In Miami, much like the rest of this country, most people have no clue where their food comes from. Slow Food, an international non-for-profit organization that combats the standardization of taste and culture brought on by the popularization of fast food, is looking to change that.
"Any time you can get involved with an organization whose sole purpose is to support locally-sourced ingredients and the farmers that produce them, it benefits everyone involved," says James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz.
Last night, he appeared for the fifth consecutive year at Ark of Taste in support of Slow Food Miami at the Kampong Garden.
Schwartz brought along his crew from the Cypress Room, a sophisticated eatery in the Design District. Along with chef de cuisine Roel Alcudia and executive pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith, Schwartz showcased the tiny Everglades tomato in a four course meal.
"As much as I love to take the credit, it's these guys that are the magic behind the taste you are about to enjoy," said Schwartz regarding his staff prior to the night's festivities.
To begin, guests were treated to an array of hors d'oeuvre featuring the Everglades tomato. Chicken liver on toasted bread, shrimp cocktail, and a ricotta cheese bruschetta tantalized the taste buds of attendees while they sipped their Grey Goose tomato cocktails.
The first of four courses was a tomato salad made of five different varieties of tiny tomatoes, including lifelong tomato farmer Michael Borek's favorite Sun Gold.
"It's amazing to see all the different things [Schwartz and his crew] can create with what we grow," said Borek, son of Teena's Pride founder, Teena Borek.
From its sustainable farm in the Redlands, Teena's Pride provides fresh produce to families and restaurants. A sustainable farm uses principles of ecology and the study of relationships between organisms and their environment to minimize the use of dangerous pesticides and hormones. Teena's Pride provided last year's sea grape and the year before's Seminole pumpkin for the annual Ark of Taste event.
The next dish featured a marinated cobia, considered to be one of the most suitable candidates for warm, open-water marine fish aquaculture in the world. Sitting in a light tomato broth, the only thing that matched the fish's tenderness was the broth's subtlety.
Next on the menu was a well-prepared braised lamb shoulder in tomato chutney.
For dessert, executive pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith coupled the tiny but tart Everglades tomato with a delectable white chocolate custard. The custard flavor paired seamlessly with tomato blood orange syrup and sun-dried Everglades tomatoes.
Slow Food's next event is early April's Snail of Approval, which recognizes Miami chefs who contribute to the "sustainability, quality and authenticity of the food we eat."
Schwartz was the first Miami recipient of the honor, which has become an identifying mark of sustainable and local food.