Well, we’d been in the heart of Calvados for a few days and now was the time for some serious cider and calvados tasting and buying, so we set off for Cambremer, home to some of the finest producers. We decided to go first to Manoir de Grandouet as we’d bought some of their cider at the market at St Pierre sur Dives on Monday and liked it a lot. The drive took us through some glorious countryside. Golden fields with freshly wrapped hay bales, like something out of a Van Gogh painting with such bright and bold colours; huge orchards with trees heavy with apples. As we approached Cambremer we saw the Route du Cidre marked and really just had to follow that. Cambremer is one of the prettiest villages in this apple growing area. We drove through it to take a small road just a couple of kilometres along to Grandouet. As we pulled into the Manoir we were immediately charmed by it.
There was complete peace and it was so beautiful it was like walking into a fairy tale. We seemed to be the only visitors but a man moving boxes on a fork-lift truck stopped and asked of we wanted to do some tastings; his wife would come.
We were shown the old Pressoir, now no longer used and replaced by a modern press.
Then came the tastings. We wanted more of the demi-sec we’d liked so much but also tasted their poire too (a pear equivalent of champagne), and some calvados.
We came away with quite a few bottles!
Back into Cambremer, we parked and sought lunch. We didn’t want a lot as we were going out to a nice restaurant in the evening but the cafe was empty while a little restaurant – Au P’tit Normand – was full. Perhaps, suggested Lyndsey, we could get something light there. We looked at the menu, saw they had a good selection of salads, so asked for a table. We had to wait for about five minutes.
While we waited I wandered a little to take some photos and saw a shop selling antique cups and other crockery; after lunch I went back and bought a few things.
Once sat inside the little restaurant we ordered drinks – cider for Jonathan and Lyndsey that came, as traditionally round here, in cups, and apple juice for me as I was driving. The fresh apple juice was superb and unlike anything that sits on a supermarket shelf. Who needs something alcoholic with lunch when you can drink juice like this.
While we waited for our salads we saw a souffle apple omelette flambeed with calvados being served. Jonathan suggested we should give main course a miss and just have dessert. It smelled and looked fantastic. If we’d not planned a good meal out that evening I’m sure we’d have ordered one.
However, our salads soon came and they were pretty fantastic too. Jonathan had a warm goat’s cheese one while Lyndsey and I went for the ‘Cambremer’ special with Camembert, Pont L’Eveque and Livarot cheeses with apple.
After lunch we got back into the car and drove just a short way into the Pierre Huet calvados and cider house. This was a producer on a far grander scale than our first stop, though unsurprising as it’s one of the prestigious calvados houses. The Huets have been producing cider for five generations.
We’d already bought a lot of cider but we hoped for a greater choice of calvados here – and that’s what we found, with a large range of this glorious apple brandy from the less fiery but more apple-y younger calvados to the richer, smoother and definitely fiery older brandies. The prices also ranged for less than €20 to €400 a bottle.
There was also cider vinegar and various other apple-based goods to buy, including jars of apple jam. Having made our choices and purchases it was time to head home to Manoir de Laize for a quiet and restful couple of hours before heading into Falaise for dinner. And our meal at La Fine Fourchette in the evening was so stunningly good, it deserves its very own post … So that comes later. Watch this space for a great Norman meal.
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