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Spring Forward

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Spring Forward
Photos by Andrew Meade

MIAMI’S NEIGHBORHOOD BISTRO, MICHY’S, POPS WITH BRIGHT DISHES AND A FRESH NEW LOOK

Spring means fresh starts, reinvention. At my flagship restaurant Michy’s in Miami, we are shaking things up a bit, transforming our look and menu to keep it fresh, fun, and bright—an intentional shift to breathe new life into our beloved neighborhood bistro.

My husband and I opened Michy’s eight years ago on Biscayne Boulevard, a vibrant main drag that stretches from here all the way to New York City, changing as it goes, from mom-and-pop shops, great furnishing boutiques, to up-and-coming coffee shops.  If these streets could talk they’d be alive with energy, with each person’s story more unique than the next.

While this spot was not our initial choice, it has become our beloved home. The truth is that we had originally picked a location over water, but later found out that an apartment complex was picketing against us as our proposed restaurant would ruin their views of the bay. I’m a Miami girl—born and raised—I believe in growth, preservation and am very much a part of the community. As such, we agreed that this was not meant to be Michy’s home.

We decided to think on a smaller scale and open what I called a “restaurant for now,” a temporary restaurant. So without telling a soul, we found a home, our first home together, got married, and then looked for a restaurant space, which we found in a little strip mall. At my family’s urging, I named it Michy’s, my childhood nickname.

We chose to have a quiet opening: no publicist, no “big to-do.” Being green to entrepreneurship and never having owned a restaurant, our biggest worry was getting people through the door. To our surprise, the day we opened, there was a line around the building.

We couldn’t have been more elated. Half of the people absolutely loved it—they loved everything we put on the table. They loved the quirky design that my sister and I modeled after our Barbie doll houses we’d constructed as children underneath my mother’s dining room table—fun and bright. Yup, they went for it!

However, the other fifty percent thought I had blown my career. I had left a position as an acclaimed chef at a five-star hotel to pursue and conquer the dream of opening my own restaurant. Some food writers couldn’t understand why I had opened a casual restaurant in a quirky neighborhood. My husband and I ignored the disbelievers. We knew deep down we could do it. We believed in it and were filled with passion and optimism. We loved the restaurant and the staff we brought along with us, the same people who are now, almost nine years later, an extension of our family.

Since opening Michy’s, I’ve been truly blessed with great publicity and opportunities, but let’s face it: whatever I’ve gotten has been from this little restaurant. It’s why I’m here.

In this day and age, when so many high profile chefs are constantly pulled away from their own kitchens, my husband and I decided to get back in. Every evening, I put my toddler to bed and come into the restaurant to work.

Just last night, I smoked pork shoulder until one in the morning. That’s what I love to do. Creating new dishes keeps me going. It’s awesome.

I am hopeful my career and passion will give my child a future, and that he will see firsthand and appreciate how hard his mom and dad work.

The following pages are dishes I’ve been developing—dishes you can expect at the soon-to-be renovated Michy’s. From my palate to yours.

Photos by Andrew Meade
Photo by Andrew Meade

Shrimp ’n’ Grits: Shrimp-filled Blossoms With Cheese Grits And Tabasco Butter

Because of Miami’s mild winter, we are really lucky to be able to grow squash blossoms all year round, so this is a dish I never have to take off my menu. We make a simple shrimp mousse, stuff it into the squash blossoms, dip them in a really light tempura and fry them quickly for a crispy crunch, then serve over creamy grits with a wonderful spicy sauce. When you’re hungry, there’s nothing better.

Photos by Andrew Meade
Photo by Andrew Meade

Spinach and Feta Croquetas

I am kind of known down here for my jamón Serrano and blue cheese croquetas. I grew up on croquetas but never actually liked them. Here in Miami, croquetas are usually made up of a thick purée of deviled ham, heavy and deep fried. Until I went to Spain, I didn’t realize what a true croqueta could really be. When I opened Michy’s, I tweaked the traditional Spanish croqueta into my own. People were coming in and asking for so many croquetas to take home, I couldn’t keep up. I literally had to start limiting the number of croquetas people could order! This particular recipe is vegetarian and was created recently for a baby shower. It’s the perfect blend of salty and sweet: beautiful, fresh, and green, but with that fatty creaminess that you want in a great croqueta.

Photos by Andrew Meade
Photo by Andrew Meade

Lemony Seafood Salad

Here in Miami, surrounded by water and with an extended growing season, we have all this wonderful seafood and so many beautiful things that I love to show off. I make a lot of ceviches, as you can imagine, and so I decided to incorporate that into a really bright seafood salad, served over a colorful purée of fresh carrots from a nearby farm that grows the most beautiful, sweet, and flavorful carrots I’ve ever had. This dish is just fresh seafood at its best—simple, pretty, bright, and fun.

Photos by Andrew Meade
Photo by Andrew Meade

Shaved Brussels, Celery, Confit Grapes, Boquerones, Fine Herbs, Mustard Vinaigrette

I created this dish at a Blackberry Farm event celebrating the Southern Foodways Alliance which I am very much a part of. People don’t always consider Miami as part of the South, but I feel Miami is part of that South, extending from here through South America. This dish tells a story of who I am. I have a mixed palate, because I’m Latin, I’m Jewish, I’m Southern, and I learned techniques in France which I always keep in my back pocket. I’m also a woman, a mother, so I love refreshing, crispy salads, and healthy, wholesome foods. And I’m a chef, so I love a little bit of fat, and I know where to take it and how to make your palate just kind of implode! I love to have fun and get a little crazy with ideas and spices. And you know what? At the end of that SFA event at Blackberry Farm, out of all the wonderful Southern
chef-driven dishes that were served, everybody remembered this one.

Photos by Andrew Meade
Photo by Andrew Meade

Fried Chicken Legs, Succotash, And Biscuits

You might ask, “What’s a Latin-Jewish girl doing cooking fried chicken?” Well, it’s something I grew up eating. It’s my go-to. I’m not a person you can easily peg for comfort foods. I’m not a macaroni-&-cheese girl, but there’s just something about fried chicken legs that has always made me crazy. I can’t live without them. Here, we heavily marinate them for 24 hours in a buttermilk-based purée with lots of hot sauce, mustard, and tarragon which leaves a slightly green hue in the chicken. We serve them over a succotash made up of fresh produce from my favorite local farm that is just booming with turnips and fresh beans, cooked together with some plump bacon and chicken stock for a nice sticky glaze, then we add fresh corn and farro. It’s an incredibly flavorful, satisfying dish.