When a chill seizes the air, I start to crave cassoulet. Sorry, that’s a lie. I always crave cassoulet. It just seems more appropriate to want the French casserole in colder weather.
With its barnyard worth of meats, I don’t have plans to make it myself, but it’s almost as challenging to find a restaurant that prepares it. Even when I have found it at restaurants, usually it involves numerous cut corners that leave me feeling shortchanged. Just a bean stew with some sausages in it? No thanks! I want duck confit and pork, covered in bread crumbs, too.
Enter La Côte d’Or Café. There, chef-owner Jacques Imperato prepares cassoulet just as I want it, but only for a limited time. He started serving it in the beginning of November and, according to the server with whom I spoke, will likely continue to make it only until the end of the year.
But until then, I will be going whenever I can for a taste of meaty comfort. An iron pan hot from the oven keeps the stew of cannellini beans and finely diced carrots fearsomely scalding in temperature. On top, there are indeed two garlicky sausages, but also so much more. A section of duck confit is not as crisp as I’d like, but when it comes to one of my favorite proteins, that’s merely splitting hairs. Smoky pork belly lies on one side of the pan, while a slice of melting shoulder reposes on the other. That green hue? It comes from crisp bread crumbs blended with parsley. I scooped up the remains of the dish with freshly baked bread to the tune of Francoise Hardy singing Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne.” Pure bliss.
Of course, even when La Côte d’Or Café finishes cassoulet season, I’ll need to go back for future Meaty Mondays filled with jambon de Paris, bavette steaks and even cuisses de grenouilles. With Jacques Brel on the stereo, you can bet I’ll be ordering a caramel-topped Île Flottante, too. // 6876 Lee Hwy., Arlington
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