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Jan 9, 2010 04:34 AM

Northeastern Brittany

We are planning a trip in late May to Brittany and will most likely base outselves in Dinan. We plan to take day trips in the general area, including up to the Normandy beaches at some point. Any suggestions for food experiences? We are all passionate about food and wine and we also like to get off the beaten path. One of my best memories from years ago was traveling near Mont St. Michel and stumbling upon tents set up on the side of the road for calvodos tasting. We were able to taste the newer to older calvados. Fabulous! I am especially interested in coastal towns such as St. Malo. Also, language will not be a barrier. Thanks for your help.

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  1. Don't miss the tasting of oysters right on the beach in Cancale.
    Too bad the Roellinger place is no more. I can't even bear to bring this up.

    As usual, I leave the big boys to recommend the fancy places.
    My rec is as usual a ferme-auberge hole-in-wall: Auberge de la Porte, on the pretty Rance river between St Malo and Dinan. Everything on your dish comes from the farm. There's no freshness like it. Scoop: One faithful patron there is a former US presidential candidate, who has a cousin who is the mayor of a nearby town. Dunno whether you consider this a rec or a one-strike-you're-out.
    Remember to book ahead with these ferme-auberges. Most of them are opened for just a few meals out of the week and are very popular with the locals.

    Your Calvados tasting sounds wonderful. As you must know, Mont St Michel and Normandy are not far away, about an hour's drive. Don't forget to visit charming Combourg in the between.

    Brittany and cidre
    I once had the best cidre in my life - my gîte's owner's "moonshine". It had a complete different taste from store-bought cidre, which I can't drink any more. Knowledge is tragic.
    Try to see if the ferme-auberges have their own moonshine cidre.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Dinan and Saint Malo are Northeastern Brittany -- Brittany is Western France for sure, bur Dinan and Saint Malo are very much East of it. In fact, so much so that Saint Malo is to me closer to Normandy than Brittany.

      1. re: souphie

        You are so right I am so wrong, Soup. I just realized and were about to correct myself when I saw you had beaten me to it.
        Just edited my post accordingly...

        1. re: Parigi

          Thank you, Parigi! This is exactly the kind of tip I was looking for! I'm dreaming of Cancale as I type! We just returned from Appalacacola which is the oyster capital of the southeastern US. These are fat and sweet oysters that are unlike the salty oysters I've had in western Brittany. Can't beat the price though - $5.99 for a dozen at an atmospheric shack on the marsh!

          1. re: forgap

            And one more thing, Parigi, what happened to Les Maisons de Bricourt, Roellinger's place? The website is alive and well with not mention of the restaurant closing.

            1. re: forgap

              Only the 3star restaurant is closed. Both residences (the Chateau and wonderful guest house Les Rimains) are open as the spice shop and patisserie and the second tier restaurant. The website is current. I received an email from them only this week.

              1. re: mangeur

                Stayed at Les Rimains some years back in the room that opens to Mt St Michel. May very well have BEST night in any hotel in my life. While in Cancale go to the oyster museum. Also in the street buy the huitres sauvage, these are wild not farmed and have odd shapes, thus they cannot send them to their patrons, as cannot be classified into #2 or #5 or whatever. They were fabulous and l shucked them myself at Les Rimains.

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  "Stayed at Les Rimains some years back in the room that opens to Mt St Michel. May very well have BEST night in any hotel in my life."

                  Or the most romantic breakfast in any hotel in my life.

                  1. re: mangeur

                    You two should try renting one of the wooden houses of les Rimains one of these days. With Mangeur's husband and DCM's girlfriend, of course.

                    I'm too inconsolable about Roellinger's restaurant to join you, though. I'll probably never go near Cancale again.

    2. I heartily recommend staying at Chateau Mont Dol some 30 minutes from Cancale. The charming hosts provide stylish and comfortable rooms and excellent evening meals. The owner was once the chef at the French Embassy in London and it shows. Perfect for visiting Mont St. Michel, Cancale, St. Malo, Dinan, et al. A lovely experience and very inexpensive.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mangeur

        based on a chowhound rec, we stayed at chateau mont dol for 3 nights. unlike the other reviewer, we found the place definitely not worth a return visit. while the owner definitely can cook, he is an insufferably egotistical and pretentious man who cares only about his own pocketbook and success. he so desperately wants to become the next olivier roellinger, but because of his overweening pride and self centered concern for his fame and greed, his place fails to make the guests feel welcome or cared for. his oppressive control of every aspect of his staff's and client's lives gives the chateau a feeling of being terribly uptight and micromanaged. the place is not relaxing or really pleasant. instead there are hundreds of little rules you must observe about parking, the gate,the internet, etc. and the owners inexcusably nickle and dime you for gas, water, napkins, sheets, towels, etc., especially given the overall price. yannick, the owner, impressed us as a greedy egotist who brow beats his staff and doesn't really care about his guests. this place really lacks the warmth and welcome of a typical norman or breton bread and breakfast. instead, it's just pretentious and precious. avoid at all costs unless you're interested in flattering the owner's ego.

        1. re: yussdov

          I am devastated that you had an experience that so drastically differed from ours. Yannick was warm and welcoming, if somewhat unsure of his English, his wife was adorable and most hospitable, their hosptiality generous, the rooms throughtful and comfortable. We paid not a cent more than the advertised/contracted rate for room and meals and there were no supplements. I am so sorry your visit was so inexplicably different. Chateau Mont Dol continues to garner the highest kudos by travel reviewers. I can only lament and wonder what went so terribly wrong on your visit. We would return in a heartbeat.

      2. Another don't miss in this area is Youpala Bistrot in St. Brieuc. Incredibly underpriced no-choice multi-course meal. Sweet chef and staff. Watch for Jean-Marie Baudic to pick up more stars.

        For a fish oriented carte, Sophie et Mathieu Aumont's Aux Pesked, also in St. Brieuc, is a good call.

        3 Replies
        1. re: mangeur

          Thank you, mangeur. Any other tips are very appreciated. I'm curious about the US Presidential candidate that frequented the Auberge de la Porte that Parigi spoke about......cough it up, Parigi!

          1. re: forgap

            Olalalala, how many ex candidates have a French cousin who was long-time mayor of Sty Briac sur Mer (big hint, as well as beautiful, must visit!) until 2008?

            1. re: Parigi

              And here I thought John Kerry was Irish! My family lives in Massachusetts, too....go figure!

        2. I notice that you may also be visiting Normandy. If possible, you should have a meal at SaQuaNa in Honfleur. A stunner by another young chef, Alexandre Bourdas.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mangeur

            Yes, Normandy will definately be on the list of places to visit. My husband grew up in villiers-en-desoeuvres a small village 120km west of Paris, so we will meander west to Brittany.

          2. A good stopping place, just off the beaten path, but close by to St. Malo, Cancale, Dinan, etc. is the quaint little town of Plancoët with the excellent restaurant of Jean-Pierre Crouzil and his classy little Hotel l'Ecrin with about 5 or 6 elegant rooms above the dining room. We headquartered there for 3 nights our last visit to the area and were very impressed...not quite Roellinger but then who is?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Laidback

              Agree...we've had two fabulous meals at M. Crouzil's place.
              He's very personable and will tell you about his experiences as a chef in NYC in the 70s.
              The village of Plancoet, known for its mineral water, is lovely to walk through before settling in for your meal.

              1. re: famdoc

                I had a disappointing dinner at Crouzil's several years ago. The problem may have had something to do with the fact that this was their first day open after their autumn vacation, but Michelin dropped one of their stars the following spring.