Cidres Normands

31 07 2009

In addition to dairy products and seafood, Normandy is known for its apples.  Naturally, the people of Normandy figured out long ago how to make their abundant apple crop into a fermented beverage.  (I’m sure this had everything to do with preservation, and nothing to do with inebriation.)  There is even a 40 km “Cider Route” for tourists and enthusiasts.  These days, a majority of the cider in France comes from Normandy, though it turned out to be distinctly hard to track down in Rouen.  Nick and I asked for local cider in most of the restaurants and bars we visited, and only two poured it!  Considering that both served the same brand, Le P’tit Rouennais, and that we enjoyed it quite a bit, we hoped we would be able to find some in a shop before leaving town.  No such luck.  Of course it didn’t help that it was a holiday weekend and just about everything was closed, but we were hoping for a Lille-style jackpot in the local Monoprix.

A fairly typical cider from Normandy

After spending several hours wandering the town in search of local ciders to purchase, we ended up in a souvenir shop of sorts.  We bought three different ciders which, upon further inspection, were all from the same producer: Les Vergers de la Morinière.  It’s a family business that has been making cider and stronger apple-based spirits for 150 years.  We were curious to taste the difference between the styles, and to see if it was detectable.  Over the next few days, we tasted the three ciders, and I dutifully took notes.  First, L’Atypique.  This may not have been the best one to start with, seeing as Nick and I were unfamiliar with the “typical” Norman cider, but there it was.

L’Atypique was extremely effervescent, with a foamy white head that quickly dissolved.  The cloudy, golden color was reminiscent of nonalcoholic apple cider.  On the palate, the cider was rather dry, with a significant yeastiness.  Nick noted, “You can tell it used to be sweet.”

Cidre du Pays d'Auge

Next up was the AOC Cidre Pays d’Auge.  If there does exist a typical cider from Normandy, this one is it.  Super fizzy (again) and dry with a hint of fermented yeast character.  Compared to L’Atypique, the Cidre Pays d’Auge had a slightly darker amber color and tasted sweeter and more apple-y.  A very straightforward cider.

Cidre Fermier

Finally, we tried the Cidre Fermier.  I’m glad we saved this one for last, as it was probably my favorite of the lot.  It definitely smelled of apple, and still had a remarkable amount of fizz.  Cloudier and just darker in color than the Cidre Pays d’Auge, the Cidre Fermier had a rustic quality to it that really appealed to me.  The flavor was fuller and more complex than the other two, just edging on barnyardy, but in a good way.  (We had a cider that was barnyardy in a bad way shortly after moving to Paris… kind of had us wondering if we were going to get food poisoning, and put us off cider for a while.)  Anyway, now I know what to ask for the next time I’m in Normandy: Cidre Fermier.  If I can find a bar serving it, that is.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


Le Bastringue

2 04 2008

Now that I have finally re-entered the 21st century and gotten a French cell phone, complete with camera, I have no more excuses for not taking pictures when I’m dining out.  To test the abilities of this spiffy new device, Nick and I went to lunch at our favorite neighborhood bistro, Le Bastringue.  This place may very well be the best deal in Paris, especially at lunch.  They recently raised their prices from 10 euros to 10,50 (yes, that’s a comma – that’s how they do things here) for either appetizer + main course or main course + dessert.  We learned early on that the generous portions allow two people to share the appetizer and dessert courses and therefore we end up with a 3-course meal each for 21 euro!  Not too shabby.  Plus the food is fantastic.

Pâté de Campagne

Lunch the other day, for example, started with a large slice of pâté de campagne (or was it canard?  French handwriting is nearly impossible to read) and a small salad.  I like those proportions.  The pâté was firm, with lots of meaty bits, and great with the above-average (average being pretty high-quality) bread they serve.

For the main course, I chose the veal pasta and Nick opted for the pork in mustard sauce.

Veal Pasta

My dish was excellent.  The veal was unbelievably tender, shredding with ease into the rich sauce that dressed the perfectly al dente pasta. 

Pork in Mustard Sauce

Nick cleaned his plate, so I guess the pork was pretty good, too.  (He was coming down with a cold, so we didn’t share.)  I did manage to swipe a potato from his plate, and it was delicious, as the potatoes at the Bastringue always are.  One thing I really like about this place, upon reflection, is that the food is always correctly seasoned.  Sure, they provide salt and pepper at the table, but I can’t recall a single incidence in which I’ve used them.  I know it’s a small detail, but attention to detail is what separates the good from the great.  It may surprise some of you, but I have been several places (yes, in Paris) where salting the potatoes (or chicken, or whatever) was necessary.  Le Bastringue is not one of them.

But I digress.  For dessert we had the apple crumble.

Apple Crumble

It was made with fresh apples and served with two sauces: passion fruit and strawberry.  Each sauce was good on its own, but neither did much in the way of enhancing the apple crumble.  Still, I’d eat another plate of this right now, without hesitation.  I loved how the flavor and texture of the apples was preserved, rather than being drowned in sugar and cinnamon and baked into oblivion.  The tender crumb topping complemented the slightly crisp apples beautifully, maintaining just the right balance between sweet and tart.

See what I mean?  Best deal in Paris.

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