Amara at Paraiso Opens for Lunch, Monday September 24

Next week there are more bay views to bask in — or breeze by — during the workday, at Miami’s quintessential waterfront restaurant by chef Michael Schwartz.  Amara at Paraiso opens for lunch beginning Monday, September 24 with executive chef Michael Paley’s a la carte menu.  All new items to enjoy include Starters, Sandwiches (served with choice of crispy chimichurri potatoes or farm greens), Salads & Bowls (to which grilled chicken, grilled fish or shrimp and chorizo can be added), and Entrées. Favorites from dinner make an appearance, like Snacks including craveable Yuca Cheese Puffs, the restaurant’s two varieties of housemade Empanadas — Short Rib, as well as Corn & Leek, Raw Bar mainstays like Ceviche, fresh, locally-caught Tuna Tartare in changing preparations, Chilled Shrimp, and Oysters — and a medley Platter to make it special.

Housemade masa crackers for the Avocado Bowl, a starter with buttermilk curds, fresh herbs, and lime.

Amara’s “Three Course”, a prix fixe lunch option for $28 lets you pass the brighter hours as expeditiously or leisurely as your spectrum desires whether for a smart business lunch or dining to get to the next appointment on time.  Begin with choice of Yuca Cheese Puffs, Smoked Fish Dip, or Ceviche, followed by main dish of Grilled Market Fish, Chochoyotes — hearty masa dumplings in broth (vegetarian), or the Concha Especial sandwich, and finish with Dulce Flan or Chocolate Torte.

Click here for the full opening menu.

Work and life hangs so delicately in the balance. Let Amara tip your scales. The new service runs Monday through Saturday from 11:30am-3pm and highlights the bold Latin American flavors, coastal ingredients, and South Florida’s diversity of food culture established at the restaurant’s lively happy hour, dinner and brunch. Miami’s quintessential waterfront restaurant captures the dynamic energy, local ingredients, and natural beauty of Biscayne Bay that defines what living in Miami is all about from environment to cuisine to vibe.  Amara at Paraiso is located at 3101 NE 7th Ave, Miami, FL 33137.  For reservations call 305.702.5528, email reservations@amaraatparaiso.com or visit Open Table (walk-ins welcome). For all hours and menus visit amaraatparaiso.com and follow the restaurant on Instagram and Facebook.

Bowled Over By Inspiration? For Chef Bradley Herron, It’s Right Under Your Nose.

Tuna Bowl, constructed.

Ever made a “garbage salad”?  The Genuine Hospitality Group’s Culinary Director Bradley Herron has.  Head scratch?  It’s not what you’re thinking.  Or maybe it is?

Perhaps you’ve had this moment, too, standing in front of a refrigerator looking for something good to eat and the landscape is bleak — a few lonely remains, a couple of scallions here and a half a lemon there, the bundle of parsley looking more like a bushel, and mismatched jars with innards haggard like the end of the DMV line.  It’s the look of resignation.  But this is not what everyone sees in what’s left on shelves or hidden in the pantry. If you’re Brad, you just need a stainless mixing bowl and boom! You are the envy of the office with special requests for lunch.

“Cleaning house.  It’s how we like to do things here over the course of a week, and it’s how the tuna bowl happened.” Brad explains to me on the line at Michael’s Genuine last Friday. “I saw this bag of wild rice sitting around waiting to die and thought about what we could make with it.  It starts with what you have, not always what you can order, and goes from there.  We can supplement with a few special things and make something really delicious. Cooking creatively is usually always about cooking smart.”

Vegetarian’s delight — Grain Bowl with sprouts, calabaza, radish, avocado, sambal

Lunch’s Tuna Bowl, and its Grain Bowl counterpart at dinner, snuck up on the menu over the past couple of weeks and have been a big hit at the office and in the dining room.  On Friday, fresh yellowfin came very finely chopped with seasonings including sambal, an Indonesian chile sauce we love for its intensity of flavor (mostly due to fish sauce).  The bowl is then constructed with a foundation of mixed grains including wild rice, red quinoa and farro onto which sliced cucumbers and radishes, nice looking hydroponic arugula, shaved white onions, bean sprouts and alfalfa, butter lettuce and a hulking half scoop of cubed avocado are packed. A favorite Vietnamese dressing, also fish sauce based, nuoc cham, is drizzled liberally.  Last week, the Tuna Bowl popped on Instagram with tail feathers of green and purple on display in baby fire sorrel.

“Yea, and it’ll have different things next week, too,” Brad continues.  “It’s a different way of looking at the recipe development process — maybe even backwards from the perspective of someone who is used to looking up recipes in a book and shopping for ingredients to conceive a menu.  But it makes for an efficient and creative kitchen, and there’s no reason why cross utilization shouldn’t apply to the home cook looking to eliminate waste and maximize flavor. Lots of cost savings, too.”

Teach a man to load the ingredient wall — left to right — from ripe, to ripening. This process brings back of house and front of house together to make the dining room stand for something (beautiful) and function properly for cooks in need of ingredients as the tickets come in.

What initially piqued my interested in Brad’s bowls was the idea of what makes for a good one. There is a formula, and it’s not how your corner “poke” shop does it DIY, a recipe for over doing it. Simplicity and restraint, sure, but really it’s about one thing — balance. At Michael’s Genuine it produces successful menus from the practicality and practice of cross utilization and is the essential notion all of our Genuine kitchens are built on. This is why the bowl canvas is so apt.  For our cooks, this idea informs the roadmap for every single dish.  It’s about the interplay of texture, color, flavor and temperature to create contrast and, if not thoughtfully considered, is what can make or break even a technically perfect one.

Look for more bowl variations to come, as well as what’s new for Miami Spice beginning August 1, posted daily @michaelsgenuine and where we now have a video of the tuna bowl assembly.

Bowls on fire at MGFD. What combo is up next?

Mother’s Day at Fi’lia | Mom’s Got More than Just a Pizza with Her Name on It

Mother’s Day calls for making things a little more special than your average Sunday.  The bar is high!  Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz takes this to the heart Sunday, May 14 with a supplemental menu of a la carte dishes fit for a queen and her party, available during breakfast and lunch.

So, what’s our move?  How about toasting with Emilia, a bewitching cocktail of Solerno blood orange liqueur, Mancino Chinato, blood orange juice, Dimmi and Prosecco, packing as vibrant a punch as it does color. Perfectly forked stacks of Wood Grilled Peaches, whipped ricotta, pistachio pesto and peppery arugula need follow.  Then Mom’s Pizza would hit the table to share, spring’s swan song in bechamel, fava beans, morels, mint, onion, pecorino and Calabrian chiles.  The combination is almost too much for one mind’s eye to contemplate.  But to be bewitched by Plum and Brandy Custard Brulée?  That’s the Mother’s Day dreams are made of. Reserve now by calling 305.912.1729 or emailing filiareservations@slshotels.com.

Wood Grilled Peaches with whipped ricotta, pistachio pesto, arugula

 

Welcoming New Menus & Chef de Cuisine Saul Ramos at MGFD

Welcome Saul

MGFD’s new CDC in our favorite spot.

At 10 Years, there’s just so much more Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink to taste with a new chef de cuisine, Saul Ramos, to helm the kitchen.  On Tuesday, September 13, the next chapter in Michael’s Miami Design District flagship unfolds in menu format and content changes most notably at anchor services — first Dinner on Tuesday evening, then Lunch and Afternoon on Wednesday, with Brunch following on Sunday.

“When this little restaurant was still an idea back in 2006, we dreamed of cooking and serving food that would bring people together and make them happy,” Schwartz explains. “This is what drives us, the end goal. How we get there — to the root of what it means to be MGFD — changes, inspires us, and keeps us on our toes.”

Banh mi packed with shrimp paste and fried into a crispy crostini, with customary julienne pickled carrot and picked herbs.

Banh mi packed with shrimp paste and fried into a crispy crostini, with customary julienne pickled carrot and picked herbs.

Leek and Potato Crostada

Crostada as seen on @chefmschwartz’s instagram, with flakey, golden crust nailed to perfection by Pastry Chef MJ Garcia.

Our new Dinner menu begins in a familiar place with eight Snacks, where zesty newcomers like shrimp toast “banh mi” (9), sprouted lentil fritters with yogurt & watercress (8), and short rib croquettes with smoked paprika aioli (9) meet go-tos like classic deviled eggs (8), thick cut potato chips with pan fried onion dip (8) and crispy hominy with chile & lime (7).  Working the way down on Dinner, dishes are listed by size from small to large, starting with Salads, Vegetables, Pizza & Pasta, Fish and Meat, offering a variety of sizes and preparations within each section.

“Daily changes highlighting seasonal ingredients have always dictated our menu, but we wanted to facilitate guest engagement with it and call out things important to us like Vegetables and Salads,” explains Schwartz. “With Saul leading the back of house, we’re connecting with what we love about this place: making great food, cultivating talent and creativity in the kitchen, and exciting our guests in the dining room like they expect.”

Click for the new dinner menu (subject to change of course!)

Click for the new dinner menu (subject to change of course!)

Because Salads occupy an important place at the Schwartz table, there are five including Fennel & Celery Root with mint, arugula, almonds and pecorino (11), Gem Lettuce with pickled vegetables & tuna sauce (11), and Bitter Greens with apple, walnuts and blue cheese. The long time staple highlighting what’s fresh and in season, Stracciatella will continue to draw from ingredients on restaurant’s iconic food bar wall accented with basil, extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt. Vegetables include six dishes, from a three bite Leek & Potato Crostada with mozzarella & roasted garlic (9), to savory and satisfying Beluga Lentils with curried calabaza & pumpkin seeds (11). A current favorite, Wood Oven Roasted Eggplant, holds court with chickpeas, preserved meyer lemon, tahini, cilantro and freshly-made, piping hot pita from the hearth (10).

Always willing and able to make eggplant the star it truly is.

Always willing and able to make eggplant the star it truly is.

Ramos, who joined Michael’s Genuine earlier this year as Sous Chef, worked closely with Chef and The Genuine Hospitality Group Executive Chef Bradley Herron to hone the dishes.  Born in Mexico and raised in Chicago, from the very beginning Saul was the product of cultures at a crossroads, like the city he currently calls home. His sisters would say that when Saul was little, he would always talk about wanting to be a chef when he grew up. It’s not hard to imagine, since he was surrounded by inspiration in the Ramos household of his youth, filled with delicious aromas of his mother and grandmother cooking (always cooking!) Of all the meals shared at home with family, the one that sticks with Saul the most is Thanksgiving. The turkey was the star of course, but there was whole fish too, and an abundant spread of vegetables, side dishes, and sweets that the whole family participated in cooking. After all, his family immigrated to the U.S. 40 years ago, while some of his mom’s side still reside in San Luis Potosí, Mexico.

Saul entered restaurant life at 13 when his elder sister Berenice pulled him out of school. He was distracted in school, and she was dating a restaurateur at the time. So that’s where Saul’s story in the kitchen began, like the many others like it — thrown to the wolves at 14 to figure it out. He’ll talk about his mentor David Blonsky, and his importance to the arc of his career, but in the beginning it was all about steak. Lots of them, and he learned how to cook them perfectly on the line of a steakhouse in Chicago, by not overthinking it. He also loves making pasta, from the technique for mixing and sheeting dough, to shapes and the best ways to sauce them, especially noodles with a good Bolognese. After opening Siena Tavern in Chicago in 2013 under the guidance of chefs Fabio Viviani and Kevin Abshire, he moved to South Florida without a plan, which is sometimes the only way to have one.

And Pizza & Pasta have always been a part of the Genuine experience to look forward to, so now is no exception with two dishes each: Calabaza Agnolotti with house smoked bacon, cipollini, piave vecchio and thyme (18), Bucatini with roasted mushrooms, garlic, parsley, parmigiano and black truffle (18), Shiitake Mushroom Pizza with roasted leeks & fontina (18), and Braised Lamb Pizza with harissa, manchego, charred scallion and cilantro (19.)

Fish incorporates the Raw Bar’s oysters selection with a crudo and ceviche, adding tender, decadent Alaskan King Crab with green sambal (23). What’s local and running in Florida waters continues to form the foundation of dishes like Pan Roasted Tilefish with clams, bacon, green onion and green sauce (25), Wood Oven Roasted Grouper with red chermoula, fennel, tomato and olives (24) and of course the Wood Oven Roasted Whole Snapper with castelvetrano olives, calabrian chiles, parsley and grilled lemon (PA).

TGHG chef assistant Megan Hess holding it down with Saul in the kitchen.

TGHG chef assistant Megan Hess holding it down with Saul in the kitchen.

Comprised of eight dishes, Meat showcases the kitchen’s love of building layers of flavor, beginning with Stuffed Cabbage (12) where pork and beef are braised with spices. Posole Rojo (14) is dialed in with a rich broth and juicy pork belly, topped with a fried egg. Crispy Lamb Neck with chickpeas, cucumber, yogurt, dill and preserved lemon (16) and Braised Rabbit with saffron, apricot, green olive, cous cous and mint (19) hit an exotic note. The Genuine Burger is back, optimized with house smoked bacon and cheddar, lettuce, tomato, brioche bun and fries (21). Bigger dishes bookending the section include familiar, high quality proteins that drive flavor like Poulet Rouge Chicken, pan roasted and served with bitter greens & mustard sauce (22.) Slow Roasted & Grilled Short Rib gets the Vietnamese treatment with nuoc cham, bean sprouts, crispy shallot and peanuts (23.) Show-stopping 32oz Wood Oven Roasted Porterhouse with sour orange-onion marmalade (79) was chosen as a luxurious cut matched by rich, deep flavor.

Saul’s style is dynamic; he likes having fun in the kitchen, challenging himself to identify areas for improvement and innovation, and then research and find a solution. He believes in leadership that empowers his people and jumps at the opportunity to get down and dirty with the team in the trenches. “Understanding where this restaurant comes from, like sourcing its product, is key to embracing new ideas and the evolution to come. It’s all about dialing in the new menu now.  Then there’s season.”

 

A Lunch Hideaway

 

I had some friends in town from New York last Monday.  Having enjoyed a cruise, they were only here for the day and spent the afternoon with me before heading back home. They were seeking an elegant and intimate lunch, and cocktails were in order, of course, to sail them back to the Polar Vortex in good spirits. I suggested The Cypress Room.  My last dinner experience was nothing short of breathtaking. Let’s compare with lunch!

Our party of three arrived at 1 pm.  Jazz vocals recalling a distant past flowed through the room, an escape from the commotion of the city.  The atmosphere inside was quiet, yet warm. It was the perfect meeting place.  We all chose the Prix Fixe Menu. $33 for three courses and the option to add a midcourse. It was by far the best lunch I have had in a very long time. Allow me to tell you why.

hanging-with-harris-ryan-goodspeed-cocktails-cypress-room

Count Basie, courtesy of Hanging with Harris.

I started with a specialty cocktail, the Count Basie with: Redemption Rye, Cocchi Americano, R&W apricot, grapefruit, lemon, egg white and pistachio. I felt so regal just drinking it, in a tall glass, with the foam from the egg white brushing against my lips. A complex mixture of spirits, sure, but the Count Basie was a smooth operator, multi-dimensional and opened my palate for what was to come.

I chose the Triggerfish Crudo for my first course, with cherry peppers and blood orange. Or maybe the Crudo chose me? The tender fish was so fresh it practically leapt from the plate with just enough heat and a perfect balance of acidity.  It awoke every nerve within me.

MarrowI opted for a midcourse, the marrow bones with preserved lemon, celery, garlic toast and topped with parsley. This dish is a classic on the menu since opening and offered both at lunch and dinner.  The buttery marrow is best enjoyed spread on garlic toasts and kissed with a squeeze of lemon.  I’ll stop at that, but I will not refrain from tasting my friends’ food. I reached over for a bite of gnocchi, prepared with calabaza, wild mushroom and herbs. Bold, yet light enough for lunch thanks to a short ingredient list coming together in harmony on the place.

My second course was the most mesmerizing: the short rib with mushroom conserva and lila onions. I added the thrice cooked fries as a side. The contrast of the rich beef, bathing in flavorful broth, shined with just a touch of the potato. With a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir, I enjoyed the decadence of dinner time without feeling overwhelmed.  You’ll just have to trust me on that! Now onto dessert…

I chose another favorite, the brown butter semifreddo with compressed apple and medjool date leather. Its flavors morph as the dish melts from a tableside pour of spiced cider, each bite surpassing the last.  With French macarons begging not to be forgone, we bid The Cypress Room adieu, bellies full and hearts light.  It’s good to know there’s a reasonably priced lunch prix fixe menu ready to satisfy both the simple- or supplemental-minded at heart.