What to Eat in Brittany
While France has a strong national cultural identity, when it comes to food and drink it’s all about regional and local specialties. Good-natured wars of words have been fought for the right to call a city’s signature dish the original, or the best, or the most authentic.
You may think that tasting the cuisine of your destination may be an activity reserved for foodies, but in France it is considered as necessary as visiting a museum or taking a guided tour of an historical site. After all, half the French foods we know and love are named after the place they come from – from Champagne to Dijon – and like any good artisan knows, if you put your name on it, it had better be the best.
With lush green countryside, jagged cliffs dropping into the sea, sandy beaches and historic towns, Brittany is a great destination for history and food lovers alike. Brittany’s coastal location and fertile fields means great local produce, terrific seafood of all kinds, and salt marsh raised lamb, which are all truly delicious and are even better when washed down with a glass of crisp white wine.
These are baked clams stuffed with garlic, herbs, shallots and cooked in white wine. If that description didn’t sell you, I don’t know what would. These are great, and with fresh Brittany clams, you can’t ask for a whole lot else.
Scallops cooked in their shells with mushrooms, cheese, potatoes, shallots, and white wine toped with crispy breadcrumbs. Great for a cold day and truly a soul-satisfying delicious treat.
This is a hearty fish stew perfect for a chilly coastal day. It is usually made from monkfish and/or mackerel and mixed with onions, parsley, white wine, garlic and potatoes.
Pot au Feu de Homard
The Rolls Royce of fish stews, this Breton favorite uses lobster (usually from the town of Roscoff), shrimp, oysters, mussels and scallops. Salivating yet? Talk about a party in a pot.
I’m not sure where y’all stand on the idea of raw oysters, but if you enjoy oysters on the half shell at all, Brittany is THE place to indulge in this treat. Just thinking of a freshly shucked oyster with a sprinkle of lemon juice gets my taste buds going. The BEST oysters in France (and maybe the world) are harvested in a town called Cancale, which is a small town of only about 5,000 residents on the northern Brittany coast. In fact, the Cancale oysters are so good that King Louis XIV had his oysters brought to Versailles from this town. Centuries later, the farming and harvesting of oysters here is still a major industry. There are 7.3 square kilometers of oyster beds seen from the pier at the harbor, which harvest about 25,000 oysters each year.
In addition to the many seafood dishes, Brittany also has a reputation for excellent lamb, which is raised on the the salt water fields in the region. It is usually served with some of the abundant vegetables grown in the region and, because you are in France, some kind of delightful sauce.
Crêpes and Galettes
Crêpes have become a popular treat all over France, but the flat pancake actually originated in Brittany. The galette, a buckwheat version of the crepe, is usually served with savory fillings like ham, cheese and egg, as the main course. Sweet crêpes are filled with chocolate, fruit or sugar and eaten as dessert or a snack. Wash these down with a cup of Breton cider and you’ll be a happy camper.
You will find this dish all over France, but with the freshest mussels found in Brittany, this is an excellent place to enjoy this dish. Recipes vary in each restaurant, but mussels are usually steamed in a shallot, parsley and white wine sauce and served with a pile of crispy little French fries. It’s like the Breton version of fish and chips – with its own dipping sauce!
While that’s the classical way to eat moules-frites, don’t be timid when confronted with a menu of all different preparations – from curry to blue cheese to mustard, there is hardly a flavor that does these mollusks proud.