Thursday, 8 April 2010

Easter “à la normande” (with onions and cream)

I suspect I won’t be the most popular girl on the blog writing about food right after Easter. Apparently too many of us have been overeating, drinking in abundance, spending too much time with in-laws, and wishing now to forget about the whole ordeal… Not me, though. This Easter wasn’t your regular Sunday with dyed eggs and chocolate bunnies (what do chocolate bunnies have to do with the resurrection of Jesus anyway?), it was the Easter of oysters and champagne, decadent chocolate cakes and coquilles St. Jacques.

For those who just suppressed a yawn reading this there is a button “Next blog” on the top of the screen, for the others I have three words: “The French can eat” (technically it is four words, no? Native English speakers please do correct). But you probably already knew it. I kind of did too, but the combination of several ingredients, such a Frenchman, passionate about food, his Central American wife, passionate about food and life in general, and Easter holidays on the shore of Calvados, produced an explosion of self-indulgence and unforgettable festivities.

On arrival to Grandcamp I was relieved of my luggage and handed a chilled glass of Pommeau (a new pleasant thing to discover, I love “pommes” in all forms, from calvados (in moderation) to apple charlotte (again, in moderation). While "le canard au pêches" was shimmering sweetly, oysters have been opened and glasses of champagne have been filled. Let the magic of French cuisine begin! Ask me about the best way to eat oysters…I will answer: With vinegar and shallots, and a crispy baguette (preferably from a local artisanal bakery) spread with French butter… The duck was served with Château du Bois Meney (Bordeaux Côtes De Francs 2000). Then came a round of cheese (I went for Roquefort and Camembert) and mini cakes from a bakery next door, accompanied, again, by champagne. How much more decadent life could get? Oh, there is always a space for a next downfall…how about an 11 hour sleep? :)

Saturday morning was…well, slept through, and the day started at lunch in Bayeux (at least that’s when my recollection of memories picks up again…). Bayeux is a little town seven kilometers from the coast of La Manche (English Channel), best known for the Bayeux tapestry, made to commemorate events in the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.  Lots of English tourists, indeed, even the menus outside of brasseries had little English incriptions: “Mules Frites a la normande. With onions and cream". That’s what I was having for lunch. And a little portion of sunshine, it is almost as precious as coquilles St. Jacques here. Later there was a “light” dinner of oysters and crabs from the local market (It really would be light if the baguette and butter didn’t cut in).

The Easter morning was cold and windy, so the activities of the day were narrowed down to a walk to the local market (hmmm… 150m both ways, I suppose) to stock up on oysters. Meanwhile le mouton a la moroccaine was shimmering on the stove for lunch. And that should have been it for a day, but of course it wasn’t. There was also dinner with oysters for starters (what else?...) and the coquilles St. Jacques with Pommeau and cream sauce. “It’s never as good as the first time” – wasn’t this song of Sade written about the first experience of tasting a coquille St. Jacques? I am almost sure it was. It’s delicacy and texture are indescribable, at least not with my literary abilities anyway.

The highlight of Monday was a trip to the Mont St. Michel. As proper tourists we had an overpriced crêpe at an overpriced café, washing it down with a glass of dark beer for some reason…an unusual and not unpleasant combination. I felt almost rebellious ordering it.   

Looking back I can’t believe that all this hedonism took place practically in the middle of a construction field. Between the magnificent meals doors were replaced and walls there knocked down and bathrooms repaired. Only the three-meter-long antique oak table in the center of the room was undisturbed (unless by changing sets of plates and glasses) and served us as a sanctuary of stability and reassurance.

I am afraid to bore you to death with my culinary delirium, try to get back to it on an empty stomach, it’s quite fun. Anyway, that was my Easter. How was yours?


  1. Christopher Freeble9 April 2010 at 04:53

    That is too much fun and good food for one person.

    The French know very much how to eat. It looks like you know how to eat the very best that they have.

    Oysters! Coquilles St. Jacques with Pommeau and cream sauce?? I am leaving for Paris at once.

    One thing weirder than chocolate bunnies for Easter I saw?? How about a white chocolate crucified Jesus? Yes, I saw one.

    Where do these people come from? How do you start to eat such a thing?

    But in New York I can also have good Thai food (maybe with a chocolate Buddah?)

  2. A white chocolate Jesus is indeed a new level of ridicule (where would you start: the bleeding feet or the head?...), as I say, there is always a space for the further downfall, people seem to abuse this advantage generously... And you won’t get the top sea stuff in Paris...you got to go to Normandie :). Have good time in New York. Oh, the chocolate Buddha...is a perfect parody on abstinence, you should patent it.

  3. Christopher Freeble11 April 2010 at 09:13

    Now that I am a "sophisticate," I must differ.

    I place in contention one of the finest seafood restaurants in Paris, "Les Pyramides," 1 et 3 rue des Pyramides (sous les Arcades) 75001.

    They drive the seafood in fresh from Normandy VERY quickly, AND, the fried foie gras makes up for everything else.