Long road trips necessitate pit stops: to stretch one’s legs, use the bathroom and most importantly refuel both the car and its passengers. Driving from Paris to the coast and back, we made sure to hit Normandy’s cheese towns and cider route located in the Pays d’Auge region for some gastronomic snacking opportunities.
Driving through Normandy on country roads was akin to taking a stroll down one’s supermarket cheese aisle. Livarot, Pont l’Eveque, Neufchatel and of course the most famous Normandy cheese of them all: the Camembert are both edibles and coordinates on the map. On our way back to Paris, we dropped by fromagerie E. Graindorge (an independent producer with a relatively large production facility) in the town of Livarot. There, we had our fill of raw milk cheese, staying shamelessly within an arm’s length to the plates of gloriously smelly and nutty samples. Before the tasting, we did the self-guided tour of the factory (better on a weekday morning when production takes place), the highlight being the cave full of aging Livarot. The smell of wet socks hardly diminished our enthusiasm for the tasting afterwards.
Though TPS didn’t want to risk the wrath of US customs by bringing in contraband cheeses, A gamely carried a ripe round of hand molded camembert in 5 layers of plastic on a 12 hour flight to Hong Kong. Needless to say, I bought some cheeses too. With my fridge only 3 hours away, I had no excuse not to.
Besides cheese towns, one finds in Pays d’Auge la Route du Cidre, a 40 km circuit dotted with hectares of apple orchards and dozens of farmsteads that turn the fruit into cider, calvados, jam and other products. We found Domaine Dupont after driving through some windy backroads in the picturesque countryside, grateful that they were still open at 6 pm on a quiet weekday evening.
The lady serving us proceeded to pour us artisanal ciders, apple champagne, pommeau (calvados/juice blend) and other derivative drinks such as givre (very sweet apple wine) and a calvados based cream drink. While all were tasty, we favored the Cidre Reserve, the additional step of aging in old oak barrels giving the drink extra oak and spice flavors. We bought several bottles and ended up opening one that very night.
Regretfully, we weren’t able to make time to visit more fromageries (preferably small artisanal outfits) or cider houses. Still, it was an absolute treat to taste these products of Normandy in situ!
Fromagerie Graindorge – 42 Rue Géneral Leclerc, 14140 Livarot, France
Domaine Dupont – La Vigannerie, 14430 Victot-Pontfol, France