Michael Schwartz's Genuine Potluck at Books and Books

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Trina Sargalski
View photos from Michael Schwartz's book signing at Books & Books here.

Michael Schwartz made his first Miami appearance to promote his new cookbook, Michael's Genuine Food, on Saturday. Schwartz conversed with Sun-Sentinel food writer John Tanasychuk before a packed house at Books & Books Coral Gables. Indeed, Tanasychuk started the Q & A by calling to order the "meeting of the Michael Schwartz fan club." And judging by the applause Schwartz received after he answered almost every question, this was a crowd of devotees.

The first section of the Q & A was an interview between Tanayschuk and Schwartz, who addressed some of the same questions from his recent Sun-Sentinel interview with Tanayschuk. As far as being a culinary innovator, Schwartz said, "Jose Andres is a culinary innovator... I'm a good shopper."

The most important thing for Schwartz is ingredients: "A lot of what I say and think is inspired by Alice Waters. She always talked about spending money on locally sourced produce and buying shoes at Payless...It can be more expensive to buy local produce, but I've found that if something is seasonal and it's abundant, it's usually more affordable"

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Trina Sargalski
Schwartz talked about one of his efforts to make local and seasonal food more accessible: helping start the Roots in the City market in Overtown with his friend, Michael Nischan. "It's a lot better to buy locally, but it's still difficult. Part of my job is to bridge the gap between farmers and people who want to buy their food."

As far as other chefs including more local food on their menus, Schwartz said, "We're a pain in the ass...we're always nagging chef friends to go out and support local agriculture. Some do. Some don't. Chefs are really busy. Some don't get a chance to leave their kitchen much. It's not easy. Some people walk the walk, but everyone likes to talk the talk."

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Trina Sargalski
Pickled onions by Debra Scholl
The chef also offered himself to anyone who wants advice on raising chickens in a residential area, as he did for a while in his Miami Beach backyard and he gave props to his wife, Tamara, for inspiring him to examine his food choices throughout their marriage. "I'm not done," she called out from the audience.

Schwartz did get some difficult questions from the audience, which he answered with aplomb. One man said indignantly, "I enjoy your fettuccine carbonara and I like the poached egg that you serve on top. But why on earth would you use bacon in fettuccine carbonara instead of pancetta?" Schwartz reiterated the question: "In case you guys didn't hear, he wants to know why I bastardized the recipe...what I encourage you to do is to make your own bacon. I include a recipe in the book. It's not hard I encourage you to make your own bacon instead of buying fancy imported pancetta from Italy."

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Trina Sargalski
Grouper ceviche with mango, citrus and cilantro by BLT Steak's Sam Gorenstein
Afterward, the audience descended on a free potluck supper prepared by selected friends and family of Michael's Genuine. Michael Schwartz's brand manager, Jackie Sayet, came up with the unique idea. Folks like Sam Gorenstein (chef at BLT Steak Miami Beach), Hedy Goldsmith (pastry chef at Michael's Genuine), "Frodnesor" (Food for Thought/Cobaya) and Donna Reno (Slow Food Miami) were assigned dishes from the new cookbook, including grouper ceviche, beet and tomato salad with blue cheese, almond braised lamb shanks and toasted almond salad, and butter lettuce salad.

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Trina Sargalski
Greens from Paradise Farms
Kudos to Michael Schwartz for his disclaimer that the free potluck would offer just a taste, and that if you expected a full dinner you'd probably be disappointed. People sometimes have trouble with this concept in Miami. Complimentary beverages of Aperol cocktails and homemade cherry soda with rosemary from the Michael's Genuine menu and live music by Escaleno soothed hungry folks as they waited. Given the crowds on hand, the food stretched a long way.

It was a good time. I stayed up late Saturday night, eagerly paging through all of Michael's Genuine Food, feeling a growing pride (and an increasing appetite). The new cookbook and Saturday's event reminded me of how far the food scene in Miami has come in the past five years.

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Books & Books

265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, FL

Category: General

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