There are sentences which should never be said aloud.
‘That’s the problem with eating foie piste side ‘ is one of them.
And yes, while the frigid air does cause the terrine to seize up like a laminated shelf, there’s nothing about those sentiments that allow it to be uttered without morphing into the worst version of yourself.
To those that heard it, I apologise.
Greetings from Val d’Isere- and more specifically, from La Folie Douce.
Some people gad about in the snow for the adrenalin. Others to learn how to do tricks.
I do it because it’s very pretty up there and I get excited about possibly finding a decent place to eat after exerting myself just enough to justify hot carbs and oozing cheese (she says remembering some special meals at Chez Vrony in Zermatt).
It’s those memories that get me up in the Alps wearing eight layers of technical clothing and balancing down hills on sticks.
I should say upfront; there are some crud places to eat up the top of Espace Killy in France.
I’m talking about cold quarters of roast chicken and limpid chips seeped in fawn gravy and burgers that collapse from the exertion of merely being picked up. The interior of some of the self service food stations on the mountain is gloomily dark and crammed with sticky pine furniture; the kind you find in holiday rental flats first decorated in 1966.
Which is why La Folie Douce, as ridiculous as some of it is; proves a grand destination.
You’ll probably hear it before you see it. From 3pm the music ratchets up.
The complex sits at the top of the Daille chair lift. Above it the tail end of some charming blue and green runs. It’s a broad white and dark wood building that’s divided into two. On the left is La Fruiterie- the upscale restaurant. To the right is the self service restaurant- and the bar.
The self service
The self service feels like a Euorpean finishing school’s canteen.
If you trudge along with a tray clinking with sturdy cutlery you can pick up cheeses and bread, very pretty puddings (the tira misu and chocolate ganache cake are particularly tempting) and fat glasses of wine. One glass helps me ski a little better. Two does not.
The other side of the self service station holds the hot food. Pastry is a good option and a slice of ham and cheese pie appears hot and thick with cured pork, oozing cheese. Another option is the roasts of the day; winners include roast chicken with offal spiked stuffing and a choice of sides that are presented in small cast iron pots. Avoid the chips; they’re cold and dry. But trust me when I say if there’s anywhere in the world to eat roast chicken with a side of macaroni and cheese; 2600 metres above sea level is it.
The best aspect of the self service are the salads; we soon become fond of a glass canister holding of slightly busted cherry tomatoes, kissing up to bocconcini and dressed with basil puree.
Next door to the self service is La Fruiterie. While it shares the altitude and some of the kitchen with La Folie Douce, the experience (and the price) is a little loftier.
If the sun is shining, you’ll still want to sit outside, but back from the fence and the blustery wind. If the chill gets a little much, there are all in one khaki quilted doona suits to put on over your ski gear. I’d love to say The Hungry One resisted the temptation to don a onesie at at nice restaurant. But that would be a lie.
It’s the kind of place where the wine comes chilling in buckets of snow.
It’s also the kind of place that includes foie terrine on the menu.
And as delightful as the spiced peach relish on the side of the plate of fattened liver is, there’s no doona suit for the foie; which in the cold remains as difficult to spread as my post skiing calves are to stretch.
Main courses at La Fruiterie provide some bumpy terrain. We’re assured by others who visited after us that the black pudding is stellar. Next time, I’ll be ordering that. For us veal shank ( €26) arrives as compressed bricks of crumbed flesh, threaded onto a metal stick. A bacon emulsion and pot of du puy lentils bring liquid relief.
A beef steak is written on the menu as XXL and arrives on a wooden platter with pots of mis en place cuddling next to it; fried onions, soft green herbs and a borderlaise sauce.
The meat is threaded with sinew, but provides a good excuse to order a bottle of Bordeaux.
Lastly, a bouillbaisse comes in a tiffin pot seperating out two layers of thinly spiced soup and some grilled pieces of mullet and scallop.
Highlights arrive in the form of desserts.
Chocolate profiteroles are exactly what you expect; choux buns, bursting with chocolate creme patisserie and glossed with ganache and cream. It’s black run sort of food.
Lemon tart is much more restrained; a trim rectangle of biscuit base, topped with curd and a cylinder of burnished meringue.
Coffees are one way to end a meal. This is another
Complimentary shots of toffee vodka always seem like a good idea at the time.
By 3pm next door starts to kick off. There’s a DJ and a live trumpeter. Like a battle call over the mountain hoards start to descend, planting their skis upright in the snow.
Soon it might seem like a a good idea to pay your bill and slink next door to join them.
Soon you may see your 24 year old chalet host dancing on a table in gold hotpants and ski boots. You’ll be drinking beer next to people standing on benches, pounding the air and twirling despite the plastic manacles that are attached to their feet. You may have your hair sprayed with champagne.You may take some very very silly photos.
It’s mad stuff. And the maddest thing of all is thinking you could ski down the hill at the end of it all.
There are some sentences that should never be uttered out loud.
And whether or not I joined the throng who skied down the hill after a Wednesday afternoon at La Folie Douce is one of them.
La Folie Douce
Le télécabine de la Daille
73150 Val d’Isère, France
(Hints and tips- you can catch the cable car up from the La Daille section of town, direct to La Folie Douce. You can also catch it down rather than risk life and limb by skiing down. There are buses that run from La Daille into the centre of town.
Other things I wish I’d known- Wednesday afternoons are the largest, as that’s when the seasonaires have their day off. And unless you get a little blue marble from the cash register or your waiter, you’ll have to pay for the privilege of using the bathroom)