My wife had a great cassoulet in Paris several years ago. Is there a place in Southern California that has a real French cassoulet? I know this is the time of year they make it.
--Jim Nakano, Glendora
Dear Mr. Nakano:
The Donut Man! It gladdens my heart to know that you are in search of perhaps the only culinary specialty that makes your Tiger Tails seem like diet food -- pork fat and duck fat and garlic and white beans set to "stun." I think I may still be feeling the effects of a cassoulet I ate at Le Trou Garçon in Paris in the fall of 2002. Duck confit, I believe, may be slightly less digestible than chewing gum.
Odd as it may seem, there actually are some very respectable cassoulets in Los Angeles, a city whose weather might seem less than amenable to a thuggish bean assault -- one might think it as likely to find a decent plate of enchiladas in Toulouse.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays through the winter, Sébastien Archambault is preparing a traditional cassoulet at RH, the restaurant in West Hollywood's Andaz Hotel. Perhaps if cassoulet had been available during the '70s, when the hotel was nicknamed the Riot House, Led Zeppelin would have been too logy to toss all of those TVs out the window. And a scant couple of miles away, at Bistro LQ, Laurent Quenioux will serve his own Tuesday-only cassoulet, a crusty riot of Tarbais beans, sausage, lamb-shoulder confit, duck confit and spare ribs baked long enough and slow enough to fuse into a singularity -- event horizon ahead!
Why do L.A.'s cassoulet specialists cook in two-letter restaurants, and serve the dish only on Tuesdays? Nobody knows.