Whole Hog, Full Circle | Chef Matt Hinckley’s Fancy Meats Kickstarter Campaign is Live

Planting new seeds. The Schwartz family hosted a little homecoming BBQ in the spring with Matt. He brought goodies.

Matt back in the day in his happy place, the oven station at MGFD rocking a brunch tortilla.

The prolific marriage of inspiration and efficiency can’t be found in the vacuum of one dish alone.  It’s the full circle approach where sourcing is king that Michael lives by, and that produces the kind of menu that makes sense.  You know it because it defines Michael’s Genuine®.  This too speaks to nature of the talent that is drawn to work in our restaurant and comprise a team that will practice it every day.  A simple way to guarantee action, that this idea actually plays out, is by bringing ingredients in WHOLE… to work with everything, and in that, know where they were raised, how and by whom.  It’s a built in way to keep us honest and a tool for cultivating this culture in the kitchen both for veterans and newcomers.  Today we celebrate the whole big picture, which when we are lucky, extends to those who have moved on from the seed of Genuine to sew their own.  Like Chef Matt Hinckley.

Matt’s Orlando-based operation, Hinckley’s Fancy Meats is taking a next big step to completing its own circle.  He has secured approval by the Florida Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) as a Retail Meat Market and is putting the systems in place to begin shipping his nose-to-tail, sustainably-sourced products — with a focus on charcuterie made with heritage hog breeds that are responsibly-raised on small farms in Florida — nationwide.  Click here to support his Kickstarter campaign, which went live this morning.  You have 29 more days to donate for one-of-a-kind opportunities like a Michael’s Genuine Trunk Show when Matt returns to the wood oven at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink for one night only. Hinckley’s Fancy Meats will have a pop-up trunk show with a sneak peek at what you can expect in the mail. $100 guarantees you a reservation, a menu signed by the whole team, and a pound of Hinckley’s Fancy Bacon.  But what of that $7,500 or more pledge for a Caja China Superbowl Fiesta wherein he sources a sustainably-raised 60-70 lb. heritage breed pig from a small, independent Florida farm and roasts it whole for you and up to 60 of your closest friends at your 2018 Superbowl party!?  Butcher’s block and a bunch of condiments, service right off the coals, included.

For me, Matt was always the resident food anthropologist during his tenure as Sous Chef at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink from 2009-2011 (and later opening chef of the original Harry’s Pizzeria®.)  Thanks to Matt, Lamb stew would become something way more than an aromatic pot of goodness.   It was a trip not just to Africa, but specifically Morocco in the cous cous and Ethiopia in the awaze.  His dedication to knowledge has been transportive, taking him around the world and bringing it to the table for all of us to enjoy.  In a December 2010 post on The Genuine Kitchen, he wrote of our pasta program and how it expressed what MGFD was all about — a perfect canvas for cross utilizing product and using different parts of one animal, like a whole pig. “Food tastes better when you are in touch with the source,” he would explain, and as such cooking begins long before ingredients are in the kitchen.

This is Hinckley’s Fancy Meats’ rallying cry, providing fresh cuts of meat as well as various types of charcuterie and smoked meats. Popular signature items thus far have been Tasso Ham, Hinckley’s Fancy Bacon, Florida Ham, Grass-fed Pastrami, Breakfast Sausage, and Andouille.  Matt makes seasonal creations and limited runs, a nose-to-tail butcher shop, but with plenty of familiar offerings as well, crafted with the home cook in mind.  The funding will help Hinckley’s Fancy Meats purchase the necessary equipment and supplies to expand its business model and steward the mission. By offering shipping and delivery, Matt will be able to drastically expand his market and work toward making a better and more transparent food system.  It’s about opening access for the home cook to have access to the same quality ingredients that chefs use in the best restaurants in the country.  We can all get behind that.


In the Lychee Loop: Miami’s Summer Season Grows into the Genuine Menu

MJ shows off .005% of our 600 pound haul, as culinary assistant Dillon Wolff (left) learns the ropes with chef Max Makowski (right) on inventory, forecasting and other important matters in the growth and support of The Genuine Hospitality Group and Michael Schwartz Events.

We’ve been waiting on these for a while now, so we are really excited to get them in today,” MJ Garcia explains.  MGFD’s Pastry Chef and I are having a handoff of sorts at the Genuine Commissary, our company’s prep kitchen facility off Miami’s bridge-stitched intracoastal waterway at 79th Street. The afternoon boasts clear blue skies and the occasional white puff, with evidence of the morning’s monsoon in glints and mirrors in the pavement.  Seemingly sprung from nowhere in a hurry, complete with umbrella-flailing sideways rain, last Monday, June 19 exhibited typical wet season behavior, weather that grower Roland Samimy picked and plodded through on his family’s Homestead groves before making it rain 600 pounds of lychee at the commissary. We can take a hint, anticipate the cue. Summer has arrived in South Florida in its moody torrent of active skies and colorful ingredients.  

I’m here collecting “seconds” Roland left to indulge my affinity for the alien fruit’s annual arrival, and MJ is humoring the ensuing curiosity, offering a peek into the process of how we systematically shed fuschia reptilian skins to reveal sweet-tart flesh at the table in recognizable, but not necessarily transformative, ways. So you can see and therefore know what you’re eating and discover where it comes from.  The objective of the exchange? To better understand the magic that happens when buying power and supply collide to drive creativity and create demand. Maybe change minds. Even behaviors. Because Roland knows all too well that there’s something to parse here, in the why of “seconds,” panicles with maybe a couple perfect specimens amidst a cluster of immature fruit.

“It was a very very dry, warm winter. The flower came out strong and then dried up or blew off before pollination,” he explained over the phone earlier on his way up Florida’s Turnpike.  “Lychee are special, and they’re fickle. They like tropical, and in a sub-tropical climate with more and more variability each year, crops can’t adapt on a dime. It’s become difficult for local farmers. Projections from year to year are hard.  It’s too hard for them to make the numbers, especially with competition from Mexico and Thailand undercutting prices. Put it all together and you have more trouble growing this fruit and making a living.”

Perry Samimy in the family grove at peak of harvest on June 11, 2011.

So a dry spell and wind at the wrong time can kill a season, even a crop for good.  Take the Samimy operation — a labor of love, really, not the family’s livelihood.  They now have one of largest groves in South Florida at 20 acres, and Michael’s been buying from them since before MGFD existed.  We experienced one of our best seasons in 2015, a dramatic bumper crop that yielded 100,000 pounds from the grove’s 1,100 trees.  The Samimy’s 2017 season will produce 1,000 pounds if they’re lucky, with 1/3 of trees actually fruiting, and only the heartier Brewster variety not the usual first-of-the-season plumper, smoother Mauritius.  That’s a decrease of 99% — erratic to say the least. We call it like we see it: lychee is the canary in the coal mine for climate change.

Dr. Jonathan Crane at University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead explains that lychee was introduced into Florida before 1880 and by the ’50s there was a lot of interest and promotion of planting. With support from the USDA, Florida Department of Agriculture and interest groups like the 130-year old Florida State Horticultural Society comprised of fruit, vegetable and ornamental farmers, groves sprung up across the state, from Winter Haven in Polk County in the north to all the way down to Miami-Dade. The Florida Lychee Growers Association formed in 1952 even touted “You can plant lychee wherever you can plant citrus!” The thinking back then was the crop had a lot of “cold tolerance” but after four freeze events back to back in December ’57 and January ’58 killed most everything north, the crop dwindled to small plantings here and there in center of state mostly adjacent to lakes and about 100 acres or so in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties. Our neck of the woods is currently home to about 1,000 acres.

Making lychee history, a dip into the archives (courtesy Dr. Crane)

“To be politically incorrect, lychee is a great example of global warming,” says Dr. Crane.  “In order to flower reliably, dormant trees have to be exposed to temperatures below 60°F for anywhere from 300 to 600 hours, depending on how cold it gets.  What has been happening in the past 7-8 years is we are getting less and less cool temperatures in Miami-Dade. They aren’t getting sufficient what we call ‘chilling hours’ to induce them to bloom. There is a macro trend at play here.”

What can we do?  What we do best. Feature and get excited about lychee.  And let you know when something’s up with our sources.

“We save the prettiest ones to serve from pastry, simply over ice,” MJ continues.  “What we try to do and can do now thanks to the commissary and specifically our new big walk-in freezer is extend the season by buying in bulk and time releasing the reserves.  Lychee is such a short season, especially this year, and the best way to store them is shell-on frozen.”

Pastry is already highlighting the fresh product turning out the smooth-as-can-be lychee-coconut-vodka sorbet popular from last year. It debuted at brunch last Sunday in a refreshing sundae with its delicate melt meeting hibiscus syrup and a double whammy of fresh lychee on top. MJ describes it as the perfect canvas for lychee, “subtle, fragrant and fresh.”  They loaded ella with a batch of popsicles yesterday.

Chef de Cuisine Tim Piazza has plenty cooking beginning this week. On Friday we tasted Yellowfin Tuna Crudo with lychee, serrano, pink peppercorn, basil, and lime from the MGFD raw bar and then followed along as he put together Crispy Pork Belly & Lychee with coconut milk, herbs, chile, and cashews.  Both super delicious and such different yet compelling expressions of the same ingredient!  A lightly cured shrimp and lychee dish was a hit last year at dinner, so we’re hoping it will be back or perhaps a variation.

Phoenix: Bacardi Superior, St. Germain, lychee, grenadine, lemon, cranberry

The MGFD bar always does a great job of maximizing yield, capturing luscious juice for cocktails like Phoenix with Bacardi Superior, St. Germain, grenadine, lemon and cranberry.  TGHG Beverage Manager Amanda Fraga loves lychee for its unique flavor. There’s always a Lychee Martini available, special because it’s made with fresh lychee juice, not the typical canned variety you might be used to, and the guest’s choice of vodka. The sky’s the limit from there since it plays so well with other fruit flavors, as well as a wide range of spirits.

Stay in the lychee loop on our restaurant menus throughout the summer with the hashtag #genuinelychee.  Keep your eyes peeled for other tree fruits, like nectarines, mangos and cherries cropping up everywhere.  It’s going to be a fruitful summer no matter what!

The Genuine Kitchen’s backstory on the Samimy family groves, the local lychee crop, and its embrace in our restaurants can be found here.  I also interviewed Chef for the first time for a piece on the Miami New Times food blog here, as the first lychee harvest of 2009 rolled in.

[Recipe] Mexican-Style Sweet Corn Off the Cob


We always are feeling a little corny here in South Florida. The local season runs from December to June according to Fresh From Floridaand Restaurant Michael Schwartz chef de cuisine Molly Brandt isn’t wasting any time getting it on the menu. Yes, sweet corn is just starting to crop up, the start of a pretty broad season as far as a locally-grown ingredient is concerned.  This is good news for both chefs and foragers, as there’s not much variation season to season.

“Corn is a pretty resilient crop,” explains Chris Padin of Farm to Kitchen. “It can grow in such a wide range of climates so you don’t see much damage even when the weather is unseasonable. We get bicolor sweet and yellow sweet and haven’t really seen any farms working with heirloom varieties yet. We typically like to give the harvest a few weeks before offering it to the chefs but this year it’s been great out of the gate particularly with some new organic corn from Bee Heaven’s Margie Pikarsky who is sourcing from Belle Glade up in Palm Beach County. It usually starts sooner and over the past couple of weeks I’ve actually been sampling it in our produce boxes and getting good feedback.”

Make Molly’s off-the-cob side the star of your home kitchen with the recipe below and sign up for Chris’ Farm to Kitchen produce boxes through a general inquiry on its new website here.  Or be entertained and enjoy it from Molly’s kitchen while Markus Gottschlich & Friends take center stage this Thursday, December 18 at 8:00 p.m. as the hotel’s live Jazz Nights series with Steinway & Sons continues.  Follow Molly on Instagram @cookinthekitch, where she frequently posts daily specials at Restaurant Michael Schwartz at The Raleigh Hotel.

Mexican-Style Corn Off the Cob with Queso Fresco and Jalapeño Aioli

There’s something about street foods that make mouths water mere mention. Whether from a memory of travels or a taste of home, Mexican-style corn is one of those things that you just want to eat! It’s a tastebud popping dish and very easy to make, here served as a side to accompany any meal.

Ingredient note: Espellete pepper

The Espelette pepper is a variety of chili pepper that is cultivated in the French commune of Espelette, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, traditionally the northern territory of the Basque people.  Chefs like it for its subtle spice, hint of smoky, sweetness, and light floral quality. And that deep red color! It is classified as an AOC (“controlled designation of origin”) product particular to its geographic provenance.

Serves 4 as a side dish

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 ears fresh corn, cut off the cob
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 scallions, sliced on the bias
4 sprigs of cilantro, leaves only
2 tablespoons Jalapeño Aioli (recipe below)
1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco
Espelette pepper, to garnish
2 lime wedges

Place a large sauté pan over high heat and add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil begins to smoke add the corn kernels all at once and season with salt. Allow the kernels to char slightly for about a minute, then stir occasionally for about 3 minutes more or until the corn begins to glisten and turn translucent.  Add in half of the cilantro and scallion, toss, then spoon the corn mixture onto plate. Sprinkle the remaining scallion and cilantro over the corn, top with a dollop of jalapeno aioli and then crumbled queso fresco. Dust the dish with a pinch of espelette pepper, and garnish with lime wedges.

Jalapeño Aioli

Yields 1 quart

2 whole heads of garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 jalapeño peppers
Juice of 2 lemons
1 quart mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Over two sheets of aluminum foil, drizzle each of the two garlic heads with a tablespoon of oil.  Wrapped each individually into tightly-secured pouches and place on a sheet tray with the jalapeños. Drizzle the peppers with the remaining oil and roast for 35 minutes or until they start to wilt and brown, and the garlic is soft.  Let cool, about 30 minutes. Peel and seed the peppers, and remove the roasted garlic cloves from their skins. Add to a food processor with the lemon juice, mayonnaise and purée until smooth. Season with kosher salt to taste.

Exploring Photography at The Cypress Room


The job of a chef-restaurateur is as much about designing a menu as it is about conjuring the dining experience.  The service, the room, the lighting, the music… these elements define hospitality and come together to create that magical thing called sense of place.  It’s that feeling you get when you walk into a dining room and are transported somewhere, some time even.  If the restaurant does it right, it’s like reading a great book.  You dive right in and lose yourself in a new world, only to find something special to take with you forever.


If you have ever been to The Cypress Room, you have seen the wall of black and white old Florida photographs in the dining room, in part responsible for creating its unique sense of place.  Since photography is one of my passions, we decided to focus on this theme for my last project as summer brand intern, the evolution of spring’s poetry collection for “O, Miami”.  Working again with Nathaniel Sandler at Bookleggers, I visited his archives Downtown to hand-pick this month’s display of books which we’ve entitled “Through the Looking Glass: Photography at The Cypress Room.”   You can now find them installed in each restroom.  

I also created an archive of our own for the photo wall, to dig deeper into these images’ significance and place in Miami’s history, spanning the late 1800s to late 1900s. Coming soon is a book recording the details of each picture hanging, from which you can find a preview below. Be sure to stop by and take a look to discover the mysteries of the hanging photographs and choose your own adventure within our four walls. The Cypress Room will post on Instagram when our first copy arrives from Blurb!

Some of the covers of the books in the new photography collection.

Some of the covers of the books in the new photography collection.

Ernest Hemingways sons, Patrick and Gregory, in Cuba

Ernest Hemingways sons, Patrick and Gregory, in Cuba

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J. Fritz Gordon, Al Capone and Mayor of Havana, Julio Morales, 1930, On Back: In Havana, don’t ask for beer, ask for “Tropical.” Souvenir from Tropical Garden, Havana, Cuba, 1930.

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People on the Beach, Robert Vignola (Front) and Ruth Snow (Middle).

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Marking 75 years of New York-Miami service, 1900’s; Engine No. 1034 breaks the tape on track No. 3 in Miami marking 75 years of Florida Special New York-Miami service. Joan Cooke typifies the bathing beauty of the 1888 era. Michal Flotkin is the beauty on the right.

Peachy Keen in Genuineland: Tracking Our Favorite Stone Fruit in Season

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Florida peach season is in full swing. You might not know this — we sure didn’t until we did a little tooling around on the internet — but peach farming is not entirely new to Florida.  The Lakeland Ledger reported last year that although growing peaches is usually associated with Georgia, Florida farmers claimed about 5,000 planted acres of peach trees in the early 1980s.  After a devastating freeze caused a drastic drop to about 500 acres by the end of that decade, the University of Florida’s Department of Horticultural Sciences in Gainesville began work on several “low chill” varieties that don’t require as many cold days to produce fruit like the Georgia crops do and can survive Florida’s mostly subtropical climate.  In part due to this R&D, as well as Florida citrus growers wanting to spread risk on their land, peach farming started to pick up again about a decade ago according to Mercy Olmstead, an extension specialist for stone fruit production with the University. The article reports that today, there are more than 1,000 planted acres of peach trees, mostly in Central and South-central Florida, compared to 240 acres reported in 2007 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Georgia has about 12,000 acres. More for us, more for you.  Here’s where you can find peaches in our neck of the woods, and the many ways to eat them savory and sweet, although we like plain just the same!

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