For foodies, you’re not new to the fact that France has some of chefs in the world and serves some of the most delicious dishes you’ll remember across your travels. Most people think that Paris is where it’s at, however traveling around France’s various regions will prove that wrong, despite the fact that I’ve had plenty a scrumptious meal in Paris.
During an early autumn trip to Normandy and Brittany this year, I spent a lot of time eating my way through both regions. Famous for its dairy products, like butter, milk, cream and cheese, Normandy is also world wide renowned for its apples. Most restaurants in Normandy locally sourced products and try to support as many regional farmers as possible.
Of course, many know Normandy’s infamous galettes, their mussels and oysters along the coast, which Brittany is known for as well, and their classic cheeses like Livarot and Camembert, which is a soft, creamy, surface-ripened cow’s milk cheese first made in the late 18th century. In addition to fresh mussels and oysters, Brittany offers a wide variety of seafood and is also known for their cider and pancakes.
Even the smallest village will offer memorable culinary treats for any serious foodie. The regions of Brittany and Normandy are haute-cuisine heaven for food lovers. Join me on a visual journey of some of the dishes I had on the loop I made from Paris north through the heart of Normandy to the coast, moving west after Mont Saint Michel and stopping by Auray before heading back inland to Chartres and returning to Paris.
Let’s start with our longest lunch, which was at a quaint restaurant in the heart of Chartres at a place called Brasserie des Changes on Rue des Changes. It is worth noting that we ate (and ate) for several hours, where we went from pates, salads and cheese to oysters, chicken, pork, salmon over greens and tuna tartare. And, as always, we had wine with lunch because that’s simply what you do in France. Ahhh, I love this place!
Macaroons came after lunch with coffee. They were extraordinary and I’m not normally a huge fan of macaroons….yet, every one I tasted in central France were fresh and out of this world, this selection included. Next door to the restaurant on the corner, there’s a quaint shop I’d recommend ducking your head in to purchase macaroons, candy, flavored jams (a massive variety) and my favorite offering, their wide selection of honey. They had everything from Thyme, Basil, Rosemary and Lavender infused honey to more traditional sweeter ones.
Dinner at Bistrot de la Cathedrale in Chartres, where we sat outside under the heat lamps. It offers a great view of the cathedral.
Dinner at Restaurant La Rotisserie outside Mont Saint Michel’s walls in northern Normandy.
The oysters were fresh and oh so out of this world – Yum!
Traditionally they serve mussels in a pot and there are enough to keep you going for hours – like many places, they served them with fries on the side.
Auberge St. Pierre on the Rocher inside the walls of Mont Saint Michel.
While French cooking is often all things natural albeit heavy at times, it’s less so in Provence and along the coast. While Normandy and Brittany chefs do cook with a lot of cheese and cream, they also are known for lighter options such as their oysters (the Brittany coast) and mussels in the heart of Normandy as pictured above. I’d be remiss however, if I didn’t mention another aspect of French cuisine — French Fries.
They are served on many dishes you’ll order in France, including Normandy. We fell upon this happy French Fries man on our way north from Paris into the heart of southern Normandy on the main highway route.
There are a few cafes and restaurants around Auray’s Port Goustan on the harbor, the one with the best view is Le Chasse Maree, where we had lunch. A wide variety included salads, pates, fois gras, oysters on the half shell, fish soup (below), steak, fresh fish and scallops (third photo below).
Lunch at Brasserie le Moka on Place de la Republique in Lisieux.
A classic traditional French breakfast, served at Hotel Saint Louis in Lisieux.
Below are some selections from La Coupe d’Or on Rue Pont Mortain in Lisieux. In addition to the pates and salads we tried, this classic French restaurant offers kidneys and sweetbreads with Pays d’Auge sauce, Jarreton with Cider, Sea Bream with Andouille de Vire and the famous Teurgoule prepared by their chef. They also have a location in Paris.
Sampling a variety of desserts with espresso in northern Normandy.
Below is a shot of a traditional Normandy crepe, called a Galette. We sampled a variety of them at a restaurant called Les Bles d’or in Lisieux. Choices on the menu included salmon with onions, cream, lemon and salad, a duck, cheese and cream gallette, a Provence style one with tomatoes, sauce, ham, cheese and egg, La Picarede en saison d’hiver (winter season), which included cheese, egg, endives, ham and cream, and more simple offerings, such as butter, ham, cheese and mushrooms or simply ham and gruyere cheese. I created my own blend without the cheese, of classic French ham, mushrooms, onions and spinach. Yum!!
Les Bles D’or also has a great selection of sweet crepes as well.
Below is a plate of cheese from Le Village Fromager in Livarot, which is an easy drive south of Lisieux. Read our write up on the Graindorge cheese farm, which includes an educational tour I took of the farm to learn about how the cheese was made step-by-step.
Below is a drink you’ll find everywhere in Normandy – Calvados. Famous to the region, it tastes like a cross between a brandy and a bourbon in my opinion, except that it is made from apples, of which there are 120 varieties of in Normandy alone. Read our write up on the Calvados Boulard distillery in Coquainvilliers France. (Calvados Boulard).
Also be sure to check out our Brittany/Normandy food & wine section (and posts), as well as our general section on Brittany/Normandy. And, of course for the passionate about all things France, we have quite a bit of content in our France section as well as Paris.
Note: My trip was hosted by the French Tourism Board, however all opinions expressed are entirely my own.