Sunnyvale, November 1, 2011—THAT SPLENDID WEATHER we've been having these last couple of weeks has turned chilly today, at least down here on the Peninsula, where a cool wind was blowing as we walked a block or so to dinner. So when the waiter mentioned a cassoulet among the daily specials my ears perked up. The Caesar salad I had as a first course was barely tolerable: tired pre-cut romaine, a little browned at some of the edges, and the faintest hint of anchovy — I think some folks wave an anchovy can in the general direction of salad, as others make a game of displaying the label of the Vermouth bottle to the Martini pitcher.
The cassoulet was off-standard, too, but not really substandard, just a little revisionist. In the first place, you can't really make a satisfactory cassoulet as a single serving — though I imagine this is ladled out of a big pot and finished, in its little ramekin, under the salamander.
The beans were good, if a tiny bit undercooked; I liked the addition of tomato coulis, accepted in some traditional quarters; the duck confit was pleasant if a little dry. It was odd to find chopped fennel in the dish, but it was fairly discreet. Chives, though, have no place at all in cassoulet. (Or in much else from the kitchen, far as I'm concerned.) Still, cassoulet is like baseball: bad cassoulet is better than no cassoulet at all. And this, don't get me wrong, wasn't really bad, not at all.
Cabernet Franc, 2009•Saint Michael's Alley, 140 Homer Avenue, Palo Alto; (650) 326 2530