Mussels and herring, a fresh fried feast on the Opal Coast
Every year in the Hauts de France, at the Braderie de Lille, tons of mussels (and chips) are gobbled up in a single weekend in early September. It must be said that this month marks the beginning of the consumption of mussels, which are best eaten during the months of the R for guaranteed freshness and quality. Although the North Sea does not have a monopoly on production in France (Bouchot mussels, named after the stake that supports the shellfish, are also farmed in Normandy), the parks extend from the Belgian border to the Mont Saint Michel. Whatever their origin, Bouchot mussels are the first French product to have been awarded the STG (Spécialité Traditionnelle Garantie) label in 2013. How can you recognise them? Their shiny black shell, their cream to orange-yellow flesh and above all their melting and tasty taste! With marinara, cream, garlic or curry... It is a treat that many restaurants have made a speciality of...
Another flagship product is the blue-green herring with a silver belly, the "king fish" which has long been the rhythm of trade. The ways of preparing it are infinite. When it is open, salted and lightly smoked, it is called kipper. An institution: dozens of them are thrown from the balcony of the town hall every year during the Dunkirk carnival.
The right address: La Matelote in Boulogne-sur-Mer (External link) A herring specialist, chef Tony Letsienne offers a gastronomic tour of France's leading fishing port. A partner in the MrGoodfish programme, all the fish and seafood on offer on the menu is sustainably sourced.
Scallops, a range of good taste in Normandy
What looks like a fan when closed and whose incomparably flavoured "nut" is the star of the best gourmet restaurants? The coquille Saint-Jacques! In Normandy, it is the queen of the coast from October 1st to May 15th when, from Dieppe to Port-en-Bessin, the shellfishermen's flotillas are manoeuvring to dredge the sea bed gently: quotas, minimum size and fallow sectors are strictly respected. The result is a Pecten maximus, with its melting flesh, the "real" Label Rouge scallop. It can be eaten flambéed in calvados or simply braised with lemon juice: rich in iron, zinc, magnesium and vitamins, it is the best thing on the menus of good Norman restaurants. And it is celebrated when it "comes ashore", when the fishing season is open, with colourful festivals from one port to another. Let's take you on board?
The good address: Le Pily in Cherbourg (External link)
Located in the old harbour master's office, this gastronomic restaurant offers an incredible view of the port of Cherbourg. And the plate keeps its promise. The chef, Pierre Marion, chooses his own fish when the fishermen arrive.
Seaweed, treasures of the sea in Brittany
Brown, red, blue or green, the seaweeds harvested in Brittany have not finished surprising you! From the sea bean, to be eaten fried, to the sea fern, appreciated for its iodine flavour, to the fine and translucent dulse with its strong taste, to nori, star of sushi, to spirulina, an extraordinary dietary supplement, or even sea lettuce to be eaten in smoothies, crisps or papillotes...
The Breton coastline is the largest seaweed field in Europe. Roscoff has even become the "seaweed capital" with its internationally renowned research centre. The production areas benefit from a remarkable water quality that allows for organic certification. And when you know that most of the seaweed is harvested by hand, on the foreshore at low tide, you can't believe it! Only kelp is harvested by boat with a strange "scoubidou" hook. Of the nearly 800 species of seaweed found in Brittany, around ten are authorised for sale and consumption. The talent of Breton chefs obviously magnifies these treasures of the sea with exceptional nutritional qualities.
The right address: Castel'Ach in Plouguerneau, Finistère (External link) Surprising culinary experiences based on Breton seaweed, from starters to desserts, in the Iroise region. Sea vegetables" are combined with vegetables from the garden. An inventive and locavore table.
Salt, the white gold of the Pays de la Loire
If this story is not lacking in salt, it is undoubtedly because it goes back thousands of years. In the Pays de la Loire and more particularly on the Guérande peninsula or further south in the Vendée, on the island of Noirmoutier, salt continues to be harvested by hand in salt marshes where the tides, sunshine and wind have always set the pace for the work of salt workers. With its Label Rouge and its IGP, Guérande salt remains the reference for purists of white gold, and even more so for its fleur de sel (this fine layer of crystals which emerges on the surface of the water) which chefs are so fond of! Like Hugo Charcolin at the Tête de l'Art in Guérande, whose table celebrates the local resources within a 25 km radius. It is celebrated every year on 5 October during the Sainte Fleur festival. An opportunity to see demonstrations of the harvesting of flowers and why not give it a try!
The good address: La Tête de l'Art (External link)
Hugo Charcolin is an enthusiast of the short circuit and celebrates local resources, especially salt, within a 25km radius. A creative cuisine to be discovered at the Porte Calon manor, at the entrance to Guérande.
Explore the salt marshes on the Atlantic coast (External link)
Oysters from the Arcachon basin, pearls of Aquitaine
50 kilometres from Bordeaux, between the great Dune du Pilat and the peninsula of Lège Cap-Ferret, the Arcachon basin is like a small inland sea in the heart of the Landes forest. It is in these sandy waters that the famous Arcachon Cap Ferret oysters have been produced for centuries, using techniques that have remained 100% natural, with their fine, iodised flesh. After a pedal in the scents of pine trees, there is no greater pleasure than to have a dozen of these pearls of the Basin opened by an oyster farmer. From the unpretentious huts of the small ports around Arcachon or Cap Ferret, in Gujan Mestras, Le Canon or L'Herbe, you can watch the coming and going of the "plates", these typical boats carrying their tasty cargo. And we say to ourselves, adding a dash of lemon juice or a shallot sauce, that if the sea had a flavour, it would be this one! As for the festivities, meet every first Saturday of December in Andernos-Les-Bains.
The good address : la Cabane 57 (External link)
On the port of Piraillan, opposite the Ile aux Oiseaux, you can enjoy oysters from the Basin and learn the secrets of local oyster farming. Sylvie Latrille opens wide the doors of her farm. On the programme, a shucking workshop for the clumsy and tidal excursions for the curious.
Exploring the Arcachon Basin, in New Aquitaine (External link)
For good bouillabaisse, there are fish in the sea in Provence
In all the good recipes for bouillabaisse, this typical dish of Marseille and Provence, you will be told that you need "between one and three good kilos of Mediterranean rock fish, meaning scorpion fish, girelle, galinette, saint-pierre, vive, red mullet, sar, moray eel, monkfish or conger head. These are the ingredients that make all the difference and give this dish, which was for a long time a poor man's dish based on fish remains, its inimitable aroma. In Provençal families, the recipe is passed down from generation to generation with some essential advice on preparation (choose at least 7 different rock fish), cooking ("when it boils, turn it down! ") and presentation: always two dishes, one for the fish, the other for the fish soup spiced up with aïoli, rouille and bread croutons rubbed with garlic... No two bouillabaisse dishes are alike, but it is in Marseille, in a cottage in the calanques, or facing the Vieux Port that it is the best. It's up to you to try it!
The good address:Le Petit Nice in Marseille (External link)
On the edge of the deep blue sea, facing the Frioul islands, Gerald Passedat, 3 stars in the Michelin guide, sublimates his childhood dish with three courses of fish, raw shellfish, mid-bottom fish and deep-bottom fish.
Sea urchins, the chestnuts of the sea in Corsica
In the summer, in the crystal clear waters of Corsican creeks, whoever rubs it, stings it! But in winter, sea urchins (fished exclusively between 15 December and 15 April and with quotas) are a delight for connoisseurs. On the island of beauty, they are called I Zini and are nicely compared to sea chestnuts with their fearsome spiky bugs. They are at their best when eaten on the beach, fresh out of the water and opened with the typical u gulinaghju, a special pair of pliers that are very practical so as not to damage the delicate red or orange coral. All you need is a small spoon to pick up this gift from the sea, to be enjoyed naturally with a piece of bread and a glass of dry white Corsican wine. The oursinade is also shared on the tables of the restaurants of the small Corsican ports, notably in Ajaccio where it is a speciality. It is not uncommon for i zini to be served alongside oysters from the Diana pond, not far from Bastia. The two make a pair and the happiness of the fine palates.
The good address: Restaurant Neptune Plage in Ajaccio (External link)
On the road leading to the Sanguinaires islands, one is attracted by this charming terrace on the edge of the beach. As soon as you are seated, you can munch and savour the delights of the Corsican winter in front of the sun. Simply divine.
The anchovy, the silver fish of the Côte Vermeille, in Occitania
It wriggles around in schools and looks like a sardine, but this little silver fish with its bluish tints and red flesh has a special flavour that makes it unique! The Romans were already fond of anchovies, which became a delicacy in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance. On the Côte Vermeille, in Occitania, the small port of Collioure has specialised in them since that time, having become a master in the art of salting the delicate fillets. In the 19th century, in the days of plenty, up to 150 Catalan boats could be counted fishing anchovies with lampara on the nights of June and July! Today, the miraculous fishing is over, but Collioure has kept the know-how of salting (by hand), maturing and conservation. And in 2004 it even obtained the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) for its anchovies presented in three forms: anchovies in salt, anchovy fillets in brine, anchovy fillets in oil. Two reputed companies perpetuate the tradition, the Roque family and the Desclaux cannery. For those who love them, their delicate creations (anchovy fillets, but also anchovy cream, anchoïade, stuffed olives and peppers...) are a firework display of flavours!
The good address: La cuisine-counter in Collioure (External link)
Preparing and tasting what has been caught, raised, cultivated, vinified and elaborated by "small" producers, this is the motto of this slow food restaurant installed in a fishermen's house in the village. You can even take the time to cook your own meal during a participatory table d'hôtes.