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’s Even Better in The Bahamas with Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz

Traveling to The Bahamas just got a whole lot tastier!  Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz opens today just a 42 minute pond jump away on Nassau.  Located on the Baha Mar property in the main casino floor just steps from SLS Baha Mar, the new 299-room hotel our partners at sbe opened last month, this is the restaurant’s first international outpost and second location after opening at SLS Brickell in Miami last year.

The “Mistaken” (a Negroni Spagliato) is a spritz twist on the classic aperitivo that swaps gin for prosecco.

Chef, Bradley, Eric and I were down last week as part of the last wave of visits and some yet-to-depart implants collectively known as “task force”.  This system in place to support Fi’lia’s opening team from start to finish line — think part placenta, part brain trust — involves an orchestra of players from sbe and The Genuine Hospitality group with expertise in front and back of house. On our agenda was mock service, tastings, final menu formatting, food and spacial shoots, and fine tuning the dining room for lighting and sound.  Where the bulk of the important foundational work occurs gradually over a period of months tracked methodically through a “critical path” spreadsheet and meetings to check in on progress, the 11th hour is a critical stage in the process visible even to the untrained eye where everything comes into sharp focus.

The idea is to make sure there is enough institutional knowledge and depth on the ground to have the resources required to handle anything thrown the restaurant’s way. This is an all-hands-on-deck troubleshooting and brain-stretching exercise, where you have planned for everything especially the things you can’t control.  From menu covers stuck in LA to cocktail tags printed from the only Miami vendor that was open and able the week before the holiday to mule with cookbooks in checked luggage, it ain’t always pretty… but this is what openings are all about and why we love what we do.  And then you have a restaurant!

The host with the most.

“The hospitality on island has been second to none, and we are fortunate to have a hard working team that is digging in with a smile in the true Bahamian spirit,” says Chef.  “We can’t wait to share with guests the same incredible welcome we’ve experienced here in The Bahamas!”

We have a particular soft spot for a familiar face — Fi’lia’s Executive Chef Thomas Tennant — veteran of the TGHG culinary family who comes with Caribbean seasoning from his time on Grand Cayman as chef de cuisine of Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink.  Later leading menu implementation, working with international staff and honing his talent for “fixing” provisions from the lower decks with Royal Caribbean, Thomas earned the TGHG title of “Special Ops Chef” for a reason and those skills will no doubt serve him here.

Fi’lia is inspired by the simplicity of Italian cuisine, featuring a menu of straightforward dishes that highlight fresh, seasonal ingredients, housemade pasta and memorable signatures like the Tableside Caesar Salads.  Like Miami, Fi’lia’s dinner menu features Small, Large and Extra Large plates alongside Snacks, Sides, Pasta and Pizza. To start, Beef Carpaccio is Chef Schwartz’s twist on the classic featuring sunchoke, green onion pecorino and mustard vinaigrette, while the Extra Large Grilled Whole Snapper features tomato, Calabrian chile, mint and grilled bread. Rustic pizzas are served with creative topping combinations like Pistachio Pesto with ricotta, charred onion and pecorino.

The Tableside Caesar is prepared from scratch from dressing to grated parmigiano finish on a roaming cart, dispatching delicious smells of toasted garlic croutons in the dining room as it passes. Cocktails are refreshingly uncomplicated with specialties including a section of Spritz. With a focused wine list, Fi’lia celebrates Italian, regional varietals and American wines with an old world sensibility.

Located at One Baha Mar Blvd, Nassau, The Bahamas at Baha Mar Casino, Fi’lia is open Monday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. serving lunch and dinner. For reservations and menus, please visit filiarestaurant.com or call 242-788-8212.  As part of sbe’s larger movement to bring signature specialties in innovative cuisine and dynamic nightlife to The Bahamas, the group also operates Cleo, Monkey Bar (the signature SLS lobby bar) and Bungalow Pool Bar & Grill at SLS Baha Mar, with Privilege and Skybar coming in early 2018. Additionally, Katsuya (sbe’s modern take on classic Japanese cuisine) opened in mid-August on the Baha Mar Casino floor, and Bond, sbe’s nightlife concept, is debuting December 29th, offering late-night entertainment as the destination’s see-and-be-seen place to be.

Get Your Hands Doughy and Make Pasta with Chef

Just try to keep up… Chef!   Whether for a creative night out with friends or corporate team-building, this intimate pasta-making evening with Michael provides all the tools to learn how to mix, form and shape your way to pasta perfection. It’s all about learning the basics and taking them with you into your home.  And maybe the student showing the teacher a thing or two?!

Hosted after hours at Ella Pop Café in the Miami Design District, the twinkle light atmosphere of Palm Court sets the tone for a fun-filled evening of good food with the host with the most himself.   We had fun watching the class go down a couple of weeks ago, with plenty of glasses to go around courtesy beverage manager Amanda Fraga.  Each experience includes cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a three course meal prepared by the chefs of Michael Schwartz Events when the interactive session is complete.  Book it by emailing Director of Special Events Lindsay Guidos today!

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.

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.”