A Little Lechon & Wine Pairing Competition? Amara Sommelier Amanda Fraga is all Cheers

Fraga in her element at Amara!

Amanda Fraga is no stranger to competition.  For the third consecutive year, our now sommelier at Amara at Paraiso has been invited to participate in Cochon 555, the heritage hog, chef and wine professional bout of brains, brawn and creative brilliance.  This is great news of course, since we get to come along for the ride not only at the event, but for the training in preparation which we found is just as strategic and mind bending as it is for their culinary counterparts. Amanda’s mission: select any wine she’d like, unhindered by sponsorship obligations, that will pair best with the presentation plates of each of the 5 chef candidates.  Yes, here’s the catch. She won’t know the dishes her wine needs to work with until she’s vying for attention to pour it amidst her four peers.

“For me, my job lies in how I figure out where my wine can be highlighted on the playing field and how I can get these judges to try it with what I think on the fly it will work best with. Under the clock, of course,” she explains.  “You want to pick a pig-friendly wine that will play well with an array of dishes.  It has to be versatile, but to a large extent you are playing the odds.  What you can control, you try to.”

It’s all timed.  Every 10 minutes, the pack of judges descends on each station and systematically hears the chef’s point of view for their offering, tastes through the dishes and also is approached by the sommeliers, who are also judges of the competition.  Everyone has an agenda and everyone votes on everything.

“I try to not stand next to the same people the whole time, and it’s not easy because the focus is on the pig and the chef,” Fraga continues. “I haven’t won yet, but I do think it’s important to find something in your approach that’s memorable.”

Fraga decided to pick a Cava in méthode Champenoise — Juvé y Camps “Brut Nature” Reserva de la Familia. This is the real, old school deal, a grower Cava from a family-owned house making wine since the 1700s.  When a Juvé married a Camps in the early 20th century, this sparkling was born.  A 40th anniversary edition, the Reserva has two years age and is made from the Spanish grapes traditional to its sparkling wine. It is bright with a little green apple but with some gravitas and toastiness thanks to the time in the bottle.

“Even the label is super classic,” she notes.  “It is even rumored that Dom borrowed the shape. The family cares about tradition and have kept the label.  Chefs are so visual, and this is the OG. I also wanted to honor the heritage aspect of what Cochon is all about.”

Clearly Fraga’s not concerned about showing her hand which is one of the many reasons we love her.  To support our fearless super somm and to partake in the pigging, grab tickets to the main event in Miami on June 10, with winners advancing to Grand Conchon finale, here.

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Nose to Fruit: New Seasonal Salad, Pizza & Sangria Specials Now Summering at Harry’s Pizzeria® & Genuine Pizza™

We look forward to the smells of summer — the way the air gets thick and sparkly after a tropical sun shower, and sunscreen’s dreamy imprint on our memory banks beached in laughter and salty ocean breezes. This is a season that lets you know it’s here — and in a hurry.

In Florida, our fruit trees are heavy now with mango, lychee and even peaches.  And when it comes to the fragrance of the season, a good peach can’t be beat in its intensity and truth.  Putting nose to fruit is a pro tip you’ll notice chefs doing as second nature, because it’s a pretty great clue to ripeness.

The sniff test on guava at Miami Design District’s market last year.

“We shop for ingredients just like everyone else does, and we do a lot of smelling in the process,” explains chef Bradley Herron.  “Finding a good peach is essential for this salad to work.”

To know what’s inside without breaking the skin, you have to trust nose more than your eyes or even fingers.  If it’s good and ready, you’ll get the same zesty sweetness found in the flesh just by smelling it.

As we roll out summer specials at the pizzerias, the start of the season is always an interesting one as things get going. Early product coming in has been smelling strong so far – a good sign.  Enjoy the Peach & Burrata Salad and Peach & Gorgonzola Pizza with our new Sangria, because lighter alcohol “cocktails” and summer go hand in hand when you want something refreshing and festive with which to cool off!  Refreshing in its simplicity, ours combines your choice of three wines with San Pellegrino’s sparkling blood orange soda.

Brighten up your day and get a jump start on summer time — visit our website for hours, menu and to order online.  For a genuine anthology of peaches, explore this archive on the blog, or a primer on summer fruit and how peaches came to cultivation here in the Sunshine State in a 2014 chat with then Michael’s Genuine chef de cuisine Niven Patel.

Ready for Its Cheese Pull Moment in the Sun, Better Pizza at Home is the Star of Chef Michael Schwartz’s New Genuine Pizza Cookbook

Puttanesca with marinara, stracciatella, anchovies, capers, olives and basil.

Feast your eyes on Genuine Pizza! Shooting on location this week on Miami Beach, Chef Michael Schwartz and a crack team of cooks and creatives are preparing the final elements of Genuine Pizza: Better Pizza at Home, due to publish in Spring 2019 with Abrams Books. With more than 75 recipes, the Chef shares his genuine approach to making better pizza at home.  The pictures make the book after all, and we’re serious about capturing the experience true to hand-formed!

“My philosophy is simple and straightforward—the secret to good food is good food, and it starts with sourcing great ingredients,” says Schwartz. “Genuine Pizza is my approach as an American chef who puts quality and simplicity first. Pizza has always been an important part of all my restaurants.  It’s an opportunity for expression and I want the home cook to feel like they now have a great resource that they can turn to and enjoy using.”

Teamwork makes the dream work (left to right): Prop Haus’ Martha Bernabe, TGHG culinary assistant Dillion Wolff, chef Michael Schwartz, culinary assistant Brandon Green and camera assistant Sophie Fabbri.

The popularity of pizza at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink inspired Schwartz to open a casual pizza restaurant, Genuine PizzaTM, and this book reveals the chef’s tried and true approach for making his signature pies. Schwartz believes that the home cook can and should eat better pizza at home, and so Genuine Pizza is inviting and fun, covering the basics first, so that readers can then be adventurous in their own kitchens, mixing and matching ingredients that appeal to them, to create the perfect pie.

Brad and Brandon.

Beginning with Pizza Fundamentals, Genuine Pizza explores everything from useful equipment and must-have ingredients to detailed, step-by-step techniques for how to make incredible dough, including recipes for gluten-free and rye-based options. Part two is all about composing nuanced, flavorful pizzas, with recipes that include classics such as Margherita and Soppressata, as well as pies with more unorthodox, yet irresistible topping combinations. Schwartz shares his favorites, like Zucchini with ricotta, anchovy, chile, lemon, grana padano, mint, and basil, BLT with bacon with arugula, tomato, and taleggio, and Pastrami on rye crust. Inspired by the Miami locale, pizzas also feature local Rock Shrimp and Slow-roasted Pork, Schwartz’s nod to the Cuban sandwich in pizza form.

Because no one can live on pizza alone, Genuine Pizza also explores Snacks, Soups, Salads, Main Courses, Desserts, and Drinks, forming a guidebook to creating balanced, vibrant meals, centered around everyone’s favorite food. “Pizza is just the beginning—it’s a jumping off point to colorful, delicious meals at home,” says Schwartz.

Follow #genuinepizzaathome and visit thegenuinekitchen.com for more information, events, and behind the scenes content leading up to the release.

Photographer Sidney Bensimon with TGHG Culinary Director Bradley Herron.

Pizza Happy Hour is the Happiest of Hours

Short Rib + Pinot Noir. A happy hour combo to feast on.

Happy Hour just got more cheesy delicious.  Beginning this week, visit Harry’s Pizzeria® and Genuine Pizza™ Monday through Friday from 4-7pm and all pizzas on the menu are $10. Whether for a mid-afternoon pick me up or strong finish to a long work day, there are so many ways to slice the deal from Miami to Atlanta.  All South Florida locations have a specially-priced beverage to match, with $6 wines by the glass and $5 beers.

For menus and locations, visit genuinepizza.com.