Saturday, February 21, 2015

Anjou and Angevines – Dining in the Maine et Loire, France.

from
Behind the French Menu
by
Bryan G. Newman
behindthefrenchmenu@gmail.com
  Updated October 2020

Château d'Angers.
www.flickr.com/photos/24736216@N07/6508320779/


Anjou and the French revolution
    
Anjou was an ancient province in France with its capital the city of Angers. During the French revolution, most of Anjou was included in the new department of Maine-et-Loire. However, the city of Angers kept its important role and is the prefecture, the regional capital, for the department. For most Angevines, the citizens of Anjou, not too much of their geography has changed.
  
Anjou is in the region of the Pays de Loire, justly referred to as the market garden of France.  The City of Angers sits across the Maine and Loire Rivers and is very close to another five rivers. Not surprisingly, the vineyards of Anjou, the Angevine vineyards, are the largest in the whole Loire Valley. 

On the menu in Anjou:

Brochet au Beurre Blanc Pike, the fish, in a white butter sauce. This white butter sauce is also called Beurre Nantaise, the butter sauce from the city of Nantes. Nantes is just a one-hour drive 90km (56 miles) from Angers.
   

Pike- Brochet
www.flickr.com/photos/biodivlibrary/6007967093/

    
Poularde a l'Angevine - A large, young chicken cooked in a red Anjou wine with vegetables, herbs, shallots, and garlic. Poulardes, also called poulardes gras, are young chickens that were spayed in order to fatten them quickly. Most will be over two kilos (4.5lbs) when they reach your table. 

Salade Angevine   A salad of mâche, boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, served in a wine vinegar vinaigrette sauce. The recipe for the traditional Angevine salad is not written in stone. From the vegetarian version noted here, others will offer additions of cured ham, smoked duck’s breast, tomatoes, and possibly cheese. Mache, lamb’s lettuce or field lettuce in English, is definitely one of France’s best and most popular salad greens. Mache is also called Mache Nantaise, since around the City of Nantes 80% of all France’s mâche is grown.
  
Salade Angevine.
Photograph courtesy of Boris Mitendorfer Photography.
  
Pate a Prunes a la Angevine – A traditional Anjou plum pie.  Correctly this will be made with Anjou’s native Reine-Claude, greengage. plums baked in pâte sable, a sweet shortcake pastry. 
 
Caveat emptor: Be careful with the French words used for plums and prunes. A pruneaux is a prune, a dried plum. However, a prune in French is a plum in English.
   


Pâte a prunes aux mirabelles
A Mirabelle plum pie.
Photograph courtesy of JPC24M
www.flickr.com/photos/cjp24/37457471075/


The Reine-Claude plumb is the greengage plum in the UK and North America.  Its French name is dedicated to one of France’s most popular queens; Queen Claude (1499 – 1524).
     
Greengage plums.
www.flickr.com/photos/joybot/6299505664/
  
The Reine-Claude plum was brought from France to England in the early 18th century by Sir Thomas Gage; hence the greengage plum. Despite this plum’s long French history, all plums originated in Asia. The Reine-Claude originally came to France with the Romans. The Romans also brought apricots, cherries, grapevines, and much more. Aside from fruit trees, stadiums, temples, and gladiators, the Romans brought snail farms and the method of raising geese for their fattened liver.
   
The wines of Anjou  
  

Many dishes on Anjou menus will include Angevine wines. Anjou has over 35 different AOC/AOP wines. The most well-known include: Anjou Rouge, red; Anjou Gamay,a red wine best drunk young like a Nouveau Beaujolais; Anjou Villages, red; Cabernet d'Anjou, rose; Rosé d'Anjou, rose and Anjou Blanc, white. From the Anjou Saumur wines comes Cabernet de Saumur, rose; Coteaux de Saumur, a medium sweet white; Saumur-Champigny, red; Cabernet de Saumur, rose; Crémant de Loire sparkling white and rose wines.


An Anjou white.
Photograph courtesy of Dale Cruse
www.flickr.com/photos/dalecruse/9621891309/

  

Add to Anjou’s AOP wines the mostly excellent, and inexpensive, IGP Val de Loire wines and you will be overwhelmed with the choice. If you have a problem choosing, then there are quite a number of wine roads in Anjou. They will guide you to local wineries that have tastings. Each route covers a number of different appellations. The routes will also take you past farms offering local cheeses and other products, and, of course, to restaurants. NB: The wine tastings require a small donation to the local economy! Contact the local French Government Tourist Information Office in your home country for the maps before you leave home.
  

The website for the wine roads and villages is in French, but using the Google and Bing translate apps they are easily understood. Copy/paste or click on the website below:
  

    

Also, see the Anjou Tourist Information English Language website:


Beef and poultry in Anjou.
   
From Anjou comes the Rouge des Prés AOP, the second breed of French cattle to receive an AOP rating for the consistent and unique quality of their meat.  Their beef is considered second to none.
  
Anjou also has a wealth of excellent local poultry. Especially their much appreciated Volaille de Loué, Label Rouge, red label, poultry. The Volaille de Loué poultry includes organically raised chickens, chicken’s eggs, ducks, geese, guinea fowl and turkeys. These are 95% free-range poultry and are not exposed to antibiotics, growth hormones or fed any animal products. They are fed corn, wheat, soybeans and minerals along with whatever they find in the fields. Additionally, France permits no genetically altered corn or grain for human or animal consumption. Visitors may visit farms where chickens and other Loué poultry are raised.
   
AB organic Chicken eggs from Loué
    
On your menu may be:
   
Faux-Filet de Bœuf Rouge des Prés Poêlé à l’Anjou Rouge, Os à Moelle An on the bone strip or sirloin steak of Maine Anjou beef with a marrow bone pan-fried and served with a red Anjou wine sauce. A faux-fillet, also called a contre-fillet in France, is a US strip steak and in the UK a sirloin steak.
  
Suprême de Poulet de Loué au Foie Gras Breast of Loué chicken served with fattened duck's liver.
  
Suprême de Poulet
Photograph courtesy of Paris-Sharing.com
www.flickr.com/photos/parisharing/6762558441/
  
Fish on the menu in Anjou.
   
Have you had too much of the local beef and poultry? Look on the menu for the local, freshwater fish. These will include alose, shad; brochet, pike; carpe, carp; lamproie, lamprey; sandre, pike-perch, perche; perch; and their highly-rated local eels, anguilles, and frogs.
     
Les Délices de Loire, Sandre et Saumon aux Beurre Blanc Treats from the River Loire; pike-perch, also called zander, and salmon served together with a white butter sauce.
       
Matelote d'Anguilles à l'Angevine - Eel stew in the manner of the Angevines, the residents of Anjou. Anjou eel stew is made with a red Anjou wine 
   
In season, wild mushrooms and berries will be on many menus. Look on menus for desserts made with the Reinette du Mans, a local heirloom apple. Also remember Anjou is the only place to taste a genuine Poire Anjou, the original Anjou pear.
  
Gateau de Poire d'Anjou -  A cake usually looking more like a pie, made with the Anjou pear.
     
Anjou pears.
www.flickr.com/photos/74444001@N00/17256434286/
      
Restaurants offer local cheeses along with other cheeses from the Pay du Loire.  The most well-known local cheeses are goats’ cheeses including the Bûchette d'Anjou and the St Maure de Touraine AOP. The St Maure de Touraine AOP is a  45% fat goat’s milk cheese made from unpasteurized milk.  It is shaped, like many goat’s cheeses as a small log. Each cheese weighs 250 grams. However, this cheese has a straw through the center. Every straw has a mark that indicates the producer.
   

Sainte-Maure de Touraine AOP with the straw showing.
Photograph courtesy of Fromagerie Bale

     
Anjou has a unique history.
 
Anjou is not just unique because it has more chateaus and castles than any other part of France, which it does.  Angers, the capital of Anjou, was also the birthplace of the first Angevine Plantagenet King of England.  That was King Henry II of England, an ancestor of the reigning British royals. The French Angevine family was called Plantagenet, and they ruled Anjou. Count Geoffrey of Anjou married Matilda (Maud) of Britain, a granddaughter of William the Conqueror. Their son was King Henry II of England and he was the next in line to rule Anjou as well. If that was not enough through his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, King Henry II ruled all of Aquitaine and separately he had claims on Normandy.  Now the French had an English King claiming to rule half of France and looking at the rest! That began hundreds of years of wars between England and France. Finally, with the exile of Napoleon I the English claims on France ended. Peace broke out and English tourists began arriving in France.
   

The Flag of the Plantagenet’s.
       
 King Henry II’s son was Richard I of England (1157-1199); better known as Richard Coeur de Lion, Richard the Lionheart. Richard the Lionheart was the second Plantagenêt King of England. Despite all the children’s stories about Richard the Lionheart, while he was born in England, he spoke no English, only French. When he was King he visited England, maybe twice in his life. Richard was buried in the  Abbey church of Fontevraud, on the banks of the Vienne River,  near Chinon, France.  His father, Henry II and his mother Eleanor were also buried there.  Their effigies remain; their bones were mostly thrown out during the French revolution. How Richard the Lionheart, became a favorite of English children’s storybooks is beyond me.
   

The British Royal Standard, today.
The three lions in the British Royal Standard were the symbol of the French Plantagenet’s.
   
For many visitors to Anjou its most celebrated city is not Angers, it is Le Mans. Le Mans is home to the famous international 24 hours Le Mans car race. This race emphasizes the durability of a car and not its speed alone.  The winner of the Le Mans race is the car that has driven the furthest in 24 hours.  During those 24 hours, there may be three drivers or possibly more. The race is held in mid-June, and the French Government Tourist office will have next year’s dates. Le Mans also has the largest go-kart track in the world and a famous vintage car museum. Le Mans to Angers is 1 hour, 96 km (60 miles).

 
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Bryan G. Newman
 
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2015, 2018, 2020
 
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog write to Bryan Newman
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