Michael Schwartz

F&W Star Chef

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Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink shares a great holiday drink, his favorite cookbook of all time and the top places to visit on a trip to Miami.

Can you share a favorite food gift idea?
Cookbooks that you like are always a great gift. There are so many out there, if you have a favorite, one that’s tried-and-true, odds are that your friends and family will like it, too. It’s a personal gift and one people can go back to time and time again.

What’s your favorite holiday cocktail?
I’m a big fan of bourbon. Usually it’s neat in my glass but I do love a good Manhattan. Ours at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink has Bulleit bourbon and a cherry-rosemary syrup, festive for the holiday season or any time of year.

What’s your top entertaining tip?
Prep as much as you can ahead of time. You want to be able to be part of the party, not in the kitchen.

What are your top don’t-miss places on a holiday trip to Miami?
Miami has a unique holiday season since the temperature hovers in the 70s most of the time. If you’re visiting then, the best thing to do is put on your flip-flops and head out around town.

For art, check out the Wynwood Arts District for the Bakehouse Art Complex, which always has interesting work from emerging local artists.

Catch an independent film at the neighborhood’s art house theater, O Cinema. Around the corner get a dose of what’s current on the street scene at the Wynwood Walls.

It’s going to be stone crab season, which seems fitting for a visit during the holidays…Indulge in a little at dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab or take it to go and head for the beach. A blanket, some Florida craft beer and some good company is all you need.

What dish are you best known for?
Lately it’s all about the peach and radish salad, or its winter cousin, with Honeycrisp apples substituted for summer’s favorite stone fruit. My chef de cuisine at MGFD, Bradley Herron, created this instant classic last summer by combining fresh slices with basil, toasted almonds and French feta cheese. It’s been such a hit that our new restaurant down the street, Harry’s Pizzeria, now does a variation with frisée, toasted hazelnuts and blue cheese. If you do a Google search, you’ll see people have blogged their own interpretations of it, too.

What’s your favorite cookbook of all time?
The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, by Judy Rodgers. Of course, I love her famous roast chicken, but everything is so seasonal and simple, hallmarks of smart cooking.

What’s a technique everyone should know?
How to quick-pickle vegetables. It’s a great trick to brighten rich dishes and add balance to the plate. I like to quick-pickle anything from cucumbers and carrots to radishes and onions.