I don’t know about you, but it seems like these days the weekends are even busier than the weekdays. While I enjoy having a full social calendar, sometimes I just want some time to sit and do nothing. Last night we had a last-minute cancellation, freeing up the evening to do some clean-out-the-fridge cooking (cheese raviolis in leftover tomato sauce, zucchini baked with breadcrumbs and jamòn iberico) and some good old lounging on the couch with a beer and a movie. It was just the kind of Friday night I needed after a hectic week.
A few weeks ago, Nick and I spent the weekend in Saint-Malo with a group of his colleagues. It was a nice getaway, but there was a fair amount of running around – trying to make it to our lunch reservation on time, figuring out when the buses to Mont St. Michel were, coordinating schedules with 16 other people, and then there was my insistence on making pilgrimages to both of Jean-Yves Bordier’s shops. I mean, why buy butter at the cheese shop when you can buy it at the butter shop?
Since the cheese shop was closer to our hotel, we went there first (following a little postprandial nap on the beach).
We were planning to have a little picnic on the train home the next day, and we were sharing with another couple, so we got to indulge and bought about seven different cheeses, including a Trois-Cornes d’Aunis, which I’d been dying to taste, and a Breton specialty cheese with seaweed in it, which tasted much better than it sounds. We watched as the saleswomen lopped portions of fresh butter from the large slabs sitting on the marble and then used a special set of paddles to beat it into rustic rectangles before wrapping it up in waxed paper. We didn’t buy any butter, though, because I really wanted to see the mothership butter shop, somewhere in the tangle of streets intramuros. (The historic center of Saint-Malo is a walled medieval city, now filled with mostly touristy stuff, but there’s still plenty worth visiting.)
On our way there, we passed by the Larnicol pastry and chocolate shop. And we couldn’t help but to stop.
Bin after bin of mini kouign amanns in all sorts of flavors.
We filled up a bag with almond, pistachio, salted butter caramel, and “plain” kouignettes, then found a sunny spot to sit and
clog our arteries enjoy them. Extremely buttery and sweet, they were also a little tough, and the nut-based ones had a disappointingly artificial-almond flavor to them. Except for the nature. The plain, non-gimmicky one was soft delicate, and as light as a thing with that much butter and sugar can be. If I were to go back (and I recently learned that Larnicol has locations in Paris), I’d fill my bag with nothing but these. And the little bags of sablé butter cookies were not bad at all.
Thus fortified, we continued our search for the Bordier butter shop, only to find it shuttered – we’d missed opening hours by five minutes! As a result, I had to run back to the cheese shop in the morning to buy butter (500 grams each of salted and unsalted, and 250 grams of butter with smoked salt, which is a pure delight with radishes) before heading to the train station to catch the bus for a day trip to Mont St. Michel, on the border of Brittany and Normandy. (What? Do you really think I was going to leave St. Malo without the famed Bordier butter, direct from the source?)
And that is how I ended up carrying a bag of butter around an abbey on a mountain in the sea all day long.
On this day in 2008: Monte Cristo Sandwiches! (And Another Salad) includes my recipe for French-ified coleslaw.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.