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More on those $20 beans

December 24, 2008 | 12:57 pm

CassouletWe asked David Lebovitz, a writer and cook who lives in Paris, whether it was worth the money for Tarbais beans for a cassoulet. We found the authentic bean for it in L.A. for $20.10 a pound.

He e-mailed us to say that he recently spoke about beans with someone who lives in Gascony and thinks they are definitely worth it. But as Lebovitz notes, the beans are considerably cheaper than in L.A. Lebovitz says he thinks they are overrated.

"In America, I would tell people to use Rancho Gordo beans instead. I think the idea of using something local, and very good, trumps authenticity."

So we talked to Steve Sando, author of the book "Heirloom Beans" and the man behind Rancho Gordo, a website from Napa that specializes in foods from the Americas and  sells many varieties of beans.

He suggests runner cannellini beans, or being bold and trying pinto beans. But he notes that bean fans can be like martini experts: They work in absolutes (not in Absolut, of course). If you are committed to authenticity, you'll have to shell out serious bean money.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times