Chef Derek Dammann is Like a Great Bar. He Owns a Restaurant with One, Too.

 

About an hour after I hang up from my interview with Derek Dammann, he sends me some images to illustrate this post. There is no pristine beauty of Baked Oysters with Mushroom and Marmite, now iconic at the chef’s beloved five-year-old Québécois gastropub, Maison Publique — the dish he mentioned over the phone that began as half-serious, half-joke until they realized it was really fucking good.  Also not included is a table full of Sichuan dishes from that place back home in Vancouver that doesn’t look like much but serves some of the best Asian food the city’s immigrant nooks and crannies have to offer.  No.  He has sent me two images.  One is of a wood burning stove for heating not cooking — and the other, a flood-lit house and shed fronting a wood disappearing into the night.  Leading to it, a pathway has been plowed four feet deep and is soft with footsteps fresh from the evening’s snowfall.  For someone for whom affability seems to come more naturally and fluidly than most, who makes a living playing host to both friends and strangers daily, Dammann has chosen to live of all places out in the woods.  “This is home,” he writes, and suddenly I realize he has shared all I need to know in this one text message.  I can relate.

He, wife Christina and six-year-old son Felix call the Laurentian Mountains home.  They are majestic, primal and not exactly the obvious choice for a man who has built his reputation on creating atmosphere and community at his popular restaurant ensconced in the residential Le Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood of Montreal, just north of the park and mount for which the city is named.  As a young chef, Dammann set off to London to work for Jamie Oliver, and these quiet neighborhood streets remind him of his little corner there.  The commute is 45 minutes to an hour of rolling, fir-lined roads. Thinking time.  He wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Laurentian Mountains run through southern Quebec. They consist of Precambrian rocks over 540 million years old, making these soft peaks among the oldest in the world.(credit: Tourism Laurentians)

Eating at the bar and the sense of welcome it can cultivate in a restaurant is something important to us at Michael’s Genuine®, a feeling and approach to hospitality that Dammann shares.  When we knocked down the back bar in 2014 to make room for the now familiar horseshoe there today, it changed the entire dynamic of the dining room.  Everything opened up to the hearth and the energy shift was palpable.

“I love eating at the bar. It’s less serious and more convivial,” he explains.  “It takes a lot of pressure off —if you’re on a date, there’s other people to talk to.  Things come faster… Drinks come faster…. There should be lots of little things to look at. All the little details.  We added angled mirrors above the bar, and they reflect where we are, the street lamps and cars crawling in the snow.”

When he bought the place, there was nothing there except dirty carpets.  They ripped everything out and built the whole restaurant based around the bar.  They distressed it, made it look really old and lived in.  An enthusiast and practitioner of the national pastime, Dammann made sure there was a TV strategically placed so he could watch hockey from the pass.

“It’s something you think about when you get open. You feel out the space, where the best seats are in the restaurant,” he continues.  “Bar 1, 2 and 3 in the corner by the open kitchen were saved for walk-ins in the beginning. No one really wanted them at first. Now they’re the most sought-after in the house. There are people that hem and haw about sitting at the bar.  Then there are those that the bar speaks to. I’m one of those people. It says, ‘you’re going to have a good time tonight.'”

Next Thursday’s dinner for South Beach Wine & Food Festival will be his first time in Florida, but something tells us he’ll feel at home.  He tells of meeting Michael for the first time as his booth neighbor at one of the Alex’s Lemonade Stand chef events last year. They hit it off immediately.

“It’s one of those things that people say,” he notes. “‘You should come and do a dinner’ — and then you don’t hear from them.  But three weeks later, I got a call.”

In addition to the Marmitine oysters on the reception menu on February 22, he’s doing Smoked Mackerel with anchovy and lemon, a nod to his travels in Italy and affinity for the country of his mom’s heritage.

Spaghetti all’ubriaco.

“There are things in the flavor profiles you like that you either grow up with or you discover,” Dammann reflects.  “My grandmother’s house always had a lot of certain things — good salami, homemade pasta… It always stuck with me, the complex simplicity of it.  You can have the simplest spaghetti and tomato sauce and if you finish it with amazing olive oil, it kind of changes everything.  Canada is a big country. We don’t have white truffles, but we have insane pine mushrooms… They all go to Japan, they’re that special… We have 95% of the flour going to Italy for pasta. Lentils going to France, mustard sent to Dijon only to be turned around and sold back to us… It’s kind of crazy. This is a country full of prairies and rich resources.  Massive space for farming… You can stereotype the cuisine here, but we have a rich, hyper-regional history.”

The thing I find out about this chef is that, like a great bar, he’s disarming the moment you get acquainted.  It’s comfortable right out of the gate.  He’s also a good listener and answers questions thoughtfully, like he’s hearing them for the first time.  It’s like you’ve been friends for years. You want to take a seat, settle in and have a pint. He admits when he drinks beer, though, it’s really rare.

“It’s going to be a shitty after-hockey beer.  I just want something cold on tap and don’t care about the next new craft beer. I have people that actually care about that,” he says. “Maybe I’m crotchety, but I know what I like.”

Felix asked Dad to throw him in the lake.

He’s always been in love with the region his family now calls home — and the lake, Lac Barron, in particular.  He has fond memories of summers at a family cabin back home.  He always told himself that he wanted to live that lifestyle.  Now he wakes up some mornings to wild turkeys in the backyard. And there are plans for the place, rebuilding the shed, for one, this summer. He’ll fashion a wood stove inside so he can hang out in there when it’s minus 20 outside.  It’s a little piece of heaven he calls home, and that’s something we can toast a shitty beer to no matter what the weather.

Want a piece?  Dinner with Dammann, Kapur and Schwartz is almost sold out, but click here for tickets while you still can.

Chef Ravi Kapur Has One Serious Poke Face

Ravi Kapur has strong feelings about poke. As he should.

“In Hawaii it’s kind of… Well, it’s really a treat,” Ravi explains. “It’s not this mass-consumed, everyday thing necessarily, because really poke should be pretty expensive if you’re using high quality fish. For me growing up, it’s a celebratory thing.”

At now 3 year-old Liholiho Yacht Club in San Francisco, this Oahu-born chef not only takes inspiration from his Hawaiian-Chinese-Indian roots, he takes them quite seriously.   Right off the bat this was pretty clear, even as we stole just few minutes in between phone tag on Wednesday.  There’s a sense of responsibility that informs his approach.  I have neither been to Hawaii nor eaten in his restaurant, but I have read Kapur is a chef-owner known for his cool, collected demeanor in the kitchen.  Schwartz had a great meal there. I get the feeling this attitude is an expression of the strength of his intention, to cook with principle and represent his culture correctly and with confidence.

Fresh fish, the best fish. From @liholihoyachtclub’s Instagram.

This means something to Kapur, that he stand for something and that his expression is one true to his identity as a Hawaiian.  We can relate to this — MS also stands for something, and akin to that.  It’s about quality and doing it right, or not at all.  This is in part why I began our conversation with poke. To poke a nerve.  With the relentless stream of DIY, paint-by-numbers, flavor-of-the-moment poke shops UberEatsing on my Miami doorstep, it’s also hard to ignore.

“The most important element for me is that the fish is extremely fresh and you let that flavor shine without covering it up with too many seasonings,” he continues. “The traditional version would not have soy sauce.  It would be Hawaiian salt, and sweet onion, and inamona or ground kukui nut.

From there he explains it can be embellished, which is fine, with a measured hand, as with most things. Seaweed, sure.  Still no seasoning though. You take this highly perishable product and then need to mask it when it’s inferior.  Often, when it’s about preserving meat or fish, something common all over the world to extend a product’s lifespan — typically out of necessity — it can be quite good.  But it’s transformed.  It’s no longer the thing it was.  For true poke, if you are using good quality there’s just no way it even can be mass produced — which is basically the benchmark for what my exposure has been to date, fast casual-style.  It becomes more about what you are putting on it, than what it is.

“I popped in one day to one of these places, because I’m interested in how they operate, how it flows,” Ravi explains.  “I understand the model, how this came to exist, but I’ll never do it because it’s in direct conflict to what I believe poke is.  I can’t wrap my head around culturally appropriating things for profit.  You won’t find sesame oil in traditional poke. I use some, but for me it’s always going to be all about the fish.”

The fish is Ahi traditionally, but now you can find all types, like Striped Marlin and large bill fish. It’s more sustainable too.  Ravi admits he just got back from Maui, and even there, there is a range of quality. Previously frozen… unknown origins at the supermarket. The place he goes to now, Kaohu store, will run you about $17, 18, 19  a pound.

“To me I taste the difference,” he adds.  “And you can see the fish.  It’s undressed.”

I don’t know about you, but I need my own #alohafloorselfie moment.

Ravi won’t know what species will greet him when he walks into Michael’s Genuine® on Thursday February 22, but he knows it will be fresh and that will produce the best first course on the plate whether it’s Cobia, Golden Tile or Little Tuny.  And there’s pork too, another ingredient that connects our food cultures.

“Absolutely. It’s pretty much pork all the time,” Ravi says.  “In the late 1800s, ranching formed a big part of the economy but beef is more expensive.  Pork is for everyone and it can be great and flavorful – it just depends on the pig and who’s raising it.  I’m doing something off the shoulder.  I like roasting those cuts and still having a little bite to it, so you can taste the meat. Some accents, of course, like chili honey rub for a little sweetness and spice.  I don’t think I told anybody, but I’m also bringing something else with me.”

We’re not giving that one away.  You, co-guest chef Derek Damman and hosts Michael and Tim will just have to squirm.  Now isn’t that cause for celebration? And some poke!  Find out for yourself.  For tickets and menu, visit sobefest.org/michaels.

Three Chefs Walk into a Restaurant to Make Dinner for South Beach Wine & Food Festival

 

Aloha!  Bonjour!  Bienvenidos.  On Thursday, February 22, the tasty punchline is on us!  Hawaiian-born Ravi Kapur of San Francisco’s Liholiho Yacht Club and Derek Dammann of Montreal’s Maison Publique join Michael Schwartz of Miami by way of Philly to cook dinner as part of the annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival.  What brings people together is an interesting thing.  Is it happenstance or intention or a combination of both?  Our South Beach Wine & Food Festival dinner at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink celebrates this idea — what becomes of different flavors, influences and personalities when they come together from across the continent to make a meal and create an experience.  The creativity happens and the fun begins when disparate pieces form the whole you didn’t anticipate. It’s the excitement that happens when something feels so right for the very reasons it shouldn’t.  We are excited our neighborhood bistro can be the glue to bring such incredible talent together for a collaborative dinner. Ravi will bring big, colorful flavors from the west coast and Pacific and Derek, the cozy northern appeal of a polished but casual neighborhood pub.  Michael and executive Chef Tim Piazza will balance it all out.  Enjoy the four course menu below with reception, paired with Champagne Henriot, one of the few remaining family-owned houses with over two hundred years of independence.

Tickets are available for purchase here.  See you at 7PM!

Dinner hosted by Michael Schwartz, Ravi Kapur & Derek Dammann

RECEPTION

Local Poke, Sesame-Tamari, Spicy Mayo, Ginger, Octopus Puff
Ravi Kapur

Baked Oysters, Mushroom & Marmite
Derek Dammann

Crispy Baby Artichoke with Mint Yogurt
Michael Schwartz

Shaved Beef Tongue on Sesame Crostini with Onion, Peppers and Provolone
Michael Schwartz

DINNER

Charred Corn Salad
Cucumber, Pickled Green Tomato, Ricotta Salata, Romesco Sauce, Herbs
Michael Schwartz
~~

Smoked Mackerel,
Anchovy & Lemon
Derek Dammann

~~

Chili Honey Roasted Pork,
Chicken Fried Romano Beans, Mustard Seed Jus
Ravi Kapur

~~

Almond Clementine Cake
Citrus Crémeux Strawberries and Toasted Elder Flower Meringue
Michael Schwartz

#SOBEWFF 10 Years of Genuine Menu & More #MGFD10 Fun to Come

10-years-of-genuine-menu-2

As we like to say… Menu subject to change :)

#thisismgfd. We began this hashtag in September, welcoming a new chef into the fold to steward Michael’s flagship into its 10th year of genuine hospitality.  Now we begin another as we approach March 13 when the Champagne will be flowing to give thanks for all that came before and forge ahead into a brave new future.  Today, we’re sharing for the first time the menu for our Thursday, February 23 South Beach Wine & Food Festival dinner.  We are so honored to have respected and dear friends chefs Marc Vetri and Jonathan Waxman join Michael to celebrate the meaning of Genuine.  I think it’s safe to say that it’s the genuine culture and community that has made this restaurant what it is, embracing and fostering Michael’s vision to make Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink bigger than itself.  It is this we toast and cherish, the people that make Genuine mean something.  Follow #MGFD10 as it unfolds, because there’s more to come, and click here for tickets before we run out. 

16608168470_7ae197d8c6_o

Michael and Jim at Au Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley, blending Lua Rossa no. 3 in 2015.

This year we also crafted an online auction package for the festival which we’re pretty excited about (the kind we’d want to buy ourselves, as it should be!)  Gather 4 friends and sidle up to the heirloom tomato wall as Michael and Brad cook for you at the Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink wood oven station. The beating heart and hearth of the MGFD kitchen since we opened in 2007 is your stage for a multi-course meal paired with iconic, library wines significant to Genuine from Michael’s friend and Lua Rossa collaborator Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat.  Get your bid in here now, or regret it later!

SoBe It! Your 2017 Genuine Tickets at the 16th Annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival

chefsparty-56

Party game strong at Chef’s house in February.

From one big shindig to the next.  With another Art Basel in the record books, we’re laser focused on finishing 2016 strong, whether with loads of Genuine Gifts (including and especially gift cards!) and New Year’s Eve specials at Cypress Tavern and Harry’s Pizzeria (stay tuned for that announcement on Monday!).  But for now, we’d like to introduce you to The Genuine Hospitality Group’s events at next year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival before they sell out.  Check out the parties listed below with their corresponding participating TGHG restaurants.  Cheers… Training your body to get through it all begins now.  Thanks again to Lee Brian Schrager for inviting Team Schwartz to play again!

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23

genuine_0-1MICHAEL’S GENUINE® FOOD & DRINK | 10 Years of Genuine: Dinner hosted by Michael Schwartz, Marc Vetri and Jonathan Waxman presented by Bank of America
7:00 PM – 10:00 PM @ 130 NE 40th Street, Miami, 33137
> Dressy Casual Attire, Indoor, Seated, Wine, 21 years of age or older <
One of South Florida’s most widely recognized culinary innovators makes a rare Festival appearance to celebrate a decade of his much touted Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink. A must-stop for both locals and tourists from around the world, Schwartz took a leap on the burgeoning Design District neighborhood 10 years ago to start his empire. Now settled smack in the middle of one of Miami’s hautest areas, Schwartz’s flagship restaurant anchors the array of culinary attractions offered there. Joined by culinary luminaries Marc Vetri and 2016 SOBEWFF® Tribute Dinner Honoree Jonathan Waxman, Schwartz and friends will present guests with a sampling of the signature tastes with staying power they’re known for.  Guests will be assigned seating prior to this event. We can only guarantee guests who purchased tickets together will be seated together. If you would like to be seated with another guest(s), please send your request via email to tickets@sobefest.com. PURCHASE TICKETS 

HARRY’S PIZZERIA® and FI’LIA |  Barilla’s Italian Bites on the Beach sponsored by HCP Media and the Miami Herald Media Company hosted by Valerie Bertinelli & Alex Guarnaschelli
7:00 PM – 10:00 PM @  the “North Venue”, Beachside at Delano, Entrance at 1 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 33139
> Outdoor, Smart Casual Attire, Spirits, Walk-Around Tastings, Wine, 21 years of age or older <
What do Hollywood Walk of Fame stars and Michelin stars have in common? Leading ladies Valerie Bertinelli and Alex Guarnaschelli, of course! Bertinelli’s two-time Golden Globe Award-winning personality now charms on Food Network’s Valerie’s Home Cooking, while Guarnaschelli’s Michelin-starred training in France helped mold the tenacious expert we enjoy today on Chopped. They are joining forces to host more than 30 of the nation’s greatest chefs serving up dishes originating from various regions of Italy as guests enjoy a live musical performance by soft-rock hit makers Little River Band, presented by Magic City Casino. Known as one of Australia’s most popular rock bands, the Little River band has 10 top 20 songs on U.S. Billboard charts, including ‘Reminiscing’, ‘Cool Change’, and ‘Lady’. You can peruse Piedmont, trot through Tuscany, savor Sardinia, canvas Campania, saunter through Sicily, and more – while sinking your toes into the sparkling white sands of South Beach. Whether you prefer a traditional spaghetti and meatballs or a cooler antipasto-style pasta salad or a savory perciatelli and chicken, this is a celebration not to be missed. Grab your friends and gather ‘round under our signature white tents in the sand for a feast of the ages, all complemented by pours from curated wine selections. ADA Assistance: The Festival will have a limited number of beach wheelchairs available at the Guest Services locations. Please check in directly with a Guest Services Representative for assistance. PURCHASE TICKETS

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24

CYPRESS TAVERN | Fontainebleau Miami Beach presents Wine Spectator’s Best of the Best sponsored by Bank of America
7:30 PM – 10:30 PM @ Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 33140
> Dressy Casual Attire, Indoor, Walk-Around Tastings, Wine, 21 years of age or older <
To create the best event during the best weekend of the year, we’ve rounded up 60 of the nation’s top chefs to showcase their most gourmet samplings to pair with over 100 wines rated 90 points or higher on Wine Spectator’s scale. The Fontainebleau Miami Beach sets the perfect stage with its own blend of Golden Era glamour and modern luxury to host this grand walk-around affair. Only proprietors and winemakers from each winery are invited to pour their top varietals so you can hear about how some of the world’s greatest vino makes it from their vineyards to your palate. From aperitif to dessert, we’ll make sure your glass is decadently decanted and your plate is full of first-rate cuisine. PURCHASE TICKETS

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 26

0226_brunch-andresschwartzFI’LIA | Brunch hosted by José Andrés and Michael Schwartz
11:00 AM – 2:00 PM @ SLS Brickell’s ALTITUDE Pool at SLS Brickell
1300 S Miami Avenue, Miami, 33130
> Casual, Outdoor, Spirits, Walk-Around Tastings, Wine, 21 years of age or older <
Savor brunch poolside at the brand new SLS Brickell under the spell of two of the most coveted names in culinary, José Andrés and South Florida’s own Michael Schwartz. Andrés, this year’s Tribute Dinner honoree, is recognized worldwide for his energetic passion for telling cultural stories through food. His chic and delectable mark can already be found at the SLS Hotel in South Beach at The Bazaar by José Andrés and Hyde Beach, and now at the buzzing epicenter of downtown Miami at Bazaar Mar. Schwartz, whose flagship Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and widely touted for putting Miami’s Design District on the culinary map, will join Andrés at SLS Brickell with his first-ever Italian concept Fi’lia. Guests will be assigned seating prior to this event. We can only guarantee guests who purchased tickets together will be seated together. If you would like to be seated with another guest(s), please send your request via email to tickets@sobefest.com. PURCHASE TICKETS