Savoyard food is justifiably famous. Like all regional French cuisines, it's a product of the terroir and all that grows within it. This means plenty of dairy, cured meats, potatoes and pasta such as square-shaped crozets and ravioles.
Chamonix, Annecy and Val d’Isère are the region's gourmet centres, with breathtaking international and haute cuisine. Elsewhere Savoyard restaurants, often with rustic decor and short menus, are the norm.
Practically every restaurant in the Alps with a Savoyard menu offers raclette, tartiflette or fondue, but you can opt for DIY: many fruitières (cheesemongers) will lend you the required apparatus, provided you buy their ingredients.
Best made with three types of cheeses in equal proportions (emmental, Beaufort and Comté) and either dry white wine or a slosh of kirsch. After rubbing the inside of a cast-iron dish with a garlic clove, melt the mix on a hob, then keep it warm over a small burner on the dining table. Spike chunks of day-old bread with a skewer and dip them into the stringy cheese mix.
Our tip: pepper, nutmeg, egg yolk or more garlic are all acceptable additions to your fondue.
Using either a half-moon-shaped standing grill or an oval hotplate with miniature pans, raclette – from racler, to scrape – involves gradually melting cheese over boiled potatoes. A side-serving of charcuterie, and some tangy pickled gherkins and onions, cut through the fatty flavours of raclette cheese. Home raclette kits are usually squat hotplates; each diner uses their own pan to melt slices of cheese.
Our tip: avoid a sticky mess by greasing and preheating your grill, and go easy on the ingredients (less is more).
Slice a whole Reblochon cheese lengthwise. Fry onions and lardons (diced bacon) in oil and then tip them into an ovenproof dish, adding slices of parboiled potatoes, crème fraîche and a slosh of dry white wine. Whack slices of cheese on top, bake for about 40 minutes at 180°C, and ta-da!
Our tip: more crème fraîche and more lardons (a sprinkle of white pepper and nutmeg is also good).
Know Your Savoyard Speciality
Fondue This convivial feast of melted cheese is best made with emmental, Beaufort and Comté (plus a slosh of dry white wine). A pan of cheese is kept warm and melty over a small burner on the table. Diners use skewers to dip small chunks of bread and retrieve them covered in stringy cheese (or lose them in the goo).
Raclette From the word racler, to scrape, this dish involves melting unholy amounts of cheese over boiled potatoes, occasionally refreshing your palate with a side-dish of charcuterie and pickles. Restaurants commonly use impressive-looking standing grills (and sometimes hulking half-cheeses), but there's a range of different apparatus.
Tartiflette A classic post-hike or after-ski filler, tartiflette is a baked dish of potatoes, lardons (diced bacon), onions and crème fraîche, topped with a bubbling crust of melted Reblochon cheese. It's usually served with a side-salad laced with vinaigrette.