Many Pas de Calais dishes have Flemish sounding names indicating their gastronomic heritage: potjevesch (a terrine of several meats), waterzoi (traditional fish stew with cream and vegetables although sometimes now chicken is used) and hearty hochepot (a version of English hot pot). This rich and varied cuisine makes good use of great local produce including the bounties of the North Sea and Channel. Most coastal villages have morning fish markets on the quay and good seafood restaurants at resorts like Boulogne, Etaples and Le Touquet serve wonderful fresh bass, turbot and whiting or plates piled high with mouth-watering fruits de mer including oysters and langoustines. Try Calaisienne herrings and you must sample ‘moules frites’ (mussels and chips) which you’ll find everywhere.
Markets are great places to source authentic local food and St-Omer has stalls laden with fantastic vegetables. Chicory, cauliflowers and leeks from fertile marshlands make tasty food like ‘flamiche au poireaux’ (leek pie).
Visiting beer drinkers will be pleased that local beers such as La Biere de St-Omer rather than wine are traditional here although the regional spirit of Genieve is also popular (see Activities for more). The smaller artisan brewery of Ch’ti north of Lens offers guided tours and tastings. Dishes like ‘carbonnade’ are cooked in beer and beer goes well with Pas de Calais strong smelling AOC Mariolles cows milk cheeses; for example, pretty heart-shaped Coeur d’Arras. The most pungent cheese, Le Vieux Boulogne, gets its earthy smell from beer used to wash its rind as it matures.
Mariolles also produces AOC butter, beef here is excellent and Liques poultry – particularly turkey – has an excellent reputation.
Pas de Calais’ orchards yield succulent apples, pears, plums and cherries and you’ll find delicious strawberries in season. Honeycomb Flanders waffles make a delicious dessert as does ‘tarte a gros bords’ a sweet custard tart cooked in a wood-fired oven.
Beussent has one of the last handmade chocolate factories in France, open for half hour visits every Sunday.