I went to Cancale for the fourth time yesterday. I know, I’m a seafood junkie. I do have an excuse: months ago I bought a Groupon coupon for a three-course lobster meal in Cancale. I actually tried to use the coupon the last time that I was in Cancale about a month ago but hadn’t made a reservation so they wouldn’t seat us. Which was fine because then we had that amazing meal at Au Pied d’cheval….no hard feelings. This time I wasn’t taking any chances: Friday night I called to make the reservation. Everything was fine, I made a reservation for 2 at noon…until I mentioned that I had the coupon to use. Suddenly, no they were full and they couldn’t accommodate us. Quoi? I recently had a conversation with an American who has lived in France for 6 years. We were discussing the nightmare that it is to deal with administration and bureaucracy in France. While I’m not a big fan of stereotypes, this is one that has always held true in my experience. Her advice to me was that as an American I have to get over my timidity. She said that in France when someone says ‘no’ that is when you get comfortable. You take a seat and you don’t move until you get your way. With those words in mind I took a deep breath and said calmly into the receiver “No. I bought the coupon, this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to use it. It expires in 2 weeks and tomorrow is the last day that I can use it as I live in Rennes and it’s not easy for me to get to Cancale. I spent 40 euro and I want to eat this meal!” The women on the other line chuckled, sighed and then said “Okay, we’ll move some things around for you”. I thanked her and put the phone down, shocked. What just happened? I convinced someone, in my terrible American accent, to make an exception for me? In all likelihood she just felt sorry for me, but whatever, I’ll take it! Réussite.
The next day Emma and I arrived in Cancale and went straight to Graine de Vanille, the bakery owned by my culinary hero Olivier Roellinger. We had tried to go there the last time we were in Cancale but it was closed. I guess we had a bit of bad luck during that last trip. But this time they were open and we stepped out of the cold into the warm, sweet, sticky air of the world’s most adorable bakery. Everything is warm and antique and smells like it wants you to eat it immediately. We had a hard time choosing our pastries. In the end I settled on a mille feuille and a pommé, a traditional Breton butter cake filled with applesauce. Maybe you remember last year when I went to Cancale for the first time and discovered the mind-blowing magnificence of Graine de Vanille’s mille feuille?
We tucked our pastries away to enjoy later and headed down the hill to the boardwalk. We still had a bit of time to kill before our lunch reservation so we took a seat near the pier where we had an excellent view of the sprawling oyster beds reaching out across the bay to the distant Mont Saint Michel . Chatting couples and families settled down to freshly shucked oysters bought from the nearby oyster stalls. We watched as oyster after oyster slid down greedy throats, the shells chucked onto the beach below where they disappeared into the mass of white oyster skeletons. Fingers were licked, lips were smacked and then they dove back in for more.
And then it was time for the long awaited meal. Despite my fears that the staff at this restaurant would be unpleasant due to my negative experiences thus far, we were greeted warmly and sat down to have an amazing meal.
Emma hails from Maine and if the lobster gets her stamp of approval I don’t think I need to add anything else to express how yummy it was. We merrily drank muscadet and picked our way through our lobsters. Happily Emma was there to walk me through the operation as I’m not too familiar with lobster eating etiquette. In the end I cleaned every little bit of food off my plate, and I even managed to sop up the entire pool of butter that was covering my plate. I’m a true Bretonne now!
Two hours later, we rolled our happy tummies out onto the street to catch the bus and then the train. After yet another perfect day in Cancale it was back to Rennes to have pastries for dinner in my tiny apartment. Thank you Emma for being such wonderful company on my constant culinary adventures (comme d’habitude) and thank you Le Narval for a wonderful meal that was well worth the wait.
I don’t think that it’s just because I’m hungry that these pictures, and your story, are so amazing! Your descriptions made me feel as though I was there as well. Brava! Can’t wait to see Cancale–and France–in the Springtime!
France and I can’t wait to see you either! Hurry up and get here already. Spring seems so far away…