Good Food Blog
Rule BretagnePosted at 12:02PM, 09 September 2008 by Julia Blanter - Web producer, UKTV Food
I've been tuning in every night to James Martin's Brittany to indulge my inner Francophile. James is on top form as he revisits the villages of western France where he studied cooking as a teenager.
I spent a week travelling around Brittany this year, and thanks to the high-speed rail, it takes just three hours from Paris. The hit of clean, salty air as you leave the train is worth the trip alone.
James highlights the region's typical fare: kouign aman, a rich, buttery cake; refreshing cidre, the local tipple, poured high from pitchers to create a frothy head. It's delicious with moules frites - use an empty shell as a fork for the mussels, as the locals do, and mop up that tasty white wine sauce with the fries.
Brittany has much produce to be proud of. Fleur de sel, that 'it' ingredient (call it the new truffle oil), is described as the best salt in the world. You'll find caramel à la fleur de sel, little bonbons studded with the crunchy flakes. Stock up on a bag or two.
The tradition is to slurp them down and throw the shell back into the beach behind you, to guarantee another crop of briny bivalves
If you love oysters like I do, take the bus from Saint-Malo to Cancale, a fishing town that's lined with cute restaurants (mind the plastic lobsters and fishing net hanging from the ceiling), and go straight to the enclave of oyster stalls at the end of the street. Oysters are shucked to order - ask for a dozen and perch yourself on the wall. The tradition is to slurp them down and throw the shell back into the beach behind you, to guarantee another crop of briny bivalves.
If you're still peckish while strolling through these charming coastal towns, order something very French - the ubiquitous crêpe. Except that in Brittany, crêpes are made with buckwheat flour, and become galettes de sarrasin. The nutty, grainy flavour lends a wholesome taste to the crêpes.
And when you visit Mont St Michel, that postcard-perfect abbey, which is the reason most visitors come to Brittany, you'll notice a long line of hungry tourists. They're queuing up at La Mère Poulard, where the speciality is omelette, and has been for 120 years. Here, the omelettes are tall and fluffy (made by separating the eggs and beating the whites - in copper bowls - to achieve a soufflé-like airiness) - and for the ultimate in luxury, try the omelette stuffed with foie gras - you'll want to treat yourself after that long wait to get in.
Brittany is a region of France brimming with local culinary delights. Have you been to Brittany, and what were some of your favourite food memories?