Last night I was invited to indulge in an unforgettable experience created for 36 lucky people, and I was fortunate enough to be allowed to gatecrash their winning night so I could have a glimpse at what a slice of heaven looks like...
The night started with a car picking me up promptly at 6, where I got to share the journey over to Peisey with a happy couple who’d won their places through the Paradiski competition. We arrived at the bottom of the Vanoise cable car and we were escorted up to the cabins. We were received onto the deck that was filled with cheerful if a little apprehensive competition winners. The apprehension was an undertone that marinated the beginning of the evening. The idea of setting off for dinner in one of the highest cable cars in the world that would then crawl slowly across the abyss was daunting and exciting at the same time. Luckily there were cocktails for the people that needed a little dutch courage. And the cocktails were goooooood. Mango, pineapple, banana, passion fruit and limoncello smoothie, boom. There was also an amazing selection of appetizers: foie gras flan, chestnut velouté, foie gras toasts and a fresh pasta amuse-bouche, so food-wise, things were looking promising.
At 7:45pm we were ushered downstairs to the lower deck of the newly decorated cabins and I was shocked. The normally utilitarian cabins had been glammed up beyond recognition. The formally drab interiors had been transformed into an enchanting winter wonderland with a partition to hide the hard working chefs who were there to transport us into Stéphane Froidevaux’s tastetastic gourmet world.
We were all assigned to one of two cabins and we had all been given our seats. Our places were designated by a little stone with our names inscribed on them in looping gold. When we were all seated our journey could begin. The doors closed and we were wished a bon voyage. The mise en scene was complimented perfectly by the menu, which, it was explained, was inspired by the nature that is so abundant in the Alps.
Our first course was presented to us in a wooden frame with all natural cutlery, pine cones and pine needles. There were three little verrines that were filled with delights! A tender piece of salmon that had been smoked in pine with an exotic vinaigrette, creamed cauliflower and a quinoa salad. The second course (and also my favourite) was a mushroom and truffle soup encased in a huge snowball with a wooden straw leading down to a hot, light and yet creamy soup that slowly transformed to cold. There was a small slice of toast with a truffle infused potato purée topped with caramalised peanuts. It was supposed to incite all of the emotions and scents that you can smell when you’re in a wood and it did exactly what it said on the tin. The third course was a foie gras terrine accompanied by a baba à rum perfumed with orange and cardamom. This partnership worked exceedingly well. The foie gras was followed by revisited potée, which is essentially a stew cooked in an earthenware pot using meat, charcuterie, potatoes and vegetables. The potée was delicious and the bouillon that the main ingredients were cooked in was cream infused with oranges, a delicate flavour that let the other ingredients’ speak for themselves. The final course, the dessert, a show stopping denouement to the evening’s proceedings, was a “Systéme solaire et ses planets aux trois chocolats”, Solar system and its planets of three chocolates. It was beautifully presented and even more delightful to eat.
The evening was truly exceptional and so was the wine that partnered our exquisite meal. There was 2012 Pouilly Fuissé followed by a 2007 Monthélie 1er Cru. Our superbly attentive wait staff apologised for the poor quality of the wine after the journey from the cellar to the Vanoise cable car and I have to say, if that was poor quality I need to get myself to Le Fantin Latour in Grenoble to experience what it’s supposed to taste like!
My fellow cabin members were indeed having a jolly old time and we were of the opinion that our cabin was definitely the more fun out of the two. With two TV crews and various photographers the night was punctuated with interviews and every competition winner that was spoken to, gushed their praises and could not have been happier with the night’s frivolities. The lady that I was sitting next to, Isabelle, was at first ever so slightly perturbed by the fact that we were swinging over a valley more than 350m below us, but after the first course she very quickly changed her opinion to that of pure elation!
When we arrived back at our starting point, we were given our snugly rugs and menus as a souvenir of our incomparable journey and handed a delightful cup or herbal tea, which had been concocted from flowers and plants that chef Froidevaux himself had picked. Everybody was starry-eyed and euphoric after their travels through the night and I myself found it hard to come back down to Earth after such a heavenly journey through the skies.
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