First of all, thank you for all of the positive feedback that I received regarding Part 1 of the Cuisine de Savoie. I am still dreaming of the trip and trying to recreate the experience by making fondue and raclette for Hubby and the kids. As our plane touched down on U.S. soil, I had to swallow the bitter pill of reality: kids with strep, dogs with bowel issues, and a house with plumbing issues, to name just a few. As we walked in the front door laden with gifts, we were faced with 3 sets of eyes (5 if you count the dogs) that just couldn’t understand why they were not included. As for myself, I was left with a muffin top and a pervasive low grade hangover, but I wouldn’t have traded it for a thing. I will cling to the wonderful memories of long lunches with good friends in postcard-like settings.
Today’s post will explore more of the mountain cuisine, with a bit of a swanky twist as I head over to Courchevel. The most eastern resort, and incidentally the oldest, of Les Trois Vallées (the Three Valleys) is Courchevel. Founded in 1946, Courchevel is comprised of 4 towns which have historically been distinguished by their altitude in meters, Courchevel 1330, Courchevel 1550, Courchevel 1650 and Courchevel 1850. Known for its fine dining, Courchevel boasts 7 restaurants that share 11 Michelin stars. It is to Courchevel where the jetset flock, and it has the reputation of being the place where the superwealthy Russians converge on Russian Orthodox Christmas, January 7th. To reach Courchevel from St. Martin, we took several lifts over to Méribel, and then a gondola up to the summit of Mt. Saulire at 9,000 feet. Announcing our arrival into the Courchevel valley, we were greeted by a whimsical panda by artist Julien Marinetti. Some of you may have seen similar pandas in London and Singapore.
Le Cap Horn
Our destination in Courchevel was Le Cap Horn, which lies just in front of the Courchevel airport (with a runway of just 1,700 feet long and a gradient of 18.6 percent, it is known as one of the more dangerous airports in the world). In addition to mountain cuisine, on the menu at Le Cap Horn you will find a brasserie-style raw bar with large plateaus of shrimp, lobster, crab claws and even a few seafood I had never tried before, like whelks and periwinkles. There is also a separate sushi bar that serves an assortment of sashimi and cut rolls. Main course specialities include fired white fish and whole roasted chicken with morels. To top it off, the wine list boasts over 900 different wines. Yes, this was a world apart from what we had been experiencing, but a fun way to experience the ritz and glitz of the French Alps. We sipped on some bubbly while waiting, for we were celebrating the birthday of yours truly. Occasionally a helicopter would land at the airport, announcing the arrival of some Russian oligarch coming to dine on some lobster, or perhaps buy a watch or jewelry (yes, there was a jewelry store in the restaurant should you suddenly have the impulse to acquire a diamond during lunch).
Also in Courchevel, at the top of a very steep pommel lift, is La Soucoupe, one of the best mountain restaurants in France according to UK’s The Telegraph. We had a cozy window seat near the log fire where steaks and duck breasts sizzled away on an open flame. This place was so incredibly charming and we had the most attentive server who was intent on keeping our glasses filled with Génépi. We all had local specialties, and it was here that I tried the diots sausages, a Savoyard specialty traditionally cooked in white wine. At La Soucoupe they were served with creamy polenta and cèpes mushrooms, which is reason enough to return.
Restaurant Le Cèpe
There was one town we had not hit, and that was Méribel, a resort in the Tarentaise Valley just east of St. Martin de Belleville. We scoured Yelp and TripAdvisor, and finally settled on Restaurant Le Cèpe, named for the wild mushrooms that grow among the pines here in the mountains. This place was not exactly ski in/ski out, as we had to walk a little ways down a street (I know, we were very spoiled at this point). However, we were thrilled we took a chance on this little gem. I felt it was a good sign when we walked in and I saw a server showing a nearby table a platter of the fresh catch of the day. Also, not to mention, we were the only anglais speakers in the restaurant. That’s when you know you have hit a local favorite. The wine list was great, the servers lovely, and the food delectable. And yes, we had a lot of cèpes. One of the house specialities is a cèpe capuccino, a rich and flavorful mushroom soup unlike any other that literally had the fluffy consistency of a capuccino. Next, I had a dish of homemade fettuccine topped with cèpes and fois gras. Lastly, served with the café gourmand (espresso served with an assortment of desserts), there were even little sugar cubes in the shape of mushrooms.
If you have read to this point, I hope you are not too weary of my food photos, because I have saved the best for last. The town where we were staying, St. Martin de Belleville, was recently awarded a very distinguished title of Gastronomic Resort of the Year in the World Snow Awards of 2016. For it is in this pleasant village that you will find La Bouitte, the first restaurant in the Savoie that has been awarded a coveted third Michelin Star. From the moment we walked into the restaurant, to the time we left, there wasn’t a single detail left to chance. The décor, the staff uniforms, the china, the wine and, bien sûr, the food, were all exquisite. This restaurant, which opened in 1976, is run by father and son team René (who is an entirely self-taught chef) and Maxime Meilleur. La Bouitte means “small house” in the local Savoie dialect, and the locally sourced dishes have a distinctly Savoyard twist.
I will say au revoir and bon weekend as I am determined to go work off some of this muffin top!
For more on my culinary travels in Europe, see some of my older posts: