Birds of a Feather

Happy Thanksgiving!  While our restaurants in the Design District are closed today, the work doesn’t stop for our genuine extended family.  Restaurant Michael Schwartz at The Raleigh is open for business and has a delicious line up for dinner with an “Extra Large” special, thanks to gorgeous heritage turkeys from Farmer Dale Volkert.  Up in Ocoee, Florida, it’s 56° F right now and his Lake Meadow Naturals flock is likely bundled up in the barn today after a brisk morning walk through the farm’s chilly dew-dropped pasture with their four legged friends. For Dale, thoughts of Turkey Day began long ago.

“We’re down to our last 3 live turkeys for sale and 2 of those are spoken for and down to a handful of processed ones,” Dale explains. “We raised both Midget whites and royal palms this year, we stopped raising the burbon reds as people did not like the little brown feathers that escaped the processing plant so we chose white birds.”

The Royal Palm breeders pictured above are behind the farm store, and they will start laying in January for his 2014 turkeys which start to hatch in February.  Next year the mix will be 70% midget whites and 30% royal palms.   As you might expect, heritage breeds do not get as big as commercial ones.

“What really amazes me as so many of the birds you see at the store at cheap prices are 7 to 15 % salt solution,” Dale continues.  “Our turkeys are just that. Turkey!  We think the Chef should start with a perfectly clean food to create their masterpices without added solutions of who knows what. We both know that Michael would never start with something added other than what nature intended.”

Birds of a feather flock together.

As for Dale’s bread and butter – eggs – the new egg grader that arrived last Thanksgiving has been wonderful for his farm’s productivity. In addition to washing and candling, of course they still hand pack all their eggs to insure best product.

“Our newest addition of farm partners is Roger and Peggy from Harvest Moon, just a mile away from us,” Dale shares.  “They raise broilers for us, duck eggs and also just had 40 baby goats the past few weeks one momma with 4 babies. Their regular farm business is produce but have space to raise some extra animals for us.”

There’s also a shiny new Massey tractor. Dale’s dad bought his first Massey 44 tractor on his birthday “more years ago than I care to think about,” he says. They needed a bigger one to handle the duties on the farm so this is in his honor and memory.

Have a delicious day with your family and friends, whether it is latkes or Turkey (or in our case both!), and we will be back on the mainland tomorrow ready to serve you.  This holiday, we give thanks for our flock…. you!

Interview with Carl Myers, Artist, Architect & Genuine Designer

IMG_0923In a story often told, a steadfast dreamer leaves his Podunk town in search of bigger and brighter things, and in this case, he found them. Carl Myers, the designer of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, both our Miami Design District flagship restaurant and its sister in Grand Cayman, has another story to tell, this one through his portraiture. This Thursday, while we say thanks, eat, nap and then eat some more, the walls of MGFD will undergo an artistic transformation showcasing the newest installation of Carl Myers’ work, just as our Magic city transforms into the contemporary art and design mecca it becomes annually the first week of December. I sat down with Carl last week to catch up since we last connected, and talk art, inspiration, Mennonite heritage and Miami’s evolution.

You’re a Harvard Man turned artist, how’d that happen?

I was just a nerd out of high school, I studied really hard. I came from bum-fuck Virginia, and I never wanted to go back there, so I wanted to go to really good schools. I follow my heart a lot. Literally picking up and moving to another state or country, I closed a 15-person business in a day just because my heart wasn’t in it anymore.

What’s your heritage?

Born in Illinois, and raised in Virginia. My family comes from hearty Mennonite stock. They started out being schoolteachers for Amish children in central Illinois, and then decided to come back east near they’re families, but not too near so they could be more modern and cool. They had a phonograph but they never had martinis after work. My dad was a “Black bumper Mennonite”, he painted all the chrome black. My grandmother wore the traditional clothing until the day she died.

Are you religious?

I used to do a lot of pictures of religious icons. I have a collection of colonial carved statues of saints. I had a crown of thorns made, and I would put it on my friends and take pictures of them. I’m just fascinated by these forms, they are statues that people revere and worship. I’m not conventionally religious, but I find them fascinating. It’s a fascination with how other people treat them.

You’re living right now in a pretty religious place, (Guatemala) do people like it?

They do, but funny enough, I don’t think they buy it because it is religious, I think it’s more because they remind us of a place or time. People have even asked me to lay off Jesus a little bit because I would become a Jesus freak, you know him and his mother. So it became more about portraiture, the feeling of the person in the piece.

I use these religious images as inspiration, in a non-conventional way, but still using.

What else do you use for inspiration?

Love in my life. The people that are really important to me. All the people and things I did in this series are my boyfriend, my car, the dog, the views here. I was feeling mushy, sensitive and emotional. I had taken time off to do some architectural projects, but I decided to take the time and do the pieces and put a collection together for a show.

It was an intention to make them in a way that other people could appreciate and like and find something of their own in it, by things that I was inspired to make.
What I really wanted to do was do a portrait of Michael. I’ve always wanted to do one of him, I did Tamara and the kids in Cayman, but I don’t know why it never came up.

What is your technique for creating these pieces?

My technique is quite simple. I photograph living people and sculptural facsimiles of people. While travelling I also take hundreds of photographs of ancient and contemporary figural statues and busts. Then, I digitally manipulate and modify the photos to create pixilated images. Each image becomes a figure ground study comprised of 10,000 to 30,000 pixels. The final images are ‘constructed’ in a variety of mediums: coins, dice, beads, lead shot, straight pins, paints and metal leaf. I continually search for new materials and methods. I am not attempting to capture an image. I am trying to create images.

With the religious references I want to explore the line between the sacred and profane, the real and unreal. Sometimes I only want to memorialize, and other times I want to manipulate. The result is often an image that is recognizable from afar, but when viewed close-up becomes distorted and indiscernible.

How did you end up in Guatemala?

I was working for a hotel as their design director, traveling like a mad man and working 100 hours a week., so I said I was going to take a month off. Back at Harvard I took Spanish classes, because I’ve always had this pull towards Latin (Spanish) culture. A neighbor took me to Guatemala and to this day all my friends there are still my friends. Then September 11th happened and all my hotel jobs were canceled and so I decided to go to Guatemala and start doing furniture.

Obviously Miami has changed, and you were here for most of that. What was it like?

I think the quality and creativity and design in restaurants in Miami has flourished. There’s a lot more talent in Miami now, there’s this energy to explore, not so much by the book, but to go out of the box and do different things.

I had an art gallery on Lincoln Road with 3,000 square feet of space and $900 and we still couldn’t afford the rent. When that started to change and people got upset, I was so happy. I try not to spend time with people who keep change from happening; I like to roll with the punches.

And things are changing in the Design District now.

Is it working? Are people actually shopping at Cartier?

They are.

It’s good, because for a while Miami was looking pretty bleak.

I moved to Miami in the late eighties when all we did was have so much fun and you could buy a one bedroom in south beach for $8,000. It was so cool. Lincoln Road was like a wasteland. It was a playground.

[All I see are scenes from the Birdcage] Have you exhibited at Art Basel before?

No, I haven’t, I haven’t actually focused on it as much before, as with the last two years. And I’m not exhibiting at Basel, but I’m having a show at Michael’s during Basel. But two years ago during Basel when someone saw some of my pieces at Michael’s was when it really started taking off.

There is this esoteric side of the art world, and that’s really hard for me because I don’t really speak the language. But I try. I use a $10 word every now and then.

Here’s a sneak peak of the new work as Carl and Michael Kump unpack the first crate yesterday!!

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Our Lua Rossa Wine, Blended and by Design

Head north from Santa Barbara through rural San Luis Obispo County about sixty-six scenic miles and you’ll find yourself in the picturesque Santa Maria Valley at the Bien Necito Vineyard. To the east rise the granite peaks of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range, the Salinas River below them has meandered down almost two hundred miles from Steinbeck country, and about twenty miles to the west rocky cliffs give way to the Pacific Ocean. From here the salty breeze, cool fog and California sunshine are never far from the vines.

This is where winemaker Jim Clendenen chose to open his winery, Au Bon Climat more than thirty years ago, and it is good climate indeed. Historically it is a fine climate for grapes to grow, as vines have been grown in the area since the Mexican colonial period of the 1830s.

The relationship between Jim and Michael Schwartz is not quite as old, however it has stretched about as far back as the winery itself. “I met him when I was living in Vail, Colorado,” Michael says, “at my first chef job. We did a wine dinner together, it had to be 1990, maybe 1989.” Back in the days of Nemo they worked together on a few private wine labels named for Michael’s daughters, a white Italian blend called Cuvee Ella and a red for Lulu, long before Lua Rossa came about.

Those bottles had pictures of baby Ella’s foot and baby Lulu’s hand respectively, so it was no surprise that the proud papa debuted his latest private wine label, Lua Rossa,with a label that was designed by a more refined and artistically developed hand of Lulu’s – an idea Michael had decided upon even before the blend.

I spoke to Eric Larkee about how that blend came about.

“Au Bon Climat is a great California wine maker, well known for their pinots and chardonnays, but also has a passion for Italian varietals. Il Podere is the label that they produce Italian wines under and we opened Harry’s with an Il Podere Barbera. Apart from it being a guest favorite, and perhaps more importantly, it was Chef Schwartz’s favorite of the eight wines we opened Harry’s with. Of course the wine ran out, then last December I got a phone call from Jim. We were just catching up and talking shop, and he mentioned that he had a few barrels of the ’07 Barbera unbottled that was beautifully aged, and beautifully aged Barbera is a great base for a blend. I told Jim that I would need to talk to Chef about it, and as I hung up the phone Michael walked in the door. I told him I had an idea. After we talked about it, he said, ‘Lulu will do the label’ and within two weeks we were in California.”

Once in California at the Bien Necito Vineyard, Michael and Eric tasted the barrel sample of the Barbera. There were a few things it needed to be complete: aromatics, fruit and structure. The day carried on with a tasting of fifteen of the Au Bon Climat family wines, followed by them smelling about thirty barrel samples and tasting seven of them. Finally, they broke out the graduated cylinders and started making blends. Both the Nebbiolo and the Syrah had the beautiful aromatics and tannic structure that had been lacking, and the Syrah added the fruit and spice.

“We were thinking about these wines of Langhe Rosso, very versatile, tomato sauce wines, wanting some acidity,” Eric continued, “we were most happy with the wine being 70% Barbera. That meant we couldn’t label it a vintage, because it has to be 75% to be a vintage. Honestly, I think people would be surprised how often older wine gets mixed with new juice in California. Say you’ve got a barrel of 2011 Pinot Noir that tastes a little old, add something new to give it a little fruit and make it taste fresher, and you don’t have to change the vintage. Not having a vintage date ruins the narrative for most people, they want a vineyard and a year, and the story becomes convoluted when you blend vintages. But for us, the wine was never about a vintage, it’s about it being a wine. It’ll never be made again, because it was unintentionally done.”

Born out of a couple of extra barrels, our Genuine house wine has grown an anatomy of its own, a body coming together with individual parts. The Nebbiolo is like the skeleton, creating a structure in the wine, an uprightness, the Barbera is the soft tissue, adding depth and roundness, and the Syrah is like the muscle and skin that holds it all together and makes the wine function. The face would be the bottle, and so Lulu was presented with a creative brief including this metaphor. She created a label that has a fluid spirit, that is both masculine and feminine, and which gave the wine its identity.

Lua Rossa comes together in what some blind-tasters have called “an old world wine”, and what without question has been finished by an artists touch.  Next week, find Lua Rossa in good company of fine design at our Design Miami Cafe, but until then come to our Michael’s Genuine happy hour to taste a glass weekdays from 4:30pm – 6:30pm, anytime at Harry’s Pizzeria, and at any of your lunch or dinners at The Cypress Room.

Niven’s Spice Island of the Cayman Kind

GCM Niven Dinner A frame_withNiven_finalsmallThose of you in Grand Cayman are in for a real treat.  For the first time since returning to Miami this spring to assume the leadership role of our flagship kitchen, MGFD chef de cuisine Niven Patel heads back to the Cayman Islands today, his old stomping grounds, for not one but TWO events!  Tomorrow night at the Camana Bay restaurant, enjoy his “Genuine Family” dinner, a beautiful union of local ingredients and Indian flavors prepared the genuine way.  Then on Thursday, Niven will be among several local chefs each cooking for a table of 10 at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman at “Out of the Kitchen,” its annual event benefitting a local culinary scholarship fund.  For reservations, please call the restaurant at 345.640.6433 or email reservationsgcm@michaelsgenuine.com.

Last night back home in the Design District, Niven shared a preview of the magic going along for the ride in two spice mixes, homemade sev (gram flour passed through the tiniest crank-run extruder imaginable,) and pani puri, sun-dried chips made from semolina flour and flash fried before our eyes into a crispy hollow vessel for something delicious.  In India, it’s typically a potato or aloo filling with tamarind water and cilantro, a refreshing street food treat!  One of the spice mixes is for his Local Vegetable Byriani, a pot-“roasted” or “fried” rice dish usually made with basmati, sometimes a protein, and spices.  Niven’s combines black cardamom, cinnamon, clove, tumeric, black pepper, coridander, cumin and dried mango powder, a special ingredient often found perking up chaats (savory street food snacks!)  The other intoxicating mixture is for grilled leg of lamb, including fennel seed, star anise, and something a little more exotic than we are used to but now want to get to know – fenugreek.  This plant is cultivated worldwide and used most commonly in Indian cuisine for its seeds, used in the preparation of pickles, vegetable dishes, daals, and spice mixes like this one, imparting a savory sweetness that is hard to describe but deliciously present in the background.   It is also used as an herb (dried or fresh leaves) and vegetable (fresh leaves, sprouts, and microgreens.)

Boy are we sad to miss out on our gentle Indian’s island adventure, and even more fearful of the hunger pangs that will be inspired by his Instagram, but maybe, if we are lucky, some of these dishes will creep back to home base!  Actually we don’t need luck. We have Niven : )

[UPDATED] Happy Holiday Shopping Begins Now with a Bundle of Genuine Thanks!

UPDATE!!!!  Happy Monday to you all. Today, online retailers around the capitalist world are celebrating “Cyber Monday.”  Here in Genuineland, celebrations of the art and design kind are kicking into gear, as Harry’s Pizzeria and Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in the Design District have new artworks on display and our  pop-up cafe at Design Miami/ continues to fuel exhibitor teams’ through booth construction.  Our online shop is open for business with its two bundle coupons still valid until 11:59 p.m. tonight.  We are adding a new The Genuine Hospitality Group gift card special for today only!  Beginning at 10:30 a.m. this morning, the e-shop’s first purchase of a gift card (or cards in any denominations) totaling $500 or more will receive one Design Miami/ Vernissage invitation granting two people attendance to the opening night event tomorrow, Tuesday, December 3 from 6-9:00 p.m., as well as two passes each granting one person a one day admission to the fair during show hours including lunch for two (up to $50) at the MGFD Cafe during their visit!  Seasons eatings!

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With thanksgiving just days away, we are happy to share two special coupons – “thanksmichael” and “thankshedy” – to jumpstart the holiday shopping season happily on our virtual store. Just a little genuine thanks from our family to yours… details below!

Visit michaelsgenuine.com/shop to fill your online shopping cart today with genuine items to make cooking, dining, and gifting this holiday season easy and delicious:

The Genuine Hospitality Group Gift Card
Accepted at our three Miami Design District restaurants, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Harry’s Pizzeria, and The Cypress Room

Hedley & Bennett Aprons new!
Available in brown and red, as worn by our servers at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink. Our aprons are built to last and handmade in Los Angeles from beginning to end using everything from American canvas, Japanese selvage denim to European linens. And they look great too!

Genuine Cookbooks
Chef/owner Michael Schwartz’s MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat
&
Executive pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith’s BAKING OUT LOUD: Fun Desserts with Big Flavors

Bundle, Genuinely
Our gift for you! Beginning now until midnight on Monday, December 2 (Cyber Monday!) receive 20% off of a cookbook and an apron when purchased together. Simply enter the following codes in the coupon space at checkout when either or both pairs of items are present in your shopping cart:

BAKING OUT LOUD + apron | enter thankshedy & save $20.50
MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD + apron | enter thanksmichael & save $22

Easy breezy fine print: 20% off applied before tax at checkout. Coupons cannot be used in conjunction with each other. Customer may purchase more items at the time of check out, but discount(s) are applied only to the bundled items. Both coupons are valid two weeks and a day from now (Sunday, November 17,) expiring at 11:59 on Monday, December 2 (Cyber Monday.) Shipping is free when coupon is used (applies anyway for orders over $75!)

Free shipping for orders over $75!
Tax-free shipping out of state!
American Express, Visa and MasterCard accepted!
Please consult our posted holiday shipping deadlines when placing orders!

Wishing you a very happy holiday season from your magical elves at the genuine e-shop,

Ellie, Ian, Shannon & Jackie