Some of you know that I’ve been travelling to Caen quite a bit for work. I’ve been working at Guy Dauphin Environnment, part of the Ecore Group, owned by Trafigura. Etienne, the project manager, likes me there. (This could be the subject of another blog). Anyway, I’ve stayed in Caen many nights, usually in the center of town at the Mercure (a French hotel chain). Right around the corner is my favorite restaurant: Le Piano A Vins.
This restaurant is like many in France: owner operated, small number of seats (40 in this case), and usually a small group at the bar when I get there. Le Piano A Vins is also a wine cave; I’ve walked out of there with a couple of bottles. Benoit is the owner and is quite a character. I always let him pick a wine for me. Lutecia is the server. I don’t have the chef’s name yet (a young guy), but good or bad, we all know one another. When I arrive, I always greet them with a smile, greeting, and handshake.
Benoit and I really bonded when we discovered we both loved the same 80’s band: Cock Robin. He plays their “greatest hits” at the restaurant. You’ve never heard of them – they had a couple of hits early on, but were immensley more popular in France than the US. We both regret never have seen them live…
It was at Le Piano A Vins in Caen that I first discovered the Cassoulet. Having spent a few days in Caen and spending every night with my friends at Le Piano A Vins, I was travelling through the menu. Benoit described the Cassoulet and he didn’t have to say more. He only has it later in the week as it takes 2-3 days to make. I’ve had it three times.
Since my childhood, soup and comfort food have been my thing. Cassoulet is now my #3 favorite food, after Chili and Poutine. (This talk drives Kelley crazy; she will claim that it makes me look bad and that it’s all unhealthy — particularly the Chili every day back in the states. I say “I’ve loved soup all my life; it’s got all the food groups in one bowl.”) Cassoulet is consistent with my favorites: soupy comfort food. My mission now is to make it.
By now, you’ve either checked out, or you want to know what it is. Cassoulet is a dish from the south of France. The version I’ve had includes white beans, duck, pork belly, and 3 types of sausages. (It’s going to be difficult selling the healthy aspects of Cassoulet). I’ve been announcing to people that I intended to make one (they all have opinions on the subject: what to include, which cookware to use, etc.) Like Chili, besides the white beans, you can put just about anything in there you like. That being said, no two Cassoulet recipes are alike. I look forward to discussing this with Benoit and the chef at Le Piano A Vins. Stay tuned for Part 2: making a Cassoulet.