Is there anything better than lunch on the mountains after a morning of skiing?
Truly, I’m yet to think of something so consistently satisfying. The only problem being the intense gluttony that occurs on such holidays, but that can be forgiven after your fourth lamb chop has been savoured and another glass of red has disappeared. Courmayeur is the ultimate foodie destination when it comes to skiing. Italian, stuffed with fabulous restaurants and with some super interesting local wines to boot, there’s a reason I have this holiday on annual repeat with no plans of stopping.
These steaks are good. Really good. Completely delicious actually and the chic elegance of the Le Massif hotel only adds to the pleasure. The service is quick and unobtrusive, the largely Italian wine list is pricey but comprehensive. I plumped for Tommasi’s Valpolicella Ripasso to accompany our fillets, which had just the right amount of depth, ripeness and body to retain a light-touch (it was only the first night after all, a full blown Amarone would’ve somewhat dampened the following day’s activities.)
Aside from the steak, setting and wine, a highlight had to be our flambéed entrées. Frankly, I couldn’t tell you what they were, having been brought to us swiftly and described in Italian, but the theatre was fun and the little meaty mouthful, sensational.
For a semi-relaxed and tasteful meal, Pierre Alexis is your place. With guarantees of well-cooked, prettily served local dishes and a cosy yet refined atmosphere, it’s a good one to keep in your little black book. They are well-known for their 36-egg pasta and it is undoubtedly moreish, especially when served as it is this month with crab, cream and oyster leaf. The local wines of Valle D’Aosta can vary in quality, but the buttery, oaky Chardonnay Cuvée Bois by Les Cretes was a treat.
As Courmayeur’s only Michelin-starred establishment, expectations are raised. For some, interpretive tasting menus and minimalist room (enhanced with local nods such as small alpine-esque table centrepieces) are perhaps not what they fancy on a ski trip. But while certain elements of the theatrics perhaps bordered on overkill – I won’t go into too much detail on the tale of the pigeon course, but there was a Bunsen burner type contraption, talk of a multi-lingual bird and a piece of paper set on fire which swiftly scorched the tablecloth – it really was exceptional cookery.
My best course was probably the stunning burnt leek and venison dish, but the white truffle served in a cognac glass with a mushroom broth was pretty stand-out in aroma and taste. And to wash it all down, I chose a wine from a favourite Italian producer of mine, Alois Lageder, who’s biodynamic and organic Riesling is a versatile and delicious thing and worked well with most of the courses. Then to finish there was the cheese. One was particularly memorable, a local cheese made from both cow and goat milk, and so interestingly aged that its texture was almost honeycomb-like. This required vinous powerhouse Antinori’s Muffato dessert wine as a last pairing.
This is the staple. The real reason I reminisce of snowy slopes in June. Maison Vielle is nothing like my previous suggestions, it’s a sort of wild thing. But one mention of lamb at the top of this piece had me dreaming instantly of their lamb racks, perfectly salted, with crisp roasted potatoes and blanched green beans and carrots. It’s the only dish my dad and I order (this holiday is our tradition after all), every time.
The honest simplicity I think makes it all the more special. Each year we place our routine requests with the same lady and Maison Vielle’s eclectic décor fills with further clutter (said lovingly). I don’t even ask for the wine list, a freak occurrence. It’s the quickest order I place in my life, whereby I trust whatever is brought to be just what I need and it always is. If you asked where might my final meal be, this might just be it.