West Omaha offers some of the area’s finest dining choices, but perhaps none has a story quite as sentimental as that of Omaha natives Tom and Tricia Sawyer’s Harvest Café & Wine Bar. For years, Sawyer operated the family owned construction business, as his wife managed the clerical side of the company while raising their son Jake. Although Tricia enjoyed helping Tom run the company handed down to him by his father, she always had a love for the culinary arts, often planning family vacations around dining destinations and experiences across the country. Over the years her interest grew, and with the encouragement of her husband, she enrolled in culinary classes at Metropolitan Community College.
As her classes progressed, it became clear that she could no longer ignore this passion and over time, the idea of “Harvest” started to take shape. Originally slated for a downtown Elkhorn location, the idea of seasonal dishes with a “farm to fork” approach incorporating local produce and ingredients was a vision they sought to make reality. This was until the summer of 2005, and the news that would suspend the plans for the restaurant. It was at this time that they learned Tricia had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
As she began treatment, Tom reflected on life and how he wanted to spend his time. He decided to sell the family business to spend more time with his family. Over the course of a two -year period, they traveled around her treatment regimen while continuing to plan for the eventual restaurant they dreamed about, penning ideas as they emerged. In early 2007, they learned her cancer had spread to her lungs, bringing a now terminal condition. The plans for the restaurant dissipated.
Immediately following the diagnosis, they left Omaha to live in Napa, California for six months, seeking peace and enjoying all the area had to offer. As they learned about California cafés and culinary interpretation, it provided a special kind of therapy, allowing them to experience the things Tricia once dreamed of. Returning to Omaha in the fall of 2007, the cancer continued its course. Conversations about the restaurant faded. On October 11, 2010, Tricia lost her battle to cancer.
After the loss, Tom took time way from everything, coping, alongside Jake…looking for direction as to how he’d spend his time. Considering many options over the course of eighteen months, he saw the vacant location he now occupies and the vision slowly returned. “I felt that the restaurant could be a way to carry her passion and spirit, giving me a constructive way to remember her,” said Sawyer, the now Owner and Chef of Harvest.
Opening in the summer of 2012, true to its original vision, Harvest offers a menu that spotlights original culinary dishes, as well as a few traditional items with a slight California spin. The salads unique, the appetizers pallet-pleasing, and the entrées savory, the lineup is rather stunning. Each dish is paired with a recommended wine based on Sawyer’s time spent traveling the country with his wife, and the six months spent in Napa learning the marriage between food and wine.
Harvest Café & Wine Bar is a true West Omaha treasure, nestled into Lakeside Plaza. The restaurant’s comfortable surroundings bring a sense of relaxation. Upon opening the menu, it becomes clear that it’s not one that had been put together quickly, but created through the experiences and dreams of the couple. Here you will find fresh ingredients, organic and locally grown produce and meats, well thought out combinations and original concepts.
At Harvest, Tricia’s spirit lives on; and Tom has truly found his calling while presenting a dining experience sure to be enjoyed by many.
Stuffed Salmon En Croute
6 oz. Scottish Salmon Filet
8 oz. cream cheese
¼ cup capers
¼ cup green onions
½ fresh lemon juice
Step 1: Once the puff pastry is rolled evenly, remember to lightly butter the edges prior to covering the salmon.
Step 2: Carefully slice the salmon filet to create a pocket.
Step 3: Add the stuffing slowly so the capers are not crushed.
Step 4: Carefully roll the salmon in the puff pastry.
THE PASTRY: Roll out the puff pastry extra wide on a floured surface as to fit the salmon filet. Brush the edges with butter for the folding and baking process.
THE FILLING: In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, green onion slowly, folding in the capers at the end as not to crush them. Salt and pepper to taste.
THE SALMON: Using a small knife, carefully cut the salmon filet, not to the end, but to create a pocket for the stuffing. Then carefully add the stuffing, remembering not to crush the capers or tear the salmon filet.
ROLLING: Once the filet is neatly stuffed, carefully roll the salmon in the puff pastry, cutting away excess so the pastry cooks evenly and doesn’t become too doughy in the end.
BAKING: Place the finished filet on a lightly greases pan and bake at 500 degrees for 12-14 minutes, watching it so it doesn’t become overly brown or burn.