Normandy local food specialties containing apples

Think of Normandy’s local food specialties on holiday in Calvados, and rich memories of all things apple, dairy and seafood come flooding back, every bit as vivid as the famous places you’ve visited.
But it’s not just the taste sensations that come to mind; it’s the noticeable local pride in Normandy gastronomy that enhances the experience, with everything celebrated from the humble baguettes right through to the Michelin-starred restaurants in Normandy.

Good food and drink – calvados brandy, cider, Normandy cheeses and seafood to name but a few – are everywhere you look right across Calvados: in shelled scallops piled high at the market, in a surprise chilled cider left for you in your gîte fridge, or in a pungent Normandy cheese headlining at the local festival.
Maybe all this should come as no surprise in a country where even French food traditions are UNESCO-listed!

Venture just slightly inland from our glorious Calvados coastline and you’re quickly amid scenes of bucolic bliss with age-old timber-framed farms and apple orchards yielding fruit for Normandy’s most famous local specialties: calvados brandy and cider.

Calvados brandy

Calvados is not only the name of our part of Normandy but the name of our prestigious brandy-style spirit found the world over. Like a cousin of Cognac and Armagnac but made with apples on a slow and careful process through fermenting, distilling and maturing, ‘calva’ eau-de-vie has been intrinsic to Normandy’s gastronomy scene for centuries, even immortalised in D-Day photographs showing liberated civilians clinking glasses with Allied soldiers. Our top tip for getting to calvados’s depths? Visit ‘The Calvados Experience’ in Pont l’Evêque, a high-tech and engaging visitor attraction with special sensory scenography. It takes you on a journey through time and place, and for the grown-ups, there’s a tasting of the liquid gold itself. Make the most of the tips on different varieties and ways to savour, from a post-dinner digestif (known as a ‘trou normand’), to a Calvados sorbet or cocktail for those who like their drinks a little less fiery!

Cider, apple juice and apple tart

Cider is to Normandy what wine is to Burgundy, with its traditions just as finely tuned. Often producers’ secret concoctions of sweet, bitter and sour apples are passed from generation to generation, with nature rather than chemicals adding the bubbles! Choose ‘brut’ if you like your cider on the dry side, ‘doux’ for something sweeter, and serve chilled, always! If you want to stock up, head to the epicentre of cider country on the ‘Route du Cidre’ around Cambremer, where 20 Normandy cider cellars open to visitors.


Happily for teetotallers and kids like, Calvados’s farm-produced apple juices make just as strong a statement as their alcoholic counterparts – fresh, tangy, 100% natural and 100% local. Then of course there’s the ubiquitous Normandy ‘tarte aux pommes’, the most crowd-pleasing of Normandy local food specialties: apple tart with a twist, balancing shortcrust pastry, apples, crème fraîche, almonds and maybe a dash of Calvados apple brandy. Totally délicieux!

Normandy local food specialties – dairy produce par excellence!

Assiettes de fromages normands

Which French cheeses come from Calvados in Normandy?

Pastures of clover and tawny-brown cows are the secret to many of Normandy’s local food specialties in that they produce milk rich in fat and protein – perfect for cheesemaking. And the Normandy cheese varieties which hail from Calvados, ‘Livarot’ and ‘Pont l’Evêque’, all pillowy, creamy and mature, certainly steal the show on the nation’s cheeseboard.

Livarot (round and reddish on the outside, yellow and stretchy inside), is still wrapped by hand in five bands of sedge. It’s beautiful paired with fruit and really packs a punch when added to soups and gratins.

Pont l’Evêque (the square one with the orange crust) is milder in taste than Livarot, comes in a wooden box and makes the perfect cheese between courses.

How to eat Normandy cheese

According to the traditions of Normandy local food specialties, we might eat our Pont l’Evêque and Livarot Normandy cheeses between main course and dessert (maybe with a full-bodied red!) but you can just as readily cube them at apéritif o’clock or pack one with a warm baguette when you’re planning a picnic between Normandy tourism sites.
If you’re driving around the picture-postcard ‘Pays d’Auge’ area grind to a halt when you see signs for ‘Graindorge’. Known throughout French gastronomy circles it’s a famous fromagerie where you can observe cheese being made and see displays of old churns, stools, ladles and moulds, a reminder that cheese has been a mainstay of local life for centuries.

Table de fromage en apéritif avec verres de cidre

Normandy butter and fresh Normandy cream

Can you imagine Dauphinoise potatoes without cream, warm breakfast croissants without butter, or a Normandy tarte-aux-pommes without a generous dollop of crème fraiche? No, we can’t either, yet sometimes these key Normandy local food specialties don’t always get their fair share of the spotlight on the plate! Wherever you’re tucking into dairy in France, these goodies often come from Normandy dairies such as Isigny-sur-Mer’s where different varieties of Calvados cream and Calvados butter will add rich notes to the French recipe classics you’ll be inspired to make back home.

How to find the best Normandy seafood

Marché aux poissons de Trouville
Cassolette de coquilles saint jacques

Shrimps, cockles, mussels, lobster, winkles, whelks, and more. Seafood is one of the very best Normandy local food specialties and though we might be biased, we can’t help but think that you won’t get better seafood than on the Calvados coastline: the divine texture of Coquilles St Jacques (scallops) coming from every kitchen from October to May, a chance to taste oysters in Asnelles, fishy market stalls full to bursting at Grandcamp Maisy, and restaurants specialising in seafood platters, such as La Maison Bleue in Courseulles-sur-Mer.

4 mouthwatering ways to experience Normandy food specialties in Calvados

Head to a traditional French Market

Whether it’s just to experience market hustle and bustle or you’re stocking up on Normandy local food specialties for a gite holiday in Normandy, traditional French markets are a great place to turn your foodie sensors on and try out your handy French phrases. Just check out local listings to find out which days of the week stalls magically pitch up in the square. Don’t forget that there are also ‘Halles’ (indoor markets), Christmas markets in Normandy, plus ‘Marchés aux Poissons’ (fish markets), such as the one in Trouville-sur-Mer selling fish and seafood fresh off the boat each day. How’s that for low food miles?

Take home some Normandy specialties

Forget fridge magnets, keyrings and bookmarks and instead buy Normandy cheeses, local caramel treats and apple juices as your holiday mementoes, all with beautiful labels making them all the more pleasurable to gift or enjoy back home. Remember to pack your cool boxes or you’ll have to wind down the window – Normandy cheeses can ping sky-high on the pongometer! Whichever Normandy local food specialties you’re after look out for the label AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégéé) – it’s a sign of quality meaning you’re buying the real McCoy and not a pale imitation.

Get stuck into Calvados food culture!

If you like the idea of immersing yourself in French food traditions, why not help with an apple harvest in Ouézy, sleep in a Calvados barrel in Repentigny, sign up for a French cookery class in Normandy or go to a foodie festival; Take the annual cider festival (Fête du Cidre) in Beuvron-en-Auge, an impossibly beautiful village of half-timbered houses, and think dancing, traditional dress and of course the odd tipple made from tonnes of apples pressed into fresh juice.

Spend a memorable evening at a restaurant in Calvados

From timber-framed country bistros serving hearty Normandy classics, to city addresses specialising in high-end Normandy gastronomy and inventive international flavours, menus don’t come much more exciting than in Calvados.
Go for something new, maybe a Plateau de Fruits de Mer (seafood platter), a Teurgoule (Normandy’s take on rice pudding) or Andouille charcuterie from Vire (smoked offal sausage). Go for a brasserie or ‘bistronomique’ restaurant for good food in a laid-back atmosphere, or go ‘gastronomique’ for something more refined.  And don’t forget, we like lots of courses in France so pace yourself for entrée, plat, fromage and dessert!

Like the sound of tasting your way round Normandy’s local food specialties? You can start planning your trip to Calvados here.

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