Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mini-Review: Harvest Restaurant

Here's an aphorism that will serve you well, and that sums up my thoughts on Harvest succintly: don't ever go to a well-regarded restaurant and order the beef stew, especially at lunch, and especially on a weekend.

Harvest is located a block from the Oro Valley Town Hall complex on La Canada, and sits in a shopping mall with an awe-inspiring view of the mountains. Harvest's schtick is that it uses all locally-grown ingredients, with a menu that shifts every season (having opened just this past November, it's about to undergo its first such shift). In cases where there are no locally-grown or raised items available -- fish, for example -- they are obtained through economically sustainable means. (See the whitefish BLT, for example.)

We had two appetizers: the brie plate, with seasoned fruit chutneys, roasted garlic, and Arizona grapes, and the Harvest empanadas filled with beef, figs, olives, egg, and served with a side of chimmichuri sauce. Both were fantastic. The empanadas were delicate, light, and yielded with the sweetest pillowy softness. The whitefish BLT was stellar as well, with perfectly cooked fish and some of the tastiest bacon I've ever sampled.

But the beef stew, pictured above, was a disaster. Made with butternut squash and green chiles, I had trouble discerning the flavor of either, and found myself reaching for the salt and pepper with each bite. The tortillas served as accompaniment were dry and unexciting. The beef was turgid, rough, and not at all appetizing. I imagine this dish was probably cobbled together from a previous night's leftovers. And the portion was surprisingly small for $13, given that Feast regularly serves a similar stew with much larger portions at a similar price (not that I was clamoring for more when I had my plate taken away).

I'd like to try Harvest again for dinner. But as for the stew? Never again. Unless I'm at Feast.

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