Feb 16, 2012

A Commoner Reviews American Harvest Eatery, Springfield, Ill.

This is my second straight restaurant-related blog about a place to dine that would normally be out of a commoner’s price range.  Go figure.  But in both instances, a special occasion was involved.  As fate would have it, I was blessed by the company of a mysterious and exotic Gypsy for Valentine’s Day dinner at American Harvest Eatery. 
First, a little about the restaurant for the uninitiated or those who aren’t from the Land of Lincoln.  The concept of American Harvest is to showcase locally and regionally grown food as much as possible and incorporate it into a fine dining experience.  The focus is on fresh ingredients from locally owned and family operated farms.  And, the menu features some creative spins on classic dishes. 

I love the concept, even if I don’t love the location in a generic strip mall in the bland west side of Springfield.  I guess I like my typical dining atmosphere to have a little more character, but that’s a small quibble.  Don’t get me wrong … American Harvest’s interior is impeccably done.  And I certainly can’t complain about the bar being right off the entrance.     
What did appeal to the commoner in me was American Harvest’s Valentine’s special $80 four course chef’s tasting dinner for two, with a bottle of wine included.  How could I resist?  There was something for everyone among the select choices on the menu, even for Gypsies with discerning palates. 
My first course was the stout cheddar soup with a mini pretzel baguette (nice touch for dipping!).  The soup was served in a small pitcher and poured at the table.  Not sure why, but it worked.  A few tasty bites of smoked bratwurst waded in the creamy goodness.  If it were summer, I might have also opted for the warm beet salad Gypsy chose to start.  I had a bite, and they were very good as well.      
Onto the appetizer … a sup-sized confit chicken pot pie, which include the only minor disappointment of the evening, as the potatoes and carrots in the pie seemed to not be cooked all the way through.  The rest of the dish was very good, though, and the puff pastry on top absorbed the sauce quite well, creating a sensation of the “crust” melting in your mouth.  Overall, it was a satisfying choice, but next time when I’m ordering a la carte, I’m getting the shrimp and grits.  I can’t help it; I’m a Cajun at heart. 
Next, the main course.  Neither of us could resist the sea scallops served over a risotto blended with bacon, shitake mushrooms and truffle vinaigrette.  Crispy fried leeks topped the dish.  Ok, so the sea scallops sure aren’t local.  But put simply, this dish was amazing.  And surprisingly filling. 
For dessert, the brioche bread pudding naturally appealed to me, and they did a very good job with their take on the classic New Orleans dish.  The diced gala apples and caramel sauce sprinkled over the bread pudding worked very well together.     
I don’t have much to say about the wine except that it was the house choice of pinot noir and it was very smooth and velvety.  I would never be mistaken for a wine snob, but I appreciated that this selection was not too dry and not overpowering.  Gypsy would be able to tell you more.  But I think she liked it.  We had no problem finishing the bottle.  (Of course, when is that a problem for us, really?)
If Valentine’s Day was any indication, I would strongly recommend American Harvest Eatery for any special occasion or for whenever you feel like treating yourself to a nice meal.  I know we’ll be back sooner than later.

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