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Jul 12, 2013 06:42 AM

Normandy cider and autumn festivals

My husband has decided he'd like to spend our next holiday in Normandy doing some cider drinking. I thought it would be nice to go during harvest time and see what other food-based activities we could take in. (Actually, doesn't have to be Normandy- basically, northern-ish France so we don't have to drive very far to get there.)

We will either take the ferry over with our car, or take the Eurostar over and then rent a car. We'll probably spend a week there, and we're pretty flexible with the specific timing.

A French colleague has pointed out some apple, cider and food festivals in Caudebec-en-Caux, Sainte-Opportune-la-Mare, Vimoutiers, Lessay, and Rouen.

I wanted to ask this board if anyone has experience of these or other fetes around autumn time in Normandy. I'm thinking of staying in chambres d'hotes or renting a self-catering place. A place where we can cook is sounding nice, because then we don't have to just look longingly at fresh foods at markets- we can actually buy them and cook them.

I've found the long "Eating and Sleeping Outside of Paris" thread and am going through it very carefully.

Thanks for any help.

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  1. Your places are all over Normandy. It is a very big region. The division of the province into "pays" is very important in Normandy, which is a mosaic of sorts.
    Caudebec is in Pays de Caux, Rouen is in Roumois (but technically the culture is Pays de Caux), Vimoutiers is in the Orne but technically part of Pays d'Auge, Lessay is in Cotentin (another world); Caudebec and Sainte-Opportune-La-Mare are in the West part of Roumois, the part we call "les boucles" (the meanders of the Seine), between Le Havre and Rouen.

    Apples (and pears) grow everywhere, but if you are interested in cider, you have to know that the styles are different depending on the "pays".

    Up North in the pays de Caux and Roumois, apple cider will be a bit more acidic and tannic than in other parts of the region (like the cheeses). There aren't any big cider farms, the production is artisanal and done in small farms. That is the type of cider you're likely to find in Caudebec and Rouen. Please note that the "Boucles" region (along the Seine: Caudebec, Duclair, Jumièges, Boscherville) are an important fruit-growing region, mostly plums and cherries, but plenty of apples too. It is also very beautiful.

    Even though I am originally from Pays de Caux and Rouen, I have to tell the truth and the best cider in Normandy is the Cidre du Pays d'Auge, which has an AOP and a beautiful balance of sweet, tannic, acidic, aromatic with a slight bitterness that is the trademark of Auge cider. There are many great producers around Cambremer, Lisieux, and Livarot, but my favorite is Domaine Huet, in Cambremer, which also produces top-quality calvados.

    It is also important to mention the other great fruit wine of Normandy, poiré, made from pears. I absolutely adore it and I tend to like it better than cider. Pays d'Auge make poiré, but most of the best poiré is made in the Orne, around Domfront. Look for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée Poiré de Domfront.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Ptipois

      Wow! I'm saving this thread. Thanks, Pti.

      1. re: Ptipois

        What a super helpful reply! Thank you.

        As we'll have a week, at least, I'm thinking then, that we'll choose two pays to explore. Stay 3-4 days in one place, see it and the area around it, go on to next place.

        It certainly sounds like the Pays d'Auge is going to be one of them.

        And I love perry, so I am definitely going to track down some poire, and see what it's like.

        1. re: Palladium

          If you like perry (poiré) you'll be happy. There is a big name in poiré de Domfront, and his products are truly amazing: look for Frédéric Pacory at the Ferme des Grimauts in Mantilly (Orne). I tasted a lot of poirés and ciders at the Cambremer festival last April, and this one really stood out, as did Huet's apple cider.

          I see you'll have ample opportunity to explore Normandy. Fine then: here's a few tips.
          Rouen has a fantastic market on the Place Saint-Marc, every day I believe but the big day is Saturday. Local farmers and producers. When you get there I think there'll be plenty of apples, sometimes rare, vanishing breeds.

          Fine markets too in the Pays de Bray, up North, particularly Neufchâtel-en-Bray and Buchy. The local specialty is, duh, Neufchâtel cheese, which is getting better and better since they've stopped oversalting it.
          Do not miss the other Norman cheeses, most of them from the Pays d'Auge: Camembert AOP, Livarot AOP, Pont-l'Evêque AOP and Pavé d'Auge.

          Try to get to the seaside and enjoy great seafood; my favorite part of the Norman coast is the D-Day beaches. Wide open spaces, great mussels and Dover sole. Bayeux is a lovely city.

      2. Trip report!

        In the end, we took a gite near Pont l'Eveque for a whole week. We ate at some restaurants, which I will write up separately.

        We went to the cidre and apple festival in Caudebec-en-Caux, which was more like a big village fair. It was a nice way to spend a couple of hours, and we tasted and bought some Caux cidre.

        We then spent a wonderful, beautiful summer-like day driving around the Pays d'Auge along the Route du Cidre. Thanks to Pti's recommendation of M Huet, we stopped there first. And oh! They were wonderful. Much, much preferred over the Caux cidre. Smooth and sweet. We bought a couple bottles, drank one that night, and went back a couple days later to buy another half dozen.

        We also tried the cidre at Domaine Dupont. They had a much higher alcohol "Triple" that I didn't like so much, but it reminded my husband of some English ciders. However, the nice woman then poured what she described as a "champagne"-like cidre, which I loved- smooth, bubbly and creamy. I could drink that all day. We bought a few bottles, which I think we will serve at our Thanksgiving dinner this year.

        Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to go down to Domfront, but we did try a few Auge poires. I did not like the poire at Domaine Huet, but I did very much like the one from Famille Grandval.

        Thanks to Pti for the great advice. We spent the rest of our time eating the cheeses, shopping at the markets and cooking up all the great finds, including some absolutely awesome mushrooms. We also ate the Normandy butter and cheese like there was no tomorrow.

        Now my husband wants to plan a trip to Brittany. Just for the scientific comparison, you know.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Palladium

          You're very welcome. I am so glad that everything went so well. In fact, in that region that literally oozes cheeses, butter, cream and fruit juices, you couldn't go wrong, but Huet is truly a gem. And their calvados is fantastic.

          Poiré is not such a big thing in the Cambremer-Caudebec area, it's more a Domfront thing and Pacory is the top.

          I heartily support your scientific approach.

          1. re: Palladium

            Hi- I'm trying to figure out when the cidre and apple festival in Caudebec-en-Caux is this year. Is there a website or something that lists the autumn festivals in the area?
            Thanks in advance!

            1. re: ahw001


              You may send an email. Usually the Fête du Cidre is late September. I am surprised that there is so little information about the next edition on the web.