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#1 CheeseMonger

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 05:27 AM

I tried to create a humorous tag line, but failed. Please accept my mediocrity. The exclamation point doesn't help, but I'm leaving it.

I'm going to be in Brest for about 5 weeks, and all I can find is that it was bombed in ww2, and there is little of interest. Surely not the case... or is it?

Have any of you intrepid eaters found anything of interest there, and are ashamed to post it?

I will sally forth into the great unknown and report back.

#2 Ptipois

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 12:09 PM

I tried to create a humorous tag line, but failed. Please accept my mediocrity. The exclamation point doesn't help, but I'm leaving it.

I'm going to be in Brest for about 5 weeks, and all I can find is that it was bombed in ww2, and there is little of interest. Surely not the case... or is it?

Have any of you intrepid eaters found anything of interest there, and are ashamed to post it?

I will sally forth into the great unknown and report back.

 

There isn't any particular humor about going to Brest and certainly nothing to be ashamed of. I admit the city isn't beautiful, but it has plenty of atmosphere and a spirit of its own.

 

Two of the most interesting restaurants in France are actually in Brest.

 

Le Ruffé, which serves only organic products from the Breton terroir, from heirloom meats to unusual ciders, wines and spirits — they have a mix of chouchenn (mead) and perry aged in oak, no kidding. Not sure they'd serve it again though, or still have some. We were already in a rather advanced state when they finally pulled it out.

 

Hinoki is probably the most famous sushiya in France. Managed by a local (ex-surfer), Xavier Pensec, and his wife Mika. Really special and a good use of Breton seafood.

 

There's also quite a fantastic region to explore around Brest. It's not a long drive to L'Auberge des Glazicks in Plomodiern.


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#3 CheeseMonger

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 03:35 AM

Thank you for these recommendations, I've really been at a loss. These both sound very interesting, and I'll report back.

I'm staying with locals while on a language course, so hopefully they will be able good sources as well.

#4 Ptipois

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 09:47 PM

The Pointe Saint-Mathieu is very scenic, and a close drive from Brest, but you should avoid the restaurant.

 

If you like cheese, Le Ruffé has some interesting tommes made from bretonne pie-noire (a local heirloom cow breed) milk.

 

For crêpes (especially buckwheat), I haven't found good ones in Brest. In Roscoff, all the ones I've ordered were outstanding. If you go there, try Ty Saozhon.

 

Five weeks is plenty of time to explore the surroundings. While you're there, report back. I may able to help further.


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#5 CheeseMonger

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 04:32 PM

I've been here in Brest for about a month now, and my course keeps me busy most days, but we have a 3 day weekend, which is nice for preparing assignments, doing homework and getting out. I've been staying at a home in Le Relecq-Kerhuon, about a 10 minute bus ride from Brest proper, and also where the school is. There's a shockingly good cafeteria in the school, and you can get a good lunch for 6 euro- a main and a side, which comes with salad and bread. The bread and butter here are amazing. The crunch of salt in the cultured butter... lordy jesus.  The little bakery in Le Relecq sells a ham and butter sandwich for 2.80 euro, so often I'll pop off the bus, get one, which she makes to order, and get on the next bus (you get an hour to complete your journey on the buses and trams).

 

I've become good friends with an English woman in my class who lives right on the tram line, and loves to eat, so we've been exploring. She's only been here for a year, so she's happy to have the company. 

 

I celebrated a birthday here a couple of weeks ago, and a few of us went to Le Relais Celton. The lighting was harsh and not particularly inviting, but the food (of which I have no pics), was pretty good.  I was trying to pick a place that would not test the wallets of my classmates, but it turns out that the pricing is much like Le Ruffe. More on that later.

 

A local traditional dish, Kig ha farz, is their specialty. I find it fun that so many cities with access to lovely fresh seafood, have a fairly revolting local dish, like the Franceshina of Portugal. Even when it's good, it's pretty bad. Kig ha farz, as I can best describe it, is meat and veg boiled to death, served with buckwheat that has been boiled to death. It's saved by melted shallot/bacon butter. I'm quite glad I didn't order this. 

 

I swiped this pic from Wikipedia, but it's an accurate depiction:

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mmmmmm. brown and boiled.

 

My haddock was lovely, others reported that their meals were also nice, and Kig ha Farz was enjoyed by it's person. Everything came with frites.  Which is fine by me.

 

Yesterday we went down to the docks to Le Crabe Marteau, aka Hammer Crab, which is just like what it sounds like.  Here are a few pics:

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you get several mayo based sauces, spicy, natural, herb and a vinegar one, that tasted like salad dressing to me.  

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and a large bucket of boiled potatoes

 

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and of course, the star: 

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you can see the remnants of my Breton cider there, which will be refilled shortly.

 

My friend got the fish- you can see the buckwheat (farz) making an appearance here, as well as the shallot bacon butter (lipig), which was also nice with the crab.

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My friend, her French husband and I are going to Le Ruffe tonight (Saturday), and I'll report back soon.

 

It's very Seattle-like here- beautiful when it's occasionally sunny, but keep an umbrella handy always. There's a beach in Le Relecq that's loaded with windsurfers and water-walkers (mostly old people in wetsuits that walk parallel to the beach at about chest height). I went to a a cool pub called La Tour de la Monde a couple of Saturdays ago and had the best fish and chips of my life. Thin crisp batter, buttery rich white haddock. Again, no pics, but highly recommended if you're over by the aquarium.

 

More later!

 

 



#6 voyager

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 05:08 PM

Brava!   Thanks for this excellent log.    More, please!

 

(And you are totally correct about Kig ha Farz. I think you have to be born to it.)


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#7 Sneakeater

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 07:08 PM

Kig ha farz, as I can best describe it, is meat and veg boiled to death, served with buckwheat that has been boiled to death. It's saved by melted shallot/bacon butter.


Until you get to the bacon butter, it sounds like classic Eastern European Jewish cooking.
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#8 Sneakeater

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 07:10 PM

We may have to go to the mat over Francesinha, though. (OTOH, I'm an Eastern European Jew, so my taste is inherently suspect.)
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#9 Ptipois

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 07:19 PM

So glad you're enjoying the place. The region immediately around Brest (briefly the Haut-Léon) doesn't have much of a reputation as sightseeing goes — and is not, I must confess, the most scenic part of Brittany; it is also considered to be the harshest, humanly and weatherly speaking. I'm not sure that's right. I've met wonderful people around there and found, for instance, the atmosphere in the Saint-Cast region, West of Saint-Malo, to be much colder. And there is plenty of beauty around, austere beauty that is. Starting with great beaches. It is also the part of Brittany (and perhaps of France) which suffered the most from the introduction of intensive agriculture in the 1950s and 60s, and it lost much of its landscape through the destruction of centuries-old hedgerows (bocage) to make way for endless miles of cauliflowers and artichokes.

 

Kig ha farz is like couscous: it can be great or horrid depending on the cook. It is merely a potée of pork and vegs (as there is at least one in every microregion) with the farz (buckwheat or wheat) cooked in it in a cloth bag, and a lipig (butter-shallot sauce). If the potée is well made, with fresh ingredients, good pork products and vegetables not cooked to death, it can be great. Now there's a local chef, Pascal Lemort, who runs the kitchens at the Ker Beuz hotel where the Crozon peninsula begins. One of his specialties is lamb kig ha farz, in which he merges couscous and kig ha farz. I've had it last Spring when researching for a book on heirloom breeds (the lamb was Avranchin), and it was excellent.

 

If you like traditional charcuterie, there is a great place to try it: Olivier Hélibert in Bourg-Blanc, about 10 miles north of Brest. Outstanding work and fantastic products (boudin, ham, saucisson à l'ail, langouille (tongue cured like andouille), pâté breton, etc.).


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#10 CheeseMonger

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Posted 25 October 2017 - 01:02 PM

I'm back!  Sorry for the delay, but I lost my adapter, and oddly, finding a US to Europe adapter that doesn't have a "guard" (or whatever you call the circular thing that doesn't allow a larger plug to fit the socket) is not that simple. I'm borrowing one from a hotel at the moment to charge the chromebook. I wish I still had that mallet from Hammer Crab.

 

We meant to go to Le Ruffe on that Saturday, but as we were getting ready, and confirming the reservation time with each other, we realized that we each thought the other had made the reservation.  Oops- they couldn't take us.... on a Saturday with no notice. Quelle surprise.

 

Instead, my friend's husband (yes, me = 3rd wheel) called Paul Germain, just down the Rue Jean Jaures. Charming little place- part interior design store, part tea shop, part restaurant.  No written menus, you chose from what they have to offer, and they speak really fast. The Formule that seemed best was 30 euro for a cocktail, an entree, a plat, a dessert AND a 1/2 bottle of wine to share between 2. There were 3 of us, and one doesn't drink, so they gave us the full bottle. 

 

I think this is a Brittany thing, but it feels like a Caribbean/Bahamas thing: Punch. Everyone has their own, and it's one of the cocktails on offer. Not being completely clear on this punch concept, I just ordered a Martini Blanc, as opposed to a Rouge. Red Vermouth isn't a thing I see much of in the states, but I've seen it a lot in France and Northern Spain. I did try the punch, it's quite good.

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My appetizer was a kind of camembert in the rataouille thing.  Simple, tomato-y and really delicious, with chunks of eggplant, etc. in the bottom.  I can see myself pulling this off at home, if I ever have one again. 

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My friend got this little fish soup with a crab mousse.  She loved it, I thought is was salty and too.... fishy. 

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After the cocktails and wine I forget to take pics as tipsiness ensues.  It was a delightful meal, and one of the dessert options was Irish coffee, so that was nice. 

 

Here's what the place looks like from the exterior in the daytime:

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We DID get to Le Ruffe later in the week, and I'll put those up in a bit. Most importantly, a great find just outside of town in St. Thonan.



#11 CheeseMonger

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Posted 25 October 2017 - 01:06 PM

We may have to go to the mat over Francesinha, though. (OTOH, I'm an Eastern European Jew, so my taste is inherently suspect.)

I didn't say I didn't like the Franceschina....  but truth is, I really kinda didn't. 



#12 CheeseMonger

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Posted 25 October 2017 - 05:10 PM

finally- le ruffe!

 

First I must say that this restaurant, like few others, clearly knows the difference between service and hospitality. We felt appreciated and welcome throughout the meal. There was a large party next to us, which can make the 2-tops feel like lesser citizens, but here we did not.

 

On to the food!

Here's some menu pics:

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for reference, I got the plancha de viandes, and friend got the plancha de poissons- there was sharing, of course.

 

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Here's the meats: lots of pork.

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That's a cube of gratin potatoes. The meat was LUSH, and there was quite a bit of it.  I didn't eat the skin and fat cap, as I felt they were there to enhance the meat, and it did. It's a call.

 

The plancha de poissons:

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Friend was very happy, I felt it was lacking. I I can't really explain why, without saying it was what it said- a sampler plate. I had a few bites, and everything was well cooked.  But you're probably getting the right impression that I'm not often impressed by fish dishes. It's a personal flaw, I know. It just seemed so spare against my meats.

 

There was a dessert for my friend (which didn't photograph well), and an aperitif for me. Again, with the hospitality- I wanted something truly Breton, and I got the local apple booze, like Normandy's  Calvados, but made by some guy in a village nearby, small batch, taste it first, the whole lovely experience.

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And the bill- for all of that- apps x 2, mains x 2, dessert x 1, digestif x 1 and 2 glasses of wine with dinner, was less than 60 euro. What?  

 

All said, a great meal. Anticipation, this time, did not lead to disappointment.



#13 Sneakeater

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Posted 25 October 2017 - 08:36 PM

I didn't eat the skin and fat cap, as I felt they were there to enhance the meat, and it did. It's a call.


I keep staring at that picture and dreaming of the different call I'd make.

Wow, what a meal that looks like!
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#14 CheeseMonger

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 11:19 AM

I didn't eat the skin and fat cap, as I felt they were there to enhance the meat, and it did. It's a call.

I keep staring at that picture and dreaming of the different call I'd make.Wow, what a meal that looks like!

I’m my defense, that’s a lot of meat, I had to make choices. What I forgot to post was the appetizer of pork terrine- I’ll add that later.

If it helps, I took the skins and fat to my friend’s home and made a batch of fatty rice, which made delicious fried rice, and also, the doggie got some with his kibble.

#15 Ptipois

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 02:42 PM

Punch: definitely a Brest thing. Brest, evidently, is an important seaport and a sailors' town. Home to one of the main naval schools in France and to the two schooners of Marine Nationale (you may see them from the pont de Recouvrance when they're not at sea). Brest means sailors and bars and cafés, and Brest means booze. Lots of it. One Summer in Brest I was dining outside with a friend and I slapped a mosquito dead on my forearm. I wondered at how slow the mosquito flew and how easy it was to kill it. My friend replied: "Of course it's easy. Mosquitoes here sting Brest people, so they're drunk too." Rum and rum punches are inherent to drinking at sea (with lime juice added to avoid scurvy) and therefore inherent to Brest. You'll see quite a lot of different rums on the shelves in bars around rue de Siam and Recouvrance; and quite interesting aged bottles at Comptoir Kerjean on the same rue de Siam (closer to the church and market, where I used to buy whole lieus jaunes to fry meunière and serve with a shallot beurre blanc. Gorgeous). So there may be a little more rum drunk in Brest than anywhere else in continental France, yes.

 

Ooh, lambig. The Breton equivalent of calvados. Manoir de Kinkiz is near Quimper, and they make outstanding apple wines and spirits; I recommend the cider. Le Ruffé also has some amazing chouchens (meads) and wild pear brandy made my monks. I've yet to meet anything drinkable at Le Ruffé that wasn't dangerously delicious.

 

The pork served at Le Ruffé is porc blanc de l'Ouest, a very ancient local breed which yields delicious meat, rind and fat. I'm glad you decided to take the trimmings home.

 

If you have an opportunity to go to Roscoff, don't miss it. The place is lovely and they make what I remember as some of the best buckwheat crêpes in the region.

 

Do check out the temporary art shows and exhibits at nearby Abbaye de Daoulas. Interesting themes.


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