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lauren ipsum Oct 25, 2006 02:00 AM

Where can a girl get great cassoulet this time of year?

thank you!

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  1. BostonZest RE: lauren ipsum Oct 25, 2006 02:33 AM

    I just checked my four top-level favorite cassoulets in town and none of them are on the current menus.

    They would be from Hamersley's Bistro, The Blue Room, Rendezvous Central Square and Pigalle.

    My next level of fave would be Petit Robert Bistro and they do have one currently.


    Lamb Cassoulet Bean Stew, Grilled Garlic Sausage and Bacon

    Sounds good with a nice Cote du Rhone.

    With any long-cooked dish like cassoulet, I would always call ahead (if it was the one thing I wanted.) Once it is gone, it's gone until the next day. I've had to make do with something else when I was craving cassoulet because they ran out. Better to know before you set your mouth a-watering.

    But, do watch for the winter menus at the other four places.

    Shall we start a winter-long Boston Chowhound Cassoulet hunt?

    3 Replies
    1. re: BostonZest
      opinionatedchef RE: BostonZest Oct 25, 2006 05:52 AM

      i would think that the main French players in town would feature it fall and/or winter. aside from the other mentoned restaurants,i would suggest you look at aquitaine, sandrine, troquet, casablanca, umbra, union square.

      1. re: opinionatedchef
        BobB RE: opinionatedchef Oct 25, 2006 07:12 PM

        Union Square? Which restaurant there? The only one I can think of with that name (Union Square Bistro) went out of business years ago.

        1. re: BobB
          lambi RE: BobB Oct 27, 2006 08:37 PM

          the independent in union square had a cassoulet last winter confit duck, sausage , bacon, and a poached egg to top it off

    2. edgrimley RE: lauren ipsum Oct 25, 2006 03:05 AM

      Friend had the cassoulet at Petit Robert last week and it was great. Also saw one on the menu at Central Kitchen (last week was a good week), I believe.

      5 Replies
      1. re: edgrimley
        DoubleMan RE: edgrimley Oct 25, 2006 11:45 AM

        Had the one at Central Kitchen and it was a bit underwhelming. Unlike every other cassoulet I've had it was not stew like at all and didn't even have white beans. It was green and yellow beans with a grisly piece of duck, an overcooked pork loin piece, and a tasty but nearly oppresively garlic-y sausage. There was a nice, slightly acidic and very thin sauce at the bottom of the plate that was the best part of the dish. Maybe it was the style that I didn't enjoy, but it was a poor version of cassoulet in my mind----give me confit.

        Also, it was my first time at Central Kitchen and I must say I was hugely disappointed. I had the mussels and the cassoulet, mussels were better but not great---I prefer Taranta's and EVOO's versions. The biggest problem was the waiter, he was just very odd. He knew a lot about wine, but other than that was pretty horrible---surly, forgetful, not timely, and was one of those waiters that thinks he is your buddy so sits down next to you to take your order, which I think is only appropriate at Applebee's and worse. I'll definitely go back for another try, hopefully the waiter won't be there.

        The best I've had was at Hamersley's---traditional and delicious, though probably 4500 calories per dish.

        1. re: DoubleMan
          bobot RE: DoubleMan Oct 26, 2006 07:40 PM

          That's too bad- a couple of years ago I had a cassoulet that sounds nothing at all like what you are describing. Very traditional, excellent duck & sausage, white beans, etc. Perfect thing on a cold winter's night.

          Man, if Central Kitchen is going downhill, that makes me one sad panda. They are one of my faves. Maybe it was just a bad experiment.

          1. re: bobot
            archer823 RE: bobot Feb 26, 2008 01:16 PM

            I agree, the last time I've had cassoulet was at the Central Kitchen many years ago and it was amazing, the perfect dish on a cold winter's night. But that was around 2002, 2003, so maybe things have gone downhill since.

            1. re: archer823
              tallullah RE: archer823 Feb 26, 2008 01:27 PM

              This post dates back to '06...I'd imagine a lot has changed since then, too.

              1. re: tallullah
                jajjguy RE: tallullah Feb 26, 2008 07:45 PM

                Central Kitchen is NOT going downhill. I've been going for years. Service at tables has always been spotty. Food and wine are always good. I've found things work better when I sit at the bar.

      2. sailormouth RE: lauren ipsum Oct 25, 2006 03:00 PM

        I've been a little disappointed with Central Kitchen as well, a few nice bites but for the price kind of a whatever.

        I will say I have had the best service I have ever had in Boston at Central Kitchen. Truly perfect waitress. She was such a consummate professional I can't believe that your Applebees style guy worked the same room with her.

        3 Replies
        1. re: sailormouth
          DoubleMan RE: sailormouth Oct 25, 2006 03:09 PM

          Yeah, I'm surprised, too. I can't imagine other servers there are like him.

          Who knows, maybe he was just high. When he was delivering and clearing plates he would say "sweeeet."

          1. re: DoubleMan
            eatemnsmile RE: DoubleMan Oct 25, 2006 07:19 PM

            I gotta disagree. I am an avid Central Kitchen devotee, so I may be somewhat biased. I have had the "summer" cassoulet (as is says on the menu if I recall correctly) a number of times, as it is one of my faves on the list. True it not like a cassoulet i have ever had. Upon inquiring how a summer cassoulet differs from a traditional one, my server responded that it was kind of a deconstructed cassoulet, not stewed as a traditional one is. All the elements were there (duck, sausage, pork, beans), just in a different composition. I thought it was a great play on words, and really a great dish overall.

            1. re: eatemnsmile
              DoubleMan RE: eatemnsmile Oct 25, 2006 08:33 PM

              I probably would've enjoyed it more if the meats weren't overcooked and/or grisly---the duck breast was particularly difficult to cut and chew.

              Without stewed beans, the name doesn't make sense to me, regardless of throwing "summer" on the menu.

              The bigger disappointment of the meal was not that it was not the traditional cassoulet that I was expecting, but that it was poorly done in my mind, irrespective of style.

              I interpreted (maybe incorrectly) the OP as seeking a traditional cassoulet, or at least a dish with stewed beans, so I wouldn't recommend Central Kitchen's version.

        2. m
          man of the people RE: lauren ipsum Oct 25, 2006 04:21 PM

          Ten Tables has a white bean and rock shrimp cassoulet as an appatizer that is out of this world. I think it's done in the traditional southern French style, but I'm not sure. It is an appatizer, but my freind ordered a double portion once for an entre.

          1. v
            VivreManger RE: lauren ipsum Oct 25, 2006 04:38 PM

            Oleana did a cod cassoulet that was disappointing. Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square did a poor one as well, though some have liked it in the past. The beans were dry. There was not enough meat swimming around in the sauce.

            Here is my past detailed posting on the subject from a year or two ago:

            Inspired by favorable notices on this board, last week I tried ES's cassoulet. It did have a few virtues, but it was not a classic cassoulet, a dish I have eaten in France and made at home.

            The classic version is a richly flavored smoked bean stew. The smokiness coming from the variety of meats - - variously smoked and braised - - which give moisture and flavor to the beans and the accompanying rich aromatic sauce. In French cuisine it represents a southern (the classic dish being from Toulouse in the southwest) bean-based parallel to two other classic French dishes the choucroute garni (slow steamed sauerkraut with sausage ham hock and other smoked pork meats) of the north-east, Strasbourg, and the more widely distributed pot au feu, the aromatic mixed meat and vegetable cracker jack box stew, equivalent to the bollito misto or tafelspitz. What all of these dishes have in common is a rich broth or sauce combined with strong and assertive meats and condiments. I call it a cracker jack box meal, because one of its appeals is the surprising variety of meats one is likely to find in the pot while dunking for dinner.

            The problem with the ES cassoulet is that it ignored its origins. The beans were dry and lacked the necessary sauce. The meat base for the absent bean stew was skimpy. While the dish was tasty, the beans were so dry that they got stuck in the gullet and needed a carafe of red wine to push them on their appointed rounds.

            Before dissecting the ES cassoulet in detail, a recognition of its virtues. The roasted pork belly sitting pristinely on top of the beans, was tender, succulent, and well-cooked. Had this dish claimed nothing more than that element it would have been good, though not a cassoulet. The second pristine meat, braised lamb, was also properly cooked and tasty. While not as exceptional as the pork, it was worth eating. The last meat, duck sausage was an undistinguished cheap substitute for what should have been served, duck confit.

            Whatever the choice of meats, each meat should represent the tip of a complicated iceberg lurking below. The roasted meats should have a base of similar or related smoked and braised meats. The problem with the ES version is that there was no below, below. The dish was literally flat. Served on a chafing dish, it offered a thin serving of dry beans as a platform for the three meats. There was no stew. There was no sauce. The beans had absorbed some good flavors in the cooking, but in the process they left the dish dry. The beans not the patron got the sauce. The smattering of breadcrumbs are supposed to create a contrasting thin dry crust for the moist sauce below. In this instance they merely reinforced the omnipresent aridity on the table.

            I recognize that there is room for variation on the classic cassoulet. Oleana serves its distinctive version that is in some respect is more radical: New England fish substituted for smoked, braised and roasted meats. I am not wild about that dish, but at least it recognizes that a cassoulet is not a cassoulet unless it has richly sauced slowly baked beans. Widout dem beans, it ain't no cassoulet.

            1. z
              Zatan RE: lauren ipsum Oct 25, 2006 06:22 PM

              Nice post on the ES version; I was a fan, had this last winter. I know it is not a true version, but I have yet to have had one since my last visit to Toulouse and worry that it's something that kitchens here are just not willing to present in the traiditional manner. And the confit was indeed missing, but the sausage I had a couple of times there was homemade and exceptional. If they make the same this year I would still recommend it as a great comfort dish. Too bad about the beans as they are probably the most critical component.

              I had the version at Petit Robert around the same time and thought it not nearly as good, at least flavor-wise.

              I hope someone finds the real thing, let us know!

              1. s
                Splendid Spatula RE: lauren ipsum Oct 25, 2006 08:27 PM

                Hammersley's had cassoulet the weekend of 10/14, it just wasn't on the menu. Call ahead, it may be a special.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Splendid Spatula
                  BostonZest RE: Splendid Spatula Oct 25, 2006 11:05 PM

                  Thank you! Now I'm craving it and if I'm going to try one-- that would be THE one. Pigalle was a near second.

                2. t
                  Taralli RE: lauren ipsum Oct 25, 2006 08:39 PM

                  You might give Les Zygomates a call and ask when they'll have it on the menu. I had it there way back when I was there for a special dinner when it was one of the courses. We loved it.

                  1. j
                    justmoved RE: lauren ipsum Oct 26, 2006 01:21 AM

                    Hands down, I think chez henri in camridge has the best. It was awesome. Loaded with meat, sausage, lamb, duck ans garlicky beans. OHHHH I can almost taste it!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: justmoved
                      daigle RE: justmoved Oct 26, 2006 02:01 AM

                      Have to disagree with you there. Much as I venerate Chez Henri, their cassoulet is the worst I've ever had. Thick, sludgy, just like a millstone.
                      Best I ever had was years ago at Blue Room. But that was back when Steve Johnson was around. Maybe he will resurrect it at Rendezvous.

                      1. re: daigle
                        autopi RE: daigle Oct 26, 2006 02:40 PM

                        i didn't like chez henri's version either, i also found it too heavy. then again, i suppose cassoulet is not exactly a dieter's dish. and i've only had it on a very few occasions, so what do i know.

                    2. c
                      chefboyardee RE: lauren ipsum Oct 26, 2006 01:06 PM

                      Actually just had it last night at Piorret Bistrot (did I spell that correctly), on cambridge street. I thought it was excellent, I enjoyed it more than the one I had at petite robert. I think I liked it more b/c it was about as classic as you can get, duck leg, sausage, piece of ham, some pork belly. I would absolutely give it a try.

                      Now I have a question, what is the traditional cassoulet. Not the ingredients, which I have narrowed down to the above ingredients with some additions subtractions, but the preperation. Sometimes it is served almost in a mild broth (like at the butcher shop), sometimes it is like the beans are baked and the ingredients are tossed on top. Then recipes that I have made straight from French cookbooks, layer all the ingredients and the beans become mushed together (not quite to the extent of re-fried beans, but getting to that point. It's not bad that way, but just different, so what is the classic way of preparing it. BTW, Petite Robert is good, but not cassoulet w/o duck confit in my book. Spoke to the owner about it and its a cost issue, it would have to be more expensive if they added the duck leg.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: chefboyardee
                        The Chowhound Team RE: chefboyardee Oct 26, 2006 01:25 PM

                        Please start a new thread on the General CHowhounding Topics board to discuss what traditional cassoulet is. This helps us keep this board focuse d on finding great chow in Boston. Thanks!

                      2. tatamagouche RE: lauren ipsum Oct 26, 2006 01:16 PM

                        I don't believe I see it mentioned yet--Neptune's doing an octopus cassoulet of which the first couple bites are a bit dry, but as you dig into it it just gets better & better.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: tatamagouche
                          lambi RE: tatamagouche Oct 27, 2006 08:39 PM

                          I had this as well great meal. and it was the only place on a sat with out a huge line spilling out and down the block.

                        2. z
                          zebedee RE: lauren ipsum Oct 27, 2006 01:49 PM

                          Sorry if this has already been posted... don't have time to read carefully. If you're looking for a one-off cassoulet, it's the main course at the November 5th Sunday dinner at Sel de la Terre.

                          1. cassoulady RE: lauren ipsum Feb 28, 2008 05:45 AM

                            The only restaurant I have had cassoulet at is Hamersley's and it was great and I have also heard wonderful things about the Ten Tables cassoulet appetizer mentioned already though have not had it.

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