By Katie TerBeest —

Robbins-and-McManus

Shawn McManus, executive chef and owner of Savory Creations in La Crosse, became a chef because he could create something people enjoyed. “I had never done anything like that before; it was very empowering for me,” he explained. Through his public and private cooking classes, as well as his restaurant consulting services, McManus is able to help others experience that feeling, all while focusing on farm-to-table meals or seed-to-table preparations. 

“Cruising La Crosse,” his newest addition to Savory Creations, is a unique dining experience that includes a limo ride through La Crosse.

A fleet of limousines from Winona Wedding Planners, including a 21-passenger limo coach with both limo and booth seating/tables, features plenty of seating for large groups, office parties or even just a special night out with the girls or the guys. As participants enjoy prepared appetizers from Savory Creations alongside custom-paired drinks created by mixologist Joshy Robbins of “Jade Libations,” they enjoy views of the city on their way to the Savory Creations studio kitchen and lounge. There, groups get a private cooking experience with McManus. Instead of typical restaurant dining, McManus offers the option of a fully hands-on private gourmet cooking experience, a chef demonstration, or partial hands-on dinner—a good way to “find the foodies in the group,” he explained. 

While McManus, who has been a professional chef for over 20 years, wants all attendees of the starlight limo dinners to have a great time, he also hopes the service will bring about an educational aspect and a shared appreciation for the fresh produce available to us here in the Midwest. “People are able to learn about sustainable organic farms and businesses in the area, plus they can take these recipes home to recreate them in their own kitchens,” he said.

“Ultimately, it’s about collaborating with friends and local small businesses to create a memorable experience.”

Prices vary based on group size and menu selections, with dinners averaging $50-$65 per person (limousine pricing not included). For our featured recipe, McManus shared this Salmon Niçoise Salad featuring Verlasso salmon fillets (known for harmoniously raised fish). Mixologist Joshy Robbins also custom-created a spicy, yet sweet, cocktail called “Por Mi Amante” to pair perfectly with this gourmet salad. 

For more information, go to www.savorycreations.org.

Salmon Nicoise Salad

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. small purple majesty potatoes (wedge cut)
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 oz. haricots verts (baby French 
  • green beans), trimmed
  • 10-12 quail eggs, boiled, 
  • cooled, shelled and halved 
  • (optional: canned in water)
  • 1 tbsp. Crème fraiche 
  • (optional: organic sour cream)
  • ¼ tsp. sumac powder
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon-infused oil 
  • (La Crosse Olive Oil Co.)
  • ¼ cup drained capers, patted dry
  • 1 lb. Verlasso® salmon fillets (optional: skin-on and desired salmon variety)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar 
  • (La Crosse Olive Oil Co.)
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • 1 lemon and 2 oranges 
  • (fresh-squeezed)
  • ½ medium shallot, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup niçoise olives, pitted
  • 5 cups mixed organic mesclun 

    Preparation: 

    Place wedged potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to 

    a boil. Season with salt and cook until fork-tender, about 15−20 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and cool. Reserve boiling water.

    Cook haricots verts in the same saucepan until crisp-tender, about two minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water. Chill until cold. Transfer to paper towels and pat dry.

    Heat ¼ cup canola oil in a medium-large sauce pan on medium heat. Sauté capers until browned and popped. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Add salmon fillets, canola oil and lemon oil to the same pan until the salmon is partially submerged. (Reserve ½ cup canola oil for dressing.)

    (Poach) Simmer salmon on low heat for approximately 10 minutes or until fillets have reached 150 degrees internally. Remove and let rest at room temperature for 5 minutes, then cool in fridge.

    Meanwhile, mash shallots, Dijon mustard and sugar in a medium-large mixing bowl to form a coarse paste. Whisk in citrus juices and white balsamic vinegar, then slowly whisk in remaining ½ cup oil. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper. 

    Remove egg yolks from boiled egg halves, place in a small bowl and mix in crème fraiche and sumac powder. Mix until blended, and pipe back into the halved egg whites (mini pastry bag tip preferred). 

    Arrange organic mesclun and radicchio leaves on a platter, then season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with half of dressing. Top in separate piles with potatoes, haricots verts, deviled quail eggs, olives and salmon. Drizzle salad with remaining dressing and top with fried capers. Enjoy!

    Drink Recipe: Por Mi Amante (For My Lover)

    Ingredients:

    • 2 ½ oz. Bacardi rum
    • 1 oz. simple syrup
    • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
    • 3 strawberries
    • 4 dashes of Tabasco sauce

    Preparation:

    In Boston shaker, add strawberries (sliced) and simple syrup. Muddle. 

    Add other ingredients and ice-shake vigorously. 

    Double strain into a champagne flute glass, adding a lime peel for garnish.