It’s Even Better in The Bahamas with Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz

Traveling to The Bahamas just got a whole lot tastier!  Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz opens today just a 42 minute pond jump away on Nassau.  Located on the Baha Mar property in the main casino floor just steps from SLS Baha Mar, the new 299-room hotel our partners at sbe opened last month, this is the restaurant’s first international outpost and second location after opening at SLS Brickell in Miami last year.

The “Mistaken” (a Negroni Spagliato) is a spritz twist on the classic aperitivo that swaps gin for prosecco.

Chef, Bradley, Eric and I were down last week as part of the last wave of visits and some yet-to-depart implants collectively known as “task force”.  This system in place to support Fi’lia’s opening team from start to finish line — think part placenta, part brain trust — involves an orchestra of players from sbe and The Genuine Hospitality group with expertise in front and back of house. On our agenda was mock service, tastings, final menu formatting, food and spacial shoots, and fine tuning the dining room for lighting and sound.  Where the bulk of the important foundational work occurs gradually over a period of months tracked methodically through a “critical path” spreadsheet and meetings to check in on progress, the 11th hour is a critical stage in the process visible even to the untrained eye where everything comes into sharp focus.

The idea is to make sure there is enough institutional knowledge and depth on the ground to have the resources required to handle anything thrown the restaurant’s way. This is an all-hands-on-deck troubleshooting and brain-stretching exercise, where you have planned for everything especially the things you can’t control.  From menu covers stuck in LA to cocktail tags printed from the only Miami vendor that was open and able the week before the holiday to mule with cookbooks in checked luggage, it ain’t always pretty… but this is what openings are all about and why we love what we do.  And then you have a restaurant!

The host with the most.

“The hospitality on island has been second to none, and we are fortunate to have a hard working team that is digging in with a smile in the true Bahamian spirit,” says Chef.  “We can’t wait to share with guests the same incredible welcome we’ve experienced here in The Bahamas!”

We have a particular soft spot for a familiar face — Fi’lia’s Executive Chef Thomas Tennant — veteran of the TGHG culinary family who comes with Caribbean seasoning from his time on Grand Cayman as chef de cuisine of Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink.  Later leading menu implementation, working with international staff and honing his talent for “fixing” provisions from the lower decks with Royal Caribbean, Thomas earned the TGHG title of “Special Ops Chef” for a reason and those skills will no doubt serve him here.

Fi’lia is inspired by the simplicity of Italian cuisine, featuring a menu of straightforward dishes that highlight fresh, seasonal ingredients, housemade pasta and memorable signatures like the Tableside Caesar Salads.  Like Miami, Fi’lia’s dinner menu features Small, Large and Extra Large plates alongside Snacks, Sides, Pasta and Pizza. To start, Beef Carpaccio is Chef Schwartz’s twist on the classic featuring sunchoke, green onion pecorino and mustard vinaigrette, while the Extra Large Grilled Whole Snapper features tomato, Calabrian chile, mint and grilled bread. Rustic pizzas are served with creative topping combinations like Pistachio Pesto with ricotta, charred onion and pecorino.

The Tableside Caesar is prepared from scratch from dressing to grated parmigiano finish on a roaming cart, dispatching delicious smells of toasted garlic croutons in the dining room as it passes. Cocktails are refreshingly uncomplicated with specialties including a section of Spritz. With a focused wine list, Fi’lia celebrates Italian, regional varietals and American wines with an old world sensibility.

Located at One Baha Mar Blvd, Nassau, The Bahamas at Baha Mar Casino, Fi’lia is open Monday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. serving lunch and dinner. For reservations and menus, please visit filiarestaurant.com or call 242-788-8212.  As part of sbe’s larger movement to bring signature specialties in innovative cuisine and dynamic nightlife to The Bahamas, the group also operates Cleo, Monkey Bar (the signature SLS lobby bar) and Bungalow Pool Bar & Grill at SLS Baha Mar, with Privilege and Skybar coming in early 2018. Additionally, Katsuya (sbe’s modern take on classic Japanese cuisine) opened in mid-August on the Baha Mar Casino floor, and Bond, sbe’s nightlife concept, is debuting December 29th, offering late-night entertainment as the destination’s see-and-be-seen place to be.

Ring in the New Year with Genuine Cheers

Baby we like it raw.

Celebrate the New Year your way at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink.  No seatings, no prix fixe. Just what you love about our a la carte dinner menu the way it was meant to be enjoyed… any way you fancy it!  Make it more fancy with a Champagne and Raw Bar starter.  $89 includes a dozen oysters and your choice of King or Stone Crab with two glasses of bubbly.  Nothing says sexy time like New Year’s Eve does, so indulge a little with some crustaceans and bivalves on ice with a sparkling side of flutes for two.  Up the ante with a bottle for $30 more.  Chef Tim Piazza who is always keeping us on our toes will also add a few specials to the menu for the night!  Sunday, December 31 we are open for Brunch 11am – 3pm, for our snacks menu in between 3 – 5:30pm, and dinner from 5:30 until Midnight. Cheers to 2018! Click here to make a reservation.

Joyce to the World of Grass-Fed Beef

From soil health to genetics, North Carolina-based Joyce Farms does grass-fed beef right, because that’s the only way Ron Joyce knows. Standing behind the tasty intersection of tradition, science and passion, Joyce’s energy is palpable through the phone as we recount how a jet-setting French chick became a worldwide calling to find lost heritage breeds and do the work to raise them the way they’re supposed to be raised.

“No day is ever the same,” he says. “We were in meetings on Friday, and then I saw your missed call.  It’s one foot in this year and one foot in the next.”

In November, Amara at Paraiso chef Michael Paley and senior sous Max Makowski paid Joyce Farms a visit to check in on his product mix and talk sourcing for our new restaurant’s menu including dry-aged grass-fed ribeye.  So for about a month now, I’ve been wanting to catch up with this man behind one of the most exciting ranching operations in the U.S.  It’s been much longer than that since we last connected — on Michael’s first visit in 2010 to get acquainted with the now so familiar bird on the Michael’s Genuine menu — Poulet Rouge.  Joyce left one of those impressions that sticks with you, though.  Something in his voice rang true.  Genuine…  The same voice greeted me on the phone last week, but with news to share about the his consortium of farms, the company’s focused growth and his current projects that have our ears perked.

“People eat our beef and they can’t believe the flavor. They also can’t believe it’s raised 100% on grass,” he says. “I cringe when my friends say it’s rough and you have to get used to the difference in taste. Most grass-fed beef isn’t appetizing, because it’s complicated to produce, and most are doing it wrong. This is unfortunate of course for everyone trying to do it right.”

Aberdeen Angus

Doing it right we learn is more scientific than we could have ever imagined, not to mention more expensive.  Ron explains that people tend to forget grain has been status quo since WWII. Corn is cheap, but it’s not natural and collateral damage included a shift in fat content from unsaturated to saturated, an increase in the presence of E. coli, and a change in the pH of the meat.

“When Michael Pollan published The Omnivore’s Dilemma, it was a game changer,” Joyce says. “Demand outpaced supply for grass-fed.  People were gravitating to it for the health benefits, like better Omega 6 to 3 ratio.”

The whole thing started with Poulet Rouge, and Joyce blames his father, who was with another livestock company in the ’50s and ’60s.  He would talk about how disappointed he was in how chicken had changed.

“As a younger person I put that off thinking this is about a guy getting older lamenting about the past and ‘the good old days’,” he explains.  “But then other people started saying the same thing. And then I went to France which changed everything. It made me realize that people don’t remember here in the States how it used to be.  Only the older folks do!”

Joyce explains that in Europe, they’re called industrial chickens, and most butcher shops, a fixture in every neighborhood, don’t sell industrial.  “You have a choice over there, and in many ways that’s the short term goal here.”

Chef Paley, chef Max and the team at Amara during one of four preview dinners this week. With the Art Basel pop-up wrapped, it’s time to shift gears for opening in January.

This chicken problem was the problem that got him started, and the French helped him chose the Label Rouge, a naked neck bird with thin skin at half the thickness of its industrial counterparts that renders crispy. It took Joyce a while to break even, but after they made these birds sustainable the question was naturally, what else?  In America it has been cheap and large for decades. The meat and poultry is market driven here.  It’s a give-the-people-what-they-want mentality that can be poison for a food system.  And labels aren’t helping.  They can be downright misleading. Free-range this, and pastured that.  Semantics, however, mean something.  They can mean everything. They can create a movement, even.

“Chefs were asking do you know anyone doing great grass-fed?,” he continues. “They would say how they’d get requests, and then dishes would be sent back! Feedback was that it tasted gamey and livery. Something wasn’t right and I knew it didn’t have to be that way. Then we found Allen.”

Disillusioned with what universities were researching and teaching on big Ag’s dime, this farmer, Dr. Allen Williams gathered a band of rebels and dropped out of the system to form a consultancy and started working on cattle.  They found that the genetics in the animal had changed to be efficient on corn.

Allen Williams, Joyce’s soil guy.

“The animals simply didn’t do well on grass anymore,” Joyce explains. “Everything in a pasture has a purpose. If you plant a monoculture, one kind of grass and the grass is too green you get minerals and that off-putting taste. Fertilizer kills all the natural organic matter, especially weeds which are a natural dewormer.”

With no choice but to go back to the trough, a farm can get sucked into a viscous cycle that eventually kills everything. Soil becomes compacted. It loses the ability to absorb water, so there’s runoff and loss of top soil. “Animals have a strong sense of what they need to eat it, but if it’s not there.”

No grain finishing here, just fire for the Aberdeen Angus ribeye.

Now the company’s genetics and foraging expert, Dr. Williams is a sixth generation farmer and holds a B.S. and M.S. in Animal Science from Clemson University and a
Ph.D. in Genetics & Reproductive Physiology from LSU.  He has focused on soil and regenerative farming techniques to develop a grazing cocktail for the cattle comprised of 18-24 different plants including legume. Happy cows indeed. In three years, they were able to lower impact costs and eliminate use of pesticides and insecticides. This is not what your extension agent is telling you to do. This is not only maintaining soil health through a natural process, but restoring pastures to the way it used to be.  Bison will be next, the ultimate expression of this principle, because of course, prairie animals don’t belong on feed lots and there are only a handful of suppliers even doing grass.  Joyce will be field harvesting, because bison don’t like to be handled and agitation manifests bad flavors in the final product.  It’s a full-on, holistic approach to the entire ecosystem around commercial livestock and a commitment to doing it right.

“This doesn’t work if you grab a jug every time you see a pest. You have to rethink what that bug is,” he reflects.  “It’s not actually a pest. It’s an insect, and the good ones out number the bad.”

Genuine Pizza™ Opens at Aventura Mall on Tuesday, December 5

The first location of Chef’s casual pizza restaurant is opening just in time for Art Basel and the holiday season, ready to feed hungry shoppers of all kinds!  Genuine Pizza (formerly known as Harry’s Pizzeria) is located in the lower level, exterior of Aventura Mall’s newly opened expansion wing.  It’s been a long time coming and so exciting to experience the finishing touches as they unfold on the new restaurant design, as well as training with front and back of house teams.  We are passionate about our favorite food!

The evolved concept’s interior by Miami-based craft and construction firm McKenzie features light woods and simple accents like custom yellow and grey Cuban tile, orange chairs, and the yellow-tiled Marra Forni oven. The environment invites guests to experience the attention to detail first hand, at a pizza bar fronting the open kitchen and a glass-faced active dough room at the entrance where the recipe is mixed, kneaded and proofed daily.

Outdoor seating is flanked by garden planters and fronted by two distinct, dramatic works of art: Aventura Slide Tower – a 93-foot tall sculpture by German artist Carsten Höller that visitors will be able to slide down and Gorillas in the Mist – a whimsical fountain by The Haas Brothers comprised of three large-scale bronze gorillas and four massive bronze trees.

“Honest ingredients, chef-inspired combinations and a thoughtful process is what Genuine Pizza is all about. We are truly passionate about our favorite food,” says Schwartz. “We are so excited to connect with a new community to the north and thrilled to be able to add better pizza and warm genuine hospitality to the offerings in our new home.”

In an effort to always improve upon the quality and consistency of the pizza, Schwartz and The Genuine Hospitality Group executive chef Bradley Herron are working again with Marra Forni’s Rotator Oven. With its rotating deck of pure cut Italian stone, the oven retains and conducts consistent heat to bake pies evenly and quickly. While also serving as an active and beautiful focal point for the main dining room with its canary yellow tiles in the open oven station, the new hearth is calibrated specifically for the chef’s unique dough recipe.

The core menu including Snacks, Salads, Daily Entrées, 11 Quick-Fired Pizzas, the option of gluten-free crust, and Dessert. Genuine Pizza carefully selects the ingredients it uses, like Niman Ranch for all of its meats. For beverages, Genuine Pizza offers creative wine and beer selections, along with great local brands including Panther Coffee and JoJo Tea. A daily pie and soup special keep things unique for each visit. Fans can now give the gift of better pizza with electronic gift cards, available for purchase at genuinepizza.com – choose your denomination and send through email or phone.

Aventura Mall offers complimentary garage parking adjacent to the expansion wing, as well as valet. Seating is 77 inside at tables and banquettes in the main dining room, 20 at the counter and pizza bar, and 28 outside.  Genuine Pizza launches with lunch and dinner Sunday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 12 a.m. – no reservations necessary. Takeout with online ordering at genuinepizza.com will be available. To reach the restaurant, call (786) 472-9170 or email aventura@genuinepizza.com. Follow the new location and join the conversation @genuinepizza and #genuinepizza on Instagram.  When the restaurant opens on Tuesday, visit genuinepizza.com to access full menus, social media, sign up for e-newsletter for updates on upcoming openings like Atlanta (December) at Phipps Plaza.

The slide to scale all slides, in our front yard!

Genuine Pizza is thoughtfully-made, a place to enjoy a great meal with great people and without pretense. Genuine Pizza is about consideration of every detail of the dining experience, from the careful selection of ingredients, to the choices made in crafting dishes and the space in which you enjoy them. Being “genuine” is about making the experience better, not embellished – making food and crafting an environment that people feel good about and want to return to. The seed of Genuine Pizza is Harry’s Pizzeria®, first opened by Chef Michael Schwartz in 2011 and now with three South Florida locations. With inspiration from his flagship Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink, Harry’s became a fixture of the Miami dining scene and nationally-recognized pizza hotspot, named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 25 Best Pizzerias in the U.S. An evolution of the best of the original, Genuine Pizza celebrates its beloved, flagship menu anchored by 11 hand-formed pizzas featuring a tender, quick-fired crust with integrity, as well as a gluten-free option. At the table, the experience is complete with warm service and a wholesome dishes to make a meal, including snacks, colorful salads, daily specials and dessert. From the sidewalk to the dining room, the restaurant buzzes with friends and family hanging out over craft beer, a creative wine list and great music.

Aventura Mall features a collection of upscale boutiques, including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Fendi, Givenchy, Burberry and more, as well as more than 300 shopper favorites such as Zara, Topshop Topman, Apple, Anthropologie, H&M and Urban Outfitters. Visitors also enjoy nearly a dozen restaurants and a taste of South Florida’s thriving cultural scene with Arts Aventura Mall, featuring contemporary installations by renowned international and local artists. Aventura Mall is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Call (305) 935-1110 or visit online at www.aventuramall.com.