Enjoying a last hike in the mountain before winter’s snow begins to fall always is very energizing, especially because it often comes with typical local meals from the mountains, and most of them are based on melting gooey cheese (which I love with an absolute and unconditional passion)! Also – and because we must not forget that I’m not only a stomach set on a pair of walking legs – the positive energy that comes out of what Nature has to offer us resides in the beauty of the landscapes, and the shapes of hills and peaks and valleys.
I spent a fabulous weekend with my husband and seven other friends to celebrate the birthday of one of them. We were in the ski village of La Foux d’Allos, located in the Lower Alps in the South of France. Although there was no Winter atmosphere but still a late Fall decor, but we had the opportunity to enjoy a quiet time in the village as tourists like us were very few. Just FYI, all my pictures open in wider view if you just click on them to appreciate the full beauty of the place.
Southern France really is blessed by the divinity of Climate. The weather has been sunny and wonderful during the whole weekend, with even some heat peaks from time to time (well, relative heat peaks of course), and an overall three days with almost no wind. It gave us the wonderful opportunity to walk in the National Park of Mercantour in the direction of the Lake of Allos. I say “in the direction of” because we didn’t make it to the lake. The last part of the hike was too hard to climb, and we were feeling too heavy from the the night before as we had a luxurious Raclette for dinner. For those who don’t know what Raclette is, the dish is composed of whole potatoes (skin off) topped with melting Raclette cheese (each individual makes it melt bit by bit with a Raclette machine as often as he needs to cover up his/her potatoes with more fresh cheese), and eaten along with dried meat or Italian ham, and cornichons/pickles. If you are on diet, do not go for a Raclette. Or just go for it, we only live once!
We made a final stop right in the middle of the hill, and enjoyed lying on the grass while drinking beers and snacking on French baguette with pieces of dark chocolate. The view was stunning, and so were the little details of the landscape on our way back. A waterfall here, a river there, pine trees all over, and even the ground we were walking on was soft as it was entirely covered up with a carpet of dried yet soft pine needles.
It’s amazing how much the quietness of a place can be relaxing for the mind, the body and the soul. It was just what we needed all. Besides, a little exercise from time to time does not kill a man, does it?!
It’s strange, this year, how the seasons are settling so late and in a so confused manner. If you look at all these trees, none of them has the same color as the other ones. Some are still green as in Summer, some turned brown in Autumn and reflect like gold when the sun is descending and the light is striking horizontally, and some others are dry and already naked as Winter had seemed to come early in October but that was just a delusion after all.
After such a nice day, we were hungry of course. Eeeeeh no, actually we were not, but a real hiker must eat dinner with his/her friends! As if we had not eaten enough cheese yet, we went out to the restaurant Les Gentianes and had the perfect Fondue. Oh boy! This traditional dish is so much of a concept for conviviality and friendship! Actually, two versions co-exist alongside, and each of them has equal fame among the French people.
Fondue, lesson One. The Fondue Bourguignonne consists in cooking by yourself, piece by piece, fresh dices of raw meat (usually beef) into oil that is heated in a pot on a table stove (almost Korean BBQ style, or Chinese Hot-Pot style). Restaurants usually offer sides such as French fries, lettuce or grilled vegetables. This fondue originates in the region of Burgundy, and is usually paired with… red Burgundy wine!
Fondue, lesson Two, and not the least. The Fondue Savoyarde finds its origins in the French Alps in the region of Savoy (spelled Savoie in French). Although its recipe dates back in the middle of the 17th century (around 1651), it suddenly became much more popular and developed on a wider scale when winter sports spread to the masses in the 1950s, in the French Alps, and in Switzerland as well. This recipe is totally vegetarian! What to drink with it? It is usually paired with white wine. The dish consists in melting above a stove, in a pot (see picture, yummy, isn’t it?!) typical cheeses from Savoy such as (most of the times) Comté, Beaufort and Emmental. The cheese mix is combined with white wine and minced garlic, directly in the pot. Eating this dish goes with enjoying a good time with friends, as each person chats while eating in the same common pot, using special forks to hold pieces of bread and dip them deep down the pot to cover them up, one after another, with a very (very very) generous layer of melted cheese.
Fondue Savoyarde is so hearty and fulfilling that no side dish is required (and it’s not recommended anyway to ask for one, or you’d get sick within the hour!). Sometime though, solid stomachs can bear a few slices of Italian ham or dried meats from Savoy.
I came back to work on Monday, and trust me, I’m back on a “no solids” diet for a few days, so I can more easily detox my body! I hope you enjoyed the tale of my weekend away. Please share in the comment section if you have ever tried Raclette or Fondue!
Before you leave this page, don’t forget to click this link to visit my book’s page: Cookbook #1, A French Girl’s Cooking Adventures in Her Kitchen.
Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi, © 2015 All Rights Reserved.