If you’ve ever dined at a Charlie Palmer restaurant, then you know you’re in for a memorable experience, and Harvest Table is one of those places you don’t want to miss. The restaurant opened in 2015, along Main Street in St. Helena. A celebrity chef known for his progressive style of cooking, Charlie Palmer has 15 restaurants across the country, including New York, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. He’s also notably present in Wine Country and well-known by the locals.
My dinner companion and I arrived on Thursday evening. The exterior was lit up with white lights, and inside we found a modern and refined airy space that offers a welcoming low-key feel. We began with cocktails in the bar. Joel Pfeifle, bar manager, surprised us with two specialty cocktails—a pear-fect ten and the monkey punch. I’m not a great fan of gin, but the pear-fect ten was light and refreshing, served with a sprig of thyme. The monkey punch, concocted in part with Monkey Shoulder Scotch and cranberry bitters, is served with two toy monkeys on the rim of the glass, giving it a playful presentation. I knew right away we were in for a fun evening.
Since the October wildfires, many restaurants have experienced a lull in business—Harvest Table is no exception. “Typically, October is the busiest month in the valley, but it’s been quieter this year,” says Pfeifle.
“There’s been a downturn and we skipped a beat,” adds Christian Taganap, assistant general manager. “But we’re experiencing an upswing in business as we slide into a slower season. The locals in Napa are resilient.”
We finished our cocktails and were seated at our table in the dining room, which is modern and tranquil with a romantic ambience. Our server for the evening, Shawn Chilvers, suggests we begin with a sampling of appetizers. The hamachi crudo, a Japanese jack fish, was fresh, distinctive and offered just the perfect amount of heat, served with sections of citrus, Serrano chilis, toasted pistachios, and a citrus yogurt and vinagrette. The deviled eggs, one of their most popular dishes, is served with a crispy pig ear, which adds a smoky element. This is a classic with a twist, and the pork ear thoughtfully completes the dish with an element of texture. The crispy pork belly was rich and smoky, served with sautéed Napa cabbage, pickled mustard seed and crimson pear.
Next, Chilvers recommended the Raymond Chardonnay to go along with the beet and goat cheese salad. Served with an estate-marinated beet and artfully stuffed with field greens on a raisin-walnut crumb, it looks like a perfect head of lettuce, served on a patch of soil.
Between courses, we talked with Executive Chef Spencer Wolff, who shared his culinary philosophy. “Food should be approachable and fun. I like to make it whimsical,” says Wolff. “People don’t go out every night and the experience should be enjoyable.” Wolf believes classics are classics, but there’s always room for re-interpretation and he likes to work with foundation, structure, color and texture. The menu at Harvest Table is eclectic and artisan, and Wolff builds his dishes with the same precision as an architect. “The foundation begins internally with the main ingredient from there I construct it with flavors,” says Wolff, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago as well as in the Basque region in France.
For the main course, Chilvers delivered an array of entrees from the menu. The pan roasted diver scallops was one of my favorites, served with baby turnips and golden beets, grilled salsify, crispy pancetta and yam puree. The Pacific striped bass offers a variety of flavors and textures with beluga lentils, braised fennel and curry. If you love chicken, order Mary’s truffle chicken for two with seasonal vegetables and truffle butter. We also sampled the stuffed and roasted bob white quail, served with brioche stuffing, spiced apple sauce, bitter greens, sweet potato hay and pecan butter. Earthy and aromatic, this entrée is a Thanksgiving celebration on a plate.
Though we’d planned to pass on dessert, Wolff delivered the chocolate peanut butter bar tableside, another signature Charlie Palmer dish. This is much like an extravagant peanut butter cup, yet simply executed and hard to pass up. Next time you’re in Napa, make a reservation at Harvest Table. Bring a sense of adventure and prepare for a spectacular experience.
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Located at 1410 Neotomas Ave. in Santa Rosa,NorthBay biz magazine is a monthly business-to-business publication covering Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties. This year, the magazine is celebrating 43 years of continuous operation. It originally hit the stands in 1975, when it was called Sonoma Business, and only covered Sonoma County. Norm and Joni Rosinski and John Dennis, acquired it in 2000 and changed its name to cover an expanded market. Today, the magazine is part of Amaturo Sonoma Media Group. More here..