The essence of the regionâ€™s gastronomy is found in its waters. The Loire and its tributaries provide salmon, trout, carp, shad and pike, served grilled in a salt crust, or with a beurre nantais (butter, shallots and wine sauce). The Atlantic coast spoils visitors with its superb shellfish: oysters, mussels, prawns, lobsters and clams can be savored at any time of dayâ€“â€“and with any sauceâ€“â€“in the restaurants fronting local fishing ports. Around GuÃ©rande, the ocean offers its fleur de sel, an all-natural unprocessed salt that gives a new meaning to seasoning.
Mushroom Growing Country.
Inland Maine district has for centuries been the land of the choicest grain-fed poultry: chapon du Mans and poulet de LouÃ© are in demand by the best chefs. Le Mans is famous for its rillettes, a patÃ© of pork, herbs and spices that is served cold, while VendÃ©e serves a local jambon (ham). Game is also popular and includes wild duck and hare served in rich red wine sauces. In the limestone caves near Saumur, mushroom growing is big business: 42% of the national production comes from there. At Saut-aux-Loups one can visit a 15th-century maze of underground galleries where all kinds of mushrooms are grown and where galipettes (stuffed mushrooms) are served.
Regional cheeses are usually made from cowâ€™s milk, although CrÃ©met dâ€™Anjou, a goat-milk cheese whose crust has been rubbed with a wine-soaked cloth, has become a favorite. Deserts include tarte tatin, a caramelized apple upside-down tart that can also be made with pears, gÃ¢teau nantais, made with almonds and rum, or a fruit salad generously doused with wine and accompanied by sablÃ©s, the shortbread cookies from SablÃ©-sur-Sarthe.
Delightful White and RosÃ© Wines.
Pays-de-Loireâ€™s claim to gastronomic fame also resides in its wines. Around Nantes, the dry wines of Muscadet are the perfect partners to all kinds of seafood. Anjou is associated more with the sweeter rosÃ©s such as RosÃ© de Loire, while Saumur produces fresh and light red, rosÃ© and white wines as well as white and rosÃ© sparkling wines that are more affordable alternatives to champagne. For an after-dinner drink, the local specialty is Cointreau, the liqueur made with sweet and bitter orange extracts that has been made in Angers since 1849.