The Peak of Seasoned: Commissary Goals

There’re a lot to be said for writing things down. Releasing your desired reality out into the universe, having them in type — or in my case script — there to remind you.  To look at every so often, sometimes more than others.  And to be astonished one day that it’s time to make new ones because what you’ve set out to accomplish is now, seemingly suddenly, real.  Growth is a thing you commit to and when you do, something magical happens where what was so unknown becomes the most familiar thing in the world.

img_8973We set goals here at The Genuine Hospitality Group.  Our people do and so does our company.  It’s hard to imagine that the idea seemed foreign just a year and a half ago.  Now at the start of the year, it’s not just goals for our business, I set personal ones, too.  Even hashtag them.

“It’s unfolding like an onion,” says Michael.  He’s speaking about our new commissary kitchen, but I know it’s a metaphor for what’s happening now writ large.  What unfurls when something is set into motion.  “So many exciting opportunities will come from this project.”

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Strawberries in the fields at Knaus Berry Farms. We want them all.

We got into the large space a month ago, and executive chef Bradley Herron will tell you we’ve already grown out of it.  It’s not hard to imagine, I found visiting last Wednesday with MJ Garcia who is exploring “the savory side of life”, captaining the project at ground zero.  But for Bradley, our MGFD pastry chef was just the right person for the job.

“Brad stitched me for the part,” MJ explains.  “I’m learning how to administer and organize my time, figuring out how the proteins work, how to utilize the space properly.”

The journey began around summer’s end, and the understanding that there was opportunity to build out Michael Schwartz Events and our catering capability quickly became the realization that we could centralize production for our restaurants, capitalize on product at the peak of season and get as much of it and out of it as possible.  For Brad and Michael this has opened up the potential to rethink how we do things, the possibilities for ingredients and sourcing, the development of people at this facility and at the restaurants that comes with increased efficiency.  Imagine the doors this opens for creativity.

“Michael connected with Margie from Bee Heaven Farm and hashed a plan with the chefs,” MJ explains.  “We bring in whatever she has leftover from the weekend market and in abundance.  We take as much as we can and get to work preserving, dehydrating, processing things fresh, incorporating it into sauces, veal stock.”

After a space was identified and lease signed, Brad along with culinary assistant Megan Hess just started showing MJ the savory ropes. Recipes were dialed in, and once the space was delivered and equipment online thanks to heavy lifting from TGHG VP of Development Patrick Brown, programmed into a combioven which MJ swears could basically take care of her child.

“I put the eggs for the mayo in there, right in the crate. There is no movement, no breakage.  And the time it saves!  Brad built this operation for efficiency. Everything is big enough to climb into.”

Coffee is the first item on the check list in any kitchen Brad and Michael are running.

Good coffee is the first item on the check list in any kitchen Brad and Michael are running.

“You don’t have service so you have time to pay attention to details and make sure product comes out the same way every time,” MJ continues.  “We have a unique opportunity to basically work without the million variables at odds in a busy restaurant. The time pressure now is different. It’s scheduling and planning, forecasting the needs of the restaurants.”

She’ll say she’s slowly taking on more production, that she was terrified the first week getting into the space.  But as an outsider to this process observing it for the first time, the progress they’ve made since the fear of January 2 is nothing short of astounding.  In one month MJ has gone from fish out of water to conservatively comfortable, owning the first (and longest) cooking stages of the prep for proteins and so much more that she’s already hiring more staff to handle it all.

Combimagic: 3 cases of octopus -- a week's worth of octopus in one day that MGFD will then take an wood oven roast or add to its daily pasta set up. We control temperature, humidity and pressure -- basically every element of the cooking process.

Combioven magic, no joke.  This rig has been programmed to cook 3 cases of octopus in one day — that’s a week’s worth for MGFD which it will wood oven roast or add to the daily pasta set up. We can control temperature, humidity and pressure — basically every element of the cooking process.

“When they order I have to be ready,” MJ says of the constant communication with the restaurants as the process synchronizes. “Most of this is lead time stuff so by nature it requires forecasting. 8-10 hours of cooking overnight for most of the proteins like the pork belly, pastrami, short rib, pig ears… The bacon is just rubbed but I’m smoking it here so again, that’s a process that takes time.  I’m still building up a base pantry and learning our pars but then again they’re going to change as we continue to develop new catering offerings.  We are creating a pattern of what we need, don’t need, one thing at a time as I get my feet on the ground and understand the rhythm of things.  We want to train and do things in the right way.”

Brad is guiding MJ through planning based on restaurant sales and previous orders, as well as weekly forecasts of covers.  Then there’s the innovation that happens when the tail can wag the dog, maybe anticipate what the restaurants might not even know they need.  Sometimes she’ll work special projects for Cypress Tavern if Max requests, like duck confit. She’s caramelizing the onions and slicing the chips for MGFD’s dip, cutting and crisping potatoes for fries and cabbage for the pastrami, building ella’s grilled cheese sandwiches for the griddle.  The list goes on and will continue to grow when she takes on something familiar next month — pastry production with assistant Alex Sarria.

“I go every morning to check on the girls,” MJ says. “And then I surprise drop in and taste twice a week with the night crew.”

 

For Michael it’s not just about capitalizing on bumper crops for pricing and quality, it’s about investing in our people.  That’s the thing about goals.  By design they need to be measurable and achievable and to make them so, you time stamp and list who’s on the journey with you.  Because you can’t do it alone, ever.  We like to say we know more what we don’t want than what we do.  And that’s perfectly fine too.   Many thanks to TGHG Managing Partner and Harry’s Holdings CEO Sunil Bhatt for teaching us about goals.  Onward and upward.

Super Sunday Specials | Wing Bowls & Za, Buckets of Beer at Harry’s Pizzeria®

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Let’s get it on, America!  Super Bowl Sunday is February 5, and we’re ready to take comfort in our annual nationwide rallying cry that sets politics aside to celebrate the strength, strategy and camaraderie of sport.  Harry’s Pizzeria has you fed home and away with some specials, because, well, we all could use some right about now.  These hit the spot for parties of four, but who’s counting?

SUPER WING BOWLS & ZA |  Any two pizzas on the regular menu and a bowl of 18 oven roasted agrodolce wings with rosemary crema dipping sauce for $51.  Available for dine in, take out and delivery; find the combo in the “Most Popular” section of Uber EATS.

BUCKETS OF BEER |  Galvanize this. Crack open a selection of five of our favorite cans for $25 for the table, served on ice so they’re nice and cold to go the distance.

Our locations in the Miami Design District (3918 North Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33127) and Coconut Grove (2996 McFarlane Road, Miami, FL 33133) don’t take reservations, but if you’d like to know if either restaurant can accommodate a larger group, reach Lindsay Guidos at Lindsay@michaelschwartzevents.com or 786.708.6826.  Visit harryspizzeria.com for our menus and more.

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Meat Us Wednesdays at Cypress Tavern for Porterhouse, Pots & Port

fullsizerender-68Especially in Miami, especially when it refuses to cool off (patience!), we crave the winter vibes.  We break out the brown liquors, reds with structure, and yes, the meat.  It just feels like the right thing to do and indulging is always more fun with friends.  So gather some and head to Cypress Tavern because Wednesdays are now about upping the steak dinner game in a big, sharable way.

Beginning next week until March 29, our guests can enjoy the restaurant’s signature large plate off the wood grill, a 32 oz. Dry-Aged Porterhouse, with a choice of two sides – Grilled Asparagus, Thrice Cooked Fries Whipped Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts or Leeks Gratin – with two glasses of Michael and Eric’s Nebbiolo blend with Jim Clendenen, Lua Rossa No. 4, for $89. $22 more will get a full bottle, a glass more each to go the distance.  Because that’s what we would do.

ct_meat-us-wednesday-menuChef Schwartz also recommends aficionados handle it like he would, with surf.  Add a Wood Grilled Giant Prawn (PA) for the table, basted with garlic butter, seared off to a tender char and served with a cheek lemon to squeeze, the essential bright cut.

Round out the experience with a healthy dram of Smith Woodhouse 10 yr Tawny Port to savor with Cypress’ decadent Chocolate Pot de Crème complete with soft whipped cream and sugar-toasted brioche for $18.  Says beverage manager Amanda Fraga, “Dessert wines are kind of magic.  When paired properly they can really enhance a dessert by adding a new layer of flavor. Here we add notes of caramel notes to the chocolate.”  Brainer, no brainer.

To reserve a table, email reservations@cypresstavern.com or call 305.520.5197. $5 Design District Valet is available, as well as street parking in the city lot in between 37th and 38th street. Full menus and more information are available at cypresstavern.com.

Lua Rossa likes meat, too.

Lua Rossa likes meat, too.

What’s in the Walk In? Great White Winter Predators.

Golden Tilefish at Trigger Seafood.

Golden Tilefish resting pretty at George Figueroa’s Trigger Seafood.

“Striped bass, trout, and stuff like that. Scallops… That’s the ocean I come from,” Fi’lia chef de cuisine Tim Piazza begins.  “When I was working at (Michael’s) Genuine, I began figuring out what South Florida has to offer as far as local sustainable fish. Golden tilefish is one we really look forward to.”

Coming from New York, Tim had to learn the seasons, the ingredients, all over again, and same goes for the sea as it does for land.  With grouper out until summer, the arrival of swimmers at the top of the food chain is the perfect trigger for the kitchen to revisit fish dishes on the menu.  Changing the set up is always on the table, but so is a switch more subtle yet maybe even more significant. Tim turned up the volume on one of my favorite dishes simply swapping snapper for golden tile.

“You get something a lot cleaner, with a little more firmness and structure to the fish. Which means a higher fat content, so the bite is a little more luxurious,” he explains. “I had to wrap my head around it but it’s just a constant thing and part of the process for our kitchen, menu development. It’s just about getting smarter as a cook down here. You flip the script like 100%.”

Talk to fishmonger George Figueroa of Trigger Seafood, Michael’s good friend and dispatch of what’s running since Genuine’s early days, and he’ll yarn a tail as only his dying breed can, one that makes the fish leap from the plate with context essential to the understanding – and therefore ultimate enjoyment – of the ingredient.

“Right now the season opened on the golden tile and the long liners are out off Florida’s north Atlantic coast, even at Pulley’s Ridge about 140 to 160 miles northwest of Key West in the Gulf,” he explains. “It’s where these guys like to be, deep in the trenches. That’s why they have this angled head, to bury in the sand.”

#whatsinthewalkin

#whatsinthewalkin

NOAA’s commercial season began on as appropriate day as any, January 1. Midnight on New Year’s Day the boats George works with went out from Port Canaveral. We received our first delivery last week. Deep sea fisherman like these are the real deal. They’re allowed a 4-5,000 pound haul per boat trip, each lasting about eight, sometimes 10 days. This is serious fishing, with in some cases five miles of hooks gleaning specimens of 20 to even 60 pounds from downwards of 1,000 feet. In keeping with regulation, the boats must be at least 200 miles from nearest land mass. This is a better fishery than close to shore, and where you can find the queens (snapper,) snowy groupers, wreckfish… basically all the stuff that keeps things interesting and cooks on their toes amidst schools of mutton, yellowtail and mangrove snappers. People will be fishing golden tile hook and line for the rest of the year, after the long liners finish their allotment.

Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink chef de cuisine Saul Ramos will receive 200 pounds this afternoon from Wild Ocean Seafood and, not unlike a whole pig, he’ll work through every inch, using the bones for a fish fume with lemongrass, the cheek on the grill with scallion, ginger and lemon, the fillet into the wood oven or pan seared. The scraps will go into ceviche at the raw bar, and the collar will be served crispy on the outside with fatty flakes of juicy white flesh in the nooks.

“These big fish are more fun. Carrying it, you feel the weight, and from the moment the knife cuts into the flesh,” he says. “One of the things I love about golden tile is that it has a subtle flavor of lobster and crab.  Cooked perfectly, you really get a nice flavor of shellfish.”

Saul explains that when breaking down these big guys, you need to know where to enter and be precise, following the cuts to get the most yield.  He uses three knives — a fillet knife, which is more fragile and has two different blades for a cleaner cut.  Then there’s the chef’s knife to get at the bones. A pairing knife goes around tighter places like the neck.

Chef Saul and Sous Randy showing off their mutton snappers from George a couple days ago.

Sous Randy (left) and Chef Saul (right) showing off their mutton snappers from George a couple days ago. Today we will trade peach for speckled golden.

Because of the challenges of this fishery, especially how long the fish are out of the water compared to shallow dayboat catch, George is careful who he works with despite what would seem to be a task only for the most seasoned, simpatico professionals.

Size and quality are top priority. First, you’ll want to put the fish into a chill brine, which is basically what it sounds like – a slushy mix of salt water and ice which really drops the temperature quick – and then on ice. And you must bring to shore as quickly as possible, not camp out for more yield when it compromises the catch.

“You have to stick to your guns, when some customers want fish that just isn’t available from sources you trust,” he reflects. “That’s how my business started. I can only work on small scale, because you’ll get old fish, and it’s going to hurt. I don’t want to get any bigger. You have to be willing to say it’s not available. Everyone wants the fish, but there’s only so much and we can’t just be like everyone else. When grouper season closed it was like disbelief. It’s like take it off your damn menu already! Take what’s available, the best product. Be flexible.”

Valentine’s at Cypress: Love is in the Tavern for Dinner & Brunch

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Follow up Valentine’s Day dinner by toasting a special weekend brunch.

No need to coax the team at Cypress Tavern to show the love, especially on the most romantic night of the year. These intimacy professionals will set the mood for a flawless experience with a few more special somethings for your special someone for Valentine’s Day 2017.

Prix Fixe Dinner – Enjoy 3 courses including a choice of appetizers, entrées and desserts created especially for the romantic evening on Tuesday, February 14 by chef de cuisine Max Makowski.  $89 per person plus tax and gratuity includes a half bottle of Champagne for each couple, with available truffle supplement to any dish for $15. The complete a la carte dinner menu will also be available. The restaurant opens a little earlier to accommodate all kinds of love birds beginning at 5:30.

The color of love is Bloody Mary.

The color of love is Bloody Mary.

All the Brunch Feelings – Because there’s always more love to go around, each guest dining on Valentine’s Day will feel it with an invitation to return for Weekend Brunch and receive their first bloody or mimosa complimentary on Saturday, February 18 or Sunday, February 19.

To reserve a table, email reservations@cypresstavern.com or call 305.520.5197. Cypress Tavern is located at 3620 NE 2nd Avenue, Miami, FL 33137.  $5 Design District Valet is available, as well as street parking in the city lot in between 37th and 38th street. Menus and more information are available at cypresstavern.com.

Cypress Tavern’s cozy American Grill and Cocktail Bar offers a warm, welcoming and festive experience in a room like no other, perfect for sharing an intimate meal over candle light on a special occasion like Valentine’s Day.  James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Schwartz and Chef de Cuisine Max Makowski of Cypress Tavern bring top notch service, as well as a menu built around seasonal ingredients and a wood grill and rotisserie.