Slow Fires at Cypress Tavern | Chef Justin Smillie’s Cookbook Dinner & Upland Miami Preview

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Chef Justin Smillie is coming to town, and he’s making a stop with Schwartz first! Before Upland — the restaurant he opened in NYC with Stephen Starr, named after his hometown in California — opens in Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood later this fall, we will welcome him for a cookbook dinner and preview of the deliciousness to come.  Join us Tuesday, October 25 at 7pm for Slow Fires at Cypress Tavern. TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE HERE TODAY!  Included for $195 are passed canapes, welcome cocktail, 4 plated courses including wine pairings, a signed cookbook, and tax and gratuity.  And Justin’s company of course!

 

Cypress Tavern chef de cuisine Max Makowski knows what's up. He had his copy long before we confirmed Justin!

Cypress Tavern chef de cuisine Max Makowski knows what’s up. He had his copy long before we confirmed Justin!

Drawing on his rural youth — the rustic elements of the outdoors including regular camping trips, foraging for wild ingredients, and fly-fishing — for inspiration, Justin worked his way through some pretty incredible kitchens to get where he is today, making his own mark. From Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Mercer Kitchen to Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern and Jonathan Waxman’s Washington Park and Barbuto, he fell in love with the bold flavors and rustic techniques showcased in the restaurant, and this philosophy would stick with him. We too got bitten by the Smillie bug after memorable meals at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, where he earned three stars from The New York Times.

In November 2015, the chef released Slow Fires: Mastering New Ways to Braise, Roast, and Grill. His first book, which is published by Clarkson Potter, explores the fundamental techniques of braising, roasting, and grilling–and shows you how to see them in new ways, to learn the rules to break them.  We can’t wait to do just that after trying to wrangle Justin for what seems like forever. Can’t believe it’s happening. Pinch yourself. It’s real!

A quick note on ticketing for this event: We are pleased to try out Mixstir for the first time, a South Florida-based company (which we are always happy to support!) with an easy-to-use and beautiful e-ticketing interface. We think you’ll think it’s a great improvement, too.  Please email me your feedback if you’d like at jackie@thegenuinehospitalitygroup.com.  We are eager to hear what you think, and look forward to seeing you on October 25!

[Recipe] It’s Lights Out With This Cookbook & These Schwartz Nachos

Trivia time! Which of the following MGFD classic-inspired nachos got the Schwartz stamp of approval when food and travel writer Gina Hamadey — also fellow comrade in Karaoke (where’s that video!?) — asked a recipe contribution for her new cookbook?

A) Sweet & Spicy Pork Belly Nachos — kimchi, kimchi hollandaise, scallions, blue corn tortillas
B) Shredded Pork Shoulder Nachos  fontina, pickled red onions, parsley sauce, serrano peppers, avocado, crispy flour tortilla chips
C) Pastrami Nachos — red cabbage, caramelized onions, thousand island, gruyere, chopped parsley, crispy flour tortilla chips
D) Chilaquiles  Nachos — tomatillo-cilantro sauce, black beans, diced tomato, sour cream, charred corn, cotija cheese, fried farm eggs, corn tortilla chips

Here’s a weekend present for you.  The answer is B, for a bonafide bowl of Michael Schwartz Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder nachos.  Trust me, I tested it — more for incredulity than accuracy — and it’s off the wall amazeballs.  Just in time for a weekend of football!  One small but important bit of advice… Use Florida avocados here. They’re everywhere now and like the companion fruit to the pork shoulder — more juice!  Just like Chef likes it.

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Love & Learn | MJ’s Seasonally Sweet & Relentlessly Prolific Pastry Program

Snapshot of now via #MGFDpastry

Snapshot of now via #MGFDpastry on Instagram. They’ve been busy.

MJ spending some stage time with master baker Tomas Strulovic.

MJ being a sponge for all things bakery, staging with True Loaf’s Tomas Strulovic.

There’s no “i” in pastry, and Maria Jose “MJ” Garcia will be the first one to tell you.  We last checked in with our pastry chef at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink to learn about her department’s regular role in the ella display case — namely the café’s daily donut.  Today’s angle zooms out to capture the scope of what’s going on these days at Michael’s Genuine (a lot), and how — in addition to the invaluable supportive role it plays within our growing organization — pastry is driving much of the research and development in our flagship kitchen.

MJ maintains that to become really good at what you do, you have to have really good team that works hard together to grow, referring to the chemistry and commitment of pastry assistants Alexandra Sarria (lead) and Chelsea Hillier, with their support staff.  “We can always get 10 times better, as we mature as cooks,” she explains. “But these girls have challenged themselves really hard and trusted me with their careers. They have the foundation; they respect their roots and sometimes that’s all you need.”

Always learn

Always learning new techniques (for our benefit! Thanks MJ!)

You first need to know that MJ grew up in kitchens — her father owned eight restaurants from Venezuela to Miami — so it became a place where she felt most comfortable.  The family is originally from Galicia, Spain and spending several months out of the year abroad in her youth set MJ on a path where travel and the experience of other cultures, especially the European way of life, played a formative role.  She studied philosophy and then started teaching, saving to pay her way through culinary school, her ultimate passion. It would propel her to the U.S. from Venezuela in search of the level of gastronomy and environment necessary to develop her craft and gain experience working for the best.

Moving to Miami in 2010, MJ enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu and began researching local restaurants and chefs. Self described as “obsessive” when it comes to details, she was drawn to pastry because of the precision and technique it requires. “I had more confidence, enjoyed the control of flavors and understood the chemistry,” she explains. “The different components and how they interact and work together is so specific as compared to the culinary part of the kitchen.”

She had heard of Michael Schwartz, his pioneering style of food focused around local ingredients in season at flagship neighborhood bistro Michael’s Genuine.  So MJ just decided one day to show up on the restaurant’s doorstep, and it paid off.  She would do anything to be in that kitchen and ended up staying on as an intern for six months under the guidance of then acclaimed James Beard nominated pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith. In fact, she completed another internship, this time the one she needed for school credit, at South Beach’s Raleigh Hotel.

Looking back on her influences and how they shape her approach today, MJ contends the simple, traditional desserts that she experienced in Spain, Italy and France — those born from recipes perfected over time — are her benchmark as a pastry chef.  MJ thinks and develops desserts in terms of “food flow”,  how she describes cooking with the seasons, that biological clock that makes so many food cultures across Europe tick.  She also wants the sweets developed for the menu to be delicate, just sweet enough and most importantly not over-complicated.  Her dad was the kind of person who would drive miles to get the perfect bread.  She recognized and admired that in Michael and also early on in the Michael’s Genuine kitchen under then chef de cuisine Bradley Herron — the importance of sourcing — to look for quality or the person who does it the best.  “We just want to do one thing well with each dessert using good quality ingredients — not a lot of things and not over the top.”

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Miami winter on a plate: Almond Absinthe Cake from January 5, 2016

She points to Almond Absinthe Cake with Florida strawberries and tangerine curd, a dessert that went on last winter as encapsulating her approach.  “It respects seasonality of South Florida with freshness, combined with this nut flour-based cake which is traditional to the region where my dad is from. And a subtle hint of sweet licorice flavor reminds me of my teenage years!”

The seasons also perform another function for Genuine pastry — creating a feeder system and momentum for new menu items.  There’s a lot of planning that goes into the process, about a month ahead, sometimes more. She’ll get the team together to sit down and talk about what’s coming in, sharing ideas and then testing them, putting things out as specials to see what’s working and what’s not in the dining room. Big seasonal crops for South Florida – like citrus for instance – are long and abundant, so MJ particularly flags this annual challenge in advance as an opportunity to keep things interesting. “We can’t enter a season guessing,” she asserts.

Vegetarian ice cream! Vanilla Kulfi with citrus, ginger, rosewater and pistachios

Vegetarian ice cream as beautiful to eat as it is to look at! Vanilla Kulfi with citrus, ginger, rosewater and pistachios, from March.

mgfd-new-dessert-sectionsAs for her style, she’s always followed her instincts, an approach that has proved fruitful in life and in the kitchen with her husband and chef de cuisine at Cypress Tavern, Max Makowski.  “As a chef, you have a passport to do whatever you want and seek out new opportunities to learn.”  They’ve never been afraid of change and taking chances, following their guts to learn whether it be in Seattle or Denver, where MJ moved for two years before returning to Genuine in her current position. They decided to get to married and Max had established himself in the Rocky Mountain capital as a Sous Chef.  Then their curious, inquisitive and beautiful daughter Mia arrived (now two years old and very patient of Mom’s phone interview time!)  MJ was ready to try something different and found it in a vegan bakery. “It’s one more step of thought process,” she explains.  “Interchanging dairy elements that work in pastry for something vegan that behaves in the same way… That was interesting to me. You just have to work out the puzzle.”

Stay updated on the latest specials at the #MGFDpastry feed, and click here for the dessert menu.  We dare you to find a repeat in the mosaics above!

#thisisMGFD: Short Rib Croquettes | Roasted Vegetable Salad | Pan Roasted Snapper

 

As our new menu settles in, we’ll be highlighting dishes on the blog a few at a time as we taste through them all, with menu descriptions provided by the chefs so you can get to know them, too.  Here are some highlights from last night’s first Dinner service:

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Short Rib Croquettes with smoked paprika aioli — These tasty three-bite nuggets are made with an ingredient common to the Miami table: yucca.  I like to think of this as a take on what one might find at Palacio de Los Jugos (a known palace of inspiration for Chef!) where they’re sprinkled with pork bits.  Here, the tuber is boiled and mixed into a batter with flour and egg, filled and balled with slow cooked short rib and all the good flavor-making stuff — mirepoix, white wine, tomato, orange, cumin and oregano — fried until brown and crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and nestled in a pool of smoked paprika aioli.  This sauce is a keeper, and you can whisk it up with egg yolk, lemon juice, and a slow steady stream of olive oil.  The creamy condiment is transformed into a vivid shade of orange with the intoxicating addition of smoked paprika.

img_0146Roasted Vegetables with seeds & grains, tahini, cilantro — So not all of us may be in agreement that this is a salad, but we are definitely on the same page that it’s a flavor-packed winner. Share it with a friend as a starter or make a satisfying meal of a bowl including red quinoa, bulgar wheat, wild rice, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, and toasted, spiced pumpkin seeds tossed with roasted heirloom carrots, cauliflower and petals of caramelized onions.  Sitting atop a cushion of tahini and topped with fresh picked cilantro, this one’s gonna call you back.

Pan Roasted Snapper with clams, bacon, green onion, green sauce  Umami bursts from the plate here in perfect balance. A 6oz filet of snapper (or what’s light and flakey and running locally, like tilefish perhaps) is pan roasted skin side down until crispy.  That’s important for contrast.  Braised in the pan with butter, thyme and garlic, it’s served on a bed of grilled scallions and a pool of green sauce.  It’s just heaven, combining clam juice, garlic, thyme, white wine, spinach, parsley, tarragon, and basil all puréed and mounted with butter.  Good lord is it lick-your-plate-clean good.  Adding crisp chunks of house smoked bacon and a few steamed clams in their shell to guild the lily, this is sure to be a keeper.

Follow #thisisMGFD on Instagram as we continue to tour the news.

Welcoming New Menus & Chef de Cuisine Saul Ramos at MGFD

Welcome Saul

MGFD’s new CDC in our favorite spot.

At 10 Years, there’s just so much more Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink to taste with a new chef de cuisine, Saul Ramos, to helm the kitchen.  On Tuesday, September 13, the next chapter in Michael’s Miami Design District flagship unfolds in menu format and content changes most notably at anchor services — first Dinner on Tuesday evening, then Lunch and Afternoon on Wednesday, with Brunch following on Sunday.

“When this little restaurant was still an idea back in 2006, we dreamed of cooking and serving food that would bring people together and make them happy,” Schwartz explains. “This is what drives us, the end goal. How we get there — to the root of what it means to be MGFD — changes, inspires us, and keeps us on our toes.”

Banh mi packed with shrimp paste and fried into a crispy crostini, with customary julienne pickled carrot and picked herbs.

Banh mi packed with shrimp paste and fried into a crispy crostini, with customary julienne pickled carrot and picked herbs.

Leek and Potato Crostada

Crostada as seen on @chefmschwartz’s instagram, with flakey, golden crust nailed to perfection by Pastry Chef MJ Garcia.

Our new Dinner menu begins in a familiar place with eight Snacks, where zesty newcomers like shrimp toast “banh mi” (9), sprouted lentil fritters with yogurt & watercress (8), and short rib croquettes with smoked paprika aioli (9) meet go-tos like classic deviled eggs (8), thick cut potato chips with pan fried onion dip (8) and crispy hominy with chile & lime (7).  Working the way down on Dinner, dishes are listed by size from small to large, starting with Salads, Vegetables, Pizza & Pasta, Fish and Meat, offering a variety of sizes and preparations within each section.

“Daily changes highlighting seasonal ingredients have always dictated our menu, but we wanted to facilitate guest engagement with it and call out things important to us like Vegetables and Salads,” explains Schwartz. “With Saul leading the back of house, we’re connecting with what we love about this place: making great food, cultivating talent and creativity in the kitchen, and exciting our guests in the dining room like they expect.”

Click for the new dinner menu (subject to change of course!)

Click for the new dinner menu (subject to change of course!)

Because Salads occupy an important place at the Schwartz table, there are five including Fennel & Celery Root with mint, arugula, almonds and pecorino (11), Gem Lettuce with pickled vegetables & tuna sauce (11), and Bitter Greens with apple, walnuts and blue cheese. The long time staple highlighting what’s fresh and in season, Stracciatella will continue to draw from ingredients on restaurant’s iconic food bar wall accented with basil, extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt. Vegetables include six dishes, from a three bite Leek & Potato Crostada with mozzarella & roasted garlic (9), to savory and satisfying Beluga Lentils with curried calabaza & pumpkin seeds (11). A current favorite, Wood Oven Roasted Eggplant, holds court with chickpeas, preserved meyer lemon, tahini, cilantro and freshly-made, piping hot pita from the hearth (10).

Always willing and able to make eggplant the star it truly is.

Always willing and able to make eggplant the star it truly is.

Ramos, who joined Michael’s Genuine earlier this year as Sous Chef, worked closely with Chef and The Genuine Hospitality Group Executive Chef Bradley Herron to hone the dishes.  Born in Mexico and raised in Chicago, from the very beginning Saul was the product of cultures at a crossroads, like the city he currently calls home. His sisters would say that when Saul was little, he would always talk about wanting to be a chef when he grew up. It’s not hard to imagine, since he was surrounded by inspiration in the Ramos household of his youth, filled with delicious aromas of his mother and grandmother cooking (always cooking!) Of all the meals shared at home with family, the one that sticks with Saul the most is Thanksgiving. The turkey was the star of course, but there was whole fish too, and an abundant spread of vegetables, side dishes, and sweets that the whole family participated in cooking. After all, his family immigrated to the U.S. 40 years ago, while some of his mom’s side still reside in San Luis Potosí, Mexico.

Saul entered restaurant life at 13 when his elder sister Berenice pulled him out of school. He was distracted in school, and she was dating a restaurateur at the time. So that’s where Saul’s story in the kitchen began, like the many others like it — thrown to the wolves at 14 to figure it out. He’ll talk about his mentor David Blonsky, and his importance to the arc of his career, but in the beginning it was all about steak. Lots of them, and he learned how to cook them perfectly on the line of a steakhouse in Chicago, by not overthinking it. He also loves making pasta, from the technique for mixing and sheeting dough, to shapes and the best ways to sauce them, especially noodles with a good Bolognese. After opening Siena Tavern in Chicago in 2013 under the guidance of chefs Fabio Viviani and Kevin Abshire, he moved to South Florida without a plan, which is sometimes the only way to have one.

And Pizza & Pasta have always been a part of the Genuine experience to look forward to, so now is no exception with two dishes each: Calabaza Agnolotti with house smoked bacon, cipollini, piave vecchio and thyme (18), Bucatini with roasted mushrooms, garlic, parsley, parmigiano and black truffle (18), Shiitake Mushroom Pizza with roasted leeks & fontina (18), and Braised Lamb Pizza with harissa, manchego, charred scallion and cilantro (19.)

Fish incorporates the Raw Bar’s oysters selection with a crudo and ceviche, adding tender, decadent Alaskan King Crab with green sambal (23). What’s local and running in Florida waters continues to form the foundation of dishes like Pan Roasted Tilefish with clams, bacon, green onion and green sauce (25), Wood Oven Roasted Grouper with red chermoula, fennel, tomato and olives (24) and of course the Wood Oven Roasted Whole Snapper with castelvetrano olives, calabrian chiles, parsley and grilled lemon (PA).

TGHG chef assistant Megan Hess holding it down with Saul in the kitchen.

TGHG chef assistant Megan Hess holding it down with Saul in the kitchen.

Comprised of eight dishes, Meat showcases the kitchen’s love of building layers of flavor, beginning with Stuffed Cabbage (12) where pork and beef are braised with spices. Posole Rojo (14) is dialed in with a rich broth and juicy pork belly, topped with a fried egg. Crispy Lamb Neck with chickpeas, cucumber, yogurt, dill and preserved lemon (16) and Braised Rabbit with saffron, apricot, green olive, cous cous and mint (19) hit an exotic note. The Genuine Burger is back, optimized with house smoked bacon and cheddar, lettuce, tomato, brioche bun and fries (21). Bigger dishes bookending the section include familiar, high quality proteins that drive flavor like Poulet Rouge Chicken, pan roasted and served with bitter greens & mustard sauce (22.) Slow Roasted & Grilled Short Rib gets the Vietnamese treatment with nuoc cham, bean sprouts, crispy shallot and peanuts (23.) Show-stopping 32oz Wood Oven Roasted Porterhouse with sour orange-onion marmalade (79) was chosen as a luxurious cut matched by rich, deep flavor.

Saul’s style is dynamic; he likes having fun in the kitchen, challenging himself to identify areas for improvement and innovation, and then research and find a solution. He believes in leadership that empowers his people and jumps at the opportunity to get down and dirty with the team in the trenches. “Understanding where this restaurant comes from, like sourcing its product, is key to embracing new ideas and the evolution to come. It’s all about dialing in the new menu now.  Then there’s season.”