[VIDEO] Field Report: Old Spot, New Tricks at Joyce Farms

Heritage Black Turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Is it sustainable?, you ask, head deep in today’s buzzword feedbag.  But what if we can do better than simply maintain?  Ron Joyce doesn’t just think we can, he does.  His agriculture alphabet begins with regeneration, and it is as preventative as it is progressive.  In October, we flew to American swine farm capital North Carolina (second to Iowa) to learn exactly how.  What followed was the most unconventional and scientifically surprising farm tour you just couldn’t dream up.

Knowing where our food comes from, although sometimes difficult to experience for better and worse, is essential if we are to do things better.  Being informed is absolutely the only way to be, especially in this business where the decisions we make on food sourcing affect what thousands of people a day put in their bodies.  To make good on this vision for how Michael does business, visiting suppliers is something we try to do as much as possible.  When we get an invitation like Ron’s, to enhance a trip with education, it’s impossible to pass up and something worth sharing with the next generation of cooks.  For Chef, that’s son Harry Schwartz.  From soil university and rainfall simulation, to population restoration and integration through genetic selection of heritage breeds, Dr. Alan Williams near blew off each of our thinking caps — from rooter to tooter as they say in those parts!

Me, Brad, Chef and Harry Schwartz.

The Joyce Farms approach is common sense and begins in a place all chefs can relate to.  How do we get best flavor from an animal?  The answer is simple – natural animal, not bred to be factory farmed on cheap grain and restricted conditions, begets natural flavor and nutritional value.  We last spoke with Ron for the blog about his Aberdeen Angus program.  Today we share our tour of farmer Adam Grady’s Dark Branch Farm in Kenansville, NC to see it in action.  Grady is also raising Joyce’s heritage hog of choice, the Gloucestershire Old Spot.  The timing couldn’t have been more opportune — with the area still reeling from Hurricane Florence, the flood recovery process was an object lesson all its own.

Watch and learn here, and look for more menu items to come at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink as the season changes and we continue to evolve our efforts at product sourcing as a growing business.

All Sizzle, No Swindle in this Seashell Game

Harvey Cedars, the fish stew in the Michael’s Genuine Food cookbook, named for summer vacation.

Nothing is better to really enjoy summer – the way it is supposed to taste and smell — than seashells by the seashore.  We always love a good shellfish on the grill, and with Michael’s return from his annual family trip to Long Beach Island, NJ, we figured it was time to check in for his reflections.

Here’s what you need to know now, up and down the seaboard and especially on our favorite coast, bayside at Amara at Paraiso. Visit us on Sundays from 4-10pm for the weekly vacation we call the Sunset Beach Party.  This week we’re breaking out the Lynx Grill for the first time upstairs at the Paraiso Beach Club, serving oysters both au naturel on the half shell with turmeric mignonette and also hot off the grill with vinaigrette and farofa — the toasted cassava flour we love as a breadcrumb alternative.  It’s all about soaking up the juices and that summer feeling, before it’s gone!

SHOPPING

Fresh is king — Ask how long they’ve been in the case. Shellfish should absolutely smell briny and of the ocean, but not a persistent stagnant odor. You’ll know when they’ve turned.
Seasonal vs. Sustainable — You want great tasting ingredients either grown in the best conditions possible or wild caught in season.  Farmed isn’t a bad word where oysters are concerned. Duxbury, MA’s Island Creek Oyster Co. is a great example of an operation doing it right.  Closer to home, a special holiday on our radar this time of year is Florida lobster season.  Look for Chef Michael Paley at Amara at Paraiso to run some specials in the weeks to come to highlight this local specialty, Florida Keys-sourced from our longtime fishmonger and friend George Figueroa of Trigger Seafood.
Fresh or Frozen?  Both can work — all shrimp are flashed at some point in the harvest process, so again is more about the quality of the ingredient, who you are buying it from, and how long it’s taken to get to you since harvest.
Get little more than you need — Inevitably some won’t open nor pass muster.
Clean! — Where there’s shellfish there is sand, among other gritty, grimy things that need to be removed especially if you’re cooking inside a shell. Scrub with coarse steel wool or a stiff brush under cool running water. If the mussels have beards, pull them off. Pat dry.
Sourcing isn’t just about procuring the goods — If you don’t know, ask a good source. I trust Ed Levine for the diligently researched ins and outs of everything, and clams are no exception.  It’s always a smart idea to read up before digging in.

Fresno chile paste on the Lynx Grill – also a preparation at Amara.

GRILLING

Shell on — In most cases this is the best idea, especially if you’re going straight to the grate. Provides protection to the delicate flesh, as well as even cooking.
We like the juice – Try to conserve the natural liquor when shucking oysters. Better yet, pay for the convenience and have the professionals do it for you. Whole Foods does them by the dozen over ice.
Marinate — Shelled shrimp take very well to just olive oil, salt and pepper — or something thicker like the Fresno chile paste we use at Amara.
Crack the large ones — If you’re going big, with Prawns, Langoustine or Lobster, they’re going to grill best cracked in half. Start with cut side down to seal in the juices, then flip to finish. Baste with butter and herbs to develop flavor through caramelization.
Less is more — Always, but especially where cook time is concerned. Remember everything continues to cook for a period of time after you remove it from the heating element, shellfish especially due to their high water content. So pull them off a little earlier than you think.

[Recipe] A Niman Ranch Pizza 20 Years in the Sausage-Making

We fancy sausage. Italian sausage. With peppers and onions. And some mozzarella and sauce too!

When it comes to sausage-making, we are all eyes if the link is Niman Ranch.  Over the years we have gotten to know Sarah Willis and her humanely and sustainably-raised beef, lamb and pork at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink and most recently Genuine Pizza® and Harry’s Pizzeria®.  We believe so strongly in Willis’ mission that we made a commitment last year to exclusively source all our pizzerias’ pork and beef from Niman Ranch and have since then rolled out new menu items like Italian Sausage Pizza so our guests have more ways to enjoy them.  On special occasions, we are able to experience the roots of where it all began in person and reaffirm why we do what we do in the first place.  Next month we will have another such opportunity at the 20th annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner celebrating the farmers living Niman Ranch’s mission on the ground with a feast cooked by a handful of its favorite supportive chefs.

Click here to watch culinary assistant Brandon Green make the sausage pie shine at Genuine Pizza Aventura.

“When I was first invited to visit the original Willis family farm and cook at the 2011 hog farmer appreciation dinner, going there and seeing where it all started that was the ah ha moment for me,” Michael explains. “We work really hard to operate our restaurants and create experiences for guests – and take care of our people. It’s all consuming. When we can get out and make a personal connection it really is everything, especially having enjoyed working with their ingredients for so long and in so many different ways.”

From September 6-9, Michael, Brad and I will make a trip to Iowa for a weekend of activities that connect the dots between source and recipient culminating in Saturday’s feast, a collaboration with chefs including Cal Peternell, Andrea Reusing, Ann Kim, Charles Phan and Todd Fisher.  Follow along on the Michael’s Genuine Instagram for an inside look at the people and the place that makes us feel good about this Italian Sausage Pizza in more ways than just taste.  Make it at home or enjoy it at a Genuine Pizza or Harry’s Pizzeria near you!

Italian Sausage Pizza with Peppers & Onions, Tomato Sauce & Mozzarella

Makes 1, 12-inch pizza

1 ball Pizza Dough (recipe follows)
1/4 cup tomato sauce (use your favorite)
4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup sliced roasted red bell pepper
1/4 cup yellow onions, sautéed until translucent
1/2 cup Niman Ranch Italian Sausage, sliced 1/2-inch thick on the bias

Pre-heat the oven to 500F.

Place pizza stone or baking pan on the middle rack and preheat it along with the oven for at least a good 20 minutes.

To prepare 1, 12-inch pizza, dip the ball of dough into a little flour, shake off the excess, and put the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface. Stretch the dough with your hands, turning the ball as you press down the center. Continue spreading the dough into a 12-inch circle either with your hands or a rolling pin. Leave the dough slightly thick so the topping does not seep through. Dust a pizza paddle (if you don’t have a paddle you can use a rimless cookie sheet as a substitute) with flour and slide it under the pizza dough; it’s easiest to top the pizza with the dough already on the paddle. Using the back of a large spoon, and starting from the center and spiraling your way out, distribute the tomato sauce in a thin, even layer. You want to see some of the dough peeking through. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top, then the peppers and onions and finally the sausage. Slide the prepared pizza onto the hot pizza stone or baking sheet and bake until the crust is properly browned, about 10 minutes. Check the bottom of the pizza to make sure it has been cooked properly—it should be rich brown and burnished. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and cut into slices. Serve immediately.

Pizza Dough

Makes enough dough for 4, 12-inch pizzas

½ cup (120 ml) beer, such as lager or pilsner, at room temperature
2 tablespoons mild honey
1 (1/4 ounces/7 g) packet active dry yeast
3 cups plus 6 tablespoons (455 g) bread flour, plus more for stretching the dough
1/3 cup (40 g) whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl

In a small bowl combine the beer and honey with 1 cup (240 ml) room temperature water. The beer will foam a great deal when being poured into the measuring up, so let the foam subside before adding more liquid to get to the right volume. Sprinkle the yeast over the liquid and stir gently to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until it starts to foam, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine both types of flour and the salt. With the mixer running on low speed, add the oil, then the yeast mixture, increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl, 3 to 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand for 1 to 2 minutes. The dough should pretty sticky and stick to your hands and the counter. It should leave behind a sticky trail; if you think the dough is a bit too wet, it is probably just perfect. Gather the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl; turn it over to coat with the oil. Cover the dough with a clean, damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Gently punch down the dough, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight and for up to 48 hours. (You can start the dough the night before you plan to make the pizza.)

Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a clean, lightly floured counter and knead gently for a few minutes. Divide the dough into 4 equal balls, about 8 ounces (225 g) each—the size of large tangerines. Roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm. Use immediately or wrap the dough balls individually in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 weeks. If using right away, lightly dust the dough with four, and cover with plastic wrap to prevent the dough from drying out. Let the dough come to room temperature, for about 1 hour, before using.

Kneading Lessons & a Learning Legacy on the Road with the Vetri Family

Growth happens when we are exposed to new things — or sometimes, the same things but new ways of doing them.  When we have those with the experience, passion and patience to teach us, something beautiful happens in the exchange.  An invitation to cook at the annual Great Chefs Event for Alex’s Lemonade Stand in Philadelphia last week presented such an opportunity for The Genuine Hospitality Group culinary assistant Dillion Wolff — to stage at Vetri Cucina, thanks to Michael and friend Marc Vetri.  A chef respected by his peers for his talent and heart, Marc has cultivated a stable of acclaimed chefs and restaurants since his flagship Vetri Cucina opened in Philly in 1998. It’s hard enough to be a for-profit business in this business, so 20 years is many lifetimes in the restaurant world, especially when you are also running a foundation in tandem.  Vetri Cucina set the tone and proved a solid foundation from which to build, recognized for the level of care taken in honoring and elevating the traditional Italian kitchen.  Its special tasting menu has minted this gem in the canon of American dining and won multiple James Beard Awards for its offspring, Jeff Michaud and Mike Solomonov to name a few.  If Marc is the OG progenitor, Vetri Cucina is the primordial Italian wedding soup.

The dining experience at Vetri is an ode to the mother country and its love of food unlike any other. In addition to the dining room, guests can arrange for private dinners, as well as partake in cooking classes on site.  As Dillion found out, perhaps the education most important happens daily among its cooks in service — a recipe of teamwork and technique.  It’s a place where bread, pasta and even polenta made from scratch means milling the flour in house.

“Going into it there were a few things I was curious about, like making fresh pasta, for example,” Dillion reflected on the phone Monday.  “How they run service is so different than Harry’s or Genuine Pizza — even Michael’s Genuine or Amara.  We are talking a 30 seat restaurant where 40 covers is a crazy busy night.”

TGHG Culinary Director Bradley Herron snagged Dillion for his team in February 2017 from Michael’s Genuine, where he had been working the line for a year after interning there during culinary school.  The culinary assistant role is a unique one, providing support to all Genuine group entities — from Amara at Paraiso to Fi’lia in the Bahamas to our commissary kitchen — with ongoing training, their chefs with last minute help on the line, working Michael Schwartz Events including private parties from cocktail receptions to cooking classes and off-site catering, and handling special projects.  Really everything under the sun.  Most recently, Dillion worked with the Genuine Pizza cookbook team on a week-long photoshoot.  The 150 pictures of recipes and lifestyle shots due to publisher Abrams Books quickly became 180, including several step by step instructive images for which he and colleague Brandon Green served not only as prep cooks but subjects.

Some of the Genuine Pizza cookbook photo wall, most of Dillion’s hands!

“This job requires flexibility and versatility, but it demands a good attitude,” Bradley explained.  “You have to be able to jump in to help and get things done at a moment’s notice, and they need to be done right. Dillion is as fast as he is proficient, but these are strengths that as a cook you always want to be improving upon.  That comes with experience, time on the line and repeated exposure to new environments and things.”

Dinner at Vetri is conceived based on each table, and everything isn’t the same.  The on the fly structure is part of the challenge, the fun and the instruction.

“It was cool to see how dynamic the approach is with the tasting menu,” Dillion reflects.  “It’s not just what the chef wants to do, it’s trying to make the diner’s experience as custom and to their tastes and food preferences as possible.”

The first day, Dillion was a fly on the wall for service, and they would make him an extra of each dish to taste. Tuesday was spent with the baker, milling fresh flour and baking bread.  He worked service with “pasta guy” and also helped with private events upstairs.

“Matt, the executive chef… On Monday he was the dishwasher.  I mean, it really sets the tone when the first courses come in heavy and the pasta cook comes in to help put it out.  You could tell in the kitchen that it was a huge team effort,” he reflected. “Everyone will do whatever. The whole operation is impressive, the attention to detail and craft but also people being genuine with each other — and incredibly welcoming to me.  They didn’t want to ask me to do things, like the stuff that’s not glamorous, and I’m there to work and to do anything. I had so many questions and no one got annoyed with me!”

The City of Brotherly Love indeed. Something we can all benefit from emulating!  Follow Dillion on Instagram @dillion_wolff.

Genuine Pizza Opens First Atlanta Location on Friday, January 5 in Buckhead

Genuine Pizza will open its first Atlanta location on Friday at the main entrance of Phipps Plaza in the heart of Buckhead. This will be our first pizzeria out of state and with a private dining room… as well as our first restaurant where it snows!  We’ve been working so hard to get open that somehow these little things are just astounding in their magnitude when you have a brief pause to reflect on them.  The team on the ground is working just as tirelessly to bring this place to life from front and back of house. The goal is to exude that Genuine Culture we know and love at home.

Originating in Miami, where we have now for casual pizza restaurants, the idea is about on honest ingredients, creative toppings combinations, and a thoughtful experience from dough to table.  Genuine Pizza Atlanta looks like the fraternal twin of Aventura, with a menu anchored by 12 hand-formed pizzas featuring a tender, quick-fired crust and snacks, soups, salads, entrées and dessert to make a meal around it. The restaurant also offers a list of wines that work great with food, as well as Atlanta craft beers. Signature items include Short Rib Pizza; Polenta Fries with spicy ketchup; Warm Brussels Sprouts and Burrata; and Chocolate Chunk Cookie, warmed in the oven to order. Every day there is a Daily pizza special and a soup of the day.

“We are passionate about our favorite food and can’t wait to bring our genuine approach to the Atlanta community,” says Michael Schwartz. “We’re introducing classic dishes from our flagship location while embracing our new Atlanta community as we fold in seasonal offerings, local beer selections and gluten-free options.”

Genuine Pizza is located at 3500 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30326 in Phipps Plaza and opens with lunch and dinner beginning Friday.  Hours of operation are Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., Friday to Saturday 11 – 12 a.m., and Sunday 12 – 10 p.m.  Reservations are not necessary. Phipps Plaza offers plenty of complimentary outdoor as well as covered parking, and valet. Takeout will be available with online ordering at genuinepizza.com, and Genuine fans can also give the gift of pizza with electronic gift cards, now available for purchase as well on the website. Follow the new location and join the conversation @genuinepizza and #genuinepizza on Instagram, where the team has been actively sharing stories as we count down.Genuine Pizza is family-friendly and can seat 64 inside, including 7 seats at the counter and 6 at the pizza bar. Outdoor dining for 36 is available weather permitting with heaters. The space also offers a private dining room for 6-8 guests – perfect for business lunches and intimate gatherings – that can be reserved by calling (470) 481-3883.