Flocons De Sel…3 Michelin Star, French Alps

Though the UK was fun, I couldn’t really call it a complete 40th birthday celebration without a visit to France and our first visit to the French Alps. This Michelin studded tour-de-force started off in Geneva. On our first trip to France, back in 2013, we drove from Provence to Bordeaux to Paris. I highly encourage driving through a country as varied as France rather than just flying to your destination and taxiing around.

Can’t leave LAX without an obligatory stop at Petrossian’s for their signature Martini.

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As you can tell, I am shameless when it comes to treating my self. No expense is spared.

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Caviar cube inside Beluga Gold Line Vodka Martini.

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How about some caviar Cobb salad? Sure. It’s your birthday!

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Mind you, this is before even getting on Business class with AirFrance.

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I had a brief Kanye West sighting several rows ahead of me and tried to sneak a photo. You can only see the top of his head. I didn’t want to go up and ask for a photo and get punked since he’s an asshole, even though I think I was the only one on the plane who recognized him. I was surprised he was not in First class, but rather in Business class with the commoners.

2018-06-24 05.33.36I guess this is what this song is all about.

Poire William liqueur on the plane, love it. Only on AirFrance. Lights out after this and we wake up in Paris.

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First stop was our dear friend Erik’s house in Geneva. He cooked us an amazing dinner of foie gras, straight from the farm, with the main course of frog legs in a heavy butter sauce that was to die for.

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Talk about instant heart attack.

Shit talking while we cook, as we share inside jokes from a fortune teller who told Erik to run away from his ex-GF. I also have the nickname “The Screamer” as on our last visit to his house, I woke up at 3am yelling like I was getting killed. These phenomena started on our first trip to Paris back in 2013, and there is an actual Psychiatric condition called Paris Syndrome.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_syndrome

I swear to God, I had a vivid dream as though there was a SWAT team of a Czechoslovakian guerilla army foot soldiers who crossed the border into Geneva and were about to break into the apartment and kill me. The scene in my head was just like this clip.

I woke up screaming. Erik and his father just thought I was having a Lexington Steele style orgasm, but it was this bizarre cultural psychiatric syndrome described above.

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Enough shit-talking, time for a verifiable Shit-show from Dr. Whisky himself. This is the man that inspired me to get into whisky in the first place. His nuclear bomb shelter cellar is stocked to the ceiling with this liquid gold. Everyone in Geneva is required by law to have a nuclear bomb shelter in their home. Most people use it for wine storage though.

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Rare non-existant bottles he gets to take home as he is a master knight of some secret whisky society in Geneva where he runs whisky tastings.

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Oh ya, baby. This is how you start a vacay.

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Another closed distillery, Linkwood. This is when he told me the story about almost getting arrested for trespassing at this place.

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Here is Dr. Whisky himself demonstrating an open-heart Macallan surgery.

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Let’s move on to some Signatory cask strength, shall we?

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Even some outside the box whiskey from Tasmania.

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We left the next day for the start of our road trip to the French Alps. Obligatory stocking for lunch at the Globus market, which is a Swiss department store that has a food section which is like the European version of Bristol Farms. It is a veritable Disneyland for high-end luxury food items. It puts any grocery/ high-end food market in the US to shame, even Wally’s in Beverly Hills.

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The variety of cured meat was mindboggling.

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I got a shit ton of Pata Negra Jamon Iberico for the road to eat with fresh bread they made that day.

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50 grams of acorn saturated pig fat is headed straight for my fat belly. Look at the Poulet de Bresse on display. This is like the Rolls Royce of chicken.

Sight for sore eyes, Cured Salmon of Loch Fyne, where we were a few months ago, and a blog post from several posts ago. That is going straight into the basket with no questions asked.

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Here are their pastries. Look how pretty the bruleed little apricots look. They know a thing or two about presentation here.

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Before we hit the road, we need to make a pit-stop at the Davidoff Cigar shop in Geneva and have some Swiss chocolate.

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Here is the town center in Geneva.

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Oh ya, liquid chocolate, no bullshit fake powder mix here. Although our favorite place for chocolate is Bonbonier, Auer makes a decent chocolate hot or cold. It’s been in Geneva since 1939.

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https://chocolat-auer.ch/boutique/?SID=96416dbfeeed48d4dfa0d0169cd27136

This was a box gifted to us from Dr. Whisky above for bringing him a special bottle from Signatory on my recent UK trip. This is the chocolate place you must visit in Geneva: La Bonbonniere

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https://labonbonniere.ch/

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Nothing like a road trip, eating this along the way, on a beautiful day in the Alps after finishing a daytime smoke of a fresh Cuban.

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Look at that glistening, healthy omega-6 and omega-3 fat. It just dissolves in your mouth with little chewing.

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You need to drive through this. Life is too short not to.

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The most relaxing way to start our trip. It is so worth it to drive through this kind of scenery with your significant other, talk for hours, listen to French music.

These are the moments that make life worth living, months of hard work and planning, and it all unfolds for a protected 12 -14 days where we just put all our stress on hold.

On our way to Megeve, which is a town on the border of Switzerland and France in the Swiss Alps to stay and eat at Flocons de Sel. Basically translates into Flakes of Salt.

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This is just a gem of a place. It looks unreal. Too pretty to be real life.

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Checking in was a treat, so many cute little knick-knacks everywhere.

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I didn’t know what this little Michelin man fetus award was all about.

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Pro-life subliminal advertising? Or enlightened, self-actualized Zen Michelin man sage?

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What a beautiful bear. I think it was entirely made out of marble.

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Here is the chef himself with his hiking boots, ready to forage.

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Look at their collection of cowbells, which you will hear in the video shortly.

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Here is the room tour. I think we got the Junior Suite.

Listen to the cowbells from the Swiss cows roaming the hills at the end of the video. I’m sorry to say that “Happy Cows don’t come from California”, like the ads you see on TV, rather, they come from the Alps.

https://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Happy-Cows-cheese-ads-called-a-sad-tale-2844218.php#photo-2225406

Those sounds are not windchimes, they are cowbells from Swiss cows binge eating grass somewhere in the mountains beyond the line of sight.

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Amazing little Swiss chalets perched on the mountainside everywhere. This was the view from the back of our suite.

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Just stunning.

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Views from the inside.

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Looked like a James Bond villain’s mountain getaway.

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Here was our welcome snack that we had on the patio, a stone’s throw from our room.

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Real mint soda with homemade ice cream and wild picked strawberries with some sort of fruitcake. Delicious.

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This corner table was like literally sitting on top of the world. Look at the little smoke shack that the chef uses during dinner service.

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I have never seen anything like this. As a child, I always imagined what this kind of scenery looked like when watching this cartoon. I never knew the depiction was this close to reality.

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We hit the sauna and relaxed after our long drive before getting ready for dinner. I still remember coming back from the spa and just sitting here watching the sunset as Erika slept. I remember getting a random call from a pharmacy as I sat here. I literally told the pharmacist that I cannot write a prescription for the patient to pick up because I am sitting on top of the mountain in the French Alps. I then told her to call back and listen to my voicemail for the covering physician’s info and hung up.

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Off to dinner. Main dining area 10 feet from our room. No DUI worries here.

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Very tasteful art everywhere.

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This is the famous perch that comes from Lake Geneva I think. It has that distinctive mohawk spiked fin.

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They had a wall with all framed vintage paintings of the Alps.

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There was another wall with all coo-coo clocks that I think we captured in one of the videos later.

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This was captivating. You will never see such a collection of Chartreuse anywhere else in the world. This is the source of this drink. Made by monks from a recipe hundred’s of years old from the local herbs, etc. See Wikipedia link below if you want to geek out.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartreuse_(liqueur)

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The sun was just finishing setting as we sat for dinner. We did not leave the table until well after midnight. That’s how I like to dine. Dinner is the main event of the night, not an after-thought. I never plan things after dinner. I even try to get sex out of the way during the pre-dinner hours. It should just be dinner until midnight and then black out like Kavanaugh.

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Lovely plates. Chef’s cookbook below. Took a while to get a menu, not a lot of waitstaff spoke English, but it is not a destination that draws as international a clientele as other three-star places given its remoteness.

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Here was the menu for the night.

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And we’re off. A couple amuse bouche plates to start.

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I think the dish below was polenta, hay, and saffron. Perfect texture, almost like a canele where it is hard on the outside and soft and warm inside. The saffron flavor really came through as well, very aromatic.

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The other tasty bite was the smoked milk beignets. The thick mouth-coating texture of the sour milky cream filling was intense. I needed a cigarette after this.

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This was followed by what was some fresh peas topped with some spicy oxalis herbs sitting inside a brown bread tart. It was called the “Savoie” herb biscuit.

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Then came a vegetable tart topped with what I remember being told was garlic flowers or something, with other little micro-greens and roots.

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Let’s have some Haute Savoie wine. I reviewed several other blog posts of this place complaining that they expected a more stellar wine list, but you need to appreciate the local wines here. Just because they are not pairing a meal with a $5000 bottle of old Burg there is no need to poo-poo their wine. I learned a thing or two and got turned on to a wine very few people know about here in the US.

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So good, I bought a couple of bottles to take home with me. Perfect to pair with the Paris Champignon dish coming up. Check out these tasting notes. The aromas are a beguiling mix of yellow apple, white peach, dried acacia flowers, dried white mushrooms, lees, and a smoky, stony note reminiscent of Loire Valley silex (flint). On the palate, the wine is textured, creamy even, but at the same time resolutely mineral, fresh and saline. There are certainly some Chablisienne characteristics here, with the Jacquère lending a floral component.

Check out this article about this wine.

https://www.sommselect.com/?product=domaine-des-ardoisieres-igp-vin-des-allobroges-argile-blanc-2

Look at these mushrooms, Paris Champignon. These are apparently a rare variety of button mushrooms that come from Paris.

https://www.francetoday.com/culture/made_in_france/champignons_de_paris/

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Egg yolk surprise, underneath the coffee and mushroom sauce, which was actually smoked. What an amalgamation of dirt and earth in this dish. Gritty and dirty, complemented amazingly with the smoked egg yolk. Made me very happy and paired nicely with the Argyl wine.

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How the hell do you smoke egg yolk? Apparently, he pokes a hole in the top of the whole egg with a syringe and puts the entire egg in the smoking room that I mentioned in my photos above. After several hours the egg absorbs the smoke into the yolk.

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This was called the Garden Consomme with Elderflower.

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I was happy peas were in season. Best herbal pea soup concoctions with elderflowers I’ve ever had. Besides the peas, it also has a fine root gnocchi and parsley “without floor” whatever that means.

Best healthy interpretation of pea soup ever. Such clean flavors, aromatics like you were walking through a dew-covered garden after the rain. Wine pairing continued to kill it here with the Argyle. Obviously, the flavors were not very strong here, but I believe this was intentional so that you can appreciate the subtle flavors of each of the green components.

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Now for the most decadent combination of two of my favorite luxury ingredients with the prettiest presentation ever. White nettle marinated caviar and raw knife-cut langoustine with citrus fruit zest. Vivified with grapefruit and gentian root. What is Gentian root you may ask? Basically, an herbal remedy used by European shamans for 2000 years.

https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/gentian-root/profile

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Waves of intense umami peaking midway through the dinner, I loved how each new dish topped the last one. This is a unique strategy that is hard to pull off. I always try to gauge the way a restaurant handles their sequencing, as this is part of the process and art of fine dining after all. So far, very impressive and satisfying. Went well with this next wine.

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Again, not anything expensive, maybe $30 euros, but local terroir, which I think makes a difference with the chef’s diligent foraging of the regional fare. I remember that it was very toasty and malty, giving it more density to stand up to the sauces, but the nose did not open up much. More of a wine you drink with food rather than on its own. It was meant for food pairing basically.

Here is a link to the producer.

https://vigneronsdexception.com/fr/domaine-blard-grands-vins-blancs-de-savoie/2238-domaine-blard-roussette-de-savoie-altesse-blanc-sec-2016.html

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Here are the carrots mousseline and lemon sauce, which is a heavily whipped hollandaise-like sauce that they are about to drench the fresh lake Char in.

In the menu it says “raised in running water”, maybe indicating that it was wild Char that swam upstream?

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This was served with a butter sauce with “Chignin-Bergeron” wine and pine tree sauce. All these butter sauces were starting to catch up to me, especially with the frog legs the knight before. Not surprisingly, it paired nicely with the next wine pairing, which was the same wine used in the butter sauce.

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Then came the Quenelles of golden shiner minnow and crawfishes. I think the golden shiner is like a bait fish. A Quenelles is like an egg-shaped dumpling broth made with minced fish that tasted like a fish cake or matzo. It was sitting inside an intense bisque with the crawfish that complemented the quenelles nicely.

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You can almost think of it like a matzo ball soup made with lobster bisque and imaging that texture with that flavor.

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I was a happy camper at this time as in addition to the wine pairing we got a bottle of 2005 Beaucastel CDP from their wine list.

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Smiling as I know we were guaranteed to get thoroughly shit faced now.

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Intermission before the meat courses arrive and we were were given a loaf of their fresh made bread with tons of butter.

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We were gifted these knives by the end of the dinner.

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Erika got the Grilled French Veal Sweetbread. It came in a shallots mousseline, with lemon and rue plant juice.

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We were getting thoroughly greased at this point. I even needed to help Erika with this as she was starting to expand like the Nutty Professor.

Don’t get me wrong it tasted very good, and most places that cook Sweetbread make it too soggy and don’t know what the fuck they are doing. This Sweetbread here was very crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. It was just that part of the meal where things start to get uncomfortable, and since it was our first 4-hour bonanza dinner of this trip we were feeling the pain.

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My dish, on the other hand, was a leaner and more protein forward filet of Venison, quelling the nausea receptors in my brain from the fried Sweetbreads. It paired excellently with the CDP. Had it been a fattier, gamier meat maybe a heavier red would have paired better, like a Syrah or a Cornas. However, the age on the CDP made it excellent enough to just drink on its own, so I ain’t complaining. The dish came with blackberries, blackcurrant, pine tree, and oxalis.

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The next dish was an off the menu special. When I was looking at the choice of meat for our tasting menu, there was an option of getting the Poulet de Bresse cooked with black truffle under the skin, Paul Bocuse style, but we both had to get this, and Erika really wanted the Sweetbread meat course, so I begrudgingly passed on the Poulet de Bresse. However, when the waiter told the chef that I had a hard-on for this item, he surprised me with it after the Venison. I would have to say, with the CDP, this paired even better. Even though I was close to peaking in my stuffedness there was no way I could say no to this. It gave me a feeling of when I was a child and would throw a tantrum when my mother wouldn’t buy me a toy, and my grandmother would witness this and secretly buy the toy behind my mother’s back and give it to me later.

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Here I am doing a “Mr. Bill puppet show” for Erika with the vases until the cheese cart arrives.

https://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/mr-bill/n8854

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Now I don’t care how stuffed you are, but in France, you do not turn down the cheese cart.

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Don’t even fucking go to France if you are not going to enjoy the cheese cart. We saw an American couple do so at the table across the way. There are plenty of other countries to visit for your Anorexic ass.

Wow, just listen to that selection. You would have to be stupid to turn this down. This was one of the few all-French, all-local cheese carts I have ever seen. Most cheese carts have cheeses from various regions, but this locale is the Mecca of French cheese, I mean all you hear is cowbells all day when you are walking around outside. They have Tomme Savoie, Tomme-this, Tomme-that, my head was spinning.

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Wow, some of the rarest and hard to find cheeses that I love like Reblochon, Beaufort, and the rarest of them all Blue De Termignon. When we were at the Fat Duck back in May,  we had a French waiter Florian who used to work here. When we told him we were visiting Flocons De Sel he told us we must try this cheese. It’s that really moldy giant wedge in the front. After you watch this video you will understand why. Cheesemonger needed to do a better job explaining how precious this cheese is. There is so much back-story here.

http://www.mons-cheese.co.uk/bleu-de-termignon/

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And the king of Savoie cheese: Reblochon. Here’s another video to educate yourself.

Here is the selection:

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I was a mess at this point. I was sweating, my button popped from my shirt, and I had to loosen my tie. It was comical.

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There was still dessert.

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I don’t even know what this was, stopped keeping track. It looked very pretty though.

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It may have been like an apricot sorbet on top of a fermented and smoked milk pudding or something to that effect.

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A light transition to some wild strawberry compote tartar with oxalis and flowers.

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This was some other milk-based dessert that was heavenly.

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We even had a dessert wine pairing. It was this honey’ed Swiss version of a Sautern. I think it may also have been an ice wine.

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I don’t know how I kept eating. It was like I found a second wind or something.

But I had one final hurdle to cross. Their Lemon and Gentian root Souffle. I will never have a souffle this good ever again until I return to France. It was a tie between this place and the black truffle souffle we had later at Le Truffiere with truffle honey drizzled on top. The light fluffy texture made it seem like you were eating air even though it looks like a fluffy pancake the size of my head.

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We finally finished! We closed this place down, and walked to our room and passed out. I gave the chef one of my Cohiba Talisman Cuban cigars for a job well done and the pleasant surprise of the Poulet de Bresse that he gave me. I was very happy he loved Cuban cigars. I noticed that I used the word happy a lot on this blog post, which probably reflected the mood I was in this day.

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I left looking like the Michelin man himself, with a signed copy of his cookbook that he gave me to thank me for the cigar.

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We had an amazing breakfast before leaving this lovely paradise.

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Even though we were still stuffed from dinner, I did not want to miss the truffle and chive egg breakfast they had here. Might as well get my money’s worth. It’s not every day you can get this kind of produce and dairy products. Especially since we were skipping lunch and not eating until dinner.

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Got the table with a view of the giant cricket. Talk about a scarecrow.

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Their yogurt was amazing, fresh juices and bread were stellar.

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OMG, I still remember the taste of this watery French-style scrambled egg with truffle and chive. I was done with eating anything else until dinner.

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They even had these little Christmas tree desserts.

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Luckily I had my team France World Cup jersey that I had bought several years ago. They were in the World cup playoff’s along with team Mexico, at that time, and both teams were doing very well during the time we were there. Mexico had just beat Germany, last years champions, and France was about to kick Argentina’s ass in the upcoming week.

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Ironically, the main reason I bought this jersey, besides being a Francophile, was that I thought it was so stylish and hip that they had a ‘club collar’, which is the rounded instead of pointed collar that was seen in 1920’s-40’s dress shirts for men. I have never seen this on any other sports jersey, and I thought to myself, only the French would think of such details.

Vive La France!!!

What a scenic morning and continuation of our trip through the Alps on our way to Lake Annecy. The classical music stations in Europe are light years ahead of the US. Amazing, just hours of peaceful road rage-free bliss.

We were very lucky with the weather on this trip. It was picture perfect.

Overall, this trip comes highly recommended. Best weekend getaway I can think of if you live anywhere in Europe that is within driving distance. People don’t usually think of going to the Alps unless it is for skiing, but summer is also an amazing time to visit. It is probably the only place in Europe that is not too hot to visit during the summer with all this global warming going on. I would recommend staying a day longer than we did and maybe go hiking, biking, or paragliding in between meals to not only take in the views but also to work off all the cheese you will be eating.

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