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.

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.

Virtual Pub Crawl Part II | Charcuterie & Cheese

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MGP_Menu_Front_9.10MGP_Menu_Back_9.10It’s almost time for Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas to set sail, so before The Genuine Hospitality Group team heads to Bremerhaven, Germany to train a new crew of genuine staff, we’re inviting you into the process here as we count down the days (23!) with a virtual tour of our menu. View Part I | Snacks here and all Michael’s Genuine Pub coverage here.

Today we continue with food and the delicious middle of the front of menu, Charcuterie & Cheese. We chose to work exclusively with La Quercia for their amazing artisan cured meats using only the best ingredients, produced responsibly, and hand-crafted in Iowa.

MGP_Speck AmericanoSpeck Americano: Speck is made using a boneless rear leg of pork that is smoked with applewood for a smoky aroma and flavor, then aged 9-10 months. The breeds of hog used are Duroc or Berkshire crossed on Lancaster from Heritage Acres or Niman Ranch. Order a Brooklyn Lager from the Pub draft while you are at it.

MGP_LomoLomo Americano: Boneless pork loin aged for 3-6 months in Sea Salt, Pimenton de la Vera, and Cocoa for a rich, meaty, subtle, and light smoky flavor.  Breeds are generally Tamworth or Berkshire crossed on Lancaster / Duroc / Berkshire cross.  Pigs are raised by Heritage Acres. Aged 3-6 Months. Enjoy with Lua Rossa No. 2!

MGP_BorselinoBorsellino Salami: A salami made of pork ground with some sea salt and celery and aged for 2 months. The flavor is mild and meaty with a touch of fennel. Breeding is mixed, generally Duroc or Berkshire crossed on Lancaster from Heritage Acres or  Niman Ranch. A light, rich white wine like Au Bon Climat’s Santa Barbara Chardonnay would be great here.

MGP_LandaffLandaff: A semi-firm, pasteurized and cave-aged cow’s milk cheese that is tangy with a clean, buttery finish. Jasper Hill is a working dairy farm with an on-site creamery in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. An underground aging facility maximizes the potential of cheeses made by the creamery, as well as those made by other local producers. Leftover whey from the cheesemaking process is fed to heritage breed pigs, roaming the woodlands beyond the cows’ pasture. Really proud to have this cheese onboard, as it’s a regular at The Cypress Room making The Cypress Burger sing!

MGP_Midnight MoonMidnight Moon: A semi-soft goat’s milk cheese that is aged for six months resulting in an ivory-colored cheese is dense and smooth with a nutty and brown butter flavor up front and a long caramel finish.  Goat milk is sourced from Cypress Grove’s California farm, and the cheese is made in Holland exclusively for them. You may also recognize this creamery’s flagship cheese and one of my personal favorites, Humbolt fog!

MGP_Point ReyesPoint Reyes: A blue cheese made from raw cow’s milk from California and aged for 6 months. This cheese has a creamy texture with layers of full sweet flavor with a medium blue cheese tang. It’s kosher and gluten free!  In 1904, Great Grandfather Tobias Giacomini left Northern Italy and landed in Northern California with a dream of raising chickens and cows. The Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company is just one of those great American family stories, and we are proud to bring their product to our Royal Caribbean family on Quantum of the Seas.

MGP_The Pub BoardThe Pub Board: An assortment of cured meats & cheeses served with sourdough bread, cornichons & accompaniments including frisee, Dijon mustard, crostini.

[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.