The farm-to-table buzzword has been tossed around so much it’s almost become cliché, not to mention the fact that there are many variations on the definition of authentic farm-to-table. It’s rare to find a Chef that is truly committed to sourcing local, organic, and non-GMO products. So, when Chef de Cuisine, David Robbins of Harvest & Wisdom told me 80 to 90 percent of the ingredients used in the kitchen are grown on site, I knew immediately that he is the real deal. Seasonal ingredients just-picked from the property’s organic, no-till garden; or grass fed, pastured-raised protein delivered from nearby Circle C Farm, are expertly and lovingly crafted into unique and delectable dishes. The garden manager, Cecelia Morales, has four full-time staff members that help tend to the garden and pick fruits and vegetables for the kitchen staff.
Harvest & Wisdom is on property at Shangri-La Springs in Bonita Springs. The stately property offers a variety of unique services, including an organic garden, organic spa, gift shop and event/wedding venue. The initial building on the property was built in 1921 as a small hotel to accommodate potential buyers for a local real estate development. The property changed hands many times over the years, and its mineral springs became a health-related focus. The present owners acquired the property in 1998 with a preservationist focus, but also with a goal to expand the holistic and naturalistic vision of some of the former owners of Shangri-La. Various classes featuring modalities such as yoga, dance and meditation complement visual and performing arts endeavors. Harvest & Wisdom opened in the summer of 2019 and you really feel like you are a part of their family having a delicious home-cooked meal.
If you want variety, this is the place to go as the menu changes with the seasons, frequently, daily and sometimes hour to hour. That’s not an easy task for a Chef. One look at the menu and your mouth will begin to water. Everything sounds incredible with a promise of delicious and unique flavor profiles. Each dish is deliciously and lovingly prepared with a great balance of flavors and textures. With 90% of the fruit, vegetables and herbs being grown on property, Chef only has to walk out the door of the restaurant to gather what he needs for the day. Sourcing meats primarily from Circle C Farm, Robbins also uses Colorado Beef for their brisket and short ribs, Lake Meadow Naturals for poultry, Joyce Farms for heirloom French chicken and of course local catch from the Gulf.
There are many gluten-free items available and even most sauces and dressings are free of gluten. The best thing I learned (which is a huge rarity in most restaurant kitchens) is that they do not use Canola oil, which is fantastic because Canola oil contains GMOs and pesticides, chemical solvents and the inclusion of trans fats. Canola oil production processes are tied to health concerns such as heart disease, inflammation, cellulite, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and asthma. Unfortunately, it’s a very inexpensive oil, and therefore most restaurants use it in frying and sautéing.
So, let’s get to the amazing food! First, I was presented with a refreshing Strawberry, Peach and Ginger homemade Kombucha. It had exactly the right blend, lightly sweet and tart. With my thirst-quenching drink in hand, I started with a delicious Beet Tartare consisting of heirloom beet and carrot sous vide with mango puree, olive oil and thyme. I’ve probably had beets every way you can imagine – but never Beet Tartare – it was amazing! Next, I enjoyed the Nota Burger – I must admit I am not a fan of the vegan burger, but this was fantastic. Made with beets, carrots sous vide, caramelized onions, quinoa, lentils and braised pigeon peas and the vegan mayo spread was made from Dijon mustard, coconut oil and lemon tamari. It’s Chef’s answer to the Impossible Burger – which no one should be eating – but that’s for another article! Then came one of my all-time favorites – again with a unique twist – Avocado Toast with radish, lentil sprout, alfalfa sprout, tomato and cured Arctic Char with a dash of sea salt, lime and olive oil. Incredibly tasty!
Chef Robbins grew up on a small organic farm in Hawaii – it’s obvious to see how his roots have shaped his amazing talent in the kitchen. He told me Shangri-La Springs and Harvest & Wisdom just felt like home to him. I can totally see why.
I was even more excited to learn that Shangri-La Springs is a Blue Zones Project recognized organization that specializes in offering guests a nexus of beneficial practices, activities and engagement opportunities including wellness classes, art shows and special programs. A range of natural and organic treatments and products including facials, massages, eucalyptus steam room, far infrared salt sauna and private garden lounge are offered at The Spa at Shangri-La Springs.
This is a place not to be missed as you can see from the exquisite photos. Both the property and restaurant are an oasis to relax and rejuvenate.
For more information, visit: www.shangrilasprings.com/harvestandwisdom/
Dr. Diane Hayden, PhD, is an entrepreneur, mindset warrior, perspective shifter and unshakable optimist. She started a health and wellness publishing business (Natural Nutmeg & ELMTM | Maine Magazines, ELM Publishing) with nothing more than passion, a laptop and a dream, and has created a socially conscious print and digital platform that has touched thousands of people in the last 13 years.