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In Cosne-sur-Loire with Denis Marcellot (Restaurant Les Forges)
Spring is in the air and the open road beckons. Why not pack the car and drive south along the Nationale 7, one of France’s historic trunk roads, all the way to Cosne-sur-Loire?
Denis Marcellot, chef and co-owner (along with Mme. Marcellot) of Les Forges hotel-restaurant, is the first to admit that locating Cosne-sur-Loire (in Burgundy’s Nièvre département) on a map of France can be a bit of a challenge. Even if France’s legendary Nationale 7 motorway does run right through it - his town ‘is situated somewhere between the vineyards of Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé and Pouilly sur Loire.’ Fortunately, this is enough information to spark the interest of wine and cheese aficionados. Marcellot, who hails from the Berry region of central France, has settled in nearby Burgundy and his menu showcases local specialities such as fish from the Loire River cooked with Sancerre wine, Burgundy-style escargots in gougere pastry and fondue with warm goat’s cheese…
After an early training as a pastry cook and chocolate confectioner, Marcellot tried his hand at just about everything related to food, even – cue gasp - working in a supermarket. The experiences have given him a good-humoured expertise in many different areas. Enthusiastic about every dimension of his chosen profession, he is personally involved in everything from cooking the Viennese pastries served at breakfast to choosing the colour of the crockery and the brand of coffee served.
At the Cosne market, Marcellot buys from a few carefully chosen artisans. Patrick Boidevin, purveyor of fruits and vegetables, is ‘obsessed with that which is beautiful and fresh; with the produce, not with the price.’ At the markets of Rungis, Bourges and Nantes, he chooses the cream of the crop, asparagus and strawberries from Sologne, lettuce from Châtillon-sur-Loire, as well as parsnips, turnip-root chervil and other old-fashioned vegetables. In summer, his fruit comes directly from small orchards in the south. Other local chefs rely on his expertise - the team at La Pomme d’Or (one Bib in St. Satur) and William Page (Michelin-starred chef of the Lièvre Gourmand in Vailly-sur-Sauldre, which has recently moved to Orléans) are two examples.
François Huillier, who provides Marcellot with his coffee, is also something of a local celebrity. The grandson of a grocer from La Charité-sur-Loire (mentioned in the first Michelin Guide, circa 1900) and son of a man who’se been roasting coffee beans for a living since 1947, Huillier caters to the region’s most commendable establishments including L’Auberge Mellot in Sancerre, Stéphane Derbord in Dijon and William Page. Huillier buys green coffee beans, most of which come from Central America, from an importer located in Le Havre and ,faithful to the blends developed by his father, he’s added some single-origin coffees to his list.
A few yards down the road, Dominique Bertrand is an old-school cheese purveyor who gathers the finest Crottin goat cheeses he can find and matures them at his place in Santranges. Bertrand also fusses over two other farm-made goat cheeses, less famous than the Crottin but similar in taste and quality: raw-milk Sancerrois and Santranges made from the milk of goats fed on alfalfa and hay, without (too many) food supplements. There are other tempting cheeses in his shop; among them some of the finest raw-milk cheeses made in France and abroad, such as a farm-made Cantal and a gorgeous alpine Beaufort.
As the grandson of a wine-grower from the Sancerre region, Denis Marcellot has deep-rooted ties to the world of the vine and he enjoys taking interested customers to meet vintner Alain Dezat in the small village of Sury-en-Vaux. On the hilly slopes of the Sancerrois (which Dezat planted with grass in order to limit erosion before anyone had ever heard of such a thing), the wine-maker talks about his profession with the modesty and simplicity of a man in tune with the earth and the rhythm of its seasons. Dezat’s Sancerre was discovered in 1962 by superstar chef Jean Troisgros, who has since become a friend of the family. His red and white wines - two vintages, no more, no less - are served at the Les Forges.
On the other bank of the Loire River, just ten kilometres away as the crow flies, Benoît Chauveau and his wife Emmanuelle are a radiant couple who cultivate a dozen hectares in the heart of Pouilly-Fumé territory. The couple grow and bottle three subtle, well-balanced Sauvignons which happily accompany Marcellot’s seafood dishes, particularly his Coquilles Saint-Jacques with citrus fruit.
From the vineyards to the cheese cellars, from the banks of the Loire to the marketplace, Monsieur and Madame Marcellot, at the helm of their restaurant - an old truck stop which has metamorphosed into a cosy coaching inn - have proved that the heart of the Nationale 7 is still beating strong…
Hôtel-Restaurant Les Forges
21 and 23 Rue Saint-Agnan
Tel: 03 86 28 23 50
Fax: 03 86 28 91 60
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Domaine du P’tit Roy
Pierre & Alain Dezat
- Name :
- Hôtel-restaurant les Forges
- Address :
- 23 rue Saint-Agnan F - 58200 Cosne-sur-Loire