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ON THE MENU New twists on old Easter brunch traditions

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Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2014 2:24 pm

Something old,

something new;

leg of lamb or pain perdu?

From a culinary perspective, Easter is a season built on tradition. Classic anchor dishes such as ham and lamb have dominated this springtime tablescape for generations, with all of the standard accompaniments necessary to render the scene legitimately Rockwellian.

But when we think about Easter and what it represents, it’s really about newness and rebirth, which challenges us to ponder — tis the Easter meal about tradition, or is it a day to breathe life into something entirely new?

Two local chefs suggest that there’s room on the menu for both.

“Our objective with this year’s Easter brunch menu is to offer some touchstone dishes, as well as some other options that are truly out of the ordinary that will resonate just as well,” said Chef Janos Wilder of Downtown Kitchen and Cocktails, 135 S. Sixth Ave.

Wilder’s menu appears to effectively deliver on the former with dishes like spring lamb, served with potato hash, poached egg and minted hollandaise, that he says represents the fresh flavors that really are all about spring.

In his nod to the new, Wilder will also feature a number of non-traditional options, including the “pain perdu,” a variation on French toast that is more substantial than the pedestrian version on which we all grew up.

Pain perdu is made with bread that is cut extra thick, and after it gets adequately dipped and griddled, Wilder dresses it up with mascarpone cheese, orange marmalade, maple syrup and bacon.

“This is one of those dishes that you just wouldn’t make at home, and that’s what this menu is about,” he said.

Kids will also find both the old and new on the special children’s menu, with options ranging from blueberry pancakes to, get this, crab deviled eggs with country pate and garden pickles.

Country pate.

On a children’s menu.

Vintage Janos.

Easter Brunch at Downtown Kitchen and Cocktails will be served from 10:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. on April 20. Reservations can be made by calling 623-7700.

Easter diners will also be able to experience something old and something new at Feast, 3719 E. Speedway Blvd.

The special menu features Chef Doug Levy’s twists on classic Easter dishes, such as his braised lamb shank, with cardamom-roasted citrus, garden herbs, roasted potatoes and sautéed arugula.

But the dish that he expects will get everyone hopping is the result of what he said started out as an Easter joke —a saddle of rabbit.

The saddle, or tenderloin, of Levy’s rabbit will be roasted and stuffed with chicken livers, pancetta, leeks and artichoke hearts, served in a rabbit-thyme jus with potatoes and sautéed kale.

Levy says that rabbit is always a hit when he puts it on his menu. He predicts that this particular preparation, with its savory and rich notes, will be no exception, especially in the context of the upcoming holiday.

“It’s an Easter bunny thing, right, so why not just go for it?” he joked.

Rounding out this Easter meal is a white chocolate cake with fresh strawberries, which should make for a nice complement to the cottontail.

The Easter menu at Feast will be available all day on April 20, in addition to its regular brunch and dinner menus. Reservations can be made by calling 326-9363.

I’m in for anything on Easter, old or new, as long as there’s room on the plate for a Peep. Some traditions are designed to endure.

Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 4-5 p.m. Saturdays on KNST 790-AM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030-AM.

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