Triggering a Conversation in the Great Fish Debate

Welcome back Kristina! Ms. Francillon, no stranger to The Genuine Kitchen and @MGFD_MIA where she is responsible for the weekly Sunday Brunch bell, joins us this summer as Brand Coordinator. Whilst juggling her role at HQ as a Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink reservationist, she’ll be supporting marketing efforts across all The Genuine Hospitality Group restaurants. You can follow Kristina on her blog at tastingitlikeitis.wordpress.com or on Instagram @tastingitlikeitis.

At The Genuine Hospitality Group, using local and seasonably-sourced ingredients is as much a part of company culture as it is our kitchens. So it really hit home when we caught wind of the recent publication (June 26, 2014) of “American Catch: The Fight for our Local Seafood” by James Beard Award-winning author Paul Greenberg, especially the wave of mainstream headlines that followed. Greenberg noted in a recent interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air that, according to Oceana, seafood may be mislabeled at all points of the supply chain including restaurants as often as 25 to 70 percent of the time for fish like red snapper, wild salmon, and Atlantic cod, disguising species that are less desirable, cheaper or more readily available. Shocking indeed to know our very own industry is one of the biggest offenders in this delicate ocean-to-table dynamic. In his novel, Greenberg also discusses how over 90% of the seafood consumed in America, is imported from Asia and is farmed, particularly shrimp, salmon, and tilapia.

In light of this national discussion that has bubbled up, we thought it was a great opportunity to hear what our trusted expert on fishing local waters had to say about it all. George Figueroa of our purveyor Trigger Seafood is never one to hold back on making his opinions known nor shy from jumping behind the line to whip up Florida lobster ceviche as he did for Vice Munchies (see minute 9:18) — only part of why we love him! Through his lens, we focus today on the disadvantages of non-local seafood and ways we can continue to support the fishing industry off our own shores.

Trigger Seafood is a fishing specialist in South Atlantic waters, which encompasses the Keys and South of US 1. George has supplied TGHG restaurants with local, wild caught seafood, since our inception and primarily offers us triggerfish, wreckfish, yellow jack, cobia, snappers, and more since Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink first opened in 2007.

Kristina: George, thank you for taking a few minutes to speak with us. How long have you been a fisherman and what attracted you to the field?

George: I have been involved in the local industry all of my life, due to my family. As far of making it a business, we have been here since 2004.

Kristina: Paul Greenberg’s recent publication: “American Catch” has caused a buzz about the perils of importing seafood, rather than consuming local fish; what are some disadvantages in your opinion of imported and non-local seafood in general?

George: As long as it is domestic, I usually feel pretty strongly about the fish. There is more quality control with an American product. Of course, the closer you are to the fish, the quality will be better. For example, Pompano Beach is within an hour drive and you have control of what is being fished; whereas, if you are buying a fish from Seattle, you may not be familiar with the fish or the fishery. The closer you are to your fish source, the greater the quality of that product. If you are buying a fish from another country, you are not sure of who packs it, how, or in what period of time; that is my greatest concern. Salmon is the most common fish consumed in the US and over 85 % of it is farmed. Some farms use non-natural food, a form of keratin in the fish’s feed, which gives it the false color. The orange that you see on a salmon is not natural, typically.

In the walk-in, Raul holding up a mutton snapper

In the walk-in, Raul holding up a mutton snapper in the Michael’s Genuine walk-in cooler.

Kristina: Wine producers are able to indicate a level of quality with the “AOC” label, for example. Does the fishing industry offer a similar method to control what we consume?

George: NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) monitors everything that is caught in the United States. They monitor quota, sustainability, seasons and what is being caught. You have certain quality controls with NOAA. The key is to consume something domestic; once you leave the country, those rules can no longer be applied.

Kristina: How can consumers educate themselves on the matter?

George: In stores, it is difficult [to mislead the consumer] because stores have to label by FDA standards. But in the restaurant business it is a lot more private and they can get away with anything. They can mention local and it may not be. Unless the consumer does some research on the restaurant and finds out who the purveyors are, then they can be more sure. I offer restaurants the opportunity to put my name as a purveyor of local fish and label where it comes from, which helps the consumer.

You can also visit websites for NOAA and FWC (The Florida Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Commission). With that information, you will know the expected size of a fish and you can check the season to know when a fish is available. In that way, you ensure that you get the variety that you asked for and that it is in fact, local.

Kristina: What are some other benefits of consuming local seafood?

George: Obviously, it helps our local industry and our sustainability, by buying the correct fish at the right season. You could choose not to elect an out of season fish, to avoid imported and commercialized [options].

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Tigger Seafood’s Yellowjack on the prep table at Harry’s Pizzeria, at the hands chef de cuisine Steven Martin. This particular fish may ultimately be served as a filet, but it’s always coming into the restaurant whole.

Kristina: Cobia, grouper, mahi, and snapper are well known local fish in the Genuineland, but what are some other varieties that have a strong Florida presence?

George: Wahoo is another option, wreckfish found in the Cape Canaveral area, American barrel fish, and pompano. If they go to the FWC and NOAA websites, consumers can review our local species to determine what is sustainable and available.

Kristina: Our team is proud to feature your fresh fish at our restaurants and we thank you for your input on this debate. Do you have any additional points you would like to share?

George: If they know whom they are buying from, they can be more educated on what they are getting. Obviously buying the local product, you will get a fresher fish.

You want to keep your sources close.

To learn more about local sourcing, visit our “sourcing” section on the blog and of course, stay tuned for further coverage. You may also visit the NOAA and FWC websites, which George mentioned, listed below for your convenience.

http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/

http://myfwc.com/fishing/

From Barrel Aged Summer Spritzes to Special Midcourse Dishes, The Cypress Room Raises the Miami Spice Bar

Ryan and The Cypress Room bartender Christian Carnevale working out the restaurant's new Barrel Aged Spritz recipes earlier this week.

Ryan and The Cypress Room bartender Christian Carnevale working out the restaurant’s new Barrel Aged Spritz recipes earlier this week.

For Michael, Miami Spice is what you make of it and The Cypress Room is taking this to heart beginning August 1 when it participates in the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau’s annual summer promotion for the second consecutive year, offering a Lunch (23) prix fixe Monday through Friday, and Dinner (39) Monday through Thursday, with the addition of supplemental midcourses and cocktails at special prices.

“For me, Spice is about doing it right or not doing it at all. We spend lots of time figuring out which restaurant should take on the challenge and how to tackle it – from the content to how it is formatted on paper,” he says. “I’ve been very proud of the work chef de cuisine Roel Alcudia and his team have been doing day-in and day-out with The Cypress Room’s tasting menus, so Spice presents the perfect opportunity to continue to offer fresh, inventive prix fixe menus there, with the stakes raised. We look really closely at what makes the most sense for us at the greatest benefit to the customer.”

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Hedy Goldsmith’s “Coconut” dessert on the Miami Spice Dinner menu, featuring local fruits of the summer season – fresh mango and passionfruit.

For Lunch, Roel offers a first course choice of Tartine of Vegetable Escabeche with avocado mousse and radishes, Beet and Stone Fruit Salad with fontina, or Smoked Local Fish with mixed grains and bitter greens; midcourse supplements at a special price of Royal Red Shrimp with coconut, lime and puffed rice (10), Beef Tartare with truffle vinaigrette, potato chip, and pickled mushroom (9), and Tortellini with rabbit, spinach and parmigiano (8); second course options of The Cypress Burger with onion marmalade and Jasper Hill Landaff, Salt Cod with black bomba rice and saffron aioli, or Poussin with long bean almondine and glazed pearl onions; and the predicament of selecting amongst executive pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith’s finely-spun desserts including Floating Island with passion fruit and pistachio or Chocolate with Panther Coffee espresso and tart cherry pâté de fruit.

Dinner brings a first course choice of Vichysoisse with arugula pesto and American caviar, Stone Fruit with charred bread, farmer cheese, pine nuts and herbs, or Oxtail Terrine with pickles; midcourse supplements at a special price of Lamb Tartare with quail egg and toast (15), Marrow Bone with preserved lemon, celery, and garlic toast (12), and Risotto with seasonal vegetables (11); second course options of The Cypress Burger with onion marmalade, Jasper Hill Landaff, and thrice cooked fries, Local Fish with kale purée, shaved zucchini, and anchovy butter, Rabbit Minestrone with chili oil and sourdough, or Porchetta alla Romana with salsa verde and green salad; and Goldsmith’s sweet finish of Coconut Cake with white chocolate crémeaux, mango, passion fruit, and lime meringue or Chocolate and Caramel Torte with candied peanuts.

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Ryan delivers fancy new Spritz glassware to the delight of  lunchtime bartender Noelle Service yesterday.

For the first time, the restaurant’s Miami Spice menus will include a printed special section of Barrel Aged Spritzes for $9 each, beverage director Ryan Goodspeed’s light twist on his cask program. Each of the four drinks – Old Pal, Pomme Charmé, Bonnie & Clyde, and Viuex Carré – are made to order, served up in an etched cocktail glass with a couple of Kold Draft ice cubes.

“It’s summer and we’re all thinking about drinks with a slightly lower alcohol content, something a little refreshing and that won’t put you away after one or two,” Ryan explains. “We wanted to offer something special just for Spice and Michael thought why not do spritzes? The Cypress Room bartender Christian Carnevale and I fooled around with the barrel aged cocktails as a base, each livened in a different way, and I think they came out pretty great!”

The Cypress Room Miami Spice begins Friday, August 1, and runs Monday through Friday for Lunch at $23 and through Thursday for Dinner at $39. Menus are updated daily and subject to change online at thecypressroom.com, and customers should expect items to change often. Follow the restaurant on Instagram and Twitter @thecypressroom and hashtag #ilovemiamispice for regular posts of what’s new. The restaurant is located at 3620 Northeast Second Avenue in Miami’s Design District. Reservations recommended by calling 305.520.5197 or emailing reservations@thecypressroom.com.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow, the Genuine Pasta Game Got Serious

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In good hands: gemelli rustica.

“Semolina and Double O,” Bradley projects above the clang and clatter of a typical morning in Michael’s Genuine’s back of house.  Pouring a thick yellow stream of grain into a squat, heavy-looking machine, followed by a thin, white one, he continues, “So it’s 1500 grams of semolina, the coarser grind, for structure and bite, and 500 grams of Double O to absorb the liquid.  The ratio is key.”

For all its artisanal allure conjuring images of La Nonna coaxing magic from dough with hands creased by the wisdom of generations, sugo stewing on the stove for hours in her small Tuscan cottage, great pasta comes down to simple math.  These grandmas of the Old World know the formula.  It’s imprinted in their memory bank, a kind of skill that doesn’t come easily, that is to say, quickly.  It’s slow food in the strictest sense.  The Lancaster, PA-based manufacturer Arcobaleno, Italian for rainbow, has captured this essence of perfect pasta and made it available in a machine.  One specimen now calls Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink and the Design District home thanks to Michael, to the joy of the kitchen crew.

“We add 25-30 percent liquid,” Bradley continues. “It can be water, it can be egg yolks.  It can be squid ink and water. It can be beet juice and water. You can make colors and shit. We haven’t gotten there yet.”  He flips the switch commencing a gentle hum.  “You let it knead for about 5 minutes, and it’s done.”

The machine works as a kneader and extruder, using lead-heavy brass attachments as thick as hockey pucks to force freshly-made dough through a pattern of holes, each specific to a pasta shape.  The brass is somewhat porous, responsible for the rough finish to the ridged shapes (“perfect for catching sauce”!)  This metal also requires gentle cleaning; Bradley soaks them in water only, loosening the dough and preventing the absorption of unwanted clingers-on.

Michael was turned onto Arcobaleno by our friends at Philly’s master pasta-making restaurant group, the Vetri Family.  Under the tutelage of chef Marc, his team including chef Jeffrey Michaud, have lived and breathed Italian culture and cuisine, especially in their home away from home, the northern city of Bergamo, taking sometimes more than annual trips for inspiration and education.  “Arcobaleno makes a mean pasta extruding machine and hasn’t let us down in 10 years.  I would recommend this to anyone who is serious about making pasta!” Jeff says.  Just check out his spread at the chefs’ party that Osteria hosted for last month’s Great Chefs Event in support of Alex’s Lemonade Stand.  Serious pasta doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface!  Our unit arrived about a month ago and has already been a game changer for chef de cuisine Niven Patel and sous chefs Jason Arroyo, Daniel Ramirez, and Manny Arredondo; it’s not only that you can taste the difference.

“Before we’d put the flours and the eggs in the mixer, knead the dough, let the dough rest and the next day, roll the pasta out with our sheeter – basically two rollers that squeeze the dough to a desired thickness – then you cut noodles from there,” Bradley explains.  “It’s very limiting. You can only make flat noodles like pappardelle, fettucini, and linguini, and then filled pasta like raviolis. With this machine you can still make sheets, which is mind boggling that you can do that from an extruder. And then we can make forced shapes that come out practically dried, so like gnocchi sardi and gemelli rustica.  Normally when you have a flour and water dough it needs to be super dry in order to keep its shape – if it’s too wet it will deflate and get flat.  It won’t even make it to being dry.  That’s the importance of having the water ratio in here be 30 percent.  They say if you squeeze it and then break it and it’s smooth, then it’s done. Basically it needs time for the semolina to hydrate.”

Lunch and dinner menus now each feature a daily pasta, the likes of bucatini with crispy pork belly, thai chilies, kale, and poached pns farm egg and gnocchi sardi with shiitake mushrooms, house smoked bacon, cipollini onions, and piave vecchio, but Bradley swears by good old butter and parmigiano to really taste it.  “Once you’ve had flour and water pasta made this way and cooked in salt water, it’s like the best thing you’ve ever had.”

Exploring Photography at The Cypress Room

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The job of a chef-restaurateur is as much about designing a menu as it is about conjuring the dining experience.  The service, the room, the lighting, the music… these elements define hospitality and come together to create that magical thing called sense of place.  It’s that feeling you get when you walk into a dining room and are transported somewhere, some time even.  If the restaurant does it right, it’s like reading a great book.  You dive right in and lose yourself in a new world, only to find something special to take with you forever.

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If you have ever been to The Cypress Room, you have seen the wall of black and white old Florida photographs in the dining room, in part responsible for creating its unique sense of place.  Since photography is one of my passions, we decided to focus on this theme for my last project as summer brand intern, the evolution of spring’s poetry collection for “O, Miami”.  Working again with Nathaniel Sandler at Bookleggers, I visited his archives Downtown to hand-pick this month’s display of books which we’ve entitled “Through the Looking Glass: Photography at The Cypress Room.”   You can now find them installed in each restroom.  

I also created an archive of our own for the photo wall, to dig deeper into these images’ significance and place in Miami’s history, spanning the late 1800s to late 1900s. Coming soon is a book recording the details of each picture hanging, from which you can find a preview below. Be sure to stop by and take a look to discover the mysteries of the hanging photographs and choose your own adventure within our four walls. The Cypress Room will post on Instagram when our first copy arrives from Blurb!

Some of the covers of the books in the new photography collection.

Some of the covers of the books in the new photography collection.

Ernest Hemingways sons, Patrick and Gregory, in Cuba

Ernest Hemingways sons, Patrick and Gregory, in Cuba

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J. Fritz Gordon, Al Capone and Mayor of Havana, Julio Morales, 1930, On Back: In Havana, don’t ask for beer, ask for “Tropical.” Souvenir from Tropical Garden, Havana, Cuba, 1930.

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People on the Beach, Robert Vignola (Front) and Ruth Snow (Middle).

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Marking 75 years of New York-Miami service, 1900′s; Engine No. 1034 breaks the tape on track No. 3 in Miami marking 75 years of Florida Special New York-Miami service. Joan Cooke typifies the bathing beauty of the 1888 era. Michal Flotkin is the beauty on the right.

Back in ‘Bama, Full Steam Ahead: Crafting the Home Brew Story

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Michael and Ryan with the 2014 Back Forty Beer Co. family, shot on site at the brewery yesterday.

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The team in 2012!

What a difference two years can make.  As Michael prepares to set sail on Quantum Class with Michael’s Genuine Pub in the fall, we flash back in order to cruise forward into uncharted waters with Back Forty Beer Co.  For this first American gastropub on the high seas, as with its progenitor in the Design District, good food and good beverage go hand in hand.  Michael’s menu of Snacks, Charcuterie & Cheese and Sweets is complemented by American craft cocktails & spirits, beer and wine at the hands of Beverage Director Ryan Goodspeed and Wine Director Eric Larkee on the flip side.

Today our focus is craft beer, with Michael and Ryan making the trip north to Gadsden, Alabama this week for some southern hospitality, with a crew from Royal Caribbean in tow to capture it all.  Michael’s new role as Quantum Experience Advisor for Culinary affords us a unique opportunity not only to influence food and beverage offerings class-wide, but to educate the cruising public on his fresh, simple, pure approach fortified by relationships with suppliers. What better setting than a family reunion with our partners in Michael’s Genuine Home Brew?

“Gadsden is great! It’s been fun having Michael and Ryan in town for a few days,” says Back Forty’s Director of Operations Tripp Collins.  “Gadsden hasn’t changed a whole lot from the outside looking in but there are a lot of things on the horizon in terms of economic development.”

When we began working with Back Forty in March 2012, the brewery had just released its first production batch of beer from 4, 30-barrel (bbl) fermentors.  The facility is now home to 6, 30 bbl tanks and 5, 60 bbl tanks, and there are plans for 5 more 60 bbls this summer.  And only four months after introducing Naked Pig Pale Ale and Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale in aluminum cans, the brewery just announced Freckle Belly IPA and Fence Post Session Ale in 12-ounce cans.  This, while continuing to package its complete line of year-round craft beers in 12 and 22-ounce glass bottles, making Back Forty the first Alabama brewery to offer all three options.

“Right now, we are in full swing with our Summer Seasonal, Paw Paw’s Peach Wheat. Wheat base with peaches. Crisp, refreshing and smells like Summer,” Tripp adds.  “I am really excited about our Rye Saison that we will put out in July, its a small batch, draft only release. Rye malt, local rosemary, juniper berries, peppercorns should work well in the style.”

Back Forty’s name is inspired by an old agricultural term referring to the 40 acres of land situated furthest from the barn. The back 40 acres are historically the most challenging land to maintain and are often overlooked due to their remote location.  Likewise, Alabama has historically been seen as the wasteland for craft beer in America, dominated by mass produced light beer.  By digging a little deeper into its rarely-used, fertile soil, the company has successfully cultivated Alabama’s market for craft, overcoming multiple challenges including a prohibition-era legal environment.  At the end of the day, it comes down to great product, and these guys and gals have their liquid down pat.

After the crew scouted Back Forty’s 27,000 Sq. Ft. 1940′s-built warehouse, Tripp and his family invited the whole team back to the house for a back porch, southern-style meal.

“We did not allow Michael to cook,” Tripp continues. “I had a few boxes of local produced delivered. Several types of lettuces, carrots, beets, onion, and cucumber were the base for smoked turkey from a nearby BBQ restaurant and chicken that I grilled and smoked at the house. We picked up some Conecuh sausage out of Evergreen and topped it with homemade pimento cheese. Of course there were several Home Brews consumed along with plenty of BFBC cans. Everyone from the brewery was there. It was just a good night of food, beer and friends.  I cannot discuss any particular anecdotes due to the fact there was moonshine involved…”

Michael and Ryan kept us all up to speed at HQ with lots of video and Instagramming, from revisiting Saw’s BBQ for lunch to learning about the Caraaroma malt that makes up only about 3% of the grain bill for Home Brew but really defines its flavor profile.  There may even be Back Forty Beer Co. mash in the future of Harry’s Pizzeria pizza dough!  All in all a very productive and trip.  Birmingham-based James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Hastings even popped an appearance last night, to the reminiscent delight of team genuine.

“The Royal Caribbean crew has been great to work with,” Tripp reflects.  “We still get excited seeing our beer in new places, getting to see it set sail is going to be amazing. We ware still working out the details on specific BFBC beers on the ship. I hope the story told through this webisode will go a long way in opening that door for our beers along side MGHB on the Quantum of the Seas.”

Cheers to that!