If you're tired of the vegan options at traditional restaurants being limited to bland veggie burgers or boring salads, Farmer’s Table in Boca Raton is offering you a bit more variety.
As one of the most vegan-friendly, high-end restaurants in Palm Beach County, Farmer’s Table boasts a modern, country feel with wooden tables, an enormous outdoor seating area, and a large banquet room. Just outside the entrance is the actual garden where the fresh herbs and spices grow that make Farmer’s Table dishes so flavorful.
While not a vegan restaurant, plentiful and varied vegan offerings include unique salads, wraps, and creative entrées, including Vegan Mushroom Rueben, Shepherd’s Pie, Buddha Bowl, and a slew of side dishes.
Save room for the pièce de résistance: Farmer’s Table’s tantalizing desserts, courtesy of executive pastry chef Ivy Haaks.
Some of Haaks’ creative vegan delicacies include a S’mores Parfait with fudge filling and marshmallow topping, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, raisins, and walnuts, and a rich, gluten-free chocolate fudge cake.
One of Haaks’ most in-demand innovations is her chocolate mousse cake — a dome of chocolate cake made from homemade almond milk, topped with lighter-than-air mousse, and coated in her signature chocolate glaze.
But it is Haaks’ Opera Cake that has customers singing for more.
This French favorite is made up of three layers of mocha cake, filled with a light coffee buttercream and a creamy ganache, then covered with a chocolaty glaze and served with housemade dairy-free ice cream.
Haaks became vegan in her early twenties after suffering from various health issues. She began her career as a wholesale vegan baker in New York City in the '90s but found the reception to be lukewarm.
“It was still very hippie and counterculture,” Haaks says of the indifference toward vegan fare at the time. “Nobody was interested.”
Although she loved baking, she knew her business in its current state was unsustainable, so she packed her bags and jetted off to France to enroll in pastry school at Paris’s famed Le Cordon Bleu institute.
After spending a year and a half perfecting the art of French pastry, she moved to Los Angeles to become the executive pastry chef at M. Café de Chaya, followed by the ever-trendy Real Food Daily, where she created desserts with the goal of marrying vegan baking with her newly developed pastry expertise.
Her timing was perfect, she recalls, because the United States was on the cusp of a dramatic culinary shift.
“By then, vegan was just starting to trend and become a hip thing” she says of her 2005 return.
Haaks relocated to Florida in 2011 to work as a private chef and shortly thereafter met Mitchell Robbins. Robbins shared with her his vision of opening a farm-to-table restaurant with a commitment to utilizing fresh, local produce to create clean foods that are never deep-fried nor microwaved.
In February 2014, Haaks became the official provider of decadent meal finishers at Farmer’s Table. Operating as a business-within-a-business, Haaks’ company, Desserts by Ivy, provides all of Farmer’s Table’s desserts, specialty vegan cake orders, and dessert catering requests.
“Business has been booming ever since,” she says happily.
A self-proclaimed workaholic, Haaks is in the process of launching a home-delivery meal service called Home Fresh Healthy Organic Meals, which will draw heavily from her vegan cooking background.
“I’ve never felt better,” she says of her current, mostly vegan diet. “So in my estimation, vegan works. I’m healthy, I don’t go to the doctor, and I don’t take pills.”
Haaks points out that her lofty goal was to recreate vegan versions of elegant French pastry as opposed to simply making vegan cupcakes or cookies. Today, she couldn’t be prouder of the success she has worked so hard to achieve.
“There aren’t any beautiful vegan pastries,” she says of the reason she created her alluring masterpieces. “That’s what’s unique, and I don’t think you’re going to find that anywhere else in Boca.”
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(Note from the Vegan Police: Vegan and nonvegan items are prepared in a shared kitchen and as such risk cross-contamination with animal products. Desserts by Ivy are prepared in a separate, meat-free, nonvegan kitchen.)