Thursday, November 1, 2012

Paris "Cassoulet" Chez Gladines

I admit it, I have a cassoulet obsession.  It started just about six years ago when I took my first bite in Nice-France.  desperately wanted to go back to that restaurant for a repeat, but time didn't allow, so I left France with cassoulet on my mind.

I was quite surprised how much I loved this dish.  A friend once said to me, What's the big deal?  It's only a pot of beans.  I suppose one could look it that way, but for me it was the perfect blend of flavors and textures.

The memory of this dish has been haunting me ever since, so as crazy as it may sound... it topped my list of "things to do" when I got to Paris.

To my delight it was the first place Cecily took us to.

The restaurant of choice was Chez Gladines, a well reviewed cramped and crowded bistro style eatery, with outdoor seating that poured on to the sidewalk. Their ambiance was shabby but lively and the crowd was young and hip, giving the restaurant a friendly happening feeling.  The only thing that separated us from our neighbor was a scant 3 inches of space between the tables, but nobody seemed to mind.  In fact it seemed to be the norm to chat with your neighbor.

The food and atmosphere at Chez Gladines made me feel very Parisian, but being that I am neither young or hip, I may not have felt as comfortable if I wasn't with my daughter.

The menu was all in French and the waiters didn't speak English.  Luckily we had just enough French amongst us to order.  It was fortunate that the restaurant was crowded allowing me (no French spoken) to use the look and point technique.  The portions were generous and the prices were reasonable (at least by Paris standards). 

There is nothing fancy about Chez Gladines.  It’s simply the place to go if you want a true home cooked French meal. 

This is what we ordered and shared…

TWO Cassoulettes – the truth is that I couldn't  bring myself to share my long awaited cassoulet with more than one person even though I could see from the order at the next table that it was huge. My mouth was watering just thinking about the lusciously rich duck confit, creamy beans and sausage. Nope, I really didn’t want to share.
Poulet de Basquaise -  which translates into a Basque style chicken stew cooked with tomatoes and peppers.  This simple dish hit the spot without the presence of frills. Truly who needs frills when we are talking about comfort?  I loved the simplicity of this dish in an oooh sooooo...satisfying way.  I plan on attempting a version of it soon.
Magret Duck Breast – I almost always order duck when I see it on a menu-because it's not something that I cook at home. Surprisingly, it didn't work out quite as well this time around.  The duck was cooked perfectly, yet we found it to be a bit too chewy for our taste (it was one of my look and point choices).  Take a close look at the Margret Duck...doesn't it look delicious?  That's what I thought when I spotted it at the table next to us.
Salade Complete – A meal sized salad topped with fried potatoes and other choices depending on your mood, but what caught my attention was the fried egg on the top. This salad was served in a big stainless steel bowl and every other person in the restaurant seemed to be eating one. I think I would rename this "Salade Extraordinaire".  It was a crazy kind of harmony of hot and cold coming together to make a meal...
If you are squirmish about close quarters this is not the place for you.  But if you want a home-cooked French meal (without the frills) and don’t mind the cramped quarters, don’t miss this restaurant.

On the flip side... Testing... 1,2,3...
couldn't resist bringing home a can of cassoulet (the picture on the can looked delicious).  I was pretty excited about this magical mix and thought as I looked over the vast selection,  canned cassoulet must be pretty good because there were so many choices.  I finally settled on a can from the Toulouse region of France (known for its cassoulet) and according to the can-has been in business since 1876.

I didn't expect much but I also didn't expect so little.  I'm sad to report that canned cassoulet was a great disappointment.  It looked like slop (sorry) and tasted like mushy pork and beans with an herby background flavor.  The meat tasted fake and the sausage was like a soggy hot dog.  Yet… oddly enough… after taking my first disappointing bite, I surprised myself when I went back to the bowl for another bite (subconsciously hoping it would get better) but it didn't...  With a heavy heart I have to say that canned cassoulet doesn't look anything like the photo on the can and in my opinion is closer to a can of beanie wienies rather than a cassoulet.

So stay away from the can. It is no where close 

 to the real thing.

In the mean time... 

I will cook up a batch of Quick Cassoulet...

and dream of the one I had in Paris.

This is not a review, it is simply a written memory.

The journey continues, my next memory will be posted soon...

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