Archive for the ‘food and drink’ Category

Camembert cheese is named after a small village in the Orne department of Lower Normandy, under an hour north from where we live (near Alençon). It’s a cheese of many talents: I like it young, when the inside is creamy yet crumbly, while others like it when it is really mature – what I call a runny, smelly mess. Personal choice!

Young, fresh camembert is quite mild, but as it ripens it becomes softer and more strongly flavoured.  Camembert is used in lots of recipes, but its distinctive flavour and texture gets lost in heating.  I prefer eating it in its natural state with fresh bread, when it MUST be served at room temperature to get the full flavour.  I think it is also best served with cider rather than with wine.

The best camembert is made from untreated milk and produced in the traditional way including hand-ladling into moulds – these top-quality cheeses bear the AOC Camembert label.


Other famous cheeses in the immediate environs include Livarot, Pont l’Evêque and Neufchâtel.  I confess that “Cœur de Neufchâtel”, the heart-shaped cheese, is my favourite of all of these, even if Camembert is better known.

Legend has it that Camembert cheese was invented by accident in 1791, and the story involves the French Revolution, a priest on the run and a lady farmer.

The Legend of Camembert Cheese

During the French Revolution (which began in 1789), all Catholic priests were required to swear allegiance to the new republic under pain of execution orexile. Rather than take any of these choices, some priests took refuge in the countryside.

In October 1791, the Abbé Charles-Jean Bonvoust sought refuge with Marie Harel at her manor farm, Beaumoncel near Camembert – Marie was born and grew up in Camembert.  The Abbé came from the Brie, a cheese-making region near Paris. As thanks for the shelter she offered him, he gave to Marie the “secret” of making Brie-style cheese.  However, Marie altered the recipe slightly, giving rise to a quite different type of cheese.

A nice story, but Camembert and the surrounding Auge region were already famous for their cheese well before Marie Harel was ever born. In 1569, Brugerin de Champier in his De Re Ciberia referred to “augeron cheeses”, as did Charles Estienne, another writer, in 1554. Thomas Corneille (brother of Pierre Corneille, author of Le Cid) also spoke in 1708 of “the cheeses of … Camembert” in his treatise on geography.

During the 19th century, thanks to the growth of the rail-road and the use of the now traditional individual, round wooden boxes to protect the cheeses from damage, Camembert conquered the markets of Paris and France and its fame has since spread world-wide.

Visiting Camembert


President Farm

The village is very picturesque and worth a  visit.  A trip there can be combined with a visit to the larger, nearby town of Vimoutiers and/or the wonderful Château de Vendeuvre which is not far away. In Camembert:

  • The President Farm : find out how Camembert is made.
  • Maison de Camembert (House of Camembert) : round and white, the building looks like a half-open box of Camembert! Used as a display centre in summer.
  • Manoir de Beaumoncel : This old manor-house was the home of Marie Harel, the lady cheese-maker of legend
  • La Héronnière Farm – Fromagerie Durand : the last dairy farm in the actual village of Camembert producing true A.O.C. camembert cheese from raw milk, hand moulded with a ladle in the traditional way.

The manufacturing process

This video is adapted from the site www.fromageriegillot.fr – one of the top manufacturers of Camembert cheese, and a multiple prize-winner.

The traditional Camembert cheese making process takes 3 to 4 weeks.  Without going into detail, the main stages are:

  1. curdling the milk with the addition of rennet and ferments
  2. ladling the curds into individual moulds, from which Camembert takes its form
  3. draining the excess moisture from the moulds, which can take a day
  4. then the cheese is turned out and rubbed with salt on all surfaces, to develop the aroma of the Camembert and form the crust
  5. maturing in the drying room takes an average of twelve days, turning the cheese every 48 hours
  6. wrapping in waxed paper and packing into the traditional round, wooden containers
  7. eating – the best bit (but I still prefer Cœur de Neufchâtel!)

Access to Camembert:

Camembert is 1 hour (50 miles or 80km) north of our Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Lower Normandy

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Visit Normandy Guest Post at Velvet Escape

Polished pews at the back of the church … a velvety and voluptuous, sensuous and silky secret … a devilish delight with eyes closed and head tilted back in delectation … a wicked pleasure of self-indulgence …

Chocolat Glatigny

Chocolat Glatigny, Alençon, Normandy

Chocolate Heaven in Normandy! Read more at VelvetEscape … http://velvetescape.com/

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Fête de la Chasse et de la Pêche

Fête de la Chasse et de la Pêche, Carrouges

Fête de la Chasse et de la Pêche, Carrouges

This weekend sees the annual summer fair at Château de Carrouges.  Themed around horseback hunting and fishing, the “Fête de la Chasse et de la Pêche” attracts over 75,000 visitors to Carrouges each year.

The entry ticket includes a tour of the château interior – the Château de Carrouges is always worth a visit and is open all year round apart from Xmas Day. See separate posts Château de Carrouges for details of visits at other times of year.

The fair is spread over 30 hectares in the grounds of this magnificent château, with shows and demonstrations on various topics such as dogs, horses, hunting horns, fishing, forestry, Normandy produce (cider, cheese, calvados etc.),  sheep dog trials taking place throughout the first weekend of August 5friday to Sunday).

Both official and friendly competitions and events take place during the weekend.  Lots of food ans snack stalls, bars, tastings etc. plus special temporary restaurants serving full menus from 15€ to 23€ for a “menu gastronomique”.


Adults 9€, up to 15 years old free.

Outline Programme for the Weekend Fair:

Friday 31 July 2009
From 10am: Visits to the Castle, produce stands and “villages”.

Saturday 1st August 2009
9 am: Start of competitions and events

14h30 to 18h30: many shows and demonstrations

Demonstrations of carriage driving and horsemanship from the world famous Haras du Pin, drag hunting, working dogs, falconry displays, hunting horn playing competitions … and much more


Sunday 2 August 2009
9 am: Start of competitions and events

Mass in celebration of SAINT-HUBERT

14h30 to 18h30: shows and demonstrations, see Saturday

20.30: Entertainment, music, dancing



Carrouges is about 30 minutes from our bed and breakfast, just to the the north-east of Alençon.


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soupe_angevineThe days are getting warmer, the sun is shining and thoughts are turning to outdoor entertaining and barbecues. This easy-to-prepare cocktail always goes down well for aperos – like an x-rated homemade lemonade. Beware, as the fresh, zingy taste hides a real kick!

The name “Soupe Angevine” literally means “Angers Soup”, Angers being the chef-lieu of Maine-et Loire, formerly part of the province of Anjou and now a department of the Pays de la Loire, and whose inhabitants are known as “angevins”.


- 1 bottle of fizzy white wine (e.g. a crémant or mousseux, no need to break the bank)
– 1 ladle* of lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
– 1 ladle of sugar syrup (can be made by heating equal volume of sugar and water until the sugar dissolves – don’t overheat or it becomes caramel!)
– 1 ladle of orange liqueur (e.g. Cointreau or Grand Marnier)


Not a lot to it really: all of the ingredients should be chilled in the fridge and are then mixed together in a punch bowl or similar just before serving.

Dampen and dip rim of glass in sugar for those with a sweet tooth. Serve with a slice or twist of lemon.



* Regular kitchen ladle = about 6 fluid ounces, but a bit more or less doesn’t make too much difference.

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Pear Blossom at La Basse Cour

Pear Blossom at La Basse Cour

The pear and apple blossom is about to burst on our fruit trees and I’m reminded that we’re coming up to the perfect time of year to follow the Pear Tree Trail, or “La Route de Poiré”.

This 75km (40 mile) circuit meanders through the pear orchards of Lower Normandy to the west of Alençon, taking in Domfront and the lovely towns of Barenton, Saint-Fraimbault, Mortanais, Sept-Forges and Passais-la-Conception. The route is signposted along its length and easy to follow in a car.

This quiet corner of south Normandy is a delightful mix of market towns, half-timbered barns and working farms, some of which sell their own ciders, perries and fruit juices. Châteaux, manors and pretty villages lie along the route and the pear trees themselves come into glorious blossom towards the end of April and throughout May.

At Barenton “La Maison de la Pomme et de la Poire” is a visitor centre offering free tours and tastings. Here’s an unusual suggestion – visit the Maison de la Pomme et de la Poire from 20h30 onwards on Saturday the 16th May to see the centre under a different light, when a pathway lit by candles, torches and lamps will guide you on a route of discovery around this former cider and pear farm.

Normandy Pear Route

Normandy Pear Route

“Rendez-vous sous les poiriers” is planned to be a free and open (unguided) visit from 20h30 to 23h30 and is planned for the 16th May 2009. Check details in case of last minute changes with:

Bérengère JEHAN
La Logeraie, 50720 BARENTON
Tél. 02 33 59 56 22
E-mail : maisonpommepoire@parc-normandie-maine.fr

Maison de la Pomme et de la Poire

Open Ist April to 15 October 10h00 to 12h00 and 14h00 to 18h00.
July and August from 10h00 to 12h30 and 14h00 to 18h00.

Free entry.

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