Creative cocktails and cuisine in Orlando
When devising plans for Highball & Harvest, a handful of culinary creatives at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes set out to design a restaurant that would move the needle of the local food movement in Orlando and beyond. And while farm-to-table fare and artisanal cocktails may no longer be so avant-garde in today’s food scene, the new Highball & Harvest has found new ways to push the boundaries of this trend, and the results are both delicious and exciting.
A casual dining concept that debuted in September 2014, this restaurant boasts interactive eats, handcrafted cocktails and an imaginative, hyper-local menu of seasonal Low Country and Cajun-inspired cuisine, much of it crafted with ingredients picked from local farms and the 7,000-square-foot Whisper Creek Farm, located on the Grande Lakes property.
From housemade hot sauce, beef jerky and pickled veggies to the shrimp sourced from nearby Cape Canaveral waters and peppers picked at Whisper Creek, chef de cuisine Mark Jeffers uses the local landscape in nearly everything coming out of the kitchen.
Located in the former Vineyard Grill space below The Ritz-Carlton’s lobby, H&H is a designer’s dream thanks to a potpourri of textures, colors and fabrics that mix to form a chic yet cozy milieu. Leather, steel and repurposed wood meld the rustic aesthetic while chocolate, cream and teal hues give it a modern feel throughout the stylish lounge and comfortable dining rooms.
Painstaking efforts have gone into every detail, from carafes made from upcycled wine bottles to wooden sugar caddies handcrafted onsite. The décor also pays homage to Central Florida’s railroad heritage through a wall-length mural.
Craft cocktails take center stage at Highball & Harvest thanks to a cocktail team who masterfully designed each drink to have its own culinary profile and engaging backstory. Take Last Wish, a potent, whiskey-laden cocktail. It infuses the flavors that might be the team's own dying wish, including a housemade bitter with tobacco aromas.
Nine signature libations make up the menu and you are invited to peel back their layers at the restaurant’s interactive cocktail table, where knowledgeable bar chefs give budding mixologist the insider scoop. Small groups can reserve this table in advance.
Highball & Harvest also has an extensive offering of cask wines, more than a dozen in fact, as well as an all-Florida draft beer menu.
Every dish on the menu has its own backstory, too, and if the servers get the chance, an enthusiastic and insightfully detailed description will ensue. For example, few would know that the grilled corn chowder, a complex marriage of sweet and savory, begins by juicing the grilled corncobs. Other standouts include the Parker House rolls, which are made from Egyptian Old World grains and served steaming hot; the Pig-n-Potatoes, an all-day breakfast dish of poached egg, potato hash and tender pork cheeks with sweet peppers, caramelized onions; and the smoked lamb belly made with boiled peanut “baked beans” and collards.
The Orlando restaurant also houses a raw oyster bar where you can watch chefs shuck your feast, which is best enjoyed with the signature housemade H&H Hot Sauce.
Tucked into The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, Highball & Harvest is just one amenity on a long list of outstanding onsite offerings, including the 40,000-square-foot The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Orlando, Grande Lakes and 18-hole golf course, all of which are located in the 500-acre property. The casual, creative restaurant is a welcome addition.