It has been over a year since Jfood visited Meritage but the weather was a bit chilly and Jfood was looking for a hug. Since Mrs. Jfood was 1000 miles away he looked to some comfort food for the proxy and where better than Meritage to get a big hug. Traffic was very reasonable on a Tuesday evening and Jfood was also lucky to find on-street parking around the corner. As he entered at 7PM he noticed it was only 10-15% full and he was given a very nice, quiet table in the corner.
The server approached, Jfood asked for some water and some time to make the choices. Two nice slices of bread arrived with a little dish of butter. The bread was cool (this always surprises Jfood) but when he tasted the sourdough bread it did not matter. It was great.
Since he performed some due diligence he had an idea what he was ordering from the on-line menu. When the server returned Jfood ordered the Parisian Style Ricotta Gnocchi with squash, autumn vegetables, mushrooms in a sage brown butter for an appetizer and the Cassoulet in the style of Toulouse with a ragout of Tarbaise beans, garlic sausage, pork and duck for an entrée plus (shouldn’t have done this, but) some Pomme frites with a béarnaise sauce.
The gnocchi arrived and it looked fantastic. The dish was probably half gnocchi and half vegetables. Included were several types of cauliflower, diced squash, and the mushrooms were wild mushrooms. And let’s not forget the little sage leaf to add to the butter flavor. The first bite was heaven. This gnocchi was about as good as it could get. It was slightly browned on the outside to give it a bit of a crunch, soft and delectable inside. And the sage butter was a perfect balance to the flavors. If there was one thing that Jfood would give a minor suggestion though was that one piece of the purple cauliflower was still cool and had not returned to temperature. Other than that this dish was a perfect 10.
Jfood returned to his book (The Sellout by Charles Gasparino) and after a few minutes the server brought the cone of frites. Wow, this was tall. Jfood took one of the frites, dipped into the béarnaise and took a bite. Heavenly, perfectly cooked, great salt ratio and the béarnaise was also wonderful.
Then the Cassoulet arrived. OMG. The server asked if she could bring anything and Jfood responded, “Another stomach please.” This was a soup dish of food. Let Jfood try to describe how Chef Klein presented this dish. It is served in a very large cream soup shaped bowl. When you look down into the opening you see centered in the dish the upper part of the thigh-leg section of the duck nestled in the breadcrumb topping. Since Klein focused on the duck, Jfood would as well. He took a small piece of duck and a few beans in the sauce. Jfood still feels the hug. It was brilliant. The sauce was smoky, the duck was crispy, succulent and salty, and the beans were perfectly cooked. All the elements of comfort food were present. As Jfood worked his way through the beans, the duck, the pork, the sausage it was bite after bite of luxury. Jfood noticed one thing that he notices at home as well with sausage, it seems to loose flavor when it is braised. The sausage in the dish was milder than Jfood would have expected from a garlic sausage. Maybe this was intentional due to the other flavors, but he has no answer, even when he uses sausage in some of his dishes at home.
Server was also perfect. The server was friendly, checked in properly and the timing of the service was great.
So this was a great meal for Jfood and he is really glad he made the drive to downtown SP. Sitting there looking out at the red lights on the trees made him wish he were in Paris with Mrs. Jfood eating the same meal.
Meritage - St. Paul
410 Saint Peter Street (Hamm Building), St. Paul, MN 55102