Thanks to the rise of remote work, small towns and villages are getting more interest these days from cosmopolitan city folk. Just an hour or so away from cities like New York and Buffalo, we’re starting to see more art galleries, cultural events, craft breweries, farm-to-table restaurants and upscale cafes.
Medina is one municipality currently reaping the benefits of rural-town revivalism, and at the end of July, the village got a major boost with the reopening of its iconic opera house building. A five-year restoration of the Civil War-era Bent’s Opera House included the opening of Harvest, a fine dining, farm-to-table restaurant not just aiming to attract diners from Buffalo and Rochester, but aiming for international recognition.
Flexing a millionaire owner and head chef with Michelin Star pedigree, Harvest is operating in an echelon that most restaurants in WNY can’t touch. This level of dining is based on using sumptuous ingredients and expert techniques to see out a distinct culinary vision; providing guests with a fantastical experience, night after night after night.
Operating in the farm-to-table milieu, Harvest is aiming to meet these world-class standards while focusing on local ingredients. To be honest, we do have a lot of great ingredients and products here in Western New York, but are they fit for a world-class restaurant?
“You might be surprised how local farming is changing and how farmers have been doing their homework,” said Harvest’s head chef Lionel Heydel. “For many people, their experience with local farmers is at a farm stand or a farmers’ market, and farmers have to meet demand at the market. So, if people just want to buy cucumbers and tomatoes, the market stand is going to have a ton of cucumbers and tomatoes, but that doesn’t mean the farm doesn’t grow other things. I’ve found daikon and watermelon radishes. I’ve found lemongrass, Thai basil and lemon basil – here, locally.”
The menu at Harvest might begin with posh local ingredients, but it doesn’t end there. Using modern and classic techniques, Heydel goes hard on the various details necessary to match his ambition.
“We are a scratch kitchen and we’re putting a lot of effort in on our side,” he said. “I mean we make everything in house. I make my stock, our sauces and even all the desserts are made in house, from scratch.”
“My days are long,” he added. “Today, I’ve been at work since 9 a.m. and I’ll probably be home tonight at 10 or 11. I’ll let you do the math. Some work 40 hours a week. Some work 50. Maybe I work 75 or 80. What matters is the guest having a smile on their face. In life, you don’t wish for what you want – you work for what you want.”
Of course, world-class food demands world-class drinks. Heydel said the full bar at Harvest is only top shelf. The wine list highlights several exceptional wines from around the Finger Lakes, but also features some of the best bottles from around the world.
Reading all of that, it may not surprise you that getting a table isn’t easy. The restaurant only seats 45 people, with two seatings per night. Although, there has been talk of offering a third, early seating option and Sunday brunch.
Harvest is a grand vision for a grand old building. Although it’s located a bit off the beaten path, it may be opening at the perfect time. COVID-19 and the rise of remote work appear to be sparking more interest in villages like Medina. If you haven’t driven out there in a minute, make reservations, check the pressure on those car tires and hit the road.
Hours at time of Publishing: (Two Seatings) Monday to Saturday 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.