When you head off to a new country, it is a great opportunity to give your taste buds a treat. Sampling the local specialities gives you a feel for the area that enhances your holiday experience, as well as giving you a night off the washing up! As a coastal region with a rich tradition in fishing, Vendee is renowned for its fresh seafood. Oysters, (known as ‘Huitres de Vendee Atlantic’), mussels, crabs and langoustines feature on the menus of restaurants along the coast. You can also sample locally caught sardines, tuna and sea bass, all of which are served with simple accompaniments, so the fish remains the star of the dish. With the Atlantic on their doorstep, it is no surprise that seafood features in home cooking as well as in restaurants, so you can buy your own to cook on the barbeque from local supermarkets or fishmongers. Alternatively you can join locals at Le Passage du Gois to collect your own shellfish at low tide! As a largely rural area, Vendee also produces high quality meats, so if you aren’t keen on fish, you won’t be disappointed. Animals enjoy varied pasture in Vendee, which gives each area’s produce a unique flavour. The duck, chicken and quail from Challans are highly recommended and a popular with locals is marsh mutton, which is reared on the marshes of North Vendee. Wild rabbit pate is found on many restaurant menus, along with ‘Jambon de Vendee’ (Gammon) that is usually served with ‘Mogetters’ (haricot beans). Vendee’s microclimate also provides ideal conditions for growing fresh vegetables, including the popular ‘Bonnottes’ potatoes from Noirmoutier and a wide range of mushroom varieties. Vegetarian food isn’t generally a feature of any French menu, but it is easy to pick up fresh produce for your own meals. Much of the local food is seasoned with unrefined sea salt that has been harvested from Vendee’s salt marshes for centuries. Whether for breakfast, or dessert, Vendee produces delicious brioches. The local tradition is to plait the sweet, light bread before cooking it. A slight variation on brioche is gache, which has a denser flavour. Two other desserts that you may see on a restaurant menu are ‘Flan Maraichin’ an egg custard tart and ‘R’tournezy’ an ice cream cake. Whether in a restaurant, or on the deck of your mobile home, the warm Vendee evenings lend themselves to sitting outside to enjoy your meal. What new flavours will you discover?
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