Sunday, March 13, 2016

let them eat cake

and tarts and all manner of other delicious desserts that we provide here at the refuge.

It’s often the evening shift that prepares the desserts, the pastry bases having been cooked off in the hot oven after lunchtime service.  It’s often a quieter and calmer time of day to be doing such baking and usefully fills the time whilst evening guests are dining.

Dinner is served at seven thirty, soup usually, served in large tureens placed directly on the table for guests to help them selves, followed by a main meal, again served in its entirety on a large serving platter and left for guests to help themselves.  It is a mountain refuge (of sorts) rather than a hotel, so participation is the name of the game.  Desserts are often individual, sometimes specifically produced for the evening clientelle, though often the same as we prepare for lunchtime.

Chocolate tartlets are filled with home made chocolate filling, as are the lemon ones.  Blueberry pies are lined with confectioners custard and topped with tinned blueberries.  Apple tarts are baked on site as are most of the other creations, though the pastry and pastry cases arrive frozen and many of the other ingredients ready prepared. Fruit salad arrives fresh in large tubs ready to be improved with other fruits and a good slosh of rum, before being portioned out.  Rice pudding is made in bulk and stored in vacuum bags in the cold room until needed.  Other desserts, the more fragile ones tend to be made on the day.

During dinner, we set to and get as much preparation for the following day out of the way, so that the following morning can be slightly more leisurely.  That said, after a lunchtime service of two hundred or so, leisurely isn’t often an appropriate word to use.  It’s full on right the way through.  Individual plates of local cheeses, local ham and charcuterie are set out and cling filmed to help keep them fresh, stored in refrigerators before going on sale the following day.  Unused items are ‘refreshed’ as necessary and presented for the allowed number of days before (rarely, if we get it right) being discarded - to the local fox.

Friday, March 04, 2016

going to work

The weather is frequently interesting on the way to work, at least it wasn't too windy today.....

Tuesday, March 01, 2016


Unlike the previous years that I have spent here, snow has been exceptionally sparse this winter.  

Through to the end of December only twenty percent or so of the resort was open.  I didn’t ski at all until the second week or January, having waited patiently for a decent fall of snow.  It wasn’t really that much, but enough to properly cover the ground surrounding the ski runs, making the place much more beautiful and white.

proper snow
Since then, the whole resort has been poised, skis and boards at the ready for a really decent quantity of snow to fall.  To date, we’re still poised and waiting.  It’s just going to be a low snow year. (since writing there has been a couple of decent snow falls and everyone is much happier)

That said, I’ve had the good chance to have a couple of the best weather days off of the season so far.  Twice, immediately after a couple of days of grey, precipitous days when a fair quantity of snow has fallen, beautiful blue skied sunny days with not too many people on the slopes.  Each time I’ve been out with my ski buddy Pierre and we’ve said, ‘just the morning, till eleven or so, we’ll leave before the crowds arrive and it gets too busy’.  Each time we get to eleven and it’s still great, the crowds start to fill the slopes, we persevere for a bit and then stop and have a drink for half an hour or so.  By which time it’s midday and the whole population of France are thinking about food, the temptation is overwhelming, almost without exception everyone has to stop and eat, and by twelve thirty the mountains are almost devoid of people.  It happens everywhere, but is most noticeable in a ski resort when everyone disappears for a good hour and a half for a sit down meal.  

Pierre with his snowboard
It changes our minds every time and we carry on skiing, making the most of the clockwork eating habits of the nation, only deciding to call it a day when they finally start to reemerge after a thoroughly decent meal.  I used to tell guests that lunch time was the best time to ski, but none of them ever managed to go without, or eat on the lifts and take advantage, or the empty slopes, it’s just not in a Frenchmans’ psyche to miss a meal.  This phenomenon allows us extra time on the snow without the inconvenience of queueing for lifts or crowded pistes and we make the most of it every time.