You are visiting a new city, and on one of the last days of your stay, dine at a restaurant whose food is so good and whose menu is so intriguing that you wish you had gone there earlier.
That happened to us as our journey to Springfield came to an end, and on our last day, we (Chuck, Dora, and I) lunched at American Harvest Eatery.
American Harvest focuses on locally grown and sustainable foods and is the newest creation of Augie and Sharon Mrozowski, the owners of Augie’s Front Burner in downtown Springfield. “We’ll use Illinois products—produce from (local organic farmer) Garrick Veenstra, pigs from Auburn, elk from Lincoln. We’re definitely going for sustainable food products. We’ve hooked up with farmers. We’re market-driven, farm-driven, farm to table…” (kathryn.rem@sj-r.
com). Written on the back of the staff t-shirts is the motto: “True to the season—True to the region.”
Once inside, you would never know that you were in a restaurant located in a strip type mall. Just inside the doors was a shiny and modern bar. The walls were painted in autumnal shades accented with blue and were hung with posters and high-tech art. Divider curtains bore the image of wheat sheaves.
Every item on the lunch menu sounded intriguing. The category “Soups, Salads, & Appetizers” included: Goose Island Beer & Aged Cheddar Soup with a mini pretzel baguette; Country Ham and Cheese Croquettes made with house-cured ham, smoked gouda with beer mustard; Melted Leek and Oyster Mush-room Pot Pie with roasted garlic, reserve gruyere, and tarragon cream; Grilled Norra Mills Corn Bread Salad with shaved red onions, spring radishes, baby lima beans, and herb red wine vinaigrette; Peppercorn Bistro Steak Salad with Wisconsin bleu cheese, giardiniera, and hearts of romaine, and chipotle buttermilk ranch dressing; and Cold Smoked Salmon Salad with jalapeno tartar sauce, English cucumbers, petite greens, and fingerling potato crisps.
Sandwiches included a Smoked Ham and Cheddar Baguette, Harvest BLT, Evan’s Farm Burger, Portabello Grilled Cheese and Chicken Salad. Listed as “Large Plates” were American Harvest Mac ’n Cheese, Fire Roasted Vegetable Tacos, and Sautéed Rimview Farms Ruby Trout.
The day’s special—and Chuck’s choice—was the Pulled Pork Cuban Sandwich. A classic Cuban contains yellow mustard, thin sliced baked ham and roasted pork, dill pickle slices, and Swiss cheese.
“Tasty, toasted Cuban sandwiches are Miami's favorite snack. These treats can be found in most Miami restaurants, but the best places to buy them are from the street corner-snack bars, called loncherias. The key to a great, versus a good, Cuban sandwich lies in the grilling. A great Cuban sandwich is grilled in a sandwich press (called a plancha) until the ham, pork, and pickles have warmed in their own steam” (whatscookingamerica.net).
American Harvest substituted pulled pork for the thin sliced pork, house-cured bacon for ham, grainy mustard for yellow mustard and gruyere for Swiss cheese. House-made pickles—slightly sweet, slightly spicy—were served on the side. While it may not have been a traditional Cuban, it was delicious. The pork was moist and juicy and the house-cured bacon was thick-cut and smoky.
Served on the side were their rosemary frites—the second best (bested only by the patatine fritta at Andreoli in Scottsdale) French fries of our travels. With its piney aroma and taste, rosemary can overwhelm a dish unless used with care. And care was used here, so that the fries only contained a subtle hint of this powerful herb.
Dora chose the Evan’s Farm Burger which was served on a pretzel bun with smoked gouda and BBQ onions and served with the same rosemary fries and house-made pickles. Dora generously cut two small wedges from her sandwich for us to taste. Based on this small sample, we have declared this one of the year’s best burgers. First, and I know that I keep repeating myself, one secret to a great sandwich is a great roll. This was one great roll. The outer surface had both a toasty color and a toasty flavor. And it was chewy and dense without being heavy. The burger, cooked medium well, was flavorful and succulent. And the thin sliced onions had been cooked in a not-too-sweet and not-too-tart bbq sauce and complimented the sandwich rather than overpowering it.
This also came with the great rosemary fries and house-made pickles. Dora wasn’t able to finish all of her fries so Chuck and I generously offered to help.
I was torn between the American Harvest Mac ’n Cheese (cavatappi pasta, aged cheddar, Mornay sauce. house-made country ham and herb bread crumbs) and the Fire Roasted Vegetable Tacos (grilled mushrooms, charred peppers and onions, spicy greens, queso fresco and salsa verde). Since I couldn’t decide between these two, I ordered two appetizers instead.
I started with the beer and cheddar soup. I often shy away from cheddar cheese soups, because too many have a grainy, not-quite-melted, texture. This was an exception. Silky-smooth and rich, it had a slight underlying sweetness from the beer that balanced the sharpness of the aged cheddar. This came with a mini-pretzel baguette similar to Dora’s roll. I was tempted—but resisted the urge—to wipe the bowl clean with my tongue. It was that good.
I also hesitated about ordering the leek and mushroom pot pie. Tarragon, with its licorice flavor, is not my favorite of herbs and I was worried that its flavor would overpower the more delicate leeks and oyster mushrooms. Again, the kitchen’s skill came through. The tart was presented in a puff pastry shell and contained crisp cooked peas, carrots, and limas along with the leeks which had been “melted” to a sweet softness. The leeks, mush-rooms, peas, carrots, and limas were blended with the tarragon cream and ladled into the shell.
If only we had a few more days. The fire-roasted veggie tacos call to me. The mac ‘n cheese calls to me. The corn bread salad knows my name. So much good food and so little time to spend at this 5.0 Addie restaurant.