Miami’s culinary scene has come a long way in recent years. There’s an abundance of restaurants cooking up practically every cuisine. Cuban … Italian … Spanish … Mexican … the list is long. But for local foodies Sara Liss and Maude Eaton, there was one cuisine that was noticeably missing: Persian food.
“I just couldn’t find a place to get great Persian food,” Liss said. “We saw a chance to fill a niche.”
Thus, Saffron Supper Club was born. The group, a pop-up dinner club exploring the food and culture of the Middle East, launched in 2013 as a passion project and personal journey for the duo. For Liss and Eaton, the supper club is about more than just food — it’s also about the stories surrounding it. That’s why guests are treated to a lot more than just delicious cuisine.
“It’s a chance to not only share food, but also poetry, literature and history,” Liss says. “We want guests to come away with a better understanding of the culture.”
If you think putting together an event of such breadth is hard work, you’re right. For Liss and Eaton — notable figures in Miami’s food scene — it was a new experience to be on the other side of the table, cooking and serving food to customers as well as coordinating events; Liss is a restaurants writer for Miami.com while Eaton founded the South Florida Foodies group.
One of the challenges that the pair encountered early on was production costs. Their first event — a dinner with Chef Michael Shikany at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens — was an eye-opening experience.
“When we do these events, we have to deal with food, labor and venue costs and make sure that it’s worthwhile for everyone,” Liss says. “Our first event was like a wedding. We had a DJ, passed hors d’oeuvres and a cocktail hour. We barely broke even.”
Subsequent dinners at Josh’s Deli, The Hidden Kitchen and Paradise Farms have been more scaled-back affairs but with the same emphasis on educating attendees. Liss wants to keep the mood light and tries to find entertaining anecdotes in the native languages of the meals, too, such as Farsi and Hebrew.
It looks like they’re on to something. In May, the group hosted their largest dinner yet — a 80-seat affair at Bocce in Midtown Miami — and they just finished up another successful event at Fooq’s in Downtown Miami a few weeks ago.
“The supper club has picked up a lot of momentum, so we’re doing events more regularly,” Liss says. “Before, it was a lot more sporadic.”
Plans are already underway for the next dinner, which is set to take place before the end of summer. According to Liss, they hope to work with The Spice Detective Yaniv Cohen. “Each dish will probably focus on a different spice,” she says.
The club is looking into possibly throwing new cuisines into the mix, such as Lebanese, Yemenite and Tunisian. “We’re curious about food, and we hope to inspire that same curiosity with our guests,” she says. “We see the supper club as a way to try new things and learn new things, too.”
They certainly taught us a thing or two when we attended. We were invited to the most recent dinner at Fooq’s, which had a wedding theme. The second we set foot in the door, we felt that intimate and familial nature the supper club prides itself on. The room was warm and inviting, making it easy to get comfortable and make some new friends.
A saffron-infused drink and hors d’oeuvres a plenty greeted us upon arrival and signaled what we could expect the rest of the evening: a lot of food! Each course of the three-course meal was comprised of two to three dishes, with at least one featuring pistachios in some form. There was a pistachio mint soup, Shirin Polo b’Tahdig (crispy rice studded with oranges, carrots, pistachios and almonds), and — of course — Fooq’s award–winning Persian Sundae with roasted salted pistachios. All were delicious (especially the Shirin Polo).
Throughout the evening, Sara read stories relating to Persian wedding traditions as well as the significance of the pomegranate at weddings. It was an enchanting and filling night that we encourage you to experience. To stay up-to-date on the latest Saffron Supper Club events, make sure to follow them on Facebook.
Unless watermarked, all photos courtesy of Saffron Supper Club.