By day, you run one of the best culinary schools on the East Coast, whose faculty members include some of the industry's most esteemed chefs, like Jacques Pépin and André Soltner. With professional programs beginning every six weeks, it's a kinetic workplace. Graduates are in need of job placement, and new students require careful guidance. Then there are the day-to-day operations. Are the ovens properly calibrated, did the fish order arrive, and how can we have possibly run out of fresh linens so soon? What to do to get away from it all? How about opening up a restaurant? It's a great way to relieve the stresses of the workweek-right up there with root canal. But that's just what Douglas and Dorothy Cann Hamilton did, parlaying their success with the highly touted French Culinary Institute into a lovely country restaurant. Well, it wasn't so lovely when they bought it. Formerly known as the Inn at Lake Waramaug, the run-down little place far out in Connecticut's Litchfield Hills needed some serious work. The Hamiltons tapped Alain Sailhac, FCI's dean of culinary studies, to supervise the construction of a new kitchen and to create a seasonal menu incorporating the freshest local produce. After major renovations, which included clearing a patch of woods to get a view of the lake-an absolute necessity since the Hamiltons decided to name their venture The Lakeview Inn-the restaurant opened its doors last August, and, according to New York, "has already become a local celebrity hot spot."
Indeed, chef de cuisine William Lopata, who collaborated with Sailhac on the inn's contemporary American menu, has received good press in the few short months since opening. Patricia Brooks of The New York Times loved his grilled red pepper and eggplant terrine as well as his "exemplary" roasted rack of lamb. A CIA grad, Lopata was formerly the executive chef at The Restaurant at National Hall in Westport. He also worked on the line at Fifty Seven Fifty Seven in the Four Seasons Hotel and at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Greenwich. Lopata has succeeded at the Lakeview Inn by allowing the pure, fresh ingredients to stand on their own. Says Doug Hamilton, "It's the kind of food we want to eat when we come to the country." Aah yes, a weekend away from the daily grind of FCI, only to have three servers call in sick an hour before service the same day the walk-in goes on the fritz. What a way to unwind!
The rest of us tend to find other ways to recoup from a trying day. Now and then we have been known to ease into a com-fortable chair with a good glass (or two) of wine, and well, you know, kick back as our cares slip away. It's a safe bet to assume that oftentimes the wine we have chosen for those occasions has been from the unparalleled vintner himself, Robert Mondavi. The Robert Mondavi Corporation produces more than 500 million cases of wine each year under its Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Woodbridge, Vichon, and Byron labels. Mondavi also produces an incredible Pauillac-style wine, Opus One, in partnership with Château Mouton-Rothschild. Wine lovers have Robert Mondavi to thank for his tireless efforts in improving the quality of California wines. Today, these wines are regarded as some of the world's best. But don't take our word for it. Sit back, relax, and indulge in some of the finest wines this country has to offer.
Deep-Fried Fingers of Trout
Gratinéed New England Oysters
Jalousie of Spinach and Cheese
Rosace of Salmon on Cucumber and Pumpernickel
Tempura of Celery Root
Wild Mushroom Tart
North Atlantic Pan-Roasted Cod
Roasted Breast of Organic Pheasant
Endive Salad with Roquefort and Walnuts
Quince and Apple Tart
Christmas Cookies and Candied Citrus Peel