Summer Sizzles at Amara at Paraiso with New Happy Hour, Outdoor Bar & Miami Spice

Celebrate Miami’s most vibrant season with new ways to relax, enjoy and savor it on the waterfront all summer long at Amara.

Mezcal Colada puts the pineapple in the coconut and then some!

Happy Hour – Beginning Monday, July 2, the Amara bar and beach get even more welcoming with our first ever Happy Hour from 5:30-7:30pm Monday through Friday. Enjoy the best restaurant view in Miami for a little bit longer with Assistant GM Maria Pottage’s 4 new $10 classic cocktails with a tropical twist, half price oysters and snacks from Chef Michael Paley, $4 Cusqueña premium Peruvian lager beer and half price wines by the glass. Stand outs include poppable, craveable specialty, the infamous Yuca Cheese Puffs, as well as new Albondigas meatballs, White Ayocote Bean Spread with green garbanzo, chimi spice, lemon crème fraîche, seeded cracker, and rotating select oysters.  View full menu here.

Bartender Angelo, shaking things up.

Waterfront Bar – Gather by Biscayne Bay to eat, or simply sip on something refreshing. The Amara Beach’s new satellite bar offers a place for guests to order drinks outside, Friday and Saturday from 6pm – 12am.  Enjoy on its beachfront chairs or plush lounge area couches without having to dine in or wait for a reservation. Notable beverages being served include a selection of wine, beer and cocktails including Calm before the Coconut, Tulum Spritz, Pisco Punch, Dreaming of Oaxaca and Monkey Business. Happy hour is available on Friday with its specific cocktails and beverage offering until 7:30pm.

Arroz Verde is a South American twist on the familiar Korean rice dish — a delectable comfort food full of flavor and fun to mix at the table.

Charred Carrot & Avocado salad with goat cheese, cilantro toasted pumpkin seeds, one of Chef Paley’s appetizers, is a tasty Spice route with which to lead.

Miami Spice – Participating for the first time this August 1 – September 30, Amara is taking Miami’s restaurant week seriously (delicious) with new menu items in a weekly-changing $39 three-course prix fixe dinner menu. Served Sunday through Thursday, Paley’s most notably new dish out of the gate is the show-stopping Arroz Verde, a South American take on the Bim Bim Bop, cilantro rice served sizzling in a stone bowl with toppings to mix up like wood-grilled hen of the woods, earthy mushrooms, cubes of cucumber, shaved carrots, avocado, shaved jalapeño, pickled red onion, shredded kale, cascabel chile paste and creamy egg yolk.  Click here for the beginning menu.

All menus are subject to (welcomed!) change. For more information on summer activities including Fourth of July celebration, please visit our website and to stay on top of changing menu items, follow Amara at Paraiso on Instagram.

Summer Cooking School with Chef Michael Schwartz: Class is in Session After Hours at Ella Pop Café

Summer is just the time to learn something new, or polish your skills doing what you already love! All you need is a little motivation in the form of a great instructor — James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz!

For the first time, Miami’s beloved chef known best for his straightforward, delicious food at flagship restaurant Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, teaches a series of cooking classes, including Pizza (June 14), Pasta (July 12), and Empanadas (August 9).

$125 per person, per event includes it all — each cooking class brings a three course meal, signature cocktail, wine & beer, take home gift and chef! Max 26 people per event.  Pizza is already sold out but you can snag your tickets to Pasta and Empanadas at these respective links.  The summer school is hosted at ella pop, the chef’s light and airy café in the Miami Design District’s Palm Court, from 7-10pm after regular business hours (140 NE 39th Street, Miami, FL 33137).

The new summer series is brought to us by the amazing folks at Michael Schwartz Events.  Our catering and private party division puts on special events like this, as well as a host of other offerings for your upcoming gathering large or small. For more information, menus and to request a quote for everything under the sun from weddings to birthday parties, visit michaelschwartzevents.com.

It Takes Two to Tango the Amara Beverage Book — Part I: Cocktails

“Challenge accepted!” Amanda exclaims, but Maria is up first.

I’ve asked two bright lights in Miami’s beverage industry, Amara at Paraiso Sommelier Amanda Fraga and Assistant Manager Maria Pottage, to join me for happy hour at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink.  The agenda is to better understand Amara’s beverage program and the origins of its pièce de résistance — The Beverage Book. To get there, we’re breaking the ice by choosing each other’s drinks.  Well, I’m actually letting the professionals handle the selections — Amanda on wine and Maria on cocktails, just like their roles at the restaurant — to focus on the interview, note-taking, and, of course, the drinking.  My hunch is this device will reveal as much about their approach to the program at our newest restaurant, as it will about the game they play to balance the leanings of their own palates with consideration for guest preferences.  It’s quite possibly where the skill lies in making a good list a successful one.  It must perform at the bar and in the dining room.

Maria begins with Dead Presidents, which she’s set before me, polished and smooth but pretty boozy — a stirred cocktail with Camus V.S. Congac, Basil Hayden Bourbon, Redemption Rye, Green Chartreuse, and Pink Peppercorn Syrup. “I felt like you would like something with Bourbon.  This cocktail has a lot of depth and at the same time it’s really balanced.  I was also curious about the pink peppercorn.”

Oh the places you’ll go…

For Amanda, it’ll be the Mezcal Paloma, a welcomed palate cleanser after a day tasting over a 100 wines at United Way’s annual Best in Glass competition. “Luckily we had a lunch break!” she jokes.

Maria continues, “It’s early in the afternoon, and I thought Amanda might need it after a day like today. I also love mezcal.  She has been very generous with me, so I wanted to give her something I like. I overlooked the agave habanero at first, but I’m looking forward to trying that.”

T&T, matched with chilled Atlantic shrimp.

For herself, Maria chooses the Jungle Plaza, a cocktail akin to the T&T at Amara which matches Campari with Tequila. “It’s hard to balance Campari with other spirits because it can be pretty forward.  You don’t want it to overpower the other ingredients.  I saw the rum and pineapple juices, which have the backbone to stand up.  It’s a classic combination, and makes me think of the Jungle Bird.  The strawberry-infused Campari interests me — how much can it take in an infusion.”

While a student of Business Management in Peru, Maria had the opportunity to go on a student exchange program at a ski resort in California, and then at the Grand Canyon National Park. She worked at one of the hotels there and when she saw how much fun the F&B staff was having, how were they able to create great experiences for their guests on a day-to-day basis, she wanted in.

Maria in action behind the Amara bar.

“Being from Peru, where food and beverage is an integral part of our culture, the rest was just a natural step,” she explains. “I was instantly hooked and became obsessed with everything food and beverage related.  Books, restaurants, films… but especially about the power of hospitality.”

About a year and a half ago, Maria had just returned from a trip to Tulum and happened to meet Michael Schwartz one night when he was out for drinks at a Peruvian restaurant in Miami where she was then Beverage Director.  Although she had heard of Chef and the Genuine Hospitality Group, she didn’t know Michael personally at the time, nor could recognize him.

Maria game to chat beverage on her day off, just one of the reasons we love her.

“His guests were celebrating a birthday and having what seemed like a good time, and so I sent something to the table,” she continues.  “They asked me what Pisco was so I went and did a little tasting for them and then we exchanged cards. And that’s how we began the dialogue that ultimately brought me to Amara.  When I heard about the project, it felt like all those things that I loved about Tulum, somehow uniting a feeling of being far away but being in the middle of everywhere. Timing wasn’t right then, but we kept in touch.”

The grills, the beach and the water — what it means to be Miami and the experience of Latin American culture — is reflected in Maria’s drinks in a few ways.  It was important to have first and foremost good representation from Latin American spirits, but unique global brands were essential for a serious list with character and balance.  Part of her role is discovering new product and producers, and to ignore the rest of the world would be a disservice to guests and the bar.

“The beverage program is meant to complement Amara at Paraiso’s food,” she says.  “We are inspired by Latin American ingredients, just as we are by artisanal producers of spirits and winemakers. Miami as the epicenter of this tasting melting pot: diverse, exciting, and fun.”

She’ll say it sounds like an easy-out, but her favorite cocktail on the list really depends on her mood.  We say, good answer to a difficult and loathed question.

“It’s hard for me to pick one I like above the rest.  They are all different and each exist for a reason on our menu,” she says. “If I am craving something refreshing and easy to drink I definitely want to start with a Tulum Spritz. For a cocktail with more body but also citrus forward, I love our Nikkei Sours made with pisco and Japanese whisky. And for a drink that can well start or finish a meal, Monkey Business seems to be a perfect fit, with rum, bourbon, and banana liqueur. It’s like asking a mother to pick a favorite child.”

With a book so rich with content, the possibilities for exploration are endless, especially when you consider food pairings.  To me, and I suspect especially to Maria and Amanda, it’s an endless journey with countless destinations and opportunities to learn, traveling to new places through the stories these drinks tell. It’s about tasting with context and knowing where things come from to understand what purpose they serve and why they were chosen.   As we continue to explore them in longer form here on the blog as a series, you can also follow along each week on Amara’s Instagram, where we highlight beverage on Wednesdays (wine) and Thursdays (cocktails, spirits, beer, and agua fresca.) The adventure has only just begun.  Enjoy Part II next week on Wine Wednesday when it’s Amanda’s turn.

Throwing Back a Milestone 10 Year Celebration | Classic Dishes Hit MGFD’s Menus Thursday & We All Toast a Longer, Food-Inclusive Genuine Happy Hour Next Week

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A cleaner, mobile-optimized michaelsgenuine.com will greet you on Thursday.

mg_mgfd10-presenter_happy-hoursSince Chef’s flagship, Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink, first opened in Miami’s Design District on March 13, 2007, locals and tourists alike have come to embrace and crave its refreshing combination of laid-back, bistro atmosphere and straightforward food emphasizing fresh, local ingredients. 10 years later, it’s time to celebrate what Michael Schwartz does best.

Enjoy a taste of Genuine’s beginning as we highlight classic dishes from the 2007 opening menu this Thursday, March 9 until anniversary day on Monday, March 13, and for the first time, beginning Tuesday, March 14, the restaurant launches a food-friendly Genuine Happy Hour, doubling its length to three hours on weekdays from 4:30-7:30pm at the Bar and adding 1/2 off oysters and snacks to complement 1/2 off cocktails, wine and beer.  The celebration would not be complete without a Genuine precedent that throws back to what this restaurant is really all about — gathering good company around good vibes and thoughtfully-made food and drink. They just go hand in hand.

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One of Michael’s most requested throwback dishes of all time looking stunning in Chef’s Michael’s Genuine Food cookbook and on your table soon (photo credit Ben Fink Photography.)

For the throwback, look for these dishes that put fresh, simple, pure cuisine on the map at lunch and dinner, including:

Chicken Liver Crostini with caramelized onions
Pulled Pork Sandwich with pickled red onion, creamy cucumbers & parsley sauce
Butter Lettuce with orange, hazelnuts, avocado & shallot-hazelnut vinaigrette
Rock Shrimp & Chorizo Pizza with escarole & toasted garlic
Rigatoni with Short Rib Sugo, homemade ricotta & lemon zest
Chile Chicken Wings with creamy cucumbers
Curried Duck Confit with mashed cauliflower & pear-raisin chutney
Wood Roasted Onion stuffed with ground lamb & apricots
Crispy Beef Cheeks with whipped celeriac, celery salad & chocolate reduction
Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Anson Mills grits, pickled onions, parsley sauce
Indian Style Braised Lamb Shank with perfumed basmati rice & braised greens

“When you put everything into something and your family and staff depends on you to make it work, it’s an incredible responsibility,” reflects Schwartz. “We have always cooked the food we want to eat and embraced the freedom in that even though it hasn’t been easy. We have so much to be thankful for, especially our guests who have stood by us for so long and believed in our passion for putting better product on the plate. I’ve always said the secret to good food is… good food. And that’s what Genuine is all about.”

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Subject to change. Prices listed are 1/2 off regular menu.

mgfd-new-afternoon-sections_bigIn addition to rolling out the all new Genuine Happy Hour, the restaurant’s afternoon menu will continue to be served from 3-5:30p.m., more robust than ever with two sandwiches, two pizzas and a variety of other vegetable, meat and fish dishes, as well as the full raw bar.

Michael’s Genuine has been the recipient of coveted superlatives over the years, including 10 Best New Restaurants from The New York Times, Best Restaurant and Best Chef Miami New Times, Trip Advisor’s Award of Excellence, Eater’s Top 38 Restaurants in America, Best Burgers in America The Daily Meal, and much more. The early success of the restaurant catapulted Chef Schwartz on the national stage garnering the attention of the James Beard Foundation who in 2010 awarded him Best Chef South. His cookbook, Michael’s Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People who Love to Eat (Clarkson Potter) was released in 2011, a volume meant to be on the kitchen counter not the shelf, full of recipes including his famous addictive snacks, favorite pizzas and colorful salads, and even the restaurant’s signature Whole Roasted Chicken – a love letter to the greatest hits from his menu to bring genuine cooking home.

Guests may reserve a table by calling 305.573.5550 or emailing reservations@michaelsgenuine.com. The classic dishes will be noted on the restaurant’s menus in bold and available a la carte during the throwback celebration from Thursday, March 9 to Monday, March 13. Join the anniversary online by sharing favorite dishes and memories on Instagram and tagging #MGFD10.  @michaelsgenuine will regram selections as part of the ongoing festivities. Michael’s Genuine is open seven days a week, with Lunch Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Afternoon Monday through Saturday 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Dinner Monday through Thursday 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday & Saturday 5:30 p.m. to midnight, and Sunday 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Brunch Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Genuine Happy Hour is Monday through Friday, 4:30-7:30 p.m. featuring ½ off oysters, snacks, cocktails, wine and beer at the Bar and Bar Room. Visit the all new michaelsgenuine.com beginning Thursday, March 9 for more information and menus.

Fi’lia-ing the Love | Michael’s First Italian Concept Opens Wednesday at SLS Brickell

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Puttanesca! My personal favorite pizza, with Pistachio Pesto not far behind.

Meet the newest member of The Genuine Hospitality Group family.  Our beloved James Beard Award-winning Chef and Restaurateur now brings his straightforward approach to ingredient-driven Italian cuisine from the hearth with Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz!  Click here to make a reservation.

The restaurant opens for dinner Wednesday, October 26 at the corner of South Miami Avenue and 13th Street at the brand new SLS Brickell Hotel (1300 South Miami Avenue) in the heart of the neighborhood.  Breakfast and lunch begin the following day.  Valet is available at the hotel entrance off 14th Street connected to the restaurant through its lobby, supplemented with metered parking and street entrance on South Miami Avenue.  Fi’lia is managed and operated under the Disruptive Restaurant Group umbrella of sbe.

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“Fi’lia is ‘honest Italian,’ an expression of the simplicity that I love about this style of food,” Chef explains. “It’s not specific to a particular region. This is the way I like to cook and eat Italian — straightforward and with handmade touches.”

In keeping with Schwartz’s ethos that good food should speak for itself, the premium at Fi’lia is unpretentious food and the experience to match, highlighting the freshest ingredients from the hearth and the attention to warm hospitality for which he’s known.  

Chef and Tim getting their pasta on!

Chef and Tim getting their pasta on!

I overheard this sformato (like a savory Italian custard on the delicate cakey side) with pecorino crema "a memory"... a standout from the Small section.

“A memory” for sure:  sformato (like a savory Italian custard with a delicate cakey texture) with pecorino crema.

Chef de Cuisine Tim Piazza comes to Fi’lia from his post as Sous Chef at Michael’s Genuine, bringing to life Schwartz’s food and approach in this new kitchen. Dinner draws guests in with irresistible Snacks including Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta with stracciatella and basil and Charred Eggplant Spread on freshly grilled bread with grated bottarga. Working down the menu, dishes are conveniently listed by size, ranging from light but satisfying Small dishes like the bright Citrus Salad with pistachio and aged piave vecchio, to a bold and flavorful traditional cut in the Extra Large 42oz Bisteca Fiorentina executed simply on the wood grill with Meyer lemon and rosemary.

A special, not-to-miss part of the Fi’lia experience is its Tableside Caesar, a classic salad presented the old school way – made right in front of the table, dressing and all, which is the point – and tuned to perfection with garlic croutons toasted on the cart.

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Pillows of perfect agnolotti.

Fresh, daily-made Pastas are an important part of the menu and guests can enjoy this handmade touch in a few ways. Delicate, filled bundles of mouth-watering Corn Agnolotti are brought up with a zesty roasted lobster sauce and decadent Braised Short Rib Crespelle are Italian crepes baked to crisp, bubbly decadence with béchamel, taleggio and fontina. There is a nod to the classics in Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe with black pepper and pecorino coating the noodles with just the right amount of sauce, and a more modern approach in Bucatini with the salty, briny punch of bottarga to balance the comforting heat of chile flakes, garlic and breadcrumbs.

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Chicken in the window.

Pizza has pride of place on the menu with perennial favorites like Margherita with tomato, mozzarella and basil in perfect proportion and finished with the restaurant’s own first press, cold press Italian extra-virgin olive oil blend. A taste of something new comes in combinations like Leek & Potato with pancetta, rosemary and trugole, as well as Pistachio Pesto with house made ricotta, charred onion, pecorino – all of them created using the freshest ingredients and Schwartz’s signature restraint.  LargeExtra Large and Sides highlight proteins and vegetables that ground the meal, like Wood Grilled Chicken with savory bread pudding, mustard greens, pine nuts, currants.

Sangreal grey goose, punzone blood orange liqueur, lemon 14 cocktail glass

Samgreal, a nod to sbe Chairman and CEO Sam Nazarian, featuring Grey Goose, Punzone blood orange liqueur, lemon

Nothing at Fi’lia is extraneous, especially in the beverage program.  Drinks are a personal favorite part for me, featuring Cocktails (including chilled lovely bottles of them popped at the table) and Spritz.  At the open kitchen’s bar, cocktails offered are refreshingly uncomplicated—less about complex recipes, and more about how perfect a Spritz is on a July or December afternoon.  There is a section devoted to this Italian afternoon pastime with six including Bicicletta with Campari, white wine and soda water – one of the lowest in alcohol, normally drank before getting on the bicycle and riding home for the evening.   Lacuna with Knob Creek Rye, Carpano Antica and Angostura bitters is one of the bottled delights to love.  Lupa 35 is presented in a flute with Hennessy VS, Averna, Luxardo apricot, prosecco. A beer list of craft and seasonal styles complement a focused wine list of Italian regional varietals and American wines with an old world sensibility.

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The airy décor designed by Philippe Starck also skews towards unadorned simplicity, with a focus on clean lines and unobtrusive, sleek teak furniture and vertically stacked citrus planters that frame the room. It’s a modern take on restrained elegance that allows the food to take center stage.

Fi'lia's Italian olive oil blend

Fi’lia’s Italian olive oil blend, available for sale at $23/500 ml bottle at the restaurant, along with 8oz bags of housemade semolina pasta in four shapes for $8 each.  Find out more here.

Fi’lia includes combined indoor and outdoor seating for up to 116 people and is open every day for breakfast Monday – Sunday 7-11am, lunch Monday – Sunday 11:30am – 2:30pm, and dinner Sunday – Thursday 5:30-10:30pm and Friday & Saturday 5:30pm – 12am, with bar menu of snacks and small dishes served daily from 3-5:30pm. To make a reservation, call 305.912.1729 or email filiamiami@sbe.com.