Sunday, 28 June 2009

A Calories-Don't-Count Tour of Brittany by Adela Meadows

I hate having my photograph taken…my father used to complain that in all my photos, I was hiding either behind a cat or a pair of sunglasses. So, unfortunately…at least for me…I was none too thrilled to find out that one of the initial requirements when one starts out as a guest blogger is the furnishing of a “head shot.”

Into the archives we go.

Daddy was right.

How ‘bout this one?

This one was a contender…but my hair was a mess and mousse au chocolat was smeared all over my face.

But I draw your attention to the fingernails! Not only do I not have the luxury of the use of spell-check…I write in a sort of “franglish” that short-circuits any attempt to use spelling assistance software…but those nails are a typing teacher’s nightmare!

I call them my bigoudènes.

See the resemblance?

Ahhh…but that particular photograph was taken on hallowed ground…the site of the original HB factory…the one started by Pierre Bousquet in 1708. A restaurant/wine bar is now in the very spot where modern-day Quimper pottery began!

And just look at what was uncovered during a 1988 remodeling project in an upstairs room of the building…an over-the-top faïence fireplace surround…painted circa 1875 by Henry Guihéneuc for the living quarters of Félix De la Hubaudière, then the Director of the HB factory. And the restaurant area downstairs is none too shabby either…offering inventive, market-fresh cuisine eaten amidst artwork that includes Quimper tile tableaux by Olivier Lapicque.

So you can see why it was a gleeful experience. Of course, I was not alone in my indulgence…’s Mark …hard at work on his in-depth study of les profiteroles.

Les profiteroles are little bits of pâte à choux…cream puffs…filled with ice cream and then smothered in deep, rich chocolate sauce and topped with mounds of chantilly…whipping cream….not just any whipping cream, but French whipping cream.

(Remind me to tell you some day about my positively disastrous experience trying to prepare whipping cream in France…quelle horreur).

But I digress…back to les profiteroles. These are for you, Ruth!

So while I concentrate on mousse au need to adjust your computer...this is how it was served...

...moelleux au chocolat...

...fondant au chocolat...

anything with caramel au beurre salé...

and other such goodies...

... Mark puts the majority of his efforts toward les profiteroles.

It’s a difficult task…one that apparently requires a uniform of colorful shirts.

There are many different dialects within the Breton language, but as far as I know, there is no one specific word for “calorie.” This, since our food pyramid is seriously slanted toward desserts...

... makes our sojourns in Brittany even more delightful!

We are often asked for recommendations of restaurants and I can happily report that the food in Brittany is delicious and offers a huge variety of tempting delights…

...from galettes...
to agneau pre-salé...

...kouign amann...

to oysters…

...rouget barbet... pizza...

...Breton artichokes... Breton lobster.

You will find a staggering number of crêperies from which to choose. Our advice? Look for this symbol…

…which will signify an establishment that values the best in ingredients, preparation, and authenticity. Other crêperies can be good, however, and it’s really hard to go wrong…just as long as you are careful to avoid the ones that are part of a chain…the individual artisan crêperies are the best, by far.

Our favorite Quimper kouign amann is from the patisserie located where the Steir River meets the rue Kéréon. The location is a town landmark…

…on the side of the building overlooking the river is an original thirteenth century watchtower…situated at what had been the boundary between the land controlled by the Bishop of Cornouaille and that belonging to the Duke of Brittany…it was intended to act as part of a line of defense against invading forces.

You can eat within the patisserie, but this time, Mark chose to buy a whole kouign amann and take it to the little park in Loc-Maria across from the Paul Fouillen pottery factory…

…oblivious to everything else as he digs in, I attempt in vain to inform him that one whole kouign amann is supposed to be enough to serve eight to twelve.

One of Brittany’s Michelin-starred restauranteurs, Olivier Roellinger of Cancale’s Maison de Bricourt, recently announced his retirement…not from the restaurant business…but from Michelin competition. However, “foodies” who enjoy “star-grazing” can relax as there are several other Breton masters of haute cuisine. The father and son team of Jean-Pierre and Maxime Crouzil in Plancoët and the brothers Sébilleau in Pont-Aven, for example.

We have many favorite eating spots, but for classic Breton cooking, nothing beats the Blanche Hermine in Pleyben. We found it by accident. Well, we knew it was there as the spectacular parish close is right across the street and if you stand on the west side of the calvary to take a photograph…

…the restaurant sign shows within the sixteenth century archway. So we had seen the sign, but had never actually eaten there.

Until, one fateful day.

We were leading one of our Brittany Shop ‘n’ Tours and were returning to Quimper after touring the Monts d’Arrée and visiting the manor house...

... and gardens of Trévarez. It was a Sunday and getting kind of late. Where should we eat dinner? We take turns making that decision and, tonight, it was my turn to pick the restaurant!

We eat like normal folk during our tours; I don’t like the “special”…read “inferior”… meals that are served to bus loads of tourists tucked away in a back room before the place is actually open…I want to eat the real stuff amidst the authentique atmosphere.

The restaurants in Brittany all have their carte posted outside so it’s easy to see what’s cooking…plus that gives us the opportunity to verify that there is something for everyone at a price that is agreeable to all.

It was drizzling that day and when I hopped out of the van, the chalkboard listing of specials was illegible and the glass-encased carte was impossible to figure out through the water spots. As I struggled to relay some sort of information as to what might be in store to our merry band back in the van…out popped the proprietor, who promptly wiped down the glass in front of the carte so that I could read it! By this time, I was beginning to drip myself and the second I spied soupe à l’oignon avec muscadet, the decision was made.

Their onion soup is superb; their gambas…prawns…are phenomenal, and everything…down to the beverages…is Breton.

The Blanche Hermine...white a member of the Confrèrie Gastronomique de la Marmite d’Or, an organization that recognizes the importance of regional cuisine and insists on the highest level of quality. There you will find honest, traditional fare that is amazingly delicious!

Marmites are a speciality of the house.

And…they just happen to make Mark’s all-time favorite profiteroles. He has pronounced their chocolate sauce as “the best” and the puffs are deliciously distinct…

...for they are made with blé noir…buckwheat flour…in the pâte à choux.

Well, that did I'm I guess it's time to take a break.

This will be my final blog entry…for July approaches and I must turn the reins over to Cerelle and Judy D. (That will give us time to anglicize the ingredients and measurements for the recipe for Mark’s saumon en croûte so we can send it off to you, Diane).

Before I go off to raid the laughingly Lilliputian refrigerator that is part and parcel of a Parisian pied à terre, I'd like to thank you for tagging along with us this month as we continue to explore the fascinating world of Quimper pottery…

….an Henriot faïence globe of the world created in 1937 by René-Yves Creston (1898-1964).

ken bremaik…(Breton for à bien tôt),

Adela, Mark, and J-P


  1. Adela, I'm sad to see your posts come to an end. Each and every post has been a visual delight and most informative. Thank you! As for today's post......I'm with Mark!

  2. I'd like to second Sarah's comment, I too have so enjoyed all the Meadows Family blog posts, now if I could just stop drooling over those profiteroles!!
    Hope you'll come back again later in the year to tell us about your summer adventures in Brittany.

  3. What a fantastic month of blog posts ! Many thanks Adela.

    For those of you who like Oliver want more, we are lucky to have a short piece by Adela in the upcoming Journal, which is at the printers as I write.......

  4. What a pure delight your blogs have been. I have enjoyed each and every one. Now that my mouth is watering for those profiteroles, I must go to find some pathetic substitute.

    How good to know you have an article in the upcoming Journal. Thank you for all!

  5. These blogs have been such fun. They have brought back the fondest memories - of kouign amann, profiteroles, oysters, rouget, of cats and quimper. All my favorite things! Many thanks.

  6. Adela, these have all been so wonderful, and the one on foods not only made me drool, but wish to cry! Bill and I so much enjoyed our travels in France..described them as "Eating our way through France" and I miss that so much. I will just have to sign up with you one day, and let you take me around. Thanks for the quote good old Bob.