8 June 2010


 June 8, 2010

On my last visit to North Carolina a couple of weeks ago, I was finally able to get to the Harvey Mansion Inn and Restaurant for dinner one evening.  The mansion dates back to 1797 and you truly feel its historical past the moment you walk in the door.

The first thing you notice is the relaxed and welcoming ambiance.  While this is fine dining, it is in a relaxed, albeit beautiful setting.  There are multiple dining rooms spread out across the floors but this evening was slow one and with only one of the dining rooms being utilized.  There were only a few tables so it made for a very intimate experience.  We received a warm welcome from the hostess and our waiter could not have been nicer or more helpful.

My first question of course was whether my allergies would pose a problem.  The waiter advised me to order what I wanted and if there was a problem we would work around it.  The chef clearly understood my food allergies and of all things one of the salad dressings contained gluten.  I am always a fan of restaurants that actually cook from scratch rather than taking the easy way out.  The chef knew exactly what ingredients went into their dishes and could advise accordingly.  There were several specials that evening but the majority was local seafood which was not an option for me – though they sounded delicious.

For starters I had the Caprese salad of fresh mozzarella, basil and Roma tomatoes in a by extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.  The produce was so fresh it made for a most refreshing starter.  Other starters for the table included the Pan Roasted Scallops with roasted pears in a vanilla Riesling butter sauce that everyone raved about.  We then all had either house or Caesar salads which were well-prepared and quite good.

Given the fact that I cannot eat shellfish and subsequently any fish as a rule I opted to have the Bacon Wrapped Beef Medallions with red skinned mashed potatoes and sautéed green beans for my main course.  The restaurant offers great steaks but I had been eating steak so frequently on this trip, as I suppose one does, that the medallions appealed more to me.  What is also nice about the Harvey Mansion is that they offer an early bird menu from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. which offers a few different entrée options along with smaller portions of their regular entrées along with a salad.  We were their after 6 p.m. and actually had no intention of ordering from the Early Bird but two of us ended up choosing entrées from there – me, because I wanted something that was not on the regular menu and my father because he cannot eat large portions so it was a win-win for everyone.  My entrée was cooked exactly as I ordered it and was just the right amount of food – actually even this smaller portion was too much for me to finish.

Other entrées at the table included my other half’s Chicken Chesapeake which was topped with lump crab and herbs and accompanied by red skinned mashed potatoes, tomato tartar and topped with a Chardonnay cream sauce.  My mother had the Pomegranate Honey Glazed Duck Breast with roasted pears, butternut squash and sautéed spinach which she raved about being cooked to medium perfection.  My father opted for the Lamb Osso Bucco served with risotto and vegetable mirepoix.  Again, cooked to perfection and delicious.

The dessert menu, while small had something for everyone.  I had the old gluten-free standby (confirmed by the chef as some recipes vary) of Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée which was just perfect from a taste and texture standpoint.  This is a dessert than many places get wrong but not at the Harvey Mansion.  My mother had the Key lime “Martini” which was a Key lime custard served in a graham cracker rimmed martini glass and cookie straw.  Not only was this a nice presentation, it was not over the top and from a portion perspective was just the right end to a very filling meal.  My father had the individual New York Cheesecake with white chocolate and raspberry sauces while my other half had the Chocolate Stout Cake a flourless chocolate cake made with Guinness stout and served with white chocolate and raspberry sauces.  This would have been the perfect gluten-free option if there was no Guinness in the recipe.  All of the desserts were fresh and really very good.

If you find yourself in the New Bern area, I would definitely recommend stopping by the Harvey Mansion for dinner (it only serves dinner).  You can check out their Web site which gives a more detailed overview of their history along with all of their menus.

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