Tastebuds

A food blog from everywhere!

Still Alive, and Back in France!

So…after a long hiatus from the blogging world, I’ve decided it’s high time to get back on the game. After all, I do enjoy writing about my food encounters and I am back in one of the foodie paradises of the world: France! This time I’m in the Savoie region, near the city Annecy, doing an academic summer program while having the privilege of staying with a wonderful host family.

Firstly, the scenery here is worth a mention, because it’s absolutely STUNNING.

View out towards Lac d’Annecy from Talloires

The locals are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place. The feel here definitely differs  from Paris; people are more ready to smile and life goes on at a slower pace. I’ve been here for five weeks now, and although I sometimes do miss the city-life I really can’t complain, having such beautiful views right out the door.

Anyways, on to the food: Coming into this region I fully had in mind to sample the local cuisine, and two of the beacons of the Haute-Savoie culinary scene are tartiflette and raclette. Both are substantial dishes consisting of potatoes, cheese, and some form of meat, often eaten in the winter as they are very heavy. One night my host brothers took me to a small restaurant in the mountains nearby to sample the two local specialties.

View from the mountains near the restaurant

I forget (or rather didn’t fully pay attention to) the name of the restaurant, which was small and quaint but bright and cozy. Because my host family was familiar with the owner, we chatted for a long time at the bar over some olives and drinks before sitting down and ordering. It was nice listening to the French and peeping up here and there.

Olives

An aside about the French language: I do hope that my French has improved at least a little during my time here, but I really cannot tell. I’ve been studying French for so long in school that my skills really do not match up with the years of French classes. I often ascribe it to the ineffectively of elementary/middle school French, but even discounting that I’ve taken at least 5 years worth of high school level + French courses and still I have trouble fully embracing the language. I feel that I have the most difficulty with comprehension. When others speak to me I can usually fully understand and can respond readily, but listening to others speak is a completely different story. I find it so difficult to follow conversations where I’m not involved for the sounds jumble together and I lose the ability to decipher anything. It is so difficult to join in the conversations at dinner as my host family speaks with a very rapid tongue! The same goes with films; I usually cannot figure out the plot without untranslated subtitles. I guess it’s all just a matter of exposure and practice, but it’s hard to practice when nothing comes through in the first place.

Anyways, I’ll return to the food: so around 9pm we started eating. Below is the tartiflette, which my host brothers both ordered.

Tartiflette!

It came in a medium sized ceramic dish with potatoes coddled in a thick sauce of reblochon cheese (a famous washed-rind cheese from the area) and cream and speckled with lardons, or cubed bacon. You can see a whole reblochon half on the top! I had a taste and thought it was rich but mild, for reblochon isn’t a very strong cheese. The lardons added a little bit of chewiness and texture but not much. This is definitely a comfort food and not exactly something to dine finely on.

I chose a raclette from the menu, and was very surprised when they presented me with two large plates, one w/ three boiled potatoes and a salad and the other w/ sliced cured meats and rectangles of raclette cheese. Plus a small bowl of cornichons, it was definitely a lot of food!

Salad and boiled potatoes

Mixed cured meats, cornichons, and raclette cheese (natural and smoked)

Raclette is actually a type of cheese from this region. It’s name comes from the way that it’s usually eaten: the insides of a half-wheel is slightly melted under lamp-like apparatus and a wooden utensil is used to scrape, or racler, the melted cheese onto potatoes and other accompaniments. I feel it’s a wonderfully creative and fun way to eat!

Apparatus for raclette melting

The apparatus that we used, however, was differently from the bulkier traditional method. It was basically a small stove and pan on which we melted the pieces of raclette, one at a time. Once melted, we poured the cheese onto the potatoes and ate them with the sliced meats and cornichons. I have to say, potatoes + cheese + cornichons or salami work magic together. Rich and salty and sharp from the cornichons…it was a great combination. Adding some pieces of salad to it was good too as that added some freshness and crunch. I preferred the natural raclette to the smoked variety just because the creaminess came out more in the former.

After the meal, we were all pretty stuffed. Apparently, though, diners usually consume a strong alcohol to help digest, so my host brothers ordered genepi and chartreuse, two types of local liquers, to sum up the meal. I had a little sip of the chartreuse and my goodness it was VERY strong. Stingy strong. I didn’t try anymore after that and my poor younger host brother had to finish my glass too. Lol.

It was a very fun meal, and we finally headed down the mountain and got back home at 11pm. Quite the Savoyard experience!

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June 26, 2011 - Posted by | French, Lake Annecy, Restaurants, Travels

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