"Sinfully Sweet!" Handcrafted Dessert Harvest Review

Last week I was invited to Harvest to check out the "Sinfully Sweet" Handcrafted Dessert Review -- six courses of desserts prepared by pastry chef Brian Mercury. I happily skipped dinner and sat down at 6 p.m. to indulge in course after course of dessert.

Before we dined, Brian came out to give an overview of everything we would be eating, what components were on each plate, and how they were made. The desserts ranged from citrus to savory to cheese to chocolate and nuts, and each one was artfully arranged and crafted with care. It was quickly evident that a lot of thought had been given to each component.

I was blown away by the very first course, which featured rounds of grapefruit curd topped with mache (a mild salad green) and mint, thin and crisp lemon chamomile biscotti, and segments of blood orange. It wasn't a rich, decadent course by any means (my usual choice) but more of a palate awakener. It offered light, bright, fresh flavors. The mint really popped among the citrus flavors.

Grapefruit curd, citrus, mache and mint, lemon chamomile biscotti at Harvest, Cambridge, Mass.
Citrus: Grapefruit curd, citrus, mache and mint, lemon chamomile biscotti
Paired with Giesen, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2011

The next course was the only one I wasn't looking forward to, based on its description. When I read chickpea olive oil financier, I was thinking whole chickpeas were somehow being incorporated, but Brian explained that he uses chickpea flour in the financier, a moist, spongy cake so named because it was traditionally baked in the shape of a bar of gold. Here the financier was crumbled on the plate and accompanied by a light walnut mousse, some tangy pickled lemons and their juice, and a sweet raisin sauce. I shouldn't have feared this dish because it was wonderful. I loved the flavor and texture of the financier and was pleasantly surprised by the raisin sauce, which I wanted more of immediately after tasting it.

Chickpea olive oil financier, walnut mousse, pickled lemon, raisin sauce at Harvest, Cambridge, Mass.
Savory: Chickpea olive oil financier, walnut mousse, pickled lemon, raisin sauce
Paired with Hahn Winery, Pinot Noir, Monterey, CA 2010

The third course was the vegetable course, which sounds odd when thinking of dessert, but the sweet potato panna cotta certainly fit the bill. This was the heaviest, most filling of the courses, but I still ate every bit of it. The panna cotta, reminiscent of pumpkin pie filling but not as spiced, was paired with almond milk sherbet, brown butter powder, and maple gastrique -- all provided welcome, complementary flavors.

Sweet potato panna cotta, almond milk sherbet, brown butter powder, maple gastrique at Harvest, Cambridge, Mass.
Vegetable: Sweet potato panna cotta, almond milk sherbet, brown butter powder, maple gastrique
Paired with Chateau Bel Air, Semillon, Sainte-Croix-Du-Mont, Bordeaux, FR 2010 

The fourth course served as a palate cleanser with more interest than the run-of-the-mill sorbet. It was a ginger and Golden Delicious sorbet and was heavy on the ginger, which gave it a spicy, warm bite.

Ginger and Golden Delicious sorbet at Harvest, Cambridge, Mass.
Sorbet: Ginger and Golden Delicious sorbet

Things took a tiny turn at the cheese course, breaking up the line of desserts with something a little more typically savory but still just as rich. A crostini arrived topped with Mozzarella House burrata and a hefty drizzle of fig and balsamic jam. (Mozzarella House is a local cheese producer based in Everett and will be featured in an upcoming all cheese Harvest Review.) The cheese was creamy and textured with shreds of mozzarella, and the fig and balsamic jam added a sweet note.

Mozzarella House burrata, fig and balsamic jam, crostini at Harvest, Cambridge, Mass.
Cheese: Mozzarella House burrata, fig and balsamic jam, crostini
Paired with Valdana, Malvira, Aleatico Passito Dell'Elba, Tuscany, Italy

The last course would be what I'd order immediately if a dessert menu had been placed in front of me. It was a Taza chocolate hazelnut pate with malted popcorn, Ovaltine ice cream, and house-made Nutella. Brian described the Nutella as the adult version since it's not as sweet. The pate was super rich but also not overly sweet and paired well with the malted notes of the ice cream and popcorn. The dish was also adorned with some of Brian's homemade sea salt. The salt combined and contrasted nicely with the chocolate and really perked up the dish.

Taza hazelnut pate, malted popcorn, Ovaltine ice cream, "Nutella" at Harvest, Cambridge, Mass.
Chocolate and nuts: Taza hazelnut pate, malted popcorn, Ovaltine ice cream, "Nutella"
Paired with Fonseca, Bin 27, Ruby Port

Each course (besides the sorbet) was paired with a wine, many of them on the sweeter side to stand up to the desserts. I especially enjoyed the ruby port. The courses were inventive, fun, and above all delicious. I loved that Brian incorporated local products where he could and even used his own homemade sea salt for the last course.

The Harvest Review is a monthly tasting series. While not all of the Harvest Reviews will feature desserts, if they're all as good as this one, you don't want to miss them. The six courses plus wine pairings costs $44 per person, not including tax and gratuity.

This "dinner" was complimentary, but as always, my opinions are my own.

Would you eat six courses of dessert?


Meghan M. said...

I had to miss this last minute due to work/not feeling well. Everything looks delicious!

Colleen said...

Wow, each one of these is a picture on a plate! Beautiful! And it sounds like they were quite delicious as well. What a fun experience!

Sacha Madadian said...

I would love this! What a treat. I've heard wonderful things about Brian Mercury (and his salt...) and this is the perfect multi-course experience. The financier dessert actually sounds the best to me (I love financiers) and the fresh sorbet and the finale sound phenomenal too! Great photos.

Michelle Collins said...

I'm not a huge dessert person, but if I HAD to, I'd eat six courses of it. ;) That last dessert looks and sounds divine. And homemade sea salt?! Impressive.

Colleen said...

I'm not a big dessert person so I don't know if I could make an entire dinner out of dessert - I would be craving something savory. Still, these all look delicious and I'd love to try a bite of each!

Simply Life said...

oh this looks like so much fun! I'd love to try all 6 courses :)

Joanne (eats well with others) said...

a whole meal of dessert! that's pretty much heavenly to me. Sounds wonderful!

Shannon G said...

oh my gosh, each course sounds absolutely amazing!! although i'm left thinking about grapefruit curd... :)

Emily said...

love that you skipped dinner for this! the presentation of each dish is outstanding!