Wikipedia, “French cidre varies in strength from below 4% alcohol to considerably more. Cidre Doux is a sweet cider, usually up to 3% in strength. ‘Demi-Sec’ is 3–5% and Cidre Brut is a strong dry cider of 5% alcohol and above. Most French ciders are sparkling. Higher quality cider is sold in champagne-style bottles (cidre bouché). Until the mid-20th century, cider was the second most-consumed drink in France (after wine) but an increase in the popularity of beer displaced cider’s market share outside traditional cider-producing regions. In crêperies in Brittany, cider is generally served in traditional ceramic bowls (or wide cups) rather than glasses. A kir breton is an apéritif made with cider and cassis rather than white wine and cassis for the traditional kir (and it’s VERY sweet – like Ribena – we had a couple during our stay – see below).
Again, we ate sooo many galettes during our stay but they really are the perfect lunchtime meal, we decided. Especially since they are generally not huge portions and prepared fresh on order, I think it’s a lot better than any fast food option. And so civilised sitting down to a galette and a bolée de cidre.
What’s this about a galette, I hear you ask? Well, it’s what most French crêperies call savoury buckwhat flour pancakes, (ones made from regular flour, and served with a sweet filling, are called crêpes. The galette is popular in Normandy and Brittany where buckwheat was introduced as a crop suited to poor soil. The Breton galette is cooked on one side only and filled with It is frequently egg, meat, cheese, vegetables etc… The galette is folded over the filling to leave some still peeking out. One of the most popular varieties is a galette covered with grated Emmental cheese a slice of ham and an egg, cooked on the galette. In France, this is known as a galette complète.
On our first night in Dinan, we were delighted to come across this place mere steps from our house:
Arguably the best galettes we ate all trip (though you know how it is when you taste something for the first time and it’s hard to get over how wonderful that particular dish is?) and the site of one of only two forays into dessert crêpes (thankfully for our waistlines!).
Crêperies abound all over Brittany…
In Rohan, we ate here:
I am excited to try making galettes at home since I managed to bring back a package of the buckwheat flour. (Yes, yes, I know I could probably have bought it here but it’s so much more fun shopping in France!)
Ok, we thought this was a joke until we saw it in the supermarket! Breton cola! Whatever next? And why? Wikipedia offeres the same info we read in our “Tasty Brittany” book:
Breizh Cola, “the cola of Brittany”, is bottled by Phare Ouest. It is one of many new types of alternate cola, or “altercola,” competing with more established brands. These colas are currently produced in small volumes and are generally readily available in local markets only. Lancelot Brewery launched Breizh Cola in 2002, after one of the owners, Bernard Lancelot, noticed colas from the United States in a home in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle during a trip in 1997. Altercolas like Breizh Cola appeal to consumers because they offer different and unique flavours, and are also popular with those concerned about preserving diversity of choice in beverages.
But what of the taste? Well, I never drink full sugar pop (actually never really drink pop at all unless I am travelling because I like to taste the different local flavours) but this was very reminiscent of the Coca Cola of my childhood (we didn’t get to drink that much either). It’s less fizzy than Coke and sweeter. It was actually pleasant to drink in small quantities – kind of like a sweeter chinotto.
Of course, being close to the sea, there is a lot of seafood.
French butter. Yum. I am not a huge butter on bread fan in my real life but in France I do indulge. Especially when it’s butter with chunks of sea salt crystals… Brittany is full of wonderful butter too. David Lebovitz waxes poetic about all things Breton including the butter here.
We also enjoyed lots of buttery cookies, including those from the famed Mère Poulard in Mont St Michel.
I’ll leave you today with a great big “cheers” from a wonderful bar we discovered on our first night in Dinan, L’absinthe, on the Place St Sauveur.
We stopped in for a quick apéro and were regaled with tales of the owner’s “pet” black radish. Yep. I guess they don’t call it L’absinthe for nothing!!! Think someone might have been overindulging in the stuff…