Planning to see the Tour de France this year in the Loire or are you a gourmand always on the look-out for delicious local specialties? Don't miss these tasty treats all along the Loire stages of the route...
The Grande Boucle will hit the roads of the Loire region on 7 July 2018, when Noirmoutier hosts the Grand Depart of the 105th Tour de France. This year, Pays de la Loire plays host to four stages of this legendary race with a global audience.
But there's more to the event than cycling. Throughout these four stages, competitors and audience alike will pass through some of France's most delectable locations, offering a wide variety of scrumptious gourmet foods.
Stage 1 - Noirmoutier to Fontenay-le-Comte
The La Perle des Dieux cannery transforms a simple foodstuff into a premier product. Whilst the beautiful artwork upon the tin adds to the charm, it's the delicacy insde that truly delivers: gourmet sardines that improve with time and keep for up to a decade.
Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie even has its own "Brotherhood of the Sardine", a community devoted to the promotion of the seaside resort and the celebration of treasures from the sea, especially the sardine.
Bonnotte is a variety of potato grown exclusively and in small quantities on the island of Noirmoutier. They are extremely fragile and can only be planted and harvested by hand.
First grown in the 1930s, its distinctive fresh, chestnutty taste is unusual, yet unique and a big hit with foodies. It's the island's global ambassador! Thanks to its rarity and fame, the Bonnotte commands a high price and is known as the world's most expensive potato.
The Vendée Atlantique oyster is grown and matured in the plankton-rich water between the bays of Bourgneuf and L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer, in the south of the Vendée. Many flock to such delicacies for their firm, crisp flesh and all agree they are irresistible.
You can also travel along the Vendée Atlantique oyster route to learn more about how oysters are grown, their life cycle and their farmers' traditional way of life on the coast.
With Préfou, from Fontaines in the south Vendée, it's all about one star ingredient: garlic. Cooked in the front of the oven, this flat baguette filled with salted butter and thin slices of garlic is perfect as an appetizer or with a leg of lamb.
In Roquerfort, it can also be served with goat's cheese and confit tomato.
Stage 2 - Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to La Roche-sur-Yon
This dessert has been awarded the "Protected Geographical Indication" PGI label. It contains more butter and crème fraîche than its sister, the brioche vendéenne, and has a much less airy texture. It can be flavoured with orange blossom, cognac, rum or vanilla and is often served with fresh cream.
Stage 3 - Cholet
Although the textile industry has played an important role in Cholet's economy for generations, it was the famous red and white handkerchief that turned the town into France's "handkerchief capital". Originally produced in a range of colours, in the early 19th century it became - and remained - red and white, thanks to a song by Théodore Botrel, "Le mouchoir rouge de Cholet" (The red handkerchief of Cholet).
Chocolate versions of the handkerchief can be bought around Cholet, filled with orange marzipan and a melting praline with almonds and hazelnuts, skilfully coated with a red chocolate.
Pâté aux prunes
A traditional Anjou pastry, the "pâté aux prunes" is a turnover or pie filled with plums. This cake traces its origins back to the rustic pies made in the countryside of Anjou - a major plum-growing region. It was baked on farms after bread, while the oven was still hot. You'll find these on sale throughout the Anjou area and especially in the historic city of Angers.
Stage 4 - La Baule to Sarzeau
The "white gold" of Guérande was awarded the EU's Protected Geographical Indication PGI label in 2012. Salt-marsh farmers collect two kinds of salt. The first is"gros sel" or cooking salt, which is naturally grey and gathered from the clay bottom of the marshes.
Then there is the rarer "fleur de sel" which is immaculately white and harvested from the surface. With it's strong flavour, fleur de sel is beloved by top chefs and you'll even find it in the local salted caramels.
Baulois fondant cake
Fondant Baulois is baked using local ingredients following a recipe that's been handed down for over 35 years: and it's still a well-kept secret. The thin, light meringue crust, even fondant texture and chocolatey taste with a hint of salted caramel butter make this tempting cake hard to resist!
And don't forget...
Loire Valley wines
Discover the region's array of vineyards producing a wide range of wines including Fiefs Vendéens, Muscadet and vins d'Anjou. Loire wines are light, fruity and elegant. Muscadet, grown in the vineyards of Nantes, received its AOC status all the way back in 1937. This dry white wine with floral and fruity aromas pairs perfectly with seafood and it's long-standing renown mean you really should try a glass (or two).
The vineyards of Anjou and Saumur have a range of grape varieties that produce some of France's most acclaimed wines: Savennières, Coteaux du Layon, Chaume, Saumur blanc, and several sparkling wines too!
So, while you're waiting for the race, be sure to add picking up some local delicacies and enjoying a glass of wine to your preparations for joining the chorus. All together now: 'Allez, allez, allez'!