Friday, March 02, 2007

Après-Ski: Italy, Valle d'Aosta, Breuil-Cervinia

I survived my first ever skiing holiday. When K. told me in December that we'll be skiing in Breuil-Cervinia in the Italian Alps in February, my heart sank. Me? Downhill? I know how to ski, obviously, as Nordic/cross-country skiing is a beloved Estonian winter sport and part of the schools' PE curriculum here. But downhill skiing is a different story altogether. It's fast and dangerous and difficult and one could break all four limbs and it's cold 'up there' etc. I was terrified, to put it mildly, and took comfort in choosing a new skiing outfit (well, I didn't really need one in Edinburgh, and the one my mum sewed me some 20 years ago didn't fit any more). I also did research on what to eat and drink while in Valle d'Aosta, in case I did break my bones on the first day and needed to spend the rest of the week in the comfort of my hotel or a nearby cafe..

Well, eventually I enjoyed the holiday a lot. I am still surprised how much I enjoyed it:) We were a group of 10 Estonians, 4 Latvians and 4 Lithuanians, and most of the people were experienced skiiers. Luckily, there was two other persons who had hit the slopes for the first time, so we hired a teacher for two hours on the first morning. I'll save you the embarrassing details about me falling flat on my back on the 'Nuovo Baby Cretaz' carpet lift (khm) on Day 1, and my mis-adventures with proper ski lifts on the second day. It suffices to say that I stayed on the slopes for six days, almost didn't fall on some days, and advanced to the easier red slopes by the end of the trip. Most importantly, I was having a good time, and if invited, I'll happily go again next year.

The food? We stayed in one of the 'sport hotels' in town, and although the menu sounded good, the food was nothing to write home about. To be honest, the food was down-right dissapointing, truly badly executed, including the pompuous Mardi Gras feast on February 20th. If our group only hadn't booked the half-board packet (i.e. breakfast and dinner included), we would have probably never stayed for dinner at the hotel. And unless you enjoy driving up and down narrow and zig-zag mountain roads, you're stuck at the skiing resort without too many restaurant options apart from pizzerias..

We did make an effort to sample as many local salumi and cheeses as possible. Here's a plate of local cheese and ham we enjoyed on the first day of skiing:

Sliced toma cheese, and a white round of tomini; (from left to right) some mocetta ham (made from the mountain goat, I believe), deliciously soft lardo di Arnad (DOP); another local ham (Jambon de Bosses?); with a couple of candied chestnuts in the middle.

And here's a plate of grilled tomini cheese with bacon, enjoyed on the sixth day on one of the slopes, and accompanied by a mug of hot chocolate with rum:

We brought back some local cheese (incl. toma della valle, toma al peperoncino and robiola rustica) and ham which I may mention later on the blog.

We did leave the hotel for a more local foodie experience, to the great bafflement of the hotel receptionist (we still had to pay for our dinner for 20 in absentia, of course). We went to a ristorante tipico, La "Maison de Saussure", where we enjoyed a fabulous spread of antipasti of ham, cheese, roasted vegetables and chestnuts - already a meal in itself! We then familiarised ourselves with some local curiosities like zuppa valpellinentze consisting of cabbage, melted fontina cheese and rye bread in broth. This rustic dish was not everybody's cup of tea, whereas the grand finale, grolla dell'amicizia - the cup of friendship - was enjoyed by all (I'll write about that fortified coffee drink soon) .

There was one really lovely cafe called Bar Le Samovar that I frequented a lot, just in the beginning of the main street. Great music, lovely vibrant atmosphere, an impressive choice of teas and pastries and a good selection of alcohol. I became a 'regular' there, where the waitress didn't even ask for my choice of coffee on the last few days:) Here are a few pictures of various offerings:

A profitrole filled with very citrussy lemon cream; a small scallop-shaped puff pastry with rum cream; a banana-cola tartlet; a chocolate tartlet with a fancy chocolate topping; a small eclaire.

Two Chantilli cakes resembling mini versions of our lenten buns (and indeed, we ordered 40 of these for our group on Shrove Tuesday:); a pear and chocolate tartlet; a small tartlet with chocolate cream and truffle on top.

Lemon profiterole (again:); two ricotta-filled puff pastries; a crispy almon tartlet, among others.

Bar Le Samovar
3, Via Carrel
Breuil Cervinia (Ao)


Grigori Fursin said...

Hei Pille,
Glad to hear about your trip and the food looks great!
Grigori (from cold Moscow)

K & S said...

Wow, that first shot is so beautiful! And it sounds like you had such a nice time.

maarja said...

tore, et oled käe suusamäele andnud. kui sa enne reisi rääkisid suusatamaminekust, siis ma arvasin, et sa vana käbi mäest alla vuhisemisel:)

bea at la tartine gourmande said...

ah you make me want to put skis on and go!!!

joey said...

Sounds like fun! Although it would be daunting for me because I have never skied at all ever in my life!

Those cheese plates look good...will check back for the post! :)

Susan said...

So glad you survived it Pille! My one and only skiing experience lasted about 1 hour (an ugly incident on the bunny slope). And the view in the photo is breathtaking!

sciencemel said...

Looks like a true vacation. I would never be that brave... happy to tramps around the world on my own but skiing down slopes makes me kringe.

Love the cheeses!

christine said...

It's so nice to read about your ski vacation, and I'm glad you eventually enojyed it. I totally understand your fears about downhill skiing. I have my share of embarassing ski lift and bunny (!) slope stories. :) I'm sure you did MUCH better than me !

Thredahlia said...

Annad väikese sõrme küüneotsa ja neelab Su üleni - mäest alla vuhisemisest võib kiiresti saada meeldiv sõltuvus :)
Tore, et reisi nautisid.

Mina olen Aostas (Verrayes) ja Torinos pikemat aega olnud südasuvel, aga toiduelamuste asemel on üsna suur arm sealselt spetsiaalselt rullsuusarajalt, hulljulgus võttis võimust.
Toidust on meeles ainult see, et peale südapäeva oli laual alati suuuuuuur metallist veinikann ja õhtutest ei puudunud juustuvalik, aga meie peatuspaigad olid ka kohalike valitud.

Pille said...

Grigori - the food on the pictures was lovely indeed - I just wish the hotel 'cuisine' had been half as nice!!

K & S - I had a lovely time - and didn't even have too many bruises when I returned home:)

Maarja - no kus ma seal Shotimaal ikka nii väga suusatamist harjutada sain?? Aga eks ma proovin järgmistel aastatel oma allavuhisemisoskusi parandada!

Bea - a pro like you should do that indeed:)

Joey - well, it was daunting, but fun as well, so you should try it one day!

Susan - I'm sure my bunny slope incident was almost as bad. Thew views were breathtaking - the mountains are soooo huge and picturesque! (A good excuse to have lots of breaks on the way down:)

Christine - I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who can make a food of herself on the bunny slope:)

Thredahlia - kohalikud juustud said vist kõik järele proovitud, nagu ka mõned koloriitsemad kohalikud DOC-veinid. Mõned olid head, mõned mitte:) Aga jah, reis oli vahva!