Max’s Harvest – Delray Beach, FL
Once again I find myself in a new town, with new food to discover. Hopefully this time I’ll stick around a while longer. As always I’ve tried to get out there and see what there is to be had as far as interesting eateries. So far, I’ve visited a handful of places, but none had really caught my eye until I found Max’s Harvest. Well, actually my wife found it, no surprise there since she was the one who rustled up Uni and Sardinia, two of my favorite meals of all time.
Max’s Harvest, the latest venture from the well known restauranteur Dennis Max, is a cozy little storefront just off the main drag that is Atlantic Ave. The area is nice and quiet, the perfect environment to enjoy some of their “farm to fork” fare. This tag always catches my attention because it’s one of those things that other restaurants without the commitment to the principle, will use to get people in the door, only to disappoint them with sub-par dishes. Max’s Harvest walks the walk. Before I even glanced at the food I noticed their list of partners, various local farms, fisherman and dairies that provide them with fresh ingredients each day. As you’d expect, this means their menu changes often, everyday in fact. Naturally they never have any specials because everything is a special! Aw it feels like I’m in elementary school again. But this is no gimmick, from what I experienced, everything is as fresh as possible, most of it procured the morning of, with the menu being written up just hours before service.
photo: Max’s Harvest
Speaking of the menu, it’s split in three sections, Little Big Tastes, Start Small and Think Big. If you like you can do a “make your own prix fixe” for $45 and pick one dish from each section, or a small, large and dessert. I love this idea as I usually want to sample one of everything anyway, so this gives me an avenue to do that, while also saving a couple bucks by bundling my meal.
I chose a trio of Italian dishes, starting with the Heritage meatballs with a velvety San Marzano gravy, basil ricotta and Pecorino. It arrived in a piping hot cast iron skillet with a couple hunks of crusty bread as utensils. Absolutely delicious, tender and tangy, there are few things better than a perfect meatball, especially when its made with grass-fed protein. The basil ricotta was a welcome addition, adding a creamy freshness to the powerful tomato/meatball duo.
For my second course, I chose a natural follow-up to the meatballs, Burrata from Broward County paired with a giardiniera salad of tomatoes, carrots, artichokes, olives, greens and a few slices of salumi. Again the crusty bread joined the party for an added texture. It also allowed me to make mini panzanella bites with the hulking ball of oil slicked burrata. The cheese oozed like a poached egg at the touch of the fork, both my wife and I let out small “ooohs”. We enjoy a good burrata, I mean who doesn’t? The acidic salad was a perfect pairing for the gentle flavor and texture of the cheese.
After two courses, I was sold on Max’s Harvest. When a chef is given amazing ingredients and has a passion to display those ingredients at their full potential, it shows on the plate, clear as day. Chris Miracolo, the restaurants executive chef is clearly enjoying himself in kitchen and the food reflects this. As I was coming down off my burrata high, my third course arrived. Three healthy Maine diver scallops over a bed of golden butternut risotto with peas, wild mushrooms, onions and…diced apples? Yes, apples.
I’m not usually a fan of sweet fruit making its way into dishes like this. It’s as bad as sushi restaurants trying to incorporate strawberries into their rolls. I have to say though, the apple really worked here. It wasn’t overly assertive, the scallops took their rightful place as the star of the dish. I sliced them open with ease, they were well cooked, almost translucent inside. They reminded me of tiny sea-going filet mignons. The apple served to enhance the natural sweetness of the scallop, combine that with the risotto and it was a surprisingly luxurious dish.
All the while my wife was enjoying her own little feast. She chose a nice spinach and brie dip which was the epitome of comfort food. For her entrée, an Akaushi skirt steak with garlicky greens and what I believe was a jalepeño, potato croquette. This dish right here, and forgive me a cheesy cliché, was a flavor bomb. It may have been a touch on the salty side, but it was a hit for my palate. The spicy fried croquette was an enigma, we couldn’t quite decipher if there was some cheese in there or just a very creamy potato/cream mixture. In the end it didn’t matter, it was delicious and was devoured in no time.
It’s always a pleasure to enjoy a delicious meal at a newly discovered eatery. The pleasure is enhanced when it’s barely five minutes from your house. I was a little nervous about the food scene in Delray Beach at first, but Max’s Harvest has put my mind at ease. I plan on returning many times to share this wonderful neighborhood joint with family and friends.