I was hungry. Lisa was on her way over, and I was tempted to have a bite to hold me over.
In the end, I was glad I skipped the snack, because the food at Harvest & Hearth was definitely worth waiting for.
The long, one-story restaurant sits down from the road, next to the Fish Creek Marina, and the building’s low profile makes it seem even lower. It looks and feels like a roadhouse, especially inside, which is simply divided into large rooms with open rafters and broad, wood floor planks. There are plenty of tables with a view of the creek, and a seat at the bar is equally good.
The stone pizza oven dominates the dining room, and other than a prep station nearby for the chef, it’s just sitting there — you can walk right up and look in. We took a table nearby for the warmth, and Lisa arranged herself with a view of the action.
There’s 12 taps with local or organic beer and ciders, and a brief but thoughtful wine menu. The delicious, puckery dry Riesling ($9) from Thirsty Owl Wine Company, in the Finger Lakes region, was a treat. If you haven’t tasted a New York state Riesling lately, do yourself a favor. Packed with a broad profile of fruit flavors, Riesling ranges from sweet to bone dry, and New York state Rieslings are getting respect from serious wine critics, including the New York Times’ Eric Asimov.
The menu is simple and everything is made on site: soup, salad, pizza, dessert, with an eye to fresh, organic and local ingredients. That’s it, and all you need.
Lisa started with a cup of roasted butternut squash and pear soup ($4.95) (“super delicious”), with distinct, attention-getting flavors of squash and pear and warm autumn seasoning, none overpowering, arranged in such a way that made it very interesting to eat. It was lovely stuff, rich and, as Lisa said, “fall in a bowl.”
Their soup is good, but the croutons were the star of the show. “They’re probably better suited to your soup than mine,” said Lisa, a good point, since they were made with cheese and garlic.
Thank you, H&H, for showing me that croutons are improved by not being square. These irregular, chewy and dense ripped bits provide more surface area, with some parts covered with firm Asiago cheese, some bare and soft.
They were just the thing to go with a cup of creamy tomato soup ($4.95). I tasted basil, felt a seed or two, and appreciated the velvety texture of this delicious stuff. It tastes like really good fresh tomato sauce, but creamier.
I stopped a minute and thought: Five bucks is a lot for a cup of soup. But the soups are homemade and wonderfully constructed, with layers of flavor and carefully built textures. Definitely worth it, I decided. This is not your scoop of salty premade soup, with flabby vegetables and tasteless meat.
Lisa enjoyed watching pizzas being assembled, then slid into the oven and emerging fewer than five minutes later, steaming hot. You can walk right up to the oven, and folks did. “Cooking here is a spectator sport,” she observed.
Lisa had been watching the progress of our pizzas, and soon enough said, “Those are ours.”
Hers was a mushroom pizza, called the Shrooms ($9.95, small), topped with a wild mushroom blend, caramelized onions and fontina and mozzarella cheeses over homemade tomato sauce, with a crispy crust. “Mmm, this is really good,” she said.
“It’s hard to describe how good this is,” Lisa said, trying anyway. “The onions have a little touch of sweetness, the cheese is sharp and melty, and you can definitely tell it’s a wood-fired pizza.” She indicated the charred edges of the crust.
I really enjoyed their basic pizza, the Hearth House ($8.95), because even though it was made of just the usual stuff — crust, cheese and sauce — the ingredients were of really high quality, which made for outstanding flavor. They don’t skimp on the Asiago cheese, which is sharp and distinct, or the mozzarella, which is creamy. There’s fresh sliced basil, almost an endangered species this time of year, which was very much appreciated.
We both thought the tomato sauce more sweet than expected, and both pizzas had the requisite melted cheese factor that is so visually appealing. It felt indulgent, but OK because the pizzas were small. The bit of char on the crust was a slightly bitter contrast to the sweet sauce and rich cheese.
The menu is limited, but dessert is an important part of it. There are a few choices, and they, like the rest of the food, are made in-house. We shared an outstanding apple crisp ($6.95), the best I’ve had in a long time. That’s because the oats were integrated and baked into a bar-like cookie, not scattered everywhere and all chewy, as they can be.
“It looks like it was made in a pan,” said Lisa, “then sliced into pieces.” I tasted cinnamon and nutmeg, and in keeping with the rest of the ingredients we saw at Harvest & Hearth, the ice cream and whipped cream were outstanding. The texture of the vanilla gelato was smooth, almost like soft-serve, and the sweetened whipped cream was dense and rich. It was a great dessert.
The restaurant was quiet in the middle of the week, and the server and kitchen and pizza chef easily kept up with the tables and the takeout. Our server was friendly and very enthusiastic when she heard we liked the food. She thinks the place is pretty swell, too.
The tab for our meal came to $35.88, well worth it for the crouton education and thoughtfully prepared food. We left impressed, and I was glad I skipped that snack. The food at Harvest & Hearth was worth the wait.
Harvest & Hearth
WHERE: 251 County Route 67, Saratoga Springs; 518-587-1900; harvestandhearth.com
WHEN: 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 4:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday
HOW MUCH: $35.88 for food, before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards Visa, Mastercard, Discover. Reservations for parties of six or more. Large parking lot. You can arrive by kayak, too.