Many years ago on a trip to Paris, I came across one of the most delicious cake/pastry/baked good/sweet goodness I had ever eaten at La pâtisserie des Rêves. That day my life felt a little more complete as I fell in love with this rich, buttery, sweet, crispy but soft cake called Kouign Amann.
My french vocabulary only consists of names of baked goods (which is rather important), numbers one to ten and the obligatory pleases and thank you. I can order a drink and pastry but cannot ask for a bus ticket…so you can see what the priorities are in my life. I learnt a long time ago that french words are hardly ever pronounced the way they are spelt, so figuring out how to pronounce kouign amann became very important if I ever wanted to find this again.
Along with learning how to pronounce it, I spent a little bit of time researching the history, recipes and method of making these delightful morsels of yumness…this was only the start of my obsession. Once I deemed it too tedious and hard to make at home, I made sure it was a priority to find this cake on every trip I made to France. My obsession wasn’t just buying it to eat there and then, I would also take empty plastic containers with me on my trip, just so I could take a few away to prolong the happiness.
When I was planning my last trip to Paris, I knew I had a few spare days and it was then I decided that a trip to Brittany was a must…but where to? After much deliberation (with myself) and searching through the minefield that is the SNCF website, I decided on Rennes and Saint Malo. Primarily because these were cities that are easily accessible by train and being time poor they seemed to be the best options. To be honest, I would have been happy to go anywhere in Brittany, since it is the region that gave the world salted caramel, kouign amann and other delicious things which I discovered later.
Rennes was an easy choice when I was planning this adventure, because it is the capital of the region so getting in and out of this city wouldn’t be a problem. This French city like most, has beautiful architecture, cobble stoned streets, a Hotel de Ville, beautiful churches and cathedrals, a high street and of course a cultural precinct.
A dear friend of mine who is also obsessed with food, decided to join me on this French adventure. Upon arriving in Rennes, the first order of business was to locate any patisserie that sold kouign amann. Any sights that we would come across would be secondary to that…that’s just how we roll. While we were wondering through the cobblestone streets of Rennes, we came across a little boulangerie and patisserie called Mahieu Christiane and the kouign amann was mine (ours). The kouign amann was just as spectacular as it looked. I was quite sad that I had to share and I still don’t know why I didn’t buy two.
While I was researching what to eat in Rennes, many websites and blogs mentioned breton galettes as a must eat. These are crêpes made from buckwheat flour and usually have a savoury filling. I’m not sure if I ever told my friend that I’m not the biggest fan of crêpes…but when in Rennes…
The first evening we had dinner at Crêperie La Gavotte. It’s a small, cosy and quaint crêperie with an extensive menu in French. The waitress was lovely and helped us through the menu, along with google translate. My crêpe was actually quite delicious, it was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside with a nutty flavour. To my amazement, I rather enjoyed the crêpe and if this is what I have to look forward to over the next few days, I say…bring it on!
The next morning we decided to take a day trip to Saint Malo, which is about 30 minutes north of Rennes by train. It is a small sea side walled city on the English channel and is one of the major ferry ports in that part of France. Being so close to the sea means seafood! So, not only was I loving the abundance of salted caramel and kouign amann right before me, I was now searching for some sort of delightful seafood dish.
Saint Malo welcomed us with rain, wind and a whole lot of gloom, so the only thing to do was to find shelter and eat, eat, eat to pass the time. We ended up at the highly rated Salon de thé Bergamote and it didn’t disappoint. I ordered the galette St. Jacques and it was extraordinary. It was one of those dishes that has simple ingredients, but the execution was nothing short of amazing. This was my favourite and most memorable plate of the trip…hands down!
Dessert was also a must to finish off this wonderful experience…salted caramel ice cream of course!
As we were leaving Saint Malo, the school kids and the sun decided to come out and play. This is probably the first time I have ever got onto a bus and my feet didn’t even touch the ground…kinda like crowd surfing standing up. We made it just in the nick of time to the train station, and we were off back to Rennes.
That evening in Rennes we went in search for another crêpe and we ended up at Crêperie Ouzh Taol. This crêperie had a more modern layout and my first impression was that it would be like a tourist trap, as it is located on one of the main restaurant streets. I was wrong…the galette was just as good, if not better than the one from the previous night…just so delicious!
On our last day in Rennes, we did a bit more exploring of this city and to my surprise (putting it mildly) we found a salted caramel kouign amann! My heart definitely skipped a beat…or two. I think my friend thought I was going to have a heart attack when I came across these wonders and I’m pretty sure I frightened a few by standers with my reaction. Just look at the pictures and you’ll understand why…they have pick n’ mix kouign amann!! So, of course I needed these in my life…like right now!
When people mention France, it’s without a doubt Rennes and Saint Malo would not be on the list of places to visit. Even my French friends asked my “why?” on several occasions. But if you have the time to explore, I would definitely recommend travelling to these two beautiful cities…just so you can eat what I have, and maybe a little bit more!