Northern Exposure | Growing Season Update with Farm to Kitchen

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Padin out back of Farm to Kitchen’s new distribution center in Little Haiti.

Sure enough, blue graffiti above an open, barred gate marked the spot. A fitting tag for the entrance to Farm to Kitchen’s brand new — and I mean new-car-smell-new — warehouse facility in Little Haiti. Chris Padin found the unassuming location on 54th street just east of North Miami Avenue through a friend and chose it over one to the north in Oakland Park.  Mere minutes from the Design District and central to his farm runs and customer routes, the decision was a smart one.

“People get lost with the unmarked door,” he explained, as I made my way for an early evening visit last week as we were both wrapping up business for the day.  “It’s next to the Western Union.”

Whether or not people can find him is beside the point. As the owner/operator of a local distribution company specializing in produce from small family farms, Padin’s job is to find them.  This season is a special one for him and partner Aleli Lauria. From her seeds first sewn at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink leading the reservations department and gardening at home on the side have sprouted some four years later a solid business, connecting a handful of South Florida restaurants with its best and brightest small farmers.

This latest move is a game changer for Farm to Kitchen, effectively doubling its capacity and reach to receive product from suppliers like Worden Farm in Punta Gorda. Customers can still expect their usual day-of or day-after harvest delivery.  Padin has also hired longtime MGFD busser Christopher Caballero who staged with him last season as a part time delivery driver. Padin will continue to focus on growing the business, making farm runs and forging relationships with growers.  On my visit bathroom renovation work was in full swing and the first ingredients – like a box of blue oyster mushrooms from Sublicious Farms – were in the new walk-in cooler. They took over the space a month ago and share it with another local start-up, Jucy Lu’s, which figures into the plan. Farm to Kitchen‘s farm share program will soon offer a selection of cold-pressed, organic juices produced out of the facility using the same fresh ingredients Padin sources for the wholesale side of the business.

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The next day it was time to get down to business to meet some of the newer customers to the Farm to Kitchen portfolio and consequently, to our genuine kitchens. We know and love many familiar faces down south, so naturally we set our sites north to meet some new ones, namely Harpke Family Farm in Dania Beach, specializing in fruits, vegetables and microgreens and Sublicious Farms in Oakland Park, producer of high quality organic mushrooms.  Padin was on one of his twice-weekly farm runs, and Harry’s Pizzeria chef Danny Ramirez and I were along for the ride.

“They’re cute but I’m trying to run a business here,” said Tamer Harpke, as siblings Chica and Pedro gave us a warm welcome to Harpke Family Farm’s 1 acre plot right off I-95.  “We want to roll with 4 or 5 key accounts.  We are looking for distribution with key chefs that want to work with the product and are committed. We’re developing a mix that at lets us service fine dining while at the same time trying to service the CSA community.”

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A cluster of Sublicious Farm’s blue oyster mushrooms in the “pin” stage. So cute!

Padin is in lockstep with this approach, which is key for this relationship to function properly. “The thing that I look for is the consistency of supply. Without that, I have go out and look for it elsewhere, or for something else. Tamer is a step ahead. He has an idea of what restaurants are looking for to begin with, which makes our job a lot easier.”

Only a short walk through the property and it was clear his supply is well on its way, including mature-at-harvest greens like mustard, lime mizuna and lacinato kale, radishes including French breakfast, and micro herbs and greens of all kinds like opal basil, amaranth and carrot. If his back-from-the-dead rows of dragonfruit are any indication, this first season is going to be a good start for this 6 month old operation.  Just watch out for falling coconuts.

“We’ll be doing tomatoes. Everybody wants tomatoes,” Harpke explained.  “I’ve been growing them since I was young.  It’s not easy to grow in an outdoor format but if you prune them and treat them like your babies you can get a lot of fruit out of them. We’ll be looking at a greenhouse and hydroponics in the future.”

Check out what’s in store for their CSA and farm credit program at Harpke’s open house on November 9 where there will also be a “keg of beer and maybe some wine!”

Our second and last stop before seeing Padin off to Homestead for the afternoon was Sublicious Farms, an experience far from the familiar.  I don’t think I’ll forget the first time I walked into a “fruiting chamber”!  Scott Lyons, a University of Florida alum, grows blue oyster mushrooms through a compost and hanging bag system that is rotated in a temperature and humidity-controlled walk-in cooler.

“They like it cool, 65 degrees, 95 percent humidity,” Lyons explained. “From the pin stage, it’s just 3 to 5 days until harvest. We can produce 150-200 pounds a week from this one chamber at full capacity.”

The process begins in the back of his warehouse by processing “mushroom spawn” from rye berry that is sterilized and inoculated with mycelium.  Spooky enough for Halloween, the spawn grows into something one might find in their refrigerator and deem fit for chucking. After that it’s mixed with compost to make the perfect growing material for beautiful mushrooms! They sell product online at all stages of production for budding shroomers to home gardeners in search of great substrate.  Or in MGFD chef de cuisine Niven Patel‘s case, home farmers! Next for Sublicious is working with converted shipping containers for a property up in Delray. A fruitful future seems imminent.

For more information on our suppliers from Farm to Kitchen’s customers and beyond, visit our Sourcing page.

Genuine Love Fest! Here’s the Mozza Pizzeria Menu & See You Saturday at Grovetoberfest

It’s been a busy, exciting week for Harry’s Pizzeria with the announcement of our new location coming to Coconut Grove in spring 2015.  The fun continues with the release today of Matt Molina’s menu for our last pop-up of 2014, and a little reminder that both Harry’s Pizzeria® and Michael’s Genuine® Home Brew will be at one of our favorite annual events this Saturday, Grovetoberfest.  See below for both details!
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It’s been a while since we put tickets up for Mozza Pizzeria with James Beard Award-winning chef Matt Molina and now it is GO TIME… The event is exactly 3 weeks away yesterday, and I got my ticket… get yours here before there aren’t any left.  We seriously can’t wait!  We spoke to Matt yesterday and confirmed this menu!  We have our first 2015 event set, no. 27 in the series, welcoming Chris Cosentino on Wednesday, February 18 for Cockscomb Pizzeria. Tickets go up the evening of Tuesday, November 4 during Mozza Pizzeria. So see you there to get first dibs!

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For the fourth year, Grovetoberfest brings 300 great beers from across the county and across the world seaside to Coconut Grove’s Peacock Park, right in the heart of Miami.  For the third year, Michael’s Genuine Home Brew will be poured by the Genuine Team, this time with a perfect pairing beside it — Harry’s Polenta fries with spicy ketchup.  We’ll have our favorite You Are What You Drink tattoos, Design District GM and chalk artist Michael Kump’s menu board, and more fun than you can ever imagine in our future neighborhood to the south! See you there Saturday, October 18 from 2:30-7 p.m. Cheers!

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Harry’s Pizzeria + Coconut Grove = Spring 2015

Harry's holidays in motion.

Harry’s Pizzeria, the Design District original Est. 2011, in motion.

The people have spoken!  It’s time for a little southern hospitality… and a genuine pizza joint for the Nearby Republic of Coconut Grove Est. 1873. Please get ready to welcome Harry’s Pizzeria Coconut Grove Est. 2015.

On the heels of Harry’s Pizzeria’s third anniversary, The Genuine Hospitality Group especially friggin’ ecstatic, South Miami-based me! is proud to announce that chef/owner Michael Schwartz’s casual neighborhood joint will open its first new location in 2015 in Coconut Grove, and it feels pretty darn good if you don’t mind us saying so!  As if that news wasn’t good enough, we are working with famed Coconut Grove-based architectural design firm Arquitectonica to build out the space located in the heart of town at 2996-98 McFarlane Rd, mere steps from Peacock Park and beautiful marina-lined Bayshore Drive.  We’ll be celebrating with Michael’s Genuine® Home Brew and Harry’s addictive Polenta Fries from 2:30 – 7 p.m. this Saturday, October 18 at Grovetoberfest.  It’ll be our third time participating in Miami’s annual beer festival and just think… next year we can all walk to Harry’s after for dinner!

“It’s funny, what began with a question mark – should we open a pizzeria – has grown up and become this great restaurant with an identity all its own, one that we feel has great potential for growth, ” says Schwartz. “Choosing the right next location was super important, from the community, to the space itself and the partners involved. To have another opportunity to work with the Forts and the team at Arquitectonica is really exciting, and I think we’re all really looking forward to collaborating and getting to know our new neighborhood!”

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Harry’s Pizzeria is The Genuine Hospitality Group’s third restaurant, a casual neighborhood joint opened in September 2011 and named after Schwartz’s son Harry. The restaurant is a comfortable place to gather for snacks, salads, and specials featuring seasonal ingredients, Hedy Goldsmith’s desserts, Schwartz’s signature thin-crust pizzas cooked in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven, local and craft beers on draught, creative wines by the glass and bottle, and other beverages including housemade sodas and Panther Coffee. To make a new house a home, its “Chef Pop-Up Series” has welcomed America’s most acclaimed chefs into the kitchen over the past three years, effectively cementing Harry’s Pizzeria as a fixture in Miami’s dining community known for both its consistency and energetic, fun approach to the restaurant experience.

“We are very excited to be working with Michael on this restaurant. The addition of Harry’s to the neighborhood is a big part of our re-visioning for the center Grove to make it a place for everyday life and a unique destination” says Raymond Fort, Arquitectonica Project Designer.

The space on McFarlane Rd that Harry’s Pizzeria is entering is owned by Main Highway Partners.

“We have a history here – our family home is in the Grove and our corporate headquarters in the Grove, in the original space the company launched over 30 years ago. We understand the fabric of the neighborhood and are so thrilled to have entrepreneurs and business owners like Michael Schwartz and Panther Coffee coming into the fold,” says Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Founding Principal of Arquitectonica.

Arquitectonica was brought on by The Genuine Hospitality Group to design the build out of the space for Harry’s Pizzeria.

“Arquitectonica is a big believer in smart urban planning. In the Grove, where we have our roots, we are excited to take part in designing the pieces that will come together to enhance the community,“ says Harold Fort, landscape architect for ArquitectonicaGEO.

We have a little ways to go to get numero dos online, but we will keep you posted on our progress until that happy day via the restaurant’s social media on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  Just follow @harryspizzeria and #HPCoconutGrove for updates as they happen!

MGFD Brunch at 5 Years | Homage to Hedy’s Sweets

Five years ago, a typical Sunday morning at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink (“MGFD”) was a time for our chefs to prepare for the evening service and plan for the upcoming week, quietly without distraction. But then October 25, 2009 rolled around and Sundays were never the same again. Today, once 11:00am hits the clock, MGFD is a vibrant and colorful scene of savory and sweet. Tables are adorned with a variety of small plates mingling with cocktails, wines, and beers at once. It is a playful and nostalgic affair, a frenzy of energy and creativity, and Hedy and Michael would not have it any other way.

Hedy explains that when Michael developed Brunch at MGFD, he wanted a different concept, where guests could enjoy a number of different plates, without any set rules. “It is whatever you feel like…”  It was a hit out of the gate, attracting the attention of then New York Times food critic Frank Bruni and has evolved into more than we ever could have imagined — a fun and interactive meal stretching the imagination of both our customers and our team in the restaurant that puts it together each week. We’ll cover the savory side of the menu next, but today we begin in keeping with Hedy’s mantra: “Eat dessert first!”

At the top of the Sweets section appear Hedy’s Childhood Treats. These items are meant to bring back childhood memories and can often be found in Hedy’s cookbook, Baking Out Loud: Fun Desserts with Big Flavors. Items like overstuffed o’s, s’mores and chocolate caramel peanut bars show the playfulness and accessibility of the menu. As much as they attract children, they are meant for big kids, us. Because Hedy’s goal was to bring out the “oohs and aahs” out of us, and boy does she!

The remainder of the menu will leave you equally flabbergasted. The classics such as the pop t’s — which are Hedy’s take on the still relevant as ever original, on-the-go handheld breakfast pie — and the sticky bun, have new flavors weekly. They are in short, a grow-up version of your old time favorites. By grown- up, we mean improved of course. Exponential improvement. Some dishes are too bold to fathom, like the tequila watermelon-popsicle, or the macaron ice cream sandwich, or the peanut butter pie in a jar overflowing with caramel. Literally overflowing. Ugh! Hedy dares to play with both savory and sweet in general, particularly in her sticky buns, such as the bacon, cream cheese and peanut butter sticky bun. It leaves you to lick you fingers shamelessly at the table and turn an average Sunday morning meal, into your most anticipated moment of the week. Seriously. Some guests join us religiously for brunch and Hedy’s sweets are one of the reasons why they are committed to our brunchbell. Yes that’s what we call it!

Why the obsession? Our pastry team bakes with heart. Hedy and her associates change the Sweets menu in its entirety, weekly, with updates reflected on the michaelsgenuine.com website by crack of dawn Sunday. Although some preparation may be made in advance, or mise en place, all sweets are baked on Sunday morning. Hedy shares, “ I like to keep challenging myself, have fun and inspire my team. I don’t take myself too seriously and want to keep it playful”. That passion is evident from the choice of items on the menu, but most importantly the flavors. Hedy values multi dimensional dishes, especially with the desserts. She would hate for a guest to merely have two bites, which is why she plays with savory for balance. In her iconic and ever evolving cookie, junk in-da-trunk ®, for example, Hedy mixes cookie dough with pretzels, potato chips, peanut butter, and candy bars, but tops it with sea salt, “… to give your taste buds a break”, she reveals. This is a sweet marathon, not a race!

Hedy likes to inspire, but is also inspired by her energetic team, including Devin Braddock, who takes great pride in spearheading putting out the #brunchbell under the direction of pastry Sous-Chef, Patty Lopez. Devin also enjoys playing with the line between sweet and savory, such as hot pepper jam, and she loves our brunch’s core idea, nostalgia. Preparation for brunch sweets begins as early as Monday, when the team assembles a rough draft of the menu, which evolves during the week. It is the perfect opportunity for originality to emerge. And as the week develops, each dish “…molds into something more beautiful and more creative”, making brunch equally exciting for Devin and for you. The A team also includes Dallas Wynne, a Harry’s Pizzeria alum.

Brunch at MGFD comes together due to the participation of the entire team. Pastry helps the savory side by making a crumpet batter, while the servers, managers and support staff review the logistics for an effective brunch. It is a tough service to tackle, but quite a fun one. It can also be a friendly competition between sweet and savory, as Sous-Chef, Jason Arroyo, crosses the boundaries with a savory French toast for example; whereas Head Line Cook, Manuel Arredondo, brings out his own creativity to mirror Devin’s bold dishes, with maple bacon pancakes. If you haven’t experienced this underrated game yet, hustle because the bell rings at 11:00am every Sunday, and as of October 12, lasts until 3:00pm.

MGFD 2.0 | The Return of the Genuine Bar

After almost 8 years in the neighborhood, this homecoming is sweeter than ever. Join Michael and The Genuine Hospitality Group team in welcoming a new afternoon service that hits the spot, whether for a late lunch to satisfy more than a snack can, a quick shopping pit stop or a long, leisurely dive into our new raw bar and always classic cocktail list. It’s time to reach a new plateau during that in-between period.

On the eve of its eighth anniversary in March of 2015, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink reopens after a 2 week pause with an expanded Bar Room adding Afternoon service from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. highlighting a new Raw Bar. As Miami’s Design District prepares for a busy season of luxury retail launches in the neighborhood, the restaurant will now be able to receive guests for 1.5 more hours during the previously closed window following Lunch and prefacing Dinner, as well as offer an Afternoon menu to satisfy beyond simply Snacks as previously offered during the 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Happy Hour. The Raw Bar will be available for all service periods including Lunch, Dinner, and the restaurant’s celebrated Sunday Brunch, now in its fifth year as of the 25th of this month.15453610625_0e6f07139b_k

 “We’ve always tried to stay one step ahead to keep things fresh at Genuine. It’s something we think about all the time as a company and challenge each other everyday to make the right decisions and be smart about our future. That applies to the growth of The Genuine Hospitality Group, but no where is it more important than where it all begaMIA_New Afternoon Menun,” Michael explains. “I’ve seen this neighborhood evolve plenty since we opened in 2007, but this season will really be a game changer. I don’t think any of us can truly appreciate the magnitude of what’s about to go down here, but that’s not going to stop us from being as ready as we can be!”

The focal point of Afternoon’s a la carte menu is the new Raw Bar featuring a rotating selection of two east coast and two west coast oysters (3 each); middleneck clams currently from Florida’s Cedar Key on the ½ shell (2 each,) traditional shellfish platters (plateau 65, royale 130); classic shrimp cocktail with house cocktail sauce (12); chilled ½ Maine lobster (PA); stone crabs with mustard sauce (PA/seasonal); and one crudo, tartare and ceviche with setups that will change daily highlighting the freshest local fish and produce (13-14).

Tartare (tuna here) provencal vinaigrette, meyer lemon aioli, housemade saltines 14

Tartare (tuna here) provencal vinaigrette, meyer lemon aioli, housemade saltines 14

Then there are six classic Schwartz dishes in stracciatella highlighting the fall season’s first Florida heirloom tomatoes with local basil, extra-virgin olive oil, fleur de sel (13); butter lettuce with orange, hazelnuts, avocado, shallot-hazelnut vinaigrette (13); honeycrisp apples with greens, pumpkin seeds, goat cheese, Dijon vinaigrette (15); crispy sweet & spicy pork belly with kimchi, crushed peanuts (15); and two wood oven pizzas – a daily special such as cured salami with pesto, red onion, arugula, fontina, as well as heirloom tomato with pesto, roasted peppers, mozzarella, pine nuts (18). Genuine Snacks round out the savory selection, and milk chocolate cremoso with extra-virgin olive oil, sourdough crostini (10) and TGHG Executive Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith’s daily-changing homemade ice creams & sorbets served with a shortbread cookie (10) make for an even sweeter afternoon.  The back of menu will highlight the restaurant’s cocktail list and offer the same solid rotating selection of craft and other longtime favorite beers, as well as wines by the glass and bottle.

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Plateau 65 – 3 east (Wellfleet here) 3 west (Kumamoto here) 6 Cedar Key clams – 4 shrimp – crudites & dill aioli – classic mignonette – cocktail sauce – chilled 1/2 Maine lobster – tuna tartare & housemade saltines

“We always like to give the program a good hard look heading into season, but clearly there was a great opportunity here to really take stock in a new light. But I think we all agreed we didn’t want to mess with it too much,” explains TGHG Beverage Director Ryan Goodspeed. “We’ll continue to offer the curated selection of craft spirits that people have come to expect from Genuine and of course introduce new cocktails on a regular basis like usual, probably some more lighter alcohol offerings especially during the afternoon. We’re really looking forward to seeing how this goes and taking it from there. It’s a great looking bar, but more importantly it’s going to function a lot better, which will give the team flexibility to do more. We’re going to focus on what we do best and do it even better.”

The new space increases bar seating to 25 with 11 new seats in the Bar Room, flanked by 4 tables each seating 4 on the north wall and an additional 4 window seats overlooking the restaurant’s courtyard. Taking over the original private Gallery Room by knocking through the back bar wall, the new bar’s mahogany counter was sourced and forged by Schwartz’s longtime collaborator Miles Black also responsible for millwork at The Cypress Room. Carl Myers’ latest coin mosaic series featuring fish uses the restaurant’s own local catch as its subject, including Queen Snapper and Yellowedge Grouper brought to the doorstep this summer by fishmonger George Figueroa of Trigger Seafood.  Thanks to a lot of long nights, Michael’s long time, so-much-more-than-handyman Renier Bautista and a whole lot of genuine teamwork got the flagship up and running on-schedule and looking like, well, new.

Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink is open seven days a week, with Lunch Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Afternoon Monday through Saturday 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Dinner Monday through Thursday 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday & Saturday 5:30 p.m. to midnight, and Sunday 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Brunch Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fall/Winter Holiday Hours are as follows: Thanksgiving Thursday, November 27 – Closed; Christmas Day Thursday, December 25 – Closed; Christmas Eve Wednesday, December 24 – Regular lunch hours, dinner open until 10 p.m.; New Year’s Eve Wednesday, December 31 – Regular hours; New Year’s Day Thursday, Jan 1, 2015 – Closed for lunch, dinner open until 10 p.m. Menus are updated daily at michaelsgenuine.com/miami, with links to the restaurant on social media on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.