On Sunday, a Cassoulet Fest at Back Forty West that the French Would Envy

Legumes, lentement. Peter Hoffman’s annual event honors the iconic, slow-cooked bean dish of southern France. Photo credit: Flickr/Chrystian Guy


On a cold winter’s day, what’s better than cassoulet? Here’s what: a cassoulet tasting, with variations by Northern Spy, Buttermilk Channel and Porsena, complete with remarks by Adam Gopnik, and proceeds supporting the coolest nonprofit on wheels, the social-justice food truck Drive Change.

It’s all happening this Sunday, 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., at Peter Hoffman’s Back Forty West (née Savoy). Tickets are $65.

“Cassoulet’s such a great winter dish and we’re having quite a winter,” said Hoffman, who for five years has hosted the very slow food’s annual walk-around tasting fundraiser, with different chefs serving their riffs of the dish. Guests come back every year to, as Hoffman puts it, “stand upstairs by the fireplace and eat a rich, hearty handmade dish that’s all about improvisation — at its most fundamental, it’s meat and beans, but you can do anything you want with it. In France they argue about whether it’s really cassoulet if it doesn’t have lamb or goose, but it’s a dish about what’s at hand, a great canvas for chefs to improvise on.” In years past, improvising chefs have included Michael Anthony, Wylie Dufresne, David Tanis, Alex Raij and Seamus Mullen, and “what’s at hand” has included lamb shoulder and blood sausage as well as lentils in place of of white beans.

This Sunday, Hoffman’s version will feature chorizo, duck confit and smoked lamb belly. Sara Jenkins is cooking up lentils, merguez and braised lamb. And chef Jon Check from Buttermilk Channel will ladle out lamb shoulder, smoked chicken sausage, pork belly and Rancho Gordo beans. All will be washed down with bottles from Bonny Doon winery, while Adam Gopnik opines on what cassoulet means to French culture and why the dish endures.

But at the cassoulet fest, it’s not all cassoulet. In between bites of belly and beans, guests can revive palates with a citrus-radicchio salad, plus a blood-orange-mineola-grapefruit sorbet. Outside, the Snowday truck’s empowered ex-inmates will serve their signature wintry sweet: maple snow.

Tickets are $65 plus tax and tip.

Betsy Bradley

Elizabeth L. Bradley writes about New York City history and culture. She hopes to find Tiffany blue dragees in her Christmas stocking this year.