The deep, lush countryside of Calvados in the Pays d’Auge south of Caen with its apple orchards and dairy herds provides some of the best ingredients for traditional Normandy cuisine.
The brindled Normandy cow provides not only tender meat but the butter and cream used in so much local cooking (try moules a la crème Normande instead of mariniere) and the raw material for a bewildering variety of AOC cheeses such Pont L’Eveque and thick firm Livarot.
The Livarot cheese fair in August showcases some of the best and the dairy co-operative at Isigny-sur-Mer is certainly the place to buy and sometimes offers tours.
Besides apple and pear cider and the apple brandy from which the department takes its name, apples are also used for desserts like beignets de pomme a la Normande - apple fritters with Calvados, or ‘Calva’ as it is called colloquially.
Vire is famous for its Andouille sausages - a kind of chitterling which make an excellent hors-d’oeuvres. Less well known are delicious Auge Valley chicken and Bayeux pork. For a real taste of traditional cooking, look for ‘ferme auberge’ signs as you travel around. These indicate working farms which offer home-cooked meals to visitors.
The coast of Calvados offers delicious seafood - wild oysters from Isigny-sur-Mer and Courseulles and scallops. Enjoy seafood and sole a la Normande at one of Honfleur’s many quayside restaurants. If you are self catering, you can buy fish straight from the fisherman - or his wife - alongside the pier here and the many country markets brimming with fresh produce will give you all you need to make a great meal.
The French restaurants in Caen near the western ramparts around rue de Geole could be the place to look for tripe a la mode de Caen - beef tripe cooked slowly with onions, root vegetables and cider, traditionally eaten as a mid morning snack and nothing like our English dish.
After all the feasting a ‘trou normande’ could be in order. Meaning literally ‘Norman hole’ this traditional digestive - a shot of Calva of course - taken between courses is said to revive and enhance the appetite!