When I hugged Sara Liss hello, I felt how soft her cropped fur coat was. It lay casually draped over her narrow shoulders, a precisely placed detail that came across as a forgotten afterthought. It’s going to be another great evening with the Saffron Supper Club, is what I thought.
Sara and Maude Eaton, the culinary dynamo behind The Saffron Supper Club, the roving pop-up dinner club with a Middle Eastern twist, have food lovers with a soft spot for all things Persian smitten. It’s not just the locations they thoughtfully choose for their fantastic food gatherings that make the night dazzle, it’s the cultural flair they add that has everyone coming back.
Take last night, for example, at Chef Daniel Boulud’s recently opened Miami outpost, Boulud Sud. If you haven’t been yet, goodness, go! The place is amazing, with carefully crafted dishes like yellowfin tuna crudo served with lemon confit, fresh herbs, and pine nuts or arroz bomba with sepia, chorizo, and Valencia saffron rice. Under the helm of the Saffron Supper Club, Sara and Maude have a way of making the celebrated chef’s latest eatery even more memorable. Its space grows immediately intimate, despite it being the supper club’s largest gathering yet, as Sara reads excerpts from Daniel Boulud’s best-selling book, Letter’s To A Young Chef. Maude entertains and prepares diners with lively quotes pertinent to the experience guests are about to embrace.
It’s quite a food journey one embarks on attending The Saffron Supper Club events, and, for $65, it’s easy to say, a steal as well. Last night’s began at the stylish bar, where guests were offered a choice of bubbly or a Mediterranean martini. I like champagne as much as the next gal, but when there’s a pretty pink cocktail served in a martini glass, I’m in. The drink was exquisite: made with fresh lime juice and Q Grapefruit, a grapefruit soda that is, for once, not cloyingly sweet. Apparently there were appetizers passed around too: barbajuans, Monaco’s equivalent to a fried samosa, stuffed with short rib, swiss chard, and parmesan, agnolotti with pumpkin, ricotta salata, and guanciale, and chickpea croquettes. Thanks to the infamously congested I-95, I missed that.
By the way, this could be a lovely evening. Just this: a night at the bar, with soft lighting, a peek at Brazilian artist’s Vik Munoz colorful collage art, surrounded by elegant and global folk who’ll geek out over a good tabouli.
But luckily for me, there’s more to come.
We are seated in the main dining area. What used to be Boulud’s db Moderne space has been completely changed, not only in menu but in its appearance as well. The place is bright, airy, and minimalist, with light hues contrasted by a fun Morroccan-inspired tile floor. But who’s looking down when food begins to arrive in droves? Mezze, which included spicy Moroccan hummus, babaganoush, muhammara (Aleppan hot pepper dip), and tzatziki come first. A waiter quietly places a rectangular board of lamb flatbread. It comes dotted with roasted eggplant and yogurt with pomegranate seeds sprinkled like sparkling rubies on top.
Wines were offered courtesy of Zonin, Italian winemakers with nine wineries throughout Italy, beginning in the north and heading all the way to Sicily in the south. It was plentiful and quite impressive, and I enjoyed using my newly-achieved sommelier skills from the WSET Level 1 class I graduated from just the day before (remember, aerate the wine in your mouth!)
But truly, there is a reason food-lovers bow down to the great chef Daniel Boulud time and time again. Here, under the careful stewardship of executive chef Clark Bowen, Mediterranean magic happens as each dish presented hit the mark.
There was a seared mediterranean branzino, cooked to perfection, that was absolutely divine, followed by chicken tagine that arrived in its namesake earthenware pot.
Sides included cauliflower tabbouleh made with za’atar, mint, and fig as well as patatas bravas coated in thick smoked red pepper sauce that I am doomed to crave from now on.
…and then, dessert.
Yes there was dessert.
Yes I made room.
Because those who know me know I will always make room.
Saeko Nemoto is the humble executive pastry chef producing some sweet home runs. When I was a little girl visiting my Aunt Miriam on Rehov Rambam in Jerusalem, she’d pull out a few shekels from her change purse and hand them to my sister and together we’d run to the corner kiosk to buy some mastic. It was a glorious five minutes of independence we’d relish, always awarded by a pack or two of our favorite gum. Boulud Sud almost topped that memory (almost, sis, almost) when I was presented with his apple chiboust served with, what else but mastic gum ice cream!
An architectural coffee and chocolate cube arrived, looking too pretty to eat (I got over that) as well as a Sicilian cassata, and, true to any Mediterranean feast, a plateful of baklava.
Throughout the evening Sara and Maude greeted their guests as a festive, communal, and intimate culinary atmosphere filled the entire restaurant. The irritation from the bumper-to-bumper hour-plus long ride south was a faint memory now. People are full and happy, but already anticipating the club’s gathering next month. “At the Besty” Sara confirms, revealing no more information than that. Details are secondary at this point, eventually Saffron Supper Club enthusiasts will find out. There will be exquisite food, drink, and engaging company. That’s the one hard fact guests can count on right now.