Tonight we visited Harvest House Art Gallery and Restaurant in Waterville, WA. The evening began with a gorgeous motorcycle ride up through the Waterville Grade. It is about a 30 minute, winding ride through rock formations and evergreen trees, ascending into wheat fields and expansive sky.
Waterville is such a neat, old town. A bedroom community to Wenatchee, some parts look like an abandoned ghost town and other parts have a retro, trendy feel. There is an old barn at the west end of town with the words, “A General Tonic: Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery” painted on the side, inspiring the sense that one has gone back in time.
As we rode up to the entrance of the property we were greeted by a little neighbor girl on her pink big wheel. Proprietor, Keith Soderstrom, met us on the porch and invited us to come in. The home was built sometime around 1915 and has more of a bungalow feel than craftsman. The porch was lit up by festive strands of white, Christmas lights and looked like a perfect spot for enjoying a glass of wine. We entered into the main room where there was a large table set for 12. To the left was a small room artfully appointed with antique furniture, used as a wine bar. Beyond that room was another small room with additional seating that felt more private. At Chef Valerie Gray’s suggestions, we chose a table for two in the main room, just beyond the large table, and next to a window that looked over the back yard. The seating was casual and encouraged conversation. We chatted with patrons who were seated at the large table as if we were all guests at a party.
Valerie’s son-in-law, Felix, was our server extraordinaire. For the first course he brought homemade bread, made with whole wheat, fresh butter, and olive tapenade. Keith brought us a taste of a sweet, white wine called Sweet Adelaide from Stemilt Creek Winery. It was delicious, but we opted for a red, so he brought us a bottle of 2008 Saint Laurent Wahluke Cabernet. That was a fabulous bottle of wine!
Next, Felix brought us samples of their two salads and two soups. The soups were a rich, clam chowder, and a mushroom with black rice and quinoa. The salads were caesar with house made dressing and croutons and mixed greens with local, wild, huckleberry vinaigrette, which also boasted apples, candied pecans, and feta cheese. It was all delectable, but the croutons and the candied pecans were to die for.
Kent always jokes that he wants to order one of everything on the menu. Tonight it was no joke. Valerie intended to serve us a tasting menu that included everything Harvest House offers. She made a nice choice by serving us the lightest main dish, the fish tacos, first. We came in pretty hungry, so we found it challenging to pace ourselves! The tacos were fresh, crisp, and cool, and so enjoyable with avocado and pico de gallo on the side.
The steak was seared and finished with a red wine gorgonzola sauce (Valerie mentioned this was actually a demi glace but thought it was better described as a red wine sauce.) and was cooked to perfection, medium, just the way we like it. It was served with a twice baked potato, stuffed with bacon, cheese, butter, and scallions. While we enjoyed this course Keith showed us his photography; beautiful black and white photos taken with a full format camera using a tripod he had designed and manufactured himself. Keith was delightful company, sharing with us the rich history of Harvest House.
The last of the main dishes were the ribs and they blew my mind! CheffyK does not dig ribs all that much and by his own admission would never order them from a menu. But the fact that he didn’t have to pick them up and dirty his fingers thrilled him. I had no idea ribs could fall from the bone like that. They were meaty, tender, and would pull from the bone with the lightest brush of the fork. The ribs are prepared with a dry rub and then cooked in a pressure smoker. Felix called it “The Magic Machine” and we had to concur. Keith shared with us that Harvest House was founded on its ribs. They could be ordered spicy or mild and were served with savory sautéed vegetables. Seriously, if you love ribs, you MUST try Harvest House ribs!
Valerie prepared two desserts for us. The fresh fruit shortcake with whipped cream came with strawberries, mangos, plums, and nectarines. The super rich, brownie sundae, decorated with a dollop of ice cream and a hazelnut cookie was everything you would expect it to be. The crunch of the chocolate-dipped, hazelnut florentine cookie was a nice contrast to the chewy brownie and creamy vanilla ice cream. I am not a big fruit fan, but I tasted the shortcake first and was so enthralled with it that I did not want to switch to the brownie. The fruit was of perfect ripeness and was so sweet and cool with the whipped cream. But, in order to be fair to CheffyK, not wanting him to have to choke down that whole brownie by himself, I enjoyed my share of the sundae, as well. We were so full, but believe it or not, we polished off every bit. “We was gluttons!” says CheffyK.
After dinner we were given a tour of the kitchen. It was unexpected to find such a professional, commercial kitchen in a 100 year old home. It had everything a chef could want, available in a tightly organized space. When CheffyK exclaimed, “Wow! This is a big kitchen!” Valerie replied, “Yeah. It’s bigger than the dining room. It’s bigger than the Space Needle kitchen.” Our tour concluded with Keith showing us his antique chocolate molds. There were bunnies, Kewpie dolls, roosters, and even a shoe!
We enjoyed every moment of the food and the company. Valerie’s cuisine was upscale and downtown, while Keith and Felix’ hospitality had a warm, rural, familiar, small-town feel. The value was outstanding.