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Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors
Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors
Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors
Ski guiding in Meribel France with British ski instructors

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Confessions of a lunch instructor-Part 2, the winter

Posted on
November 20, 2013
Confessions of a lunch instructor-Part 2, the winter

With Christmas approaching and the goose getting fat my thoughts are turning once again to Méribel and especially to the gastronomic pleasures that await.

Last week i read with interest that chefs at the Elysée Palace are bemoaning the current socialist president Francois Hollande's austerity drive on the presidential menus. Hoping to shed his image as a "caviar gauche," or "champagne leftie" as he would be known in English, he has forbidden his chefs from using expensive ingredients and in this time of belt-tightening for all of France, has decreed that menus must become simpler. 

President Hollande's tastes are in stark contrast to the late President Mitterand's appetite for all things luxurious. Apparently, for his final meal just before he died in 1996, he invited a number of his friends to join him for a meal of all the best that France could offer, including the forbidden delicacy, Ortolan. This tiny bird of the bunting family is blinded, kept in a dark box, fed on millet until four times it's normal size, drowned in armangac, plucked, then roasted whole for ten minutes. Diners are supposed to eat the ortolan with a white shroud over their heads: this has two purposes; firstly to preseve all the aromas of this most decadent of dishes and secondly, to hide their shameful act from God. Actually, there is a rather interesting video on YouTube of Jeremy Clarkson eating Ortolan on a visit to France. He concludes by saying that of all the things he's said or done in his long and controversial career, he'll probably run into more trouble for eating ortolan than for anything else. While it is illegal to sell ortolan, as it's an endangered species, it's not illegal to cook it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y4MS7mSzX8

I never quite know what's in store for me gastronomically when i pitch up for another winter; there's always a surprise around the corner. As i said in my previous blog, not only do people get the ski instuctor they deserve, but ski instructors seem to get the clients they deserve. All my clients seem to be foodies and occassionally i'm taken by surprise by a new client, who may turn out to have a pedigree in food or wine that i hadn't quite expected. Amongst others, i've skied with Michelin starred chefs and Masters of Wine.

For most of my clients, a good lunch is an important part of the day. One of my greatest challenges is to make sure i get this just right; I've got to second-guess where and what my clients will want to eat; inside or outside, leisurely or more fast-paced and whether to go basic or a little more up-market. Even though we've about fifteen Michelin stars in the Three Valleys (probably a greater concentration than anywhere else on earth!), you can eat well and not too expensively in all the valleys.

So, here goes, my short guide to my favourite places in each of Les Trois Vallées:

Méribel    It's got to be Adret Telebar. This Méribel perennial doesn't do anything fancy, but what it does do, it does extra well. The two signature dishes of veal in a mushroom sauce and pork medallions with a port sauce (this is my preference) have diners flocking to this superb restaurant on the Doron piste. Also, while it's comfy and homely on a bad-weather day inside, the secluded, west-facing terrace is one of the best sun-traps on the mountains. 

Courchevel    If money is no object, then Chabichou would be my choice. The chef Michel Rochedy has been cooking for many years at this two Michelin-starred establishment just above the centre of town and there's something for everyone in his carefully judged menu. If you want to go a little easier on the wallet, then Bel Air on the Ariondaz piste in Courchevel 1650 or Le Petit Savoyard down in the village of 1650 are two of my favourites.

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                       Lunch with the Beamish family at La Voute, St Martin de Belleville, December 2012

Belleville     Again, if money was no object i'd be heading straight for L'Oxalys in Val Thorens where the young chef, Jean Sulpice is cooking up a storm at the highest Michelin-starred restaurant in Europe. I shall never forget the venison in a chocolate sauce i had there some years ago even before he gained his first star (he now has two....no mean feat when even boiling an egg at this altitude is a skill that would elude most of us). Otherwise, one of my favourite places in the entire Three Valleys is La Voute, right down in the middle of the village in St Martin de Belleville. Again, this has one of the best terraces for soaking up the rays at lunchtime. It's also one of the the most reaonably priced restaurants in the mountains, charging just 11,50€ for the always exceptional plat du jour.

The Best of the Best      That's just got to be La Bouitte in the village of St Marcel de Belleville, about two kilometres up the valley from St Martin. Here the chef René Meilleur cooks the best food i've ever eaten anywhere in the whole of France. Take a punt on the 3, 4 or 5 course surprise menus or choose from the a la carte selection but you'll be sure to be impressed by the sheer inventiveness of this cooking. 

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                                             Fish from Lac Leman at La Bouitte, St Marcel de Belleville

 

Well, i'd better sign off now. Will be heading to Méribel very soon so those chefs can get their toques on and get cooking. 

Michael

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With our skills- based system of learning, we give you the tools to safely negotiate any demands the mountains make on you, helping you to increase your comfort zone and ski in a wider range of conditions. Whether you are a nervous novice, a blue piste cruiser or an all mountain adventurer, we tailor your ski lessons to create a perfect fit. The question is, which one are you?

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