Diners across the Rogue Valley should give thanks for the bountiful new Harvest Restaurant in Talent.
John and Ruby Biles opened the restaurant showcasing local farms and food last week in the former gas station that previously housed Talent Cafe and Cupcake Daily. The small space provides ample seating at simple light wood tables and chairs, but my husband and I were drawn to the shady patio nestled next to the neighboring church.
John, who attended culinary school in Santa Barbara, Calif., and previously worked at Boulton & Son and Cucina Biazzi, and Ruby, who trained in New York, live in Talent. The couple wanted to create a comfortable yet classy restaurant for their current hometown.
The restaurant's website promises to celebrate local agriculture with an elegant, seasonal menu, and that is what we found on our first visit.
The lunch menu features just eight items, including a cheese plate, several salads, a flatbread, a falafel plate, steak and ribs. Dinner adds a few more options: pasta, seafood, braised chicken. Items are served a la carte and prices range from $7 for salads designed to start your meal to $18 for entrees. John Biles said the menu will be updated at least once a month.
I zeroed in on the falafel for $14 and wasn't disappointed. No simple street food, this falafel meal filled a plate with fresh ingredients prepared with obvious skill.
The browned falafel — with rough, crunchy exteriors sprinkled with kosher salt, and moist and herb-laden interiors — offered a perfect interplay of tastes and textures.
A drizzle of high-quality olive oil accented the mild, creamy, white-bean hummus with a delightful fruity freshness. Plump, bright green Castelvetrano olives added their rich, slightly sweet, lightly briny goodness to the plate, pushing pure olive flavor to the max.
Marinated grilled zucchini and red bell pepper brought garden goodness, and wedges of warm, floury flatbread, tender with a hint of charred crispness, scooped up all this deliciousness. Tabouli-style couscous rounded out the plate.
My husband eyed a fried chicken salad with leaf lettuce, cornbread, dried cranberries and buttermilk-dill dressing, but was convinced at the last minute by our pleasant waiter to try the chili-glazed baby back ribs.
The half-rack of ribs, cut into two slabs and sprinkled with toasted peanuts, was stacked on shredded nappa cabbage, scallions and cilantro, which mingled into a fragrant and flavorful sort of slaw. The ribs' glossy glaze, though bright with peppers, was surprisingly mild. While the rib I stole off his plate seemed succulent, he declared them a bit dry overall.
Local wines by the glass or bottle and bottled beers are available, along with several natural sodas and a house-made hibiscus cooler.
I didn't have room for dessert on this visit, even though the sweets are handmade by Ruby Biles. I'll have to come back, as the flourless chocolate cake, served with vanilla bean ice cream, sounded especially tempting, as did the raspberry sorbet.
And I bet I'm not the only diner already plotting a return visit.
The space is small, so reservations are recommended, but fresh ingredients, expert preparations, friendly service and an inviting atmosphere will have people celebrating this Harvest for many seasons.
— Anita Burke