Uncorked with TGHG Wine Director Eric Larkee: #dialasomm

Do you know your wine's better half?

Do you know your wine’s better half?

When our intrepid Brand Director Jackie Sayet finds herself off-site and stumpified and flummoxed by either too many incredible wines or stymied by a dearth she will reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter or old-fashioned text message for assistance.  This number will remain private, however, as the can of social worms I have opened will inevitably squirm, to Jackie’s delight!  Recently while digging through a cooler at a South Miami retail shop she sent a picture of a fairly random selection of labels I didn’t know. My reply was simply for her to rotate all the bottles around and shoot the backs. After receiving the auxiliary information I picked her a bottle to suit her taste and the evening’s motivation.

I’m a bit hazy on the exact details of Jackie’s line of questioning in regard to my request for the back labels but I wanted to know who imported each wine. In classic Jackie vinoenthusiasm she loved the revelation that knowing or trusting an importer could make a wine buying decision easier.[1] In classic Sommelier think it struck me as odd that this was not a common sense thought but I quickly checked myself and thought back to when and where I learned this technique. I was a server/bartender at Savoy in Manhattan’s SoHo about a decade ago and was starting to find wine more interesting. I asked our GM and wine buyer, Gil Avital, how I should go about learning more. His advice was essentially, “Drink more, but drink with focus.” We were able to purchase wine directly from the restaurant, and I had been making a solid habit of this. He told me to go look at the backs of the bottles I had liked and to buy more wine from those importers.

The first bottle of wine I grabbed had the name Neal Rosenthal on the back. The second also was Neal Rosenthal. The third, well, you get the picture. I drank a lot of Rosenthal wines before moving on to Louis/Dressner, Skurnik and Theise. These importers have long influenced by taste in wine and have strong representation on our wine lists. The style of these importers (traditional production, food-friendly, normal alcohol levels, and an absence of heavy new wood usage) isn’t the top choice for everyone, that’s cool; there is an importer for you.

I highly encourage anyone who is looking to explore a wine region to do it though the palates of a few importers. Want to explore Italy? Like to drink Sangiovese? Go buy five different Rosso di Montalcino from different importers (you might have to go to more than one wine shop!), get a sense of whose you like, at a price point you like and buy more wines from other regions the importer represents. As an added immersion buy an importer’s book if they’ve written one, Rosenthal has and another favorite Kermit Lynch penned a wine-geek must read.

In a counter to my own point, I don’t want you to fall into a false negative fallacy. Just because a wine isn’t with an importer you know you like doesn’t mean that the wine isn’t any good. The original argument is about risk aversion and/or knowledge acquisition. I guess as a recommending point I knew that I wasn’t going to give Jackie the green light if I knew I didn’t like the importers style or rather if I knew that the importer had such a range of style that I knew that I couldn’t trust what there would be in the bottle. With importers that have a focused raison d’être such a view point, I can buy with a much better expectation of bottle representation without further consultation.

I actually took this advice of my own the other night.  As I scanned the small list at a restaurant my wife said, “You don’t like the list, your face hasn’t lit up.” It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like the list but rather that there was only one wine I wanted to drink with the food we chose and while good, I knew it well and wanted to have a new experience. Well, the wine was 86’d but we were offered another selection, I asked to see the bottle and promptly spun the bottle around and saw a familiar name, Banville & Jones. In my experience their style has a large range but the wines are solid. The wine was delicious and will be appearing on a wine list somewhere soon.

[1] There have been numerous blog posts on this topic, a quick Google search returned these 4 examples. The solution does get a bit oversimplified in the Bon Appetit article. The Slate article has a nice little printable pocket reference card but it is from 2009…






An Italian Affair: While Michael is in Italy, James Beard Award-Winning Chef Jeffrey Michaud Shares His Osteria Pizzeria Menu!

51regm4Rl1L._SY300_It’s simple really. Bring coconut milk to a boil. Add it to a bowl of flour, sugar, and egg yolks that have been whisked to combine, being sure to temper the egg mixture by slowly — piano piano — adding and stirring in the hot coconut milk. Add the mixture back into the pot and cook to thicken, whisking constantly for 15-20 minutes to prevent scrambling the eggs on the bottom of the pan. Then pour into a shallow foil-lined pan, smooth the top, and let cool slightly. Press plastic onto the top, and then refrigerate until it sets up enough to be cut into squares like soft fudge, at least 8 hours or up to 2 days. Get your frier ready and coat squares of the delicious coconut custard first in flour, then egg, and last, breadcrumbs. Deep fry, and enjoy with passionfruit curd.

A simple labor of love. This is la dolce vita of chef Jeffrey Michaud.  The decadence of custard-on-custard in his “Latte Fritto” (fried milk) is just one of the traditional Italian delights made his own inside the pages of Eating Italy: A Chef’s Culinary Adventure (Running Press,) his forthcoming cookbook now available for pre-sale and released nationwide this fall.  Lucky us. We are getting a preview of the recipes in dishes at Osteria Pizzeria at Harry’s on June 18.

Chef is in Bernalda, on a culinary adventure of his own through the south of Italy. Here from his Instagram, Marisella makes ruccoli, a pasta similar to cavatelli.

Michael is in Bernalda on a culinary adventure of his own, teaching cooking classes and exploring the south of Italy with his wife Tamara and friends. Taken from his Instragram, here ruccoli is made, a pasta similar to cavatelli.

“I want to be Jeff Michaud. I knew this, and now I know why,” said Michael of Eating Italy. “This book captures Jeff’s spirit, passion and simple perspective to a complex and deep rooted cuisine and culture. It makes you want to cook. It makes you want to be Italian!”

Indeed. Luxurious but always humble and made with heart, Jeff’s food speaks of his love affair with Italy, its indelible influence on his life and his cooking, with an intensity that no words need be uttered to feel it.  His menu for Osteria Pizzeria, which he described on a conference call yesterday with TGHG executive chef Bradley Herron and Harry’s Pizzeria chef de cuisine Manny Sulbaran, is easily its purist expression.

In keeping with the Slow Food philosophy originated in the mother country, Beverage Director Ryan Goodspeed will soon start bottling Jeff’s mother-in-law Pina’s Limoncello.  A recipe also found in the cookbook, this sweet, bright beverage will mature for two weeks before it becomes your take-home gift.  We suggest savoring it sip by sip, perhaps on the beach in the heady days of summer, like Pina would have you enjoy it, and we imagine, just like Michael is enjoying it right now in the heel of the boot.

Although the south is the opposite end of the country from Bergamo, where Jeff met his future wife Claudia in 2004, on one of his early trips with chef godfather Marc Vetri, the lifestyle is the same. Sweet.  Piano Piano.

Jeff had me at “Latte Fritto,” but his menu is so much more that this sweet beginning to our tale.  We hope these zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and tuna make an appearance. Our fingers are crossed we can find them locally by the time the dinner rolls around.  Like we always say, this chef pop-up dinner is going to be the best, so I’ll do it again! Here is the link to purchase tickets to be there, where you will also find the just finalized full menu. Buon appetito and see you there!

Summertime. And the Garden is Solarized.

IMG_0532Yesterday was a great day for solarizing.  The rain poured all morning soaking the soil, then the sun came out giving us the better part of the day to get the Phillis Wheatley Elementary Edible School Garden weeded and covered for the long hot summer. And their tasty reward for getting down and dirty in the snail, centipede and bug filled soil: the Science Club came to Harry’s Pizzeria to enjoy the last of their harvest!  Long green eggplant, Thai basil, callaloo, green zebra and other heirloom tomato varieties all topped pies that the fifth graders got to learn about making. See here for the full flickr set.  IMG_0476

BIG THANK YOU’s to Margie Pikarsky of Bee Haven Farm who has donated her time, energy and seemingly endless knowledge to the 2013-14 Phillis Wheatley Edible School Garden, as well as Nicole who came from the farm to help, Harry’s chefs Manuel Sulbaran and Steve Martin, Harry Schwartz who came to play, Phillis Wheatley Elementary Science Coach Kelly Garcia and Math Coach Myriam Ordaz, and chef Bill Telepan who helped us raise the funds for next years garden!

Have a great summer everyone!


The Merrier Genuineland: Wine, Tequila and Mezcal, Martinis & More at our May/June Events

Wine… Tequila and Mezcal… Martinis… Who could ask for more? Apparently we can.  With new restaurants come more opportunities to get together, and our events page has been begging for an update on what’s most imminently down the pike.  That happened this morning, and we wanted to make sure you noticed!  Here are the fine occasions you can join us over the next month or so, with links to menus and how to secure your spot.  Cheers from all of us, to summer fun in good company!

screen-shot-2012-01-18-at-10-41-37-amMIAMI BEACH  Argyle Wine Dinner at The Raleigh Hotel May 22 at 6:00 p.m.
Restaurant Michael Schwartz is hosting a wine dinner on May 22 with Argyle Winery’s Rollin Soles.  Soles has been producing fine wines from Dundee, Oregon since 1987, ranked among the top 100 Wines of the World by the Wine Spectator. Seven times. He is the only Oregon winemaker to hold this distinction. In Miami, we pour his wines at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, and even hosted a wine dinner in early 2012 in our private dining room which we wrote about here (condition your mustache?) For the menu, click here, and for reservations, please email RMS@sbe.com or call 305-612-1163

photo 1-10MIAMI DESIGN DISTRICT  Spirited Sirens: Mexican Maidens  Monday, June 3 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink welcomes Spirited Sirens to its private dining room, a series of educational seminars primarily geared towards women and artisanal imbibing.  Jennifer Massolo, founder of Spirited Sirens, pays homage to Mexico, with a two-hour sampling session dedicated to tequila and mezcal, the roasted, smokier cousin spirit of tequila made from the fermented juices of the agave plant. Amid tasting and talking, guests will have the opportunity to learn about the basic history of these spirits; the tequila and mezcal making process; how to incorporate them into making cocktails; the styles and nuances of both and how to pair them with different dishes.  $35 per person includes a welcome cocktail as well as two neat tequilas, two neat mezcals and one closing cocktail, plus two dishes to share family-style from the genuine kitchen and a treat from Executive Pastry Chef, Hedy Goldsmith.

RMS_Family MealMIAMI BEACH  Family MealShare Dinner Together on Mondays  Every Monday Night at 8:00 p.m. 
Restaurant Michael Schwartz will offer a new prix fixe dinner beginning at 8:00 p.m. on Monday evenings, with one seating available by reservation only. The menu includes passed hors d’oeuvres and three courses served family-style, with a special cocktail served from the outdoor White Bar. The first course goes down at the adjacent communal table at 8:30 p.m., with wines by the glass and bottle selected by The Genuine Hospitality Group wine director Eric Larkee also available. $50 per person exclusive of beverage, tax, and gratuity. Menus are updated weekly and available online on the restaurant’s webpage.  For restaurant reservations, please email RMS@sbe.com or call 305-612-1163

RMS_Martini CultureMIAMI BEACH  Martini Culture:  Curating Original Martinis on Tuesdays, Every Tuesday Night from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.Ranked by Details magazine as one of the Top 10 Bars in the World, The Martini Bar at the Raleigh Hotel reflects the spirit of the golden age of cocktails. With the launch of Restaurant Michael Schwartz, we have the opportunity to rekindle the magic of its storied past together. On Tuesday nights from 7:00 p.m to 9:00 p.m., The Martini Bar welcomes a new guest bartender each week to serve as host and introduce an original martini of their own design to its list.  We kicked off the series highlighting the Classic Gin Martini and the Lemongrass Gimlet from Robert Montero of The Cypress Room.  The upcoming schedule includes Hillary Choo of Bar Centro (5/21) and Robert Ferrara of Swine (5/28.)   Snacks from Restaurant Michael Schwartz are also available, served a la carte. Walk in, and take a seat. No reservations necessary.

Jeffrey MichaudMIAMI DESIGN DISTRICT  Osteria PizzeriaTuesday, June 18, 7:00 p.m.
Harry’s Pizzeria stakes its claim as a showcase for the Best of Philadelphia in Miami – first the grand poobah himself Marc Vetri and now another talented member of the family, Jeff Michaud who has carved his own path to greatness earning the 2010 James Beard Award for “Best Mid-Atlantic Chef.”  The Executive Chef and co-owner of Osteria Restaurant and Amis Restaurant, Jeff began his cooking career at the age of 13 in a pizza shop in New Hampshire, where he was raised and has since traveled from Aspen to Bergamo, Lombardia, Italy discovering his love for Italian cooking. We can’t wait to host one of our favorite talented chef friends and bring his smile and northern Italian cooking in Miami. We will have the menu next week!