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Michael Schwartz on Michael's Genuine Home Brew and His Upcoming Miami Projects

Today as part of the Cayman Cookout we're coming at you live poolside at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Up next: chef Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami and Grand Cayman.

Eric Larkee and Michael Schwartz [Photo: Raphael Brion/Eater]

What's the story behind your new beer, Michael's Genuine Home Brew?
The beer came out in late summer 2012. It's a project that we worked on for not that long, but it was sort of a long time coming. Our label Michael's Genuine is kind of fashioned after a beer label, so it was only a matter of time.

We partnered with a brewery in Alabama and brainstormed what it would be, what we wanted it to be. Something food friendly. I'm a beer lover but I'm not a big beer drinker, not big on the super hopped-up beers. We wanted something that had mass appeal but was interesting. So what Florida product could we incorporate? We'd been working with Sem-Chi brown rice, it's a rotating crop for Florida Crystals Sugar, so that popped into my head. But rice is a bad word in the beer world. It's called, what, an adjunct product. White rice is a cheap filler product for something like Budweiser. But brown rice paired with sugar cane is different. So we made a couple test batches and nailed it. So this is our flagship beer and then we'll do a couple seasonal beers.

Sommelier Eric Larkee One thing we talked about was, if you went to a bar on the East Coast before Prohibition and asked for a beer, this is what you would get, a classic American ale. We like things a little hoppier than Chef does, but there's just enough hops in here to make it a little floral. It stands up to food but you can knock back a couple of them in the warm Florida sunshine.

MS: It's on tap at all my restaurants and in other restaurants and bars in South Florida, also some retail shops in 22-ounce bottles.

What's the plan for the dinner you're doing with David Kinch tomorrow night?
I didn't know David Kinch, I just met him yesterday. But he's very well known, he's very good at what he does so we're excited. He's gonna do an amuse bouche of the egg they serve at L'Arpège. And two fish courses: Wahoo with passion fruit, and a tuna course with tomato? Or a tomato dish with tuna? We're not sure. Remains to be seen. We're doing some of the reception food passed around, and then for the entree a slow roasted grilled short rib rubbed with coffee and cocoa. [Pastry chef] Hedy [Goldsmith's] doing a dessert extravaganza. Eric paired the wines and we're expecting nothing short of greatness.

How do you pair a wine with passion fruit and wahoo?
EL: We talked about that, about being too matchy matchy, doing a wine with passion fruit like a ripe Sauvignon Blanc. But we decided to go the opposite direction, we decided not to do that.

MS: Are we doing Home Brew?

EL: I mean if people want beer, we'll do Home Brew.

MS: It will be in the kitchen. It will be the beer of choice for the chefs.

Tell us about the guest chefs you've had in Miami.
At Harry's Pizzeria we do a series of every month, a guest chef who comes and takes over the restaurant. It started right after we opened. One chef, close the restaurant, one menu, one seating, 65 people, unlimited wine, one red, one white. Great, great talent: Gabrielle Hamilton, Jonathan Waxman, Marc Vetri, the Animal guys. We kicked it off in January with Paul Kahan. He killed it. We say that after every dinner. Great chefs, though: Chris Hastings, Hugh Acheson, next month is April Bloomfield.

But I don't do it the other way around. I did it with my cookbook tour, but now I'm on the just say no tour. You get caught up in this circuit of events, it's a lot of time, it's a lot of money. They mostly don't pay you. You know, I'm not Tony Bourdain, I'm not Tom Colicchio. For me the best you can do is they cover expenses, but you always incur expenses they don't cover. You have to take your team, and then you have to take them out and they drink a lot. Very expensive group mani/pedis, it costs a lot. So this is the next best thing, the foodies in Miami really dig it. They get to try and experience these chefs without leaving Miami, and for us we get to share ideas and get inspired.

And you've started a program to help your cooks travel elsewhere right?
My chef de cuisine at Michael's attends every one of the pop-up dinners and makes relationships with chefs and their sous chefs. So we started this program where we put on these dinners and we pick a cook who wants to stage somewhere else. So the dinner pays for their trip. It's great, they do 30-35 people, lots of people come. First one wound up at Jonathon Sawyer's in Cleveland, also Sbraga and then Jonathan Waxman.

What's the story with your upcoming restaurants?
We've got two more coming: There's the Raleigh Hotel. It's complicated, we're back on track, it was sold but it's moving forward now so that's exciting.

The Cypress Room is closer, we're building out a new restaurant in the Design District. It'll be a sophisticated American tavern, about the size of Harry's. Crystal chandeliers, tufted banquets, old wallpaper, wood burning grill, open kitchen, rotisserie, very small everything, barrel aged cocktails, classic cocktails. Refined but not pretentious. If there's a tasting menu, it's four courses, not forty.

There will be lots of taxidermied dead animal heads, mounted fish. It'll toe the line between a masculine and feminine vibe, all without white table cloths. But not pretentious. No tweezers but lots of white tailed deer and wild boar on the wall. And lots of cyprus, thus the name.

ETAs on those?
Cyprus Room is early March. Raleigh is a moving target. It took so long for the new buyers to close the transaction, and then renovations, so assessing it'll be a longer process so no timeline.

We're there and engaged, but when we'll launch that restaurant? Maybe 2014.

· All Michael Schwartz Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Cayman Cookout 2013 Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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