Fairytale Eggplant & the Novel of South Florida’s Growing Season Charms

Beautiful Fairytale Eggplant from Mother Earth Miami

Michael’s Genuine® chef de cuisine Tim Piazza has his hands in a box of artichokes.  Peeling them, especially baby ones, is not exactly a stimulating activity, but Tim is wearing one of his wide-eyed smiles, the one that makes him look a little crazy.  Spring is here, and he is clearly in the zone.

“Last night Mother Earth harvested like 50 pounds of greens in the dark with little headlights, because that’s the best time to harvest greens — at night when the temperature cools down,” Tim explains.  “Katia just grows like the nicest, coolest stuff.”

Mother Earth Miami, sprouting from Litter River Cooperative’s Farmer Incubator Program, is a new source for us this season, with Tim bringing in vegetables and greens like turnip, carrot, spigariello kale and fairytale eggplant. This kind of organic growth in the local farming community is a definite reason to get excited. And to make Eggplant Tomato Curry.

IMG_4475

Eggplant Tomato Curry

The combination of Indian spices and local ingredients has proven to be a hit, maximizing the flavor potential of a curry.  Roasted eggplant is sautéed with cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, coriander, cumin, black pepper, lemon pepper, fenugreek, and fennel seed, served at room temperature with lightly-marinated chickpeas, some cilantro and a freshly-made cucumber raita served with a side of fresh pita.

“It’s cool to work with people who care about what they’re doing and are trying new things,” Tim continues. “Getting good ingredients helps us elevate the simplicity of what we do and these relationships are essential to the process.”

Katia last year at a pre-opening wine tasting for staff at Amara.

Ms. Bechara, a wine rep by trade raised in Colombia found she had a green thumb and founded Mother Earth Miami in November 2015.  The move began in her backyard after participating in various small farmer workshops with experienced leaders like Margie Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm in Homestead and John Gentzel of J&P Apiary.

“It was the best canvas for my budding farming career,” says Bechara of her impromptu home project.

She volunteered for urban farmer Muriel Olivares in 2013, to learn the ropes from one of the best who started small.  Olivares chose her last spring to participate in the incubator. Designed to educate and give urban farmers starting out that extra boost for success, it provides them with a plot of land and shared farm tools, as well as classes.  It’s the ultimate small business resource when you deal in seeds and soil.

“I consider Muriel, and Tiffany Noe, my mentors,” says Bechara.

image5-1

Gabi (left) and Katia working together

Her current business partner and friend, Gabi Serra, was a plot neighbor in the program.  Born and raised in Venezuela, Serra’s focus on the herbalism side of farming brings great balance to Mother Earth’s proposition. They also grow edible flowers, herbs, and medicinals like calendula, nasturtiums, and moringa.

“Gabi and I love working together and we have so many aspirations to help the Miami community,” say Berchara.

At its peak, South Florida’s growing season always brings fresh, local ingredients to our doorstep thanks to new farms like Mother Earth.  Their passion is contagious and brings new ideas to the kitchen.   But it’s the mainstays that keep the flagship humming.  With its 11th anniversary this week, Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink continues to be the nucleus of activity for seasonal change, a north star for our restaurant group, setting the tone and the bar for our chefs. If you want to get a taste of what’s happening now in the fields and who is growing what you’re eating, you need look no further that Tim’s menu.

“So it’s really coming in now from everywhere… the tomatoes from Borek are obviously a big thing for us. The run is pretty long from the end of last year but they’re peaking right now, along with the kale and eggplant,” he says. “With a restaurant that moves so much, we have to stay on our toes and utilize the farm products we order in many different ways you know; in a pasta, on a pizza, with a salad, maybe showcase it in a dish of its own like we are doing with the eggplant.”

There’s always a method to the madness. But that madness is familiar to those in our line of work.

IMG_4483

Tomatoes from Teena’s Pride

Working with farmers is an ever-changing, ongoing process that he’s constantly adapting to. He’s currently working with 5 or 6 farms, with familiar names such as Michael Borek’s Teena’s Pride, who we receive beautiful heirloom tomatoes from, amongst other things, every season.

When asked what he was most excited to work with ingredient-wise this season, he simply shrugged with a baffled look on his face.  Always working with what he receives and changing things up, or using standard products in new ways — it is hard for him to narrow it down.

“As a chef, you are excited about everything.”

Ella Pops a Little Pie Shop for Thanksgiving & the Holidays

Apple of our eye.

Palm Court, Ella’s front yard, sparkles for the season!

Sweeten your holiday dessert game this year with Caramel Apple, Pumpkin and Bourbon Chocolate Pecan in your pie-hole!  For the first time, Ella Pop Café in the Miami Design District will offer a menu of homemade pies baked fresh by our pastry team and available for pick up at the café.  Beginning today, Thanksgiving pre-orders will be accepted in person or over the phone to Ella at 786.534.8177 with a credit card.  Pies range from $25-28 and guests will receive a copy of their receipt by email.  24 hour notice is required with Monday through Friday pickup available from 9am to 7pm at the café (140 NE 39th Street, unit 136).  Last day for Thanksgiving orders is Monday, 11.20 for pickup Monday 11.20 to Wednesday 11.22, based on availability.  The café will be closed Thanksgiving Thursday.

Can’t wait? Get a taste of what’s baking beginning tomorrow, Wednesday 11.15 when Ella will also sell pie by-the-slice and whole on the spot (limited availability).

Make a Fall Evening in the Miami Design District with Music & Michael’s Genuine®

Compliments to the chef.  And of the Miami Design District!  As we head into a new season here in South Florida, our menu at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink experiences a little more than daily changes.  Chef de Cuisine Tim Piazza is working in everything from Butternut and Delicata squash, to Honeycrisp apples and Brussels Sprouts and building new dishes around them.  With weekly complimentary concerts in Palm Court, now is the time to get a taste of autumn and make a night of it in the neighborhood.

The Miami Design District kicks off its Performance Series Presented by Knight Foundation this Friday, October 13 with Latin Grammy Nominated and Billboard Latin Music Award Winners, Il Volo.  MGFD gets in the spirit with Coco Loco  ($10) coconut water, rum, pineapple, housemade grenadine, lime and Luxardo, served out of its freshly tapped, green coconut.  Just look for the coconut-strewn bar in front of Ella, where you can also find a selection of wine, beer, water and yes, fresh coconut water, too.  See the schedule posted here, and look forward to a new act each week (Fridays, 6PM, Palm Court 140 NE 39th Street), with the Miami Symphony Orchestra back monthly.  Street, Palm Court Garage and Valet Parking available.   Here are how the leaves fall on the menu (new cocktails at the MGFD bar with Beverage Manager Amanda Fraga and desserts by pastry chef MJ Garcia will be covered in separate posts over the next week!):

Braised Rabbit Leg with roasted cipollini onion, bacon, mustard, whole wheat crepe

“The funny thing is, of course, we live in Miami so it still feels like summer outside but we want to feel the change despite that,” says Piazza.  “The goal is to create dishes that are full of all those ingredients and flavors we love this time of year, but that aren’t too rich or heavy handed.  This what we do best in a nutshell — balance.”

In that case, he’s struck it.  Wood Oven Roasted Sweet Potato becomes a salad with the addition of sprouted lentils, pretty tokyo turnips, peppery upland cress, and the nutty acid of tahini sauce.  A dusting of Aleppo chile gives it that zesty pop. We all look forward to apples turning up, and the pick of the grove for the chefs is the Honeycrisp for its perfect harmony of sweet and tart.  Piazza highlights its crunchy texture tossing it shaved with aromatic fennel in Apple & Fennel Salad, red onion, sunflower seeds, radish, quinoa, greens, goat cheese and mustard vinaigrette.  Luscious Skirt Steak hits refresh with celery, almonds, dates, horseradish crema and sherry.  Click here for a reservation or call 305.573.5550.

 

Introducing the Seasonal Pizza at Harry’s. Fall’s Calabaza is Up First!

Hello October. We’re falling in love with the flavors and ingredients of autumn by taking the opportunity to introduce a new menu item at Harry’s Pizzeria®: the seasonal pizza.  Every 3 months, our neighborhood American pizzeria will introduce a new pie inspired by what’s around us that time of year.  Calabaza is up first, and what a looker she is.

A sweet and savory combination of just the right amount of ingredients balanced to perfection, Calabaza begins with a base of rosemary crema, followed by caramelized onions, Brussels sprouts and layers of shaved calabaza (think beautiful and bright orange pumpkin) of the perfect thickness so it will melt, lasagna-like in the oven with gruyère and fontina cheeses to tie it all together.  A light sprinkling of parmigiano finishes it with its salty, tangy bite.

Harry’s new seasonal offering is meant to give guests something they can come back to enjoy a bunch of times, staying on for a bit longer than the more spontaneous daily special pizza.  They can also look forward to trying something new, when a new season arrives.  Chefs game plan in advance and hone in on an ingredient or two they are inspired by and then build from there. The idea is to arrive at a well-balanced pie, where a small amount of toppings work together to support the overall flavor profile.   Perfection is in what we can take away, not add.  So there’s a formula to ensure it — a sauce or no sauce, a protein, a vegetable (sometimes two, especially if it’s a vegetarian pizza), one or two cheeses, and a garnish.  That’s all.  And our daily-made dough with a hint of honey and wheat flour for a crust bakes to a blistered, tender result in our ovens.

Visit Harry’s Instagram for a video of how it’s made, courtesy @thenaughtyfork and our kitchen manager Chris Cantu in the Design District doing the demo!  The Calabaza seasonal pie is now available for $15 at all locations beginning today.

 

 

[UPDATED] All Smiles, No (Significant) Damage & See You Tomorrow at MGFD, ella pop café, Harry’s Pizzeria Downtown Dadeland

As of Thursday, September 14:

Harry’s Pizzeria in Coconut Grove is back online and opened at 4pm!

As of Wednesday, September 13:
We are currently preparing to reopen with regular business hours ASAP as follows:

OPEN TODAY
HARRY’S PIZZERIA® Downtown Dadeland and Miami Design District 
MICHAEL’S GENUINE® FOOD & DRINK
ELLA POP CAFE

OPEN FRIDAY
FI’LIA BY MICHAEL SCHWARTZ

We will advise as soon as HARRY’S PIZZERIA® Coconut Grove is back online, as it’s currently dealing with power issues.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE AND STAY SAFE IN YOUR RETURNS AND RECOVERY!

TGHG executive chef Bradley Herron’s breakfast treat this morning for Senior Director of Human Resources and Administration Charles Bell. Lucky.

Sous chef Randy prepping for tomorrow’s reopening.

We are extremely lucky. Such is the sentiment you’ll probably find expressed from Miamians the city over today. Despite challenges with power and downed foliage and the occasional complication associated with water damage, our restaurants and teams are in great shape sustaining virtually zero damage and preparing to reopen tomorrow pending rounding up staff and power. Here is the latest from the home front:

MGFD, ella and Harry’s in Downtown Dadeland will be open tomorrow business as usual and with regular hours. Please visit their websites or Google for quick access to accurate hours, location, contact, menus and more.

We are out of power at Harry’s in Coconut Grove and the Miami Design District (where the only losses are a stolen smoker from our chain gated back lot (looters cut the fence), ripped awnings, and blown away planters. FPL estimates Grove power will be restored by the 17th. We are holding out for sooner (being that it’s also my neighborhood!)  Word on Fi’lia coming soon, and despite a collapsed crane on the Paraiso Bay property, Amara is all systems go on schedule with what appears to be no damage or backtracks to construction.

Cheers y’all. I’m working remotely from my brother’s apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn currently until Thursday with my cat Kittie.  Per usual, updates here and on all our social feeds. Hope everyone is ok and wishing all a swift return and recovery.