All About Normandy Cream – la Crème de la Crème

Creme Crue Fermeiere (photo: Jennifer Greco)
Creme Crue Fermeiere (photo: Jennifer Greco)

What is it about the cream from Normandy that makes it so special?

First, there is la Vache Normande, the Normandy cow. Brown and white spotted Normandy cows, easily recognizable by the unique markings around their eyes, called spectacles or lunettes, produce milk that is exceptionally high in butterfat. And they produce a lot of it, around 7 gallons a day. In the spring and summer the cows graze on sweet, fresh grass and in the winter they are fed hay or sugar beets, all of which give the milk a delicious, distinctive character.

Our Guide to Normandy

Normandy-Cow

Activities for Food Lovers

Musée de Camembert (in Vimoutiers)

Delicious Normandy Food Tours (in Bayeux)

Restaurants

Le Vauban (in Port-en-Bessin-Huppain)

Auberge le Clos Saint Julien (in Saint-Julien-sur-Calonne)

Manoir de la Drôme (in Balleroy)

Restaurant La Sapinière (in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer)

La Rotonde (in Port-en-Bessin-Huppain)

Cheese & Dairy

La Fromagerie Graindorge (in Livarot)

Coopérative Isigny Sainte-Mère (in Isigny-sur-Mer)

La Fromagerie de Bayeux (in Bayeux)

Wine & Cider

All About Cider & Other Apple & Pear Drinks

Normandy cider sign
Apple and pear orchards, usually with a cow or two grazing under the trees, are the ubiquitous image of the Norman countryside, and a visit to Normandy wouldn’t be complete without sampling the local refreshments – cider, pommeau, poiré and calvados. Here’s everything you need to know about the region’s quartet of fruity libations.

What to Taste

Cidre de Normandie: Cidre, or cider, is a sparkling, alcoholic beverage made from crushed apples that is fermented for 2-3 months before being bottled. It is produced on farms and in homes all over the region, comes in numerous versions, degrees of sweetness and alcohol contents. About 750 varieties of apples can be used to make Normandy cider, but only 50 of those are allowed in the production of AOC cider from the Pays d’Auge.

La Rotonde

The large terrace overlooking the fishing port and the hearty servings of delicious, seasonal moules de Barfleur prepared “à la Normande” or “marinières,” are the highlights of this bar and brasserie. The menu also offers oysters (in season) and other seafood dishes, and typical café food such as omelets, salads and sandwiches. The service can be a bit uneven, so it is best to go when you are not in a rush. This is also a great place to stop and enjoy a coffee or an apéritif after visiting the Sunday morning market that takes place along the port.

Auberge le Clos Saint Julien

This rural French auberge, located in the beautiful Norman countryside near Pont l’Évêque, offers fresh, classical French cuisine prepared by chef/owner, Nicolas Vincent. The rustic half-timbered dining room is cosy and lit with a big fire in the winter, and bright and airy in the summer, when the doors are thrown open on to the terrace on sunny days. Dishes include regional specialties, seasonal seafood, homemade pork terrine served with sweet and sour confit d’oignons, and a light, fruit studded mousse au fromage blanc for dessert.

La Fromagerie de Bayeux

Peggy and Jérémy Thomas are no strangers to the cheese business. Jérémy, an artisan fromager, spent several years learning the ins and outs of the business at his uncle’s cheese shop in Paris (the now closed Fromagerie Pascal Trotté) as well as at Rungis. His wife, Peggy, is a third generation fromagère in her family, following in the footsteps of her grandfather, her uncle and her father. The shop offers cheese from all over France as well as the famous cheeses of Normandy and local farm produced fromage. They also sell locally made yogurt and crème crue, as well as cider and wine.

Musée de Camembert

This quaint and very aromatic museum was created in 1986 through donations from local Camembert producers in order to preserve the important history of this regional AOC cheese. Signs posted throughout explain the steps of fabrication – from the separation of curds and whey, the traditional hand ladling (rather than pouring) into molds, the ageing and what materials are used and why. Additionally, there are over 3,000 labels from different Camembert producers on display.

The museum is still mainly staffed by volunteers, so it is closed in the winter and has rather limited hours in the summer, open only between 2-5:30pm. At the height of the tourist season, a wedge of camembert served with a glass of local cider is offered to visitors.

Restaurant La Sapinière

Located just 20 yards from Omaha beach, La Sapinière is one of a few places to stop and enjoy a meal in an area along the D-Day beaches that sees a large number of international visitors, yet isn’t known for great restaurants. It offers generous portions of simply prepared, traditional food, all made in house with fresh ingredients, and a very friendly, English speaking staff. Take advantage of the large terrace on a sunny day, and when the rain is falling, as it often does in Normandy, settle in next to the fire in the bright, cabin style dining room.

Saturday Market in Bayeux

Every Saturday morning, rain or shine, la Place Saint Patrice, which serves as a parking lot during the rest of the week, transforms into a bustling weekly market. The entire perimeter of the square is taken up by food –  local cheese producers and large trucks selling fromage from all over France; Normandy cider and Calvados producers offer samples of their products; local fruit and vegetable growers and organic farmers set up long tables. You will find fresh seafood trucks offering an array of Normandy seafood and others with just one item such as local mussels or petit gris, and at one end of the market there are live poultry and rabbits for sale. There are vendors selling wine, bread, charcuterie, cut flowers, herbs and plants for the garden, prepared food such as pizza, paella, choucroute de la mer, sweet and savory crêpes, even spicy samosas and curry made by a woman who comes from the Reunion Islands. In the center of the square you will find new and used books for sale, seasonal clothing, shoes and slippers for men, women and children, jewelry and scarves, pottery, handbags and market baskets.

Le Volet Qui Penche

In the historic center of Bayeux, wine connoisseur and caviste, Pierre-Henri Lemessier, has transformed a little house overlooking the river Aure into a wine bar and bistro offering simple, delicious food to accompany his well stocked selection of French wine. At lunchtime a generous plat du jour is served with a glass of wine for only €9,80, and in the evening you can enjoy a 3-course menu for €18. Also available are charcuterie and cheese platters, salads, omelets, escargots and crôques-monsieur, many of which are served all afternoon long in the comfortable dining room. And don’t leave without trying the specialty of the house – le sorbet au vin.