Genuine Cayman Legacy | Camana Bay Hosts 4th Annual Slow Food Day

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Next Friday, Hedy, Thomas and I are jetting off to a far away land full of familiar faces for Slow Food Day in the Grand Cayman Islands. Slow Food Day celebrates local farmers, seasonal ingredients and farm-to-table cooking. These ideals are extremely important on the rock, where an off season vegetable has to cross an ocean to end up on a menu. This year, Slow Food asked each chef to conceive their dishes based on a female chef who has inspired them. I asked Thomas and Hedy who they would choose and they both immediately started to rattle off names, some I had heard of and some that were new to me.

Thomas narrowed it down to two, April Bloomfield and Alice Waters. Thomas first met April at an event in Grand Cayman and was immediately drawn to her affinity for high quality meats with heavy seasoning. During a trip to New York City, Thomas ate at The Breslin and had April’s famous Scotch Egg. They have remained friends ever since and her cuisine continues to inspire! Alice Waters’ ideal of using fresh, seasonal ingredients at their peak has influenced many chefs, Thomas especially. When he first took the helm of MGFD Grand Cayman, he held himself to Waters’ standards and made those ingredients the focal point of the menu. In honor of April and Alice, Thomas is preparing a Scotch Egg with Mustard Greens Sauce – using a traditional English recipe with fresh island ingredients.

Hedy chose Maida Heatter, whose cookbook she credits with changing her life. Hedy’s adventures in baking started early, perfecting her Easy-Bake Oven brownies for her mother’s discerning sweet tooth. At Hedy’s first restaurant job, she was given Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts. Diving into the book every night, perfecting, practicing and baking. Maida’s East 62nd Street Lemon Cake was one of the first recipes from the book that Hedy mastered. A few years later, Maida took Hedy to lunch in Miami and introduced her Michael. And the rest was history.  As a tribute to Maida, Hedy will be creating a bounty of desserts, all featuring lemon and other citrus notes.

Slow Food Day begins Saturday morning at the farmer’s market. Thomas will be showing off his Scotch Egg while Hedy and I peck at the produce. In the evening, Hedy is closing out the show with her dessert booth which will be overflowing with citrus treats. Don’t worry, Thomas and I will taste test them all! I am so excited to visit our Grand Cayman outpost with Thomas and Hedy, I promise to report back and take lots of photos!  You can purchase tickets here. And to follow along with Hedy @hedygoldsmith, Thomas @chefttennant, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink Grand Cayman @mgfd_gcm, Slow Food @slowfoodusa and me @honeyitstmoney. See you in Grand Cayman!

#SOBEWFF Reflections and a Recipe: The Chicken & The Egg Together at Last

This past week was filled with food and fun at the 14th annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival.  In true Michael Schwartz fashion, The Genuine Hospitality Group participated in a few genuine ways. There were the pre-parties — our two pop-up dinners unaffiliated with the festival but tied to it in spirit and in genuine people like Chris Cosentino and his motley crew (Jonnatan and Zach!) at Harry’s for Cockscomb Pizzeria. There was the amazing human Richard Betts and his Carla, to keep us on our toes with wine, tequila and mezcal at The Wine Room, and a pool game or three at Club Deuce.

Then we participated in two festival events, the first of which was Michael’s at the Perez Art Museum Miami with Cobaya, Zimmern & Co., and of course more San Francisco shenanigans. Then Hedy closed out with Death by Chocolate on Saturday night, as sweet a finish as it gets with Dallas, Devin and Kump, all documented by Tess. Saturday night was also our last unofficial festival activity at Taquiza, a taco stand for the purists. Ellie Groden, former TGHG all-star summed it up best with her Instagram:

step 1. ask some of the best chefs in miami to make a taco.
step 2. show up with @chefmschwartz and all the chefs send you their tacos
step 3. eat all the tacos.
I think I ate them all twice. @midtownchinese was my fave. thanks @taquizamiami #tacoheaven #sobewff and thanks the rest of you for already having dinner @tamazonn @thebillyharris @jackiesayet @jen_davidsonnyc @ericsaltz

Now you can make Roel’s guest taco at home, with the recipe below. And visit Taquiza, too, for housemade tortillas from blue masa, ground daily using responsibly sourced Masienda landrace corn from Michoacán, Mexico.  We like it fried up in Totopos with guac and a pint of Gringolandia Super Pils from 5 Rabbit Brewery.  Oh, those beautiful baby blues.

Roel’s Chicken Adobo Tacos with Egg Salad

makes 12 tacos

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 pound Chicken Thighs, bone in and skin on
1 large Spanish onion, sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 fresh bay leaves
1 star anise
2 large organic brown chicken eggs
1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
1 red onion, shaved
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Shaved radishes for garnish
Cilantro for garnish
1 dozen Corn Tortillas for serving

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the oil so it thinly coats the bottom of the pan. Season the thighs with salt and pepper. Just as the oil begins to smoke, add the chicken skin side down and sear until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add onions, garlic and tomatoes. Let them sweat, cooking until the onions are translucent but not browning, about 5-7 minutes. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves, star anise and 1 cup of water and gently simmer for 1.5 hours or until the chicken is tender and the liquid reduced until mostly evaporated.

While the chicken is braising, make your egg salad. Fill a 2 quart pot with water and bring to boil. Gently lower the eggs into boiling water. After 7 minutes use a slotted spoon to transfer the eggs into an ice bath and allow the eggs to cool. Softly tap the egg against a counter to crack the shell and carefully peel. If the shell is supremely stuck, run the egg under cold water to loosen. Pass the eggs though a metal strainer to slice. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the eggs, tomato, onion and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the thighs with tongs to a plate to cool, then shred and mix the tender chicken back in with the braising liquid. To assemble the tacos, place a ½ cup of the chicken on a warm tortilla top with egg salad mixture and garnish with radish and cilantro. Enjoy!

Night & Day: Action on the Avenue Happens in a Harry

Harry's at Night

Harry’s got that glow.


Alfresco! Lunch today, fueling up for a busy South Beach Wine & Food Festival Weekend

A full house. Old school hip hop is in the air. Beanies and leather jackets everywhere.  The fun kids are hanging out and sharing a meal and a laugh.  There’s electricity in the air and flowing through the neon PIZZA beacon outside.  This is Harry’s Pizzeria at night, and it’s a party.

Chef de Cuisine Daniel Ramirez (“Danny”) and Sous Chef Chris Cantu (“Cantu”) tag-team on the tickets, the incessant orders coming through the Micros terminal: pizzas with names like Pesto, Bacon and Short Rib… The beat goes on.  This rapidity can’t impede accuracy. The chefs at the wood oven both cook and expedite 10 varieties of house pizzas, in addition to the daily special pie, and chicken wings. It takes about 3-5 minutes to cook each pizza depending on how much wood is Harry’s smoking’ hot oven — and how hot it’s running, somewhere between 7-800° F.  As multiple pizzas cook at once, I wondered, where is the timer? Danny and Cantu laughed in unison. They don’t need a timer. They can effectively monitor cooking times in their heads.

This isn’t your average pizza joint. They “man” the dough of six pizzas at once. I call it a workout! There is also only one ticket machine, and Chris shouts it out. Their flow is choreographed due to skill but also their trust  and co-dependency. There is no written rule; they know the dance and silently take the next step. It’s beautiful to watch.

Meanwhile, behind the counter, servers and managers alike, balance the requests of in-house diners with that of to go orders calling in. They know the menu well, off the top of their heads. Despite all the commotion, they find the time to keep smiling. Christine, a server, apparently has a resting smiling face. Ever heard of it? I seized the opportunity to put in a sizeable to-go order of my own: everything please!

Let’s get back to the pizzas. Although Harry’s is not known for its plain mozzarella or pepperoni pizza, if you want just that, Harry’s makes it happen. When it comes to special orders of any kind, chef Danny’s motto is “if we have it, we make it!” Whether it’s adding shrimp to your pesto pizza or mozzarella to your oyster mushroom pizza, Harry’s genuinely complies.

Meanwhile, the cool kids at the bar sip on beer flights, such as the Cigar City Maduro brown ale- a perfect pairing with the MGFD bacon- while watching some hoops on the big screen. Harry’s at night is the basement playroom you have always wanted, except with way better food. By 8:23pm, there is a wait for indoor tables as valentines, gal-entines, bro-lentines and fam-lentines alike are having too much fun. But the wait is a mere ten minutes, and soon the next group is ready to join the party.

Although this is Miami, no bouncers and no red ropes exist here. But saucy wings do! The wood oven roasted wings are cooked in an agrodolce sauce: slightly sweet, slightly spicy and extremely delicious. The best part is when they are doused in sauce from a squeeze bottle on the deck, one upping even the most sizzled cast iron fajita platter.  Don’t forget to dip into the rosemary crema for a refreshing balance, or to lick your fingers. We won’t judge.

The kitchen supports the wood oven with appetizers, special entrees, salads and desserts, and that evening, Miller and Moses held down the fort. During my watch, I couldn’t help but enjoy the homemade ricotta and caponata with focaccia, while salivating over the chicken Milanese and the buttermilk panna cotta, topped with a strawberry compote.

Let’s not forget Hedy’s treats. You probably all know about the oozing chocolate chunk cookie, but what about the Zeppole? These Italian style donuts are made from pizza dough, fried up and coated with powdered sugar, with honey whipped ricotta on the side. Mind blown!

It’s a little family in here, executing good food at a laid-back neighborhood joint, while keeping the pep in their step. As 10 pm rolled around, I expected the place the be winding down, but not really, it was still poppin’. It’s the genuine food you love, without taking it too seriously.

A Slice of Genuine Life in Cheeseburgers & Fries

Cheeseburger and fries.  Those two little words have been uttered BILLIONS of times around the world. A good cheeseburger can be hard to find. Luckily, we make GREAT cheeseburgers and ADDICTIVE fries across Genuineland and we wanted to take a closer look. Each of Michael’s restaurants — Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink, Harry’s Pizzeria®, Restaurant Michael Schwartz and The Cypress Room — put out a beautiful burger (okay, a meatball is not a burger, and we LOVE Harry’s for it!) From having it your way, to Shake Shack going public, we thought it was about time Genuine burgers had their collective 15 minutes. Below we breakdown this menu staple at each of our restaurants and indulge in our subjects.  It’s a virtual cross section of Genuineland, as seen through meat goggles.

The Sidekicks Fries


 The Burger Breakdown


Restaurant Michael Schwartz at The Raleigh Hotel – “The Girl Next Door”

Chef: Molly Brandt
Meat: Black Angus ground chuck (81%/19% Lean/Fat ratio)
Bun: Sesame brioche
Standard: Butter lettuce, beefsteak tomato, red onion
Optional: Cheddar (pictured), Gruyere, American cheese, blue cheese
Fries: Skin on Idaho, hand-cut, in-house
Ketchup: Heinz 57
Why? For those who don’t want a burger to be all about the meat, this is the one! All the layers are in perfect balance.  Plus that pool!  Just wait 30 minutes before jumping in!


The Cypress Room – “Miss Fancy Pants”

Chef: Roel Alcudia
Meat: Ground chuck beef (75%/25% Lean/Fat ratio) with dry aged trimmings
Bun: Housemade bun developed from Harry’s Pizzeria pizza dough
Standard: Onion marmalade inside, butter lettuce and sliced heirloom tomatoes to the side, with a skewer of cornichon and baby heirloom tomato
Cheese: Jasper Hill Landaff, a raw cow’s milk cheese made in New Hampshire and finished in Vermont
Fries: Idaho potatoes are skinned, boiled, poached in oil and then fried
Why? This is the burger to indulge! When we cut the center, it just oozed juice! 


Harry’s Pizzeria – “The Class Clown”

Chef: Daniel Ramirez
Meat: 50% ground Angus chuck, 25% ground pork shoulder, 25% ground veal, plus brioche breadcrumbs, herbs and egg for binding
Fries: Italian stoneground polenta, parmigiano, garlic and parsley
Ketchup: “Spicy ketchup” made with Heinz 57, caramelized onions, garlic, jalapeños and cilantro
Why? Did you know Michael first put polenta fries on the menu during his Nemo days?  “The spicy ketchup is just weird!” he explains.  “It was after I worked at Chinois… and my training prior to that was Italian. So a lot of my food at Nemo was this mashup between Italian and Asian.” They’re great alone, but the perfect complement together! Snackable and satisfying! Click here for the recipe from Michael’s cookbook!

16331924310_c7e56e4ac4_oMichael’s Genuine Food & Drink – “The Bad Boy”

Chef: Niven Patel
Meat: Harris Ranch black Angus ground chuck (80%/20% Lean/Fat ratio)
Bun: Toasted brioche from La Parisienne
Standard: Bibb lettuce, heirloom tomato
Optional: Vermont white cheddar (pictured), Danish blue, house smoked bacon
Fries: Skin on Idaho, hand-cut, in-house
Ketchup: Heinz 57 
Why? The Original! This is the first genuine burger! After 3 years at his Miami flagship, this bad boy also graced the pages of Chef’s cookbook. Click here for the recipe!

Chef at Home: Daniel Ramirez’s Family Box

Cuban roots run deep in Miami, especially when it comes to lechón. The ultimate labor of love, a roast pig isn’t just something delicious to gather around the table and enjoy, but to make together.  And how you make your chanchito defines who you are and where you come from.  Pig connects generations; it’s the stuff traditions are made of.  Like the best traditional dishes, the recipe for Harry’s Pizzeria chef de cuisine Danny Ramirez’s roast pig can’t be found in a cookbook.  It’s not even written on paper.  His lechón is Abuelito’s, passed down from the master himself and perfected over time.


“My grandfather (my mom’s dad) would kill me if he knew I put ginger in here,” Danny laughed as he ladled a fresh batch of mojo over a whole pig in the back of Harry’s Pizzeria, selected from Mary’s Ranch in Hialeah earlier that morning and still warm from the kill. Using a paring knife, the chef had made several cuts into the flesh, into which he inserted whole cloves of garlic.  Now the fragrant citrus marinade was seeping in, tenderizing the meat for its 6-hour roast the following day in the box, the ultimate in slow cooking techniques.

Roast pig is an excellent lens through which to illuminate the difference in cuisines across cultures. Esther, one of Harry’s prep cooks, was all smiles sneaking looks our way as she worked on her pizza dough.  She asked where the red chili flakes were for the cochon. Danny laughed, “I’m not Creole, baby!”

December 24th and the 31st are the big pig occasions in the Cuban home, and in Danny’s family, we’re not talking Caja China.  Back in the day, Abuelo had a pit with cinder blocks and spit-roasted over guava wood and charcoal.  His friends would come in shifts, in the morning and then afternoon, watching over it.

“My brother and cousins weren’t really that into it, but I was,” Danny continues. “I was about nine or 10 when I think I first realized this was cool. Let’s just play in the backyard so we can chill with Abuelo’, I’d say. He would get the pigs live, and dress them in the backyard. I remember the whole house would smell like marinating pig. It would sit on a big sheet tray on the dining room table, covered with banana leaves and that was it.”

Abuelo moved to Miami in 1968.  As the family, grew it was harder to tend to this spit set up, which requires a lot of work and attention. About 11 years ago, things changed when the master felt his understudy was ready. “Remember that bed frame?” Abuelo asked. “I’m going to build this for you. I’m gonna build you a box. ”  It was about 5 or 6 years ago when Danny first led a roast, and he nailed it.  “I remember the shoulder just falling away from the bone, it was so tender.”

Before each pig roast there is expectation.  Will it be as good as the last time?  You kind of just have to just dive in, do what you know and what you’ve been taught to get it ready, and enjoy the element of surprise… even make it your own.  And Danny did just that.  After the mojo was applied, the 46 pound pig was set into a large cooler overnight to marinate.

The chef was up at 6:30 a.m. the next day, firing up the coals and preparing the pig for the roast.  The chef mixed kosher salt and olive oil into a thick paste, which is lathered and massaged onto the pig before it is tied up and put on the grates. Abuelo was there to serve as sous chef, while his grandson Jacob napped on the living room couch inside, resting up for his call of duty later on.  Danny had taken him fishing the weekend before and he was looking forward to hanging out with daddy again and have another boy’s day, this time to learn how to roast a pig and continue the family tradition.  Daughter Lia, the eldest and with the personality to match, was out of town or she would have been first in line up to the task.  For 6 hours, the three generations tended to the box, checking the temperature and adjusting the rig accordingly by raising and lowering the grates over the embers with specially fitted chains. Danny likes to cook it a little longer, slower, and with lower heat.  Abuelo noticed.

After noon, the neighborhood began to roll in and hang out.  Young and old, family and friends, including some genuine chefs, populated picnic tables on the back porch to share stories and enjoy a crisp, sunny Miami afternoon.   There was still work to be done, and now plenty of people to do it.  The spread was epic in its simplicity, with the main event staged on a table of its own next to the box in which it was cooked. The Cypress Room sous chef Mike Beltran offered his skills to break down the beast, partitioning loins, from candy, crunchy skin, and maybe even squirreling away some of the secret tender parts chefs love to hoard.  The ultimate trophies.  There was Danny’s mom’s boiled yucca with onions that had been sautéed in some of the mojo juice, his grandma’s arroz congri or rice mixed with black beans and salt pork for flavor, and yes there was even salad.  Rather there especially was salad, Danny’s contribution and now a special request of his aunt.  “The first time I made the salad, she was like, ‘Oh my god, what did you do to this?” Danny laughs. “Nothing! I just shaved a bunch of vegetables, lemon juice and olive oil. So now it’s always, ‘Are you going to bring salad?!'”

The yard also featured a patch of young banana trees, and with the telltale signs of a flower from some dried outer petals on the ground.  Sure enough, one of the biggest flowers I’d ever seen was ripe for the picking and we got to work on a Filipino delicacy from a cookbook Roel lent me, Memories of Philippine Kitchens.  A spontaneous addition to the meal, and fun activity for the kids.  The Coco Lopez didn’t quite do the coconut milk in the recipe justice, but Danny swore by it with with leftovers.

You may not have the time to invest in a whole pig roast, but the box isn’t necessary for a great Sunday afternoon meal.  Take a page from Danny’s book.

“90 percent of the time we barbecue, it’s churrasco,” he explains. ” I always buy the bigger flank steak, and what they call picana in Brazil.  We make chimmichuri, and my wife Carolyn marinates it with beer and mustard. Her dad showed her how to do it when she was little.  She’s of Colombian and Irish heritage.  We always have sausage… Morcilla. There are roasted veggies.  And of course, a big colorful salad.”