Tick Tock: A Day in the Life of ella

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Owner Michael Schwartz and TGHG Wine Director Eric “café manager” Larkee find common ground on sangria thanks to a chef favorite, the quart container.

As you get to know ella, so are we.  In fact, a job for everyone from cashier to owner is to learn what makes her tick.  This exercise will never end and will only get more difficult as time passes.  A good restaurateur knows what works and that he or she will have to look a little harder to see what doesn’t.

In the beginning, it’s as plain as daylight to professionals like Misters Michael Schwartz, Eric Larkee, and Bradley Herron.  Issues leap at them like Stereograms from the page the moment they enter a new restaurant environment.  There are the things that are obvious, maybe even to laypeople. Tables that need to be cleared, pastries that need to be stocked, maybe the garbage can needs emptying.  These are things that make up the daily routine, the rules of the road that make the restaurant function.  Employees are given “sidework” to ensure they happen in a timely manner.  Everyone keeps busy and the place runs smoothly.

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Roel Alcudia, chef at The Cypress Room, talks back of house shop with Bradley.

Then there are the unknowns — the things that reveal themselves as you go through the motions of operations and herein lies the fun.  How can the café work better and how can its employees work smarter? Sometimes, support staff has a light bulb, management listens and the idea is implemented on the spot.  A suggestion is made to maximize the efficiency of table clearing and free up the food pass so guests and servers can collect their orders without interruption.  Three small potted palms later, and ella has a new bussing station outside, stage left and conveniently waiting in the wings.  Find yourself with leftover croissants, as par orders settle in?  Skip a savory bread pudding special in favor of a tuna salad sandwich on one of the most delicious vessels True Loaf bakery has to offer.  It’s about finding rhythms and knowing when to make a change and test something that could be the next new rhythm.  Yesterday a Larkee breakthrough consisted of strip-tying fish boxes for a safe wine storage rig on the back room’s aerial metro shelving.  That’s a day in the life of a new restaurant.  Here’s what ella’s looked like yesterday:

7:45am —  True Loaf’s delivery of assorted baked goods walks through the back door, including wheat bread rounds, plain and almond croissants, and cookies like oatmeal raisin, phantom, and walnut-chocolate.  Staff arrives to the front door shortly after.

8am — Kitchen manager Vanessa Nunez is at The Cypress Room’s back door picking up ella’s daily order, including Roel’s Everything Bagels.  Meanwhile, setup has begun in preparation for opening back at the café.  The barista station is fired up and pastry displays are made pretty.  “If Chef is around and we have new items and specials to write out, he’ll be the scribe,” Eric explains.  “If he isn’t around, we do our best to impersonate his handwriting!”

9am– Doors open for breakfast.  Panther Coffee Cold Brew is the most popular espresso beverage and people love their fresh-squeezed orange juice. Toasted and served with Beet-Cured Salmon, heirloom tomato, whipped cream cheese, onions and capers, Roel’s everything bagels are the current contender for most popular item sold during the café’s breakfast service from 9-11am, tied with the buttered and extra-virgin olive oil drizzled (triple fat, the Michael Schwartz method!) Avocado Toast on True Loaf wheat.  These two items are also available on the menu throughout the day.  The most popular breakfast-only item is the Breakfast Sandwich with bacon, egg and white cheddar on a toasted Bay’s English muffin.  It’s perfect but only available during the two hour morning window.  Yesterday Bradley sold two at 11:09am, so there are exceptions.

ella_Chicken10:30am: The lunch transition begins.  Sometime between now and 10:50, Roel will hand deliver beautiful rotisserie chickens from The Cypress Room. Brad ordered 12 half chickens for Wednesday.

11am: Lunch begins and people order said chickens. They get a treatment of hemp seed pesto which is super fragrant and delicious.  A tasty, satisfying lunch with a side of bitter greens like frisée and radicchio. Yum yum.  This is a bright time of day for the restaurant, which is bathed in easterly sunshine until about 2pm.

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Ella at the ella pass with Tristan, shift leader.

1pm: The first sangria of the day should be ordered by this time and was thanks to Mademoiselles Fowler and Torres.  Take one for the team, ladies!  The current flavor is lychee-cucumber and the ratios are fool-proof, until Chef’s Sharpie directions smudge off their quart container due to use, which may also signal it’s time for the next flavor.  I hear blood orange Dry Soda will figure somehow into that mix which makes me happy.

1:30-3pm: ella is in the heart of her lunch rush, the busiest period of the day. The sun has begun to recede behind our building, and cooling shadows begin their afternoon march to the east through Palm Court.

Bradley and Eric, a 4:15 break and recap. Something about if we need to order a third cup size.

Bradley and Eric, a 4:15 break for reflection. Something about if we need to order a third cup size.

4pm: The terrace has cooled off quite dramatically and a cool breeze flows through our patio.  Larkee wants to pop open a bottle of rosé.  Conversely, Bradley says going into the Pack Rat at this time — the storage pod in our back lot affectionately referred to as the Rat Pack by the staff — is akin to baking in a sauna warmed by the western sun.  That’s ok because you’ve done your Pack Rat foraging in the morning for this very reason, and it’s time to start getting ready for the next day, communicating with vendors and The Cypress Room to place orders.

The 5pm chill,

The 5pm chill,

6pm:  The team begins winding down, doing pre-closing things like keeping things organized and stocking up for the next day.

7pm: Close for the day and lock-up.

What will today bring to the café?  A blue masa taco delivery from Taquiza, perhaps?  We shall see!

Thankfully, The Show Must Go On!

DM_Menu_2014 CoverScreen shot 2014-11-22 at 2.09.38 PMIt’s been a very busy October and November for The Genuine Hospitality Group, from the announcement of Harry’s Pizzeria® Coconut Grove to the intercontinental opening of Michael’s Genuine® Pub on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. #GSD has been uttered and Tweeted more than #TGHG and #MGFD combined.  Suffice to say we are feeling very pumped, invigorated, exhausted, motivated, lucky, warm and fuzzy, and most of all thankful heading into Thanksgiving.  On Thursday our corporate office and Design District restaurant teams will pause to soak it all in and spend much needed quality time with family and friends…  But this weekend, the show MUST go on and that presently means our MGFD Café at Design Miami/!

In its 3rd year of popping at the 10th annual global forum for design, Michael’s temporary installation at the tent on Meridian Ave and 19th Street will be back — this time sporting Michael’s Genuine® Home Brew’s vibrant color palette — from Tuesday, December 2 on Preview Day (Collectors Preview/ 12-6pm and Vernissage/ 6-8pm — By Invitation only) through Public Days December 3 – 4 (10am-8pm), December 5 (11am-8pm,) December 6 (12-8pm,) and December 7 (12-6pm.)  We still have tons of work to accomplish before then, but are today excited to share this year’s menu with obligatory subject to change disclaimer.  With load-in beginning Monday, it’s time to carb up… Basmati Rice Bowls, anyone?  Other items catching our attention include #HQ’s hummus (!), a new and perfect tuna salad sandwich, kombucha, half bottles of our favorite flag (red/white/rosé,) the one and only Blue Cane Daiquiri, and some of your favorite usual subjects to genuinely serve you.  It’s time to get the band back together. Let’s do this! DM_Menu_2014

[RECIPE] Wake-Up Call: Capturing the Hidden Creativity of Our Morning Persons

At 8:00 a.m. last Thursday morning, busser, porter and now receiver Chris Caballero was commanding his new post as deliveries trickled in.  He paused for a coffee break — a hospitable one, to cue up two cappuccinos for photographer Catalina Ayubi and I.  It was an early morning for us, but not for Chris nor the pastry department. Hours aren’t the most forgiving in this business, and it’s no more apparent than the hours bakers keep.  The 6:00 a.m. call time is just the morning routine, and on some days, part of the allure of this line of work. It’s when Kelly Russell, executive pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith’s assistant at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, puts together her prep list for the day.

Kelly and our beloved workhorse, the Hobart mixer.

Kelly and our beloved workhorse, the Hobart mixer.

“Monday is ice cream and sorbet day, a big day for prep,” Kelly says. “The weekend is busy, especially with Sunday brunch. We place our orders then. Chocolate and nuts that we buy in bulk. We can buy produce any day of the week except Sunday.  Orders come every Monday and Thursday. Two people come in every morning, with one pastry plater for dinner service and two at night on the weekends.”   Is your head spinning yet?

My caffeine hadn’t kicked in, and but the team was trucking, staffed up, in the throws of two recipes already, and simultaneously explaining all of this to me.  We were at the flagship to capture its creativity in these now not so wee hours.  Chef de cuisine Niven Patel and his crew were there, foraging for spices, mise’ing the country pate and marinating pork for patties on the day’s lunch special salad.  But our sites were set on the Hobart and the Doyon, oft doubling for savory applications such as roasting porchetta, but at this particular moment sweet.

Kelly giggles at Niven in his happy place, the spice corner.

Kelly giggles at Niven in his happy place, the spice corner.

Kelly was making sheet pans of sour cream coffee cake, a classic layered breakfast pasty that hits all the right notes — nutty, sweet and just-a-touch-salty in the streusel crumble. The occasion is CreativeMornings, which I like to say are the TEDx talks of the creative world, a morning speaker series on a new topic each month simultaneously presented in each of the organization’s myriad chapters across the globe by a special guest.  It attracts intellectuals, cultural subversives, curious cats, social entrepreneurs, artists, designers both in the audience and on stage and is the best exercise for the mind that I’ve ever encountered pre-10:00 a.m.  Doors open at 8:30 a.m., you eat (where Hedy’s coffee cake comes in,) you listen (where Camila Ramos of Panther Coffee comes in,) and you are in the office in a timely fashion ready to claim the day.

The second we heard of this brilliant event from Michael’s new assistant and my partner in crime Jessica Gross, it was time to take Miami host Malik Benjamin out to a proper Michael’s Genuine lunch. We were hungry for more and wanted to get involved, in ways more than making sure folks left belly full.  The light bulb eventually went off.  Panther Coffee was the missing link.  I pitched, and they bit.  It was a no-brainer brainer, and thanks to the support of owners Joel and Leticia Pollock, we secured the lovely and talented head barista and store manager Camila Ramos to present her Hidden Sources, not only of beans but of her passion for them.  [Look for her her complete and utterly mesmerizing  talk which took place this past Friday to be posted here, shortly!]

The recipe below, straight from the pages of Hedy’s Baking Out Loud cookbook, takes the classic sour cream coffee cake we make last week to the next level with coffee and chocolate in the topping.   Have a creative morning at home and bake one fresh for yourself, to share with friends, or as the happiest wake-up call I can think of… baking smells! Wait, where is that iPhone App, because I want it?!  A set of Cat’s images from our own creative morning at HQ are accessible at this link. Follow Creative Mornings @creativemorningsmia on Instagram and Twitter for the latest talks and links to sign up to attend.


Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Recipe from Baking Out Loud by Hedy Goldsmith

Serves 12

For the streusel
¾ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
¾ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably Valrhona Caraïbe 66%), chopped into ½-inch pieces
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon (preferably Saigon, see note below)
1 tablespoon finely ground espresso beans
For the cake
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1. To make the streusel, combine the brown sugar, walnuts, chocolate, cinnamon, and ground espresso in a small bowl, and stir until well blended.

2. T o make the cake, position an oven rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 325°F (325°F if using a convection oven). Line the bottom and sides of a 10-cup loaf pan with foil and grease it lightly (preferably with Pam).

3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.

4. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for about
3 minutes, until soft and smooth. Add the granulated sugar and beat on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until well blended. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Add the sour cream and mix until blended, about 1 minute. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until just combined. Do not overmix.

5. Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Evenly distribute half of the streusel mixture over the batter. Then spoon the remaining batter evenly over the streusel, and spread it evenly. Scatter the remaining streusel evenly over the top.

6. Bake for 68 to 70 minutes (50 to 60 minutes if using a convection oven), until the topping is browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

7. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Lift the cake and the foil liner from the pan, peel away the foil, and return the cake to the rack to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, cut the coffee cake into 1-inch-thick slices.
Note: Saigon cinnamon contains the highest percentage of essential oil of all the varieties of ground cinnamon. It packs the most flavor, making this one the finest and most exotic of all cinnamon types.

On the Prowl for the Perfekt Brew at HQ with Panther Coffee

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Panther’s pre-WWII Probat Perfekt Roaster in action.

Last week I sat down with Panther Coffee Manager Camila Ramos at Harry’s over a special pie, some meatballs, and an escarole salad to talk about our recent introduction of Panther Coffee at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami.  And what it’s like to lead the fabulous life of a barista at Wynwood’s — and Miami’s — hottest small batch coffee roaster.

Ellie Sara Groden: Logistically, what exactly did transitioning our program at the mothership entail?

Camila Ramos: Well, with two quality focused companies partnering up and trying to serve the best stuff they’ve got locally, means going through an intense training with the entire staff. We’ve reserved a barista for your busiest shift, which is brunch, so you’ll have a panther coffee barista there. You have a La Mazzer, top of the line, brand new espresso machine, and a Mazer espresso grinder, and you’ll also be showcasing a single-origin (literally meaning, this coffee comes from one specific farm, and goes even further to say that it’s one specific lot on that farm) this will rotate, but currently it’s a Nicaragua Grupo Las Cuchillas.

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Hello, Basel! What’s Cooking from Team Genuine this Week

Welcome out-of-towners and locals to MiAmi with a capital “A” for art.  It’s our busiest week of the year in Genuine Land, and we are excited this year to have a new addition to the family, the Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink Cafe.

This temporary genuine production is coming together fast and furious in the Design Miami/ tent, as you can see from the signage shots above, and the menu just the same, with chef Maureen Brandt heading up culinary and prepping in the Miami Beach convention center and tons of hard work to make it all happen from the team including Charles Bell, Eric Larkee, Ellie Groden, Jose Perez, Ryan Goodspeed, Hedy Goldsmith, and of course Chef, as well as tons of support from home base and our restaurants holding down the fort.  It is truly all hands on deck!  Follow what’s new at the Cafe daily, including our soup specials, at our handle @MGFD_MIA and hashtag #popcafe, and please check out our hit list below as you plot how to divide and conquer this fun-filled week in Miami:

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Cool Beans: Visit our friends at PANTHER! Coming off a whirlwind weekend of competition in Atlanta with baristas Camila and Ryan representing Miami’s coffee community righteously, owner Joel Pollock says their Wynwood shop got a makeover for the week to come, including a coffee brown coat of paint for the building, a new tree, and a shipping container.  You can also find PANTHER Coffee at our Pop Cafe, brewed from a new La Marzocco 2 Group Linea and a Mazzer Electronic Dosing Espresso Grinder.  This fancy rig is headed for The Cypress Room next year!

harrysplogonormalcroppedAnd Panzanella Makes Five: With growing season in full swing, it’s high time for tomatoes and chef de cuisine Manny Sulbaran has added a fifth salad on our printed menu at Harry’s to showcase the harvest.  This juicy, crispy celebration of winter in Miami combines large chunks of ripe and colorful heirloom tomatoes with warm garlic croutons made fresh at Michael’s Genuine for crunch.  Something magical happens when these two simple ingredients are tossed in just enough light and zesty balsamic vinaigrette and topped with chopped fragrant basil and little bit of shaved red onion.  Add a glass of rosé and you have a pretty delightful lunch if you ask me!

Print6e93c3e89f644c3e6fc37c778099f5e1_reasonably_smallShaking Things Up: The Broken Shaker returns to Miami tonight, this time for good and with Michael’s Genuine Home Brew 22 oz. bottles on the list.  We are huge fans of what owners Elad and Gabe of Bar Lab mix-up, so we are excited and honored they like the beer enough to pour it.  Check out this video they made as a prelude to the opening, and stop by for good vibes and good spirits this week. We know we will!