Recently in the New York Times Magazine, we came across a fascinating article featuring chef Lior Lev Sercarz who had opened La Boîte á Epice on the west side in NYC (11th Avenue) in 2006 to create his own unique spice blends. Mr. Sercarz is widely known among culinary circles as a “true” spice master and has worked as a chef for the likes of Daniel Boulud and Olivier Roellinger.We have been savoring an opportunity to visit La Boîte and finally did so on July 3.
Although La Boîte is technically open to the retail public from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. from Wednesday through Friday, we called and were told that they would be open on Wednesday morning. We were greeted by a cheerful and delightful young woman with the name of Tamar, which I understands means “fig” in Hebrew. She was both knowledgeable and helpful in sniffing our way through the 41 spice blends.
As described in the Times article Mr. Sercarz uses spices to create a sense of location based on his extensive travels. There is no question that he has succeeded based on our sampling. There is no easy way to sample spices as your olfactory senses can probably not differentiate between more than 5 samples. Nevertheless, there is a delightful book which focuses on the different spice blends and explains how they might be used. Indeed, there are some great pairings for fish and vegetables that we cannot wait to sample.
This evening we will be sampling his sauteed figs in butter and balsamic vinegar with the Ana spice blend. This will be followed with mozzarella di bufala and heritage tomatoes with another La Boite spice blend.
A recent article in Food and Wine serves as a nice complement to the New York Times article but covers much of the same ground. Right now you can only purchase these La Boite spice blends through the Ingredient Finder, but I have been advised that their website will be up in three months. We suggest a visit to sample these spices yourself. It is well worth the effort.