Tag Archives: Valle d’Aosta

Table d’hôte à Le Moulin

Table for 2 at Le Moulin
Table for 2 at Le Moulin des Aravis – view large

If you’ve been reading the previous entries with a keen eye, you’ll have noticed a few french expressions peppered throughout my posts. Bordered by France to the west, Switzerland to the north, signs in two languages and the occasional glimpse of lavender fields, Valle d’Aosta can feel like you’re anywhere but Italy. Naturally, ça va sans dire that if your neighbors speak french then so do you, and the valdostani either have a good handle on the language or they speak it fluently. It made me think of our trip to Provence earlier this month, especially when we arrived at an agriturismo restaurant in Valle di Champorcher and the sign says Ouvert.

Le Moulin des Aravis
Agriturismo Le Moulin des Aravis in Valle di Champorcher

Situated along the Ayasse river and surrounded by lush forest, the agriturismo, at one time, was both watermill and sawmill. The owners did an impressive job of restoring the building into a place to relax and get in touch with nature, but since we were there only for Sunday lunch, be forewarned that this is going to be a food-laden, photo-heavy, and detailed post.

Tris di affettati Beets and croutons
Lardo d’Arnad, mocetta, pancetta (or coppa?) and a composition of cubed beets and croutons

We made reservations not knowing that it was table d’hôte (aka menu fisso in Italy). The set menu was literally just that, as some of the antipasti were already in place when we arrived. Btw, lunch commenced at 1pm for all guests, which makes a lot of sense if serving the same thing to the whole room. Start counting.

Salignoùn
Salignoùn or Salignon – of walser origin. It is a mixture of fresh ricotta, herbs and spices to be spread on bread or crackers.

Chestnuts and butter
Cooked chestnuts and butter – the simplicity was too delicious to believe.

Borage flan with a sauce of Bleu d'Aoste cheese
Borage flan with a sauce of Bleu d’Aoste cheese – this was actually called sformatino which is a souffle-like dish but less airy. Bleu d’Aoste is not as piquant as roquefort, but possesses a pronounced flavor that added oomph to the borage flan.

Saffron risotto with silene Beef braised in red wine with polenta taragna
A primo of saffron risotto with silene and a secondo of brasato di manzo (wine-braised beef) with polenta taragna. In between this was another primo – cream of nettle soup – that didn’t make it in front of the lens because I just wanted to dig in. Are you keeping count? That makes 8 dishes up to this point, and to think that we were offered second helpings of both!

La brossa with polenta taragna
La Brossa – produced from the residual liquid after making butter or cheese, it’s like a thin buttermilk. It’s also a traditional breakfast food served with polenta, but we were given some as a tasting. I love that they did this, introducing a typical local dish as a way of sharing part of their culture.

Blueberry cake Lemon balm bavarese
And to end the meal – blueberry cake and lemon balm bavarese with strawberries. I was so glad that these were in discreet portions because we were absolutely stuffed. And guess how much? Along with water, 1/2 carafe house red and coffee – 61€. If I were to make one small negative comment, it would be the coffee which was quite bitter (or otherwise burned). Other than that, this is one place worth a repeat visit for a big Sunday lunch.

One last thing…

Before lunch we made a stop in Torgnon (Valtournenche) to check out a Vespa and Topolino gathering. What a cute, cute automobile. The Topolino stole the show as all cameras focused on “the Mickey Mouse car”. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Topolino

Planaval, Valgrisenche and 11 years

Celebrating 11 years...
The ceremonial slice of crostata

This year’s summer solstice also happened to coincide with our anniversary date, so what better way to celebrate than to return to the region where the adventure began? To some it might come across as funny that we basically left one mountain village to visit another, but it says so much about how we like to travel – simply and with a preference for serenity. There’s an italian expression – staccare la spina – which means to take a break, to relax and unwind (even if translated word-for-word, it sounds macabre to pull the plug).

Planaval (Planum Vallis - flat valley)

Planaval (from Planum Vallis meaning flat valley) is even smaller than our village, but it has a modest hotel-inn that appears to be a popular stop-off for winter sports enthusiasts. The owner’s inquisitive dog – Kimbo – insisted on entering our room (he would just nose the door open if it wasn’t shut tight) until the Mister took one bite out of his tail. Our dachshund is a psychopath. Fortunately, the tail-biting incident didn’t deter Kimbo from joining us on our walks. I bet he doesn’t get a whole lot of doggie visitors.

Planaval (commune d'Arvier)
Welcome to Planaval!

Tombstone in Valgrisenche cemeteryWith a couple of hours to spare before dinner, we drove to neighboring Valgrisenche (of the like-named valley) to pay our respects…at the cemetery. Well this was a first, and the idea of gingerly stepping around a tiny graveyard wouldn’t have crossed my mind had it not been for the tourism website. It mentions the special “epitaphs” on the tombstones, but unless you can read and understand french, it won’t make a whole lot of sense.

Back at the hotel and famished, we went with the menu du jour: a mixed plate of cheese and meats, bowls of steaming hot minestrone, berry crostata and a bottle of local red. Simple. Comforting. Unpretentious. Perfect. Bon appétit!

Mixed plate of cured meats and cheese MInestrone yum yum!

La joie de vivre in Valle d’Aosta

Lavender field in Valle d'Aosta
View large

Crisp alpine air, crystal blue streams, steep valley views and traditional valdostana cuisine. These are just some of the elements that put the joy of living in a weekend visit to the northwestern region of Valle d’Aosta. I had absolutely no idea that lavender is cultivated in this area, but driving south towards Fort Bard (SS26), we were taken by complete surprise when our eyes glimpsed this field in bloom. It led me to discover a stunningly beautiful photo on Flickr, the likes of which I thought existed only in Provence, France. Trust me and have a look at Forte di Bard; I promise you’ll see the imposing fortress in a different light.

Fort Bard
Fort di Bard