We can’t help ourselves. We just love investigating food and it’s regional sources. Though we had been primarily disappointed by the local restaurants we did however appreciate a lot of the food that we bought. Food was generally fresh and it is relatively easy to find local stuff. It is even more fun to go and search some of the local stuff and we found just the fun places.
It was a bit of a drive north west. We went to the Pays d”Auges and visited a cheese factory: Graindorge. Now I love cheese and I know a bit or two on how to make it. In a far past I worked in a cheese factory and apart from a very happy time in my life the art of making cheese, the process of how to turn milk into such a wonderful product has left a lasting impression. Seeing cheese made is like a mantle of happy memories being pulled over my shoulders.
Livarot is a small village in the Pays d’Auge. However it houses, what I consider, a large soft cheese factory – Graindorge. By huge dairy company standards like Fonterra or Friesland Campina it is minor, but compared to what I am used to it is big with over 100 suppliers. Of course we arrived in the village around 13.00. That is the time when France is generally shut. Nothing much to do then but to wait and hope that there is a small brasserie open. We were lucky that there was one open and we had a lovely small lunch there. Nothing spectacular, but well made. After lunch it was about time for the factory tour.
The factory is just on the edge of the village. The tour is free and self guided. It is really cleverly done. The viewing bays start where it should, the history of the factory and the basis stuff cheese is made of milk and cows. At every corner there is a loop with a video of that part of the journey from farm to cheese. Even when the factory is not working you can see how it works on the film and view the factory from the galley. You can even see inside the laboratory, the ripening rooms and packing area. In order to have that the viewing gallery sneaks through the factory following the cheese making process. The funny thing is that I know all steps but they have highly robotisisied them, the cutting of the curd, the mixing of curd and whey the filling of the forms. No cheese pressing but turning of the cheese to expel the whey from the cheese and then the ripening. Here you can really see that it is still human work We noticed a rack of cheese that had collapsed from the sides squashing some cheeses. But the best thing? The smell that you smell even through the window. That lactic smell that comes with fresh cheese. All of a sudden I get that same feeling I had when standing on those rooms except for the cold in this case of course.
After that process and packing area you come into the shop where were bought some cheese, of course. This factory is definitely worth a visit as the way they have done the lay out, the showing and information delivery is done is such a clever way that it is highly entertaining.
Of course that was not all. From there we went to Christian Drouin on the Calvados trail. This was a nice place where the sweet smell of the apples combines with strong alcohol to give that specific sweet smell. It was very lush and green. and the tour guide was nice, but as production does not start until mid september there was not an awful lot to see. We did note though that they too are part of the dance of the wooden barrels, just like the Whiskey distilleries we visited last year. Of course there was a small tasting and we bought some pretty strong stuff, some cooking calvados and apple juice after which we went home. Tired, well fed and with bags full of food goodies