Feeling Stone Crabby? Pound It Special Beginning Monday at MGFD with 1/2 Off ALL Wine Bottles!

Miami born/raised
captain waterman, union longshoreman and wholesale seafood dealer Jay Burns knows what’s up! Fresh from the traps crab for Chef Michael Schwartz, first!

It’s time to get cracking South Florida! Stonies are back and so is our season opener special at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink.

To celebrate the arrival of one of this season’s most anticipated, delectable and special local ingredients, your first pound of Florida Stone Crabs from Monday, October 21 to Monday, November 4 come with 1/2 price wines bottles! Choose any — ANY — bottle of wine on The Genuine Hospitality Group Head Sommelier Amanda Fraga’s exciting, dynamic and mouth watering list!  All bottles are fair game, available at lunch, afternoon, dinner and brunch, all two weeks long!   From sparkling to creamy, it all pairs as far as we are concerned, with meat hunks of rich unadorned crab… Or, gild that lily with dips of clarified butter or classic mustard sauce with a spray of lemon.

Handsy with the crab at Amara. Enjoy with aji mustard sauce, lemon and lime!

Pop in and join us on a Design District stroll for afternoon menu or happy hour, or book a reservation for lunch dinner or brunch in advance at reservations@michaelsgenuine.com or 305.573.5550. From sparkling to red and all the rosé in between, treat yo’ self to the best of the season haul from our favorite fishermen!

If you’re in the mood for a waterfront view with your claws, or fancy a tropical neighborhood stroll post feast, remember Amara at Paraiso and Tigertail + Mary will be full stocked and ready with large, jumbo and colossal stone crabs for you no matter where you decide to settle in this season. Or better yet, make the genuine rounds!

Curious about what goes down on the water? Watch our video from last year’s first of the season catch with fisherman Jorge Figueroa.

 

 

[Video] Gone Fishing for Florida Stone Crab Season

It all began with a hunt for a frog leg source in 2006 when Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink was a set of plans and dreams. Some 12 years later, fisherman George Figueroa of Trigger Seafood is Michael’s source for everything under the South Florida sun including these Everglades treats, from local spiny lobster to his company’s namesake triggerfish when we’re lucky.  Like most long lasting relationships, things grow and evolve.  You see each other when you can — sometimes more often than others, but it’s always like yesterday and there’s always an opportunity for a spontaneous adventure.  When George happened to be by the office last week to pick up a check, he asked if I wanted to join on the boat Sunday for the 2018 Florida Stone Crab season harvest.  Frog gigging?  Sure, Michael has donned the headlamp under full moonlight.  Wild boar hunting? He and culinary director Bradley Herron joined George on the swamp buggy.  But after all this time, it would be our first time pulling traps — and certainly not the last!

Unlike recreational opportunities, our fisherman has a commercially-regulated (for sustainability) license where he may legally harvest both claws — if they are legal in size and the crab continues to feed (as many frisky ones we encountered today without claws were doing in the traps.) The crabs’ natural predators in the bay including triggerfish, dolphin, turtles, and octopus actively prey on both clawed and clawless specimens. The reality is we encountered pilfered and stolen traps all day long, which is bad for everyone, especially the health of our fishery.

Stone Crab season is one of those give-ins. Not taken for granted but to a certain degree expected.  Nothing should ever be that way, and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to realize it through this past weekend’s experience.  George’s office is like that.  It appears to be a constant — the crystalline water of Biscayne Bay, the blue sky embracing its National Park, the delicious seafood.

Scratch the shimmer though, and the squalls, the tropical changes, the pirate’s-life-for-me blood coursing thick and hungry in all of us down in these wild parts rise to the surface.  That’s the thing about buried treasure.  It makes us all go a little crazy. Go rogue in the rush of discovery and payday in glorious sweet meat.  But what will you pull up?  Has someone gotten there, to your licensed traps, first? The unpredictability of it all runs deep, and that’s the object lesson we took away with our 65-pound claw haul. Protection and regulation can only do so much for our natural resources.  It takes a little more work than that.  It takes respect, and education even when it’s not always easy on the eyes is a fine place to start.

Thank you @jorge_trigger_seafood for showing us the #stonecrab ropes, sharing insight into the challenges of managing this fishery, and always telling it like it is. Keep it real and come along for the ride with us on the video above. When you enjoy some claws at MGFD or Amara at Paraiso there will be new meaning and respect to contemplate — how they got to the table and in some cases why they’re absent from it.

 

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.

Your Spiny Lobster Passport is the Harry’s Pizzeria® Special Pizza Next Week

Next time check your lobster’s passport to fully appreciate where it comes from. Florida lobster season as regulated commercially and recreationally by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and spans August to March, allowing for spawning in the off months.  The crustacean itself is actually Panulirus argus or “spiny lobster”.  Characteristic for its abundant tail (meat!) and very long, thick, spiny antennae, the spiny lobster and its clawed doppelganger the true Maine lobster aren’t as related as you might think.  In fact, Caribbean lobster is more accurate than Florida, which really refers to the regulatory season itself and the jurisdiction of fisheries.

“Oh they’re walkers,” fisherman George Figueroa explained on the phone this morning. “Lobster will walk hundreds of miles, from Mexico, you name it. Sometimes the traps are empty in the Keys and Bahamas, and then they’re full all of a sudden, so those were probably in Cuba.”

This begins to make a lot of sense when you consider the fossil record of spiny lobsters has been extended by the discovery in 1995 of a 110-million-year-old fossil near El Espiñal in Chiapas, Mexico.

George explains that lobsters generally look for habitats to hide, whether it’s a reef or something artificial. Divers will tend to catch them in the first month.  Then as they do their walks at night, searching for food, fishermen lay traps in a desolate area so the trap then becomes the habitat — often baiting it with a lobster to make it more inviting for these social, pack travelers. The 2017-18 season is starting kind of weak, and they’ve been hauling several hundred pounds a week. Come January and February, supply will taper off.

We always are looking to feature ingredients at their freshest, and spiny lobster is one of those seasonal moments we look forward to each year.  Chef de Cuisine Tim Piazza has be working it into the Michael’s Genuine® menu in a number of ways, from daily pasta specials to raw bar.  But when Michael shot an email out last week that he was thinking a lobster pizza for Harry’s, we knew we needed to make it happen!  TGHG executive Chef Bradley Herron jumped on it, from vacation no less, getting his troops together to source product, recipe test and ultimately implement a plan to launch in all three locations.  Chefs Max Makowski, Megan Hess and Dillion Wolff are championing the effort to make it happen, working with our commissary kitchen to process 100 pounds or about 150 tails including cutting the shell, cooking sous vide in butter and thyme, and getting to the Harry’s kitchen managers complete with recipe cards and training for a smooth consistent introduction.  Making changes to menus gets more challenging as we grow, so this process is essential to ensure the end game lives up to the initial intention.

Enjoy a taste of the result as Harry’s Pizzeria celebrates the start of the season in Florida Lobster Pizza with braised leeks, Calabrian chiles, fontina and scallions as next week’s special pie.  It will run Monday, August 21 to Sunday, August 27 at all three locations for $21.  How’s that for an exercise in knowing where your food comes from?  Watch as the chefs test a couple versions yesterday on @harryspizzeria here, and get those juices flowing.  George’s Trigger Seafood in another astonishing turn of events has added an Instagram account, so be sure to show him some love too as you enjoy the fruits of his labor!

What’s in the Walk In? Great White Winter Predators.

Golden Tilefish at Trigger Seafood.

Golden Tilefish resting pretty at George Figueroa’s Trigger Seafood.

“Striped bass, trout, and stuff like that. Scallops… That’s the ocean I come from,” Fi’lia chef de cuisine Tim Piazza begins.  “When I was working at (Michael’s) Genuine, I began figuring out what South Florida has to offer as far as local sustainable fish. Golden tilefish is one we really look forward to.”

Coming from New York, Tim had to learn the seasons, the ingredients, all over again, and same goes for the sea as it does for land.  With grouper out until summer, the arrival of swimmers at the top of the food chain is the perfect trigger for the kitchen to revisit fish dishes on the menu.  Changing the set up is always on the table, but so is a switch more subtle yet maybe even more significant. Tim turned up the volume on one of my favorite dishes simply swapping snapper for golden tile.

“You get something a lot cleaner, with a little more firmness and structure to the fish. Which means a higher fat content, so the bite is a little more luxurious,” he explains. “I had to wrap my head around it but it’s just a constant thing and part of the process for our kitchen, menu development. It’s just about getting smarter as a cook down here. You flip the script like 100%.”

Talk to fishmonger George Figueroa of Trigger Seafood, Michael’s good friend and dispatch of what’s running since Genuine’s early days, and he’ll yarn a tail as only his dying breed can, one that makes the fish leap from the plate with context essential to the understanding – and therefore ultimate enjoyment – of the ingredient.

“Right now the season opened on the golden tile and the long liners are out off Florida’s north Atlantic coast, even at Pulley’s Ridge about 140 to 160 miles northwest of Key West in the Gulf,” he explains. “It’s where these guys like to be, deep in the trenches. That’s why they have this angled head, to bury in the sand.”

#whatsinthewalkin

#whatsinthewalkin

NOAA’s commercial season began on as appropriate day as any, January 1. Midnight on New Year’s Day the boats George works with went out from Port Canaveral. We received our first delivery last week. Deep sea fisherman like these are the real deal. They’re allowed a 4-5,000 pound haul per boat trip, each lasting about eight, sometimes 10 days. This is serious fishing, with in some cases five miles of hooks gleaning specimens of 20 to even 60 pounds from downwards of 1,000 feet. In keeping with regulation, the boats must be at least 200 miles from nearest land mass. This is a better fishery than close to shore, and where you can find the queens (snapper,) snowy groupers, wreckfish… basically all the stuff that keeps things interesting and cooks on their toes amidst schools of mutton, yellowtail and mangrove snappers. People will be fishing golden tile hook and line for the rest of the year, after the long liners finish their allotment.

Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink chef de cuisine Saul Ramos will receive 200 pounds this afternoon from Wild Ocean Seafood and, not unlike a whole pig, he’ll work through every inch, using the bones for a fish fume with lemongrass, the cheek on the grill with scallion, ginger and lemon, the fillet into the wood oven or pan seared. The scraps will go into ceviche at the raw bar, and the collar will be served crispy on the outside with fatty flakes of juicy white flesh in the nooks.

“These big fish are more fun. Carrying it, you feel the weight, and from the moment the knife cuts into the flesh,” he says. “One of the things I love about golden tile is that it has a subtle flavor of lobster and crab.  Cooked perfectly, you really get a nice flavor of shellfish.”

Saul explains that when breaking down these big guys, you need to know where to enter and be precise, following the cuts to get the most yield.  He uses three knives — a fillet knife, which is more fragile and has two different blades for a cleaner cut.  Then there’s the chef’s knife to get at the bones. A pairing knife goes around tighter places like the neck.

Chef Saul and Sous Randy showing off their mutton snappers from George a couple days ago.

Sous Randy (left) and Chef Saul (right) showing off their mutton snappers from George a couple days ago. Today we will trade peach for speckled golden.

Because of the challenges of this fishery, especially how long the fish are out of the water compared to shallow dayboat catch, George is careful who he works with despite what would seem to be a task only for the most seasoned, simpatico professionals.

Size and quality are top priority. First, you’ll want to put the fish into a chill brine, which is basically what it sounds like – a slushy mix of salt water and ice which really drops the temperature quick – and then on ice. And you must bring to shore as quickly as possible, not camp out for more yield when it compromises the catch.

“You have to stick to your guns, when some customers want fish that just isn’t available from sources you trust,” he reflects. “That’s how my business started. I can only work on small scale, because you’ll get old fish, and it’s going to hurt. I don’t want to get any bigger. You have to be willing to say it’s not available. Everyone wants the fish, but there’s only so much and we can’t just be like everyone else. When grouper season closed it was like disbelief. It’s like take it off your damn menu already! Take what’s available, the best product. Be flexible.”