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).

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.

 

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.