A Taste of the Seasons at Danville Harvest
For those who have never been to downtown Danville — and I count myself in that group until a couple weeks ago — it’s high-time to explore this sunny town in the San Ramon Valley. Picture a larger downtown Los Gatos, and you get the idea of how cute and inviting this area is.
Danville Harvest is a perfect place to stop in for a bite to eat, too. With its interior barn doors, library ladders, pewter light fixtures, walls of white subway tiles, displays of old farm tools and antique bottles, and gray tufted leather booths set off by billowy, printed drapes, it’s a Chip-and-Joanna-Gaines rustic-chic interior come to life. Yes, I watch too much “Fixer Upper” on HGTV. But this space is definitely done up in that comfortable-chic style we all can’t get enough of.
The servers dress in cute gingham shirts. Old glass pane windows front the kitchen to give a glimpse into all the action. And there’s plenty of outdoor seating with a fire pit and strings of lights overhead.
The nearly two-year-old restaurant is headed up by Chef Tim Humphrey, who invited me in as his guest a few weeks ago. If the surname sounds familiar, it’s because you are no doubt acquainted with his older brother, Joseph, also a chef, who led the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena to two Michelin stars.
Like his older brother, Chef Tim also didn’t go to culinary school, but earned his skills by working his way up in a host of kitchens, quite a few of them alongside his brother.
He calls his style of food, “Florida meets the Bay Area.”
Indeed, he grew up in Florida. One of his other brothers took over their grandfather’s old sugar cane farm there. When Humphrey visits, he brings back sugar cane syrup, which he uses on dishes in the restaurant, most notably the scallion hushpuppies ($8), which he makes just as his grandfather used to. The crisp and fluffy balls taste heavenly of pure corn, and get sweetened dipped into the sugar cane syrup butter that has an almost sorgham-like taste. Humphrey serves 6 hushpuppies to an order — to represent his parents and four siblings.
His food is personal like that. Though, he’s widened the scope of the menu as the months have gone by. “My first menu had a lot of my family in it,” he says. “Now, though, I make way for other people’s stories. I let my cooks showcase their stories more now.”
It’s food that’s vibrant and full of flavor. Take roasted cauliflower ($8). Its natural sweetness comes out from the high-heat roasting. A grilled lemon vinaigrette and dynamite creamy curry-like vadouvan aioli give it verve.
On this warm evening, the beet & fennel gazpacho ($9) definitely satisfies. A shallow plate with a center of diced red beets, toasted garlic and pumpkin seeds is brought to the table before a server pours over it a golden beet gazpacho. The sweet earthiness of the beets is predominant with just a little hit of spice to wake things up. The toasted garlic and pumpkin seeds add texture and pops of extra flavor.
Grilled garlic herb shrimp ($23) comes on a bed of warm, chewy kamut that’s tossed with asparagus, corn, tomato and vibrant salsa verde. It’s the kind of grain bowl you’d happily eat every week, if you could.
Humphrey brines pork tenderloin ($21) so it cooks up juicy, serving it medium-rare, dusted in spicy Caujun seasoning. Hoppin’ John with white rice and mustard greens gets doused with lovely ham hock jus. It’s all served in a little cast iron pan — the perfect comfort food, Southern-style.
A swoosh of carrot puree decorates the plate of lamb sirloin ($26) that gets some sweet heat from harissa. The lamb was a little hard to cut because of some extraneous connective tissue, but was otherwise tender, its mild gaminess complimented by lemony dill gremolata.
Grilled Snake River Farms Wagyu sirloin ($28), which my husband and I split, is rich and buttery tasting. A Fresno chili salad along with sweet corn salsa wake up the palate before you dive into the accompanying side of grits enrobed in sheep’s milk cheese.
Humphrey handles the desserts, too. Chess pie is like a big wedge of butter cake, soft and moist, with mandarins, candied thyme, and a drizzle of bourbon-barrel-aged vinegar to balance out the sweet.
Basil pot de creme couldn’t be any cuter. Instead of being served in a canning jar, it arrives in a little glass pitcher, because, well, why not. As Humphrey says, “It’s a pot of cream!” Indeed it is creamy and suffused with a subtle herbal note. A rhubarb-strawberry compote is layered on top with chantilly cream. It’s the taste of a spring garden in a dessert.
A little bag of pates de fruits is presented at the end.
Because at Danville Harvest, it’s all about making you feel at home.