Those of you who been following this blog for awhile probably know I love spending time in the Alps and in particular the Haute-Savoie. This département of France is breathtaking, home to the Val d’Abondance, the lakes Annecy & Leman, Mont Blanc and the haunting Aravis massif. It’s also the place where much of France’s most interesting cooking is happening at the moment. A long time before René Redzepi, there was Marc Veyrat and in the Savoie today we are seeing the coming of age of the generation of chefs he inspired (Yoann Conte, Jean Sulpice and Emmanuel Renaut to name a few). There is also the return of the man himself with his Ferme Gastronomique, La Maison des Bois that opened last year in Manigod, the Aravis village where he was born. I would rather take a gastronomic break in the Haute-Savoie than anywhere else in France right now, including Paris.
Many of France’s best raw ingredients also come from the Haute-Savoie. There are wild alpine herbs and flowers, game and fresh fish from the lakes, delicious wines, digestifs made from the mountain herbs and famous cheeses like Reblochon, Abondance, Beaufort, Tomme de Savoie and Chevrotin.
Like other places where great cheese is produced, here there is also a great pork tradition (think parmesan and parma ham or Tuscan pecorino and salami). Perhaps not quite as common today, traditionally pigs were kept by dairy farmers and fed the whey left over from cheese-making. In the Haute-Savoie they would accompany the cows to their high summer pastures where alpage whey fattened them up. This explains the dizzying variety of charcuterie one finds here, both smoked and nature and also this important architectural feature of Haute-Savoie farm houses, the smoking chimney.
This past Sunday I had the pleasure of returning to one of my favorite Haute-Savoie eateries, the Maison Carrier in Chamonix.The restaurant has a well earned Michelin Bib Gourmand and is part of the Carrier family’s now 5th generation Hameau Albert 1er. Maison Carrier plays little brother to the hotel’s main restaurant, the 2 michelin star Albert 1er where Pierre Maillet is at the piano. Pierre worked his way up here under chef Pierre Carrier and is now married to his daughter Perrine. At the Maison Carrier this family celebrates the best of traditional Savoy cuisine and people come from all over to have the Whole Pork Menu, a bargain at €42.
I’m sorry I’m not someone who takes pictures of the food they order in restaurants. But even if I was this food was too good to wait for a photo. The meal began with a charcuterie board (saucisson sec and coppa) and a couple of ramekins filled with salmon and lentil rilletes. Next was a generous slice of pork terrine that was perfect. It’s centre of creamy chicken liver made the difference and it came with a cranberry walnut compote and some wild mushrooms preserved in oil and vinegar. The delicate warm blood pudding with pears was probably my favorite, but the trotter that came after was a very close second. Serious comfort food, the pig’s foot was served with bernaise sauce and had a crispy coating, a perfect contrast to the seductive gelatinous texture inside. The last plate was a beautiful piece of roasted suckling pork haunch with apples and polenta. We also had a salad of fermented vegetables, beaufort cheese and crispy red beet chips and a creamy cheese and morel gratin. A carafe of Seyssel méthode traditionnelle washed it all down and Michael even found room for a visit to the dessert buffet of traditional French tarts, iles flottantes, flans and fruit.
After lunch I did manage a few photos of the restaurant and you can see the place has enormous charm.