Spontaneously I was able to take 10 days of vacation this summer. Since I've been working with La Belle Iloise for a long time and didn't know Brittany yet, I packed my suitcase and my wife into the car. Our headquarters were located on the Crozon Peninsula in Finistère. From there we visited different sardine factories in a star shape. On the very first day we got up at 6 a.m. and drove east at 7 a.m. Early Breton fog surrounded us. At 10 o'clock we were in Quiberon at La Belle-Iloise.
La Belle-Iloise is one of the last sardine manufacturers in France. Although it is very big and constantly expanding, the working methods are still the same as 100 years ago. Of course, machines have taken over a lot of the work, but the most important thing - sorting and trimming the fresh sardines - is still done by hand. We have purchased many new products to taste which we may soon add to our range.
With a bang we managed to visit another one of our suppliers, La Quiberonnaise. The La Quiberonnaise factory is located directly on the harbor opposite the pier for the fishing boats. The Quiberonnaise buys the sardine catch unsorted, which means they also have smaller sardines on offer. They offer anchovy fillets preserved in olive oil (like the sardines), which we already have in the program. You also work with the butter pope Jean-Yves Bordier and with him you produce the sardines with Bordier butter: sardines with natural butter, with butter with seaweed from Roscoff and butter with yuzu. We already have them in our range. We bought a lot of samples here too. Unfortunately we could not visit the factory due to lack of time.
After a Plateau de Fruits de Mer at the port, we drove north to the Pointe de Penmarch where we had another appointment.
We visited La Compagnie Bretonne des Poissons there, tasted it and bought samples again. The company is another family business with a long history, but much smaller and with less variety than the other two sardine manufacturers.
The next day we drove to the north of Finistère, to Roscoff. Shortly before reaching our destination, our path led past an impressive number of artichoke fields. The harvest was in full swing. We found ourselves in Brittany's famous "golden vegetable belt". Information is available here: Artichauts du Léon .
We had an appointment with Algoplus, a Conserverie Artisanale that started processing seaweed. It is based in Roscoff because it has the world's highest concentration of edible seaweed. As always, we bought many samples and were already enthusiastic about the different rillettes. We'll meet again in September in Paris at a delicatessen trade fair and will then decide.
In the afternoon we went to Carantec to visit Alain Madec's "Prat-Ar-Coum" oyster tanks. Unfortunately nobody was there. We will come back.
After that we had the whole week off and could visit the places that interested us. The weather was very good, no rain, only sunshine with temperatures around 30 degrees. Our favorite restaurant was at the Hôtel Thalassa in Camaret-sur-Mer. Everything is fresh and comes straight from the sea to the table; the chef is good and respects the products. You also have to eat galettes and crepes in Brittany. We liked them best in the "Le Korrigan" creperie .
Time flew by and we started our return journey. We had the last appointment of our trip in Orléans at the Vinaigrerie Martin Pouret.
The house of Martin Pouret has existed since 1797 and is today the last and only authentic manufacturer of vinegar and mustard using the traditional Orléans process.
Martin Pouret preserves the ancestral recipes and local craftsmanship according to the rules of the royal edict of 1580. The healthy and natural vinegar from Orléans is made exclusively from wines of the best French grape varieties and fermented in oak barrels according to the traditional Orléans method. Only a good wine becomes a good vinegar!
Orléans - Vinegar is a combination of three factors: temperature, air and time.
The Orleans process is a natural conversion of wine into vinegar. Surface fermentation takes place without stirring the wine, without the addition of ferments or antioxidants. Oak barrels (240 l) are half filled with vinegar and mother of vinegar. So the surface is the largest. 50 liters of wine are added. At an ambient temperature of 28 degrees Celsius, the wine turns into vinegar within about 3 weeks. The Martin Pouret vinegar then matures for at least 12 months in oak barrels at a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius. The result is no comparison to industrial vinegar, which is manufactured within 24 hours.
In the rooms where the barrels are stored for fermentation, it took our breath away and our eyes burned. But it still smelled good. Packed with more samples, the journey home could begin. Outside temperature 37 degrees!
On our trip, we were not only impressed by the beautiful, varied landscape, but also by the friendliness of all the people we came into contact with. We'll definitely go again.