By Rebecca Cahilly-Taranto
City & Shore Magazine
For many, Sunday’s too long a wait for a “ridiculous’’ weekend breakfast. Brunch in 2018 is moving from an all-you-can-eat buffet to à la carte “events.”
“Brunch is about how ridiculous you can make breakfast,” a 20-something friend says. I’d asked for her view on this timeless weekend pastime as a member of a brunching crowd of hip young professionals who follow late-night Friday DJ performances with avocado toast and bottomless bloody Marys on Saturday mornings.
Brunch has seen a resurgence of popularity, but the days of overflowing, extraordinary brunch buffets are probably behind us. “It’s not cool to eat a lot of food when you go out,” my friend says of the all-you-can-eat variety of yesteryear that drew post-church-goers in their Sunday best to the carving stations. “I don’t want to eat so much that I need a nap afterwards, plus I want my own plate of food.” That’s not to say buffets no longer exist. They do, but in more elegant, demure formats.
Visit any of South Florida’s popular restaurant strips on a weekend morning — Las Olas Boulevard, Harrison Street, Atlantic Avenue, Mizner Park, CityPlace — and you’ll see the modern brunch crowd, toasting with mimosas and nibbling on vegan frittatas while being serenaded by live musical entertainment. Brunch has become an event in itself.
“Brunch used to only be on Sundays, never on Saturdays,” says Chef Johan Svensson. “But now it’s huge, people love it. It offers something for everyone. Whether it’s Saturday or Sunday doesn’t really matter.”
Chef Johan is Executive Chef at the new Terra Mare on Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard. The décor of his oceanfront restaurant is casually sophisticated – indoor and out – fostering a communal dining experience. Shareable dishes are prepared tableside from a menu of fresh seafood and locally sourced ingredients. The Heritage Breed Kan Kan Pork Chop is carved tableside and served with a scallion sauce. The Crispy Whole Bass comes with seasonal vegetables and ginger ponzu. (Are you feeling communal enough yet to share?)
Terra Mare offers its own weekend brunch, where the oceanfront views and a dream team in the kitchen (Palm Beach talent Ryan Zemel runs the front of the house) draw vacationers and locals alike for craft cocktails, bottomless mimosas, creative raw bar offerings and exceptional service.
Born and raised on the small island of Torsö in Sweden, Chef Johan began cooking at age 15. After culinary school and several roles throughout Scandinavia, the young chef’s desire to travel took him to New York City, where he mentored alongside Marcus Samuelsson at Aquavit, the city’s premier Nordic restaurant. He has since held positions at BondST in New York, Nobu in London, and, most recently, BLT Steak and BLT Market in Waikiki.
Looking to be closer to family — “a six-hour flight instead of a 26-hour flight” — Chef Johan, his wife and their 7-year-old daughter were delighted to find a fit with Terra Mare when it opened last October at the Conrad Fort Lauderdale. “When the right opportunity arises, you grab and go,” he says. “We relocated within three weeks. All kudos and credit goes to my wife, Jessica. She’s the organizer in the family.”
Chef Johan says brunch is one of his favorite services because he can be creative and incorporate his global experience. “I’ve done everything from barbecuing reindeer to sushi,” he says. “Brunch offers something for everyone and I like to incorporate elements from both the land and the sea.”
Like many South Florida restaurants, Terra Mare eschews the buffet for an à la carte menu that features selections from the raw bar, classic eggs, omelets and pancakes; toasts and sandwiches and a healthy section to accompany the mimosas and cold-pressed juice cocktails.
“I love the oyster bar and playing with the balance of land and sea,” says Chef Johan, whose signature brunch dish is a Lobster Hash — meat from a Maine lobster claw atop a hash of potato, chorizo, pepper and onion with a sea-urchin hollandaise.
Then there’s the “Korean Fried Chicken” N Waffles. “Chicken and waffles is new for me,” he says. “I don’t really understand it but people love it.” Chef Johan deep-fries the chicken until it’s ultra crispy before dipping it in a sweet-and-spicy sauce. He adds scallions to the Belgian waffle mix and places a sunny side-up egg on top for a delightfully sweet-and-savory experience.
“It’s important that even when we are creative we give people something that they can recognize,” he says. “We want the identity of the ingredients to be there with high flavor points.” Case in point? The avocado toast on whole wheat with crushed avocado, poached eggs, sliced heirloom tomatoes and sprouts, or the spicy peach toast on multigrain with goat cheese, peach jam and fresh jalapeño.
“I like to see people enjoy their food,” Chef Johan says. “That’s every chef’s wish. I like to take my experience and add new twists and brunch allows a chef to do that. My best experience with eggs was in New York at Le Parker Meridien where we would offer breakfast at 2 p.m. I think many people would like to have brunch every day of the week.”
Why no buffet? “There are still wonderful, iconic buffet experiences that can’t be missed,” Chef Johan says, “with a big smörgåsbord, like the one we offered for Sunday brunch at Aquavit, we would have to begin prepping the Thursday before. A buffet takes a lot of coordination and a lot of preparation. Cooking à la carte is more refined, we can pay attention to the details instead of putting everything out in bulk.”
Terra Mare is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Brunch is offered Saturday and Sundays from
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 551 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-414-5160, terramarefl.com.