Homestead Field Report: Growing Season is Verde

Head south on Florida’s Turnpike to Homestead at Exit 5 and you’re in the heart of The Redland, South Florida’s agricultural sweet spot.  As you cross US-1 west, farms, original clapboard homes of early settlers,  u-pick fields and coral rock walls whiz by.  The Redland was named for pockets of red clay in the limestone terrain, which is fed by pure water from the Biscayne Aquifer and has been a natural laboratory for agriculturalists, botanists, and naturalists around the world, including John James Audubon and David Fairchild.  It’s a place locals rush to re-familiarize themselves with this time of year, enduring the tourist-stacked lines for Knaus Berry Farm sticky buns and strawberry shakes, while small white flowers dance on baby plants in the fields behind beckoning a winter harvest that can’t come soon enough.


Imagine before Verde had its tractor… Here Chuck sets the sun hemp, aka ‘green manure’, a few weeks before planting in late summer of 2014, its second season.

But this heartland is more like hardland and no one is more familiar with that than farmer Chuck Lyons.  Like Henry Flagler’s railroad pioneers before him, Lyons had to work hard to coax fertility out of the 5-acre plot now known as Verde Farm.  Not only is its weed pressure serious, but this meticulously laid out field and greenhouse operation was pre-Hurricane Andrew Homestead Air Force Base. That means concrete.


Niven expands his role as chef de cuisine, now not only overseeing his own backyard garden but stewarding our foraging program at Michael’s Genuine. He’s looking forward to spending more time at Verde and learning more skills he can incorporate into Rancho Patel.

“We spent a lot of time and money getting stuff out.  It wasn’t easy, and we weren’t the first to try,” Lyons explains of the land owners before he came in three years ago.  “First off, this is old rockland, not that ideal, receded-Everglades Redland soil. We’ve got grasses, and grasses produce lots of seeds.”

And by grasses, we’re not talking about what’s in your backyard at home. They are sky-high, more like a grass forest.  It took Lyons two weeks with a brush mower to clear the field himself.  He had little equipment or help — a back hoe and concrete saw to  cut through slabs of concrete from the old military base and a skid steer to tear through it.  There were foundation footers with metal beams, and a pile of discarded palates and tires, left from the previous owner.

The operation is a beneficiary of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust and collaborates with Carrfour Supportive Housing, a community comprised of 145 formerly homeless families living in LEED-certified townhouses.  Fresh produce also reaches Camillus House Properties and the Chapman Partnership for the Homeless.  The first main harvests began in October, with fast growing sprouts of greens – and continue into February and March with field harvests.

Today Verde Farms is thriving as a community system, a working organic farm that teaches valuable job skills to the homeless it employs and sells product both wholesale (with outlets like Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink and Coconut Grove’s Glaser Farms Saturday Market) and direct to consumer through its uniquely single farm CSA program.  They grow microgreens, sunflower and pea shoots in their state-of-the-art greenhouse, tender baby greens such as kale, arugula, and a variety of lettuces in raised garden beds in the shade-house, and in the fields, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, and a variety of eggplants including Chef Michael’s favorite — Sicilian.

Behind the marigolds is the kids garden, part of Verde's educational outreach programming.

Behind the marigolds is the kids garden, an outdoor science classroom for Verde’s growing educational outreach programming, both after school and integrated into curriculum at neighboring Mandarin Lakes K-8 Academy.

“My whole season is on paper in July,” Lyon continues. “Cucumbers and squash go in first week of September.  We get a second planting of those, with 55 days to fruit.  To come up with the mix, I think more about what my end customer is going to want and be able to cook with from their farm share.  It’s like I’m planning their menus at home.  We do 100 total different crops, a quarter specifically for wholesale but 75 are for the CSA. Very proud of that. It’s a very important part of the business, and we want to grow it.”

Verde’s CSA is distributed through the Urban Oasis Project‘s network including Upper East Side (6599 Biscayne Blvd, Saturdays 9am-2pm,) Adrienne Arsht Center (1300 Biscayne Blvd., Mondays 4-8pm), and of course at its own location a block or so from the farm (12690 SW 280th Street, Tuesday-Saturday 10-3PM,) which is run by Bill Squire.  They accept SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and double their value up to $20 when spent on Florida fruits and vegetables. This is made possible through Fresh Access Bucks provided by our partners at Florida Organic Growers.  You can sign up here on the CSA page of its website, where you can also donate to the farm program.

“I’m really pleased with where we are now, but we’ve definitely hit a ceiling,” Lyons reflects.  “Currently we’re operating without electricity.  We need cooler space and packing house to really ramp up production, like I know we are capable of.”


[VIDEO] You’ve Got a Weekend Brunch at Cypress Tavern

We were itching for our first brunch at Cypress Tavern the moment we decided to go for it on both Saturday and Sunday.  Getting the restaurant off the ground was fast and furious so dinner naturally was a priority for training.  With the chefs working double time on menus and getting ready for service, brunch came together in as organized a way as on-the-fly can get thanks to technology and a good deal of old fashioned face time.   With menus set and plenty of feedback from the team thanks to patient chefs (more eggs please? more… everything, please?), we knew it was going to be good, but what would it taste and look like?  We decided to make a video at this past Saturday’s first service to find out.

Big thank you to Gio Gutierrez for shooting our footage, always there to jump in when his technology skills are needed.  We hope you enjoy this first taste of what is going down during brunch at Cypress Tavern.

IMG_8632 (1)On the weekends, 18 Savory ($8-22) plates escalating in size offer guests flexibility to craft their brunch experience, whether it’s starting with oysters and the Lobster Omelet with fine herbs (15), or Bibb Lettuce Salad with heirloom tomato, radish, black olive, and creamy Meyer lemon dressing (8) and Eggs en Cocotte with spicy tomato, chickpeas, cilantro, scallion and grilled sourdough (14). Today’s Rotisserie (18) features a special spit-roasted protein, like lamb shoulder, served with roasted potatoes and Meyer lemon salsa verde. Extras (8) including thrice-cooked fries, breakfast sausage and wood grilled asparagus are there when you need them. Seven Sweet ($8-19) dishes delicately touch on all the brunch sweet spots like French Toast with fig compote, pistachio, and crème fraîche (12) and Buttermilk Pancakes with smoked Maldon salt, whipped butter and maple syrup (11). The Chocolate Pot de Crème is a silken stunner, served with toasty, sugared brioche cubes (12).

For dinner menu, full bar offerings including special cocktails for both Dinner and Brunch, and to make a reservation, please visit  Cypress Tavern is located at 3620 NE 2nd Avenue in Miami’s Design District and welcomes walk-ins but encourages reservations at and 305.520.5197. Hours of operation are Dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 6-11 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 12 a.m., and Sunday until 10 p.m, and Brunch Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Closed Monday. $5 Design District Valet is available, as well as street parking in the city lot in between 37th and 38th street.

Harry’s Band’s All Here! Young Musicians Unite Plays it Forward at Coconut Grove F.A.M. Night


Arrowhead Logo

Click the logo to take a trip down memory lane and watch Harry rock it out on his drum set in 2011, a week before opening in the Design District!

Coconut Grove, get ready for Arrowhead!  Michael’s son, drummer Harry Schwartz, performs with his band for the first time at namesake Harry’s Pizzeria for Coconut Grove’s First Saturday F.A.M. Nights on November 7!  Sammy Gonzalez, president of Young Musicians Unite, band leader and Harry’s musical mentor, trains and works with bands like Arrowhead and all the money they raise at shows goes into providing the funds to support free after-school music programs at The Young Mens Prep Academy in Wynwood and The Overtown Youth Center. The kids will do a set 7:30-7:55pm and then another 8:30-8:55pm with Riptide by Vance Joy, Seven Nation Army the White Stripes, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, Break On Through, Be My Girl Jet, and Uptown Funk on the program.  A little more fun for your Harry’s experience and the restaurant’s first live performance ever.  For more information on how you can get involved and support the this life-changing cause visit its Facebook page and follow on Instagram at @youngmusiciansunite.

Coconut Grove F.A.M. Nights run from October through June, every first Saturday of the month from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on McFarlane Road, Grand Avenue, Main Highway, Commodore Plaza, and Fuller Street, Coconut Grove, FL 33133. Sponsored by the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District in collaboration with CocoWalk and local merchants like Harry’s Pizzeria! Events are FREE and open to the public.  Contact: For more information including parking, please visit or call the Coconut Grove BID office at 305-461-5506.  For the latest news and specials at Harry’s Coconut Grove location follow on Instagram @harryspizzeria and #HPCoconutGrove.


A Taste of Cypress Tavern, Opening Tomorrow!

Cypress Tavern Flyer_ Exerior Blog

We’ve been working hard over the past month to ready Cypress Tavern and tomorrow’s the big day!  From mind to paper to reality, Michael’s new American Grill & Cocktail Bar is here.  Our words to live by are now emblazoned on the windows at NE 2nd Avenue and 36th Street.  Most importantly, our staff is pumped to share it all with you after a week of intensive training on the spirit of Cypress Tavern, what the concept means, and how it represents Michael and the food we like to eat here at The Genuine Hospitality Group. You’ll recognize some familiar faces… and meet new ones!

Marrow Bones with Garlic Toast

Marrow Bones with Garlic Toast

Cypress Tavern is rooted in top notch food and service with an old world sensibility. Michael evokes the simplicity of classic brasserie fare in Dinner and Weekend Brunch menus.  Little by little, we’ve toured the dishes just as our Front of House team has, using Cypress Tavern’s Instagram to share images of the food they’ve tasted through, as well as the menu descriptions that Chef put together to explain how product is sourced and dishes are prepared in the kitchen.  So far, French Onion Soup is the favorite in show of likes, with Head Bartender David Ferree’s American Vesper that we are calling Mr. Smith a close second.  As for the most comments?  The wood-grilled Harris Ranch 12 oz. NY strip in Steak Frites — which beat out 11 other steaks to earn a spot on Michael’s entrées list!  “It just ate the best,” says TGHG executive chef Bradley Herron.

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DavidThe Tavern’s menus are suited for exploration, offering a nice variety of what Cypress’ kitchen does best, presented in an approachable way and at a great price point. Dinner includes Appetizers, Entrées, Large Plates and an expanded Sides section from the wood burning grill and rotisserie. On Saturday and Sunday, Savory and Sweet plates escalating in size give guests flexibility in crafting their Brunch experience.  The Genuine Hospitality Group Wine & Spirits Director Eric Larkee takes full advantage of Cypress Tavern’s bar with Head Bartender David Ferree.   We like that David is a beer geek and have enjoyed hearing him walk the team through his list including some solid local craft as well as international beers (3 tap and 9 bottles).  Larkee’s got 50 wines by the bottle, and the two have had a lot of fun working on 17 new cocktails (almost as much fun as we have had as their guinea pigs!).  In what has shaped up to be an intelligent mix of classics with some twists, Cypress’ bar offers 10 total cocktails for dinner and 10 for weekend brunch.


The new

The new

We look forward to welcoming you to a comfortable, classy new restaurant!  Doors open beginning 6PM tomorrow Thursday, October 29 at 3620 NE 2nd Avenue in Miami’s Design District, walk-ins welcome and reservations encouraged.   Call 305.520.5197 or email to book.   Dinner: Tuesday to Thursday 6PM – 11PM, Friday and Saturday until 12AM, and Sunday until 10PM. Weekend Brunch (Beginning this Halloween weekend!): Saturday and Sunday 11AM – 2:30PM. Closed Monday. $5 Design District Valet is available, as well as street parking in the city lot in between 37th and 38th street.  Visit for current menus.


Tune In Alert! Michael’s Moveable Feast Episode Debuts on PBS Tomorrow

From a stone crab season ending to another beginning, it’s time for our Miami episode of  Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking, airing Saturday nationwide on PBS!  In Miami, tune into WLRN-TV tomorrow, October 24 at 11:00 a.m. to watch.


FIne Cooking Cover

Find Michael’s recipe for the party’s dessert, grilled peaches with honey and Greek yogurt, in the October/November issue of Fine Cooking magazine on news stands now. Or click here!

A HUGE Biscayne Bay thank you to Related Group for letting us throw a party with a crew of plus ones on their gorgeous Paraiso Bay sales center deck, the envy of all location scouts.   Join host Pete Evans, Australia’s paleo chef, as Michael cooks a meal sourced from our urban jungle with chef Giorgio Rapicavoli.   The first stop is Sublicious Farms for Scott Lyon’s walk-in cooler shipping container-farmed oyster mushrooms, as pretty as the pastel shades of the Bay’s easterly sunsets.  Then it’s off to Casablanca Fish Market to source some fresh catch for Michael’s crab fritters and mixed Florida seafood fideuà.   Watch a preview of the episode below, courtesy of WGBH and Taunton Press Inc., and for our behind the scenes shots of the May 7 shoot, click here.