Monthly Archives: June 2013

Crêperie du Port, Cancale

Over the years, we have been to three different crêperies in Cancale and there is one above the others: Crêperie du Port.

The service is always very friendly and fast, and atmosphere cosy. The restaurant seems very all-kind-of-people friendly, and I have seen them making effort to welcome everyone, no matter how much space a customer may require (wheelchairs, prams, etc.). Crêperie du PortDuring the coquille SaintJacques (scallop) season, I love to order the scallop and leek-fondue galette (made of gluten-free buckwheat flour). I think it is my all-time favorite savory galette!

Sadly, it was no longer the scallop season in Cancale last week. I asked the waiter and he said they only serve scallops when they can get them fresh. I searched the menu and found an other galette that seemed similar. It said pétoncles, and my husband said pétoncles are similar to coquille SaintJacques, but just smaller (if you are curious, type these French names on your Internet search, and see the English translators: they are both translated “scallop”… confusing!)scallop and leek galetteSo, I ordered my pétoncles galette and it was delicious. It was as good as my usual favorite galette, and the only difference was that the scallop pieces were a tiny bit smaller, and there was no leek (instead, there were mushroom). I loved it.petoncle galetteMy husband ordered his usual choice: galettes à l’andouillette, which is basically a coarse-grained sausage of pork, intestines or chitterlings, seasoned with pepper, wine, onions. Yep! Sounds hmmm interesting! I don’t eat pork, so I find this disgusting, but I tell you, many people love it. If you are adventurous, go for it (but please just keep the plate close to you, as it smells strong).

We ate our galettes with local cider (see the first photo), which was such a delight! I loved how it tasted so natural, with just the right acidity. It was real cider (not filled with chemicals and sugar)!

PS a tip: This time we did not have dessert, but I strongly urge you to taste the crêpe caramel au beurre salé (crêpe made of white wheat flour, with salty butter caramel). This crêpe is the best dessert ever invented in the world (no exaggeration!) and it is DIVINE. And the best is that if you cannot or do not want eat gluten (white wheat flour), you can ask the crêperie to make this crêpe with buckwheat flour! Do not hesitate to ask. I have done it many times and usually there are no objections. I personally find the buckwheat flour and caramel combination not bad, but see it for yourself!

Address (the main street, by the port): La Houle, 1 Place du calvaire, CancaleTel: +33-(0)2-99 89 60 66

L’huitrière, Cancale

We walked by L’huitrière many times during our visits to Cancale before actually trying it. I guess we thought it cannot be good if the prices are so low. We were wrong.L'huitrière CancaleL’huitrière is run by a family of local oyster farmers. There are different menus and the prices start at 12€ (starter, main course, dessert), but one can also order outside the menus. Last week I ordered a fish soup for a starter and it was served with rouille, emmental cheese and croutons. It was a pleasure to eat my soup. fish soup L'huitrièreFor the main course I wanted to order the house specialty,  the skate fish served with cider-soaked cabbage and capers, but unfortunately I was told that the cabbage season ended some months ago! What a big disappointment. I love this dish (it is called raie aux câpres et son embeurré de choux au cidre and you can see it in the photo below). Instead, I chose the normal skate fish, and I did not like it. It came with an 80’s style white sauce, boiled vegetables and tagliatelle…

My husband ordered mussels and french fries, and loved the mussels (les moules marinières).raie aux capresAs dessert I chose sorbet and one cannot go very wrong with that… Previously I have had Ile Flottante but I was just not that hungry any more. Next time however I will return to the “floating island” made of meringue.

I do think that for this low prices (12€!), it is worth eating at L’huitrière, but one should know something about ordering. My rules for future are these:

1) Stick to local ingredients (mussels, fresh oysters, whelks (boulots) and fish soup. Do not go for exotic options like squid –it is not native to Bretagne.

2) Ask for seasonal recommendations.

3) If the house specialty is available, have the skate fish with capers and cider cabbage. It is very tasty and a good combination of ingredients. Just be careful how to eat it (it comes with bones that can be tricky).

4) Mussels are available at most times of the year and are “always good”! They are a very safe choice.

L’huitrière,

14 Quai Gambetta, Cancale. Tel: +33-(0)2-99 89 75 05.

http://www.huitres-cancale.fr/fr_huitres-cancale/restaurant-a-cancale-p0-C27.html

Au Pied de Cheval, Cancale

Au Pied de Cheval is usually our first stop upon arrival in Cancale. This was the case last Thursday, too. Instead of dropping our bags at the hotel, we parked the car in front of this charming “oyster house”.  Au Pied de Cheval CancaleDuring the entire journey from Paris we had been dreaming and talking about les bulots (whelks) and les huîtres (oysters) so we knew what we wanted to order. You don’t need to follow our habits –by all means go and explore all types of seafood (the menu is in English!)– but this is what we ordered last Thursday (and what we usually order):

Starter: we begun with a whelk and pink prawn plate to share (10€). The plate comes with a  bowl of mayonnaise.

We also ordered a bottle of Muscadet Sur Lie for 18€. This dry white wine comes from the western side of the Loire Valley and is usually served with oysters (and seafood in general). whelks and pink prawnsMain course: we ordered two portions of une douzaine (a dozen) of huîtres creuses. At Au Pied de Cheval, the oysters are sold by la douzaine, and there are two types of oysters:  huîtres creuses that are bowl shaped and huîtres plates that are flat. We prefer the bowl-shaped ones, but again, it is up to your taste!

After choosing the type, we needed to choose the size. Number 5 is the smallest oyster and number 00 the largest. We ordered a dozen of number 0 and a dozen of number 1. Again, up to your taste! To put things in perspective, the common size sold at any “standard” restaurant is usually number 2… types of oysters Our oysters were really big, and yet I usually like the number 0 and 1, I now think we should have maybe chosen something smaller. I explained in Eating oysters in months without “r” that this time of the year (the summer) makes oysters milky and soft in France, and I believe that smaller oysters would have better hidden these aspects that do affect oysters’ taste and texture. If you are unsure which number to choose, ask for advice! huitres creuses CancaleTip: Oysters in Bretagne are often eaten with either lemon or red wine vinegar with shallot. If the oysters are at the table, bread is served, but there is no red vinegar, ask for vinaigre aux échalotes. Of course you can eat oyster without anything, but for example I like mixing: one oyster with nothing, the next one with vinegar…

Our meal was more than sufficient, and tasty. Au Pied de Cheval has been consistently good over the years and that is why we keep returning there. Another tip to share is that if you fancy a more restaurant-like setting, ask for a table upstairs. Downstairs is more like an oyster bar and since the door is open almost all the time, it can get chilly and you should dress warmly. In general do not wait for an overly enthusiastic welcome or amazing service –just focus on eating your delicious oysters and you will be happy!

Restaurant Au Pied de Cheval: 10, quai Gambetta, Cancale. Tel: +33-(0)2-99 89 76 95.
PS There is one in Saint-Malo, too. tel: -33-(0)2-99 40 98 18.

Cancale: my favorite weekend trip destination from Paris

Bretagne (Brittany) is one of my favorite regions of France. I love the seafood and the scenery the region offers. I am maybe partially subjective (my husband’s father’s side is Breton), but just a tiny bit… Bretagne is an amazingly stunning region full of cute fishing villages, numerous historic sites and friendly, down to earth people. The region is well preserved and it has more coastline than any other region in France (almost 3000km).CancaleWhen we have an opportunity to go away for a short weekend, we often choose Cancale. Cancale is exactly 396km from the center of Paris and if there is no traffic, it is possible to do the journey in four hours. We usually go by the A13 highway (which passes by Normandy) and drive until Pontorson. Right after Pontorson we turn right, direction Saint-Georges-de-Gréhaigne. After driving by another small village, Saint-Broladre, we watch out for a small sign “Chapelle Sainte-Anne” (be attentive, it is easily missed). Once we arrive at Chapelle Sainte-Anne we leave the car and walk to the sea (which is very near by) to admire Mont Saint-Michel. Wow, what a view! And so close to Paris! From Chapelle Sainte-Anne, Cancale is only 24km away. I strongly recommend choosing this route because it goes right by the sea and passes by oyster-farming villages. As a bonus, you have Mont Saint-Michel on your right-hand side most of the time (during the clear skies).CancaleCancale has a lot to offer to a tourist in terms of accommodation and restaurants, but I will hereby share our usual addresses.

For sleeping, we usually opt eithLe Grande Largeer for Le Querrien (starting at 59€ low season) or for Le Grand Large (starting at 45€ all year round). Both hotels are by the sea (the port) and have a restaurant. Le Querrien has three stars and Le Grand Large to me seems more like a two-star hotel. The latter has a free parking in front of the hotel (see the photo on the left). Both have a friendly personnel. It is probably fair to say that Le Querrien is more comfortable in terms of amenities, whereas Le Grand Large is more like a charming old grandparents’ house. Prices vary quite a lot according to the season and it is best to call them up. For example, last week we were at Le Grand Large and paid 50€ for a room with a sea view (the price they quoted on telephone was more interesting than the Internet prices on hotel.com and similar websites). We thought 50€ was very reasonable.View from Hotel Le Grand LargeMy previous articles What to pack for Bretagne (Brittany)?  and  Eating oysters in months without “r” mentioned one of our favorite Cancale restaurants, Au Pied de Cheval, Cancale.  We usually start here and fill our stomachs with a dozen of oysters. Last Thursday we left Paris at 10h and arrived in Cancale at 15h30. Good thing about Au Pied de Cheval is that it is open all day long, so there is no stress about arriving in Cancale at a certain time. For dinner, we usually go to another restaurant also on the main street (by the port) called L’huitrière, Cancale. I have been to many other restaurants in Cancale, and don’t mistake me, you can eat well everywhere! Should you wish crêpes & galettes, I recommend Crêperie du Port, Cancale.IMG_3887If you wonder what else there is to do in Cancale apart from eating oysters, I can tell you that there are fantastic beaches when you drive toward Saint-Malo by the scenic northern road. For hikers, there is also a GR34, which offers Saint-Malo on one side and Mont Saint-Michel on the other side. As we like jogging, we always take running shoes with us and take advantage of the clean seaside air. (Tip for runners: if you are in the center of Cancale facing the sea, start running toward the East, Mont Saint-Michel, along the bay. You can run for about 25 minutes along the beach (you will see when you cannot go further) and once you turn back and arrive in Cancale, it will make a nice 50 minute run)

Otherwise, some other great things to do in Cancale (and in Bretgane in general) are observing the tides (the tide around Cancale is one of the most important ones in the entire Europe) and watching fishermen collecting oysters, mussels and other seafood.oyster-farming in CancaleIf you have been to Cancale, what do you think is the best thing to do there? Do you have a favorite hotel or a restaurant? Does observing the tide seem like a pleasant pastime to you?

Links:

Chapelle Sainte-Anne: http://www.cc-baie-mont-st-michel.fr/chapelle-sainte-anne.htm

Hotel Le Querrien: http://www.le-querrien.com/

Hotel Le Grand Large: http://hotel-restaurant.hotellegrandlarge.com/

Restaurant Au Pied de Cheval: Au Pied de Cheval, Cancale

Restaurant L’Huitrière: L’huitrière, Cancale

Restaurant Crêperie du Port: Crêperie du Port, Cancale

Eating oysters in months without “r”

If you are a fan of oysters, you may have heard that you should only eat them in months that are spelled with “r”. This gives you eight months (from September to April), but doesn’t explain what to do when you visit an oyster region outside of that period.

I just returned to Paris from a fantastic long weekend in Bretagne (Brittany). Our first stop was Cancale, a famous and cute oyster-farming town. If you read my previous post What to pack for Bretagne (Brittany)? you remember that Cancale equals oysters. For me, there is no going to Cancale without eating oysters. But when you are traveling outside the “r” season, the question “to eat them or not to eat them” exists. My short answer to the “r” dilemma is this: it is up to your taste!oysters Cancale

As oysters breed during the months without “r” (=the summer), they become milky (=laiteuses). Texture becomes softer, and when you touch the oyster with a fork it may seem decomposed. Compared to a “winter oyster” (months with “r”) , the liquid of this “summer oyster” is not as clear. If you are not very familiar with oysters, you may mistake milky liquid and soft oyster as signs of an oyster gone “off”. Yet it may not necessarily be the case, I do admit it can be difficult to differentiate a good and a bad oyster. Cancale

We arrived in Cancale last Thursday and went straight to Au Pied de Cheval. We know this restaurant really well, so we knew that if oysters are good and safe to eat somewhere at this time of the year, this is the place (the owners are oyster farmers). We ordered two portions of “douzaine” (2 x 12 oysters).  They arrived big and beautiful, smelling sea weed. Even if the oysters were not as rich in sea-water taste as usually, they still gave us a very pleasant lunch. It was only the last oyster that I touched and felt unsure of eating (yes, indeed, it was milky and very decomposed). I could have maybe eaten it and been just fine, but why to risk. IMG_7276

While traveling in Bretagne, I once again talked to locals who confirmed my feeling and previous knowledge. The problem of eating oysters in months without “r” is not so much about getting sick simply because it is summer, temperatures are higher hence more bacterias, etc., but more about one’s personal taste. Oysters do have a different taste in winter compared to summer. In winter they do taste more like the sea… On the other hand, oyster-farming towns sell oysters all year round, so that also tells you that the demand is always there.

My personal advice is that if you love oysters and know the place where you are going to eat them, go for it! However, if you are not familiar with oysters in general, then don’t do it. Hating oysters because you ate then when they were not at their best would be a pity.

But what do you think of all this? If you love oysters and eat them often, please tell me about your personal “oyster strategy” and if you follow the “r” school!