Sunday, September 7, 2014

Highball & Harvest at The Ritz Carlton Orlando

I don't spend much time seeking out or eating at restaurants in hotels. After trying the brand new Highball & Harvest restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton down near Sea World, I will rethink this philosophy. The food, drinks, service, decor and ambiance were all extraordinary.

If you didn't know the Ritz-Carlton is a high end hotel for those looking for an upscale experience. Check out this link which has a lot of pictures and details on the hotel:

The Ritz-Carlton also has another restaurant on site I've always wanted to eat at, Norman's, by famed Florida chef Norman Van Aken. I have never been able to justify the high prices, but I'll make it there one day.

To get to Highball & Harvest restaurant you go into the hotel and then from the lobby take the grand staircase down to the right to a huge open space that formerly housed the Vineyard Grill.

Highball & Harvest just had their grand opening in early September, 2014 and the amount of work and planning that have gone into creating a quality restaurant and bar are very obvious. I was invited to a media event with other food bloggers to sample and photograph some of the dishes.

The uniforms and menu at Highball & Harvest remind me of Prato or The Coop both in Winter Park, plaid flannel farmer type shirts. The decor is much different than those restaurants however, lots of nice dark woods, comfortable dark brown leather booths, dark heavy wood chairs and tables. It's a huge space, lots of room to get comfortable.

Highball & Harvest describes itself as "A Modern Approach to Southern-Inspired Cuisine". The most impressive thing about the restaurant is that many of the ingredients are grown in the Whisper Creek Farm which is on the property. They grow: cucumbers, acorn squash, collard greens, avocado, mango, sweet potatoes, a variety of herbs & citrus including tangerine, kaffir lime and kumquat. More Info about the farm:

They serve an extensive breakfast buffet, with lots of fresh fruit, salmon, breads, cheeses, etc.

Lunch starts at 11 everyday, our meal started with H&H Parker House Rolls, made with ancient grains served with Herb Butter & Apple Butter, $4. The flavor was a sweet honey style wheat bread, the butters were both great but they didn't go together, so pick one or the other depending on your taste preference.

Parker House Rolls

They have a lot of creative cocktails, averaging in price from $10-12. 

Orange Ave Officers Club - Death’s Door Gin, Pimm’s #1, Passionfruit and Ginger

Dill or No Dill - Sipsmith's Gin, Elderflower, Cucumber, Dill and Lemon

Doc Holliday - Blueberry Jam, Tito’s vodka, Ruby Grapefruit and House Ginger Beer

Whistle Stop - Death’s Door White Whiskey, Cocchi Barolo, Chinato, and Tangerine-Honey Cordial

Back 40 Punch - Blackberry, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Sweet Tea and Lemon

Last Wish - High West “Campfire”t Whiskey, Spiced Cola Syrup, Old Havana Tobacco Bitters, Orange Essence

Summerlin’s Smash - Pineapple and Orange and Mint muddled with Bacardi 8 Rum, Luxardo Maraschino, Lime and Chilies
Summerlin’s Smash


Next up was the Crab Cake & Fried Green Tomato appetizer with Cajun Remoulade and Corn Chow Chow, $16. A wonderful mix of rich flavors, the breading was sweet on the tomatoes. This is a huge appetizer that should be shared among at least 2 people.
Crab Cake & Fried Green Tomato 
Our Second appetizer was The Southern Spread - Pimento Cheese, Smoked Fish Dip,  Pickled Vegetables, Benne-Seed Lavash, Sourdough Bread, $16. I really liked the pickled vegetables, they were simple but very tasty, a little sweet. Again the mixture of the two different kinds of spread were odd combinations of flavors so just pick the one that suits your taste more. 

The Southern Spread

Main Courses
My main course was the Shrimp and Grits - Canaveral Red Shrimp, Anson Mills Grits, Charred Tomato BBQ, Arugula, Fennel & Crisp Onions. It was a creative variation on a tried and true southern dish. The red shrimp have a much different texture than the more commonly available shrimp. The sauce and the grits had good flavors, I didn't find that the fennel added anything to the dish but it didn't take anything away from it either. You can get it in a smaller portion $16 or the large one pictured here $25

Many of the other dishes were very visually appealing and if I had enough space I'd have tried them all.  

 Boneless Chicken Fried Chicken - Potato Puree / Garlic Kale / Watermelon $27

Pig-n-Potatoes - Poached Egg / Potato Hash / Pork Cheeks / Hollandaise $17

Grilled Line-Caught Swordfish - Beluga Lentils / Cilantro Coulis / Mango $32

Booker’s Skirt - Grilled Corn & Tomato Salad / Potato Puree / Charred Onion Vinaigrette $30

H&H Pimento Cheese Burger - Double Short-Rib Patties / Bacon / Mustard / Pimento Cheese / Spicy pickles $18

Blackened Grouper - Hominy Ragout / Andouille / Pickled Okra $29

H&H Key Lime Tart - Winter Park Honey Infused Oranges / Margarita Sorbet $9

Baby Donuts - Cappuccino Ice Cream / Chocolate Hazelnut Spread $9

Strawberry Shortcake - Strawberry Sorbet / Poached Rhubarb / Bubble Gum Marshmallow $9

Warm Chocolate Cake - Bourbon Pickled Apples Chutney / Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream $9

They make their own hot sauce from scotch bonnet and other peppers grown at the on site farm. It wasn't very spicy but had a nice smokey flavor. It's not very vinegary and very thick. 

Another interesting part of Highball & Harvest is the wine bar. I've never heard of having wines on tap that weren't drawn from wine bottles. Here they have wine casks served via taps just like beer. According to their sommelier, it's a better way to keep the wines fresher because no oxidation occurs like when they are served from a previously opened bottle. Also they are able to better regulate the correct temperatures of each type of wine. They have 8 reds and 8 white wines on tap. 

Overall I'd say Highball & Harvest is a great place to have a quality southern meal or to just experience some creative cocktails in a relaxing, comfortable environment. Give it a try for yourself.

You can view the menus here:

Highball & Harvest on Urbanspoon

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