Opening just over a month ago on February 8, Heartwood Provisions adds a new destination spot to downtown. With a large space that doesn’t feel inhospitably cavernous, an inventive menu, and a friendly staff, it’s ideal both for after-work drinks and for evening and weekend reservations. I recently stopped in to sit at the long bar and delve into the drink and food delights. Here are three impressions.
The Cocktail List: Designed by beverage director Amanda Reed (formerly of Tavern Law and other spots, also a sommelier), with help from her staff of amiable crack shakers, the array of nine rotating house cocktails shows a lovely creativity and uses a host of house-made ingredients. One of the top choices was the Blame It On Eve, which had a light and layered flavor perfect for a chilly and sunny late-winter day. It started with a base of local Barrel Aged Big Gin, which is mingled with a housemade apple shrub, the herbally Czech digestif Becherovka, and Fino Sherry, with a graceful dehydrated apple slice garnish. The look with that apple slice, is as tasty as the drink, an attention to detail matched by other cocktails. It also has a cocktail hour menu highlighted by lesser-priced classics like the French 75 and the Sazerac – also made perfectly – and a swell wine selection.
The Drink and Food Pairings: While the cocktails are impressive, where Heartwood really shows its individuality is in the innovative drink-and-food pairings. Each food item has a specially prepared drink as a suggested pairing – these drinks are completely different than the ones on the cocktail list. They’re lower proof, in general, about two-thirds the size, priced lower, and often served at room temp. To get the proof down, a number have wine, beer, and cider bases, and most only boast a few key ingredients and no garnish. The idea is, Reed says, to “really try and simplify the flavors to match the food.” It works wonderfully in examples like the roasted Kabocha squash, served with lush chevre, smoked einkorn, and sesame, paired with a rich (but not overwhelming) drink of Nicaragua rum, Dolin rouge vermouth, island liqueur Falernum, and verjus. Reed and chef Varin Keokitvon worked for more than a year on the pairings, so they’d be ready to rotate them seasonally (other bartenders are also taking part now).
The Space: From the long, slightly curved bar (which boasts about 20 comfy and elegant bar stools), to the tall bar tables, and the big lounge areas nearer the door and kitchen (one is bordered by a huge wall of wine), there are lots of relaxing spots to sit and have a few drinks and snacks. Or even one or two food pairings. There’s also a large full dining room, for more lengthy sit-down meals, and a “tincture room,” which is a private dining space for mid-size groups. Really, there’s a spot for every type of diner, and all of it well-designed, with a Northwest refinement featuring lots of wood accented by black, and choice lighting that keeps it lively. Of course, while there are many seating choices, I suggest the bar. Getting close to the liquor selection, drinks, and bartenders is always better.