Thursday, September 10, 2009

Top Ten Reasons Why I Eat @ Michael's Genuine Food & Drink Weekly

I am a creature of habit, especially when it comes to eating. No, I dont eat the same thing for lunch or dinner but I do like to have a "short list" of places I like to eat out at frequently depending on what kind of a food mood I'm in. If Im feeling lazy and want a light dinner, I walk a few blocks into the Grove for dinner at Jaguar. If I dont mind a drive to Sunny Isles for a good meal, I'll head up to NAOE for some Japanese or maybe stop in for some killer comfort food at Neomi's. There are a few other places in the rotation too. Im spontaneous and really dont plan on eating out so much but rather just make a last minute decision...many, many times during the week. I often dine solo so I usually like a place that has a good bar to go with good food. That's why more often than not you can expect to find me at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in the Design District. The food brought me there but there are many other things about the restaurant that keep me going back at least once weekly. Here are my top ten reasons why Michael's Genuine Food & Drink is atop my dining out rotation:

10.) Hot Dishes Served Hot - One of my pet peeves when dining out is receiving a dish that is supposed to be hot only to find its either become overcooked from sitting under a heat lamp or that its become lukewarm or cold. At MGF&D, one of the first things that I noticed on my original visit was that if you order a hot dish, that dish is coming straight off the line directly to your table. They execute things well and get the dishes plated for the entire table in one full swing and Ive yet to be disappointed with food temperature.

9.) Local Focus - I like when local businesses attempt to support other local businesses and economies. Lots of fresh seafood served at MGF&D is sourced from our local Florida waters and indicated on the menu. A pan seared local kingfish with farro, chorizo, grilled lemon, cilantro and saffron aioli remains one of my all-time favorite dishes there. Another thing I like about restaurants that attempt to use as many local ingredients as possible is the change said ingredients promote on the menu. Ive yet to see that kingfish dish again but there have been similar renditions with other local fish that Ive enjoyed simply because of their subtle differences with that kingfish dish. You also cant beat local heirloom tomatoes served with burrata when in season as well as other herbs, fruits, and veggies sourced locally from places like Paradise Farms.

8.) Killer Tunes - I'm a huge fan of jazz, acid jazz, funk, blues, and rock n' roll. Michael's Genuine Food & Drink always has every one of those genres except rock n' roll playing in the background and thats a good thing. I believe that the music just pumps from the Chef's iPod all day. He's got a killer collection too with a lot of jazz jam bands just establishing rhythms and then soloing over them instrument by instrument. The music gives the restaurant a nice upbeat vibe without being overly loud and intrusive. Its easy to maintain a conversation with the music playing as there are rarely any words in any of the songs/jams and the volume is at a good level.

7.) Ballsy Menu - Im an adventurous eater and I like that Chef Schwartz isnt afraid to throw items like Crispy Pig Head, Pig Ear Salad, cheeks of all varieties, and a few variations of Sweetbreads on the menu. I've heard of people deciding not to eat there because of seeing pig head on the menu and not being open to what that may be, or realizing that they dont have to order it. Hey, it's not for everyone. I also heard of a couple who saw Tempura Sheepshead on the menu and freaked out and left. They apparently didnt know that was a fish from Florida waters...haha. Either way, having these items on the menu for people like me to enjoy and knowing it may turn others off is ballsy and much appreciated.

6.) Hot Restaurant, Hot Women - Apparently, beautiful women are not affected by things like pig head appearing on the menu at MGF&D because they flock to this place in droves. Blondes, brunettes, tall, short, cute-hot, smokin-hot, well-dressed women on a consistent basis and they come for the food. Name your type of woman and she can probably be found there. I even saw the beautiful Halle Berry in there on one visit. Beautiful women in the room just make a phenomenal meal that much more enjoyable, ya know?

5.) Bar Selection - Michael's Genuine has a great bar selection, especially when it comes to the sweet nectar I covet most - bourbon. The bar manager does an awesome job of sourcing high quality spirits and switches things up a bit here and there to keep the spirits menu fresh. Even the beer selections are a step away from the norm. This is the only bar in Miami where I've found Eagle Rare 17yr bourbon which has become my new favorite to sip neat. Lately, they have also had an incredible special on Krug Cuvee NV bubbly at $165/bottle which is nearly half off prices I've seen elsewhere in Miami. A 23yr Black Maple Hill rye (and its cousin, the 8yr bourbon) are also amongst my favorites. Having trouble keeping up with all of this? Not to worry. MGF&D recently added a spirits menu complete with pricing to guide you along. I wish every restaurant with a good bar selection would do this. It just makes things so much easier than playing the "do you have..." game. They also have a great wine list and a sommelier to make recommendations. If youre looking for a non-alcoholic drink, they make some damn good sodas too. So, youre all set in the beverage department no matter what you want to drink.

4.) The Food - Obviously I like the food if I'm eating at this restaurant at least once a week, right? I love the way the menu is broken down into snacks, sides, small, medium, large, and extra large plates. I love the small plates concept because I like to experience a bunch of different flavors, so I usually stick to the small, medium, snack, and sides areas. I think by now I have tried just about everything that stays as a staple item on all of these parts of the menu and I've probably had about 95% of the seasonal or in-n-out items too. Occasionally, as was the case last week, I will pop into the large or extra large areas. The double yolk farm egg, pig ear salad, burrata, chargrilled octopus, duck confit, and sweet & spicy pork belly are amongst my favorites and are staples. Items like the aforementioned crispy pig head, sweetbreads, grouper cheek, pork cheek, and various pasta dishes are ones I've enjoyed when I've been lucky enough to find them on the menu during my visits. Heck, I even started eating brussel sprouts because of this restaurant and they have become something I order at almost every meal! I really enjoy the focus on flavor in every dish and have come to trust the Chef when items that I usually wouldnt eat appear as part of a dish I've ordered. Those items are in there because they enhance the overall flavor of the dish, so I eat them and expand my horizons as an "eater". I think its pretty safe to say that I eat "everything" now. Mr. Frodnesor of the blog Food for Thought has also done a kickass writeup of many of his favorites. The food just rocks here and I can never get bored because the menu is constantly evolving. There is something for everyone. Pretty effin awesome in my book.

3.)The Staff - I think a key to having a successful restaurant is having a great staff. The staff at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink is top notch. It starts with the hostesses who are incredibly polite and accommodating and always keep their cool when things get crazy, like on Art+Design nights when the restaurant gets mobbed with people. The servers are knowledgeable, friendly, and attentive. They know the menu, make recommendations, and want to make sure you have a good dining experience and come back for more. The food runners are a big help in making sure all of the table is served at the same time. The managers go out of their way to stop by tables and make small talk if only for a second just to check and make sure things are going well. Its cool to see that the staff buys into the concept of the restaurant and the way that Chef Schwartz wants things done. They also seem to enjoy their jobs. Everyone is on the same page and it's evident in the way the restaurant runs no matter if service is just beginning with a few customers or humming with a packed house.

2.) Kickass Bar Staff - While I will occasionally get a table when out with others, most of the time when Im at MGF&D I can be found sitting at the bar. Dining solo after a long day at work has something to do with that but the bar staff is the main reason. Michael's Genuine has a few of the best bartenders I've met. They always greet me with a hello and a handshake. They know every facet of the menu, make great drinks, and can carry a conversation. Most of all, they are incredibly friendly and seem to remember anyone and everyone who has saddled up to the bar. The barback is awesome too and always makes sure everyone has everything they need. The bar staff treats everyone like regulars on "Cheers" and...

1.) The Hands-On Chef/Owner - I've had the privilege of eating at many great restaurants around the country thanks to a job that requires me to travel a lot and my love of dining out. I've had a lot of great meals, so many that it's nearly impossible for me to name a favorite because there have been so many. There's also been many disappointing meals, so it's safe to say that a chef that consistently puts asses in the seats has the food thing right. Considering that I've dined at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink on every night of the week possible and have yet to see it not at capacity, it's clear that Chef Schwartz is creating high caliber dishes with a warm atmosphere that anyone can enjoy. However, I think that the most successful chefs are the ones who not only showcase their passions and personalities in their dishes but also share their personalities with the patrons who enjoy their food. In the few years that I've been eating at MGF&D I've seen Chef Schwartz behind the line on nearly every service. I like that. He has his staff tell him when customers like and dislike a dish for whatever reason and accepts that feedback. You cant say you're trying to be the best if you're not willing to listen to the good and the bad. He comes out from behind the line to say hi to diners and make sure everything is running smoothly. I've had many conversations with Chef Schwartz and he is, much like the name of his restaurant, a genuine guy. That makes a difference to me. I'm a salesmen and in sales people often don't buy the product or service but rather the person selling it. I think this can also be applied to restaurants. Many of my favorite restaurants in South Florida have this going for them. Its nice to know that a chef can be extremely talented, extremely successful, and extremely personable at the same time.

With all that said, I think its fairly obvious why this is my favorite place to dine in Miami and why I recommend it to nearly everyone who asks me where the best restaurant in Miami is. There are so many options that it is easy to have a great meal for a short buck or a phenomenal meal for a few extra bucks. Like I said earlier, there's something for everyone and I'm looking forward to dining at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink for many years to come.

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
130 NE 40th St.
Miami, FL 33137
(305) 573-5550

Friday, September 4, 2009

September Wine Dinner @ Neomi's, Trump Sunny Isles

Pretty interesting wine dinner going on up at the Trump in Sunny Isles this month. Chef Kurtis Jantz of Neomi's is teaming up with Sean Bernal of Oceanaire Seafood Room to present a dinner with a few New Zealand wineries. The dinner is taking place on September 14th. I always seem to be out of town for these wine dinners but that doesnt mean I cant share the love.

From the Trump Miami website...

Experience an exceptional evening with not one, but two winemakers from New Zealand's most prestigious boutique wineries, Neudorf Vineyards and Maude Wines. And, pair that with not one, but two exceptional chefs. Sean Bernal of the Oceanaire Seafood Room joins our own Kurtis Jantz as they combine their efforts to create an unmatched culinary delight to partner with these amazing wines. Not one, but four reasons to attend.

Dinner is 79.00 per person, inclusive of tax and service charge

For reservations or more information, please contact 305.692.5770