“I use three cheeses – Beaufort, Comté and Cru des Alpes.” Thierry Guinot is leaning over the stove, stirring fondue. The scent of melting cheese mixes in the air with smoke from the wood fire, creating the perfect cosy ambience for a long Saturday lunch as thick snowflakes fall fast outside.
I’m in the Alpine town of Megève, one of the first visitors to La Ferme de Bacré, a chic wooden farmhouse of a restaurant set high in the mountains on the Planay plateau, offering views of the Aiguille Croche peak. It’s an offshoot of hotel Les Fermes de Marie – which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. La Ferme is initially open exclusively to hotel guests and located an hour’s walk on snowshoes, through pine trees and past a mountain stream.
Our arrival was met by a cacophony of cowbells, rung out into the crisp air by the enthusiastic staff. They offer us a vin aux framboises aperitif and a selection of saucisson – pepper-coated or with fine herbs – served outside around the open fire pit. Inside, we find cowhide chairs, wooden floorboards and high wooden beams illuminated by lamps fashioned from antlers. For starters comes soupe au caillou, or stone soup, a peasant dish that is cooked with a stone in the pot. Warming and lean, it was an ideal precursor to the rich fondue.
Guinot, I was told, deservedly won a prize last year for making the best cheese fondue in Megève. Diners can also choose classics such as potato fritters with white Tomme cheese or plates of local cured meat – but it’s the fondue I’m still dreaming about.