Taking Seasonal To A New Level
Lime and watercress, steak and apricot, salmon and pine nut – these are just a few examples of the way the chefs at Susquehanna Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar are mixing the farm-to-table bounty in interesting ways, creating inspired dishes and tastes.
Because one of the restaurant’s key values is the use of only local, fresh ingredients, you may think they’d end up limited in their options. But the chefs skillfully spin each dish into something totally modern.
The approach: four menus per year that switch on the solstices and equinoxes. Our server explained that from one season to the next, diners should expect a wholly fresh approach to the entire menu based on what’s available locally.
With the exception of a few simple staples, most everything changes, including seasonal cocktails. You won’t be able to get a watermelon lemonade martini in October, but you will be able to get a pomegranate mimosa, which was offered as a fall teaser when I dined there. Don’t mourn the seasonal martini, though; after dining at Harvest once, you’ll keep coming back to try something new. The seasons will keep turning, you’ll keep getting older and it will be summer again before you know it.
You may think that with ambitious values, Harvest might get snooty. But that’s not the case. It’s a classy place that still manages to be down-to-earth, featuring displays of earth-toned pottery, exposed stone walls and artfully placed plants. It’s not a place for sweatpants and a quick greasy pizza, but that’s because it takes pride in its appearance and what it stands for.
The ambiance is not stuffy, but it still feels just plain nice, with a large, airy layout featuring booths as well as tables, plus at least one sunlit private dining room. The wide, impressive U-shaped bar oozes elegance and features a few hidden TV screens up top showing football for the enjoyment of the bar sitters. Even the restaurant’s price range (from $4 to $28) reflects the relatively wide audience that Harvest attracts. A mix of business and casual diners patronize Harvest, along with a mix of ages.
As Harvest is also a wine bar with over 50 varieties of wine to choose from, my party and I had to try a Catawba sweet red – the last of the local wines available the day we visited. It was the perfect amount of sweet and earned the local wine scene a tip of the hat. We also started with two appetizers for the three of us, which turned out to be a great idea.
We tried the sautéed Kennett Square mushrooms, consisting of at least two types of mushroom mixed with heirloom tomatoes, onion and kale, all swimming in a mouthwatering verjus. The verjus didn’t overwhelm the mushrooms, and it nicely added flavor to the tomatoes and kale. We also ordered the charcuterie board, which came with crostini. We ended up eating half of the crostini with the spicy mustard that it came with and half soaked in the verjus. The charcuterie had generous portions of four cuts of meat (along with a handy printed guide to the meats you were trying), plus a few gherkins and olives.
I’m guessing that the charcuterie board split two ways ends up being under 500 calories per person, despite being one of the few items on the menu that is over 500 calories. That’s another of Harvest’s values – offering dishes that combine healthy local and fresh ingredients. All items over 500 calories are marked on the menu.
One of my dining partners had the salmon BLT on pumpernickel. The salmon was grilled to perfection, and the bacon crumbled right into your mouth when you bit in, rather than pulling out in a huge chunk. It’s touches like these that really take a restaurant up a level – by skill of cookery eliminating the pervasive problems we all face while dining.
I went all-out with the most expensive dish on the menu – the $28 filet mignon – because I couldn’t resist the idea of a steak topped with caramelized apricot and sheep’s milk feta. It was served on top of a thin layer of snow peas and fingerling potatoes, but I most enjoyed soaking the feta in the apricot sauce and giving each bite of tender filet a good apricot swipe as well.
My vegetarian dining partner went with the only autumn preview dish on offer – a margherita flatbread with house-made mozzarella – and also ordered a nutty watermelon salad, which included strawberries, blueberries, toasted almonds and a hefty slice of watermelon. The most interesting part of the salad was the lime vinaigrette dressing, a lovely tart taste that played nicely against the sweetness of the fruit.
We all shared a side of the moist honey jalapeño cornbread, too, which was well worth $3. The jalapeño wasn’t too spicy, but it gave the bread a stronger flavor, and the honey on top put it almost into the dessert realm.
Speaking of desserts, beware: before you can ask for the check, your server will whip out a delicate-looking tray of desserts for you to feast your eyes on, all in small glasses for $3 a pop. Clearly the impulse-buy strategy is working: we chose two out of the five options – a salted caramel and chocolate mousse cake and a pumpkin mousse (another fall preview item you’ll be able to order). The mousse was a nice, light counterpart to the thick, salty chocolate cake.
My advice to you when dining at Harvest is to order anything with surprising ingredients, which is most of the menu. Skip the margherita flatbread (yummy as it is) and instead explore some new combination of tastes that will make you wonder why you never thought of it before. It won’t be hard to find something intriguing, and it won’t be hard to figure out how the seasonal approach can work so well.
• 2625 Brindle Drive, Harrisburg; 545-4028
• Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.