Back into France after a short visit to Switzerland and Italy and the 17th stage will stay in the Rhone-Alpes region all day. Leaving the same town the Tour finished in the day before, Bourg-Saint-Maurice in the Savoie department of the Rhone Alpes region. The Savoie is one of the two departments of the region of Savoy, annexed by France in March 1860 after the Treaty of Turin, the other being the Haute-Savoie which is where the Tour finishes in the town of La Grand-Bornand. The Savoie region is known for its mountains, cows and cheese. Beaufort, Savoie Gruyere, Reblochon, Tamie, Tome des Bauges and Tomme de Savoie are just some of the cheese from the region. The Vin-de-Savoie appellation AOC is region wide, and is mostly white wines and includes Jacquere, Roussette, Malvoisie and Mondeuse Blanche as well as Chardonnay and Aligote. Gamay, Mondeuse and Pinot Noir are the red and rosé wines. The Savoy has three other AOC’s as well; Roussette de Savoie, a separate appellation making entirely the white wine Roussette in one of the four villages, Frangy, Marestel, Monteminod or Monthoux. Crépy; is for the vineyards along the south shore of Lake Geneva in the Haute-Savoie, the grape is Chasselas, sometimes called Fendant in Switzerland’s Valais area. Seyssel; the region’s best known appellation, the village is located on the banks of the River Rhone, just north of Lac du Bourget, the largest lake in France. The Seyssel AOC wines are dry, light whites made mostly from Roussette and have a delicate, herbal and floral aroma. Seyssel also produces a sparkling wine under the name Seyssel Mousseux AOC.
The town of Beaufort overlooks the River Doron and the remains of the Chateau du Beaufort which was built on the remains of a Roman estate in the 10th century. Belonging to the Kings of France and later the House of Savoie until the 16th century. Purchased in 1837 by Reverend Antoine Martinet it has since changed hands many times but staying under religious organization ownership. Beaufort is also the name of the famous Savoie cheese, made in the valley of Beaufortain, Tarentaise, Maurienne and part of the valley of Arly. Beaufort got its AOC certification in 1968, the raw-cow’s milk cheese belongs in the Gruyere family, it is known as the “Prince of Gruyere cheeses”. It is a hard, pressed cheese with a natural rind that is brined for a day and aged for at least 4 months.
Les Saisies and the Saisies mountain pass have a historical past. In the Second World War it was a refuge for the Resistance. On August 1, 1944, 78 B-17’s (the flying fortress) dropped 899 containers of arms intended for the members of the Maquis of Savoie. The mountains were developed in the 1970’s and was the sight of the biathlon events during the Winter Olympics in 1992 at Albertville. The Espace Diamant ski area has 154km of downhill runs 85 ski lifts. The Col des Saisies has an altitude of 1634 meters and has been a part of the Tour de France nine times, the most recent in 2007.
The small village of the Haute-Savoie, Praz-sur-Arly lies just 30km from Chamonix and Mont Blanc. After the Espace Diamant opened in the Les Saisies area, the Praz-sur-Arly became a part of the Espace Val d’Arly in December 2007. It’s also the home of famous skiers Patricia & Claudine Emonet.
Megève is located in the district of Sallanches on a mountain pass that separates the Valleys of Arly and Arbon. The Rothschild family decided to make it a holiday destination in 1910 and to create a French resort to rival the Swiss resort of Saint Moritz. It was a popular destination immediately and is internationally recognized and one of the most beautiful resorts in the world. The ski area is known as the Domaine Evasion Montblanc and is made up of the Megeve, Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, Combloux, La Giettaz, Cordon and Saint-Nicolas-de-Veroce with 162km of ski runs and over 450km of ski runs. The greatest gift may be the view of Mont Blanc that it faces and can be seen from all over the area.
Sallanches is located at the foot of Mont Blanc, created in the 5th century as a Christian community and it remained a religious center until the 14th century. After the Revolution the ecclesiastical presence was reinforced by the Capucins in 1619 and the Ursulines in 1630. In 1840 the town was almost completely destroyed by a fire and its architectural history. King Charles-Albert of Savoie-Carignan devoted an immense amount of funds to the reconstruction. The new town was built around the two rivers and by 1844 the town was complete. In 1965 the completion of the nearby Mont Bland tunnel was opened, the town benefited from the increased traffic.
Beginning in the 18th century the town of Cluses made its name as a watch making center and crafting of metal components. In 1720 Claude-Joseph Balladoud introduced clock making to the Arve Valley and soon family workshops began developing and supplying the leading clock makers of Geneva. The town’s reputation grew and a school of watch making, the Ecole nationale d’horlogerie was founded in Cluses in 1848 and continued until 1989. In 1844 the town was completely destroyed by the same fire that destroyed Sallanches. It was recreated in the Turin-Piedmont style by the same architect that built Sallanches, Francois Justin. Cluses just happens to be the sister city of the town I live in. On a recent trip to the library I picked up some Pierre Herme French pastry books, inside it had a plaque that it was a gift from our sister city Cluses.
The Col de la Colombiere pass has an altitude of 1614meters and is one of the most visited mountain passes in the Tour de France and has been a part of the Tour 18 times since 1960. It connects Cluses in the Arve valley to Le Grand-Bornand in the Borne valley and from the top a view of the Faucigny, Les Dents Blanches and Les Avoudrues can be seen.
The finishing town of La Grand-Bornand is located on the western slope of the Aravis mountain range near Mont Blanc and le Lac d’Annecy. First developed around an old village it is now made up of three areas; the chinaillon valley, the Bouchet valley and the village of Le Grand-Bornand. The Church of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption was first mentioned in 1146, but in 1569 it was partially destroyed by a fire and in 1661 the bell-tower was rebuilt. In 1877 it was completely rebuilt. Le Grand-Bornand is the home of Reblochon cheese. First made in the 14th century for the farmers and their families, and later discovered in the 18th century by lords and clergyman. Reblochon gets its name from the word reblocher which literally means “to pinch a cow’s udder again” or “to milk again”. Reblochon is made with milk from Abondance, Montbeliard and Tarentaise cattle that graze on the slopes of the valley. The semisoft, pressed uncooked cheese is made into large flat wheels that rind is thin and beige to reddish orange and the interior is ivory and soft with a rich and savory flavor of sweet and nutty flavors. Reblochon de Savoie AOC was awarded in 1958. Reblochon is made with unpasteurized milk and aged for up to 7 or 8 weeks so it cannot be imported into the US at this time.
Since we are still in the Haute-Savoie and the French Alpes, it is more potatoes and more cheese. The classic recipe Tartiflette is meant to be made with Reblochon cheese, but since the US FDA has some stupid rules, we need to substitute it. I used Gruyere instead…
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon water
2 cups cream
1 teaspoon thyme
½ cup white wine
16 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
In a large saucepan add the sliced potatoes and cover with cream. If it doesn’t cover it completely, don’t worry. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes; watch carefully, the cream likes to bubble over.
In a separate sauté pan melt butter and add chopped onions and cook over medium low heat for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly caramelized. Add bacon and continue to cook until bacon is lightly browned. Add thyme and continue to cook for one minute.
In a baking dish, add half of the potatoes, layer with half of bacon and onions and repeat two more times. Top with grated Gruyere or Reblochon if you are lucky enough to find it and top with cream and wine.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.