Don’t be spooked by these treats! Genuine’s about to up its black and orange game, and it all begins on Halloween Day. We are living large to celebrate one of this season’s most anticipated local ingredients. From Monday 10/31 – Sunday 11/6, guests who order one pound of large stone crabs, can choose any bottle of wine on our list for the table at half off, available at lunch, afternoon, dinner and brunch. All bottles are game, all week long! Pop in and join us on a Design District stroll or reserve in advance here. From sparkling to red and all the rosé in between, beverage manager Amanda Fraga and I will be tasting through a few gems on Facebook Live beginning at 4:30pm Monday. Join our crab party and see who shows up in costume. Tune into the Miami Design District’s page to join us!
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Things are a little more special during the holidays, and nowhere is it more true than in the kitchen – both in our restaurants and in yours at home. It’s special in the traditional recipes we make and share with our families, but also in seeking out special products and ingredients to cook with. A labor of love indeed. The Cypress Room chef de cuisine Roel Alcudia reminded me of this yesterday when he passed by The Genuine Hospitality Group offices in Miami’s Design District. He is getting his game on for the holidays at our elegant American dining room.
“We’ve always featured duck and more recently pheasant, but in the upcoming weeks we are getting grouse, wild hare, wood pigeons, and partridge,” he explained. “Michael also got really excited about these Poulardes Fermiere from our friends at Joyce Farms. It’s not game per se but a specialty breed. A total natural for our wood burning grill and rotisserie, especially this time of year.”
Raised just once a year, Poularde is plump, juicy yet delightfully firm in texture. It’s been a holiday treat in Europe for centuries. More specifically, a Poularde is a hen that has yet to lay an egg. Ron Joyce raises these hens on a small family farm in Chatham County, North Carolina. Following French tradition, they are grown over 17 weeks and fed a diet of whole grains supplemented with grass and insects found in the pasture. As soon as they turn six weeks of age, they are allowed to roam a grassy area outside the hen house. These Poulardes are selected from Joyce Farms’ heritage Poulet Rouge breed and raised in limited amounts just for the holidays!
Before we get a taste of the game Roel’s got cooking at The Cypress Room, he has the perfect Thanksgiving meal for you to get cooking at home… Please enjoy these recipes (print on legal for the full effect!) crafted and shared with love as you menu plan over these next couple of weeks. Whether you select a side, or do the whole shebang, these special recipes are sure to delight your guests. Now… since all our TGHG restaurants in the Design District will be closed on Thursday, November 27, who’s on-call first for the Genuine Turkey Help Line… Roel?! Cheers from all of us as we head into a fruitful and fulfilling holiday season. GAME ON!
It was a juicy 10# pile of larges from George’s Stone Crab, but let’s call them the jumbos that they were, that did us in. Claws that are the stuff of dreams, a chef’s lullaby. Tuesday’s Toro Pizzeria prep was in full swing, and there was only one choice for lunch as far as Michael was concerned, the host with the most that he is. Chefs Ken and Jamie would be indulging in a late afternoon feast of our iconic South Florida seafood, delivered fresh from Roger Duarte’s boats off the Florida Keys, and TGHG executive chef Bradley Herron had a decoy ready to get the juices flowing again.
The waters around South Florida are running with what I think is the freshest, best seafood we get all year round — Pelagic, or migratory, species like cobia, pumpkin swordfish, and gorgeous speckled golden tile, as well as reef fish like yellowtail snapper, although fisherman George Figueroa says that they’ve been tough to snag lately with the wind from this cold front and when the water gets too chilly these little guys don’t like to bite. Then of course there’s shrimp, especially Royal Reds from Wild Ocean Seafood in Port Canaveral, which all of our restaurants, especially The Cypress Room, scoop up with fervor, and the regal, not-to-be-upstaged stone crab. Except for when the little noble kumquat enters the picture apparently. I tried to hide my guilt as Brad’s salad seduced me, pinch by pinch until I had no other choice but to make room for a little mound next to my radiant claw and Bissed mustard schmear.
I sat at the genuine bar after preshift this morning to take down the “recipe” below. This salad is dead giveaway Bradley, a perfect example of his approach to cooking. Intuitive, simple and common sense, letting the ingredients do most of the work. “The dressing is more like a marinade,” he explained. “Rather than toss the dressing in the salad, leave it naked and crisp. You build it in layers right on the plate, tomatoes first on the bottom, and season with salt and pepper to release the juice. The vinaigrette falls to the bottom collecting all the juices along the way. You just scoop it up. That’s the beauty of this place.”
We drank rose with this feast for kings and queens, but pucker up with the recipe for our honored guests’ Kumquat Gimlet, the welcome cocktail concocted just for us since it is Florida Citrus season after all and served on the rocks later that evening. Small but packing a mighty punch, just like this week. Too much fun, good times, great friends. Cheers and TGIF everyone! Make it a great weekend.
Florida Kumquat & Heirloom Tomato Salad
3 medium heirloom tomatoes cut into wedges
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
2 juicy, ripe navel or blood oranges, segmented
1 cup shaved fennel
1/2 cup shaved radish
1 pint sliced kumquats
1/2 cup lila onion, sliced on the bias
1/2 cut picked parsley leaves
1/2 cup picked basil leaves, opal if you can get it for color
1/2 cup picked mint
Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Layer all the ingredients on a large platter. Mix dressing together in a deli cup first and dress on the platter to taste without over-dressing but should be juicy!
from Toro’s beverage director Caitlin Crosbie Doonan
yields one gimlet
1.5oz Gin, Ford’s is Jamie’s choice
.5oz Lime Juice
1oz Kumquat Syrup (recipe below)
Shake and strain over ice in rocks glass. Garnish with skewered kumquat sections.
Yields approx 1qt but depends on kumuqat size and ripeness.
.5qt Rich (2:1) simple syrup
.75 qt Kumquats
Blend for about 20 seconds, strain through cheese cloth, squeezing the blended kumquats to extract maximum juice.
It was around 10:00 p.m. on a mild October night when we walked west through Chelsea toward its perimeter highway on the Hudson. The sun had long set into Manhattan’s stalagmite forest, and we were full of good food and great wine after a dinner with friends on Lemon: NYC eve. Word on the wind was a newly-opened restaurant had the perfect remedy for restlessness in the tradition of Spain, Boston-bred and throwing its hat into the ring due south. Two chefs were ready to dance that delicate, precise number necessary to entrance the king of bulls, and we were there to greet them. Backward it may seem, but the call made perfect sense. It was time for tapas.
To their credit, Mr. Oringer and Mr. Bissonnette do not cook as if they are in a huge restaurant. Toro’s food isn’t stagy or gimmicky; it’s honest and thoughtful, and it can feel a bit lost in this space. There are times when eating tapas here is like watching card tricks at Yankee Stadium.
As The New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells concluded his two star review of Toro in New York City on December 31, this coliseum to a supercharged Catalan cuisine is vast and formidable, unlike its sibling to the north. An arena perhaps where only this pair could command the presence, focus and certain no sé lo que needed to orchestrate the crowd in their favor, not get lost in it. That’s exactly what we encountered on our first visit. Ken was behind Toro’s food bar in the back, and we found Jamie on the hotline in its underbelly down the hall, a passageway of winding guts the likes of a grand hotel’s commissary kitchen. The chefs were having fun, the dining room was electric and wanted more of where it all was coming from. So did we.
On Tuesday, January 21, one week from today, we offer our bullpen in Miami’s Design District for a Toro spectacle, concentrated, up close and personal. So here is what’s for dinner, food finalized this past weekend with the chefs and drink, yesterday, with Eric Larkee and the kind folks at Vibrant Rioja. The wines they chose are perfect examples of both old school and modern winemaking that characterize the region today.
Safe travels to the Ken and Jamie, salute to us, and see you next week! Tickets include it all (Jamie got new tees banged out just for us!) and can be purchased here.
Harry’s Welcomes Chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette
Tuesday, January 21 at 7:00 p.m.
Florida Kumquat Gimlet
Beef Heart Bruschetta chives, lemon, romesco, sourdough
Chicken Liver Stuffed Sage Leaves tempura
Maize Asado con Cotija Pizza roasted corn, Spanish aioli, espelette
Oysters Escabeche cranberry verjus and horseradish
Bocadillo di Uni uni, miso butter, pickled mustard seeds
Tomato Salad mint green goddess, crab, purple basil
Wood Oven Octopus charred onion vinaigrette
Roasted Romanesco Catalan raisins and pine nuts
Wood Oven New York Strip onion marmalade
Florida Shrimp Paella sun chokes and black garlic
Churros con Chocolate smoked maple and bee pollen sugar
Lopez de Haro Rosado 2012
Marques de Caceres Blanco 2012
Vina Herminia Crianza 2010
Contino Reserva 2007