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.”

Nursing the Gluten-Free Pizza Predicament to Perfected

Executive Chef Bradley Herron came back from a recent Restaurant Trade show excited about a gluten-free dough he had discovered. He got a sample, made some pies, and everyone was impressed with the crust and the overall taste. It was lighter and more airy, clearly better than what we had been making in house.

We brought in the dough from Wild Flour Bakery in Boulder, Colorado in early August and the response has been great at Harry’s Pizzeria®. GF Pizza sales have grown from 1.9% with our old crust, up to 4.5% of total pizza sales with Wild Flour’s product.

I wanted to learn more about the company that produces the dough, so I reached out to Kim Desch, the founder and CEO of Wild Flour Bakery. Kim was a Nurse practitioner addressing autoimmune disease and gluten-sensitivity 10 years ago in California. GF wasn’t part of the everyday conversation around diet, nor dining out.

“Pizza is that go-to food which was always the downfall for my patients in keeping a gluten-free diet,” she says.

At about this time, she too was diagnosed with gluten-intolerance and so became keenly aware of how difficult it really was for her patients. “I became gluten-free and it really stinks.  The pizza was really hard. I had teenage kids and let’s face it, pizza is a necessity! I said to myself, ‘there has to be a solution that does NOT involve nasty, cracker-like, flavorless and weird-textured pizza crusts!”

Kim got started solving this dilemma — not a chef herself, but like any chef in our restaurants would. It took her two years of research and development “my family ate a great deal of bad pizza!” They moved to Boulder in 2011. She describes Boulder as the GF capital of the World. The Boulder environment has been great to test her pizzas and to hear back from chefs – who are the toughest critics. In time, she created and perfected her custom, yeast-raised, blended dough – a mix of starches and grains, all non-GMO ingredients.

Wildflower’s GF dough doesn’t bake directly on the oven deck but is instead hand formed on this silicon mat avoid as little cross contamination as possible.

They now have been selling it for four years to restaurants with many satisfied chefs and many customers doubting whether this is truly GF.  “People called to say, they are sending the pizzas back – they don’t believe it. We tell people ‘Having a great gluten-free experience is possible, and we make that possible,” Kim says.

Chef Brad is excited about the response we have gotten to the new product and is looking forward to bringing it to Genuine Pizza™ when it opens in Aventura later this month. He particularly likes how well the dough behaves in our Marra Forni ovens, and how simple it is to work with. “We are excited to have a dough that customers enjoy and keep coming back to order again and again.” All pizzas at Harry’s Pizzeria’s three locations can be made with GF crust. Of course, there is a possibility of cross-contamination, as the restaurants are not GF environments, so we advise against it for cases of extreme gluten intolerance.

The process, as close to perfected as we can get. Until there’s something better!

Drink 100% California, To California

On Sunday, it’s time to come together to drink and eat in support of the folks impacted by the California fires.  Join us for some amazing wines and charcuterie and cheese from Michael Schwartz Events with the contributions of so many more generous restaurants and wine purveyors at Wolfe’s Wine Shoppe for 100% FROM THE 305 from 1-4PM.  The event is a 100% donation to the Napa Valley Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund.  To support and attend make a $100 pledge here bring or email Jeffrey@wolfeswines.com your donation receipt.  Alternatively, bring a check made out to the Napa Valley Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund the day of the event.

“Signorello burnt down,” sommelier and Director of Partnership Operations Eric Larkee says.  “That’s a winery we have had on the list at Michael’s Genuine® in the past, their Cab. Napa seems to be really hit hard. lt could be 7-8 years for them to produce wines from their own vineyards again… for it to be in the bottle, in the restaurant. That’s as bad as it gets. Total loss, including the cellar.”

SOMMELIER DEAN FORST’S THREE CALI WINES TO DRINK RIGHT NOW AT MGFD: 1. Honig, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa $88 easy drinking, fruit forward, very approachable 2. Janzen Cabernet Sauvignon Napa $120  arrives TODAY.. delishhhh, fruit bomb, cocoa notes, long finish 3 Kamen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma $168 Chewy tannins, elegant, silky, dry.

He explains the possibilities for damage — how enormous and varied they can be.  Consider Cabernet Sauvignon, the bigger styles, where grapes are harvested later. Many may still be out in the fields.  Then there is the loss of control over fermentation tanks in wineries that lost power. Smoke taint is the silent killer, especially with Pinot and Chardonnay, something revealed by the Anderson Valley fires a couple of years ago.

“It won’t show until it’s in the bottle,” he continues. “The wine could taste like an ash tray when you pop the cork.  Or it could be gorgeous.  I could get more wonky here with the chemistry at play.”

So how does this affect supply?  The 2017 vintage could be non-existent or very limited for Napa and Sonoma.  But this doesn’t mean prices will skyrocket.  Larkee explains it’s not a pure supply and demand thing, which begins to make sense.

“You’re not going to raise prices for something that isn’t good. And It could entirely not effect us at all at the restaurants,” he says.  “Vineyard damage is actually limited, and what is at the wineries are more collection items.  It will be about 2-4 years before we will see what’s really going on and the collateral damage.”

Sunday’s event is a time to come together and celebrate what we love about these wines and why we need to do something to help.  And there are so many ways.  There will be a silent auction of high end California wines, as well as a grab wine pull for $25 a bag.  All the wines offered at the event will be for sale or order with proceeds going to the Fund, as well.  TGHG sommelier and beverage Manager Amanda Fraga along with other amazing Miami somms Daniel Toral and Brian Grandison will be keeping your glasses full of California wine from Wolfe’s distributor partners Florida Wine Co., Artisanal, Progress, and Stacole Fine Wines and Breakthru/Augustan, and you’ll have a Riedel glass to take home.

 

Cruller & Unusual, Just How We Like Our Fall Desserts

Spot the cruller, drag the cruller. It’s how MJ wants us to pot de crème this season.

When you ask Pastry Chef MJ Garcia how she approaches developing new desserts, she tells you it’s just like the savory side of the kitchen.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given she’s closer than ever to the big picture of the sourcing process now running the Genuine Commissary. Seasonality drives it all, as specific ingredients each become the focus around which dishes and desserts are built.

From apples to pumpkin, now is the time to get a bite, lick and drizzle of fall.  Ella Pop Café is increasingly becoming an outlet for creative development thanks to a format conducive to quick product turnover and pastry case production in small batches.  A visit could yield anything from Pumpkin Cupcakes to Gingersnap Pumpkin Donuts, often a canvas for seasonal flavors.

Right now, Michael’s Genuine®’s dessert menu is full on fall with three new items, Apple Pie with toasted oats ice cream and salted caramel, Maple Pot de Crème with french crullers, and Turkish Coffee Ice Cream Trifle with cold brew syrup, meringue cream and ginger snaps.  Recent specials have included Sticky Toffee Pumpkin Pudding and Pumpkin Ice Cream.

“Apple and pumpkin are so versatile and play really well in both sweet and savory,” she explains. “Going extremely homey, like apple pie, just makes sense.  And then there’s just so many different places you can go with it.  We’ve been pushing ourselves this season to be smart with cross utilization, but also have a little fun while we’re at it, too.”

Keep your eyes peeled to Instagram for daily specials as the season unfolds.

 

Get Your Hands Doughy and Make Pasta with Chef

Just try to keep up… Chef!   Whether for a creative night out with friends or corporate team-building, this intimate pasta-making evening with Michael provides all the tools to learn how to mix, form and shape your way to pasta perfection. It’s all about learning the basics and taking them with you into your home.  And maybe the student showing the teacher a thing or two?!

Hosted after hours at Ella Pop Café in the Miami Design District, the twinkle light atmosphere of Palm Court sets the tone for a fun-filled evening of good food with the host with the most himself.   We had fun watching the class go down a couple of weeks ago, with plenty of glasses to go around courtesy beverage manager Amanda Fraga.  Each experience includes cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a three course meal prepared by the chefs of Michael Schwartz Events when the interactive session is complete.  Book it by emailing Director of Special Events Lindsay Guidos today!