Our recent trip to Normandy was inspired by two things. One was our never-ending search for places not far from Paris to spend long weekends. Normandy fits that bill, though its extreme popularity (particularly along the coast near Honfleur) means it’s always rammed with Paris escapees. The second, naturally, was cheese. Normandy boasts 4 famous ones: the revered Camembert, Pont L’Évêque, Neufchâtel, and Livarot. That it was the Fête du Fromage in Pont L’Évêque (site in French) was icing on the proverbial cake!
We drove directly from Paris to Pont L’Évêque. By arriving at noon on the first day of the Fête, we faced the very peak of the traffic. It took us almost a half hour to get into town. Instead of joining the crowds we consulted Trip Advisor and found Restaurant L’Angelot a couple hundred meters before the site.
Being in Pont L’Évêque, they naturally served the town’s eponymous cheese, which in this case was a fromage fermier, meaning it was produced and matured at the farm from whence the milk came. The cheese was delicious, nicely aged with a light nutty taste and a smooth texture. I decided to follow the advice I had been given at Cheese Day from the Director of Marketing for Père Magliore, France’s biggest Calvados producer, and tasted it with Calvados (a competitor’s product though!). The server suggested Calvados Rollon hors d’âge (between 6-20 years old), which was bursting with apple fruitiness and had a hint of wood and cinnamon. While the cheese didn’t quite stand up to the drink, the Calvados was really good.
The star of the meal for me though was the paleron du bœuf in a cider based sauce. This is chuck steak, folks... a cheap and cartilaginous cut from the shoulder of the beast which must be cooked low and slow to merely be edible. It was the most tender meat I have ever eaten. More tender than any filet of beef. It wasn’t stringy at all as some braised beef can be. It just melted in my mouth. The sauce was sublime, a perfect equilibrium of sweet, savory, and acidity. When taking the first bite, I’ll confess that I had tears in my eyes it was so good.
My wife and kids split a tarte tatin for dessert which was admittedly excellent as well, especially with a slightly sour whipped cream, but by that point I was content to be done.
I have almost never been happy about traffic delays. But in this case I was utterly delighted. What a treat.
[Note: Because of the transcendental nature of my main course, I’ve decided to start tracking what I’ll call the “perfect bite”. These are dishes or cheese I’ve eaten that, for me at least, are more than just very good: they are among the best things I’ve ever eaten.]
L'Angelot, 4 Place Saint Mélaine, 14130 Pont L'Évêque