Cassoulet, S’il Vous Plaît
On a chill eve, there are few finer fortifiers than cassoulet, the classic French “bean-pot stew.” And there are few finer places to enjoy it than Meritage, the Twin Cities' newest French brasserie, in the former Ã Rebours space in St. Paul's historic Hamm Building.
410 St. Peter St., St. Paul
Cassoulet is made in regional variations, with the only common denominator being white haricot beans. Meritage's tasty version has its roots in Toulouse and features garlic sausage, pork hock, duck confit, and a wonderful breadcrumb crust. (Vincent in downtown Minneapolis also serves an excellent cassoulet, filled with preserved duck legs, ham hock, salted pork, and pork sausage.)
Meritage chef Russell Klein, who owns and runs the restaurant with his wife, Desta, trained at the French Culinary Academy and cooked in the south of France. He offers a whole menu of French bistro classics-onion soup, roast chicken, and Parisian-style gnocchi, plus such plats du jour as bouillabaisse, rabbit braised with mustard, and sole Grenobloise. There's even a traditional cheese cart.
The setting, with large windows and overhead mirrors, captures the twinkling lights on the trees along St. Peter Street. It's a charming and comfortable space. Head there for a modestly priced pre-Ordway or pre-Xcel prix fixe dinner.