Eating Kermit

Eating Kermit

A leap of faith at Meritage.

Frog legs are, for me, like veal or endangered bluefin tuna. First, I harbor a weird affection for frogs that I suspect goes back to Sesame Street. Second, I’ve become acutely aware that full-scale frog annihilation is looming. And it’s a bad omen. According to the New Yorker, a reduction in the golden toad population of Costa Rica may signal the coming of the “Sixth Extinction.” (The fifth was the one where all the dinosaurs died.)

So you can see why, when I imagine bulbous eyes and throaty, soporific croaks, it’s very hard to pick up my fork. Yet for you, and for Russell Klein, I did.

Klein is the Jewish New Yorker and Francophile who took over the site of a dead restaurant called À Rebours in 2007 and, together with his wife, Desta, opened Meritage. He serves, among other things, a knockout matzo ball soup. But he also serves frog legs because, the chef says, people began asking shortly after he opened his doors.

In response, Klein came up with two options: Buffalo frog legs—meaty, fried thighs drenched in a sweetened, Tabasco-spiked stew—and Frog Legs Provençale, an entrée that boasts of naked reality. Here, you get pairs of jointed legs (complete with flippery feet) attached at the “hips.” Essentially, it’s the lower half of a frog, resting smack-dab in the middle of your plate.

Given my allegiance, you might think I would prefer the former. You would be wrong.

Klein’s bar-fare frog is fine. The frog meat is versatile, a good vehicle for other ingredients—which is probably why people insist that it tastes like chicken.

In reality, frog is a confusing mix of oyster-y texture and dark mussel flavor with a gamey, earthen spin. “Amphibian” means double life: of land and of water. Take a bite of unadorned Kermit and this is clear.

Meritage’s Frog Legs Provençale let you indulge fully in the unusual sensory experience that is frog. Pan seared with garlic, lemon, parsley, and a coterie of exquisitely cooked vegetables, this dish has a wild, wet, pond quality. The flesh is slippery, the lemon juice clear and watery, the parsley like marsh grass. If you are going to consume a mysterious, ancient, leaping creature, I say eat!

It’s my theory, after finding myself riveted by Klein’s frog legs, that eating these animals will add to their commercial value and help keep them alive. By the way, Cookie Monster concurs.

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