We got an early start from Alba and headed to Annecy, where we would spend the next three days. We stopped on the way in Chambery for lunch and sightseeing.
As we walked around, we checked out several restaurants listed in Michelin to find the most promising for lunch. We ended up choosing very well.
Onze Grandes et Trois Petites
The 19.50 euro menu included 2 choices for the appetizer and main. We both started with roasted baby eggplants in tomato puree with parmesan, topped with prosciutto. Main courses were leg of pintade (Guinea hen) and lieu (pollock) tempura style in a curry sauce with cabbage. Both showed real creativity. The cheesecake with raspberry coulis was a nice dessert.
With a bottle of 2014 Luberon and coffee, the bill was about 68 euros.
Continuing on to Annecy, we found our hotel, the Ace Hotel Annecy, after an hour of searching. Poor “Jean” was beside herself. The hotel is fairly new, as is the street where it is located, so it cannot be found by GPS. It is in Seynod, three kilometers from the center of Annecy, in a new commercial and residential district. It is however very worth seeking out, as it is an incredible value at 54 euros a night. Our room is very comfortable, of decent size, with air conditioning, a good size bathroom, and a comfortable queen size bed. Sitting on the bed, however, resulted in its collapse due to a wobbly leg. The intrepid concierge came up quickly to tighten the screw, but that did not last. She returned with a replacement leg and a tool kit, which did the trick. All this whilst booking in a steady stream of customers. Kudos to her. The hotel was packed.
Once settled, we drove five minutes into Annecy and strolled around before dinner at Le Bilboquet. The old part of town has a number of canals, reminiscent of Bruges, Strasbourg and Colmar.
Amuse bouche – Cauliflower soup with mussels
Assortment of vegetables with a parmesan biscuit
Tartare of saddle of veal
Filet of fera (fish from Lac Leman) with vegetables
Assortment of vanilla-based desserts
Raspberries with meringues (vacherin) and ice cream
The cooking here is creative, presentation is beautiful, and the chef obviously likes to work with vegetables. We drank a Chignin from the local area, and the bill came to 110 euros.
We headed into town in the late morning, and walked along the canals to the park that borders the lake, checking out restaurants as we meandered about.
Raw fera with marinated onion, potato slices, potato chips and a green sauce
Prawns with curry sauce
Artichokes and fennel
“Hamburgout” from boudin noir, peppers, onion and tomato confit
New potatoes (fingerings) sauteed
Contresens is owned by Laurent Petit, the Michelin 2-star chef of Clos des Sens in Annecy-le-Vieux. He also runs the traditional bistro Cafe Brunet, which is also in Annecy-leVieux. Contresens is large, with a quirky modern design. Service is friendly and attentive. Everything here was simple and delicious, with a wide choice at reasonable prices. There is one price for each course, regardless of which dish you choose, and you can have as few or as many courses as you want. We had a bottle of Cotes du Luberon from Provence for 23 euros. Total with coffee came to 73.
After lunch we drove the entire circumference of the lake, stopped back at the hotel, then headed to Annecy-le-Vieux, which was of little interest until we headed up some steep hills to a point with magnificent views over the city to the lake and mountains in the distance. Gabriel Faure is the local hero, and his “Requiem” received its premiere in the small church of St Laurent on the plaza at the top of the hill in Annecy-le-Vieux.
For dinner, as it was Stanley’s birthday, we decided on La Ciboulette, a Michelin-starred restaurant. The menu offered two choices for each course, so we each chose one and shared tastes.
Canapes – mini pastry with Roquefort cream, puff pastry with olive tapenade, escargot in parsley foam
Amuse bouche – tomato soup with whipped mozzarella
Foie gras sauteed with fig and onion
Mousseline of fish with crayfish from the lake in a cream sauce
Saddle of veal with mushrooms, whipped potatoes and vegetables
Monkfish medallions with artichokes, tomatoes and a tomato confit
Cheese course – A selection of cheeses from the Savoie, chosen from the cheese trolley
Poached pear with chocolate cake and chocolate mousse, vanilla ice cream
Everything was beautifully presented, as expected. Portions were generous, particularly the foie gras, which was two massive pieces. The desserts were particularly beautiful to look at, but were not as intensely flavored as one would hope. We drank a bottle of Saint Joseph 2014, priced at 42 euros. With two aperitifs of kir a peche, the total came to 190. All in all, it was a pretty good value for a four-course meal of this quality.
We took a day trip to Grenoble, parked at the Grenoble Museum, and walked through town checking out restaurant possibilities for lunch.Grenoble is not an exciting city. There is some charm to the older part of town, but mostly Grenoble needs a fluff.
As it turned out, the first restaurant we looked at, Le Chasse-Spleen, right across from the museum, had the best looking lunch menu, and the most reasonable price, 18 euros for two courses. The decor is a bit strange, but don’t be put off by it. They also have outdoor seating but of course there were smokers there so we opted for inside.
We both had a game terrine with warm potato salad and greens. It was a huge portion and very good. Stanley had mussels stuffed with nuts in a saffron sauce with basmati rice and spinach. I had veal shank in an intense reduction, with miniature ravioli, also a very generous plate of food. With a very good bottle of a Cotes de Provence rose at 24 euros and 2 coffees (served with a chocolate candy) the total was 64.
After lunch, we crossed the street to the museum. The artworks on display range from the 13th to the 20th Century. It wasn’t bad, but was mostly second and third rate artists, with a few works by top artists, though not their best work. The contemporary art, however, really does have a very well balanced representation of the leading early 20th Century artists. The building itself is well-designed, with good lighting and plenty of space for viewing the art. There was a special exhibit of Henri Riviere, “Deux etes en Savoie” 1917 to 1918. It was one room with a dozen small paintings: think “how I spent my summer vacation”.
In summary, the high point of a visit to Grenoble could be lunch at Chasse-Spleen. The trip back to Annecy on local roads was a nice scenic drive, though. “Jean” was a stalwart presence.
For dinner, we decided to go back to Contresens, as we had enjoyed yesterday’s lunch so much, and the menu has so many choices. This time we had cold pea soup, mozzarella with red and green tomatoes, lamb chops, hanger steak, artichokes with fennel, fried polenta with a Parmesan crust. For dessert we had a “cafe gourmande”(an assortment of desserts normally served with a cup of coffee, but I left the coffee out so I would be able to sleep later) and “M & M’s reinvented”, a chocolate bombe topped with vanilla ice cream, surrounded by a sauce of chopped M & M’s and peanuts. With aperitifs of kir a peche and a bottle of Madiran, the bill came to 101 euros.
We’ve had a wonderful time in the Haute Savoie. Tomorrow morning we will drive to Lyon, drop off the rental car, and take the TGV back to Paris for the last four days of our vacation.