Pulling Up A Bar Stool At Harvest Table in St. Helena
That’s exactly where I planted myself.
On Super Bowl Sunday.
While the rest of the Bay Area congregated in San Francisco for all the hoopla or Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for the actual game, I headed to St. Helena.
Not to escape the hubbub, necessarily. But since I had to be in Wine Country bright and early the next day, I decided to stay the night before. It gave me the perfect excuse to check out Chef Charlie Palmer’s new Harvest Table at the venerable Harvest Inn.
Palmer took over the property a year and a half ago. He added a restaurant last spring, taking what was once just a reception area and building it out, though, keeping the ornate staircase and massive fireplace already there to add interest to the modern, clean-lined space.
He installed Executive Chef Levi Mezick, formerly of Restaurant 1833 in Monterey, and he hired Culinary Horticulturalist Laura McNiff to tend the fruit trees and herbs growing on the property.
Palmer has also refreshed the look of the rooms, giving them a more contemporary feel.
If you stay over, as I did, paying my own tab for both the room and the meal, you’ll receive a coupon for a free appetizer at the restaurant. It’s a nice incentive to stay and try the restaurant on site, when so many others beckon just outside the door. Breakfast is also included in your stay, a spread that includes house-baked pastries, eggs, sausages, smoked salmon, and oatmeal.
You can order off the full dinner menu at the bar, where I took a seat as a few other guests sat on sofas nearby, watching the game on TV.
I started with the Smoked Mount Lassen Trout ($14). The smoky, buttery tasting fish arrived in slivers over a bed of fluffy couscous. Dollops of Meyer lemon Greek yogurt added tang and richness. It was a light dish, full of brightness and a deep lemony flavor.
Black drum is a fish you don’t see often on menus. It’s a bottom-dwelling fish from the Gulf of Mexico that is considered a “good alternative” by the Seafood Watch Guide.
The flaky fish, with a splendid crisp skin, was done up in a Thai green curry sauce ($29). Coconut rice accompanied the dish; and the fish was garnished with delicate wasabi sprouts that carried a lick of heat and pepperiness. The surprise was the pickled eggplant batons on top that were sweet-tangy and soft like roasted apples in texture. You would have never guessed they were eggplant. Even the bar manager who told me he hates eggplant confessed he loved this pickled version.
For dessert, I can never pass up dark chocolate paired with orange. Bittersweet Orange ($9) was all that and more — a brick of thick, intense dark chocolate ganache with hazelnut orange ice milk, and fresh blood orange segments. I like to think of it as being loaded with Vitamin C, so I finished it all, of course.
Me to the bar manager: “I can’t say this game is very exciting.”
Him: “It’s not!”
But the food? It definitely hit the spot.
Other Places to Dine in the Napa Valley: Redd Wood
And: Ad Hoc
And: Ad Hoc Addendum
And: Bar Terra