Angers: Heavenly Food and Apocalyptic Art

A bad day for Babylon: the Apocalypse Tapestries

By Jean and Peter Richards

It’s not easy anymore to find restaurants that prepare the dishes that made France a gastronomic mecca. When we do, it’s a treat. When we do en route to see an artistic masterpiece, it makes a great day.

 Family-run. Traditional. Fresh ingredients. Impeccable. Une bonne addresse. It didn’t take more reviews for us to aim for a table at Le Crêmet d’Anjou on a trip to Angers. We weren’t disappointed. Where others seek to create art on a plate, Marie-Noelle and Jean-Françoise Favreau seek to fill it with delicious things to eat from the cannon of haute and provincial cuisine – pintade farci, sandre de la Loire, boeuf bourguignon, joué de boeuf, coquilles Saint Jacques and canard in many manifestations.

A soft murmur sometimes wafts through a dining room when people are eating well. This small, pleasantly undistinguished room had that hum.

“English ou Français,” the waitress asked presenting both cartes. Europeans always seem to know when you’re not local and often assume that we are British, will be difficult to please, probably won’t understand what we are ordering and are unlikely to appreciate it.

Ris de veau aux petits légumes

We took the French menu and only seconds to decide on those rarely seen delights – pieds de porc au foie gras, foie gras de canard, rognons de veau au beurre mousseux and cassoulet de ris de veau aux petits légumes. The waitress, polite as she was, could barely conceal her surprise and raised her hand to the area of the thymus gland. “Ris de veau?” Qui, madame, ris de veau.

We could barely conceal our delight as each dish arrived perfectly prepared, simply presented and sumptuous to taste. Our only regret is that we could not accommodate the bistro’s eponymous dessert – Le Crêmet – a huge cone of whipped cream, egg whites and sugar resting on a fruit coulis, an obvious favorite with locals. The bill was easily to stomach – 49.20. As we began to leave, Madame Favreau rushed to bid us “adieu” and “merci.”

“La prochaine fois,” we promised.

The hall was not too crowded the day we went.

Our pleasure in the day having been established, we walked around the corner and across the street to the enormous 13th century variegated stone Chateau which houses the Apocalypse Tapestry. It had been on our list of “must sees” for years, but in 2009 fire swept through causing massive damage to the Royal Apartments adjacent to the area specially designed for The Apocalypse.

It wasn’t the first time the 14th century tapestry ordered by Louis I of Anjou and made from the cartoons of Henniquin de Bruges had been endangered. The 67 of 84 original panels and a few fragments based on an illuminated manuscript of the Book of Revelations had survived not only this fire, but also being abandoned, cut up, trod on and, it is said, even used to protect fruit trees from frost until they were found in the 19th century, recognized and restored. They are magnificent in their imagery and detail of work.

Tour groups of German, Spanish and French hastened through, but we had the luxury of time to savor each panel from the angel with the book to the pale horse and death, the eagle of woe, the worship of the dragon, the beast of seven heads, the prostitute and her mirror, the fall of Babylon and the New Jerusalem.

Work on the Royal Apartments is nearly complete. They may re-open this summer when\the formal gardens will surely be at their most beautiful.

* * *

Le Crêmet d’Anjou is open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner at 21 rue Delaâge, 49100 Angers

Gourmandise de pieds de porc at Le Crêmet d’Anjou

Copyright © 2012 Jean and Peter Richards


About oldmainetravelers

The Old Maine Travelers are Peter and Jean Richards, who met more than a half century ago covering President John F. Kennedy on what would become his last trip to Boston.  They worked for many years as wire service and newspaper reporters and editors.  Peter did a nightly television show on WGBH, Boston, before he went into government in the administration of John V. Lindsay, mayor of New York City. After they moved to their brownstone in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, Jean did a spell on Madison Avenue in the real “Mad Men” days and later became public relations officer at Chase Manhattan Bank.  Since 1973 they have worked together first as owners and publishers of a group of award-winning newspapers in Dutchess County, N.Y., and then as antiques dealers.  Now they are old and live on the coast of Maine and in the Southwest of France when not traveling further afield. In the red barn by their house in Damariscotta, Maine, they tend an antique shop specializing in 18th and 19th century furniture, metalwork and accessories, buying objects they know about and like and selling them from May to October to delightful people of obvious discernment and taste. In France, they live in an old stone house in the shadows of the remaining towers of an unfinished 17th century church and above Roman drains in a town along a pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella. They love it — for its authenticity and abundant boulangeries.  The rest of the time they travel the world together seeing the sights, seeking out museums, stumbling into interesting conversations, savoring local specialties and otherwise bumbling along in their own style. For years they have sent article-length postcards to family, friends, fellow travelers and some media. Many of these will now be posted here.
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