The Clever Root

Spring 2018

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s p r i n g 2 0 1 8 | 4 7 the original New York location. At Craft, Shackelford gained a passion for designing collaborative partnerships with the regional farmers and ranchers whose products were raised humanely. Initially, Shackelford and Wells scoured the McKinney Farmers Markets for produce and learned what was being grown in North Texas, then Water Boy Farms became one of the key suppliers for Harvest, with Shackel- ford selecting the seeds and plants for the upcoming season. The adventurous and memorable cuisine at Harvest is rotated seasonally. Smoky pork enchiladas are served with queso fresco and tomatillo sauce, and a potted duck appetizer is accompanied by burnt honey and tarragon. Says Shackelford, there is a "sense of home when you walk in. We bring the old mentality of good food, real food, at reasonable prices." Some of these imaginative dishes alternate around the seasonality and availability of the local protein; in fact, at one of the first North Texas Farm-to-Table Symposiums, a farmer asked Har- vest's proprietors, "What would you like to see produced more?" Wells' suggestion was duck. Circle 15 Farms from Gunter, Texas, stepped up their production and is now the duck supplier for Harvest and several Dallas area fine-dining restaurants. Harvest's craft cocktails are a house specialty and use seasonal ingredients muddled in Texas spirits. It took 10,000 pounds of tomatoes from the farmers at Pure Land Organic to produce the tomato purée for the coming year's supply of the popular Harvest Bloody Mary, made from vodka-infused peppers, jalapeños, peppercorns, and house-pickled vegetables. The Figure-Me-Out is a refreshing whiskey drink highlight- ing Baby Love Farms' figs, infused in Texas-distilled Herman Marshall whiskey, maple syrup, fig simple syrup, and topped with Kolsch beer. The Lady Grey serves Waterloo Gin with Earl Grey tea, lemon, and egg white, beautifully garnished with Water Boy Farms' lavender. The community-to-table principle does not end with food and drink at Harvest. You'll see beautiful jars of pickled cucumber, jalapeno, and tomato purée on the locally-hewn counters; napkins, candles, water tumblers, and decorative accessories are also made nearby. For the custom-crafted tables and booths, Rick Wells turned to local wood- workers Ty Coursey and Donald Killian, while regional painters' art adorns the walls. In the spring of 2015, The Seed Project Foundation was initiated as a brainchild of Wells and Shackelford. Rick's Chophouse was the first restaurant Wells opened in McKinney, and after receiving McKinney's 2012 Philanthropist of the Year award, he wanted to invest further in his community. The two founders work with local farmers and ranchers to support education concerning sustainability and the balance of ecologi- cal and social principles. Fundraising comes through events such as the North Texas Farm-to-Table Symposiums and four annual "Suppers with a Cause" hosted at Harvest. The foundation recently gave a grant to a Title 1 elementary school for its vegetable garden tended by local gar- deners and the kids themselves. After picking their crop, the children take the harvest home, and as two-thirds of them are also low income, this is often the only fresh produce they have access to. Rick Wells and his partner Don Day are busy planning their next community-to-table project, which will incorporate a brewery and restaurant with a bigger, more public garden. Clearly, the deep roots of local farming have yielded successful businesses and long-lasting com- munity connections. PHOTO: PAUL ERNEST PHOTO: MEG NEUBAUER PHOTO: MEG NEUBAUER Above: Potted duck with burnt honey and tarragon. Right: The Harvest Bloody Mary is crafted from house-made organic tomato purée, vodka-infused peppers, jalapeños, peppercorns, and house-pickled vegetables. ■cr Rick Wells is the Co-Owner of Harvest Seasonal Kitchen in McKinney, TX.

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