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We were roaming around Concord, MA., went into a beautiful modern art gallery and heard about the Harvest Restaurant’s history. The person in the store lived in Cambridge, once upon a time, and her husband worked at the Harvest so we got an earful. We were on our way to reviewing another restaurant, but after that conversation, which was fantastic with lots of history we didn’t know, we decided to stop in for lunch and maybe dinner to take another look at the Harvest Restaurant in Cambridge.
The history was intriguing. Many of the ‘greats’ in the restaurant world in Cambridge/Boston started out at the Harvest Restaurant or worked there at some point in their career. The Harvest and Design Resource – a great place to shop, once upon a time – were connected by the same ownership and we had just enjoyed the retrospective display in the window of the old Design Resource while it waited for a new store to open. The Marimekko fabrics and other items once considered consumer items, now in the area called art were beautifully presented.
Lydia Shire, Chris Shlesinger, and we heard, but couldn’t verify that even Jasper White worked at the Harvest. We couldn’t verify any of the stories we heard because we called the Harvest’s PR person, who was in a hurry and didn’t have time to talk with us. We asked our questions, she promised she would send info on the Harvest’s history – weeks ago. We are still waiting for either a return phone call or marketing information.
That is symbolic of our entire experience.
Our first trip to the Harvest was for lunch on a week day. The restaurant was only about 1/3 full. We were happy about that. Service would be great, no crowds with which to contend, no running out of dishes on the menu, etc.
When we walked in we were confronted with large flower arrangements, which were exquisite, but looked as though the florist had just arrived and put them wherever there was space – pushing some things out of the way to make room for the flowers. That was disappointing. The Harvest would have looked better without the flowers. Someone’s aesthetic sense is missing.
We looked at the menu and looked and looked and looked. It was hard deciding what to order, because nothing really struck us as great for lunch. I came from a place which cooks great rabbit, but somehow Bacon Wrapped Rabbit Leg with grilled nectarine foie gras stuffing just didn’t do it. My food memories growing-up include foie gras and great bread for breakfast and an even greater foie gras for dinner or a late evening snack. The thought of eating a grilled nectarine foie gras – stuffed into a rabbits leg which was wrapped with bacon, just spoiled all those memories so I bypassed that item.
After taking a long time to decide we settled on hamburgers. Going to an upscale restaurant for fast food was just debilitating. There were three of us and we all settled on the hamburgers for lack of being enticed by anything else. The hamburgers were a forced selection, – since we were there we had to choose something. It was not a choice we jumped for joy about.
When the food arrived, it was disappointing! The burger was alright; the aioli good; there were huge proportions; the fries were good; the bread not so great; way to much raw onion – a huge thick slice of raw red onion on the sandwich overpowered everything else. Since we had a meeting to go to after lunch and didn’t want to run everybody out of the room with our after lunch bodily smells, we took the onion off the sandwich. A smaller, thinner slice might have held its own, but this was way over the wrong top.
For an upscale restaurant, it was a decidedly downscale meal. The service was more than adequate, but the wait people were totally lacking in energy. I wondered if they would make it through the meal.
We were bothered by flies throughout our meal and we chose to sit inside so we wouldn’t have to worry about the insects. A fly settled in the rim of the glass at the empty table next to us and stayed there for over an hour. Could that be why many restaurants turn their glasses upside down once a table has been set? – to keep tiny, unwanted intruders out of the crystal and off the porcelain? It was more than a little upsetting to have to battle flies, but we weren’t excited about the food anyway so we skipped dessert, ignored the coffee and left most of the food uneaten.
Because the room was not full the table arrangements didn’t bother us. If it had been filled we would have left before ordering. Somehow, we didn’t expect to see tables lined up along the wall – one table after another, where you would probably elbow your neighbor at the next table before the end of the meal because there wasn’t room to eat with any sense of privacy and distance from others trying to do the same thing. Stuff another table along the wall and push them all closer together to accommodate the extra service for another party – seemed to be the ethos!
All in all – too much money – for a forced upscale-wanna-be menu. One choice we skipped over was a Burgundy Escargot Tart with Chorizo Butter. We wondered what Chorizo butter would do to the Escargot – a delicate taste mixed with – what – butter whipped with chorizo sausage? It sounded greasy, unappetizing and we just couldn’t imagine ordering it.
Would we return? Uh-Uh! We did, however, for dinner – to make sure we weren’t judging on just one visit where things could have been a bit off that day. Dinner wasn’t any better. Especially since NOTHING was organic. The only item close was the “natural” Boyden Farm Vermont Burger. For the same money they could have made that burger an Organic one.
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