Between mouthfuls of our mingardises (petit fours), we agreed that our hosts’ last name should be Le Meilleur (best) not simply Meilleur (better), because this dinner just couldn’t be more fabulous.
Eaters from far and wide travel via every mode of transportation to dine chez Rene & Maxime. Before lunch & dinner, a line of helicopters waits to land at the nearby helipad all coming to one place, La Bouitte, the 3 Michelin star restaurant that tops them all.
That’s not just my opinion. In 2015, 6,000 chefs across France voted for the restaurant that best represents French gastronomy – La Bouitte was the winner and Rene and Maxime Meilleur were named 2015 Chefs of the Year.
Staying at La Bouitte is just as glorious as dining there. If you look up “perfect alpine lodge” in the OED, I truly believe the definition is two words: La Bouitte. Every detail has been thoroughly thought out and lovingly crafted by its dedicated owners.
You feel immediately at home – in a good way – if your home has a spa and Michelin star restaurant attached. With only ten rooms & suites, La Bouitte has been able to perfect their signature look, that is the ultimate in alpine chic – all woodsy, cashmere, down, fireplaces lit, and sofas piled high with pillows. The bathrooms are spacious, with both a shower and Jacuzzi bath overlooking the snowy mountains of the Les Trois Vallées ski region. Huge towels, bathrobes, furry slippers to change into, and, oh, did I mention the food.
After taking one sip of your welcome drink, you know you’re somewhere special. No mixed fruit drink or hot chocolate here, smoked Iced Tea* greets you upon arrival. Accompanied by petit beignets with blueberry jam Maman made that morning…not just any Maman but a Meilleur one.
Our flight had been delayed four hours from Gatwick, so dinnertime was fast approaching, but we still had time to indulge in a spa treatment.
A tiny set of rooms adjacent to the main house, the spa and its staff were already busy preparing Marie’s bath: Mountain milk and honey bath. Unfortunately, the Cypriot was chained to his desk and unable to make it, but a very lucky foodie friend I had known for 25 years had willingly stepped up to take his place.
Knowing each other for over 25 years, we were fine to disrobe together and jumped into a frothy milkshake bath! It was a laugh as we were almost jettisoned by milk bubbles rising up around us. Emerging soft and clean, we threw on our downy bathrobes and headed up to our room for the main event.
Pictures are really the only way to do this meal justice.
A selection of the dishes: (if I told you everything, you wouldn’t be surprised when you were a guest!)
- Air Raclette – a bowl of the most sensational cheese concoction…light as a feather
- Vegetables – cooked in their own juice, double cream & caviar
- Saddle of Lamb – perfectly medium rare with a pea tart
- Milk – in all its forms: meringue, jam, sorbet, & cookie
- Roussette de Savoie, 2014 JN Blard
- Montlouis sur Loire “Clos Michet” 2013
- Domaine La Taille aux Loups, Loire.
Especially adored the pre-dessert Pear Beer & Fruit Roll-Up – Michelin style!
How do you follow a meal like that? Freshly baked baguettes, homemade jam & honey, smoked ham & fish and local cheeses – that’s how! Enough sustenance was provided to ready us for our snowshoeing adventure.
Michel, our guide, bounded up and down the mountain, stopping, only to see us, more elephantine than gazelle-like, trudging after him. During a break, he pulled out a flask and three cups, giving us a slug of homemade Genepi, the local spirit made from a blend of Savoyard herbs. This definitely put a spring back in our step and we made it down in one piece.
Dropping us at the entrance to the Les Menuires gondola, we headed up to another adventure at the invitation of another Meilleur – this time, culinary.
LE BOUCHE À OREILLE
Heading straight up the summit, we grabbed that gondola, trekked through some snow to another chairlift onto Le Bouche à Oreille. This mountain top lunch place is helmed by anther Meilleur – Maxim’s sister.
Saving ourselves for the second of our two Bouitte suppers later that evening, we ordered light – just a soup and salad. As the most sumptuous soupe à l’oignon found its way to my table, I should have known “light” was not to be in my vocabulary while here. Thus, I ordered a chaser of Risotto alla Tome (local cheese).
A quick afternoon jaunt into the closest village, St. Martin de Belleville is a must. Charming, with a sweet museum of the history of the area, with much space given to the emergence of the area as a ski resort. There was also a section dedicated to food, which brings us back to La Bouitte.
Our second dinner was just as fabulous as our first. This time we sampled the cheese course, more than 20 different Savoyard local cheeses, not complete without a potato – a local custom. Quince Beer heralded in our dessert – the bombastic chocolate bomb! A dramatic finale to a fantastic meal.
A selection of the dishes:
- Pigeon – roasted, soft potatoes, mushroom stew on toasts, Chénopode Bon-Henri spinach
- Chariot de fromage – cow, sheep & goat, served with
- Chocolat Noir Macaé (62%, Brazilian) – in the shape of a thistle, cream ice cream, & a small touch of Chartreuse
- AOC Chignin Bergeron « Rai pou-pou »2014 Domaine Adrien Berlioz
- AOC Joseph « Belive » 2013 Domaine Boissonet
The next morning, upon departure, we left taking a bit of La Bouitte with us – a few pots of their homemade preserves – and knew how very lucky we were to be guests of the Meilleur family and indulge in the best cuisine in France.
RECIPE FOR SMOKED TEA
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Best Bits: Travel Cheat Sheet
- La Bouitte, Saint Marcel, 73440 Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, France