[Recipe] Hedy’s Banana Brunch Panini with Maple Bacon Crunch

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We all know TGHG executive pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith isn’t shy when it comes to sweets, and she’s taking her panini game to a whole new level next week representing team genuine at LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade.  This west coast fundraiser is the only daytime affair on Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s (ALSF) chef-supported event circuit, meaning all sorts of fun possibilities are on the menu, including Hedy’s Banana Brunch Panini with Maple Bacon Crunch! This panini covers every base when it comes to brunch. With salty sweetness of maple bacon, the creaminess of cream cheese, crunch of granola, and soft crispness of La Brea Bakery’s Parker Rolls.

Michael, Hedy and Bradley at last year's event!

Michael, Hedy and Bradley at last year’s event!

Decadent and delicious, L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade brings superstar chefs and mixologists from across the country to Los Angeles to lend their support to ALSF and the fight against childhood cancer. Each chef and mixologist prepares a signature dish for guests to sample. Guests have the opportunity to taste incredible fare and meet and even chat with the chefs who prepared it. L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade is hosted by Chef Suzanne Goin and business partner Caroline Styne (Lucques, AOC, Tavern) along with Chef David Lentz (The Hungry Cat). The event has raised nearly $2 million to fund childhood cancer research, raising more than half a million at the 2013 event alone!

If you aren’t in La La Land Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, you can still get your brunch panini fix at home with the recipe below and donate to one of the causes dearest to our hearts at the same time by clicking here.  Hedy swears by one press in particular for perfect results, the Breville Smart Grill. “It has several height settings, and it caramelizes my panini like no other machine.” When I saw her using one in pastry yesterday to crank out the above photo subjects , I could tell why. It’s like the Ferrari of presses, but pretty compact (it has to be in that station!) Super efficient, just the way we like to work, especially when HQ is in the Sunday brunch crunch!  Thank you again to Breville for always coming through with Genuine hardware and to fearless chef leader Suzanne Goin for inviting Miami to the party each and every year!  A sweet treat for an even sweeter cause.

Banana Brunch Panini with Maple Bacon Crunch

Serves 12

8 ounces cream cheese, brought to room temperature
¼ cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or real vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 dozen La Brea Bakery Parker House Rolls
4 just-ripe bananas, sliced 1-inch thick on the bias
1 cup crunchy granola, store-bought or homemade
Maldon salt or other flakey sea salt, to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup Maple Bacon bits (see recipe below)
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat a panini press to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed, cream the cream cheese and brown sugar until fully incorporated and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream, vanilla and salt until combined, about 1 more minute. Scrape the bowl and paddle with rubber spatula and set aside.

To assemble the panini, split the rolls open and lay out on the counter, inside up. Spread the sweetened cream cheese mixture on tops and bottoms.  On each bottom half, place 2 slices of banana, topping with a sprinkle of maple bacon bits and a light dusting of Maldon salt.  Evenly distribute granola onto the top halves, pressing down so the crumbles stick to the cream cheese. Carefully flip the top onto the bottom pressing to have both halves become one. Combine the cinnamon and sugar.  Brush the melted butter on both the top and bottom of the panini and sprinkle the top with the cinnamon sugar.

Place on the preheated press, carefully close without added pressure, and toast until golden brown and caramelized, about 4-6 minutes. Carefully remove the panini, set it on a cutting board.  Allow to cool at least 10 minutes.  Enjoy, or eat later reheating in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes or until crispy.

Maple Bacon Bits

Makes 1 cup

½ pound thick cut bacon
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
½  teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the bacon, maple syrup, brown sugar molasses and salt. Coat the bacon, cover the bowl allow to sit 30 minutes or longer, but no longer then 24 hours. Place the strips of bacon on a rack over a baking pan to catch the fat.  Bake the bacon until it becomes dark caramel color, about 25-30 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and immediately remove the bacon from the rack. It will be sticky and hot, so be careful. Allow to cool completely, about an hour. Pulse in a food processor until consistency of gravel.

Uncorked: Larkee on Lua Rossa no. 2

Forget everything you expect from sequels and open a bottle of Lua Rossa no. 2.  Waft its profound aroma, the Nebbiolo showing up first with classic rose petal and anise notes. Behold the dark fruit, and then marvel in its rustic, earthy notes, unusual for a New World wine. The wine is medium bodied on the palate with medium tannins and food friendly acidity. I’ll have seconds.

Screen shot 2014-09-05 at 10.30.59 AMLong awaited after April’s blending trip to Santa Barbara with Michael, Tamara and blender in chief Eric Larkee, our first shipment arrived this week and is drinking rather exceptionally. You can find it as of yesterday on the wine list (by the glass and bottle) at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink and come November at Michael’s Genuine®  Pub (MGP) aboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, along with its producer Jim Clendenen’s Ici/La-Bas and Clendenen Family Vineyards brands.

“If one were to climb a mountain seeking an oracle of wine knowledge there would be no shock to find Clendenen sitting on the top,” Larkee states in our newly minted server training guide for MGP. “Besides already knowing you were coming, he also would hold all the answers, at least his answers to your questions.”

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The epic lunch Mexican lunch Jim cooked for us at the winery after blending. Those hot sauces though…

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Setting the buffet, the Clendenen way. All over the place!

This is the second addition of the wine, the first was created to be a friendly, approachable pizza wine for Harry’s Pizzeria.  The finished wine exceeded expectations and came in to use in all of our restaurants.  No. 2’s core is Nebbiolo. The Petite Verdot adds color and tannic structure. There are actually two Refoscos, one which adds color and spicey complexity, as well as a dash of 2003 Refosco that offers that baseline funk of Old World earthiness. The Pinot Noir adds depth and complexity and is kind of the wine’s secret weapon. Larkee also suggests pairing with The Pub Board, Pork Slider, Fried Gnudi from MGP’s menu, food-friendly indeed.

After college graduation a month in Burgundy and Champagne convinced Clendenen that he would be better at making wine rather than law. In 1978 he started as an assistant winemaker at Zaca Mesa, and in 1982 he branched out on his own starting Au Bon Climat (which means “a well exposed vineyard”). While never a favorite of the magazine critcs, Jim’s wines have found appreciation with those who seek wines to complement and not overpower their foods. Chef and Jim first met almost twenty years ago and have maintained a close and convivial relationship since. Back then Michael had a haircut much closer to Jim’s wild mane.

For those of you with nostalgic leanings, Harry’s Pizzeria® and The Cypress Room still have the original Lua, so say hello or goodbye to her before her run comes to a close.

Announcing Harry’s Chef Pop-Up No. 26 | Mozza Pizzeria with James Beard Award Winner Matt Molina

Like it was yesterday, you remember your first meal at Pizzeria Mozza. Mine was lunch with Chef and Eric as we rounded out a trip west after blending the first Lua Rossa with Jim Clendenden in Santa Barbara (No. 2 is estimated to drop September 4 to Au Bon Climat’s distributor’s warehouse, by the way.)  As you can see from the photos above, it was in a word, perfect. That bone marrow? Done right without a fuss. Squash blossom pizza? It looked up at us from the table – the lightest crust you’ve ever had – but still with purposeful bite, just begging to be devoured.  And if you think there’s no way in hell you are going to be able to fit that budino into your happy belly, you will. And it will be silky, sticky, creamy heaven on a spoon.

We are very pleased and excited to announce that 2014’s last Chef Pop-Up, true to form, brings this slice and spoon of LA heaven to Miami’s Design District for one night only in the form of its James Beard Award Winning executive chef, and maybe if I’m lucky, those amazing placemats.  Best part is, we’ll just be entering our local growing season for the menu.

TICKETS ARE NOW LIVE HERE FOR MOZZA PIZZERIA!

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After esteemed visiting guests Gabrielle Hamilton, Jonathan Waxman, Marc Vetri, Jonathon Sawyer, Kevin Sbraga, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, Paul Grieco, Chris Hastings, Hugh Acheson, Andrew Carmellini, Mindy Segal, Paul Kahan, April Bloomfield, Bill Telepan, Joey Campanaro, Jeff Michaud, Matthew Accarrino, Michael Solomonov, Ben Ford, and John Currence, Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, Jenn Louis, Mike Lata, Matt McCallister, and Tony Mantuano, Michael is thrilled to welcome Matt Molina to Harry’s for Mozza Pizzeria on Tuesday, November 4 at 7PM!

A graduate of the Los Angeles Culinary Institute, Matt began his career at Campanile in Los Angeles. After 6 years at Campanile under the tutelage of Nancy Silverton, Matt went on to train at Del Posto in New York City in preparation for his role as Executive Chef of Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza.  As Executive Chef at Pizzeria Mozza & Osteria Mozza , Matt has received three stars by S. Irene Virbila, the Los Angeles Times food critic, for both restaurants.  In 2008, Matt was nominated for “Rising Star Chef” & “Best New Restaurant” in Osteria Mozza by the James Beard Foundation and later went on to receive the accolade for “Best Chef Pacific” in 2012.

You know the drill. Seating is first come, first served for this family-style meal at our casual neighborhood joint.  Making new friends is encouraged and easy when you’ve got a welcome cocktail in hand with hors d’oeuvres, four courses, free-flowing wines by The Genuine Hospitality Group sommelier and wine director Eric Larkee and our tap beers at your disposal. Take home something special Matt co-authored with Nancy Silverton and Carolynn Carreno, too — The Mozza Cookbook: Recipes From Los Angeles’s Favorite Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria (Knopf, 2011). All that and tax and gratuity are included in the ticket price of $150.

LET’S DO THIS TOGETHER, OK?  We can’t wait to have the opportunity for seconds again in LA after.

Expediting The Genuine Kitchen | A Method to the Madness

One of the many qualities of a successful restaurant is the art of timing a table’s meal effectively, so that courses are properly paced and for guests to receive their meal at once, without compromising freshness. It sets the tone for the entire dining experience. But how exactly? The expediter position, or “expo”. The person tasked with this role is in short, a conductor of the kitchen. The expo monitors the scheduling and quality of the dishes, such as the appropriate temperature, texture, and presentation, and orchestrates the stations behind the line in concert. I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes with Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink’s Chef de Cuisine, Niven Patel, to take a closer look at these intricacies and let you inside the controlled chaos of our back of house to see how the magic happens during service!

Let us talk about the scenery. As soon as I stepped into the kitchen, I felt a rush. The cooks and chefs work with haste, but most importantly with passion. As the kitchen’s fearless leader, Chef Niven presides with calmness yet conviction. He believes that tone, confidence and respect, translate to accurate and passionate execution in the food. He is as focused, if not more so than his team, to set the example and build the group’s ammunition for a busy Saturday evening. The Genuine Kitchen holds four stations: wood oven, grill, sauté and pantry (otherwise known as salads). Despite the specificity of these duties, it does not prohibit a cook from one station to assist in another region of the kitchen when asked by the Chef. Teamwork is everything in this jungle.

Our Wood Oven

Our Wood Oven fires items or components of items from all across the Genuine menu, at once, delicately moved in and around hot spots until each is ready at different times by the cook on this station. Here it’s about half capacity.

Between 7 and 9 p.m. the circus takes place, as these are typically the busiest hours of the night. Due to the rapidity of this point in service, kitchen language and non-verbal queues are essential. The Chef abbreviates certain dishes when calling them out to his cooks; therefore, every person must be very familiar with the menu to avoid kitchen errors: “two cauli, one pus, one 2.5, one shoulder SOS”, meaning two wood oven roasted cauliflowers, one chargrilled octopus, one 2.5 pound snapper, and one slow roasted pork shoulder with sauce on the side.  “Got it?” “Heard!” This is how cooks respond to the Chef to ensure effective communication; a good memory will serve you well here. Or, the Chef may merely extend an olive bowl and a team member knows that it should automatically be filled with marinated olives, without uttering a word. It all goes down very quickly, but despite the speed, cooks must deliver in order to please the Chef, but most importantly the guest.

As he continues to call out orders, the Chef keeps track of all items using slips, which stick on a long metal line. He uses a twistable blue crayon – Niven is very particular – to mark which items are complete. He groups certain tables to maximize efficiency and separates others to allow dinners to enjoy their appetizers, before bombarding them with the next course. At the expo “seat” (they stand) the designated person must anticipate the cooking time for all items and keep cooks on track. There are no timers.  The Chef and cooks can determine exactly four minutes or seven minutes solely from their internal clock, and precision is key.

Monitoring time does not only benefit the table, but it affects the performance of the entire restaurant. For example, staying on schedule for the first three tables helps with timing on the subsequent twenty tables. The Chef uses key words to hold the reigns, such as “on the fly”, to emphasize speed on a particular dish or “all day” to reiterate the number of the times a cook should execute a particular dish: “…all day, you have four groupers and two stracciatella.”  All five senses are put to the test at the kitchen. The Chef can smell when a wood oven roasted double yolk farm egg is ready, determine the appropriate temperature of a steak by its sight, feel the ideal texture of crispy hominy, hear the printer emit the next order slip, and taste the level of spice on a pig ear. It truly is a science.

A talented Chef or Sous-Chef at the expo position is vital; however, the restaurant only comes together due to our dream team. The conductor leads but the orchestra performs, which is the cooks, as their hard work is what leads to dishes that make you gasp. It also entails the food runners, those who deliver dishes from kitchen stations to the correct person at the table. They recognize any dish with a quick glance and understand its composition in order to inform the Chef of what they see at the window and accurately describe to guests what is presented at the table. In addition, a food runner may take over the expo position, sharpen knives, prepare breads, and debone snappers and chickens at the guest’s request, among other duties.


The front of the house is also an important part of the expo equation, which includes the manager on duty (or MOD), servers, and host. The latter reaches out to the Chef to indicate when a large number of guests have been seated at once, otherwise known as a “push”, so that the kitchen may be prepared. Servers share the pace of their table, along with special requests, so that the kitchen can offer the best possible service. Last but not least, the MOD holds a great deal of responsibility, working to ensure any mistakes are seamless with the guest.  As odd as these procedures may sound, they allow us to raise the bar for an unprecedented guest dining experience. Each role is a dance to develop a cohesive choreography in the restaurant and the expediter position is but one of many. “Teamwork makes the Dream Work” indeed.

[VIDEO] Sharing the Royal Wow Behind the Brew

It’s hard to believe but final preparations are being made for the Michael’s Genuine® Pub to set sail from the New York City area in November. You’ve been on the ride with us, from the announcement there in March, to our happy hour to celebrate where it all first began, the Michael’s Genuine®  Food & Drink bar in Miami’s Design District.  Once it is open, we will continue to be closely involved to ensure all is running smoothly, visiting the ships on a regular basis to keep staff motivated and operations well-oiled with our partners at Royal Caribbean International, as we have done since 2011 with 150 Central Park’s Farm-to-Ship program.  This time is special though, of course, as our brand sets sail for the first time on the brand new Quantum Class of ships.  We will be onboard for training, traveling to Bremerhaven, Germany prior to the inaugural transatlantic crossing to further infuse genuine culture onboard.  Through and through the process has been akin to opening one of our restaurants on land — from branding, restaurant design, art by Carl Myers, uniforms, and merchandise, to the menu, its design and paper spec, recipe development, and smallwares procurement.  And of course, ramping up production for some craft beer close to our hearts to be onboard — Michael’s Genuine® Home Brew Classic American Ale and Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale from Back Forty Beer Company in Gadsden, Alabama.

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Est. 1846!

Thanks to our partners at Royal Caribbean and Michael’s role as Quantum Experience Advisor for Culinary, today we take you behind the scenes with Chef and Ryan for Episode 2: Craft Brews at Sea, a voyage to discover how Michael’s Genuine Home Brew is made at its home away from home with BFBC Director of Operations Tripp Collins.  You can also view Episode 1: Genuine Food and Drink Aboard Quantum Class here, featuring Michael and Royal Caribbean International Culinary Director Neal Gallagher as they preview what’s to come at the Michael’s Genuine Pub, including cameos by MGFD HQ chef de cuisine Niven Patel and sous chef Danny Ramirez!

Still thirsty for more Michael’s Genuine Home Brew?  Tune into the shenanigans from Michael’s casual neighborhood joint Harry ‘s Pizzeria® as we prepare for our August 26 dinner with Terrapin Brewing Co. on this week’s Brew in Miami with Miami Herald Food Editor Evan Benn. Catch the new episode later this week on Miami.com and read about it in Saturday’s Tropical Life section of the Herald. Cheers!