I am new to food writing so I often seek out feedback from my friends. Once, one of my buddies told me, “You need to write a bad review, all your reviews have been positive.” I took that feedback to heart and have tried to dig deeper and become a more critical writer. Unfortunately, this review will not be one of those deeply critical reviews. Not because I wasn't willing to be critical but because the meal was perfection.
The evening started with a cocktail hour featuring music from Scott Moore of 23 String Band. I ordered a Sazerac which has been my favorite cocktail to order at Harvest. The bartender shared that he muddles the sugar instead of using simple syrup. This creates a subtle sweet gritty finish instead of a thick sweet syrupy one. I definitely appreciated the added dimension to the drink.
During the cocktail hour, servers passed around three variations of small bites. The hog jowl scones were savory little bacon candy cakes. Topped with Harvest’s heavenly silky sorghum butter, the scones were filled with little bacon crystals perfectly dispersed in each little delicate triangle. Next, I chomped down on buttery pretzel crostini topped with melt in your mouth sweet smoked rib jam garnished with what appeared to be a purple cabbage slaw. The slight tang of the slaw helped balance out the richness from the butter and the sweetness of the pork. Finally, I asked folks around me which small bite was their favorite and the overwhelming winner was the open-faced pastrami tongue and cheek Reuben.
Roger Baylor opened the dinner with a toast with NABC’s Naughty Girl, which he referred to as Belgian IPA. The beer had a sweet, slight fruity aroma but a very dry taste. It was my favorite beer of the evening. My pallet was already being overwhelmed by many rich flavors and this beer helped clean it out. The first course was posole, a traditional Mexican soup. The soup had a consistency closer to broth, was dark in color, and full of rich flavors. Garnishes of pickled onion and raw cabbage again helped balance flavors. Big, chewy bites of hominy and beer brined pork added more texture and depth of flavor. It was paired with NABC’s Black and Bluegrass which Roger described as a “saison, not exactly...” The spicy notes in the beer helped punch up some of the spices in the soup.
We moved on to the second course of porchetta, an Italian dish of stuffed pork loin. Harvest’s stuffing included fat pistachios and was served in large thin slices topped with bitter greens, pickled ramp relish and Oaktimus vinaigrette. Again, we had such a great interplay of flavor and texture. The porchetta itself was marbled with creamy fat between sweet meaty bites of pork and rich stuffing. The bitter greens and tangy sauces were all just enough to marry everything together. There were no overly dominant flavors, and as you chewed, each distinct flavor mixed together for a really satisfying finish. It was, of course, paired with Oaktimus, a variation of NABC's popular Hoptimus. The beer was not as sweet as the famous Hoptimus and was a nice robust compliment to this dish.
I’ve never been one to drool when someone says roast, but I think this will change now that I’ve had a pork roast at Harvest. The third course was sliced in moderate meaty slices, drizzled with a rich deeply savory gravy, and laid invitingly on a fluffy potato cake. Off to the side of this seductive display was a little mountain of crispy pork rillons. Crunchy then creamy, salty chunks of pork fat melted in your mouth with the lean pork roast. To add a touch of sweetness, it was heaped with crispy sweet potato straws. We washed it down with a black lager, NABC’s Bonfire of the Valkyries.
We finished with a ridiculously decadent, melty, soft 15-B chocolate ganache truffle dessert topped with sugar spiced pork rinds. The torched marshmallow and ganache held it’s shape perfectly until your spoon touched its delicate surface. As you spooned it away from the plate, the marshmallow resisted slightly, pulling away with sticky threads that stretched slightly like melted cheese. It maintained it’s fluffy texture until it hit your tongue where it’s tacky texture mixed with the rich ganache. The result was a really incredible full taste of chocolate and sugar that was almost too much until you snapped down on a crispy pork rind.
We ended dinner with a glass of NABC’s Elector. If you have a chance, ask Roger to tell you the story about how this beer got it’s name. I could barely think after that meal but as I think back now, I believe what always defines meals at Harvest for me is the amazing detail and balance. There’s the balance in the recipes and flavors as I described in the meal above. In addition, the emphasis the establishment has on sourcing as locally and sustainably as possible makes eating there that much more incredible. I am grateful to have a place where a meal is not only a celebration for my senses but also my soul. My recommendation is not to miss your next opportunity for a culinary adventure at Harvest!