The development of Harmony is about as off the beaten path as you can get — even in sprawling Osceola County.
Rising out of remote ranchland on about 11,000 acres in an area historically known as the Triple E Ranch, the theme here is green — incorporating sustainable living, eco-friendly housing and a respect for nature and wildlife.
East of St. Cloud, the area has a Celebration-light "town center" of sorts on the edge of Harmony Golf Preserve. At the heart of the development is a restaurant called Graze, which opened in January.
Executive chef John Greene is a passionate supporter of the eat-local movement and develops seasonal menus based on available foods from local farms such as Palmetto Creek in Avon Park, Lake Meadow Naturals in Ocoee, Nine's Mine Ranch in St. Cloud and Dansk Farms in Winter Park.
We started with the Lake Meadow Naturals spring rolls ($7), which included four fried wonton rolls stuffed with a free-range chicken confit, creamy brie cheese and just the right dab of apple butter to balance the richness. A mild, slightly sweet wasabi soy dipping sauce came on the side. (Foodie note: Confit is a meat mixture — often poultry, fowl or pork — that has been salted and then cooked and preserved in its own fat. The technique is a specialty in Gascony, France.)
The wild mushroom crostinis ($7) featured four thick slices of toasted focaccia topped with tangy warm goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, wild mushroom duxelles with a Dansk honey balsamic reduction. Duxelles are composed of finely chopped mushrooms cooked in butter and seasoned with shallots and fresh herbs. The textures and flavors melded into earthy luxurious bites.
The Palmetto Creek Cuban ($10) was stacked with pork smoked in-house with citrus wood, sweet ham, Swiss cheese and spicy pickles. A mustard aioli was the subtle garlicky condiment that brought it all together. Served with crisp house-made chips, a dill spear and a couple of jalapeno pickle chips on the side, this lunch was to-go box friendly.
The grass-fed beef burger ($10) was a perfect medium and full of juicy flavor. But the mound of fries on the side almost stole the show. To quote my dining companion: "These are the best fries I have ever had." And I agree. The spud sticks were warm and crunchy and lightly tossed in seasoned salt. A clean finish on the palate also distinguishes good fries from bad and these were top-shelf.
As we lunched, the dining room filled quite nicely. There is a private dining room and a separate bar area with large-screen televisions. The wide porch looked like spring, fall and winter dining heaven.
Graze will showcase its summer menu with a tasting event from 6-10 p.m. June 21. The cost is $10 and includes unlimited California and Italian wines. Reservations are required.
Trust me, it's worth the drive.
email@example.com or 407-420-5498. Follow Heather McPherson on Twitter: @OS_thedish
Where: 7251 Five Oaks Drive, Harmony (Osceola County)
When: Summer dining room hours 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; summer bar hours 11 a.m-7 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
How much: Lunch $8-$12; dinner $19-$23
Beverages: Full bar