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 Pollen 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. 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 to 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.

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!

When a Just Ok Bagel Is Not Good Enough, The Genuine Commissary Dials in the Schwartz Recipe

“MJ always has to touch the dough.  Always,” explains Chelsea Hillier, assistant pastry chef.  It’s 5:56 a.m. and work on the day’s prep list has already been in motion for 30 minutes.  We’re spending the morning at the Genuine Commissary, where the energy is decidedly different than later in the day.  It’s… well… therapeutic?

To understand how a place so frenetic can glaze-coat the spirit and spark a twinkle in the eye, you have to be there. In fact, I prescribe a visit with MJ and her team to anyone afflicted with a case of sour attitude or bad day.  It’s a dose of good vibes, creative energy and inspirational collaboration like no other I’ve experienced.  Talk about knowing where our food comes from… They have their hands all over it.

“We started making the bagels because Harry and I went to brunch on Miami Beach,” chef Michael recounts. “Harry’s bagel arrived, and it was like a Lender’s. At this fancy place! I listened to myself as I justified how this could happen — that it’s too hard to make good bagels, so why go through the pain of making sure it’s done right, the extra cost and time associated.  It was then when I realized that was totally ridiculous.  We shouldn’t have to suffer through shitty bagels.  Let’s make bagels!  So Harry and I spent a few weekends after that testing recipes and figuring it out.”

Spreading the peanut butter cream to the nutter shell. Myrtille is one of several commissary staff exclusively working on-site,  not including TGHG chefs overseeing the production or popping in on any given day for recipe testing or other projects related to Michael Schwartz Events.

MJ, whose title of Pastry Chef is more and more savory these days, and Chelsea have totally embraced this thought process and put it into action, with their well-oiled machine.  It’s an exercise in “mental time management”, and to get good fitness there serves them in every aspect of functionality and productivity at the space.  That they are taking on bagels to begin with demonstrates the strength of the operation, and its steady and calculated evolution from humble beginnings in January — both in capabilities and the scope of its role. The commissary now supplies Ella Pop Café with 12 to 14 a day (“We want them to be fresh, and eliminate waste when possible, so no crazy pars,” they say) and 56 on Sunday’s for Michael’s Genuine.

“We used to do the English muffin at brunch, and Chef was like ‘I want you guys to do bagels’ and he gave us this recipe and asked us to develop it,” MJ explains. “It really came to life when we got the commissary and this (combi) oven.  There aren’t a lot of places that make them by hand, from scratch.  We just worked with the dough and used the Rational as our ally to make the best of it in a controlled environment. Before we would boil them, we were trying to be rushed at the restaurant to get it done, and they weren’t right.”

As Chelsea rolls and then rests the dough before pulling them into loops, she explains that the bagels take good chunk of time even if it is only 12 to 14. The key to bagels is keeping a clean workspace, and that also includes your hands.  You don’t want to incorporate more flour or oil than necessary, even the tiniest bit.  They need to sit and rest for the gluten to develop properly in the dough, not too much or they’ll get tense and rip, overextending like a muscle.

“It’s a time to breath and think amidst the craziness of the pace from one thing to the next. It’s like therapy,” she reflects. “The time they need depends. You need more than time to know.  You have to touch them, and use all your senses to know when.  I usually stare at the prep list and contemplate as I’m pulling them.”

Homework.

So much depends on time and timing here for it to all work, from the bagel dough and all its stages including proofing and baking, to adjustments on call times for the staff based on the work load for the week.  When the duck confit goes in for its 9 hour water bath (sous vide) at 8 a.m., you better have completed everything requiring the combi oven by then. In this way, the prep list double as a recipe, which Chef notes only serves if read all the way through before starting.  Then there’s the last minute requests, the fire drills you can’t plan for, like a downed walk-in cooler, that can set things off axis and require smart, creative thinking on the fly. It’s a business of anticipation but also of problem solving.

The day builds momentum from the instant Chelsea opens the kitchen, a mind-blowing (cue the new emoji!), eye-squinting 4:30 a.m. on Sundays.  The morning is the most hectic because because the team needs to knock out all orders for the restaurants, to supply everyone — and they want things fresh.  They base everything off Ella’s timeline so that means 8:30 a.m. delivery. On days there are early orders for Michael Schwartz Events, that could be 7:30 a.m.  Rye Butterscotch Brownie trimmings make it all better, of course. So does the surprise, creative elements unique to each day.

“We never do the same thing. Everyday is different,” Chelsea smiles.  “There are certain routines and things we need to make. Sometimes we do cupcakes or special cookies.  Whoever is making the donut gets to make what they want to make and have a creative outlet.  If we want to bring something in we always make sure we have a plan for it.  I’m working on developing the brunch menu to reflect the arrival of season.  So if I bring in pears, we find ways to cross utilize them across many restaurants and formats.”

Then there’s the fun of watching MJ and Chelsea bat back and forth like a tennis, crosschecking tasks and playing off each other’s moves and sensibilities, which are opposed in the most fluid and collaborative way.  Complementary, like any effective creative pair.

“I think everybody at the commissary really enjoys working here,” MJ reflects.  “We all come with a purpose and work equally as hard, and at the end of the day that’s what worth it.”

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.