St. HELENA, CA—When I first learned that renowned chef and hotelier Charlie Palmer had big plans for the transformation of St. Helena’s iconic Harvest Inn resort, I become a little giddy. After all, this is Napa Valley where anything worth doing has already been done. Right? But when someone with Palmer’s expertise and reputation commits to a particular project, chances are it’s destined to surpass expectations.
*The boss - Chef Charlie Palmer - gives me the low-down
at Opening Night for the "new" Harvest Inn - Napa Valley.
Updated reception, new rooms, enhanced gardens, plus an all-new restaurant and bar
Palmer’s hospitality firm acquired the venerable hotel in 2014 and quickly set out to modernize the property. Visitors who remember the spot from it’s heyday with its definitive brick and refined woodwork should be reassured that, even after the extensive redesign, Harvest Inn remains true to its original concept. I’m pleased to report that a distinct sense of place persists here, a direct lineage to the original architectural intension.
Phase one took the Main House, Harvest Inn’s central building, from standard check-in and common area to a fully revamped reception area, a welcoming bar, and a signature Charlie Palmer restaurant named Harvest Table, an all-new 110-seat restaurant with an open action kitchen.
In addition to the ground floor updates, four new guest rooms, the "Harvest Lofts", have just been added on the second story, and new landscaping, including botanical and culinary gardens along with a 24-piece sculpture garden, are nearly complete. The changes are in line with Palmers plan to turn the boutique hotel into a full service resort.
The new reception and restaurant building features a sleek and modern 12-seat, U-shaped bar, along with a more subtle reception area covering approximately 900-square feet. The existing two outdoor terraces are now upgraded to allow for alfresco dining and the Harvest Table restaurant has taken over the space of what was previously the hotel’s Great Room.
*The renovated "Great Room" At Harvest Inn
The distinctive mixing of heritage and modern style seen in the richly stained wood, leaded glass panels, and exterior stone as well as Tudor stucco with timber framing adds up to a fanciful setting that is both rustic and elegant.
Harvest Table’s food and beverage offerings are elegant. The cuisine is California contemporary farm-to-table, with ingredients predominantly sourced from the property’s culinary gardens and the surrounding areas. The Napa-centric wine list is, of course, solid and the inventive seasonal cocktails feature American crafts spirits with house made tinctures and syrups. Not a wine lover? The beer menu includes a number of Northern California brews and ales.
I snagged a menu that shows offerings divided into three sections: Snacks, Starters, and Plates, each ranging from lighter to heartier dishes, and a daily market special. The menu embraces what is grown right outside the restaurant doors as well as supporting Northern California’s artisanal producers. Signature menu items include Roasted Garden Carrots with Buttermilk, Curry Blend, and Granola; Poached Petrale Sole with Garden Bean Nage, Lemon Thyme, and Chanterelles; and Pan Roasted Modesto Squab with Poached Plums, Stinging Nettles, Fermented Turnips, and Sherry Squab Jus.
OPENING NIGHT was a tantalizing preview of what’s to come
I’ve worked closely with Harvest Inn for more than a decade and have formed a sentimental attachment to the place. When asked to attend last month’s grand opening, I was, of course, anxious to preview the architectural updates, but was even more curious to taste samples from the new restaurant’s menu.
Service for the opening night event was top-notch and everything was perfectly planned from the champagne greeting to the well-spaced wine stations pouring fine local wines. An ongoing stream of jovial kitchen staffers ferried fresh small bites on square white trays for the guests.
*With Charlie Palmer himself overseeing the evening's
activities, everything was spot on.
Below are some of the tidbits that were served—samplings from the restaurant menu. Each was very good with some rocketing into the realm of OMG—
Roasted carrots buttermilk, Vadouvan
(blended Indian curry spices), Granola
Crispy pork head, Sauce Gribiche, frisée chive
(molded into delicate fried balls)
Pan Roasted shrimp and grits, andouille sausage,
cheddar cheese, smoked bacon
*Grilled flat iron, toasted faro, broccoli rabe,
roasted mushrooms, bordelaise
Fresh strawberry shortcake with roasted
strawberry sauce and whipped ice cream
Other delectables served—
•English pea soup, Morel mushrooms, garlic flan, rye croutons
•Slider: Harvest Table Burger, Fontina cheese, homemade bun
•Lemon Merangue tartlets
•Peanut butter chocolate bites
Here are a just few of the illustrious Napa Valley wines on hand:
Overview: Why We love it
Located at One Main Street in St. Helena, California, Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer is a lush, private island certain to be trending throughout Napa Valley, the Bay Area, and beyond. The resort has 78 luxurious accommodations nestled into four uniquely crafted “neighborhoods”, two secluded swimming pools, and a lavish spa with indoor and outdoor facilities. Surrounded by its dense landscaping of expansive lawns and shaded groves, partially forested by towering redwoods, the new Harvest Inn will provide ample escape for the tech-weary, traffic-choked, masses looking for a wine country respite; a serene place to recharge.
Keep your eyes on this brilliant Napa Valley property. Plans for phases two and three are said to include new and improved meeting and event spaces and a complete room revamp.
Of course, the Harvest Inn property has and always will be beautiful. It reflects what I consider to be the essential Napa Valley experience and Palmer’s new incarnation remains true to that mission. The addition of Harvest Table is a very big deal for both locals and visitors. After being tempted by the sumptuous menu samples I simply can’t wait to return. In fact, I’m about to make a dinner reservations particularly to revisit the crispy pork head!!
Photo Credits: Photos with an asterisk (*) by Damion Hamilton... all others by me. Not only is Damion an excellent Bay Area photographer but he's a very nice guy as well. :-)
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