As I am writing this, it’s Super Bowl Sunday and in lieu of my usual Super Bowl fare of queso dip and Texas chili, I am borrowing a friend’s raclette machine to serve alongside some charcuterie, cornichons and fingerling potatoes. I have been inspired by my recent trip to the Savoy region of the France where cheese, potatoes and saucisson (dry, cured sausage) reign supreme.
The Savoy region of France is divided into the départements of Savoie and Haute-Savoie in the heart of the French Alps. They are remnants of the Kingdom of Sardinia that ruled much of this part of Europe for five centuries, until the mid-1800s. The cuisine can be described as French mountain cooking, with ingredients that reflect the lives of the farmers and shepherds that have long inhabited this alpine climate. It is rich and varied with cheeses galore (the wonderful Tomme de Savoie, Beaufort, and St. Marcellin par exemple), local sausages (specifically the wine-poached diots), polenta, wild mushrooms, wild game, and fish from local lakes, such as trout, perch, pike, and a char-type fish called omble-chevalier. While fondue Savoyarde is the region’s most famous dish, hearty soups and stews (such as pot-au-feu and potée), potato dishes, and fruit tarts all appear on the Savoyard table as well. One of the most popular dishes is a specialty called reblochonnade, also known as tartiflette. The dish is made of thinly sliced potatoes sautéed with bacon and onions, covered with cream, and baked in the oven. Generous slices of creamy Reblochon (a cow’s-milk cheese made in the Haute-Savoie) are melted on top.
The Savoy is home to many of France’s most fashionable ski resort – Chamonix, Courchevel, and Val d’Isère to name a few – and it was in the quaint town of St. Martin de Belleville that Hubby and I found ourselves with two other couples.
St. Martin is part of the Trois Vallées, a ski area that links three valleys and includes the villages of Val Thorens, Les Menuires, Méribel and Courchevel. At approximately 26,000 skiable acres, the Trois Vallées claims to be the largest ski area in the world. Each day started with croissants and café au lait, pouring over the terrain maps to determine the best route to our lunch spot. I quickly realized why the French coined the term Après-Ski, for the French make an art out of the “Après“. My kind of place, and I fell in love. There are so many photos that I would like to share, that I have made a last minute decision to split this into two posts.
For a truly authentic Savoyard experience, we didn’t have to go far. Just off the main ski run to St. Martin de Belleville is La Ferme de La Choumette. This is truly a farm-to-table concept, with the restaurant situated in the barn overlooking the livestock and the cheesemaking kitchen. We settled in with some vin chaud and pommes frites. I ordered the special of the day, lamb shank with potatoes mashed with the delightful little cèpe mushrooms, which grow among the pine trees and are (thankfully!) plentiful in this area.
On our second day of skiing, we ventured just a little further down the slope to Le Montagnard in St. Martin. This restaurant was equally charming, and on this slightly warmer day, we were able to sit outside and enjoy the sun. It was here that I found (IMHO) the best tartiflette of the trip (see photo above).
On our third day, we felt as if we had finally conquered our jet lag and were ready to venture out a little further. We skied over to the town of Val Thorens, which at 2,300 meters (or 7,545 feet) claims to be Europe’s highest ski resort. We sped by La Folie Douce to find a couple of chairs at a corner table at Le Chalet de la Marine accessible by skis or snowcat.
Now I am off to start Part Deux. Santé!! xoM
All photos by Marci Symington for texAZtaste.com.