High-end dining finds a home on small-town main street

The tables at the Harvest Eatery in Shaunavon, Sask., are made from reclaimed barn wood, while the chairs were sourced from an old hotel in Edmonton.  | Supplied photo

My monthly column showcases prairie culinary destinations worth visiting, once it is safe to do so. While every destination is unique, each one serves flavourful food using the best ingredients available and shares the spirit of supporting local.

If you have suggestions of unique, delicious food spots or butcheries and an interest in supporting local, please reach out to me at office@agribiz.ca.

It has been nearly a year since I’ve been on a road trip, so I am dreaming about experiencing new places and returning to some of my favourites, once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Near the top of my bucket list is a trip to Shaunavon in southwestern Saskatchewan. Several adventures await visitors to the area, such as visiting with Scotty, the world’s biggest T-Rex, watching the wild plains bison roam the Grasslands National Park and exploring Cypress Hills, where the highest point of land in Saskatchewan exists.

A weekend getaway may not be long enough. No doubt, a highlight will be the culinary creations at the Harvest Eatery in downtown Shaunavon.

The restaurant is located on the town’s main drag, Centre Street. Strings of lights adorning the front patio and music, artfully curated by Garrett “Rusty” Thienes, co-owner and chef, greet guests as they approach the small colonial-style building. The welcoming and warm aura was created through fastidious attention to detail.

In 2012, co-owners Rusty and Kristy Thienes gutted what was originally a doctor’s office with a vision to create a dining experience offering high-end food in a casual and friendly atmosphere. Careful consideration was given to design a classic and timeless ambiance, coupled with a heaping cup of modern flair. The pair sourced local art and used reclaimed furniture with vintage accessories to enhance the blend of old and new.

Rusty and Kristy Thienes gutted what was originally a doctor’s office to create their restaurant. | Supplied photo

Upon entering, your eyes are drawn to a custom-made, butcherblock-style bar, handcrafted by none other than Rusty and his father. Stalwart and reliable, this one-of-a-kind bar has served many guests who call Shaunavon home, as well as regulars from surrounding areas and guests from as far away as Australia, Wales, Denmark, Norway and several American states.

Colours are warm and add to the cozy feel with butter yellow walls complemented by a rich chocolate-coloured feature wall. Plantation-style shutters, which mimic the chocolate wall, provide a frame to the inside of the west-facing windows where guests can enjoy the beautiful Saskatchewan sky.

The ceiling is covered wall-to-wall with reproduction copper tiles. Classic hotel-style chandeliers provide a warm glow, while handmade stained-glass candleholders add a flicker of light on each table.

The tables are Canadian made from reclaimed barn wood, while the chairs were sourced from an old hotel in Edmonton. A small collection of antique tables, one of which belonged to Rusty’s grandmother, give the room a sense of history.

“While much thought went into each detail of creating a warm and classic atmosphere, at the end of the day Harvest Eatery focuses on using the best ingredients, providing the best service and giving people the best food experience possible,” Rusty said.

The menu has some staples they don’t dare remove because they are fan favourites, starting with the cheese pâté, as the most popular appetizer. This chef-inspired original uses a blend of aged white cheddar, provolone, cream cheese, gruyere with a splash of sherry and a pinch of red curry topped with a thick Major Grey mango chutney and served with wood-fired ciabatta toasts.

When I visit, the cheese paté will definitely find its way to my table. Maybe twice.

The harvest burger, made with locally sourced Speckle Park beef and maple bacon topped with aged cheddar and served with a chef-prepared roasted garlic aioli sauce on a freshly made sesame brioche bun, is a popular main entrée.

Its rival is the eight-ounce brisket made with locally grown Angus beef. The brisket is smoked with maple wood for six hours, rubbed with a homemade Cajun-style concoction, then oven roasted for another eight hours.

The chef’s special maple bourbon demi-glace adorns the top of the brisket, which is rich and bursting with a smooth flavour. The brisket has a savory crust while the inside is so tender, it falls apart.

The Eatery buys corn from a local Hutterite colony, shucks it, freezes it and daily makes a homestyle cream corn with bell peppers. It is also accompanied by a roasted potato salad made with roasted new potatoes, lardons (thick cut bacon bits), celery, and house-made chipotle-ranch dressing. The plate is balanced off with a freshly made cheddar biscuit. Can you guess what I will be trying when I venture there?

If you have a sweet tooth, you will have a tough choice and may decide to sample a few of the made-from-scratch desserts. Top of my list is the signature crème brulee.

Crème brulee is one of the restaurant’s made-from-scratch desserts. | Supplied photo

Rusty created his own take on Irish cream and coffee using an espresso chocolate ganache base topped with a rich, smooth, white chocolate and an Irish cream custard, finished with a carefully caramelized sugar topping and served on what was his grandmother’s china.

No doubt, the Harvest Eatery is on my 2021 culinary bucket list.

Irish Cream Crème Brulee With Dark Chocolate Espresso Ganache

(Makes 8)

For the base:

  • 1 c. heavy cream (33-36%)
  • 2 tbsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp. softened butter

Heat the cream and coffee powder in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water. The bowl should rest on the pot without touching the water. Using the steam will help to prevent scorching. Save this setup for part two.

When the cream is steaming, slowly add the chocolate chips in four parts, stirring constantly with a spoon or spatula over the heat until fully incorporated.

Remove from heat and stir in butter until glossy and combined.

Pour into the base of four oven-proof ramekins and allow to set in a cool area.

For the custard:

  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 5 egg yolks, preferably large and free range, whites discarded
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. Irish cream liquor or creamer

In a clean, heat-proof bowl that fits without touching the water, whisk the eggs and sugar together away from the heat, until almost white in colour and forming ‘ribbons.’

Using the same boiling pot of water, and a second heat-proof bowl, place the cream, Irish cream and chocolate chips over the pot of boiling water and stir constantly until fully combined. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 325 F and find an oven safe pan deep enough to contain your ramekins. A 9×12 cake pan works great.

Slowly temper the hot cream and chocolate mixture into your eggs and sugar, very slowly at the start so as not to cook the eggs, whisking constantly. Continue until cream and eggs are fully combined.

Pour the Irish cream custard over the cooled and set chocolate in the ramekins, leaving about a half-inch of space from the top of the jar.

Place the ramekins in the oven safe pan and place on the middle rack of the heated oven. Bring a pitcher of warm water over and fill the pan until water is at least two-thirds of the way up the side of the ramekins.

Bake in the oven for one hour or until the custard slightly jiggles when you lightly shake the pan. Turn off the heat and leave oven door open and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Remove from water bath and wipe dry.

Sprinkle with white sugar and lightly torch until caramelized and enjoy, or wrap tightly and place in refrigerator. These will store for up to a week in the fridge.

Adele Buettner is a farm girl (at heart), foodie, volunteer, business owner and lover of all things relating to agriculture and food. She is located in Saskatoon.

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