Clos De Sens…Lake Annecy 2 Michelin Stars

 

So I basically went to the Michelin guide website and pulled up the map function to look at all the restaurants that pop up as little icons along the region of France covering the French Alps, the champagne region, and Paris. I then drew a line from where I started to where I wanted to end up, and in the area under the curve, researched all the restaurants along the way that looked the most appealing. I connected the dots to figure out driving routes and times between distances, which I then saved onto Google Maps. I just kept doing Google image searches of this region, and I was blown away when I saw pictures of Lake Annecy. My friend Jerry tells me that it has the reputation of being the cleanest body water in all of Europe. The turquoise water looked almost tropical.

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I’m a pretty stuffy and high maintenance guy when it comes to swimming, getting dirty, sandy, etc, but even I wanted to just take my clothes off and run into this water.

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This dog was having a field day.

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The water was so transparent, just imagine floating atop the water staring at the mountain range.

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We saw a chain of little kids on these cute little sailboats being towed in a line. Their ecstatic faces were priceless. You can see the tail end of it in this photo to the right.

2018-06-26 13.49.51Even though we don’t have kids, this is an amazing place to come with family. I love how in Europe, even when you are camping in the woods, a 2- or 3-star Michelin restaurant is still within driving distance. All the more reason to start plotting out retirement home locations. After much thought, somewhere on the French-side of the border between Switzerland and France seems like just the right place for a base camp.

Think about it, you can drive down to the coast, and if you go west you are in Monaco. Drive further west, you are in Saint Tropez, or a little further, Provence. Go east, you are in the Italian Riviera, further east, Piedmont. You can even cut straight across Italy and you are in Venice.

Real estate is probably cheaper on the French side than on the Swiss side as well. From Switzerland, you can take a quick flight to Spain, London, Paris or anywhere else in the world. Not to mention, easy access to the hidden Swiss bank account. Decisions, decisions…oh well first world problems.

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This is the famous photo that lured me here in the first place. What a pristine Medieval town. This apparently was a jail back in the day. I thought to myself, what kind of jail has a 5-star view like this? But if you think about it, it must be sheer torture looking at this water day-in and day-out and seeing everyone else enjoying the lake and the only thing separating you are the bars and three feet of concrete.

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This was probably the blueprint for when they were designing Disneyland. Couldn’t believe this was real.

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Similar to Venice, labyrinthine cobblestone roads crisscrossing each other.

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Bridge after bridge.

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Endless charm.

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The town itself is somewhat of a tourist trap, but it’s stunning the first time you see it. The restaurants are nothing special, but it was close to the next destination restaurant/hotel we were headed to, which was Clos De Sens.

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After a quick walk through town, we headed back to the hotel to watch team France play. Ended up being the most boring game of the World Cup, ending in a 0-0 tie.

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Quite an ugly 90’s looking sign. They probably haven’t updated it since 1992 either.

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Open kitchen.

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The lobby was up to date however and far from ugly.

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I needed to see the below the floor cheese cellar. I have dreamed of doing this in my house, but if I ate this quantity of cheese on a regular basis I would look like Jabba the Hut.

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Very tasteful high-end ultra-modern outdoor furnishings.

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Amazing lap pool with the turquoise lake in the background.

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Their on-sight garden for the restaurant. Apparently, it is 1000 square meters, goes three flights down and wraps around several terraces, and everything is grown here on sight. They source all their products onsight, and nothing is more than a long walk from the restaurant.

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I love the wood beam roof, the lamp is nice too, but not so sure about the multi-color palate wood, makes it look too busy.

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This is the highlight of the room though. Hot tub with a sick view. Skylight converts into a walk-out balcony.

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They even have blackout blinds hidden in the aluminum frame.

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What a view.

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The roof tiles made it look like a gingerbread house.

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Here is the rest of the room.

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Very nice handmade heavy duty bronze piece.

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The fireplace must be nice in the wintertime.

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Very Roche Bobois Mah Jong style 70’s color scheme pillows.

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The bed was quite comfortable.

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Time for some World Cup action. Allez la Bleu! I had to watch it on this little shit TV, wasn’t playing anywhere else nearby, unbelievable.

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Where’s the beer?

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Time to chug-a-Lug. Get it. I feel like I’m writing in Kavanaugh’s yearbook.

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Giroud, you are disappointing me. Enough of this boring 0-0 tie game, time for some aperitifs by the pool.

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Finally, time to eat. So the chef here had more of a Vegetarian/Pescatarian focus, which I am fine with, as long as he brings it with the seafood and the cheese at the end. In fact, I didn’t think it was possible, but the cheese cart here topped yesterdays. Still the same region, but some really boutique cheese from small family farms. Again, everything was locally sourced to within walking distance from the restaurant supposedly.

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Here is their menu. It was very nicely folded from a rectangular piece of construction paper, and when opened, the inside was like a topographical map of the region, with all the Lakes where they get their fish highlighted on the map.

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The dining room was much sleeker and more modern compared to the night before. The dining room was also darker than Flocons de Sel, but they had better table lighting.

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Their house-made bread. I still remember snapping off pieces of that crust which were so uniquely more flavorful than just eating any other piece of bread. It was almost like their unique wild yeasts gave it some added complexity.

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Even the food receptacles looked like art. Very elegant.

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Creamy crayfish tartar. I remember this being very smoked with ash or something, very nice. It was like sushi amaebi sweet shrimp, but the crayfish version of this. Crayfish was endemic to the lakes in the region.

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The umami on this Crayfish tea, bottom corner, was intense like a concentrated bisque. Similar to the crawfish dish at Flocons de Sel. I love when they extract every bit of flavor out of a product. You get so much more of the crustacean essence when they distill all the parts that are normally discarded.

I think the item in the middle was the creamy cured egg of Fera, and it had a half of the little crayfish claw sitting on top of it. At the top corner was the crispy bone I think, but then this could have also been the parmesan crisp looking thing in the corner.

Researching these ingredients in the menu and connecting them to the photos after the fact has been one of the most difficult reconnaissance missions I’ve ever faced in my blogging so far. Very few people have pictures of this place online or have blogged about it, and if they do, it’s mostly in French, or it’s from the hotel’s own website. This made me happy as I felt like this would be one of the places on this trip I would probably impress the locals of this area with, that Americans who did not even speak French at all were intrepid enough to dive into.

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Here was a very nice Burg. Maybe I’m a baby killer to drink it at this age, but even though it was young it still stood on its own two feet. Hubert Lignier is one of my favorite Burg producers, as their Burgs are so complex yet finessed. They are known for their OCD -small batch approach regarding grape cultivating and winemaking. They are organic, don’t use pesticides, limit fruit cluster growth and make sure only the best grapes are used. They use natural yeasts, no pumping of the wine, and only use gravity. All painstakingly traditional methods, combined with longer contact of the wine with the skins, leads to very deep, earthy and complicated flavor profiles. I have three of these actual bottles at home that I have not touched for 3-4 years now, so I wanted to try one now to see how it has changed since the first time I drank it. I think it was still sleeping, but it even drank nicely at this stage. It was worth it to test it out here without having to open one of the bottles I have at home though.

I would still wait at least five more years for this wine to reach peak maturity. If you buy these wines now though, they will be a great investment, you just need to have the patience to sit on them and not be tempted to touch them for a while. I cannot regularly drink Burgundy due to the astronomical price point, but this is a reasonable producer that may soon if not already achieve cult status. It will definitely rock socks on special occasions.

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Here is the showcasing of the chef’s love for his vegetables. I know it looks like a cheese roll, but it is actually a breaded cabbage tart wrapped in a filet of the Fera fish from the local lake. It was like a smoked fish igloo.

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This was good for what it was, and I appreciate the locality of his produce. The sauce even had some Fera roe in it adding extra umami to the dish, but I am not very Vegan or vegetarian-friendly person in general and I get generally disturbed when these type of fads enter the Michelin realm, as this is my ‘safe space’ from all the meat-shaming. Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetables, especially the organic, farmer’s market varieties that support local farmers. I just can’t survive on them alone.

I am more of the philosophy of eating meat, but less often, as a compromise for the impacts of livestock on the earth and atmosphere, as well as the impacts of meat on our bodies.

I would even advocate for the mass distribution of using insects as a protein source. Trust me, you’ve seen a lot of pics of me eating insects on this blog. But when I see a line around the block for Vegan tacos, and the poor husband and wife team of Mexican immigrants serving the best potato tacos in town, several feet away, are not getting any customers at their humble taco stand, I find this more upsetting.

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Then came this amazing fish dish with the most flavorful wild grains I have ever tasted. I still remember the distinctly nutty flavor of these wild grains. I later found out they were beluga lentils. They apparently get their name from resembling Beluga caviar. They are packed with protein, but what struck me was their super nutty and chalky taste. The fish was local Char, which was perfectly rare in its preparation as it would continue to cook in the sauce.

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The grains got even better as they soaked up that Poutargue soup. When I looked up the definition of Poutargue, I found out that it is just French for Bottarga, which is cured fish ovaries. The lentils puffed up and tasted like some sort of caveman popcorn. I just let it drench it this for a while. With respect to being as ‘umami bomb delivery vehicle’, this was the dish of the night for me.

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More of their vegetables, which was their candied and roasted fennel from Albanais. Again, I love Fennel, even-though it is the most commonly used aromatic vegetable in every high-end Vegetarian restaurant we have been to.

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It had that sweet, black licorice aromatic profile that paired nicely with the elegant Burg we had. This is the kind of hearty vegetable that can stand up next to a medium-bodied red wine.

Look at the details of the utensils, the stems are shaped like vegetable root or thin carrots.

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More ancient grains and seeds. This was the Pike on a grill, burn butter Sabayon, and Spelt risotto. So I think Spelt is what we call Farro in the US. It was interesting to chew, afterall it is an ancient grain, almost tasted like soaked sunflower seeds. Plant substitutes for carbs are becoming all the rage now, along with squash cut in the shape of, and prepared like pasta. I have to admit I liked the smoked and roasted flavor profile, really added an earthiness to the dish.

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I’m not complaining, a much-needed break from any solid meat was fine this night, as I was status-post binge from the night before. It also freed up some precious real estate in my stomach for their cheese cart. I must say, even though the meal here was not as good as Flocons de Sel, they actually had a better cheese cart here.

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They still had the Bleu De Termingon. Two days in a row, this is like heaven.

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Oy vey, I went to town on this shit.

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This was probably the freshest salad I have ever tasted in my life. The trick to this was that they literally pulled it from their garden and plated it right before serving to us. It’s like capturing the essence of the fresh vegetable before it fades away and loses its connection with the soil. Like the metaphor of the soul floating above the body right before the person is about to die and waiting to either stay or crossover. Perfect interplay with some of the cheese which also carries the essence of grass and flowers from when the cows are eating these same plants.

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There was one cheese here called Tomme de Chartreuse that was so unique that I hunted down the cheesemonger to find out the name of it. I needed to know how I can try this again one day. Unfortunately, it only comes from the farm of this local woman who only sells it to several restaurants in the area. This is what I learned about this cheese upon googling it. I wrote the name down of the woman who produces this on a business card or something but I lost it.

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This link above was what I found from Google France at that moment I searched for this cheese, but upon researching this now. I found a UK distributor that describes this cheese perfectly in the link below.

https://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/tomme-de-chartreuse-fermiere/

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Here is the chef Laurent Petit meeting and greeting us. He was still very nice though he spoke only a little English and his waiter was helping to translate for us. Time for dessert.

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Again, very happy that dessert was some iteration of their local dairy. This was so savory, the burnt caramel paired with this milky sorbet of Tomme Blanc Savoy cheese was a perfect contrast. The sliced fruit on top was a cured rosehip slice. Rosehip is the accessory fruit to a rose plant, and it is seasonal in the early summer period.

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This reminds me of a funny video.

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Right about to turn 40 years old at midnight in this photo.

Joyeux Anniversaire fat boy!

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This was their homemade chicory tart. The food memory that comes to mind for me is Vietnamese iced coffee, with that spiced/nutmeg like quality.

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This was their crispy “bricelet” meleze and cedar pinut. I think they meant to write “bracelet” and pine nut, which is obviously the nuts you see on the little dessert log. Speaking of a log, meleze is French for a larch or Tamarack tree, so I am assuming it was in the shape of one of these tree trunks. I love pine nuts as my mother would pepper them in rice as a child, and I remember being surprised at how intensely infused the cream in the log was with this flavor.

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Very nice wall sconce.

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Reminded me of the shells on the wall at Providence.

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Lovely glass artwork in their display. These were molds of some of his favorite produce while in their natural state submerged in the soil. That is a very creative use of the star ingredient as the inspiration for the decor.

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What an amazing stone counter.

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Once again, we closed the damn restaurant down. Last people left besides one other couple.

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Time for a nightcap. Une Chartreuse Verte. So you should always get the green vs the yellow as it is rarer. 140 Euro’s for 4 cl. It’s my birthday, fuck it.

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What a pretty bottle. Bottle 58 of 120 made that year. The mystique surrounding this rare bottle was intriguing. Looked like what I imagined old-timey absinthe to look like.

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So this was some very herbaceous cough medicine tasting lighter fluid. Not that it is bad, just very sweet, but also very hot with like a turpentine-esque scent. Though it is traditionally drunk alone like schnapps or aquavit, it can be an amazing base for a whisky cocktail. You don’t want to waste a 140 Euro/glass of something this rare in a cocktail though. Definitely an experience. It is an acquired taste, only for someone who can handle a strong taste. I loved being in the heart of the source of where this drink comes from and knowing the back story about how these Carthusian monks have passed down this secret recipe for hundreds of years.

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We had the whole patio to ourselves. Beautiful night for a cigar with my beautiful wife. We were finally both 40 now in this picture. So she is technically not a cougar until next May when she turns 41.

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Ooooouuu, walked over the cheese cave that I was lusting over on the way back to our room. This was the google image search that sealed the deal for me when I was trying to decide what restaurants to book on our trip. Again, the best thing about traveling is when the months of research come to reality when you see in real life what was just an image on your laptop months before.

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I need to at least figure out how to do this for my wine cellar that I want to build under my cigar room at home.

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Their garden was amazing, the uplighting on the trees, the trees coming up through the deck, everything was very tastefully done.

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Here was our breakfast the next morning. Their prosciutto seen below was amazing. Finally some meat, I knew they were holding out on me. I took an extra tray for the road. Breakfast here was actually much better than the day before, and probably was one of the best breakfasts of the entire trip. Totally worth coming here for breakfast even if you don’t have dinner here. Nothing molecular here or gimmicky, just amazing fresh local product.

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Here is the view from breakfast.

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More vegetable molds to admire up close before once again hitting the road.

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I love the 3D aspect here and the magnification of the part of the vegetable that is inside the glass.

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Very creative and tastefully done.

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Overall, the final consensus of this place is that you should definitely stay here and do their dinner at least once in your lifetime. We’re not sure if we’d come back, not due to dislike, but more because we are not so into the experimental limitation of a menu to only locally sourced ingredients, and the heavy vegetable focus. However, if you think about it, if you are just traveling through this region, what better way to sample all the specialties of the surrounding area all in one shot?

The aspects I enjoyed the most was the freshly picked vegetable salad, which truly surprised me as to how different this can taste from any other salad you have ever tried in your life. Also, their cheese cart was phenomenal. The wine and spirits menu was stellar. I enjoyed the super rare Chartreuse at the end of the night. I totally respect the glorification of his precious vegetables though as his garden is truly something to marvel at. Even a carnivore like me has to admire this fact, so I refuse to let my meat-eating bias taint this review.

 

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