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We had passed through Brittany before and spent a few nights on two different occasions (St. Malo & Finisterre) but had never spent much time between Mt. Saint Michel and Cancale. Did some deep digging in CH but it is still pretty hard outside of major cities to find intel, pace the totally BRILL “Eating and Sleeping Outside of Paris” post.
Once I looked at our route from Orly and realized it would take us past the wonderful charcuterie/boulangerie Aux Co’Pains Gourmands ( https://auxcopainsgourmands.com/ )in La Bazoche-Gouet in the Eure-et-Loir we made a slight detour to stock up on rillettes, pâté and bread. Very good stuff we first encountered last year while visiting friends up the road.
We rented a delightful gite, overlooking La Manche, halfway between Mt. Saint Michel and Cancale in Cherrueix. Not much to the town but a few critical services: a bakery, a butcher, a small grocer, a pâté producer and free-range poultry and eggs.
We had driven mostly through rain and fog and on no sleep so we were pretty groggy, but thanks to a CH suggestion from Parnassien (merci !) we were glad to find Istrenn in Hirel, just up the road, was open on a Sunday so we had reserved.
COTE VIGNOBLE in Dol-de-Bretagne
Our landlady tipped us off to this place and we stocked up for the days ahead. Very nice wine shop and Epicerie Fine. Snagged some Bordier butter, some very good aged comté and a Valençay.
ISTRENN in Hirel
Once seated we were given some delicious multi-grain bread (no doubt buckwheat was involved) as well as several slices of peppery, Andouille de Dinan and some good butter, natch! I started with the Fine Tarte of Champignons et Saint Jacques. The tart was like a savory McVities Digestive cookie but more crumbly, complex and richer. The Saint Jacques on top were either raw or just barely ceviche-d and the mushrooms between the two layers were very earthy. A nice dish that seemed to clearly speak to this terroir. Bob had the Chou-Fleur de Cherrueix, émulsion de sarrasin, toast au fromage. The plate was divided between the chou and the sarrasin with the toasty crumbles between. Not the prettiest thing to look at but clearly one of the tastiest. He all but licked the plate. This was our first clue that we were, in addition to the land of seafood, in the land of outstanding vegetables. Bob had the Viande grille du moment (joue de bœuf), Tatin de carottes, jus acidule iode which was very good as well. I had the Agneau AOP de Pré-Salé, Roti et confit au jus from the legendary Yannick Frain (Bay of Mont Saint Michel). The plate had three different cuts of lamb, each succulent and perfectly cooked and a pile of young vegetables that had all clearly been cooked individually and maintained their integrity while also working harmoniously with the dish. On the side was a bowl of more bits and pieces of lamb, confit-d and then tossed with some baby bok-choy. Hands down, the best lamb I’ve ever had. I finished with fromage Breton which was two types of tomme and a funky lamb cheese as well as quince paste. Three courses was €24, two €19 and with a bottle of Saumur Champigny (€34) we were extremely well fed and happy. I’d go back. Very unassuming inside and out, but the food was top notch.
BREIZH CAFE in Cancale. Lunch.
Had never been able to get into the Paris outpost so was very happy to have a chance here. Now I get all the fuss. It kind-of ruins all other crêpe. . . We started with an assiette de cochon which had rillette, andouille, saucisson sec and poitrine. All very good, butter too, but very inferior bread. Next we had Galette Bretonne with mushrooms, ham, comté, crème fraiche and egg ; and Galette Rustique, embeurrée de choux, saucisse (ferme du pre-bois), crème moutardée et comté. Wowzer ! That last one, in particular. We swapped halfway, thank goodness. I went for Caramel Beurre Salé (when in Rome) and Bob had Dame Clémentine, which was a crêpe with Clémentines Caramélisées, sorbet chocolat noir, Chantilly et raisin de Corinthe. A nice bottle of François Sehedic Extra-Brut Cidre biologique (€18) was refreshing and went down much easier than most cidres for me. Thought much about going back…. €85
BISTROT AUTOUR DU BEURRE in Saint-Malo. Lunch.
We’re on a butter pilgrimage and decided we should go all-in and eat at Bordier’s restaurant. We each opted for the prix-fixe lunch which was €20 for two courses, €23 for three. Worth it just for the butter flight they give you to start off. Butter with: sea salt, seaweed, lemon, Piment d’Espelette, buckwheat, oignons de Roscoff, Yusu, and chocolate. Each of them delicious, and the bread very good as well. First up was Raviole de chèvre frais, champignons de Paris blond au beurre Sarazin. This was somewhere between a crêpe and a soup and was excellent. The star of the meal, actually. The plat was Onglet de bœuf, Pomme Anna et échalote confit au beurre de Piment d’Espelette. The vegetables on the plate out-shone the beef, but that is Brittany for you… we seem to be surrounded by cabbage, carrot and cauliflower fields, the last a real specialty of the environs. Bob went for the dessert which was a large pineapple macaron and Pina Colada sorbet. Refreshing, I guess, but not of much interest to me, so I passed. Enjoyed a very nice bottle of Crozes-Hermitage from Francois Villard. Lost the receipt, but given the menu, we were out of there for around €80, I think.
CREPERIE LE CONNETABLE in Dinan
On a whim drove here for lunch and had done no planning. Had a very nice lunch in 2007 but who knows where… It is raining on and off and no one place looks any better than any other, at least under these circumstances, so we duck in to this cozy room. Bob had a Galette Œuf au cheval (on a burger !) with some cheese and I went for the plat du jour which was a totally passable Blanquette de Veau. Finished with Crêpes (Caramel and Chocolat) which were actually better together, than apart. Nice room. Nice staff. Nice location. Totally forgettable food, but nice to be out of the rain. It goes this way sometimes, no ?
DISTRIBUTEUR AUTOMATIQUE LÉGUME ROBIN in Saint Malo, near Cancal, direction St. Meloir.
Open 24h, 7/7
Drove past this sign and did a double take and decided we HAD to turn the car around, go back and follow the arrow up the narrow dirt road. Indeed – this is the Automat of your vegetable dreams. In the middle of cauliflower and cabbage fields, a small stone shack lined with refrigerated, glass-doored compartments, each with a little ardoise describing its contents and price. You walk over to the central credit card machine, enter your credit card, enter the number of the bin you want, your card gets charged and the bin door pops open. We opted for Chou-Fleur, radishes, carrots, and leeks. All SO beautiful. All for €6. We giggled the whole time. Knowing we were headed for Paris and at least a few at home, holiday meals, as well as one more night in Brittany they were a great investment. I alluded to this in my Paris notes, but with produce like this, it would be a shame not to bang around a few pots and pans.
Very brief Normandy Notes up next. Thanks again, Parnassien. We didn’t make it to your other fine suggestions but it’s good to leave something on the table, right ? I have a feeling we’ll be back…