Two generations of chefs produce three-star cooking
| Chagny, France
Jacques Lameloise at 34 is the youngest of the three-star chefs and the third generation to cook in his family's restaurant in a beautifully restored 15 th-century coachhouse in a small town in upper Burgundy.
The excellent food at this restaurant is the result of combining two generations of chefs, best expressed by Jacques's father, Jean Lameloise, who describes the cuisine very simply.
''I am in favor of tradition in the very basic way of cooking and Jacques lightens it. He is the new influence,'' he said.
Twenty-five years ago the restaurant had only one star and some basic specialties. But although nearing retirement, Jean Lameloise accepted the challenge of a new kind of cooking.
With his son in the kitchen and the rest of the family in the front office it is now a three-star restaurant with one of the best-priced menus at this top level of French cuisine.
The old Burgundian house is charming with comfortable rooms and one may eat in the handsome old dining room of the newly decorated old wine vaults with curved white ceilings and attractive lighting.
In the kitchen Jacques pointed out a few improvements -- more refrigeration in key places, expanded work areas, but still the same oven. ''The oven is not new, but it works very well, so why change it?'' he said.
Jacques talked about the new lightness and simplicity of his cooking. He pointed out that modern transportation and refrigeration provide fresher goods than in his father's and grandfather's day.
My first course, Salade de Haricots Verts aux Queues d'Ecrevisses, was an excellent hors d'oeuvre combination of the famous French green beans with crayfish,fresh leaves of the dark red radiccio, a tiny ear of corn, lightly seasoned and perfectly crisp and fresh.
My friend's pate of rabbit, Terrine de lievre, was a classic dish cooked to perfection.
The service is excellent here, friendly and efficient but not intrusive. There is something very special about a French family-run restaurant-inn that is comfortably warm while retaining impeccable standards.
The menu degustation includes crayfish with tarragon en gelee, turbot with wild girolle mushrooms, fresh poached salmon surrounded by small amounts of different vegetables; slices of rare duck breast; cheeses, and a choice of beautiful desserts.
Desserts looked and tasted delicious. There were four sorbets of fresh fruits , two fruit mousses, two chocolate cakes, a lemon tart, a raspberry souffle, and la neige grand-mere, poached egg whites with custard sauce.
Our desserts had been ordered at the beginning of the meal - huge raspberries with a delicious sauce and hot, flaky pastry, and an apple tart with shredded toasted almonds.
We liked the walnut bread served here with the cheese course, and at other French restaurants. A dark, dense yeast bread, it has a taste of rye and of fresh walnuts. It is especially good when the thin slices are spread with white chevre, or goat's-milk cheese.
Here is a recipe for the walnut bread, which should have as many walnuts as possible worked into the dough. The famous Paris baker Pierre Poilane makes it in a small round loaf, but it is easily made in other shapes.
As with many rye or whole-wheat breads, it does not rise as quickly as white breads. Covering with plastic wrap as well as cloth will sometimes aid the process. Pain de Noix (Walnut Bread) 2 envelopes active dry yeast, 7 grams each 1 teaspoon sugar 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water 1 cup rye flour 1 cup white flour 2 cups whole-wheat flour 2 teaspoons salt 1 cup walnuts, chopped Butter
In a small bowl or cup mix yeast with sugar and 1/2 cup warm water. In a large bowl combine the flours. When yeast is bubbly, make a well in the flour and add it.
Dissolve salt in remaining cup of water and mix into the flour gradually, using just enough to make a fairly stiff dough. The amount will depend on the flour so use less or more as needed.
Turn dough onto a floured board and knead until smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes.
Return to bowl, sprinkle with flour, cover with a piece of plastic wrap, then with cloth. Place bowl in a warm, draft-free place and let rise until double in bulk, about 2 hours.
Punch dough down and turn it out on a lightly floured surface. Cut in half and knead each piece until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Work 1/2 cup walnuts into each piece.
Shape each into a loaf about 3 by 8 inches. WIth a sharp knife make 2 or 3 diagonal slashes on top and set them again in a warm, draft-free spot until double in bulk, about 1 hour or longer.
Bake on middle shelf of a hot oven preheated to 425 degrees F. about 30 minutes. Loaves are done when they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on racks. Serve with a platter of cheeses.