Slow Fires at Cypress Tavern | Chef Justin Smillie’s Cookbook Dinner & Upland Miami Preview

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Chef Justin Smillie is coming to town, and he’s making a stop with Schwartz first! Before Upland — the restaurant he opened in NYC with Stephen Starr, named after his hometown in California — opens in Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood later this fall, we will welcome him for a cookbook dinner and preview of the deliciousness to come.  Join us Tuesday, October 25 at 7pm for Slow Fires at Cypress Tavern. TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE HERE TODAY!  Included for $195 are passed canapes, welcome cocktail, 4 plated courses including wine pairings, a signed cookbook, and tax and gratuity.  And Justin’s company of course!

 

Cypress Tavern chef de cuisine Max Makowski knows what's up. He had his copy long before we confirmed Justin!

Cypress Tavern chef de cuisine Max Makowski knows what’s up. He had his copy long before we confirmed Justin!

Drawing on his rural youth — the rustic elements of the outdoors including regular camping trips, foraging for wild ingredients, and fly-fishing — for inspiration, Justin worked his way through some pretty incredible kitchens to get where he is today, making his own mark. From Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Mercer Kitchen to Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern and Jonathan Waxman’s Washington Park and Barbuto, he fell in love with the bold flavors and rustic techniques showcased in the restaurant, and this philosophy would stick with him. We too got bitten by the Smillie bug after memorable meals at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, where he earned three stars from The New York Times.

In November 2015, the chef released Slow Fires: Mastering New Ways to Braise, Roast, and Grill. His first book, which is published by Clarkson Potter, explores the fundamental techniques of braising, roasting, and grilling–and shows you how to see them in new ways, to learn the rules to break them.  We can’t wait to do just that after trying to wrangle Justin for what seems like forever. Can’t believe it’s happening. Pinch yourself. It’s real!

A quick note on ticketing for this event: We are pleased to try out Mixstir for the first time, a South Florida-based company (which we are always happy to support!) with an easy-to-use and beautiful e-ticketing interface. We think you’ll think it’s a great improvement, too.  Please email me your feedback if you’d like at jackie@thegenuinehospitalitygroup.com.  We are eager to hear what you think, and look forward to seeing you on October 25!

[Recipe] It’s Lights Out With This Cookbook & These Schwartz Nachos

Trivia time! Which of the following MGFD classic-inspired nachos got the Schwartz stamp of approval when food and travel writer Gina Hamadey — also fellow comrade in Karaoke (where’s that video!?) — asked a recipe contribution for her new cookbook?

A) Sweet & Spicy Pork Belly Nachos — kimchi, kimchi hollandaise, scallions, blue corn tortillas
B) Shredded Pork Shoulder Nachos  fontina, pickled red onions, parsley sauce, serrano peppers, avocado, crispy flour tortilla chips
C) Pastrami Nachos — red cabbage, caramelized onions, thousand island, gruyere, chopped parsley, crispy flour tortilla chips
D) Chilaquiles  Nachos — tomatillo-cilantro sauce, black beans, diced tomato, sour cream, charred corn, cotija cheese, fried farm eggs, corn tortilla chips

Here’s a weekend present for you.  The answer is B, for a bonafide bowl of Michael Schwartz Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder nachos.  Trust me, I tested it — more for incredulity than accuracy — and it’s off the wall amazeballs.  Just in time for a weekend of football!  One small but important bit of advice… Use Florida avocados here. They’re everywhere now and like the companion fruit to the pork shoulder — more juice!  Just like Chef likes it.

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Love & Learn | MJ’s Seasonally Sweet & Relentlessly Prolific Pastry Program

Snapshot of now via #MGFDpastry

Snapshot of now via #MGFDpastry on Instagram. They’ve been busy.

MJ spending some stage time with master baker Tomas Strulovic.

MJ being a sponge for all things bakery, staging with True Loaf’s Tomas Strulovic.

There’s no “i” in pastry, and Maria Jose “MJ” Garcia will be the first one to tell you.  We last checked in with our pastry chef at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink to learn about her department’s regular role in the ella display case — namely the café’s daily donut.  Today’s angle zooms out to capture the scope of what’s going on these days at Michael’s Genuine (a lot), and how — in addition to the invaluable supportive role it plays within our growing organization — pastry is driving much of the research and development in our flagship kitchen.

MJ maintains that to become really good at what you do, you have to have really good team that works hard together to grow, referring to the chemistry and commitment of pastry assistants Alexandra Sarria (lead) and Chelsea Hillier, with their support staff.  “We can always get 10 times better, as we mature as cooks,” she explains. “But these girls have challenged themselves really hard and trusted me with their careers. They have the foundation; they respect their roots and sometimes that’s all you need.”

Always learn

Always learning new techniques (for our benefit! Thanks MJ!)

You first need to know that MJ grew up in kitchens — her father owned eight restaurants from Venezuela to Miami — so it became a place where she felt most comfortable.  The family is originally from Galicia, Spain and spending several months out of the year abroad in her youth set MJ on a path where travel and the experience of other cultures, especially the European way of life, played a formative role.  She studied philosophy and then started teaching, saving to pay her way through culinary school, her ultimate passion. It would propel her to the U.S. from Venezuela in search of the level of gastronomy and environment necessary to develop her craft and gain experience working for the best.

Moving to Miami in 2010, MJ enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu and began researching local restaurants and chefs. Self described as “obsessive” when it comes to details, she was drawn to pastry because of the precision and technique it requires. “I had more confidence, enjoyed the control of flavors and understood the chemistry,” she explains. “The different components and how they interact and work together is so specific as compared to the culinary part of the kitchen.”

She had heard of Michael Schwartz, his pioneering style of food focused around local ingredients in season at flagship neighborhood bistro Michael’s Genuine.  So MJ just decided one day to show up on the restaurant’s doorstep, and it paid off.  She would do anything to be in that kitchen and ended up staying on as an intern for six months under the guidance of then acclaimed James Beard nominated pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith. In fact, she completed another internship, this time the one she needed for school credit, at South Beach’s Raleigh Hotel.

Looking back on her influences and how they shape her approach today, MJ contends the simple, traditional desserts that she experienced in Spain, Italy and France — those born from recipes perfected over time — are her benchmark as a pastry chef.  MJ thinks and develops desserts in terms of “food flow”,  how she describes cooking with the seasons, that biological clock that makes so many food cultures across Europe tick.  She also wants the sweets developed for the menu to be delicate, just sweet enough and most importantly not over-complicated.  Her dad was the kind of person who would drive miles to get the perfect bread.  She recognized and admired that in Michael and also early on in the Michael’s Genuine kitchen under then chef de cuisine Bradley Herron — the importance of sourcing — to look for quality or the person who does it the best.  “We just want to do one thing well with each dessert using good quality ingredients — not a lot of things and not over the top.”

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Miami winter on a plate: Almond Absinthe Cake from January 5, 2016

She points to Almond Absinthe Cake with Florida strawberries and tangerine curd, a dessert that went on last winter as encapsulating her approach.  “It respects seasonality of South Florida with freshness, combined with this nut flour-based cake which is traditional to the region where my dad is from. And a subtle hint of sweet licorice flavor reminds me of my teenage years!”

The seasons also perform another function for Genuine pastry — creating a feeder system and momentum for new menu items.  There’s a lot of planning that goes into the process, about a month ahead, sometimes more. She’ll get the team together to sit down and talk about what’s coming in, sharing ideas and then testing them, putting things out as specials to see what’s working and what’s not in the dining room. Big seasonal crops for South Florida – like citrus for instance – are long and abundant, so MJ particularly flags this annual challenge in advance as an opportunity to keep things interesting. “We can’t enter a season guessing,” she asserts.

Vegetarian ice cream! Vanilla Kulfi with citrus, ginger, rosewater and pistachios

Vegetarian ice cream as beautiful to eat as it is to look at! Vanilla Kulfi with citrus, ginger, rosewater and pistachios, from March.

mgfd-new-dessert-sectionsAs for her style, she’s always followed her instincts, an approach that has proved fruitful in life and in the kitchen with her husband and chef de cuisine at Cypress Tavern, Max Makowski.  “As a chef, you have a passport to do whatever you want and seek out new opportunities to learn.”  They’ve never been afraid of change and taking chances, following their guts to learn whether it be in Seattle or Denver, where MJ moved for two years before returning to Genuine in her current position. They decided to get to married and Max had established himself in the Rocky Mountain capital as a Sous Chef.  Then their curious, inquisitive and beautiful daughter Mia arrived (now two years old and very patient of Mom’s phone interview time!)  MJ was ready to try something different and found it in a vegan bakery. “It’s one more step of thought process,” she explains.  “Interchanging dairy elements that work in pastry for something vegan that behaves in the same way… That was interesting to me. You just have to work out the puzzle.”

Stay updated on the latest specials at the #MGFDpastry feed, and click here for the dessert menu.  We dare you to find a repeat in the mosaics above!

Harray! Entrées Make a Grand Entrance & Brussels are Back

Beginning today, guests can enjoy their favorite Harry’s Pizzeria® entrées available all day, everyday in Coconut Grove and Miami Design District locations, no longer special to a particular day of the week.  Four dishes can be found on the menu, including Roasted Eggplant with stewed tomatoes, farro, gremolata, feta (16), Pan Roasted Skirt Steak with potato salad & parsley sauce (21), Oven Roasted 1/2 Chicken with salsa verde & fennel salad (19), and Pan Seared Local Fish with grain salad & aioli (21).  The restaurants will continue to offer daily soup and pizza specials!

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And, with peach season coming to a close, we are excited to bring back a crowd favorite, Brussels Sprouts and Stracciatella!  This mouth watering salad of seared, warm sprout wedges with cool, creamy strands of special mozzarella, crunchy pistachio and fragrant torn herbs is a magical combination.  Find it back on the menu, later this week!

Warm Brussels Sprouts and Stracciatella Salad

Warm Brussels Sprouts and Stracciatella Salad.

Easy Like Saturday Morning | An Eggcellent Cypress Tavern Brunch Update

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Great view, clockwise from 11am: Breakfast Sandwich, Short Rib Benedict, Lobster Frittata, and Rio Gold.  All dishes captured beautifully by GM Nicole Kelly.

Crispy, bright-yolked eggs and toasty treats laced with butter.  That’s what brunch is all about, and Cypress Tavern Chef de Cuisine Max Makowski is introducing a new set of dishes to make a proper Weekender of all of us.

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Crépinette.

“At Cypress, it’s about the classics as a point of reference — which for me as a cook is great and also approachable to our guests,” he explains. “From there we re-tool an element or two.  The Short Rib Benedict is a perfect example of this.  Béarnaise with meat.  It just makes sense.”

Wood Grilled Shrimp

Wood Grilled Shrimp.

Max also added Wood Grilled Shrimp with preserved lemon, Calabrian chilies and brown butter.  These are head-on and full of juice.

“For me, you can put that on a table and share it with people; it’s in that spirit,” says Max. “They’re easy to grab and eat.”

In the end brunch is all about the eggs. People are always asking for a Basic Breakfast, which we like too, so Max added two eggs any style, with thick cut bacon and crispy potatoes snowy with pecorino and some Zak the Baker bread marked on the wood grill.  And it doesn’t stop there.

Grilled Hanger Steak

Grilled Hanger Steak

“If I had to pick a way, I’d say poached is most essential for brunch,” Max adds.  “It’s no longer just an egg.  The thinking here is something like the Bucatini Carbonara, which has been on the brunch menu since we opened last year.  Instead of the traditional way, we add a poached egg on top so that the yolk mixes with what’s on the plate. This sauces it at the table, at the hand of the guest.”

Beet Salad

Beet Salad.

The fried egg on the Grilled Hanger Steak acts in much the same way.  The juice from the meat drips into the rösti it sits on — think the ultimate hash brown made with shaved potatoes sizzled in clarified butter until crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside.  This is something a little different, a traditional Swiss preparation that you don’t see all the time.  It all combines with the yolk when the egg is cut.  Like French Onion Soup, this dish tows the lunch end of the brunch line, so those whose alarms aren’t set on Saturday and Sunday aren’t left hanging upon a 1 or 2pm arrival.

All these goodies are live tomorrow, so pull up a chair, tap into a stream of Endless Bloody Marys or Mimosas, and Weekend like a pro!