Ann About Town: Harvest Boxes and Family Meals from Red Haven

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Nina Santucci of Red Haven

Harvest Box of produce from Red Haven Restaurant.

I’ve written about Red Haven before, but that was in the days when I took it for granted that I’d eat lunch there once a week, seated at a rustic wood table with a tiny, seasonal plant or flower arrangement in the middle. The waitstaff knew I wanted a pot of coffee with real cream and “fake” sugar. In the early days of the restaurant shut-downs, Red Haven’s owners chose, for a period of time, to donate their takeout proceeds to support employees whose jobs were eliminated along with walk-in diners. After years as a regular hangout, Red Haven felt like home (with a family I’d gladly be a part of).

During this long period of restriction to my own home, I have been impressed with Red Haven’s creativity in finding ways to stay afloat by offering the community what it needs. Most exciting to me as a home cook are their Harvest Boxes. These change weekly and feature a collection of meats, produce, dairy, wine, and coffee from Red Haven’s own farm-to-table suppliers.

The chance to play with Red Haven-quality ingredients in my own kitchen was irresistible, and I ordered three boxes the first week they were offered: a produce box, a meat box, and a dairy box.

Sample of a “dairy box” from Red Haven Restaurant.

I immediately put the list of everything I received on a Facebook foodie page and asked fellow home cooks what they would make from the various ingredients. The answers were varied and inspiring, and I had visions of whipping up a little borscht with my beets, a torta rustica with my Italian sausage, eggs, and potatoes, and a ravishing Sauce Bolognese using my half gallon of Guernsey whole milk and pound of farm-raised ground beef.

Reality intervened. I didn’t have the canned tomatoes for the Bolognese, and couldn’t get a grocery delivery for days, so the ground beef became beautiful pan-cooked burgers topped with herbed goat cheese and accompanied by tiny roasted potatoes and a salad of bright, tender young lettuce. The Italian fennel sausage went into pasta sauce, and the honey ricotta and strawberries begged to be mixed and spread on homemade bread.

Sample of a “meat box” from Red Haven Restaurant.

Other days I felt more enterprising. I roasted, cooled, and chopped my beets and turned them into a salad with the herbed goat cheese, some toasted walnuts I had on hand, and lashings of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I also sautéed the leeks and oyster mushrooms from my produce box with some garlic to stuff the two boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the meat box. Served with rice and fresh asparagus it was, if I may be immodest, pretty chef-ly.

Ann Nichols’ take on Red Haven’s harvest.

If you’d like to try your own farm-to-table chef experience the contents of current Harvest Boxes (and prices) are listed at Red Haven’s website. Options for the coming week are usually posted Fridays at midday. Order deadline is Monday at 9 a.m. Pick-up times start on Thursday. You can place your order by email or phone, and I recommend ordering early to make sure your choices are available. (Owner Nina Santucci says the boxes have been selling out every week.)

The contents will change every week, but the basics are ingredients that will let you create anything you can imagine. Looking at the boxes being delivered this week, I foresee beef burgers topped with horseradish cheddar and served with sweet potato fries and sautéed mushrooms. Captain Carnivore sees pan-fried steaks topped with rosemary-infused butter, pesto potatoes and an arugula salad. A recent addition is Chef Tony’s chicken stock by the quart, which could be used as the base for your own soup or sauce creation, or as the cooking liquid in some very special rice.

Roasted beets, which Ann turned into a salad by chopping and adding herbed goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and “lashings of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.”

If you don’t cook, don’t feel like cooking, or just can’t face one more day of thinking about what your household will eat, Red Haven takeout (curbside pickup) includes a changing array of “Family Meals” that come in “small” for up to two people, and “large” to serve up to six people; regular takeout options including a wine menu; meals just for kids, and a dessert sampler box.

Takeout is a way to please everybody (without having pizza again) and to support a local business. Family meal orders have to be placed three days in advance, so you’ll have something to look forward to as you slide yet another batch of dinosaur-shaped nuggets off the baking sheet.

Red Haven is located 4480 S. Hagadorn Road, near the intersection of Hagadorn Road and Mt. Hope Road. Curbside pickup for Harvest Boxes and takeout orders is available in the parking lot behind the building. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.

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