Food has always been one of the reasons why I travel extensively and I do mean extensively here.
I had a trip scheduled to Deauville in Normandy, France a couple of years back. It wasn’t purely a work trip but I was accompanying my father for work and decided to take couple of days off to explore the rather unknown villages and towns around Deauville that were quite well known for their regional food produce.
Normandy is a French food lover’s delight with a major chunk of villages having their own cheese set-ups and actually having the cheeses named after these villages. Cheese’s like Pont-Levaque, Camembert and to name a few – all originate from Normandy.
However, there are quite a few other specialities of Normandy that are yet unknown. Did you know, there are snail farms in the South of Normandy. These are actually breeding farms that rear Snails or as the French call them “escargots”. These are a delicacy all over France. Blobs of butter and fresh herbs and a few escargots would win the heart of a hard-core French food enthusiast.
I couldn’t really visit the place (I don’t eat escargots) but who’s to stop me from understanding the farming process and understand the culture. After all, its French food.
Anyhow, I did make a trip to Pont-l’eveque, a rather small town just a train stop away from Deauville. This place is well famed for two products – one is its cheese named as “Pont l’eveque” and another is “Calvados” or rather famous in simple terms as Apple Brandy.
I made a trip to one of the largest Distilleries of Calvados “Piere Magloire”. A beautiful set-up that houses a small museum on the history of Calvados and a detailed display of how they came about manufacturing this golden liquid. I was led into a small theatre room that ran a short movie on how calvados is manufactured, finer points that needed to be taken care of when manufacturing and the varieties of Calvados.
After the movie, we were taken on a tour of the set-up with talks on various aspects of Calvados manufacturing (It was all in French but I could put a little of my broken French and English together). Giant vats lay there ageing the liquid for enhanced flavour and taste.
A small display unit showcased the varieties of Calvados by their strength and alcohol content. The darker the spirit, higher the alcohol content.
Calvados is made from apple juice that is fermented. The alcohol generated is distilled off by a special fractionation process and there you have your Calvados.
Piere Magloire don’t really make the apple juice themselves as I understood but their were the distillery. They sourced apple juice, fermented and distilled the spirit and bottled it. Their supplies are made world over.
The varieties of Calvados with lower alcohol content (starting from 17%) can be used for cooking while the higher alcohol content ones (about 45%) are had on its own with ice.
Post the tour, we ended up in a tasting room cum shop where we could taste the varieties of Calvados and make our purchases too. The place had a very rustic old world charm about it. Wooden shelves were lined with beautiful glass bottles holding this delicious liquid in all shades of amber.
I tasted a couple and then settled for the younger variety with a lower alcohol content. It was perfect for making cocktails and also useful in cooking.
The place had quite a few recipe books on cooking with Calvados too but majorly in French.
Travel shouldn’t be just focused on mainstream cities and towns. You really need to venture off track a bit to get a feel of the culture of the place.
Normandy is just that. Small villages, towns that hold beautiful food treasures.