6 Ultimate List of “Shocking” Foods You Can Try In Brest, France But Common To Ilocanos – Bay Of Biscay 5

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Port of Brest, France

At France‘s northern coast in the Bretagne (Brittany) region is the Port of Brest. It lies between two hills and on both sides of the Penfeld River. It is about 220 km. from the Port of Nantes-St. Nazaire. Port of Brest is protected from the raging waves of Bay of Biscay by Quelern Peninsula and Goulet Passage. Thus it can accommodate any type and size of vessel. Shipping is its major industry. It has also a naval port which has been partly excavated from the rock. In fact, some of Port of Brest‘s installations are located inside deep caves by the rock’s cliffs.

Before the mid-13th century, the Count of Leon ceded Port of Brest to John I, Duke of Brittany. Then in 1342, John de Montfort gave the port away to the English until 1397. Port of Brest was returned again to France upon the marriage of Anne of Brittany‘s daughter to the King of France in 1491. Cardinal Richelieu decided in 1631 that Port of Brest be a naval base. Breton fishermen were drafted into the navy. For their wages, the French government offered to take care of their families’ for life in exchange to their services. Since 1830, Port of Brest has been the base of the French Naval Academy. In World War I, US troops docked at the port. Its importance as naval base increased. The Germans occupied the port during World War II where they maintained a large U-boat (submarine) base to fight the Allies. Port of Brest was almost totally damaged in 1944 (Battle of Brest) between Nazis and Allied forces. After the war, the port was rebuilt. Industrial zones were established in 1960. In 1972, French navy established a nuclear-weapon submarine base near the area. Today, Port of Brest is not only a significant base for French nuclear-armed submarines but also contain an important metallurgy industry for ship building and repair. It also handles gas bottling, precision mechanics, manufacturing of fertilizers, paper, chemicals and electronic equipment.

Crazy Facts About Brest:

Map of Brest, France

You know, France has its good share of “unusual” city names. To the English-speaking world they will become the butt of many jokes like Brest. But this is a port city in the Brittany region in the far northwestern area of France. It is located on the north of a landlocked bay, Rade de Brest (from the Goulet Passage) and is split into two by the Penfeld River. The left side of the bank is Brest Proper and the right is known as the Recouvrance neighborhood (working class district). It’s funny name has nothing to do with human anatomy though. It was derived from the two hills (“brigs” in Celtic word means hill) at the area. First known as Bresta from the “brigs” word. So Brest is a hilly city settled by Celts, Romans, Saxons, Franks and Normans. When Claude (Anne of Brittany‘s daughter) married King Francois I of France in 1491, Brest became a part of France. In 1917, the “Sammies” (name they used to call for US troops) entered France via the Port of Brest. They established a naval station for a year but was closed shortly after Nov. 11, 1918. During World War II, the Germans occupied Brest and suffered considerably by an Allied bombing in 1944. Only few heritage buildings were left standing. After the war, Brest rebuilt itself with a dream to the future. Today, this city is best known as a university town (Royal Naval Academy) and home of France 2nd largest naval base – the Brest Arsenal.

Aboard Fred Olsen‘s crude carrier M/T Knock An, we were in Brest for a 2-week dry dock (ship repair) in 1996. Brest, the name alone will send you in a fit of guffaws. Seriously, this city has spectacular views of the coastline. It is a center for culture, ancient areas and interesting history. And since most of its historical sights were destroyed during World War II, let me discuss to you its food specialty like what I did with Nantes. As you know French cuisine is flavorful known for its cheeses, wines and heavenly sauces. Here in Brest, locals live to eat while us, the rest of the world eat to live. It is a part of their culture and lifestyle. But wait, while we were out from the ship exploring their wonderful gastronomy I had found out that here in this part of the world they also eat as weirder and more wonderful things just like us Ilocanos (the northern regional group that I belong to in the Philippines) other than foie gras. While we Ilocanos are known for our “adventurous cuisine”, the French also eat mostly anything that moves as well as every imaginable part of an animal. The only difference is that they cook such dishes in an “a la carte” way and with fancy names. So here are the 6 ultimate list of “shocking” foods you can try in Brest, France but common to Ilocanos.

Those Lovely Oink Feet, Le Pieds De Porc (Kukod)

In some culture like Ilocanos, pork’s feet are popular. But in Brest, well they are greatly adored. All is good in pig as they say. Le pieds de porc (pronounced: le pie d’ porc) are simmered till tender with dry white wine, onions, carrots, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley and salt. Then rolled into butter and breadcrumbs to roast – voila! Just don’t forget to sprinkle with pepper and the mustard when they serve the pieds de porc to you. One of the 6 ultimate list of “shocking” foods you can try in Brest, France but common to Ilocanos.

Must-see in Brest:
Oceanopolis- an ocean-oriented cultural center in Brest with 50 different aquarium tanks including a shark tank which holds a million liters of water.

Raw, Raw, Raw Your Beef- Steak Tartare (Kappukan)

Another one of the 6 ultimate list of “shocking” foods you can try in Brest, France but common to Ilocanos is the steak tartare. This is a raw, minced beef tenderloin prepared with the right seasoning like Worcestershire sauce. That is how the French consume it. Sometimes it often comes with a raw egg yolk on top and paired with a rye bread. In Brest, if you want a beef packed with flavor, try steak tartare. It ranges from spicy to citrusy and everything in between.

Smelly Yet Flavorful Andouilette (Bagbagis)

In Brest, when they say andouilette (pronounced on-doo-yet) of course they know exactly what it is. The smell of the pork’s intestines sausage itself will stay in your nose for days. But if the French are to be asked, they don’t mind the smell anyway. Oi, peu importe l’odeur.(never mind the smell) It is the taste of course that is heavenly. Well, as our Ilocano saying goes “amin a nabangsit, naimas”. (anything stinky is yummy) Andouilette, also one of the 6 ultimate list of “shocking” foods you can try in Brest, France but common to Ilocanos. This is a chitterling sausage (pork’s intestines) seasoned with pepper, wine and herbs. Once you overcome the obstacle – the smell- andouilette is really quite a good gastronomic treat in Brest.

Must-see In Brest:

Tour Tanguy (Tower of Tanguy)-a medieval watchtower which now houses a collection of exhibits about the history of Brest.

Tasty Sweetbread Ris De Veau (Lapay or Pali Ti Baka)

A popular dish in some countries, common to us Ilocanos but particularly loved in Brest. It is braised, seared in a butter sauce then fried. Often translated as sweetbread, ris de veau (pronounced ri-da-voh) is not sweet nor a bread but a cow’s pancreas. Also one of the 6 ultimate list of “shocking” foods you can try in Brest, France but common to Ilocanos, ris de veau goes well with a glass of fine Merlot Bordeaux wine. And eating it will be more appealing.

Appetizing Escargot Au Beurre D’Al Persille (Bisukol)

You guess it right, the traditional French dish, snail. Again, one of the 6 ultimate list of “shocking” foods you can try in Brest, France but common to Ilocanos. Often served as an appetizer, they use different ways or methods to cook escargot. The escargot au beurre d’al persille (pronounced es-car-go-roh-bere-de-pe-si-yeh) actually means: snails with garlic and parsley butter. Woho, such a tongue twister. They are normally baked in the oven for 7 minutes, served hot with baguette to wipe off the juices..et bon appetit! Simple as that but delicious as they say in Brest.

Must-see in Brest:

Parc de Penfeld-a lovely park along the banks of Penfeld River ideal for walks and nature tripping.

Some Bits And Pieces, A Few Frog’s Legs- Cuisses De Grenouilles (Tokak)

Together with escargot, cuisses de grenouilles (pronounced: kwees de gra-no-yee) is the other traditional French dish locals in Brest love to have it everyday. The last I can think of in the 6 ultimate list of “shocking” foods you can try in Brest, France but common to Ilocanos. But frogs’ legs are not originally French. Because we, Ilocanos eat frogs as well as in some other civilizations of the world. In Brest, frogs’ legs are cooked with butter, garlic and parsley (same with the escargot). The French claim that it actually tastes like chicken. And for us Ilocanos that’s what we think too.

Must-see In Brest:

Rue de Siam – main shopping street in Brest where I purchased my one and only Lacoste blue tee-shirt (US$50.00) about 20 years ago but is still in good condition

So, what do you think about these “shocking” French foods? I hope you will not be turned-off dining in Brest when you visit the city one day. After all, a journey is also about broadening your culinary horizons. Such foods may just be normal and not as sickening as they sound. Good luck to your travel and have a happy food adventure. May you be charmed and delighted.

Reference: Wikipedia