Pardon me if I gloat about the best biscuit I’ve ever eaten.
That speaks volumes to anyone who knows I grew up with homemade biscuits at every meal. As a chef, I prepared hundreds of dozens of scratch biscuits. A critic or two, albeit they were Yankees, raved about my biscuits.
But last week I carefully savored my way through a world class biscuit near 34th and Barnard streets. Cafe Florie occupies a tiny concrete block building that has, at one time or another in the past three decades, been a series of restaurants.
Today, Latoya Rivers and Theo Smith have pooled their collective culinary skills to open a 20–seat gem that’s destined to become what I call a “legendary destination.”
LDs are places — every city has one, two if lucky — where real foodies go for the best food, best experience and food–geek talk shouted across the dining room.
That the biscuits are incredible is no real surprise, Latoya and Theo are staples at area farmers’ markets, where they sell fresh baked goods. With solid food backgrounds and family roots that reach deep into grassroots cooking it’s only natural that the pair would come out of the gate so strong.
But why is this biscuit so great? Texture, for one thing: It tears apart in pieces that show it was not over–handled and mushed together with no reverence for the pillowy results that come from the magical combination of shortening, flour and milk.
Its top and bottom are nicely browned and delicately crisp. the over–arching flavor is of butter. Its shape and character are rustic, another good sign. I’ll go back for breakfast so I can drizzle honey or slather jam on these heavenly little pillows of dough.
Oddly, the biscuit was to be the also-ran. Two perfectly seasoned pieces of chicken were fried to order and served hot and moist on the inside, crisp on the the outside. One side, rice and beans, again showed balance and restraint in seasonings.
The other side, mixed greens (collards, mustard and, I suspect, kale) required no additional seasoning, but I insisted on sampling Theo’s housemade hot sauce. Arm-twist him into serving it to you. Commercial hot sauces are popular, but the dominant first aroma is of sugar. Theo’s sauce reveals layers of aromas, and unfolds across your palate in the same way.
Don’t miss the Johnny fries, Belgian–style fries that are hand–cut and sprinkled with sea salt. They’re tender on the inside, crisp on the outside, and dip perfectly in any number of housemade gourmet mayos. I know of only one other restaurant within 100 miles that does Belgian fries, which are typically cut, par–cooked and flash-fried prior to service.
And there’s no ho–hum sweet tea here, but green tea sweetened with stevia and honey.
Of course, I had to try Latoya’s sweet potato pie, served as an individual little tart that was sweet, creamy and delicious.
1715 Barnard St./236–3354/Monday–Saturday, 8 a.m.–3 p.m.
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