I’m going to be blunt: As a proponent of fresher, healthier, more sustainable eating, I’ve been to Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar a handful of times since it opened in Delray Beach in 2016, but I’d always been more impressed with the concept of the place than the flavors on my plate.
With a highly pedigreed new chef—Amit Jain, formerly of Table 26 and Todd’s in West Palm Beach—and a fall menu that takes full advantage of recent advancements in flavor-forward meat substitutes, I can confidently proclaim that Harvest Seasonal has met, and exceeded, its original potential.
I discovered this, along with some colleagues in the Palm Beach County press, at a media dinner last week to celebrate the unveiling of the autumn menu. For newcomers to the Harvest m.o., the restaurant chain, of which the Delray location is one of nine nationwide, overhauls its selections with the seasons, maintaining that only freshly grown ingredients make it on. As Dave Magrogan, owner and CEO, likes to say, “right when you’re sick of it, the menu changes.”
Magrogan believes the chain-restaurant world has been slow to acknowledge changes in healthy-eating consumer habits, pointing to only one predecessor—Seasons 52—willing to offer upscale dining on seasonal dishes that are often 500 calories or fewer. A pescatarian and a near-vegan, Magrogan stopped eating red meat at 17. After early experiments in more-or-less standard vegetarian menu items—your bean burritos, your margherita flatbreads—he has pushed to gradually expand Harvest’s vegan and vegetarian offerings, which often involves negotiating with more-carnivorous partners and staff.
Some of the results of these negotiations can be on your plate today, and they’re fabulous. The roasted beet toast, a fun-colored variant on the now-overdone avocado toast, is spread with a winter squash puree, pea tendrils and lemon oil, topped with a bright-tasting cashew crema and served on “rustic” sourdough. There is delight in every bite.
The same can be said of the spicy “chorizo” flatbread made from a plant-based substitute from Morningstar that is generously seasoned, and is served on a flatbread alongside bell peppers, kalamata olives, micro basil and a vegan mozzarella that tastes deceptively like the real thing, even if it doesn’t melt as efficiently. But the dish’s raison d’etre, the “chorizo,” is its most marvelous work of culinary chemistry—it would fool even the most discerning meat eater.
The so-called “crispy” Brussels sprouts, presented alongside pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and smoked bacon (Magrogan lost the battle to make this dish vegan) were actually less crispy than most, which is not a negative: They were pleasantly soft and creamy, aided by a garlic-lemon yogurt that gave each bite an agreeable tang.
Also on the fall docket, and provided at last week’s dinner: The butternut squash soup, a dish that has attained cult status at Harvest, is the returning champion among the autumn soup-and-salad menu, for good reason—sweetened with honey, pumpkin seeds and a dollop of cream, it’s the epitome of warm vegetarian comfort food, as perfect for a dessert as it is a starter. Keeping with that theme, I selected the aromatic pumpkin ravioli as my entrée. Made with butternut squash puree, sage brown butter, dried cranberries, baby spinach, toasted pumpkin seeds and gingerbread dust, it provided a calculated balance of sweet and savory; every bite tasted slightly different from the one before it.
If you had asked me a year ago if I would have been eager to return to Harvest Seasonal, my response probably would have been not so much. Now, I anticipate my next visit—and for another helping of that meatless chorizo and that masterly soup.
Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar is at 1841 S. Federal Highway, Suite 402, Delray Beach. For information or reservations, call 561/266-3239.