Modest old building houses divine food
The Toledo Blade’s Bill of Fare
Article published Thursday, January 5, 2006
Restaurant review: Frog Leg Inn *****
• Address: 2103 Manhattan St., Erie, Mich.
• Phone: 734-848-8580.
• Category: Dress up (but dress down is acceptable).
• Menu: French.
• Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are accepted.
• Wheelchair access: Not in the restrooms.
• Smoking section: Tuesday-Thursday.
• Average price: $$$.
• Credit cards: AE, Dis, MC, V.
The Frog Leg Inn in Erie, Mich., has, at various times been a bawdy house, a speakeasy, and a school. Now it’s a fine French restaurant.
Metropolitan Toledo isn’t exactly a hotbed of continental cuisine, but it’s still possible to find a handful of places within driving distance whose chefs possess the skill to create divine French sauces draped over classic French entrees – of the kind that, in Ernest Hemingway’s words, made Paris such a moveable feast.
As a sterling example, drive a short way over the Ohio-Michigan line and you’ll find the Frog Leg Inn, a restaurant whose ordinary name belies a French-accented menu that has enticed discriminating patrons for at least the last decade.
The restaurant, in Erie, Mich., owes its reputation to Chef Tad Cousino (a shirttail cousin to the Toledo restaurateur) and his French-born wife, Catherine. Their aim was to re-create the simple splendor of a French country inn with great food and a first-rate wine list. In so doing, they have made the little Michigan town a magnet for epicureans.
The kitchen bedazzles patrons with such dishes as steak covered in cream sauce laced with sour-mash bourbon; sauted chicken breast with bacon, wild mushrooms, white wine, brandy, and heavy cream; various renditions of Normandy pork, coq au vin, lamb, and duck, all with similarly piquant sauces – and of course, frog legs deep-fried in beer batter or sauted in garlic butter wine sauce.
This is a restaurant – expensive at the high end, but with very good bargains as well – that bears repeated visits. I can’t imagine how it escaped my notice all this time.
The modest wooden building on Erie’s Manhattan Street dates back to 1853. In the ensuing years it has been a bawdy house, speakeasy, school, meat market, and pizza bar. Early in the last century, it became the Frog Leg Inn, and some 80 years later the Cousinos took it over and again transformed the place.
During the Cousinos’ tenure, the pool table gave way to a dainty dcor of white-cloth-clad tables, framed Mardi Gras posters on the walls, and a cupboard filled with stuffed and ceramic frogs donated by various patrons. The only thing marring the cozy ambiance is an ostentatious, red wraparound laminate bar that clashes with the genteel character of the dining room.
The frog legs, succulent with or without breading, can be ordered as a dinner ($13.99) or as a six-leg appetizer sampler ($7.49). Other possible starters are Hawaiian coconut shrimp or stuffed mushrooms, both $6.99, and luscious, fresh-roasted garlic cloves laden with herbed cheese ($6.49). For the salad, the servers undoubtedly will recommend the house Dijon tarragon vinaigrette dressing; don’t turn them down.
Though I was skeptical about the pineapple-flavored sauce cloaking an otherwise well-turned salmon entre ($16.99), I swooned over a roasted veal shank ($19.29) enveloped in a heavenly dark sauce and the tenderest meat, served with a side of juicy braised cabbage. Another entre that made us jubilant was roasted, chargrilled medallions of pork tenderloin ($17.99), marinated in mustard, cider vinegar, and honey and served in a silken French sauce.
In a special note, the proprietors take pains to explain that much of the beef on the menu is listed at market price, with a promise that the cost will be adjusted weekly as the price rises or falls. Last weekend, for example, the 12-ounce lamb chops were going for a fairly high $32.99, while an eight-ounce New York strip cost a modest $14.99.
As further evidence that the Cousinos have the customer in mind, a generous helping of farmer’s chicken – sauted and seasoned chicken breast slices in a white wine cream sauce over black pepper fettuccine – went for just $9.99, salad and bread included. And on the way out, Julie, our sensationally competent server, reminded us that the restaurant also makes pizzas to go.
From Toledo, there are two recommended routes: north on M-25 (the old Dixie Highway) into Erie. At the second traffic light is Manhattan Street; turn left. Or, take I-75 north to Exit 2 (Erie-Temperance), which will take you to Manhattan Street.
Frog Leg Inn leaps into product sales
By Charles Slat
Evening News staff writer
The Monroe Evening News, Saturday, March 29, 2003
The owners of the Erie restaurant hope they’ve hit on another recipe for success with their “Gourmet Collection” line.
ERIE: Catherine Cousino’s loss has turned into the Frog Leg Inn’s gain.
When Mrs. Cousino started on a diet that was heavy on vegetables, she searched for something to add pizzazz to the food.
She came up with a combination of spices that long had been used for seasoning in some of the menu favorites at the Frog Leg Inn, the restaurant she runs with husband, Tad.
Mrs. Cousino not only lost weight on her diet, she realized that the spice combination enhanced all kinds of foods and had greater potential.
Now, the 15 Million Spice isn’t just served up in the restaurant. It can be found on an increasing number of store shelves in the area as one of the products in the restaurant’s growing “Gourmet Collection” line.
“You can remove your regular salt and pepper from the table,” Mrs. Cousino says to those who want to try 15 Million Spice. “For one week or so, just take your salt and pepper and put it in the closet.”
It took a while for the Cousinos to get the balance of the spice combo just right, develop labels and start marketing it through demonstations at area stores.
“This is all new territory for us,” Mr. Cousino says. “We’re not marketing majors, we’re in the restaurant business.”
Nonetheless, they quickly realized the restaurant was home to other potential products. The next big leap was to bottle Dijon Tarragon Vinaigrette Dressing, which had been the restaurant’s house salad dressing for about eight years.
“We just started playing with it as a marinade,” Mrs. Cousino says. They found it enhanced the flavors of salmon, chicken and other meats.
The Cousinos had some clues about the potential popularity of the dressing. Restaurant patrons were asking if they could take some home even before the couple thought of making it a bottled product.
“They were saying if you put it in a container, we’ll buy it,” Mrs. Cousino says. “People were leaving here with it in sour cream containers.”
The Chipotle Pepper Dipping Sauce was another product of experimentation. “On weekends we do a lot of specials,” Mr. Cousino says. “The ingredients were laying around on a Friday for a Mexican-Southwestern night. Next thing you know, that was there and I said, ‘That’s pretty good.’ ”
The Cousinos knew the products were a success in the restaurant. Getting customers to buy it off a store shelf and try it was another matter.
“You can try to sell it, but until it gets into people’s mouths, it’s not going to sell,” Mr. Cousino says.
So Mrs. Cousino hit on the idea of doing product demonstrations in stores. The ever-increasing circle of stores began with the Erie Food Center, Zeiler’s in Temperance, Flick’s in Lambertville, Hi-Lite and Danny’s in Monroe, and others in Ohio.
The demonstations are an effort to create demand for the product among those who haven’t eaten at the restaurant, Mrs. Cousino says, and the reception has been good.
The three products range in suggested price from about $3.75 for the seasoning to $5.25 for the dressing. They all are made from scratch in the restaurant’s kitchen in 15-gallon batches, depending on demand. They contain no preservatives and have a shelf life of about 30 days. Because they’re preservative-free, “we may be able to hit the health-food market as well,” she says.
All three products bear the restaurant’s name and logo and soon customers will be able to order them online through the www.frogleginn.com Web site.
For Mr. Cousino, the product development knack stems from his years of working at various Toledo area restaurants before he and Mrs. Cousino bought the Frog Leg Inn.
Possible future products include a red wine cream sauce and a Tennessee bourbon cream sauce.
“We’re basically at the tip of the iceberg,” Mr. Cousino says.
Frog Leg Inn takes ambitious strides Downriver (way Downriver)
Dining With Molly
Monday, February 24, 2003
By Molly Abraham / The Detroit News
ERIE TOWNSHIP, Mich — Erie Township’s business district is so small, it recalls the line “there’s no there there.” Not much more than a dot on the map between Monroe and Toledo, even its residents joke that it’s in the middle of nowhere.
Not a likely location for a restaurant with ambitions, but here it is, in a two-story wooden building that has housed one enterprise or another since 1853 when it was a roadhouse for travelers coming from a nearby train station.
It’s been called Frog Leg Inn for the past 80 years. The current proprietors, Tad and Catherine Cousino, took over from previous owners in December of 1994.
“It was a basic hometown pizza bar,” says Tad Cousino, whose experience includes stints with Ann Arbor’s Main Street Ventures, and also at the Inverness Club in Toledo. “My wife and I are both food people, and we realized we needed to do more.”
Catherine Cousino, who moved to the United States from her native Lille, France, to help open a Toledo hotel, had two years of college culinary training in France in “everything from accounting to table service.”
And so with Tad in the back of the house and Catherine in the front, they gradually established a cozier, more refined setting and a much more ambitious menu, one they call “eclectic with French overtones.” And people somehow began finding their way to this rustic spot, which seems much more remote than the half-hour traveling time from the Downriver area.
With a name like Frog Leg Inn, there was one dish they had to master. And so Tad devised a number of ways to serve the titular dish. For instance, there’s grilled Thai frog legs with wasabi vinaigrette and peanut sauce, frog legs sauteed with a garlic butter sauce, or a sampler of six deep-fried legs with the house beer batter.
When the restaurant first opened, the couple served perhaps 10 pounds of farm-raised frog legs in a week. A review in the Monroe Evening News spread the word, and they went from 10 pounds a week to 60 to 65 pounds a night of the small, delicate morsels.
But the menu extends far beyond frog legs. Other dishes include crab cakes with chipotle sauce, Lake Erie walleye with housemade tartar sauce, spinach gnocchi in a sauce made with three cheeses, raviolis with cremini and fontina stuffing, and such signature entrees as duck legs grilled and finished with dried cherries and brandy. The Cousinos also serve certified Angus steaks ranging from New York strip (fitting right in with their Manhattan Street address) and Delmonico with garlic mashed potatoes. Their house dressing is a subtle Dijon tarragon vinaigrette.
The setting for all of this is a softly-lit cedar-paneled room decorated with antiques collected by Tad’s mother, who lives on a sesquicentennial farm nearby. Her hand-painted china in a pattern of cherries and fruit is displayed on a plate rail around the room and so is a growing collection of frogs of all descriptions, most of them gifts from customers.
Catherine Cousino’s soft French accent is also very much a part of the atmosphere. “Charm-wise, Catherine brings what’s needed in the front of the house,” says her husband, and he’s right.
Given Catherine’s French heritage, it’s not surprising that the restaurant has a nice little wine list, with most bottles in the $16-$32 range. The couple also hosts a series of wine tastings.
There is one tonight, in fact. It includes a six-course dinner and a tasting of five wines at an all-inclusive $55. There’ll be a beer tasting this spring and cooking classes during the summer to give people more reasons to find their way to Erie. Diners will find a warm welcome and an interesting menu at the end of the journey.
(From the Detroit area, take Interstate 75 south to exit 5, the Erie/Temperance exit. Turn right, and continue to the second stop sign. Turn left and then right at the first light.)
A dining treasure awaits in Erie
From: The Peach section of The Toledo Blade, Friday, February 22, 2002 edition
By: Bill of Fare, Blade Restaurant Critic
Frog Leg Inn
5 stars/ 5 stars
Click here to see the article at The Toledo Blade web site
Address: 2104 Manhattan St., Erie, Michigan
Phone: (313) 848-8580
Category: French-American fare.
Hours: 4:00 to 10:00 PM Monday – Saturday; 4:00 to 8:00 PM Sunday. Reservations are accepted
No smoking section: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
Prices: Average prices; appetizers, $5.95; entrees, $15.50, plus tax and tip.
Credit Cards: American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa
Meals are paid for by The Blade.
There are many Cousinos up on Lake Erie’s edge around Erie, Michigan. Two of them, Tad and Catherine, are restaurateurs, but they apparently are not related to the East Toledo’s Tom and Eileen Cousino who are restaurateurs.
Tom and Eileen’s Navy Bistro and other good eateries are well known in and around Toledo, while Tad and Catherine’s Frog Leg Inn, though warmly appreciated amother their Erie neighbors, is off the radar screens of most Toledoans. That’s too bad, for it’s really worth getting to know this treasure.
Both restaurant and name go back nearly a century; the building that has housed it all that time is another half-century older. Talk about historic eateries! Just off Dixie Highwaay, the Frog Leg Inn was a midpoint stop between Toledo and Detroit for Prohibition era bootleggers. It was, naturallym a speak-easy. Other incarnations include an early bawdy house and a meat market.
Each time we’ve reviewed the Frog Leg – five years ago, then two years later – the experience has been more positive. At first, the most was comfortably informal, the menu pretty basic, the food very well prepared and served. However, the décor and layout left something to be desired; rough edges, a “good old boys” bar, shadowed corners.
The Frog Leg Inn is delightfully different today. Catherine’s taste is evident in understated décor that hints the graceful old buildings more reputable memories. It contributes to a statement of the difference between eating and relaxed, refreshing dining.
Back in the kitchen, chef Tad Cousino, and sous-chef Kirk Dixon, who recently returned to these parts where he, too, grew up have not been idle. A special appetizer one recent evening was frog legs Napoleon, a brilliant presentation of four frog legs lightly sautéed in a beure blanc, arranged around a centerpiece of layered tomatoes, watercress, and frog leg salad, drizzled over with a tomato coulis.
Feel like a taste of the wild? Another appetizer is deep fried alligator, spiced New Orleans style and served with a cold chipotle sauce.
Naturally, there are frog legs on the dinner menu, either sautéed or deep-fried. They’re just one of the seafood listings, which include Lake Erie walleye that comes via Canada and very tasty crab cakes, also served with a spicy chipotle sauce. Incidentally, if you wonder what a St. Peter’s fish is, it’s also known as the John Dory, a delicate flavored saltwater treat popular in Europe, but without enough meat to be commercially viable.
Some presentation of salmon is regularly among specialty offerings, and I happily opted for a lightly breaded, sautéed filet garnished with sliced wild mushrooms and white beans, dresses in a light truffle sauce. Mildly herbed potatoes and green beans rounded out the plate.
Three steaks are on the regular menu: a New York strip, a “Jack Daniels” strip in a cream sauce flavored with a dash of sour-mash whisky, and a delmonico. A precisely medium broiled filet mignon was special one evening and the kitchen proposes an eight-once steak in tandem with shrimp or frog legs.
One of my dinners was the chef’s choice. Out came a duckling confit – two easy cutting legs and thighs, seasoned and grilled in their own fat and finished with a large spoon of dried cherries in brandy, butter and veal drippings. They were served with a generous portion of mashed potatoes livened with roasted garlic. Leaving the choice to the chef was very successful!
One way to Erie is north up old Dixie Highway, now M-125, to the second traffic light, Manhattan Street. Turn left, and the restaurant, with on street parking and a lot in the back, will be immediately on your left. It is easier, perhaps, to follow I-75 north to the Erie-Temperance Exit No. 2; off the expressway there’s only one way to go; at the fourth intersection, which is Manhattan Street, turn left. Immediately beyond Erie’s single traffic light, the pale-gray frame building whose twin gables face the street is the Frog Leg.
Frog Leg given French treatment
By: Jill Jividen
From: The Monroe Evening News, Sunday, March 28, 1999 edition
Ostensibly, Erie, with it skirting fields and agricultural mainstay, isn’t the first place someone would expect to find fine dining.
The Frog Leg Inn is changing that.
Tad and Catherine Cousino, who took over the old bar and pizza place in 1994, surprised patrons by actually bringing back for legs, but also souped up their menu with some French fare and other exotic dishes that are almost otherwise nonexistent in Monroe County.
“Other restaurants aren’t doing this type of thing, said Mr. Cousino. “We either have an off-the wall presentation or a sauce that you (have to try).”
Mr. Cousino received his formal culinary training at Owens Community College, Toledo, collected years of experience, then returned to his native Erie to make a go of the old inn.
Inn Undergoes A Magic Wand Transformation
Published in the Toledo Blade on March 5, 1999
A zany bubble of imagination popped into my mind – the fabled kiss that turned a frog into a prince – when I slipped through a small vestibule into the Frog Leg Inn last week. Obviously some beautiful princess had been by since our last visit, a year ago last fall. What had been a most unprepossessing grouping of pool table, bar, and checkered plastic table covers had become a relatively quiet, semiprivate dining area behind a greenery-topped room divider shielding guests from the inspection of newcomers and the whiffs of cold air blowing in off the lake as the door opened on a late winter evening.
Maybe French-born Catherine Thelier, wife and proprietor with her chef husband, Tad Cousino, was the requisite princess. She speaks of the slow, patient effort as means become available to redo the historic dining room in a character consistent with both the inn’s graceful century-and-a-half-old building and present-day standards of comfort.
Old buildings have commonly undergone many revisions and reconstructions, and it may be that the inn, originally known as the Ross Hotel, once had ground-floor windows. Now, however, there are none, and sprightly table candles complement the soft lighting of dining room and bar. Incidentally, the full bar, linking the dining area near the entry and the principal dining room, has been clearly understated and apparently attracts few customers.
The inn is in or near the center of a sparsely populated area, and were it to rely mainly on local business, survival would be different and difficult. The building, the decor, the menu, and the easy access off I-75 and M-125 all suggest, rather, repeat business from Monroe and Toledo, where Chef Tad honed his craft, if memory serves me, partly by a stint in the kitchen of Toledo’s former Sofitel.
Cousino’s is, of course, a familiar restaurant name. In Toledo there is the Navy Bistro, a Woodville Road steakhouse, and the Cafe Chez Vin, all Cousinos. A senior member of the clan explained to me that the contemporary Erie Cousinos are cousins once or twice removed, as genealogists call it, to the Toledo branch. There must be a gene that accounts for culinary talent.
Though there have been until quite recently four sandwiches on the menu, the inn is not open for lunch. As the dinner hour begins early, at 4 p.m., I asked my server whether sandwiches were often or dered, and she said “practically never.” Two remain on a new menu that’s coming, chicken Dijon and the classic hamburger, each for close to $5. Light eaters may instead prefer one of the six dinner salads on offer, from a mostly greens house number to an elaborate chef’s salad at $6 and a rich shrimp dish for $8 and change.
Not that I wanted one, but the absence of a shrimp cocktail, missing, it seems, from ever more menus, led me to ask. “They’re almost never asked for any more,” chef Tad said. “Maybe it’s price, but it’s hard to serve a good one, with fresh shrimp, when you get one order a week.” However, the menu does offer, along with signature frog legs, an appetizer of lightly breaded, deep fried shrimp with coconut and a fruity sauce.
In addition to three or four daily specials, the menu lists enough entrees to meet any reasonable preferences. There’s a wow of a veal chop saltimbocca, grilled and served with wild mushrooms and bites of prosciutto under a creamy, savory sauce. The rack of lamb, whacked apart into a generous stack of chops, is another winner. There are New York strip steaks, of course, one served with a Jack Daniel’s cracked pepper sauce, each in two sizes, as well as a walleye fillet, frog legs, and a breast of chicken almondine.
What sets these entrees a cut above the ordinary are the sauces, imaginatively created and varied by the inn’s kitchen.
Servers are cheerful, willing, and hard working, though the inn is, at times, short-handed. Parking, on the street or in a side lot, is a bit tight on a weekend night, when a reservation is a good idea. You won’t normally need one on a midweek or Sunday evening, a leisurely time to savor the Inn and its kitchen. It’s well worth the trip.
Couple jumped at chance to wed, open restaurant
By: Don Ayres, Evening News staff writer
from the Carol Deptolla Evening News in Monroe, Michigan
December 28, 1995 edition
While frog legs are a popular taste treat for many Americans, they have nowhere near the popularity they enjoy in France, where they are a typical part of French cuisine.
“But the French have a probably the most difficult phrase for frog legs, ‘La Cuisse de Grenouille’ and I just can’t do it justice,” Tad Cousino said.
Perhaps he could get some help with pronunciation from his wife, Catherine, who grew up in Lille, France near the Belgian border.
Before buying the Frog Leg Inn in December 1994, the Cousinos worked for years in the restaurant business, Tad as a chef, and Catherine as a waitress and bartender.
In fact, they met while working together at a restaurant in Toledo.
“He gave me a line of baloney and I believed him,” Mrs. Cousino said laughing.
After years of working for other people, the couple decided that it just wasn’t for them, and decided to open their own place.
“After a while, I thought, ‘This is nuts, making money for other people’,” Mrs. Cousino said.
They’ve both had formal training in their area of expertise. Tad attended Owens Community College in Toledo, studying culinary arts, while Catherine went to college for two years in France, studying to be a waitress.
As part of her training, Mrs. Cousino had to learn placement of plates on a table, and had to study a wide variety of wines and cheeses, among other things.
But all that training doesn’t change who they are.
“We’re very informal people with very formal training,” Mr. Cousino said.
When they bought the restaurant, they spent three weeks giving it a facelift before it opened.
Business since then has picked up pretty steadily.
“We finally started taking home a paycheck,” Mr. Cousino said, laughing. “We weren’t doing that a year ago.”
Some people who come into the restaurant are surprised that the Frog Leg Inn is no longer a bar and pizza place.
“I’ve still got people that say, ‘What are you trying to do, turn this into a restaurant?’ ” Mr. Cousino said. “I just say, ‘Yep.’ ”
While some might find it strange to locate an upscale restaurant in a small town like Erie, Mr. Cousino said it shouldn’t shock anyone.
“Yes, it’s a farm community, but people still get out, they’ve got culture,” he said.
In addition to the frog legs, the menu at the Frog Leg Inn includes a wide variety of foods, including prime rib, steak, seafood, sandwiches and salads. You’ll also find Middle Eastern fare such as hummas and tabouli – big sellers according to Mr. Cousino.
The restaurant will be going though changes soon, from the menu to its business hours, the Cousinos said.
Now open seven days a week, the restaurant will start closing on Mondays. That will give the Cousinos a break so they can take care of other things in their lives – like their three boys, ages 6, 7 and 8, from previous marriages.
Trying to care for the boys and keeping up their own home – in addition to the mountain of work they have to do each day to keep the restaurant running – makes things tough for the couple.
So just how hard is it to work with your spouse? Well, it has its ups and downs, Mrs. Cousinos said.
“You know each other very well. But I can’t just go home at night and say, ‘God, I hate my boss,’ ”she said laughing.
Frog Legs Inn, again
By: Don Ayres, Evening News staff writer
From the Carol Deptolla Evening News in Monroe, Michigan
Dec.28, 1995 edition; Living Section: pages 1C and 2C
Although the Erie landmark has been called the Frog Leg Inn for the past 20 years or so, the only frog legs you’d find on the premises were on the sign out front. That’s different now.
Erie – After 20 years, the frog legs are back at the Frog Leg Inn, and folks are jumping at the chance to order the amphibian femurs.
New owners Tad and Catherine Cousino decided to bring back when they bought the restaurant a year ago.
“When I was looking at the place, that was the first thing that came to my mind – the frog legs had to come back,” Mr. Cousino said.
The frog legs are a hook that brings people into the restaurant, and keeps them coming back, he said.
The Cousinos, who had been working for years in the restaurant business, decided a year ago to try to make a go of running their own place.
At about the same time, they decided to make a go of marriage and tied the knot.
When Mr. Cousino, a lifelong township resident, noticed the Frog Leg Inn was for sale, it seemed a perfect place for the couple to get their start.
The Cousinos bought the restaurant, which has been operated as a combination bar and pizza place for the past 20 years, and opened the first week in December.
The new Frog Leg Inn offers a variety of foods on the menu, but it’s the return of the frog legs that has people talking.
Erie Township Supervisor Margaret Dusseau says she’s probably one of the restaurant’s main customers where the frog legs are concerned.
She stops in for the frog legs about twice a month.
“For years it’s been kind of a joke, because its been called the Frog Leg Inn, but when you went in you could only get pizza,” she said.
Something of a aficionado of the dish, Mrs. Dusseau said Mr. Cousino cooks up a pretty mean frog leg.
“They just kind of melt in your mouth; they’re really good, “She said. “I think (Mr. Cousino does) an excellent job with them.”
Like just about every other type of exotic food, it seems frog legs taste like – you guesses it – chicken.
“It doesn’t taste fishy at all, which I think some people might think it would,” Mrs. Dusseau said. “It’s a little bit more delicate than chicken.”
So far, Mrs. Dusseau isn’t the only one ordering the frog legs.
Mr. Cousino said a couple from Detroit have become regulars, coming down to Erie just for the frog legs. And a stready stream of customers is coming up from Toledo.
Mr. Cousino cools the frog legs two ways: deep fried in batter, and sautéed in a white wine, garlic and butter sauce.
“Most of the people who get in deep fried are the ones who aren’t sure about eating frog legs,” Mrs. Cousino said. “When they’re deep fried, you don’t really see anything.”
By far, the more popular style is sautéed, Mr. Cousino said.
That makes life just a little more complicated for him, because it’s a bit tricky getting things right when sautéing the frog legs,
“It takes the right touch to cook them, because they’re so delicate,” Mr. Cousino said. “It takes some playing around.”
Mr. Cousino said he had to experiment several times to get the procedure down right.
Mr. Cousino uses legs from Indonesian frogs – a type of frog – that he gets from a commercial supplier in the area. All of the frogs giving up their gams were raised on special “frog farms” here in the United States.
Raising them domestically on such farms makes them much more affordable.
“They used to be really expensive,” Mr. Cousino said. “Since they started farm raising them, the price has come down, like to $5.25 a pound.”
It can take a bit of looking to find frog legs at the local grocery store, but Mr. Cousino said anyone interested in cooking up a batch at home but is having trouble finding frog legs might be able to find some at a seafood supermarket or commercial food supplier.
And if you run into trouble, don’t hesitate to call him at the restaurant. He’ll be more than happy to give you a leg up.
First, take flour
By: Don Ayres, Evening News staff writer
From the Carol Deptolla Evening News in Monroe, Michigan
Dec.28, 1995 edition; Living Section: page 1
Here is Tad Cousino’s recipe for success when it comes to cooking frog legs:
First dust the frog legs with flour, making sure to shake off the excess flour.
Next, melt butter in a small frying pan set on a high flame, and adding about ½ tablespoon of minced garlic. When the butter begins to bubble, place the frog legs in a pan and bring the heat down to about three-quarters flame.
“The most crucial part is getting the temperature right,” Mr. Cousino said.
Sautee the frog legs in the butter and garlic for about 7 minutes, turning them as necessary.
Remove the frog legs to a warm plate, add white wine to the frying pan and place it back on a low to medium heat to deglaze the pan.
Let the wine reduce almost completely, then add butter to the pan to complete the white wine and butter sauce.
As the butter melts, Mr. Cousino shakes the pan frequently to make sure the sauce doesn’t separate.
Mr. Cousino said he uses a European butter for his sauces.
“It’s a lot more expensive, but it’s much richer, so it make a better sauce,” he said.
When the butter has melted completely, Mr. Cousino adds a little dried parsley for color, and then pours the sauce over the frog legs. He serves them with a garnish of fresh parsley.
Small town offers a fine dining experience
By: Bill of Fare, Blade Restaurant Critic for The Toledo Blade
The Frog Leg Inn
21 points / 25 points
Address: 2104 Manhattan St. , Erie, Michigan
Phone: (313) 848-8580
Hours: 4:00 – 10:00 PM Tuesday-Thursday; 4:00 – 11:00 PM Friday and Saturday; 1- 8:30 PM Sunday; Reservations are accepted
No smoking section: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes, with slight difficulty
Prices: The average price of a dinner including drink, appetizer or dessert, tax and tip is $21-$26.
Credit Cards: Mastercard and Visa
The critic’s ratings: Food 9/10; service 7/8; ambiance 3/5; amenities, 2/2
Meals are paid for by The Blade.
The Frog Leg Inn is an Erie, Michigan landmark. An inn no longer, just a restaurant, it occupies the entire first floor of a big frame building on Manhattan street immediately west on Dixie Highway. It’s built, like many old buildings, low to the ground and close to the sidewalk so that only from across the street are you likely to appreciate the charming simplicity of its graceful proportions and original design.
Most of those who crowd it nightly, however, seem less interested in the 19th century domestic architecture than in the good food and drink to be had inside.
On first impression, the Frog Leg Inn might not seem the stuff of memories. The entry opens into a room with a bar, a pool table and tables draped with checkered plastic covers. A hostess station promises more except that on a slow evening the hostess may be pinch-hitting in another role, bussing a table or helping deliver dinners to a large party. Be patient; first impressions are often wrong.
Proprietor Tad Cousino (no relation of the Toledo Cousinos) is the chef and his French-born wife, Catherine Thelier, pretty much tends to the myriad of details – décor, service, customer satisfaction – that set a comfortable restaurant apart from just another place to grab a meal, though she can and does help out as needed in the kitchen.
Every successful menu represents experience and thoughtful care, and the Frog Leg’s is a good example. Besides four choices for children, all with fries and all reasonably priced (grilled cheese sandwich, $1.95, chicken finger, $2.75, plain burger $3.00 and cheeseburger $3.25), it includes basic meat and potatoes for grown-ups such as a carefully trimmed 8 ounce New York strip ($11.95; a 12-once version is $13.95); filet mingnon ($16.95); broiled breast of chicken Parmesan ($9.95); and shrimp, either grilled on a skewer ($13.95) or deep fried or sautéed ($12.95).
For those who look to the kitchen for more challenging and rewarding dishes, the Frog Leg offers frog legs – naturally! – ($11.95), and a nicely spiced rack of lamb composed of eight thick meaty ribs ($16.95).
Two singularly attractive salads are among the five on the menu; one is teriyaki chickem ($6.50); the other adds generous dollops of baby shrimp and mock crab to the bed of leafy greens and crisp vegetables ($7.25). More typical are chef’s ($6.00), taco ($5.50) and a simple house selection ($2.50).
There are also two gestures toward exotic cuisines, hommas ($4.50) and chicken fajitas ($7.95).
Entrees are served with rolls and butter, potato, the vegetable of the day, and salad or soup. Normally there’s only one soup selection, but it’s a welcome one: French onion.
Although the Frog Leg is not open for lunch, light eaters will be happy to find, in addition to the salads, four varied sandwiches: a standard burger ($4.50), and enhanced bacon-lettuce-tomato ($3.95) and reuben ($5.75), and a chicken with Dijon dressing ($5.25). I don’t think of pizzas as light meals, but some devotes and entire page to choices ranging from a small single cheese number at $5.50.
The appetizer list is uneventful, embracing such typical items as potato skins ($5.75), “forg wings” with regular, hot, or barbeque sauce (10 for $5.50, 20, $9.50), and deep fried mozzarella sticks served with a marinara sauce ($3.95). But here, too, chef Cousino has more distinctive items in mind; he’s working on a housepate formula and the result – not yet on the menu, but coming – is quite authentic in taste and texture.
Make no mistake, the Frog Leg Inn is not dressy, not at all pretentious; yet the dinning room is attractive and comfortable, and the attentions of the staff make the dinner, both next-door neighbor and passing stranger, feel genuinely welcome.
A Princely Find
By: Stacie Tucker
From: The Toledo City Paper
March 15, 2001
When we set out for the Frog Leg, my friends and I didn’t expect much; Erie’s a pretty little down, and we’d never heard of the place, although it’s not a long drive away. We were no more impressed once we’d found it – a curtain of icicle lights spruced up an otherwise dull-looking – yet historic – building. It has always been the “Frog Leg,” starting out as a roadhouse in 1853, later becoming a speak-easy, and even at some point, a borderello. Most recently, it was a neighborhood tavern, until Tad Cousino took over six years ago. The Frog Leg is now an excellent restaurant featuring French-style cuisine, with an emphasis on finely crafted sauced. It happens that his wife is French, from Lille, and has a degree (acquired in France of course) in what could be called waitressing, but which involves far more. Suffice it to say that she runs the front of the house (which is not at all to be confused with merely being the hostess) and also advises Tad in the kitchen.
The inn serves its namesake deepfried or sautéed as an appetizer or an entrée ($7.25/$12.95). We ordered the appetizer portion fried – the tiny bones held vert tender, subtly juicy chicken-like white meat, and a crispy coating provided the ideal counterpoint. The pissaladiere ($2.75) was based – in a beak with tradition – on puff pastry, and topped, traditionally, with sweet camelized onions heavily soaked in red wine, and fresh Parmesan. The French Onion soup ($3.50) was also topnotch, made with true beef stock. The king of all appetizers was the sautéed Portobello mushrooms with red wine cream sauce ($5.25). The brilliance here is that they have cut out the boring part (pasta, croustade, etc.) and serve just the best part of the dish on its own. Sheer genius.
Each entrée is proceeded by a salad, in this case, a rather tart and bitter version. Its long been my understanding, however, that this is the norm in French cooking; and sensibly, since the salad is viewed in France as a palate cleanser, and not as an entrée.
The entrée is treated like the star of the meal that is, served centered on a dinner plate all its own, with sides literally on the side, on their own small plates. This includes the vegetable of the day (sautéed corn on out visit) and a starch (poppyseed potatoes, a name which hardly begins to describe how good these were. Sweetly caramelized, these had flavor to spare, a feat rarely achieved with potatoes. Had I not been so full, I’d have finished both sides with gusto). My 12-ouce strip steak ($16.95) cooked to a perfect medium-rare, was served with a gernerous amount of the manliest sauce I’d ever had, a cream sauce not only with Jack Daniel’s (yes, the whisky) but plenty of cracked pepper. The grilled lamb chops ($19.95) came arranged on a pool of rich bordelaise sauce; its tart, fruity taste shamelessly flattering the strong flavor of the lamb. The grilled salmon special ($15.95) was generously portioned (8 ounces, at least), faultlessly grilled, and surrounded by a subtle clam-dill cream sauce.
Vegetarians will just have to order a salad or have sautéed portobellos for dinner, but what else is new, and I doubt you’ll hear them complain about it.
Chef/owner Cousino found time to come out and talk to us, and we chatted for quite a while about food and restaurants. I learned (with no surprise) that he’s no beginner; he started out at the Real Seafood Co. and spent time at Oso Savory, among other local favorites. I had an excellent time, as I expect to when I spring for an expensive meal, and I couldn’t help but feel pleasantly surprised when the bill came, and I found the total was just $100 (and this included a few drinks).
- Stacie Tucker is a semi-professional cook and a fashion plate