"James is one of the most talented mixologists we have ever worked with," says La Ferme's owner Bobby Shapiro in his latest news release. "Owning Flex Mussels in Manhattan and a number of other restaurants over the years, we've worked with quite a few mixologists, and James' cocktails are well worth trying."
And so James Serra's tenure as mixologist and bar manager at the modern Mediterranean eatery begins -- with a public vote of confidence and admiration from owner Bobby of the Shapiro family, seasoned restaurateurs of the U.S.'s eastern seaboard and Canada with past enterprises like La Louisiana, Dayboat, and Texarkana, among others, under their belts.
The Boca restaurant, with its stylized look reminiscent of a Stanley Kubrick film set and accentuated with artworks by Alex Katz, Mel Ramos, and Shepard Fairey, among others, is a staunch proponent of localized sourcing to supplement its imported fare. And with the changing seasons, it will be a drink and food pair-up destination worthy of tracking.
For his new role, Serra has created a few signature drinks for the coming version of South Florida's fall/winter season, like the Beijing Peach, a jasmine-infused Tito's vodka, peach and lime; A Long December, a mélange of strength with Berneroy Calvados, Madeira, dark amber maple syrup, cream, ginger apple, and star anise; and the genteel Cecilia, a liquid coterie populated by St. George Terroir Gin, peach, lemon, and sage. These will increase the current cocktail menu that has featured the Tina Louise, Punchy Williams, and the Oh My Darlin until their ingredients cycle out.
Serra's background includes a hospitality management certificate from the much-respected Cornell University and an upper-level sommelier certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. For the detractors of the academe, it's worthy to note Serra's hands-on and real-life experience.
From the news release: "As a student of all things hospitality, it wasn't until I had the opportunity to work for James Beard Award winning (and celebrity) Chef Tom Colicchio, that I became infatuated with wine and spirits." Serra worked for the Bravo reality-TV star at his Park Avenue restaurant, Craft. Upon leaving there, Serra refocused his passions toward craft cocktails and the chemical components of spirits and elixirs.
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This resulted in the creation of his recently filed bottling company Bitter Ex Cure-Alls, which is still in the early stages of production.
La Ferme's menu will adjust seasonally, and the current menu features a robust kale caesar salad with country croutons, Parmesan cheese, and boquerones -- fresh anchovies that are years into the future better than the canned crap you've tasted before. Steak tartare with quail egg and green peppercorn vinaigrette, along with a hearty "forever" braised short rib Bourguignon with lardons, mushrooms, and a red wine reduction; Bell and Evans roasted organic chicken with veggies and grapes; and, Naragansett Dayboat scallos over an herb risotto round out the current leaders of the menu.
It will be a worthy career to track at La Ferme with owner and manager seemingly onboard with creativity and mission-focus driving their menu. With these building blocks in place, it seems a sure bet that La Ferme and Serra's relationship will be fruitful and longer-lasting than many of the bars and restaurants that've hopped on the "craft" trend boat without the requisite know-how, both academic and hands-on.
La Ferme, 9101 Lakeridge Blvd., Boca Raton, is open daily for dinner service from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 561-654-6600, or visit laferme.kitchen.