Sunday, September 29, 2019

deep thoughts: Boia De - Miami (Buena Vista)


Earlier this week, I got to speak to a seventh grade class at North Broward Preparatory School about food blogging. A food theme runs through their entire curriculum for the year, so while they are writing their own food blogs for English class, they are also learning about food in science class, and tending an on-campus edible garden. It was a lot of fun to pass on a few nuggets of "wisdom" from my own experiences, but what was really great was hearing from the students about their own interests, projects and questions.

Of course, one of them asked "What is your favorite restaurant?" And invariably, this is the question everyone asks every food blogger. It's also a question I always have trouble answering. Because I have lots of favorites! Even if you narrowed it by category I'd still struggle, because so many different restaurants satisfy so many different cravings and moods. (I am voracious, I eat multitudes).

Having said that, I actually do have a favorite right now. And by favorite right now, I mean, if you asked me pretty much any day the past few months, "Where do you want to eat tonight?" the answer would likely be "Well, we could go to Boia De." This is a conversation that occurs frequently in our household. And frequently ends in the same place.


So what is Boia De? Maybe we should start with a related question: "What does "boia de" mean? Somehow, I got it in my head that it's an Italian expression that means "How cool!" But that translation exists only in my imagination. According to chef/owners Luciana Giangrande and Alex Meyer, it loosely translates as "Oh my!" which is much nicer than what turns up on Google Translate, which says something about an executioner?

It's perhaps appropriate that the name "Boia De" is a bit ambiguous, because the restaurant "Boia De" is itself delightfully difficult to typecast by genre. If I were to call it anything, I might go with "Italian-American," but I mean something almost the exact opposite of the checkered-tablecloth, red-sauce and mozz stereotype that phrase typically invokes. Alex and Luci mine Italian cuisine for ideas and ingredients – pastas and polenta and 'nduja and tonnato sauce – but those rub shoulders with green goddess and ranch dressing and and miso and mango. In lesser hands, this would be a recipe for disaster. But Alex and Luci know what they're doing.

(You can see all my pictures in this Boia De flickr set - over multiple visits I've now covered about 90% of the menu, though several items like the pastas change regularly).


Start, for instance, with the baked clams: tender littlenecks tucked under a blanket of spicy, smoky 'nduja sausage and breadcrumbs, torched til they're brown and bubbly, then finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon. They make for a delightful little one-bite surf-n-turf experience.


Or maybe instead a crudo? The hamachi is rich and buttery but delightfully clean and fresh, with splashes of yuzu salsa verde, ringlets of fresno chile, and briny fried capers to cut through the fattiness of the fish. It still feels kind of Italian even though nonna might disagree. Alternatively, you could go with the tuna crudo, which gets matched up in equally unorthodox fashion with a Sicilian pesto and smoky miso eggplant.

(continued ...)

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Cobaya Taymor at Three


For Cobaya Experiment #78, we had an out-of-town chef who came to Miami to immerse himself in the local flavors. For Experiment #79 earlier this month, we had sort of the converse: Ari Taymor, of Santa Monica's Little Prince, brought some Southern California to South Florida for our dinner at Three in Wynwood, where he is doing a stint as "guest chef." Two different approaches: two great meals.

(You can see all my pictures in this Cobaya Taymor at Three flickr set).

For someone who is still on the front end of his career, Taymor's path has already taken plenty of twists and turns. The California native was fired from his first cooking job, as an extern at Susanne Goin's Lucques, but later made his way into some of San Francisco's best kitchens – Flour + Water, Bar Tartine, as well as a half-year stint at La Chassagnette in Arles, France. Taymor returned to L.A. to open his first restaurant, Alma, in 2012. The tiny, 8-table spot started as a pop-up, and was built and operated on a shoestring. It was also beloved by critics and food media, getting named Bon Appetit's "Best New Restaurant in America" the next year. But success is a fickle mistress, and despite the accolades, the restaurant struggled financially, was beset by litigation, and had trouble filling seats, possibly a victim of the "Nobody goes there any more, it's too crowded" mentality. Taymor has spoken openly about the physical and psychological toll, too, which included an emergency room visit with a bleeding ulcer.[1]

By 2015, Alma in its original incarnation had closed. It resurfaced for a time as a pop-up in the Standard Hotel in West Hollywood, until Taymor decided he didn't want to run a hotel restaurant. So he pivoted once again. Little Prince began as a weekends-only brunch pop-up, inspired by the all-day cafés he saw during a visit to Australia, and a year later, it now has a permanent home in Santa Monica.

Clearly, Taymor is a restless spirit: who comes to Miami in the middle of the summer to cook in someone else's restaurant? But that's exactly what he did, partnering up with Three restaurant in Wynwood to do some special menus, dinners and cooking classes. Our Cobaya group had just made a  visit to Three almost exactly a year ago, where one of my culinary heroes, Norman Van Aken, cooked for us. We made a return visit to see what Ari Taymor was up to.


To start, baked oysters with braised bacon, camouflaged underneath a blanket of frothy, creamy smoked potatoes, red veined sorrel giving a pop of color and tartness.


Next, thinly shaved slivers of Col. Bill Newsom's country ham, plated with curled ribbons of cucumber, juicy melons, creamy burrata, fresh herbs and a pink peppercorn vinaigrette. This was deceptively simple – a riff on prosciutto and melon, after all – but compulsively good eating, balancing salty, sweet, fat, and acid with some vegetal crunch.

(continued ...)