© Giada Connestari
In novemberHerring and scallops, the belles of the ball!

Herring and Scallop Festival

An amazing experience! At the annual Herring and Scallop Festival, held the third weekend in November, Dieppe celebrates its age-old ties to the ocean and the fishing industry.

Marinated, grilled or fresh, the herring that swim south to our coast on the Channel can easily be enjoyed in an unpretentious style but also with eager delight. The ultimate way to savour them though is right off the grill, accompanied by potatoes baked on the embers and then scooped out and served with a pat of melting salted butter. That is, unless you’re more tempted by a skewer of scallops, which would pair perfectly with a glass of white wine.

Beginning that Saturday morning, all the town’s restaurants, brasseries and bars start preparing for the event’s kick-off at noon, because there is no escaping the tradition of setting up smoking grills in front of their businesses.

Dine outdoors

But there can be no festival without a formal inauguration. So first, you’ll watch the parade of the Brotherhood of Herrings and Scallops. In their magistrates’ robes, each year they renew their vow to promote the noble mollusc and the king of fish.

On the stroke of noon, the restaurants’ outdoor seating areas roll out the welcome mat. It’s time to stop before the somewhat surreal image of a cook wearing ski goggles to protect his eyes from the smoke, hard at work in front of a grill on the pavement outside a neighbourhood bistro. The seafood sizzles and blackens whilst, enveloped in a delicious cloud that whets the appetite, a few silhouettes tarry before sitting down to eat.

Roam the Bout de Quai district

The usually quiet streets of the Bout du Quai, one of Dieppe’s two historical fishing districts, come to life for the locals’ street market. After eating your fill, people come here for a wander, still cloaked in aromas that will not let go. Between street entertainment, games and attractions for kids, stalls and markets selling regional products from here or elsewhere, plenty of distractions are within sight, and there is no shortage of temptations on display.

A bit of history

Dieppe’s history is intimately tied to the ocean, and this celebration of herrings and scallops, revolving around fishing professionals, is further proof of that bond. Whether smoked, salted or eaten fresh, herring was a godsend for the people of Dieppe during the long winters of the Middle Ages, often saving them from famine. At that time, the first fisheries and saltworks set up shop here, and most of the herring sold at the markets of Paris and Rouen came from Dieppe, thanks to the tide-chasers that transported it quickly from the coast to the capital. As for scallops, the “white gold” of Dieppe’s sailors, they are caught during the winter season and are a credit to the most refined dishes.