Meritage's New Year's Day plans feature new brunch menu, drink specials

Chef Russell Klein is hitting the refresh button on brunch just in time for 2012. With classic favorites and a few surprises, the revamped menu will be on full display at Meritage's New Year's Day Brunch--complete with
2-for-1 drink specials to cure any excess Auld Lang Syne-ing.

After a busy start to 2011 (including the debut of the Meritage Oyster Bar), Klein turned his attention to the weekend meal and decided it was time to change things up. Among the newcomers are French-style soft scrambled eggs, served with a choice of house-smoked salmon, bone marrow, or fresh Maine lobster. "They're about 50 percent heavy cream and 50 percent eggs," Klein jokes.

But by the looks of it, he's not kidding.

Cooked over a double boiler, the eggs are rich, fluffy, creamy, and dreamy. They quiver ever so slightly in their beautiful cast iron dish, and are paired simply with mixed greens and grilled bread.

For the sweet tooth, Klein is introducing Ricotta Cheese Blintzes. He starts by combining vanilla and cinnamon with a sweetened ricotta filling and then rolls it in a crêpe. The delicate bundle is sautéed so the edges are crispy and served with a cinnamon-apple compote and crème fraîche.

If you're looking for something more familiar, check out the Biscuits & House-Made Sausage Gravy. Sure, they may not be very French. But in Klein's words, pastry chef Jon Beyreuther's biscuits "are killer," so we aren't complaining. And for those in need of a pork fix, Meritage has just started smoking its own bacon.

Beloved French fare like the ham-and-cheesy Croque Madame or Monsieur are also available, as well as a cassoulet with beans, garlic sausage, pork, and duck confit. And if you're feeling particularly saucy, look no further than the oyster bar, which features 12 to 18 oyster varieties offered each day.

On the drink menu, absinthe is a highlighted item. "When we thought about opening the bar, we thought, what kinds of drinks are particularly French?" explains Klein. Absinthe was an obvious choice. When you order a traditional pour, you can watch the absinthe fountain in action: The barkeep places a sugar cube atop a slotted spoon and drops of water slowly dissolve it into the drink below.

If absinthe is the hair of the wrong dog, house-made bloody Marys and blood orange mimosas will hopefully suffice. With a New Year's special on 2-for-1s, they're perfect for sharing with a friend--or just keeping for yourself.

So celebrate late on the 31st, or turn in early. Either way, Meritage's brunch awaits you the next morning. "It's a great, bright, cheerful way to start the new year," Klein says. "Or recover from the end of this one!"

Meritage New Year's Day Brunch 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. 410 Saint Peter St., St. Paul 651.222.5670; Meritage website

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410 Saint Peter St.
St. Paul, MN 55102


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