The heart of Downtown Delray Beach, known as Pineapple Grove, is home to Max’s Harvest Sustainable Sundays. We stopped in to sample their Farm to Fork menu and met with their Executive Chef James Kampper, who has been with the restaurant since its opening in June 2010, and was named Executive Chef in February 2013. The energetic Kampper has always been passionate about cooking and education. A Rhode Island native, Kampper is an avid outdoors man and enjoys a variety of sports. He began cooking for his brothers and teammates at an early age and discovered his love of cooking.
Max’s Harvest takes the term Farm to Fork seriously. Kampper and his team have forged bonds and created relationships with farmers from Delray, Boynton, Loxahatchee, Clewiston, Avon Park, and throughout the state. “Our goal here at Harvest is teach people that eating local is not just better tasting but better for you and is the best way to give back to our local community by helping small local business and farms. We strive to let the land speak for its self and showcase the efforts our local farmers go through to provide us with the best possible ingredients” said Kampper.
We spent hours chatting about the culinary concepts, the local partners and why making fresh food is so important to the team at Max’s Harvest. They’re very proud of the peppers growing on their rooftop garden. Like many of the flavors on the menu, the plants produce a blended pepper literally unique to Max’s Harvest. Growing side by side, these peppers cross pollinated and produced this special blend with a little less heat and a little more complexity of flavor.
The menu advertised Farm to Fork, and it was all that and more. This food is an experience, not just a menu. Unlike industrial food, Farm to Fork celebrates seasonality with its accompanying abundance and sometimes limited availability. If you’re really set on a specific dish when you set out, just keep in mind that you may have to choose another item due to the simple fact that you can’t just run off to the grocery store and get more. When they’re out of an ingredient, it can take days or months to find the right replacement or replenish their larder. This is the artfulness in such a stunning quality menu, marrying all the best of what’s available at that moment for the ultimate customer experience. This level of freshness and quality doesn’t come cheap, but in a world of compromise we found it understandable and very refreshing.
This review took two visits, the first on my own tucked away in a corner and served Chef James’ favorite items. The second visit, a few weeks later was with my photographer Jason and our foodie friend Eric in tow. Our first stop was the unlimited interactive “all you can drink” Bloody Mary Bar with a colorful and crafty presentation. There is something about making your own cocktail just the way you like it, with organic Artisanal Vodka and Ocala’s Farm Fresh Southern Cider Company Bloody Mary Mix. Spicy, thick and delicious. Eric’s creation is pictured below.
My Brunch adventure started off with a bang, featuring a crisp cress wedge salad with creamy blue cheese, bits of smokey bacon (more bacon please!), roasted tomato gems, tangy pickled onion and fresh sourdough croutons. The tart watermelon Meyer lemonade was a perfect accompaniment. Meyer lemons, a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon, have a distinct flavor that blends well with the sweetness of watermelon.
I smelled the fresh sugar dusted fried donuts before they magically appeared, and they were served with a velvety vanilla custard (like my Grandma’s zabaglione) and “everyberry” preserves. Nothing beats a fresh homemade donut, these reminded me of deconstructed Boston Cream or Jelly filled from a bakery. The sugary outside crust is wonderfully crisp, yet when you bite through that crust, the inside is so soft and tender. I found it almost impossible to eat just one.
Then, one of my favorite brunch combinations arrived: broasted chicken breast with maple-bacon infused butter (wow) on a fresh waffle with maple syrup. Bacon is good in and on everything, and butter infused with bacon evokes a powerful smack of serious flavor kick. I ate every bite and wanted to lick the plate. I finished brunch with a perennial potluck favorite with a twist. Truffle sea-salted glossy egg whites filled with chive spiced egg yolk, better known as deviled eggs. Cool and zesty, the chive stood out and gave the eggs a distinct sweet onion and garlic flavor. A savory end to a well thought out meal.
Our second visit was late in the afternoon and started with those “heaven sent” homemade fried donuts. We got the last batch. With the abundant harvest evident on our table and as the aroma of cinnamon rose from the last donuts, our neighbors asked if we might share and of course we did.
The fresh baked mini muffins came in a unique presentation. Hot and moist, these are not ordinary bakery style muffins. The best surprise was that they were not too sweet, instead savory flavors played well with the homemade farm fresh “everyberry” preserves (hint: they should bottle and sell this).
The next dish, a perfect Eggs Benedict with buttery poached lobster paired well with the garlicky sautéed spinach, rustic potatoes and sage biscuits. The fresh poached egg burst with a golden center and mixed well with the grainy Mustard-Chive Hollandaise sauce. I thought that the Hollandaise might be too heavy, but it balanced the dish and was surprisingly light and packed with flavor.
As the Stuffed Banana Bread “French Toast” landed on our table, we could smell smoked bacon and maple syrup wafting through the air. Farm fresh macerated strawberries added a brightness and chilled chantilly added the perfect touch of creaminess to the dense banana bread, which was the star of the dish. Tip: Add the crispy smoked bacon, it blends so well with the peanut butter and bananas. I wanted to put this in a blender with fresh vanilla bean ice cream and create my own “concrete”! Next time I will order one of these to go and do just that! Dessert for breakfast at its best.
My review would not be complete without trying their burger, so I asked Chef James to present me with his “perfect” burger creation. This simply named “Burger” is the most decadent hamburger I have experienced to date. Served open faced on a fresh brioche bun, the well seasoned medium rare dry aged Prime beef patty is covered with melted Boar’s Head cheddar cheese and sits on a bed of lettuce and crispy fried onions topped with a peppered sunny-side up egg. Next was the Burger Nirvana moment: five succulent piece of perfectly sous vide Pork Belly nestled on top of homemade dill pickles proudly perched on the fresh Brioche Bun top.
This “knife & fork” burger was full of flavor, smoky, cheesy and moist from the warm egg yolk. Each bite was enhanced by the pork belly which added a crunchy, melt in your mouth texture. “Even the pickles are extraordinary, everything that is on this burger is carefully thought out and nurtured ” said Jason. The hand-cut truffle salted french fries were a perfect balance to the smokiness of the burger. This burger is worth every dollar of its $27 price tag. A fitting end to our brunch adventure.
We had some amazing dishes coming “fast & furious” from the kitchen and sadly, one special item (pictured below) was hidden on a chair after the photo was taken. Our perceptive waitress saved the day, and packed it up securely to go home with Jason, my photographer. Later that evening, it was an ah-ha moment for Jason as the buttery flaky cinnamon bun burst open and revealed a treasure trove of crispy bacon. “I can’t stress how surprisingly good this was. We’d gently warmed it in the oven and didn’t even realize that there was bacon involved, we were just so enthralled by the caramel colored topping. The buttery and flaky sticky bun was so light it was almost creamy and the bacon was some sort of magical bourbon soaked crispy concoction that literally melted on the tongue” said Jason.
Yes, I was jealous! I guess that means another visit… who’s in?
Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday 10am through 2:30pm.
Partners: Swank Specialty Produce, Loxahatchee | Farmhouse Tomatoes, Lake Worth | Heritage Hen Farms, Delray Beach | Farmer Jay’s Organics, Boca Raton | Palmetto Creek Farms, Avon Park | Murray’s Chicken Farm, PA | Alderman Farms, Boynton Beach | Green Cay Farms, Delray Beach