Fish and Seafood
The Vendée has a long and beautiful coastline and as you would expect fishing is a very important industry in the region. Accordingly fish and shellfish play an important role in the region’s culinary specialities, especially sardines from St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, mussels from L’Aiguillon and oysters from the Bay of Bourgneuf. Shrimps, prawns, crabs and langoustines are also readily available and feature heavily in home cooking as well as on restaurant menus. Fish soup is a recognised speciality of the region.
Meat and Poultry
There is a wide variety of poultry available in the Vendée with duck, chicken, quail and guinea-fowl all very popular – particularly that from Challans. Beef and pork are the region’s popular meats with traditional casserole dishes and roasted, rolled joints served in colder weather and barbecue cuts popular in the warmer months. Gammon is common to many restaurant menus, usually served with locally grown potatoes and a fresh side salad. Wild rabbit pâté is also a delicacy in the region. The marshes of the coast of northern Vendée are used for rearing marsh mutton with its unique flavour much enjoyed by the locals and Chalais Veal is renowned for its whiteness and unique flavour – the calves being reared in semidarkness and said on diets of eggs milk and sugar.
Many Vendée food specialities are based around wholesome, traditional foods. These include cabbage, potatoes and white haricot beans (what the locals call ‘mogettes’ introduced to the Vendée by monks during the 16th century). A common recipe for these small white beans is to simmer them for several hours and serve them with local gammon. Some of the region’s best, sweet tasting potatoes are grown on the Ile de Re and Ile de Noirmoutier and mushrooms are also very popular with a broad range to choose from including ceps, horns of plenty and chanterelles. A common ingredient in many of the region’s recipes is locally produced sea salt, grown in the region’s salt marshes. Back in medieval times, the production and sale of sea salt brought considerable wealth to the region’s monasteries. The salt marshes also produce a quantity of samphire, popular in pickled form and used by many restaurants their salads and with fish dishes.
The Vendée produces a lot of locally made cheese – goat’s cheese and cheese made from cow’s milk. From market stalls to supermarkets and restaurants, you will find many different types of cheese to choose from and a host of recipes that use them in different ways. Locally produced butter is also delicious as is creme fraiche.
The most famous of desserts from the Vendée has to be the brioche – a fluffy bread which is believed to have sprung from a traditional Norman recipe. (right) There are many varieties. This sweet, rich bread is made with eggs and unsalted butter and is made in a different shape in the Vendée where it is plaited before being baked. Other regional desserts include goat’s cheese cheesecake (Tourteau Fromagé) and an ice cream ‘cake’ called “R’tournez’y” with key ingredients of vanilla, wild strawberry and hazelnut ice cream. Vendée Ice Cream Gallery
Wine in the Vendée
Red wines in the vendeeIn terms of wine production, the Vendée region could be said to be playing piggy in the middle with the bigger regions of the Loire Valley and the Bordeaux region above and below it. However the Vendée is an exceptionally sunny region and the Vins des Fiefs Vendéens which translates as wines of the Vendée fiefdoms (see below) have earned an AOC rating (appellation d’origine controlée) these are mainly reds or rosés but there is also a dryer white wine called Gros-Plant for which the Vendée is known and this particular wine is produced from the Folle-Blanche grape which is grown to the north of the region.
Vins des Fiefs Vendéens
Brem, Vix, Mareuil, and Pissotte are the four territories in which the wines are produced which make up the Vins des Fiefs Vendéans. These wines have a very long history and were known even even in Roman times. This small region of only 1200 acres produces mainly red wines and rosés, from pinot noir, gamay, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon grape varieties. Since 1984 these wines have been granted the appellation VDQS (Vins Delimite’s de Qualite Supérieure). For the most part, these are fairly light, fruity wines which should be drunk chilled and also when they are still young. They make an ideal accompaniment to the local dishes served in the region.
Loire Wine Festivals at Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
This is a trade fair for wines which usually takes place at the beginning of November. Here you can taste all the wines of the Loire as well as the local speciality wines of the Vins des Fiefs Vendéans. If you find a wine that you particularly like then you will be able to purchase it here. Along with the wine tastings, you will be able to enjoy canapés and even taste the foie gras with local producers bring to the fair.