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Harvest

In a word: From thresh to treasure.

The specs: #0232
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; Madison Originals profile; reviews at Yelp, Madison Food Review, WiSJ, Ruppert Food Blog, QSC; official web site; Harvest on Urbanspoon

Latest Harvest news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the pork osso buco, barley risotto, pork jus; grilled hanger steak, braised lentils, roasted cipollini onions, bone marrow custard; and a root beer.
Nichole ate the celeriac soup, truffled dumplings; venison loin, parsnips, braised red cabbage, cocoa espresso sauce; and a Furthermore porter.
The bill was about $85, or $42.50/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave Harvest an A (see our grading rubric).

Not being too used to eating out at upscale places (this blog to the contrary), we both ended up assembling rather imbalanced meals for ourselves. Nichole had her fill of root vegetables, and JM ate more bone marrow in this one dinner than he probably has in the past decade.

This imbalance was hardly Harvest's fault; each dish was exemplary on its own. Furthermore, that they were able to assemble so many dishes using seasonal ingredients in the dead of Wisconsin winter speaks to their skill. And we've been to Harvest once before, in May, when spring bounty made for a deliciously varied and fresh menu.

Amuse

The amuse was a parsnip soup with parsley oil - creamy and rich.

Celeriac soup

Nichole's second course in her all-taproot meal was celeriac soup with truffled dumplings. The dumplings were very rich, slightly crunchy yet tender.

Pork

The pork osso buco was mwah-tender. The risotto soaked up the jus well and sustained the dish with a different texture.

Venison

The venison came atop a bed of braised red cabbage and - surprise - pureed parsnips. The cutting flavors of the cabbage and the accompanying cocoa espresso sauce were refreshing. The venison itself was fork-tender, lightly seared and very delicious.

Hanger steak

JM's hanger steak was, again, tender and juicy. The portion was so generous as to be almost boring by the end. But everything on the plate was delicious, including the utterly buttery bone marrow custard, which is not something JM likes to think about all that often.

Our meals concluded with Harvest's customary biscuits.

Cookies

Here's a weird thing we observed: there were ten mixed-gender couples seated in the dining room. The tables are arranged with a bench along each side wall and a chair with its back to the center aisle.

Without fail, in each of these ten instances including our own, the woman sat on the bench and the man sat in the chair facing the wall.  That's very unlikely to happen randomly, according to JM the stats geek. We're unsure if the prospect of the awkward formality of having the chair held for them encouraged the women to sit on the bench or what, but it was odd. We asked our gracious server if he knew why it would happen that way, and he said he hadn't noticed...we're betting he does now. And hoping it's not driving him a little crazy.

Comments

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Thanks for the review. We are planning a date night there soon (g.c. from mom for b-day). As to the seating arrangment....it's etiquette! ;)

http://www.realsimple.com/realsimple/content/0,21770,713957,00.html

I think it's because the ladies tend to have an insecurity about their "nightside" surface (to borrow some astronomical parlance), and leaving it out there for public consumption. Jeans sometimes show a little too much booty, dresses can pull at the back when leaning over to reach things on the table, thus revealing underthing outlines... the dudes don't have any of that to worry about. Unless he's a Martin Blank-type who can't have his back to a door, he'll give up the nicely protected bench seat to his female counterpart.

Yeah, okay, or it's an etiquette thing.

Oh my gosh, I am feeling like such the clod!

Oooh! Harvest. I saw the Harmony review and sucked wind through my teeth in anticipation... nice work!

Nichole - Me too, especially since it took me until you posted your comment to realize that the link I included was the exact same one that Kari posted. Oy.

Actually, it's common etiquette - see Emily Post. The woman should be seated in that instance to allow maximum viewing (both for her, and of her), and the man should be looking at nothing but her.

Definitely, a woman should be able to see and be seen.

Went here on Monday - during the "Restaurant Week" activities. Very tasty - although I wish they had allowed us to order from the normal menu if we didn't want to do the special. The staff was friendly, polite, and very attentive to our needs. We both had the pasta - and he enjoyed the squid appetizer. Apparently it's delicious - I''ll take his word for it because I don't touch food with tenticles.

If you get a chance go to Madison Magazine's website and check out the Restaurant Week list - if you haven't already. It would be great for this to be an annual event.

And yes - the seating thing happened that night too. It just was the natural way to sit. Gentleman always let the ladies sit first - and the natural place to sit is on the wall seat.

Heather, it actually is an annual event. This is the third run of MRW, the first during the summer. The previous two were at the end of January 2007 and 2008. Most higher-end places don't let you order off the regular menu during MRW, although some do (CocoLiquot did, bless their hearts).

Food was great, but the service rivaled some college-burger joints. Fish cooked perfectly, soup was outa-site. House-baked bread was kind of amazing. Besides the disorganized (though not disastrously so) front-of-house, a great restaurant.

We tried Harvest during Restaurant Week, and everyone in my party of five was at least somewhat disappointed. The first thing that irked me was that we were seated in the "back room," despite the fact that we had a reservation and it appeared that there were plenty of tables with a Capitol-view available.

I had the curried pumpkin soup, braised short ribs with carrots and polenta, and apple crisp and vanilla custard. The soup was very good, with a subtle pumpkin flavor. The entrée was the highlight of the meal for me, but the portion was small. I suppose this is to be expected at a "fancy" restaurant like Harvest, but even a higher end dining experience should not leave you thinking you've been ripped off. I felt cheated by the portion. The ribs were boneless and tender, topped with shaved carrots and parsley, and the polenta was creamy and not too sticky. The quality of the ingredients in the entrée was evident, but I felt the portion should have been twice the size.

Overall, the service was acceptable, but the dining experience fell off the rails when one of my friends noticed that her roasted chicken breast was pink to light red. Two others at the table ordered the same entrée, and my friend immediately questioned why hers looked so different. After a few bites, she was sure it was cooked well but was not comfortable with the color of the meat. We all debated whether she should send it back and finally decided to talk to a waiter. After flagging down a waiter (not our own), my friend explained the situation and the entrée was taken to the kitchen.

I expected that the entrée would be replaced with another, but, instead, the same partially-eaten dish returned, pink as before but warmer. We were all surprised. Our waiter returned to check in minutes later, and my friend explained to him that she felt her chicken was a little pink for her liking and that the others at the table had different color chicken. Our waiter took the dish away, and we were sure that THIS TIME the dish would be replaced with a new entrée. In the meantime, we all patiently, slowly ate our meals until the manager returned with the SAME DISH reheated and an explanation that (1) pinker chicken means it is healthier, particularly near the bone, and (2) the chicken Harvest serves is different than store-bought chicken. My friend politely accepted this explanation and then quickly swapped her dish with her boyfriend's chicken dish. It made for an awkward experience, which is not what we were expecting for a restaurant with a good reputation and higher prices.

The desserts were good, if not "nothing special." Mine was basically a Macintosh apple chopped up, baked, with some nuts and vanilla cream. Again, the portion was disappointing. Those that had the chocolate dessert were also let down—it seemed like a standard chocolate cupcake with almond extract in it with a little caramel sauce on top.

Unfortunately, I would not return to Harvest based on tonight's experience. Our bill was not adjusted to remedy the chicken situation. You would think that during Restaurant Week a restaurant would pull out all stops to encourage guests to return. It didn't happen.

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