Room (and Board) at the Inn

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June 5, 2013
By: Carla Waldemar
Carla Waldemar

Sunday supper at Grandma’s house? Count me in. But today Grandma probably lives in a snazzy, high-rise condo, where you’ll find her in its fitness center, Internet café, or conferring with her clients in the meeting room. So maybe it’s time to update the tradition.

Nicollet Island Inn thinks so, too. In a fit of family-friendly genius, the inn has launched Sunday Table dining — a weekly changing, three-course prix-fixe menu following Chef Ryan Stechschulte’s mantra of locally sourced seasonal provender ($29 on the night of my visit), served in elegantly plated individual presentations (rather than passing Grandma’s bowls around the table), with as many gratis second helpings as you wish. (I could almost hear my dearly departed granny beaming down her habitual exhortation to “Have More! It’ll only go to waste!” with its usual coda: “Are you getting enough to eat in that new apartment?”) She’d be proud.

But she wouldn’t recognize the recipes. Chef Ryan is no slave to Betty Crocker. His resume includes stints at the stylin’ Victory 44 and fresh-forward Lucia’s. Consider the blessedly intricate salad he sent forth, constructed by someone who’s clearly a past master at Pick-Up-Sticks: a frill of frisee lettuce draped with a cluster of crisp-tender asparagus spears set aside a perfectly — perfectly! — poached egg, topped with shavings of nutty pecorino cheese and a flurry of buttered breadcrumbs, all glistening under a shower of a suave Champagne vinaigrette. I was ready to summon seconds until a server, wiser than I, warned me that the second course wasn’t designed for picky eaters, either.

Instead I buttered up another slice of homespun bread from Patisserie 46, took another sip of Block 9 Pinot Noir from Oregon (offered as the loss-leader price of $18; or choose a Pinot Grigio or Muscadet).

Then came a mixed grill to end all mixed grills: blush-pink, super-juicy slices of pork tenderloin; pork belly dripping with unseemly and utterly delicious F-A-T; and an outsize cross-section of fine-grained, kitchen-made pork sausage — as smooth, rich and herb-scented as pate. Then Ryan piles on roasted new potatoes and a heap of husky braised kale to counteract all that richness. A generous drizzle of Green Goddess dressing, adding an unexpected, and welcome, voice from the past — like a lemony aioli — completed the plate.

Dessert proved right on the money, too — an anti-glam and oh-so-tasty dish of vanilla ice cream atop caramelized bananas, presented with an honor guard of old-fashioned, homemade cookies: chocolate crinkles, oatmeal-raisin, chocolate chip. Tempting to just sign on for a room upstairs and sink into bed.

The next menu up includes endive salad, monkfish and almond cake. But, knowing Ryan, that’s just the Cliff Notes version. So, bring the family, your out-of-town guests, or make Sunday your new date night. That grand view of the Mississippi alone is worth the drive — from Bismarck or Waterloo.

Nicollet Island Inn

95 Merriam St.

331-1800

nicolletislandinn.com