Training Days! Ella is Ready to Pop & Here’s the Opening Menu.

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Bagel or Begel, Mr. Schwartz?

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True Loaf pastries greet customers with layers of buttery smiles.

Training is in full-force at our highly anticipated pop-up café, ella, opening in the Design District’s Palm Court hopefully by Thursday.

Here’s a deeper look into the menu and its 3 sections: “until 11am”, “all day”, and “after 11am”. Opening in the morning, ella’s “until 11am” section will consist of more breakfast-ey items that are perfect for people who work in the area picking up a quick bite or hungry shoppers on the go. The 9-grain pancake, a dish originally on the Michael’s Genuine brunch menu, features 9-grains in the batter, adding heartiness to this supple pancake. The breakfast sandwich is a classic take with the simple bacon, egg, and cheese line up on a fluffy english muffin. Last is the power breakfast, and it is just that!  This healthy “picker-upper” combines Greek yogurt with Michael’s balanced, delicious mix of chia jelly, banana, blueberries, granola, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and dried mulberries.

Featured on the “all day” section of the menu are a couple items that are made throughout the day and are some of the most exciting items! A classic avocado toast on True Loaf bread is the perfect bite for any time of the day. Another very special item our homemade everything bagel that comes with beet-cured wild salmon. Chef Roel Alcudia perfected the recipe for these amazing bagels, and is “very excited about them!”

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The everything bagel in all its glory… with everything.

He starts with the usual suspects- yeast, flour, water, salt- and lets the mixture rise (about 20-30 minutes). He then divides them into balls, flattens them, and cuts a hole in the middle, creating the classic bagel shape. After letting them rise again, they go into a boiling pot of water with barley syrup to add flavor and a crust on the outside of the bagel for one minute on each side. They are then given an egg wash, dipped into an everything topping, and baked in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. The end result is a perfectly chewy and light bagel. They are topped with a beautiful beet-cured salmon, which has a red color given by the beets. The salmon is cured overnight in a beet and gin purée, then rinsed and cured again in herbs. It adds a perfect saltiness to the bagel.

The “after 11am” section features classic lunch items such as a daily soup, a grilled cheese with caramelized onions, and an heirloom tomato salad with feta and pickled onions. There are also a couple more unique items, such as the vegetable tacos that come decked out with black beans, avocado, pickled onion, cilantro, and cotija cheese, all on a tequila blue masa tortilla. Also the rock shrimp summer roll, which is a light and refreshing roll filled with fresh herbs and veggies to create the perfect bite for a hot summer day.

ella3 (1)ella is located in the interior west end of Palm Court at 140 NE 39th Street, unit 136 to be exact. In addition to street parking, the Design District offers valet from $5 located at the entrance to Palm Court on 39th Street in between NE 1st and NE 2nd Ave and the Palm Court Parking Garage is open from 9 am to 9pm Monday-Saturday and 11am – 7pm on Sunday, $3 for the first 4 hours, $6 for 4-6 hours, and $25 for 6+ hours, with the entrance located on NE 38th St. Ascend through the Dome and look for the umbrellas.

The café will serve fresh-squeezed orange juice, Panther Coffee, Art of Tea, bottled cider and beer including Chef’s Michael’s Genuine® Home Brew, and a selection of wines by the glass and bottle including the house Lua Rossa blend. There is indoor counter seating for 8 and seating outdoors for up to 40 with umbrella-shaded tables and potted herbs and succulents. Take a seat and enjoy the day with whatever beverage suits your fancy, and choose from our daily charcuterie and cheese selection from the butcher’s board.

Hours of operation will be Monday to Saturday from 9am – 7pm and Sunday from 12pm to 5pm. ella offers takeout and will accept all major credit cards. For more information, visit ellapop.me or follow the café on Instagram and Twitter @ellapopmiami.  See you there soon!

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Florida’s Dark Side is Berry Delicious 

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Everyone knows and loves mangoes and lychees and waits with anticipation for the season to begin each summer… But just before the tropical fruit deluge, berries reign, and we aren’t talking those rosy red beauties that made Knaus Berry strawberry shakes so famous. Blueberries may just be Florida’s secret star crop.

Well, not that secret. I spoke with Trish Strawn, a rep from Florida Fresh, who grew up on her family’s grass fed cattle farm and is chiefly familiar with Florida farming.  Her advice was as obvious as it was eye opening.  “Just Google ‘Florida Bluerberries…'” Lo and behold, there is a Florida Blueberry Growers Association and an Annual Florida Blueberry Festival complete with a cartoon blueberry commercial…  How did I miss this?!

Blueberries have a very short season in Florida. It runs from about the first week in April to the first week of June. The thing is, blueberries thrive in citrus fields.  Almost every citrus company grows blueberries. Whatever the citrus trees are taking from the soil, the blueberries don’t need, so you will often see them planted side by side. We get our local blueberries from Crown Jewel Farms or Uncle Matt’s – at this point in the season, all our blueberries are coming from Uncle Matt’s in Clermont, FL. Uncle Matt’s is a certified organic farm and they are best known for their juices. They grow four different varieties of blueberries and the chefs get a fresh mix upon delivery. They farm using the permaculture method, as Trish explains, their approach is to go “with mother nature.” Uncle Matt’s grow blueberries in oak barrels, and underneath each barrel they plant a vinegar patch which naturally filters the soil.

Pan roasted duck breast with Porcini and Blueberries

Pan roasted duck breast with Porcini and Blueberries

At The Cypress Room, Chef Roel Alcudia pairs blueberries with duck and Porcini mushrooms on our tasting menu. The blueberries complement the duck’s gaminess and the porcini’s earthiness.When you taste all the components together, it strikes a harmony between the three main ingredients. Chef explains, “Blueberries have an assertive, concentrated flavor, they are both sweet and sour. In this dish, we utilize both of those flavor profiles as a counterpoint to the duck and porcini.” Blueberries are extremely versatile; you’ll find them gracing The Cypress Room’s lunch prix fixe, dinner tasting, desserts, petit fours like macarons, gelees and housemade sodas.

Margie Pikarsky runs a tight ship in Homestead, FL where she has been growing all sorts of berries since the beginning of Bee Heaven Farm. Margie has a wealth of knowledge about South Florida crops and farming. Margie actually doesn’t grow blueberries. She explained that although the blueberries can handle the heat, the soil this far South is too basic (as opposed to acidic) for them. Further North, in Central Florida and beyond, the soil is more acidic and mucky – much more their comfort zone!

Bee Heaven Farm grows a variety of dark berries including three types of mulberries, mysore raspberry, muntingia (Jamaican cherry), dark surinam cherry, antidesma and Barbados cherry. Our chefs love the pencil mulberry (we do too!) – they are native to Pakistan and are deliciously sweet. They grow to be about three inches long and they produce one harvest a year, around February and March. If you visited any of our restaurants in that time, you probably tried some of Margie’s mulberries! Margie’s first mulberry tree “was a gift from a passing bird” in the late 1970s. When she purchased Bee Heaven Farms, it was one of the first things she planted. Margie learned more about them by visiting the Redland Fruit & Spice Park, “one of my favorite resources for learning about fruit that do well here.” And if that is where Margie, a South Florida farming encyclopedia and all around wonder woman goes to expand her wealth of knowledge, I can only imagine what one could find there!

Mysore raspberries are native to India, but do much better in this climate than the red or black raspberries you find at the grocery store. Mysore typically produces from January to May. The interesting thing about mysore raspberries, Margie explains, is that they have zero shelf life, so you have to pick them bright and early and get them into a cooler ASAP. Because of intricacies like this, you won’t find them in commercial markets – but Margie brings them to the farmer’s markets and they sell out quick!

When Margie purchased the farm, there was already a muntingia tree planted there. She explains, “Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma almost put an end to it, but I found and encouraged a couple of root suckers near the original plant, and they have rewarded us with plenty of fruit over the years.” Muntingia is native to the Caribbean, and the only member of its genus so it is extremely unique. “It bears mulitple crops a year, and is especially responsive to rains. It’s known as cotton candy fruit, because that’s exactly what it tastes like!”

Up until last week, I had never heard of a Surinam cherry. Then, thanks to Forager, a great guide book to Miami’s edible plants, I took to the streets and picked about 4 pounds of Surinam cherries from public parking lots and medians. Surinam cherries were an extremely popular hedge plant in the 1950s and 1960s, which is why if you look, you will see them everywhere! The cherries you find driving around are typically red and orange, the don’t taste great until they are perfectly ripe – bright red and fall off the tree at the slightest touch. Margie grows black surinam cherries, which are sweeter than the ones I picked. Margie says, “between the birds and rapid ripening, our Surinam cherries don’t usually make it to market.” So take a walk and see if you can find some on your block!

Margie grows Barbados cherry for personal ‘grazing’ since the crop is sporadic at best and a favorite of hungry fruit flies.  Antidesma, a tropical berry that is sometimes known as bignay, grows in dense clusters, “like a cylinder of tightly packed grapes.” This tree was also on the property when Margie took over, she likes to use it to make butter (like apple butter) and says that is makes ‘the most amazing red wine.’ “It has borne well only a few times in the past 20 years, around September. But, oh! When it does bear! Delicious!” Margie gushes.

Thank you to Margie, Trish and Chef Roel for talking blueberries with me and teaching me so much!

See how blueberries are hitting the plate and the glass across Genuineland by following our restaurants’ social feeds #genuineblueberries. We are very excited to keep you posted!

Please Judge: Somm Slam Dinner at Uvaggio Pits #LarkeeVsPorter

Wine is fun, especially when it’s like Wrestlemania!  Thursday, May 21 at 7:00 p.m., Uvaggio will be hosting its first Somm Slam, the ultimate competition to determine the superior sommelier.  Head Wine-O Heath Porter of Uvaggio, a cozy wine bar and restaurant in the heart of historic Coral Gables, will go head to head against The Genuine Hospitality Group’s own International Man of Mystery, Wine Director Eric Larkee.  Guests will be served a three course dinner, the first and third being prepared by Uvaggio’s chef, Bret Pelaggi, and the second being prepared by The Cypress Room’s chef de cuisine Roel Alcudia.  The last ingredients of each dish, however, will be two wines, one pairing per sommelier.  At the end it will be the diners not professionals that crown the champion. Bragging rights and a date for one with brown liquor will ensue.

“It’s going to be a killer gig, great eats, crisp juice and lots of giggles,” says Porter. “I guess the only thing we don’t know is how ‘skinny’ Larkee’s jeans will be and how many flavors of Boone’s Farm he’ll be pouring.”

Larkee’s competition has been in the business for 20+ years and has worked his way up from truck stop dishwasher to advanced level sommelier in 5 Star and 5 Diamond Resorts.  The more stars and diamonds the merrier, of course!  And what of home court advantage for Porter?

It's the #Larkmeme! Download this photo to your phone and the Memegenerator app to have fun with Larkee like never before. We are!

It’s the #Larkmeme! Download this photo to your phone and the Meme generator app to have fun with @EricLarkee on Instagram like never before. We are!

“If we travel well like my beloved Packers’ fans do, then I’m not worried about anything,” Larkee explains. “I’m going to try to wear him down by working the body, I feel like he’ll probably drop his hands a bit in the last round and I’ll be able to get an uppercut in there with a bottle of something Italian.”

Leave it to Larkee, former champion wrestler (no joke!) to find his adversary’s weakness, and in Porter’s case that’s roasted meats. In addition Alcudia’s dish, our ringleader plans to have the chef strategically stash tasty bits from The Cypress Room’s wood rotisserie around Uvaggio to distract him. Our contender is fan, more reason to accepted Porter’s challenge with relish.

“I’ve been a couple of times. Great small plates, pretty much have always gotten some charcuterie and cheese,” Larkee adds.  “I like to go with at least three other people so we can get a bunch of bottles — always something a little geeky but also real good solid classics too.”

If you’re curious to see who will drink victorious, come judge them for yourselves. Cost is $75 per person including the reception, three courses, six wines, dessert, and tax (not gratuity!)  For reservations click here, or call (305)-448-2400. Follow @heathporter @uvaggiowine and @ericlarkee @thecypressroom @roel_alcudia on Instagram and Twitter to watch the action unfold.  Menu will be announced as the event approaches, but grab your seats while they last.  There’s only 25!

A Cypress Spring in Full Bloom

Spring is in full swing, and The Cypress Room’s chef de cuisine Roel Alcudia has added new dishes to the menu featuring some stand out ingredients of the season; artichoke, sorrel, English peas and spring onion. Roel’s use of each ingredient is deliberate and thoughtful, as if they were naturally arranged together from the start and cooking never took place. Like removing the artist’s hand from the painting, he allows the food to be the focal point of his cuisine by executing perfect technique.

Artichoke – Stracciatella, peas, prosciutto, barigoule vinaigrette

Artichoke – Stracciatella, peas, prosciutto, barigoule vinaigrette

Chef is able to yield many different textures and levels of flavor from the artichokes in the dish. First, the artichokes are braised – mirepoix is sweated, water is added and the globes are dropped in. They use a cartouche, or a round piece of parchment, to cover the surface.  This reduces evaporation and keeps the artichoke completely submerged for even cooking. The braising liquid is then reserved for the bariguole vinaigrette. Barigoule is a traditional Provencal dish made with braised artichokes, white wine, water, bay leaf, mirepoix and garlic, and here emulsified with lemon and olive oil. The artichokes are set off with La Querica prosciutto from Norwalk, Iowa and stracciatella from mozzarita in Pompano Beach, Florida.

Frog legs – Watercress, fava bean, zucchini

Frog legs – Watercress, fava bean, zucchini

Sorrel and frog legs are a natural complement, Roel explained, as it if was something I was supposed to know. The perfectly pan seared frogs are nestled in a sorrel and watercress velouté, one of the five traditional French ‘Mother’ sauces. To start, the frogs are broken down and legs set aside, the rest of the bones are roasted in the oven and serve as the stock base.  Mirepoix is added, then garlic, potatoes, and white wine.  This liquid is reduced. And strained. And reduced. The sorrel and watercress are blended to retain their bright color and flavor. The fava beans and zucchini are blanched and set into the velouté.

Duck – bacon, peas, rhubarb, au poivre

Duck – bacon, peas, rhubarb, au poivre

Before and after service, Roel is usually in the back corner of the kitchen, head down, butchering the evening’s proteins. The walk-in speed rack is lined with clean, perfect duck breasts. The ingredients in this dish are continuously overlapping. Beginning with the petite pois a la Françoise, young green peas are reduced with carrots, bacon, cipollini onions, lettuce, butter and chicken stock. The Cypress Room pickles the rhubarb in hibiscus flowers, strawberry vinaigrette and honey and cooks it down into a gastrique using duck jus, brandy and green pepper corns.

Pork Chop – farro, succotash, spring onion soubise

Pork Chop – farro, succotash, spring onion soubise

In the Pork Chop entrée, the succotash combines spring onions, bell peppers and zucchini. Here, the onions also act as an aromatic, bringing out the sweetness of the other ingredients. After the ingredients have stewed down, the grilled corn is added. Lastly, farro and lemon is incorporated. What makes the soubise unique are the scallions and slow roasted onions that the chefs blend into their béchamel sauce. The pork is tied with butcher twine to ensure even cooking over one of the most important and defining pieces of equipment in the kitchen — its wood grill. The plate is finished with a grilled lila onion and tempura fried onions roots.

Find The Cypress Room menus on its website, at thecypressroom.com, and enjoy a taste of spring before it’s gone!

Field Report: A Spring Farm Run in The Redland

On Sundays and Wednesdays at 9:00AM an email is sent out to some of the best chefs and produce junkies in Miami.  I was lucky it was a Wednesday when I found myself poking around the walk-in cooler at Farm to Kitchen HQ.  While owner Chris Padin finished up the morning’s transmission, I became acquainted with the fridge, a snapshot of spring’s arrival in South Florida.  There were passion fruit the size of ostrich eggs, a box of rosy-rooted watermelon radishes and a crate of bright green sapote, the kind of gems that conceal the real treasures just beneath their skins — sweet tart seeds jeweled bright orange, pink and green rings to make even Saturn jealous, and sweet flesh tasting of chocolate custard with the color and texture to match.  Mesmerizing.  Losing the feeling in my fingers was my cue to exit.

Chris had just hit send as he explained, “I update the email blast twice a week. It lists the farms, their products, price and classification. Then, the chefs have about a day to call me with their orders.” I peeked and counted about 10 farms with a long list of veggies, dairy products, greens, herbs and fruits.  Chris and partner Aleli Lauria-Padin operate Farm to Kitchen, and I think they have the best jobs on planet Earth. Picking up the good stuff from all over South Florida and dropping it to some of the best restaurants in Miami.  Currently, Farm to Kitchen works with 12 – 15 farms and supplies about 30 restaurants.  Both numbers are steadily growing branching out from Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink to all the TGHG restaurants including The Cypress Room, Harry’s Pizzeria and Restaurant Michael Schwartz.  The couple is careful to expand at the right pace with the right people, and now includes some familiar names as well as new kids on the block from Eating House, 27 Restaurant and Vagabond, to Proper Sausages and Fooq’s.  But today was about the farms, five farms to be exact: Verde Gardens, Teena’s Pride, Knaus Berry, Corona and Bee Heaven all in Homestead — a world away from our home in the Design District.

On the 40 or so minute ride down, we passed farm after farm, but not the type I was expecting.  Fields of palm trees, hedges, and other ornamentals, all neatly arranged in rows fanned out beside us.  These landscaping nurseries were all cool to look at, but, as Chris was quick to remind me, they all could be growing food instead.  Our first stop was Verde Gardens, a 22-acre farm staffed and operated through the Urban Oasis Project whose goal it is to teach formerly homeless families how to run a farm. Every available patch of green is utilized. Chris and I walked through two of the largest plots, and I listened intently as he rattled off the names of all the greens and herbs. We stopped at some for a closer look. I was stuck on the rainbow chard and its richer than rich reds, yellows and oranges. Chris suggested that we take a look at Verde Gardens’ tropical fruits tucked away behind a barn, and sure enough, my mind was blown. A giant banana flower hung inconspicuously in the sky. It was about the size of a football. I had never seen such a thing! As far as I was concerned, bananas grew on trees and were yellow, sometimes green. But this flower, and flowers like it in various stages of growth, were completely exotic to me. On our way out, I met Chuck, one of the farm managers. Chris and Chuck started talking about orders, the impending close to the season and loquats. I quickly Googled ‘loquats’ – but more on that later…

Next up, Teena’s Pride. One thing I noticed, everything is bigger at Teena’s. The Borek family has been operating this 500-acre farm for many generations. There are tomatoes as far as they eye can see, and then some. Every kind of heritage and heirloom tomato occupy rows at least a mile long. While Chris and I were inspecting some pancake-sized nasturtiums, Chef Niven called. He wanted an update on the tomato ‘situation,’ and Chris filled him in, reporting that “they have lots of greens, and there are a few cases with some great color on ‘em, good variety.” And it was done. Chris ordered 30 cases for Niven to be delivered the next morning. There are tomatoes growing in fields and in greenhouses; there are tomatoes on giant trays with their own irrigation system and growing in cooling houses. These tomatoes could survive the apocalypse. Having all this space allows Teena’s to test out crops. They had a few new heirloom varieties in the grow house, Chris explains, “if they make it in the grow house, and people like the taste, then they get moved to the fields and from there to Niven at the restaurant.”

Unlike the other farms, Knaus Berry Farms was busy entertaining the public – and on a Wednesday morning!  We walked into a market area with signs for milk shakes, strawberries, cinnabuns and veggies. There were loads of people walking up and down the u-pick aisles outside. KBF has strawberries for miles, and, as we were told inside, that wasn’t even half of their crop. This place has a cult following, and I’m the newest recruit. The strawberries sat in perfect rows, peeping out from the white plastic sheeting, there to protect them. They are plump, perfectly ripe and bright red. As Chris and I were leaving, we met by the Bald Baker, Thomas Blocher, who runs the bakery at KBF and supervises the creation of hundreds of trays of cinnabuns every day. He recently started blending his own coffee, deftly called “Bald Baker’s Blend”– which we sampled. It is delicious! Chef de cuisine Danny Ramirez is taking the Harry’s Pizzeria kitchen crew on a field trip to Knaus later this month, so more on them to come.

We had to pick up some sugarcane for our booth at the Sprung! event Harry’s and Michael’s Genuine Home Brew participated in last weekend, so Chris and I rode over to Corona Farms / Martha’s U-Pick. Right off of Krome Avenue is this perfectly self-contained stand offering some of the best Southern Hospitality I’ve seen in South Florida since moving here from Charleston, South Carolina. Within moments of our arrival, Chris handed me a coconut with a straw poking out of it. I look up to see him hacking away at another coconut with a machete. A tiny puppy roams around like he owns the place, and he’s got it made. There are bananas on display and every color pepper you could imagine. This stand had bins of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and a variety of lettuces. The whole place is electrified with color. If you look out behind the stand, you can see the farm, completely green and lush with a sugarcane perimeter. Not only was this convenient, but incredibly beautiful.

Bee Haven Farm was like a secret garden. As we wove our way through tropical trees, Chris plucked leaves and greens for me to try. He crumbled up an allspice leaf in his hands and told me to sniff.  The smell was biting! We walked up to a few rows and Chris stopped me from going any further, as he pointed to the sign ‘BEES AT WORK.’ I saw about 10 filing boxes stacked on top of each other. Yup, they were filled with bees. There were also a few loose chickens wandering around, and more in little coops strategically placed around the farm. Permaculture is a theory of farming that makes full use of all the benefits the crops have to offer. Here was permaculture at work: The chickens graze and provide manure, while the bees pollinate and bounce from plant to plant. The farmers rotate the crops, moving certain flowers to attract different bugs and monitor growing rates. Hidden in this hide away oasis, we found pencil mulberries, black tomatoes, tamarind and loquats.

 

Loquats at Bee Haven Farm

Loquats at Bee Haven Farm

Loquats are a fruit native to the East, often called a Chinese plum or Japanese plum. They are high in sugar and acid and are commonly used to make jam. These new crops are always exciting for the farmers and for Chris, as well. He thinks these would be a big hit for the Farm to Kitchen Buying Club. Every Saturday, people like Jackie trek up to 54th Street to the Farm to Kitchen warehouse to pick up their boxes of fruits, veggies and greens. You can sign up at ali@farmtokitchenmiami.com. Each week, FTK compiles small ($35), medium ($45), large ($55) and extra large ($75) boxes of goodies for families to cook with at home. FTK also offers great add-ons, like chicken and duck eggs, raw local goat’s milk, and avocado honey. The FTK Buying Club was created to soothe frustrated chefs. On his deliveries, Chris had encountered so many chefs who got great produce in the restaurants and yet cooked with lesser products at home. So, Chis started delivering personalized boxes of produce to the chefs with their regular deliveries. When Chris and Ali cook at home, they use ingredients from the farms and their garden, so they believed that if better products were available — more families would want to cook with these great ingredients too.  The Farm to Kitchen Buying Club was born. Now, you can see Chris & Ali every Saturday when you pick up your box of goodies and enjoy the freshest, local ingredients Florida has to offer. Thank you Chris & Farm to Kitchen!  For up-to-date information on our go-to food sources for the restaurants visit our Sourcing pages.

Thank you Chris, Ali, Verde Gardens, Teena's Pride, Knaus Berry Farms, Corona Farms and Bee Haven Farms!

Thank you Chris, Ali, Verde Gardens, Teena’s Pride, Knaus Berry Farms, Corona Farms and Bee Haven Farm!