The St. Croix River Inn, located in Osceola, WI, is tucked away in the beautiful rolling hills of the St. Croix River Valley. This gem of an inn is not your ordinary bed and breakfast. On Friday and Saturday evenings, it features something very extraordinary—an intimate one seating, prix fixe gourmet dining experience, complete with river views.
Chef Ben Bruno (and company), loves to engage his dinner guests with little surprises. From dishing with you in the kitchen about the preparation and ingredients of the evening’s meal, to creating “off-the-menu” courses or even sharing his cycling and marathon adventures tableside, guests will enjoy and savor every tidbit of this delectable experience.
On this particular Friday night seating, Bruno added an extra course to the menu, black and white sesame seeded crab cakes.
“These crab cakes consist of blue crab meat, pickled cucumber, fresh cilantro, wasabi powder, fresh ginger, tangerine infused honey and black and white sesame seeds,” Bruno said. “The black and white sesame seeds give a little yin and yang to the cakes.”
When in season, most of his vegetables and herbs come from his own personal garden. With hints of fresh cilantro drifting in and out of every bite, these crab cakes were pan-fried to crispy perfection on the outside, leaving them tender and succulent on the inside. It’s another perfect pairing with a bottle of RouteStock Cellars Chardonnay (available at the inn).
The second course of the evening was tea smoked ribs. That’s right, tea smoked ribs. “The more years I cook, the more I’m finding myself coming up with concoctions during the nighttime hours, so I’m now keeping a notebook bedside,” Bruno said with a smile.
Bruno said they had quite a bit of black loose leaf tea in the house and he kept smelling the wonderful aromas of it.
“This particular loose leaf black tea came back from a Baltic Sea cruise. Whenever I would smell its great aromas, I felt I needed to figure out a way to cook with it,” he said.
His culinary senses were spot on with this concoction, as these ribs have wonderful whiffs of hickory and black tea nuances in every bite. To prepare the ribs, he covers them in a dry rub and then slowly cooks them in the oven for about two to three hours.
In preparation for smoking them on the grill, he makes a tent from aluminum foil and then fills it with hickory chips and black, loose tea leaves. He then places it all in the grill and smokes the meat until the meat starts to fall off the bone.
As a finishing touch, he brushes the ribs with a homemade, blackberry balsamic glaze that lends just a tad of sweetness to the meat. The course was served with a crispy, wedge-cut slice of mouthwatering cheddar cheese polenta.
Next up: A panzanella salad. This light and flavorful arugula salad is tossed with Bruno’s own crunchy, garlic and Romano bread croutons, sweet paprika, and homemade, roasted campari tomato vinaigrette. It’s topped with thin slices of prosciutto.
A refreshing, mid-palate herb experience, a vichyssoise was the fourth course. It’s a chilled, fresh, rich and creamy, herbed red potato soup that is pureed and sprinkled with fresh dill and chive from Bruno’s garden. “My mother used to make this all the time,” Bruno said. Perfectly comforting on a hot summer’s night.
The fifth course, another of Bruno’s masterful dishes—the chicken caprese. Bruno pounds out thin chicken breasts, and then places garden fresh, red-ripe tomatoes, whole leaf basil and fresh Buffalo mozzarella on it. He then rolls it all up into a log form and then pan fries it in olive oil and sea salt. He slices into small pinwheels and crowns it all with a candy sweet, 18 year-old balsamic vinaigrette.
Last, but certainly not least, Bruno’s famous tiramisu cheesecake. First, he bakes a ladyfinger crust separately for the cheesecake. This is to ensure the crust stays crispy and doesn’t turn soggy.
His cheesecake is zabaglione style (an Italian custard recipe). “The idea here is to keep all the coffee flavors of the tiramisu within the cheesecake,” Bruno said.
He uses ingredients like mascarpone cheese, dark rum, Kahlua and Marsala wine to perfect this cheesecake. The flavors and consistency play with your palate in that one moment you’re thinking tiramisu, and the next, you’re thinking cheesecake. One thing is for certain—it’s pure, silky elegance!
Bruno had one last surprise for the evening: fresh-frozen, dark chocolate mint leaves. Ah, what a cool and incredible way to end an intimate and amazing culinary dining experience!
The one seating, prix fixe gourmet dinners are available only on Fridays and Saturdays.
Chef Bruno can accommodate up to 14 guests. Conveniently, there are seven, newly renovated rooms at the inn, too. Dinners for special occasions can be prearranged with Bruno in advance.
For more information on prix fixe dinners, catering and accommodations at the St. Croix River Inn, call 715-294-4248 or visit their website at www.stcroixriverinn.com.