Jerk spice-rubbed short ribs with charred carrot puree. | Photo by Steve Coomes

A few things to say about the Sierra Nevada Forecastle Festival dinner last night at Harvest:

One, executive chef Patrick Roney is a superb chef. No news there, I know, but here’s why: He has complete control over his food, creating the ideal balance of taste, texture and presentation. That’s no mean feat. (See more food pics at the end of this story.)

Sure, it's a quirky photo of Harvest executive chef, Patrick Roney, but it looked kinda cool given the beer-paired menu. | Photo by Steve Coomes
Sure, it’s a quirky photo of Harvest executive chef, Patrick Roney, but it looked kinda cool given the beer-paired menu. | Photo by Steve Coomes

I go to too many restaurants where the food is beautifully presented, but the food lacks flavor. Or, it’s flavorful, yet carelessly presented—even to the point of looking downright homely. Or, just as bad, the portion is fulsome. Roney’s portions last night, as you can see from my photos, were small, yet more than enough. I left full, but not in pain. (When I leave in pain, that’s my own fault for not releasing my fork!)

Roney’s plates also had to be paired with Sierra Nevada Beers, none of which is short on flavor and texture. Due to the briney note that comes with gose-style beers, I admit that I’m not really a fan. Yet that’s what Roney paired with the first course: a dish of citrus-cured Kentucky lake carp with tomatoes and tomato water. It was a brilliant pairing that even opened my mind up to trying more goses (which, as I learned last night, is pronounced “goes-uh,” not “goh-ss,” like I’ve said it forever). Same for the Rain Check stout paired with braised short ribs: flawless.

I go to Harvest about twice a year, and each time I see many of the same servers I’ve seen for years. (Two of its four owners also were there, which makes a statement.) That means they’re experienced and they love the brand they represent. Last night’s front-of-the-house crew killed it. Friendly, engaging, fast to serve, fast to clear—all of which is super hard when you’re serving 60 guests the same items all at once. And in a market where service has declined noticeably in recent years, such professionalism stands out.

But to pull all that off, you need a great kitchen crew, which Roney has. A chef like him can have all the vision to make a great meal, but without a great staff below him, it’s not happening.

It was a total treat to be at a Harvest table Monday night.

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Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 25-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass, Whisky Magazine, WhiskeyWash.com and The Bourbon Review. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

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