By Autumn Gates
Harvest & Wisdom makes “eat local” an understatement. What’s on your plate may have been harvested from the onsite, organic garden as little as 30 minutes earlier.
With a relaxed vibe, attentive service and a staggering four-and-a-half-acre, certified organic garden, Harvest & Wisdom delivers an experience that is unparalleled. The peaceful eatery is located at Shangri-La Springs, a historic property in Bonita Springs known for its invigorating powers. Built in 1921, this long-standing gem promotes wellness with a fitness studio, full-service spa and event venue, in addition to its organic garden and restaurant.
Harvest & Wisdom opened for lunch (Tuesday through Saturday) in mid-July. Since then, it has expanded to include happy hour and dinner service Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
With nearly two decades of experience, Executive Chef Allen Fisher heads the operation as food and beverage director. As a competitor on Food Network’s “Chopped” and a trainee under several top chefs in New York City including the famed Daniel Boulud, Fisher has blossomed into an expert on designing creative concepts using local, organic ingredients.
Chef de Cuisine David Robbins works alongside Fisher as Harvest & Wisdom’s main chef, food connoisseur and hands-on representative. He brings more than 15 years of experience, including travels in South America and time at top-rated, farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill-New York. Raised on a family farm in Kauai, Hawaii, Robbins specializes in selecting the freshest ingredients and mixing flavors from different cultures to create dishes that are truly unique.
Both members of this dynamic culinary duo took an interest in organic food from an early age. “I didn’t even know what a can opener was until I was 13,” says Fisher.
Hyperlocal, sustainable sourcing coupled with responsible portion sizes forms the heart of the Harvest & Wisdom philosophy.
“This is a really rare, special thing to have the opportunity to found the philosophy we want to get out to the world,” says Robbins of the passion behind the concept.
The all-organic restaurant puts these ideals into action by sourcing 80 percent of ingredients from its own garden. A positive side effect of this sustainable sourcing is that the menu constantly evolves. Guests can be certain of finding new menu items as seasonal harvests vary. The chefs and gardeners also enjoy experimenting with new varietals of produce such as eye-catching sword lettuce.
Dinner service at Harvest & Wisdom can be described as “veggie-forward.” The team believes in the power of serving nutrient-packed vegetables first. Our table’s beautiful, edible centerpiece showcased this value first-hand. The natural, twig-based fixture contained a colorful assortment of fresh carrots (orange and white), radishes and bright nasturtium flowers – yes, they’re edible! Adding to the fresh flavors, our server brought us a wooden slab topped with heirloom tomatoes, Peruvian chilies and snap peas. House-made ranch dressing was presented quizzically on a broken, slate plate.
Following after the Japanese ideology wabi-sabi – which means “finding beauty in imperfection” – Harvest & Wisdom repurposes everything from accidentally, yet artistically, broken plates to aspects of its farm-fresh ingredients that many chefs would throw in the trash. For example, the pulp leftover after juicing tomatoes is used to make tomato leather.
Additionally, meals are proportioned perfectly to reduce the likelihood of waste. I’ll admit we were skeptical when our server, Olivia, said, “the closer you source it, the more nutrients it contains, so you get fuller faster.” Now, we can attest this is true. “Honest foods,” as the chefs like to call them, satisfy even large appetites, particularly when there is a bounty of nutrient-dense vegetables to snack on throughout the multi-course meal.
The standard experience at Harvest & Wisdom starts at $58 and includes a three-course, prix fixe menu. Customers may choose to sit inside the cozy restaurant enjoying both the beauty of paintings by local artists and a view of the gardens outside. Or, they may dine on the terrace to enjoy live music as they soak in the natural beauty of Shangri-La Springs’ massive, historic fig tree. For a customized dinner with ultimate variety, guests may reserve the seven-course chef’s table experience, starting at $110.
For the chefs planning and plating your meal, Harvest & Wisdom is more than a restaurant; it’s a mission to change our mindset about food. With the numerous dining options available today, there is wisdom in nourishing our bodies with nutrient-rich, organic foods, which happen to be some of the tastiest foods to be found.
- Lobster Bite: Experience a “nod to luxury” with a bite of Maine lobster tail served over a delicious crème. The lobster is topped with fresh and sustainable no-kill Kaluga caviar. This aesthetically pleasing starter plate is sure to whet your appetite.
- Apple & Tomato Leather with Kale Chips: This fun starter plate is reminiscent of childhood snacks. The appetizer includes fruit leather made with Honeycrisp and Granny Smith apples and tomato leather containing overripe or bruised tomatoes to reduce waste. The tasty treats are paired with mild cheese and seasoned, crunchy kale chips.
- Carrot and Beet Tartare: This tasty tartare plate is the vegetarian twist on the traditional ground beef dish. Heirloom beets and carrots are vacuum, slow-cooked overnight to produce a tender tartare topped with a faux egg yolk made of mango puree. On the side is a piece of flax and sesame seed toast dusted with “superfood” moringa powder.
- Tableside Banana Leaf Snapper: Served in a banana leaf, the Caribbean Red Snapper blends ingredients from Thailand, Japan and the Caribbean into one rich dish. The delicate fish is cooked with ginger, lemon grass, star anise and Thai chilies straight from the garden. Purple sticky rice and an aromatic kimichi with Japanese bok choy complement the flavors. The dish is topped with baby fennel greens and a warm drizzle of coconut milk.
- Octopus Confit: Enjoy a burst of flavor with this slow-cooked and lightly charred, Mediterranean hand-caught octopus. This crispy portion is served over a delicious aioli sauce made with duck-yolk mayo and fermented Korean chili paste. The entrée also includes baby potatoes and Spanish chorizo with smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, garlic and lemon zest.
- Chocolate Banana Decadence: This delectable dessert is ideal for diners looking for the perfect balance of sweet and nutritional. The dish features a chocolate banana veil made from cocoa powder and bananas. Beneath the veil, lies a raw vegan mousse comprised of whipped coconut cream and vegan milk chocolate mixed with an organic dark chocolate banana chia pudding.
Harvest & Wisdom Organic Dining
27750 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs