France: Loire Valley

Around Nantes

Muscadet and the Vendée
By Jim Budd

This Guide was last updated on 23 April 2011
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Food specialities

Fish and shellfish: there is a huge array of all types of these available here, which being close to the Atlantic, are wonderfully fresh.

Oysters: from the Brittany coast, oysters here are plentiful and affordable. Many a meal will start with six or a dozen oysters. Lemony, austere Gros Plant comes into its own – it is the perfect match.

Beurre Blanc: a rich butter and lemon sauce. This is the classic Loire accompaniment to fish, especially sandre (perch pike). It is a reduction of finely chopped shallots, lemon juice (or wine vinegar) and dry white wine – Muscadet, of course, in the Pays Nantais! Chilled butter is then whisked in, a piece at a time. Should be served warm. Beurre Nantais may simply be an alternative name or it may have crème fraîche added.

Anguilles: eels caught in the Loire, these are generally either served grilled or stewed in wine (matelote d’anguille) – it may be Muscadet but is often red wine. In some recipes oysters are added when it can be called matelote d'huitres à l'anguille. You can also find lamproies (lampreys) cooked in a rich wine stew.

La friture de la Loire: like a French version of whitebait. Tiny river fish quickly fried in hot fat and served with wedges of lemon.

Vegetables: market gardening is an important industry here and the region is a major producer of vegetables, especially early spring ones due to the mild winters. The island of Noirmoutier is known for its new potatoes.

Mojettes: small haricot bean from the Vendées.

Challans poultry: this area is famous for its poultry especially for lean and flavoursome ducks.

Le Jambon Vendéen: this ham is cured using salt from Noirmoutier and flavoured with herbs and either pear or prune (plum) eau de vie. Generally served cooked – sometimes with mojettes.

Fromage du Curé Nantais: a cheese claimed to have been invented by a priest from the Vendée during the French Revolution, this is a round soft cylindrical cows’ milk cheese first made commercially in the 1880s. It is at its best between May and October. See ‘Other interesting atttractions’.

Gâteau Nantais: almond cake flavoured with rum.

Le Petit Mouzillon: a traditional biscuit, made since 1848 in the small town of Mouzillon.

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