With Genuine Weddings, Love is in the Fare

Good food, good drink, good music, and love.  If there is a day to indulge in all of the above, all at once, it’s on your wedding day. Elegant but not pretentious; unfussy, but buttoned-up, Michael Schwartz Events has new menus with nuptials in mind — from cocktail parties to seated dinners, and even a beautiful mobile wood oven to make a culinary statement on this memorable occasion.

Whether it’s for a celebration at home, or a reception at one of the many beautiful venues in South Florida, our events team can customize the perfect menu for both large and intimate parties. Get in touch and let us know how we can make your big day simply delicious. For menus and more visit michaelschwartzevents.com.

Chef Derek Dammann is Like a Great Bar. He Owns a Restaurant with One, Too.

 

About an hour after I hang up from my interview with Derek Dammann, he sends me some images to illustrate this post. There is no pristine beauty of Baked Oysters with Mushroom and Marmite, now iconic at the chef’s beloved five-year-old Québécois gastropub, Maison Publique — the dish he mentioned over the phone that began as half-serious, half-joke until they realized it was really fucking good.  Also not included is a table full of Sichuan dishes from that place back home in Vancouver that doesn’t look like much but serves some of the best Asian food the city’s immigrant nooks and crannies have to offer.  No.  He has sent me two images.  One is of a wood burning stove for heating not cooking — and the other, a flood-lit house and shed fronting a wood disappearing into the night.  Leading to it, a pathway has been plowed four feet deep and is soft with footsteps fresh from the evening’s snowfall.  For someone for whom affability seems to come more naturally and fluidly than most, who makes a living playing host to both friends and strangers daily, Dammann has chosen to live of all places out in the woods.  “This is home,” he writes, and suddenly I realize he has shared all I need to know in this one text message.  I can relate.

He, wife Christina and six-year-old son Felix call the Laurentian Mountains home.  They are majestic, primal and not exactly the obvious choice for a man who has built his reputation on creating atmosphere and community at his popular restaurant ensconced in the residential Le Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood of Montreal, just north of the park and mount for which the city is named.  As a young chef, Dammann set off to London to work for Jamie Oliver, and these quiet neighborhood streets remind him of his little corner there.  The commute is 45 minutes to an hour of rolling, fir-lined roads. Thinking time.  He wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Laurentian Mountains run through southern Quebec. They consist of Precambrian rocks over 540 million years old, making these soft peaks among the oldest in the world.(credit: Tourism Laurentians)

Eating at the bar and the sense of welcome it can cultivate in a restaurant is something important to us at Michael’s Genuine®, a feeling and approach to hospitality that Dammann shares.  When we knocked down the back bar in 2014 to make room for the now familiar horseshoe there today, it changed the entire dynamic of the dining room.  Everything opened up to the hearth and the energy shift was palpable.

“I love eating at the bar. It’s less serious and more convivial,” he explains.  “It takes a lot of pressure off —if you’re on a date, there’s other people to talk to.  Things come faster… Drinks come faster…. There should be lots of little things to look at. All the little details.  We added angled mirrors above the bar, and they reflect where we are, the street lamps and cars crawling in the snow.”

When he bought the place, there was nothing there except dirty carpets.  They ripped everything out and built the whole restaurant based around the bar.  They distressed it, made it look really old and lived in.  An enthusiast and practitioner of the national pastime, Dammann made sure there was a TV strategically placed so he could watch hockey from the pass.

“It’s something you think about when you get open. You feel out the space, where the best seats are in the restaurant,” he continues.  “Bar 1, 2 and 3 in the corner by the open kitchen were saved for walk-ins in the beginning. No one really wanted them at first. Now they’re the most sought-after in the house. There are people that hem and haw about sitting at the bar.  Then there are those that the bar speaks to. I’m one of those people. It says, ‘you’re going to have a good time tonight.'”

Next Thursday’s dinner for South Beach Wine & Food Festival will be his first time in Florida, but something tells us he’ll feel at home.  He tells of meeting Michael for the first time as his booth neighbor at one of the Alex’s Lemonade Stand chef events last year. They hit it off immediately.

“It’s one of those things that people say,” he notes. “‘You should come and do a dinner’ — and then you don’t hear from them.  But three weeks later, I got a call.”

In addition to the Marmitine oysters on the reception menu on February 22, he’s doing Smoked Mackerel with anchovy and lemon, a nod to his travels in Italy and affinity for the country of his mom’s heritage.

Spaghetti all’ubriaco.

“There are things in the flavor profiles you like that you either grow up with or you discover,” Dammann reflects.  “My grandmother’s house always had a lot of certain things — good salami, homemade pasta… It always stuck with me, the complex simplicity of it.  You can have the simplest spaghetti and tomato sauce and if you finish it with amazing olive oil, it kind of changes everything.  Canada is a big country. We don’t have white truffles, but we have insane pine mushrooms… They all go to Japan, they’re that special… We have 95% of the flour going to Italy for pasta. Lentils going to France, mustard sent to Dijon only to be turned around and sold back to us… It’s kind of crazy. This is a country full of prairies and rich resources.  Massive space for farming… You can stereotype the cuisine here, but we have a rich, hyper-regional history.”

The thing I find out about this chef is that, like a great bar, he’s disarming the moment you get acquainted.  It’s comfortable right out of the gate.  He’s also a good listener and answers questions thoughtfully, like he’s hearing them for the first time.  It’s like you’ve been friends for years. You want to take a seat, settle in and have a pint. He admits when he drinks beer, though, it’s really rare.

“It’s going to be a shitty after-hockey beer.  I just want something cold on tap and don’t care about the next new craft beer. I have people that actually care about that,” he says. “Maybe I’m crotchety, but I know what I like.”

Felix asked Dad to throw him in the lake.

He’s always been in love with the region his family now calls home — and the lake, Lac Barron, in particular.  He has fond memories of summers at a family cabin back home.  He always told himself that he wanted to live that lifestyle.  Now he wakes up some mornings to wild turkeys in the backyard. And there are plans for the place, rebuilding the shed, for one, this summer. He’ll fashion a wood stove inside so he can hang out in there when it’s minus 20 outside.  It’s a little piece of heaven he calls home, and that’s something we can toast a shitty beer to no matter what the weather.

Want a piece?  Dinner with Dammann, Kapur and Schwartz is almost sold out, but click here for tickets while you still can.

Chef Ravi Kapur Has One Serious Poke Face

Ravi Kapur has strong feelings about poke. As he should.

“In Hawaii it’s kind of… Well, it’s really a treat,” Ravi explains. “It’s not this mass-consumed, everyday thing necessarily, because really poke should be pretty expensive if you’re using high quality fish. For me growing up, it’s a celebratory thing.”

At now 3 year-old Liholiho Yacht Club in San Francisco, this Oahu-born chef not only takes inspiration from his Hawaiian-Chinese-Indian roots, he takes them quite seriously.   Right off the bat this was pretty clear, even as we stole just few minutes in between phone tag on Wednesday.  There’s a sense of responsibility that informs his approach.  I have neither been to Hawaii nor eaten in his restaurant, but I have read Kapur is a chef-owner known for his cool, collected demeanor in the kitchen.  Schwartz had a great meal there. I get the feeling this attitude is an expression of the strength of his intention, to cook with principle and represent his culture correctly and with confidence.

Fresh fish, the best fish. From @liholihoyachtclub’s Instagram.

This means something to Kapur, that he stand for something and that his expression is one true to his identity as a Hawaiian.  We can relate to this — MS also stands for something, and akin to that.  It’s about quality and doing it right, or not at all.  This is in part why I began our conversation with poke. To poke a nerve.  With the relentless stream of DIY, paint-by-numbers, flavor-of-the-moment poke shops UberEatsing on my Miami doorstep, it’s also hard to ignore.

“The most important element for me is that the fish is extremely fresh and you let that flavor shine without covering it up with too many seasonings,” he continues. “The traditional version would not have soy sauce.  It would be Hawaiian salt, and sweet onion, and inamona or ground kukui nut.

From there he explains it can be embellished, which is fine, with a measured hand, as with most things. Seaweed, sure.  Still no seasoning though. You take this highly perishable product and then need to mask it when it’s inferior.  Often, when it’s about preserving meat or fish, something common all over the world to extend a product’s lifespan — typically out of necessity — it can be quite good.  But it’s transformed.  It’s no longer the thing it was.  For true poke, if you are using good quality there’s just no way it even can be mass produced — which is basically the benchmark for what my exposure has been to date, fast casual-style.  It becomes more about what you are putting on it, than what it is.

“I popped in one day to one of these places, because I’m interested in how they operate, how it flows,” Ravi explains.  “I understand the model, how this came to exist, but I’ll never do it because it’s in direct conflict to what I believe poke is.  I can’t wrap my head around culturally appropriating things for profit.  You won’t find sesame oil in traditional poke. I use some, but for me it’s always going to be all about the fish.”

The fish is Ahi traditionally, but now you can find all types, like Striped Marlin and large bill fish. It’s more sustainable too.  Ravi admits he just got back from Maui, and even there, there is a range of quality. Previously frozen… unknown origins at the supermarket. The place he goes to now, Kaohu store, will run you about $17, 18, 19  a pound.

“To me I taste the difference,” he adds.  “And you can see the fish.  It’s undressed.”

I don’t know about you, but I need my own #alohafloorselfie moment.

Ravi won’t know what species will greet him when he walks into Michael’s Genuine® on Thursday February 22, but he knows it will be fresh and that will produce the best first course on the plate whether it’s Cobia, Golden Tile or Little Tuny.  And there’s pork too, another ingredient that connects our food cultures.

“Absolutely. It’s pretty much pork all the time,” Ravi says.  “In the late 1800s, ranching formed a big part of the economy but beef is more expensive.  Pork is for everyone and it can be great and flavorful – it just depends on the pig and who’s raising it.  I’m doing something off the shoulder.  I like roasting those cuts and still having a little bite to it, so you can taste the meat. Some accents, of course, like chili honey rub for a little sweetness and spice.  I don’t think I told anybody, but I’m also bringing something else with me.”

We’re not giving that one away.  You, co-guest chef Derek Damman and hosts Michael and Tim will just have to squirm.  Now isn’t that cause for celebration? And some poke!  Find out for yourself.  For tickets and menu, visit sobefest.org/michaels.

Amara at Paraiso Launches Brunch A La Cart This Sunday

Amara at Paraiso, the latest addition to the genuine family and quintessential Miami waterfront restaurant is ready to up Miami’s brunch game. Known for reinventing our favorite weekend pastime, Michael launches Sunday Brunch on February 11 with an energized new format featuring sweet and savory food carts.  Guests can order as they like and pick and choose from weekly specials tableside as they roam the dining room and terrace throughout the meal.  Located directly on Biscayne Bay in the Paraiso District of East Edgewater, Amara at Paraiso will offer brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., cultivating a distinctly Miami vibe.

“Brunch is my favorite meal of the week and always an opportunity to go for it,” explains Schwartz. “At Amara, we were excited to have some fun with the new format. The flavors are big and the food we are doing plays very well in daytime. The amazing view is the last ingredient for the quintessential brunch experience.”

At the table, guests will be presented with printed a la carte menus from which to order drinks and food, and will then be visited by sweet and savory food carts with more from which to choose. Servers will mark orders from the cart on a card at the table to be tallied with the check at the end of the meal. Sweet items include delicate and decadent Arroz Con Leche ($6) with toasted coconut, macadamia nut, pineapple; Concha ($5) a streusel- topped brioche pastry with Mexican roots served with dulce de leche; Amara dessert favorite Dulce Flan ($10) with dulce de leche and crema; and Guava Toast ($7) Griddled brioche, crème fraiche. Savory carts will carry items like a Tilefish Taco ($5) chayote squash salad, lime, smoked paprika aioli; Grilled Pork Belly Feijoada ($6) braised red beans, egg, crunchy cassava; and Waygu Beef Tartare ($8) quail egg, green papaya, cashew, lime.

The a la carte menu offers Snacks, Raw Bar, Empanadas, Small Plates and Large Plates. Snacks include addictive Crispy Hominy ($7) with verde spice and lime; and Whipped Carrot ($7) with green garbanzo, crème fraiche, and seeded crisp. Small Plates include Overnight Oats ($10) with sweet plantain, apricot, cashew; and Turmeric & Beet- Cured Salmon ($14) crème fraîche, corn flour cracker, hard-boiled egg. Large Plates include the juicy Choripan sandwich off the outdoor wood grill with housemade chorizo farm egg, vinaigrette smoked paprika aioli; a hearty Amara Breakfast ($18) highlighting slow-cooked meaty Domingo Rojo beans, two fried eggs, short rib empanada, chorizo, avocado; Egg White Omelete ($16) with hominy, green garbanzo beans, calabaza squash, queso fresco, fermented chile hot sauce; and Short Rib Tamal ($15) with grilled spicy shrimp, fried egg, pickles, cascabel chile paste.

Brunch drinks from Assistant General Manager Maria Pottage offer a vibrant and refreshing celebration of Amara’s extensive agua fresca and freshly-squeezed juice program that invites the guest to craft their own journey. Bottomless Tropical Sparkling ($30 per person) includes sparkling wine plus the guest’s choice of mixer (guava, strawberry basil, grapefruit, passionfruit, chile-mango). Spiked Fresca (1L bottle equals 4 drinks for $44 or a glass for $12) pairs a choice of spirit with a carafe of Agua Fresca like Hibiscus, Purple Corn (Chicha Morada), Tamarind, and Horchata. In addition to Champagne and Rosé bottle specials, Brunch Cocktails include solid twists on standards like Bloody Mary-a ($12) Hangar One vodka or Milagro Blanco tequila, tomato, cucumber, celery, lemon, aji panca, aji amarillo salt; and the E.L. Michelada ($9) with local blonde ale Wynwood La Rubia, lime, Mexican spices, Amara hot sauce; as well as specialties of the house including Woke Up Like This ($12) St Germain, coconut water, lychee, lemon, bubbles; and Let’s Samba ($13) Yaguara cachaça, passion fruit, lime, demerara, mint, and more.

Brunch will be offered every Sunday starting February 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with live music from Grammy- nominated Miami band PALO!. Amara at Paraiso is located at 3101 NE 7th Ave, Miami, FL 33137. $5 valet is available. For reservations visit amaraatparaiso.com, email reservations@amaraatparaiso.com or call 305-702- 5528. Amara is a breathtaking venue for private parties and events; for groups larger than 12 guests email lindsay@michaelschwartzevents.com. More information and menus at amaraatparaiso.com and via @amaraatparaiso on social media.

Getting Saucy with Fennel Puttanesca, the New Seasonal Pizza Launching Today at Genuine Pizza™ & Harry’s Pizzeria®

A two cheese pie by another name would be as delicious

Today we say goodbye to Calabaza and hello to a new seasonal pizza to supercharge the winter doldrums — Spicy Fennel Puttanesca (15) mozzarella, ricotta, oregano.  We first introduced a seasonal pie to our menu in August, before Genuine Pizza existed, not to mention opened out of state!  Available beginning today at all Genuine Pizza and Harry’s Pizzeria locations, this pie features two cheeses that work together with sweet roasted fennel to balance a punchy tomato sauce for a simple combination that just works. Timing is everything.

“Right now we relish the days above 50 degrees like our teams in Miami do for those below,” Genuine Pizza Atlanta GM Megan Griffin explains. “I think we can all agree this pizza satisfies all kinds of winter cravings. It’s a perfect choice for those days when all you want is a little sunshine and vibrancy to cut through the chill.  We like spice!”

Braving the winter has definitely taken on a whole new meaning now that we have our first restaurant where snow falls. In Miami, we wish — er — pray for those intermittent cold front weeks.  They don’t come often but when they do, we relish the experience of dry 55°F degree air washing over the palms, making us feel like we’re anywhere but here.  It has taken operating in Atlanta to truly understand seasonal change and how welcome, transportive and comforting a little bit of heat can be in the form of hot meal. For both mind and body.  Get you some winter warming!  We are now open in Downtown Dadeland (Kendall, FL), Coconut Grove (Miami, FL), Miami Design District (Miami, FL), Aventura Mall (Aventura, FL), and Phipps Plaza (Buckhead/Atlanta, GA) Visit genuinepizza.com and harryspizzeria.com to find location near you and to order online.