At first, the idea of driving around narrow, twisty Alpine roads terrified me — especially in a Smart car (slave that I am to automatic vehicles) — but once I got there I found the highway surprisingly manageable — and the scenery utterly breathtaking. Out of all the places I visited in France, none was more stunning than the Savoie and the Haute-Savoie.
Even in the height of summer, the atmosphere feels slightly wintry here, with cooler temperatures, flash storms, and ski lifts rising above grass-covered slopes. In the warmer months, herds of wandering cows graze in these high pastures, climbing higher and higher to cheese-making chalets. Their attendant alpagistes produce giant wheels of Beaufort cheese from their herb-sweetened milk — the principal ingredient in fondue Savoyarde.
Fondue is considered a plat du pauvre, a way of using up bits of hard, cracked, or unattractive cheese. In fact, most of the region’s dishes involve some form of melted cheese, whether it’s tartiflette (sliced boiled potatoes layered with cream, bacon and Reblochon), or raclette (grilled cheese on sliced boiled potatoes). Are you sensing a trend here?
Where to eat fondue in the Savoie and Haute-Savoie?
Though I drove all around the region, I used the gorgeous town of Annecy as my base.
Le Freti (12 rue Sainte-Claire, Annecy, tel: 04 50 51 29 52) is a restaurant specializing in cheese, especially fondue. In the summer (which is when I visited), they move the tables outside to a charming village square, bringing out extension cords for raclette and sterno burners for fondue. The fondue, by the way, is delicious (even in a heat wave), creamy and rich with a boozy winey finish.
Fromagerie Pierre Gay (47 rue Carnot, Annecy, tel: 04 50 45 07 29) is a beautiful cheese shop run by a Meilleur Ouvrier de France where you can buy all the ingredients for your own fondue. As the owner, Pierre Gay, says: “People ask me where to eat the best fondue. I always tell them it’s at home. Chez vous.” He also carries a small selection of local Apremont wine.
Le Bistro du Praz (Le Praz, Courchevel, tel: 04 79 08 41 33) has a pretty wooden terrasse covered in flowers where I enjoyed a diet Coke and a very correct tartiflette. A nice to place to take a break.
Where to sleep near Annecy?
Le Clos du Lac (50 route de la Corniche, Veyrier du Lac, tel: 06 20 60 04 58) is a lovely, modern bed and breakfast located in the small suburb of Veyrier du Lac, about 15 minutes by car or boat (!) from Annecy. The spotlessly clean rooms, which are in an annex off the main house, feature stunning views of Lac d’Annecy and — surprisingly — air conditioning. I loved this place.
Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Dorie Greenspan, author of Around My French Table, calls “a delicious adventure.”
And more from the series, Where to Eat in France.