It’s Langoustine season in Finistère Sud, the southwestern part of Brittany. Known in English as the “Norway Lobster,” they are available in abundance at all the markets. We’re indulging several times a week. And why not? At an affordable $7 a pound at the Poissonnerie (fishmonger’s), they are irresistible. Some fishmongers even boil them up for you in a special machine in a quick four minutes.
They remind me of Vancouver, B.C.’s famous spot prawns, a delicate crustacean I have known, loved and missed.
Local restaurants serve huge plates of boiled langoustines with mayonnaise, but I prefer them at home with just a little olive oil, lemon and garlic, with those lovely small Breton potatoes on the side. There is nothing better!
The rest of Breton cooking is not much to my liking. The region is famous for its salted butter, and it tends to find its way into everything in copious amounts. Old style French cuisine is the norm, which means rich sauces. I will admit, they are tasty in small measure (a teaspoon), but inevitably the steamed fish with vegetables restaurant order arrives sitting in a bath of cream. Give me a good boiled Icelandic fish dinner!
The weekly markets in this part of Brittany, which is sparsely populated and lacks big cities, are small affairs of a dozen or so vendors. They are the only places I have found a few decent vegetables, as the supermarket fare isn’t impressive at all. Lots of buttery Breton galettes and sablés (sugar cookies) are available, though.
So beyond the frequent langoustine meals, I console myself daily with two other widely available Breton products, such as crackers and crepes made with Blé Noir (buckwheat) and fresh Brebis, sheep’s milk cheese.
And of course, there’s the cider. I have never seen a vineyard in Brittany, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say there aren’t any. However, great apple cider is available everywhere and you can buy bottles direct from the producers by taking the turn at the sign for the “Cidrerie” off the road. I like the extra dry, with fine bubbles, low alcohol and a slightly tangy aftertaste. You have to drink it right away, or it becomes too bitter, but that’s not a problem.
Not bad for a summer experience.