Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Prat ar Coum

Because of the foul weather we’re having lately, I spend a lot of time watching TV. There is little else to do. This is how I happened to watch a documentary on the ostreaculture (the artificial cultivation of oysters) in France. This brought back some fond memories of a holiday we spent in Brittany in 1995.

Prat ar Coum, north of Brest in Brittany

It was our very first trip to the region and I had picked up some brochures at the ‘Maison de la France’ in Brussels to prepare our holiday. We stayed at a hotel in Trebeurden north of Brest, overlooking the bay. The hotel, although four star, was a big disappointment. Maybe it was because we had booked one of the less expensive rooms, offering a sea view from a tiny side window. The bed was extremely uncomfortable and the staff was very aloof and had a tendency to look down on us.

The region was beautiful though, and therefore we toured a lot – in spite of the typical Brittany weather – visiting some very interesting places such as a crab and lobster farm near the town of Rostov.

On one of these outings we saw a sign ‘Prat ar Coum’. We had heard the name before but weren’t sure where or what it was. So we drove down he narrow road that led to the seafront. At the end of it was an oyster farm … and then we remembered where we had seen the name before. It was in a famous shellfish restaurant in Brussels called ‘Les Brasseries Georges’. The Prat ar Coum are an exquisite oyster species. They are very rare and are only cultivated in this particular region of Brittany. Prat ar Coum are flat oysters with a delicate iodine flavour and a nutty aftertaste. They are simply the best oysters I’ve ever eaten.

We were delighted to find this farm and parked the car to have a closer look. We were about to knock at the door marked ‘Réception’ when a man appeared from one of the sheds. “Bonjour, Vous voulez acheter des huitres?” (Do you want to buy some oysters?), he asked. We replied that we wanted to visit the farm and maybe taste some oysters.

1995: Our host opening the Prat ar Coum oysters for us.

And this is how we came to get a ‘crash course’ on oysters in general and the Prat ar Coum in particular. At the end of our visit, the man enquired again whether we wanted to buy some. We said we would love to, but added that we didn’t have the necessary equipment to open them. This turned out to be no problem. The man ‘fished’ six oysters out of one of the basins and opened them before our very eyes. He handed them to us one by one. They were just gorgeous. I had never eaten oysters as good and fresh as that. We paid 6 French Francs for them. Today that would be less than 1 euro!

What's your best - or worst - oyster experience?



Anonymous said...

Oh what a wonderful memory! I love going to Bretagne and eating oysters. I have many fun oyster-eating memories as my entire French family are addicted to them.
My best memory is of my first date with my future DH. We went to a nice restaurant in Paris and ate 4 dozen oysters and drank 3 bottles of champagne. An auspicious beginning.

chm said...

I love oysters, especially the flat ones, also called "huîtres de pleine mer" or "belon." I dearly miss them [pun intended]!

Nadege said...

I don't like oysters but I loved reading your story Martine. I am so sorry the staff looked down on you. Stupid idiots!

Leon and Sue Sims said...

With all this TV watching, do doubt you saw the women's final of the Melbourne Tennis Open.
I was hoping for a win for Belgium.
A good match nevertheless.

Leon and Sue Sims said...

An oyster story, hmmm - OK.
How about this. A business lunch 2 dozen oysters each and 2 bottles of red. Not a wise decision in retrospec but I was young at the time.

ladybird said...

Dedene, Do you mean four dozens of oysters and three bottles of champagne between the two of you??? No wonder you got on like a house on fire ;))!

Chm, Flat oysters are my favourite too. And the smaller the better. Give me a dozen of 'papillons' anytime!

Leon and Sue,
I saw the re-run of yesterday's final and Justine did great. But Serena is her long-time rival (since that notorious semi-final in Paris) and Serena is still looking for vengeance :).

I hope you didn't give up eating oysters after your little extragavanza!

Ken Broadhurst said...

When we went to the Ile d'Oléron in 2008, all the commercial fishermen were on strike. The ports were closed, so no boats could go out. All over the island, there were no fish for sale at the markets.

Fortunately, you don't need a boat to go out fishing for oysters, so the ostréiculteurs were busy making their living. We spent a week eating the Marennes d'Oléron oysters (and some clams too) and were perfectly satisfied. Some fin fish would have been good, but the shellfish kept us happy.

ladybird said...

Ken, I remember you posting about that trip. That was when you spotted the Hoopoo, wasn't it? I liked that story!

ladybird said...

Nadege, No need to tell you that we didn't go back to that hotel!