All Sizzle, No Swindle in this Seashell Game

Harvey Cedars, the fish stew in the Michael’s Genuine Food cookbook, named for summer vacation.

Nothing is better to really enjoy summer – the way it is supposed to taste and smell — than seashells by the seashore.  We always love a good shellfish on the grill, and with Michael’s return from his annual family trip to Long Beach Island, NJ, we figured it was time to check in for his reflections.

Here’s what you need to know now, up and down the seaboard and especially on our favorite coast, bayside at Amara at Paraiso. Visit us on Sundays from 4-10pm for the weekly vacation we call the Sunset Beach Party.  This week we’re breaking out the Lynx Grill for the first time upstairs at the Paraiso Beach Club, serving oysters both au naturel on the half shell with turmeric mignonette and also hot off the grill with vinaigrette and farofa — the toasted cassava flour we love as a breadcrumb alternative.  It’s all about soaking up the juices and that summer feeling, before it’s gone!

SHOPPING

Fresh is king — Ask how long they’ve been in the case. Shellfish should absolutely smell briny and of the ocean, but not a persistent stagnant odor. You’ll know when they’ve turned.
Seasonal vs. Sustainable — You want great tasting ingredients either grown in the best conditions possible or wild caught in season.  Farmed isn’t a bad word where oysters are concerned. Duxbury, MA’s Island Creek Oyster Co. is a great example of an operation doing it right.  Closer to home, a special holiday on our radar this time of year is Florida lobster season.  Look for Chef Michael Paley at Amara at Paraiso to run some specials in the weeks to come to highlight this local specialty, Florida Keys-sourced from our longtime fishmonger and friend George Figueroa of Trigger Seafood.
Fresh or Frozen?  Both can work — all shrimp are flashed at some point in the harvest process, so again is more about the quality of the ingredient, who you are buying it from, and how long it’s taken to get to you since harvest.
Get little more than you need — Inevitably some won’t open nor pass muster.
Clean! — Where there’s shellfish there is sand, among other gritty, grimy things that need to be removed especially if you’re cooking inside a shell. Scrub with coarse steel wool or a stiff brush under cool running water. If the mussels have beards, pull them off. Pat dry.
Sourcing isn’t just about procuring the goods — If you don’t know, ask a good source. I trust Ed Levine for the diligently researched ins and outs of everything, and clams are no exception.  It’s always a smart idea to read up before digging in.

Fresno chile paste on the Lynx Grill – also a preparation at Amara.

GRILLING

Shell on — In most cases this is the best idea, especially if you’re going straight to the grate. Provides protection to the delicate flesh, as well as even cooking.
We like the juice – Try to conserve the natural liquor when shucking oysters. Better yet, pay for the convenience and have the professionals do it for you. Whole Foods does them by the dozen over ice.
Marinate — Shelled shrimp take very well to just olive oil, salt and pepper — or something thicker like the Fresno chile paste we use at Amara.
Crack the large ones — If you’re going big, with Prawns, Langoustine or Lobster, they’re going to grill best cracked in half. Start with cut side down to seal in the juices, then flip to finish. Baste with butter and herbs to develop flavor through caramelization.
Less is more — Always, but especially where cook time is concerned. Remember everything continues to cook for a period of time after you remove it from the heating element, shellfish especially due to their high water content. So pull them off a little earlier than you think.

Summer Sizzles at Amara at Paraiso with New Happy Hour, Outdoor Bar & Miami Spice

Celebrate Miami’s most vibrant season with new ways to relax, enjoy and savor it on the waterfront all summer long at Amara.

Mezcal Colada puts the pineapple in the coconut and then some!

Happy Hour – Beginning Monday, July 2, the Amara bar and beach get even more welcoming with our first ever Happy Hour from 5:30-7:30pm Monday through Friday. Enjoy the best restaurant view in Miami for a little bit longer with Assistant GM Maria Pottage’s 4 new $10 classic cocktails with a tropical twist, half price oysters and snacks from Chef Michael Paley, $4 Cusqueña premium Peruvian lager beer and half price wines by the glass. Stand outs include poppable, craveable specialty, the infamous Yuca Cheese Puffs, as well as new Albondigas meatballs, White Ayocote Bean Spread with green garbanzo, chimi spice, lemon crème fraîche, seeded cracker, and rotating select oysters.  View full menu here.

Bartender Angelo, shaking things up.

Waterfront Bar – Gather by Biscayne Bay to eat, or simply sip on something refreshing. The Amara Beach’s new satellite bar offers a place for guests to order drinks outside, Friday and Saturday from 6pm – 12am.  Enjoy on its beachfront chairs or plush lounge area couches without having to dine in or wait for a reservation. Notable beverages being served include a selection of wine, beer and cocktails including Calm before the Coconut, Tulum Spritz, Pisco Punch, Dreaming of Oaxaca and Monkey Business. Happy hour is available on Friday with its specific cocktails and beverage offering until 7:30pm.

Arroz Verde is a South American twist on the familiar Korean rice dish — a delectable comfort food full of flavor and fun to mix at the table.

Charred Carrot & Avocado salad with goat cheese, cilantro toasted pumpkin seeds, one of Chef Paley’s appetizers, is a tasty Spice route with which to lead.

Miami Spice – Participating for the first time this August 1 – September 30, Amara is taking Miami’s restaurant week seriously (delicious) with new menu items in a weekly-changing $39 three-course prix fixe dinner menu. Served Sunday through Thursday, Paley’s most notably new dish out of the gate is the show-stopping Arroz Verde, a South American take on the Bim Bim Bop, cilantro rice served sizzling in a stone bowl with toppings to mix up like wood-grilled hen of the woods, earthy mushrooms, cubes of cucumber, shaved carrots, avocado, shaved jalapeño, pickled red onion, shredded kale, cascabel chile paste and creamy egg yolk.  Click here for the beginning menu.

All menus are subject to (welcomed!) change. For more information on summer activities including Fourth of July celebration, please visit our website and to stay on top of changing menu items, follow Amara at Paraiso on Instagram.

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.

Nose to Fruit: New Seasonal Salad, Pizza & Sangria Specials Now Summering at Harry’s Pizzeria® & Genuine Pizza™

We look forward to the smells of summer — the way the air gets thick and sparkly after a tropical sun shower, and sunscreen’s dreamy imprint on our memory banks beached in laughter and salty ocean breezes. This is a season that lets you know it’s here — and in a hurry.

In Florida, our fruit trees are heavy now with mango, lychee and even peaches.  And when it comes to the fragrance of the season, a good peach can’t be beat in its intensity and truth.  Putting nose to fruit is a pro tip you’ll notice chefs doing as second nature, because it’s a pretty great clue to ripeness.

The sniff test on guava at Miami Design District’s market last year.

“We shop for ingredients just like everyone else does, and we do a lot of smelling in the process,” explains chef Bradley Herron.  “Finding a good peach is essential for this salad to work.”

To know what’s inside without breaking the skin, you have to trust nose more than your eyes or even fingers.  If it’s good and ready, you’ll get the same zesty sweetness found in the flesh just by smelling it.

As we roll out summer specials at the pizzerias, the start of the season is always an interesting one as things get going. Early product coming in has been smelling strong so far – a good sign.  Enjoy the Peach & Burrata Salad and Peach & Gorgonzola Pizza with our new Sangria, because lighter alcohol “cocktails” and summer go hand in hand when you want something refreshing and festive with which to cool off!  Refreshing in its simplicity, ours combines your choice of three wines with San Pellegrino’s sparkling blood orange soda.

Brighten up your day and get a jump start on summer time — visit our website for hours, menu and to order online.  For a genuine anthology of peaches, explore this archive on the blog, or a primer on summer fruit and how peaches came to cultivation here in the Sunshine State in a 2014 chat with then Michael’s Genuine chef de cuisine Niven Patel.

Keeping the Miami Spice Season Real with Subject to Change Menus at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink

At Michael’s Genuine, the city’s annual Miami Spice restaurant promotion is about doing it right, or not doing it at all.  It’s what we’ve come to expect Michael to harp on each summer as it approaches, and we’re glad he does.  The reminder serves a few purposes.  For the kitchen, it’s a call to action for the chefs — they better understand why we participate and have seasoned guide rails to kick off the process in the right way. The opportunity forces the kitchen to work within a formula that encourages critical thinking on everything from cross utilization of product to how to incorporate seasonal ingredients that are available and abundant. The objective is to offer guests a great value, something they want to eat that isn’t just a prix fixe thrown together from what’s on the menu already, and a reason to come back to try something new with weekly changes. Chef de Cuisine Tim Piazza and Pastry Chef MJ Garcia have heard the call loud and clear.

“It’s important we create a well-balanced offering, not phone it in,” Michael explains.  “We look closely at what makes the most sense to execute with the greatest benefit to our guests.  Sometimes having a structure like this can be a great tool for smart creativity.  If we do it right, Spice can be a platform to introduce new dishes to our regular menus.”

MGFD will offer Miami Spice Lunch ($23 – Monday-Thursday) and Dinner ($39 – Sunday through Thursday) including a choice of Appetizer, Entrée and Dessert from August 1 to September 30. In addition to the 3-courses included in Miami Spice, the restaurant will also run a selection of dishes from its regular menu as optional supplements at special prices. The Genuine Hospitality Group Beverage Manager and Sommelier Amanda Fraga will feature a cocktail for $10, with accessible wines highlighted from the wine list for convenience on the back of the Spice menu. Pricing is not inclusive of tax and gratuity, and menus will change regularly throughout the two months to fully embrace the program the genuine way.

Our initial menus are above, but when we go live Tuesday, August 1, they will be available and updated as weekly changes are made at michaelsgenuine.com.