Just across the River Touques from the city of Deauville, in the Calvados department of Normandy, France is the picturesque port city of Trouville-sur-Mer, dubbed “the 21st arrondissement of Paris” by Vitamin D deficient Parisiens et Parisiennes who flood its long, sandy beaches each summer. During the winter months, the vibe is a bit more détendu, although its casino and shopping streets are abuzz year-round. Directly across the street from the seafood market, where mile-high seafood towers dazzle and delight, is a Trouville institution by the name of Les Vapeurs, a brasserie open for nearly a century. The interior is classic Parisian brasserie with cozy red booths and warm wooden finishes. A joyful red and yellow striped awning beckons hungry customers in.
On a trip up to Normandy to celebrate New Year’s with friends, we indulged in a big dinner on the Les Vapeurs terrace. My husband’s local friend recommended their haddock aux épinards, which he said is quite good, if a bit salty. Tired from our 6-hour drive, I did not have the strength to challenge or even question this suggestion. It turned out to be the right choice.
An extremely generous portion of smoked haddock comes mounted on slick bundles of wilted spinach, cooked with shallot, some garlic and bits of tender potato here and there. A single poached egg is mounted over the bright orange filets of fish, pouring forth velvet yolk, which mixes in with the rich cream sauce at the bottom of the plate. The latter is seasoned with just a hint of nutmeg adding a nice autumnal touch. The juicy and tender fish is smoked and very salty, yes, but these sharp flavors get perfectly diluted in with the clean taste of the other ingredients. A belly-filling and extremely comforting dish on a cold night in January, perfect washed down with the shot of local Calva that comes free at the end of the meal.