BonnotteOriginally known as a “bounette” or “bounotte”, the bonnotte is a traditional, old variety of potato. It is a speciality of the Island of Noirmoutier and has enjoyed a reputation for excellence since it was first introduced to the island in the 1920s-1930s. These potatoes are small and round, with firm but soft flesh. They only keep for a few days. They are grown in very sandy soil enriched with seaweed.
Challans poultryFarms in the marshes of Brittany and Vendée all bred poultry, which was traditionally sold as the main source of income for the farmer’s wife. This type of meat was eaten only on special occasions, notably weddings. On most farms, only the animals that could not be sold because they were small or had been injured were kept to feed the family. They were then stewed or braised.
Challans poultry was granted a red label in 1969. This set strict rules as regards feed (75% grain), age before sale, and living conditions (small flocks in the open air with plenty of room to move around) and Challans duck gained a reputation for excellence with leading restaurateurs. “Jugged Duck”, for example, has been served for more than 100 years at La Tour d’argent in Paris. At Le Glajou restaurant, it is served braised or with apricots.
PrefouAny leftover unleavened bread dough was rolled into small balls and placed in the oven to see whether it had reached the right temperature for baking the bread. As soon as the balls were golden brown, they were taken out the oven, much to the delight of the children, cut open and spread with cream and sugar, or simply buttered. Eaten straight out the oven, they were delicious. In the 1950s, a baker from the Poitou Marshes thought of selling this type of product to cattle farmers. Gradually, the pre-baking dough took on the name “préfou” or “peur l’fou” in the local dialect, meaning a very flat bread filled with salted butter and covered with chopped garlic. Today, it is often served with an aperitif.
MogetteThe mogette is a dry or semi-dry white bean with a very high carbohydrate and vitamin content. It has been traditionally grown in Vendée since the 16th century. In 2006, it was granted a “red label”. Mogettes are sown between 10 May and 20 June and harvested at the end of August. It is a traditional food in Vendée, served at meals with friends and grown here for centuries. It was eaten with ham in the days when having a ham hanging in the inglenook was a sign of wealth. Slicing into the ham showed that a guest was highly thought of. Today, the traditional grilled ham and mogettes has become much more commonplace and Le Glajou (hyperlink to the Restaurant file) restaurant serves its own version of the dish as “CUISINE MONTOISE” fare.
SeafoodOysters from Bouin, Beauvoir or Noirmoutier, langoustines, rock crab, shrimps, Atlantic surf clams, whelks and mussels are caught every day off the coasts of Vendée. They are sold in local markets and served in our restaurants.
Restaurants such as Chez Bastien, La Villa and Le Robinson, for example, serve the oysters raw or cooked as part of the “CUISINE MONTOISE” scheme. If you want to eat Atlantic surf clams anywhere other than on the Island of Yeu where it is one of the local specialities, we recommend the Restaurant La Suite. La Villa also serves Green Crab Soup, a traditional local dish. Le Quai des Dunes serves shellfish à la maraîchine, a sauce made with cream and shallots.
In Saint-Jean-de-Monts, fishing for banded wedge-shells is an institution. When the tide goes out, leaving behind a huge area of wet sand, crowds of people arrive with their wicker baskets, scrapers and other tools. Stiff-legged and bent double, the shellfish gatherers work tirelessly to find the tasty shellfish just below the surface.
Then, their lungs filled with the ozone-rich sea air, they head back up the beach, licking their lips at the thought of the mouth-watering fare they’ll be eating later on. Fried with a small dollop of cream and some chopped parsley, the shellfish release their full flavour…
FishWith its 250 km of coastline providing wonderful breeding grounds for many species, Vendée is a major fishing ground. Among the most iconic of the local fish are monkfish, turbot, hake, whiting, sole, red mullet, pollock, rock salmon, mackerel, tuna, bass and the famous Saint Gilles Croix de Vie sardines.
La Langoust’ine restaurant serves line-caught bass in the traditional manner (”CUISINE MONTOISE” style) while sardines are cooked in the traditional way (again, “CUISINE MONTOISE” style) at La Quich’notte, Le Quai des Dunes and Le Robinson.
BriocheBefore the 1960s, the traditional Easter dessert in Vendée was the “galette pacaude”, a rounded brioche.
Only in Paris were brioches baked in tins. That method was unheard-of in the marshes.
The “brioche de Vendée” that everybody knows today was invented by Michel Blandin in the 1960s when he began mass-producing it to compete with the tin-baked Parisian brioche. His innovation was inspired by the traditional brioche but it contained more sugar and it was beaten for longer to get more air into the mixture. It was then braided into a loaf shape. The braiding was traditionally used by local bakers in the pre-war years when making cakes for weddings and, at traditional weddings, the couple are still required to perform the "brioche dance”. The brioche, which can weigh up to 30 kg, is placed on a “stretcher” carried by two people at a time until all the weddings guests have had a turn during the dance.
Since 2003, Vendée’s brioche has had a red label and a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) to guarantee its authenticity.
Flan MaraîchinThis was the traditional dessert on Easter Sunday, at first communions and at christenings. At Easter, it was a way of using up the eggs that had been stored during the winter. They were mixed with fresh spring milk and seasoned with plenty of cinnamon. A few families still uphold the tradition. The “flan”, or “fion” was not limited to the marshes, however. It was eaten throughout Vendée but without the hot water pastry.
The flan maraîchin is the most popular dessert at the Salon des desserts and one of the specialities at Le Glajou restaurant .