Fall Field Report: Foraging Homestead with Chris Padin & Chef de Cuisine Bradley Herron

Chris, Brad and I on the road in The Redland, an agricultural community about 20 miles or 45 minutes southwest of the restaurant and Downtown Miami, i.e. our local farmland.

This past Friday was a farm day.  It was 11 in the morning when I rendezvoused with our forager Chris Padin, for whom biweekly trips to The Redland in Homestead are the routine, and Chef de Cuisine Bradley Herron, who will have run the Miami MGFD kitchen for three years come November.   Actually it was a reconnaissance mission more than anything.  With the fall upon us and the start of our main growing season in South Florida, it was time for Bradley to check in with our local growers and see the crops first-hand, trade ideas on what we’d like to work on together in the coming months, and have the necessary face time that, as old school and time consuming as it may be, never fails to result in game changing revelations.  This is not always possible due to the demands of the kitchen… or the office.  But as Bradley had to remind me, when I was tempted by my To Do list to bail, “You gotta make the time or you’ll never go.”

Consequently, Friday was a big day in our little world.  Firstly, Michael Borek of Teena’s Pride Farm will begin packing our orders of his gorgeous tomatoes in reusable crates, rather than the farm’s branded cardboard boxes.  Less waste, less cost, and more tomatoes per unit, for which he will need to create a new SKU on his price list.  Borek will also now provide Bradley with his throwaway tomatoes, i.e. perfectly fine ones that might not pass muster with the packing house, but would find a warm welcome in the MGFD kitchen in beautiful sofrito, tomato sauce, or base for a wood oven skillet of, say, cobia with a toasted sourdough crostini and lemon aioli.  Tomatoes are hitting earlier than ever this season thanks to a new wet wall, a cooling system of cellulose pads installed along one side or in the end wall of the greenhouse. The pads are kept wet by a system of pumps and gutters that recirculate water. On the opposite end of the greenhouse is a series of fans to pull air through the greenhouse. As outside air passes through the pads, the water evaporates and as it does so it is cooled. This cool air is pulled across the greenhouse lowering the temperature inside. It aids in growing the tomatoes earlier in the season.  Without the wet walls Borek would just be planting now, and it would be January before we saw decent heirlooms!

Of course the day would not have been complete without a zinger or two.  What if I told you we out-buy Whole Foods Market stores in South Florida — in season, 800+ pounds of heirlooms, per week?  Boom.  Please enjoy the gallery below with little nuggets from Borek and other stops made along the way, and check out our Flickr for the full set of pictures. Lots more to come in the coming weeks as the menu reflects the arrival of all these new ingredients and more.

Welcoming Growing Season at Teena’s Pride

Forager Ali Lauria with Teena's Pride grower Celia on Friday harvesting this season's first heirloom tomatoes.

It was a long summer full of luscious lychees, then mountains of mangoes and juicy avocados, and of course those plentiful pumpkins that made our pizzas bright and sweet under the wood fire…  And those amazing California figs!  But no matter how much we love keeping creative with slim local pickings, our Miami kitchens at MGFD and Harry’s are chomping at the bit for the arrival of the main growing season in South Florida.  On Friday, great news came from forager Ali Lauria!  Her first pick-up of heirloom tomatoes from grower Michael Borek of Teena’s Pride in Homestead flew through the door, with news of plenty more veggies coming into harvest by November.

“Celia, Felix and Rafael make sure everything gets planted and they’re on top of the growing process. They are amazing!!!,” says Ali of Michael Borek’s team.   “Celia is also the one that prepared the herbs for Harry’s. I believe Celia is in charge of everything that grows for their CSA, which is taking sign-ups right now.”

In addition to a return of heirloom tomatoes to our burrata, we are excited to soon be getting Teena’s Pride cucumbers, eggplant, gold and red beets, carrots, cauliflower, romanesco veronica, anaheim peppers, bell peppers, patty pan squash, spicy mix lettuces, butter lettuce, arugula, pak choi, and, new for us this year, locally-grown romaine lettuce!  Check out Ali’s photos from the farm last week here, and we’ll continue to share how this product makes it to our menus here on the blog and on Twitter.