I tried, I really tried, but I just couldn’t do it. I wanted to take for you one all encompassing postcard photo that showed the charms of Annecy, that bijou of a town at the foot of the French alps. But there is the big blue lake, the backdrop of snow-covered mountain peaks, the picturesque town that is Venice-esque with its canals and flowery bridges. One photo just can’t tell the tale.
We bring our US visitors to Annecy when we want to wow them with French charm (it’s just over two hours from us). The restaurants along the cute quais, however, tend to serve up the hearty, traditional regional fare (tartiflette and fondue), and we were in a mood to experiment. And so we landed at trendy chef Laurent Petit’s ContreSens (in French that means nonsense, mistranslation, wrong direction). We were greeted with a floor that was faux-painted in marble squares--no wait, that was actually the ceiling, and there was a chair hanging from it right over the hostess station. Chandeliers were in the form of rows of traditional lamps with shades, hanging at crazy angles from the marbled ceiling. We knew we were in for a good time.
The surprises continued with the food, which included everything from frites made from polenta to a deconstructed candy bar to a cheesecake served in a dome shape and coated with pistachio-hued white chocolate.
The most delicious and unusual dish, however, was a side dish of potatoes. When it arrived, we said, “who ordered the filet mignon?”, because a traditional American bacon-wrapped beef filet was exactly what it resembled (fausse ami alert: filet mignon in French refers to a pork tenderloin). But it was no filet, it was this: an oval shaped serving of pommes dauphinoise, the sides wrapped in a slice of bacon, then browned up in butter. It was beyond delicious. “I could eat a whole plate of these for dinner,” Ron said.
So of course I experimented and got pretty close. Do try this at home!
Photo, right: A chair on the ceiling at ContreSens.
RECIPE: Faux “Filets” Pomme de Terre à la ContreSens
Both times we had these we got excited and ate them before we took a photo. So you will have to imagine it. First, make a dish of potatoes dauphinoise, you can use my recipe if you like. Cook them, cool then, and chill them well. When cold take a large round cookie cutter and cut them into rounds. Wrap a slice of bacon around each, secure with a toothpick. Brown them in butter until golden, on sides and edges.
If you go to Annecy: The Hôtel Palais de l'Isle is moderately priced (though rooms are tiny and there’s no lobby to speak of). It's In an old building, done up in minimalist chic, and it's absolutely in the middle of the action.
For lunch we liked Le Petit Zinc, for good old-fashioned bistro food served in a nice, traditional atmosphere with excellent service.
Favorite Reads: Our loyal reader Sue Wallace recommends a great new book about Burgundy. Her review makes it sound irresistible: "Just read this. Excellent! All about Burgundy (the area and the wine). Loved the neighborly people, Ray's smarts and courage, and the happy ending. Tolerated the 20 pages or so that were kind of technical RE wine making, but certainly learned a lot about wine. Made me thirsty." Thanks Sue, it goes on my Christmas gift list: The Road to Burgundy: The Unlikely Story of an American Making Wine and a New Life in France.
A very Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!
For the winter, Southern Fried French will come out every other week instead of weekly. Thanks for joining us!