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This month La Gourmet Box invites you to explore Vendée, a province on France's western coast. The bounties of land and sea have earned Vendée a reputation for excellent and varied cuisine with myriad fans round the world (including us!).To give you a tantalizing taste of its oceans and salt marshes, we've packed this box with salty delights, including scrumptious seafood spreads, a samphire-flavoured snack and a cream of Norway lobster soup. On dry land we couldn't pass up the famous savoury mogettes, a type of local white bean reincarnated as a sweet. Of course, we've included an elegant wine from the Fiefs Vendéens AOC to go with all of these delicacies. And to top off the feast of Vendéen delights, nothing could be better than artisanal chocolate and caramel bonbons.Once you sample this gift box, you'll be strongly tempted to set out for western France!
Created in 2011, the young Fiefs Vendéens AOC is an unusual designation of origin, with a terroir quite unlike those of the Loire Valley and south of France. The sea-swept vineyards grow a combination of grape varieties from the Loire Valley and the Bordeaux region, which yields fascinating wines. The entire estate of Domaine Mourat is certified organic or in the process of obtaining certification.
Like the original shape of the bottle it comes in, this wine is a pleasant surprise: a modern coupage that brings out the unique features of the terroir and lets the fruit take centre stage. The blend of Chenin Blanc, typical of the Loire, and Chardonnay grapes gives it a beautiful structure, with a long, lingering finish and refreshing mineral notes.
A wine made for pleasure, it’s the perfect companion to any of the seafood products in our gift box or paired with fish or oysters. Serve chilled.
Crisp pickled samphire snack (100 g)
Artisan: Stéphane, Marais Salant Rivolia.
Members of the Raffin family have worked the Vendée salterns since 1744. Today they still harvest salt by hand, out of respect for quality and tradition, but they also gather samphire, a savoury plant that thrives in saline waters and is also known as sea asparagus or sea pickle. Harvested in May and June, the first tender shoots can be eaten raw, plain or with vinaigrette.
These pickled morsels make a perfect snack or appetizer, served alone (yes, they're that good!), with cold cuts or with the seafood rillettes in this gift box.
Fleur de sel from the Noirmoutier salt marshes (125 g, comes in a cotton pouch with a special wooden salt-spoon)
The primary purpose of salterns is, of course, to produce salt. The fleur de sel included in this box forms as a thin, delicate crust on the surface of seawater as it evaporates in the salt marshes on the island of Noirmoutier. It is carefully harvested from clay-bottomed salt pans the traditional way, and its unique culinary and organoleptic properties make it the true "flower" of gourmet salts.
We recommend using it to season stewed dishes, but it's also excellent sprinkled over a tomato and mozzarella salad or mini-toast with foie-gras.
Artisanal mackerel rillettes with Noirmoutier samphire (100 g)
Artisan: Conserverie Hennequin.
At Hennequin family cannery, fresh saltwater fish is brought straight from the port to prepare artisanal recipes that keep the traditions of these islands alive. Made from whole boneless mackerel fillets (over 75%) and seasoned with samphire (the famous salty sea asparagus), these rillettes have a fine, fresh, pleasantly surprising flavour. And with a glass of the white wine in your Vendée gift box, you'll have a match made in gourmet heaven. Serve lightly chilled as a starter or as a snack spread on toast.
Sardine rillettes (100 g)
Artisan: Conserverie Hennequin.
This artisan's products are so delicious that we couldn't resist the temptation to add another one to our box. Like the mackerel rillettes, this creamy snack spread made from fresh sardines has captured and enhanced the salty, savoury goodness of the open sea.
Serve lightly chilled as a starter or as a snack spread on toast.
Cream of Norway lobster soup (500 g)
Artisan: La Sablaise.
This artisan became famous for the delicious fish soup served to patrons at its restaurant in Les Sables d'Olonne, a seaside town in the Vendée. Building on that success, La Sablaise has come up with several splendid recipes using all-natural ingredients (with no artificial colouring, thickeners, flavour enhancers or preservatives).
The cream of Norway lobster we've chosen has a smooth texture and all the fine, delicate flavour of fresh Norway lobster: a genuine treat for seafood lovers. Just remembering the taste makes our mouths water!
Smooth caramel cream with fleur de sel (220 g)
Artisan: La Maison des Délices.
Foodies everywhere rave about the Breton speciality called Salidou, a salted butter caramel cream made with the famous fleur de sel crystals. Our Vendée artisan has taken this gourmet treat and turned it into a culinary gem for sweet-toothed epicures.
It's outstanding spread on crepes or pancakes and amazing as an ice cream topping, but the best way to savour it may be with a finger or spoon: once you've had a taste, you'll find it nearly impossible to stop!
The mogette is a famous local bean, but the only "beany" thing about these morsels is their shape. Each bonbon conceals a delicious nougatine core, dipped in white and milk chocolate and caramel seasoned with fleur de sel.
Once you try these heavenly artisanal sweets made by our talented chocolatier, you'll never look at beans the same way again!
BON VOYAGE IN VENDEE WITH YOUR GOURMET GIFT BOX!
Review byRobert Anglade
Je suis originaire de Vendée et mes enfants m'ont offert ce coffret pour Noël et je dois dire chapeau à votre équipe: le diversité du terroir est vraiment bien representée et les produits excellents. et le coffret est superbe! Merci pour les souvenirs que ça m'a rappelés...