Thursday, January 8, 2009

Harvest Supper

Small plates are in. There is no question about that. But, tapas normally signal some sort of ethnic cuisine - originally Spanish, and more recently, Italian among others have been following suit. And now, new-American tapas have entered the scene! Harvest Supper, from the creators of New York City's Jewel Bako, brings this trend to New Canaan, CT - a simple hour's escape from the city. A former pizza joint has been completely transformed into a cozy farmhouse setting offering seasonal plates on a frequently changing menu. When I was there just after Christmas, they were still serving the late Fall menu. While I fear that many of the items will no longer be offered on their next menu, I am certain that the new offerings will meet the high standards they have already set.

I recommend ordering three dishes per person. And, it just so happens that the menu is categorized into three sections: salads/cold dishes, seafood/pasta, and meats. For those who like variety, one from each is the perfect combination. There was not a person at our table that ordered poorly - and that is almost unheard of when each person is charged with ordering so many dishes - and, in the end, 12 dishes were brought to the table! The success of each plate speaks to the expertise in both the conception of the dishes and the chef in the small kitchen. They also actually understand the concept of small plates - providing portions that are truly reasonable - never too much, and at the same time, never not enough. The moderate prices do the same - showing that a balance between food portion and cost can actually exist.

My favorite of the cold starters was the tuna tartare. The chunks of tuna were extremely fresh and topped with paper-thin potato chips all dressed with a crisp balsamic vinaigrette that made each bite extremely light. This was a great start for heavier items to follow. The beet salad was also a huge success - but this did not stand out as anything too different from a traditional serving of this dish. For the seafood section, the rock shrimp over pearl barley with roasted artichokes and tomatoes as well as the sausage stuffed squid over black ink risotto were both very well prepared. I normally associate rock shrimp with Asian fusion dishes and was nicely surprised by this hearty, new-American preparation. And, while sausage stuffed anything is usually a winner in my books, squid can go either way. Luckily, they nailed both with this dish. The best category, we saved for last - the meats. Each dish - ranging from crispy quail to duck to ribs - was amazing. The winner were the lamb ribs served medium rare over a bed of lentils. Second prize goes to short ribs which smoothly fell off the bone onto a bed of roasted Brussels sprouts and farro.

So I lied. In the end, we ended up ordering 14 dishes. Even though I do not have the biggest sweet tooth, my motto after a wonderful meal is that there is only one way to prolong it! But, we definitely did not each need our own and so we decided upon two desserts - the chocolate bread pudding with caramel ice cream and the coconut and kumquat sorbets. While we all immediately jumped at the bread pudding which was indeed delicious, the kumquat sorbet ended up gaining nearly all of my spoon's attention. I would have never guessed that this unique fruit would make such a great sorbet - only confirming the actual need for both dessert and trying new things. And so, if you really want to try something new - try taking a break from the city and heading up to Harvest Supper. Grab some friends, a loved one, or even a new date. Now's the time to share a train ride, an adventure, and some delicious plates.

Harvest Supper
15 Elm St.
New Canaan, CT 06840
(203) 966-5595

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