Posts Tagged ‘Lake Geneva’


The Caviar of Lake Geneva Cuisine

April 26, 2009

Chez Gousse, Messery, Haute Savoie


Filets de perche (pike-perch filets) are a staple around Lake Geneva, to the point that dining can become monotonous (at least on the ‘rural’, southern French side where I live). Knowing most filets de perche come frozen from Estonia makes this ‘local’ dish even less sexy.


Not the case with fera, specifically carpaccio de fera. Savour just one mouthful of this raw fleshy whitefish and your libido for Lake Geneva cuisine spikes ten-fold.


I gorged on it with friends Friday night at Chez Gousse (tel +33 4 50 94 72 20, 24 rue du Bourg. Messery), our local bar which in true French village-bar fashion is propped up by the same faces six days a week and is never open when you want it to be. Gousse aka Serge who has run the place forever had gone all out with his feast of local products (incongruously called a ‘cheese and wine’ evening): cheese from the fromagerie in Douvaine, charcuterie (cold meats), three types of biscuits de Savoie (which pretty much translates as dry sponge cake), and some fabulous AOC Seyssel wines (I loved Maison Mollex’s 2007 La Tacconnière).


But it was the shrimp-like écrevisses (crayfish) and fera, both fished fresh from the lake that morning by Serge Carraud (tel +33 4 50 94 04 71, 68 rue des Pecheurs, Chens-sur-Leman), the local fisherman, that stunned the room. Served as wafer-slim slices soaked in an olive oil, raspberry vinegar and echalot marinade, carpaccio de fera is quite simply the caviar of Lake Geneva cuisine. I challenge you to find it in any restaurant. Rather call Serge for a fish and DIY.

Carpaccio de fera rarely features on restaurant menus

Carpaccio de fera is practically impossible to find on restaurant and cafe menus.


Road Trip: Lake Geneva to the Med

March 24, 2009


Col de la Haute Croix, nr Grenoble, by gaetanku

Col de la Haute Croix, nr Grenoble, by gaetanku

Being so fixated on getting to St-Tropez by noon to have a decent afternoon’s work, I somehow managed to ignore the six-hour road trip south … from Lake Geneva to the Med. It was a glorious journey. Fuelled with two pre-departure coffees and four apples to munch en route, I was up with the larks and speeding direction ‘Annecy-Chamonix-Mont Blanc‘ by 6am. My Twingo practically purred as I drove between mountain peaks in the untouched Vercors National Park; snaked up and over the snow-hugged hairpins of the Col de Haute Croix mountain pass; razzed 130km/h past Sisteron’s rock-perched citadel; gave a nod to the monks frozen in stone at Les Mées; glanced wistfully at the ‘Gorges du Verdon’ exit; lusted after all that lavender I wouldn’t get to see around Manosque; motored passed the Luberon turn-off. Up to Aix-en-Provence where I joined the A8, the drive was rather like a slow-motion, cinematic version of a ‘Best of Northern Provence’ movie in fact.


By contrast the A8 was rammed with cars speeding hell for leather towards Nice. Five minutes short of my St-Tropez exit, warning lights flashed and all three lanes screeched to a death-defying halt. To pass the two long hours it took for fire crews to clean up the accident, I read the Provence chapter of Lonely Planet’s France guide, researched in 2008. Excellent tip by Parisian-turned-Londoner co-author Emilie: To avoid the worst of high season traffic (or in my case a crashed flaming lorry full of courgettes, aubergines and other Provencal veg) peel off at Le Cannet des Maures instead and follow the D558 road across the Massif des Maures to La Garde Freinet and Port Grimaud (from where you can sail Signac-style to St-Tropez). 

Joyous was the final approach to St-Tropez. It being March and low season, traffic was as silky smooth and fluid as that huile d’olive every second shop in Provence sells. I dumped the car in the hotel car park, skipped to Place des Lices, plopped myself down at a sun-facing table at Le Café and ordered a nice cup of tea and slab of Tarte Tropézienne. I had arrived.


Skiing in France with Small Children

March 1, 2009


All week I’ve chit-chatted with other mums at school waiting to pick up the kids: And this being the first week after the February half-term, I suddenly have a straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth list of the best places in France to ski with small children.


Living 40 minutes from the slopes, everyone I know over the age of 3 skis – on Wednesday, at weekends, in winter school holidays, in their sleep. Not only that: this is the savvy crowd that knows how to do it without spending three hours getting kid kit on, without losing one glove en route, without lugging 20kg of grumbling kid for kilometers from car to cable: Trust me, put ski boots on kid and weight is doubled. 

  • Monday a girlfriend told me about La Norma. Great family resort was her verdict and her being a ski instructor I trust her implicitly.
  • Tuesday I enthused with a girlfriend over the virtues of St-Martin de Belleville, a pretty Alpine village with a quaint church and a cable link to Les 3 Vallées.
  • Wednesday: no school, no time for chit-chat, everyone was up the mountain doing you know what.
  • Thursday’s hot tip was Les Gets, too well known but certainly reasonably challenging skiing and a much-loved crèche for pre-ski tots.
  • Friday I learnt about Puy Saint Vincent, a pinprick resort on the fringe of the Ecrins National Park in the southern Alps where kids are chaperoned from crèche to slopes to crèche again while happy parents frolic the day away in fresh powder. (The recommendation came from a couple who only use twin tips. Need I say more).

And the weekend?

  • On Saturday we skied in Bernex, a discovery that particularly appealed to our fearless seven-year-old because of its helter-skelter trails spiraling through pine woods. I liked it for its gorgeous Lake Geneva views.
  • Sunday saw us yet again at Hirmentaz, an old family favourite so small it has just one café and the cheapest crêpes this side of Mont Blanc. Kids tumble out of car onto the slope, ski hire if needed is likewise snowball-throwing distance and the crèche doesn’t ask that you book in advance. Not surprisingly I’ve bumped into Parisian families on the slopes here more than once …