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The Cleanest Sandwich in Miami Beach is At a Place Called DIRT

At the end of 2015, a new little eatery opened in South Beach called DIRT. The concept was simple: serving up clean, nourishing food designed by a serious chef in a fast, casual environment. A bastion of healthy food amongst many delicious, but not conscientious options in Miami Beach, DIRT offers meals free of pesticides, hormones, and unnecessary grease. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and cater to the discriminating omnivore as much as vegetarians.

Ordering in the small but chic resto starts casually at the marble slab counter. Select a beverage, which can range from a hand-crafted espresso-based drink made with DIRT’s private-label coffee, cold-pressed juice, homemade kombucha, hibiscus and raspberry tea to one of four local, craft beers on tap. See… something for everybody.

Depending on what time of day it is, depends on what happens next. Breakfast will look something like this:  local eggs from Sun Fresh Farm and Ranch on crunchy Zak the Baker multigrain toast or herb farro drizzled with olive oil with avocado, kale, caramelized onions, or roasted fennel. Topped off with organic pepperjack cheese or house-made chicken apple sausage, you can see why weekends have breakfast lines going down the block.

If it all sounds amazing. It is—thanks to real chefs in the kitchen. The Executive Chef is Jonathan Seningen and Chef de Cuisine is Nicole Votano who both work on making the food as good as it sounds, and sometimes better. Lunch includes veggie-centric potions like bowls.

“I am really loving our seasonal bowl right now,” says Chef Nicole. “It starts with a butternut squash cashew ‘cream’ which is topped with roasted vadouvan curry cauliflower, quinoa, and arugula. It’s then finished off with pomegranate and spiced pumpkin seeds for some crunchy texture. It’s the kind of dish that even a carnivore can eat without missing the meat.”

Of course, proteins are on the menu and are of the highest quality available, and can be added on to most dishes (instead of subtracted), which makes both vegetarians and meat-eaters happy.

“Guests will know exactly what they’re eating-nutritional information and ingredient origin will be displayed in the restaurant, online, and on printed menus. A focal point of the restaurant will be a large display used to inform guests about the origin of our ingredients. It will also highlight local vendors and partners with whom we work closely,” says Co-Founder and General Manager Jeff LaTulippe.

Make Breakfast Better and Get a Hearty Start

Four experts give their takes on the most important meal of the day.

From Bloomberg Businessweek by Evan S Benn

Your Main: Dark Cocoa Almond Oats Topped With Espresso Yogurt

For a quick, make-ahead breakfast that’ll get you through the work week, mix 2½ cups rolled oats with 2½ cups unsweetened almond milk, 5 tablespoons cocoa powder, 5 tbsp. maple syrup, 1¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ tsp. vanilla extract, and a pinch of sea salt in a Tupperware or other covered container. Stick it in the fridge, and in the morning you’ll have a creamy, no-cook oatmeal. For the topping, stir 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 shot espresso (about 2 ounces), and 1 tbsp. maple syrup in a separate container until no lumps remain.

“The richness of the dark cocoa is brought out by the espresso yogurt,” says chef Nicole Votano, who serves a version of the recipe at her new restaurant Dirt in Miami Beach. The fiber and healthy fats will keep you full and productive all morning.

Your Booster: Blueberries

“My breakfast of champions is yogurt and blueberries,” says Lee Schrager, co-author of the forthcoming America’s Best Breakfasts. Blueberries add vitamin C and other antioxidants to whatever you’re planning to eat. And don’t be skimpy: They contain fewer than 100 calories per cup.

Your Side: A Perfectly Poached Egg

Eggs deliver protein, vitamin D, and assorted essential minerals. Chef César Vega at Chicago’s new Café Integral gives his eggs a 60-minute bath in a sous vide cooker (such as the Anova precision cooker, $199; anovaculinary.com) for thick, runny yolks and yielding, quivering whites. To get similar results the old-fashioned way, bring a pot of water to a simmer, then turn the heat to low. Break an egg into a small bowl and carefully tip it into the water. Cook, swirling water occasionally, for about 4 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and serve.

Your Indulgence: Blood Orange Olive Oil and Tarragon Bread

Typical pound cake is too dense and sweet for breakfast, says Los Angeles pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith. Her alternative? Lighten up the old standard with fresh tarragon, which she calls “the new basil,” local blood oranges (bought at Southern California’s fabulous farmers markets and “picked this morning”), and peppery olive oil. Order a loaf online ($28; sweethedy.com) and have it shipped overnight—the oil keeps the bread from drying out.

Dirt Offers Miami Diners “Clean Eating” With a Chef-Driven Twist

Article by Keri Adams | Originally appeared in Foodable WebTV network

Even though Miami is a city filled with thousands of diverse culinary options, the city isn’t necessarily known for an abundance of health-focused concepts like you would find in, say, L.A. As a whole, the local restaurant scene has catered to the health trend with increased healthier options available on menus. But what about restaurants with completely guilt-free menus?

In many cities on the west coast, veggie-centric eateries are sprinkled all over, but not so much in Miami. Enter: Dirt, which set up shop in South Beach a few weeks ago. This brand new concept — with a mantra to “eat clean” — aims to deliver healthy, farm-to-table, fine-dine quality food, with faster service at a more approachable price point. (Aside from bottles of wine and factoring in add-ons, the most expensive thing on the menu will run you $16.)

The Real Meaning of “Eat Clean”

Words such as “fresh,” “local,” and “quality” have popped up on menus at restaurants where these terms don’t even belong. They are vague, have become trendy, and are being used to sway consumers.

But these words are more than hot button words at Dirt. The co-founders Jeff Latulippe and Matt Ernst, along with chefs Jonathan Seningen and Nicole Votano, have spent a considerable amount of time sourcing the best ingredients, while preparing a locally seasonal menu that offers options for diners with dietary restrictions of all kinds.

Dirt offers separate menus for paleo, vegan, and gluten-free eaters. Diners can pick up one of these menus and not be concerned about finding limited options for their needs. Instead, they have an array of options that they can trust to fulfill their dietary requirements.

“One of the other big differentiators for us is transparency,” says Jeff Latulippe, co-founder and general manager at Dirt. “We have this big copper wall that shows where a lot of our food is coming from. So, we wanted to take the chalkboard list that you see in a lot of places and bring it up a notch, and show you a map of Florida and the world, and show you where we are getting ingredients from, not only locally but nationally and sometimes internationally, and what exactly we are getting from those suppliers.”

With the changing landscape of fast-casual and good-for-you restaurants, new concepts must not only find ways to differentiate, but also be able to evolve amidst an ever-evolving landscape driven by consumer habits and demands.

“The merging of fine-dining, chef-driven food with healthy food is a unique aspect of what we are doing,” says Latulippe. “We’re not trying to be like a generic healthy place that just serves brown rice and chicken.”

Just because the concept stresses “eat clean” doesn’t mean Dirt serves boring and bland meals.

“You can come here if you are not a person who is consumed with just health and you’re not digging down into that nutritional index of each product we serve,” says Matt Ernst, co-founder and operating partner at Dirt. “You can still come in and get a Dirty Steak & Cheese and it’s got really well-sourced and well-prepared ingredients in a unique way.”

Co-founders Matt Ernst and Jeff Latulippe Kerri Adams for Foodable WebTV Network

New Restaurateur Challenges

Starting a restaurant is no walk in the park. The two founders used Danny Meyer’s book, “Setting the Table” as a guide, but there were still some hiccups in the restaurant startup phase.

“The biggest challenge was definitely the fact that we are in a historical Art Deco district and there were tons of restrictions on permitting, construction, and all sorts of approvals we needed on our design, particularly our exterior design,” says Ernst. This delayed the opening of the restaurant for months.

Besides construction and permitting challenges, both co-founders are new to the restaurant business. “Jeff and I are both new restaurateurs. While we understand business, branding, marketing, and systems, we’re trying to do something new that really hasn’t been done down here before, and figuring out all the challenges that make that work — from sourcing to getting food out fast enough, while bringing up a new set of employees from all walks of life,” Ernst says.

Restaurant Technology

Just because Latulippe and Ernst are new restaurateurs doesn’t mean they didn’t do their research or have background in important operational sectors. Ernst’s background is in technology, so Dirt is using the latest restaurant technology to make their operations easier in multiple ways. “The level of sophistication in software and analytics that has come from the restaurant space in the last five years is impressive,” Ernst says.

Some of the many vendors they’re using are Revel’s iPad POS software, LevelUp’s mobile loyalty and payments software, Swipely’s analytics software, and HotSchedules, an online employee scheduling software. Dirt is also jumping on the delivery bandwagon with third-party services like Delivery Dudes and Postmates. “We are really trying to use restaurant technology as much as possible in every way,” says Latulippe.

Dirt's exterior with outside seating Kerri Adams for Foodable WebTV Network

The Location

Why did the co-founders decide on Miami as the first Dirt location?

“We saw it as a huge market need here in Miami and a lot of people travel to South Beach. We hope to take this in other markets and it will have a little bit of brand recognition,” says Ernst. “We already have had people from New York, L.A., and Paris say ‘can you bring this to our cities?’ We think if we can prove it here, it has life to go other places.”

Partnerships With Wellness Brands

Latulippe and Ernst are cleverly aligning themselves with wellness brands, such as Lululemon with the Dirt x Lululemon Salad by Christina.

“We met Christina in the process of opening the restaurant and she is the community ambassador for the Lululemon on Lincoln Road. So we said, ‘Christina, what’s your favorite fall salad, tell us the ingredients.’ So she gave us a really awesome list of ingredients and then our chefs made up this awesome salad. It’s actually our best-selling salad,” Latulippe says.

With every new seasonal menu, the restaurant plans to offer a collaborative menu option like this.

So with this new health-focused concept paving the way in Miami, will we be seeing more restaurants like this in the area soon? Are we on the brink of a veggie-centric culinary revolution? Only time will tell.

The future of medicine is food

Written by Deena Shanker | This originally appeared in Quartz.

In between anatomy and biochemistry, medical students in the US are learning how to sauté, simmer and season healthy, homemade meals.

Since 2012, first and second year students at Tulane University School of Medicine in Louisiana have been learning how to cook. Since the program launched, Tulane has built the country’s first med school-affiliated teaching kitchen and become the first medical school to count a chef as a full-time instructor.

Sixteen med schools have now licensed the center’s curriculum, as have two non-medical schools, the Children’s Hospital San Antonio-Sky Lakes Residency Program and the Nursing School at Northwest Arkansas Community College. In fact, about 10% of America’s medical schools are teaching their students how to cook with Tulane’s program, Tim Harlan, who leads Tulane’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, told the James Beard Foundation conference last month. It also offers continuing medical education programs with a certification for culinary medicine, for doctors, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and registered dietitians.

The program, developed with culinary school Johnson & Wales, helps doctors give real health advice to their patients, says Harlan, who’s both a chef and a doctor. As he says in the video below: “We’re not talking about nutrition, we’re talking about food.”

“We translate the preponderance of dietary evidence,” which Harlan told Quartz supports the oft-praised Mediterranean diet, “for the American kitchen.” That includes consideration of cost as well as nutritional value—diet-related illnesses like obesity are often linked to low income communities, including the New Orleans community that Tulane’s kitchen also serves. This also works out well for training would-be doctors, says Harlan, who are usually on a stringent budget themselves.

The cooking classes are supplemented with lectures, reading and team-based problem solving as well, and though coursework begins broadly for first and second year students—with an overview of the Mediterranean diet and basic knife handling skills included in the first “module”—Harlan says they are developing about 30 more modules for third and fourth year students. Those will focus on specific ailments like congestive heart failure, HIV and celiac disease.

Fans of the program, including both doctors and chefs, are hoping it will be part of a major shift in the way doctors communicate with their patients about nutrition, especially amid rising rates of obesity and other diet-related illnesses. Currently less than half of American primary care physicians offer their patients specific guidance on diet, physical activity or weight control, a 2011 study found. “The fact that doctors are now learning to cook is like a revolution,” said Sam Kass, a former White House chef and senior nutrition policy advisor, at the James Beard conference.

While it’s still early days for the Tulane program, two separate studies have shown its effectiveness—for both the patients and med students alike. (Both studies included authors from the Goldring Center.) The first, which looked at patients with Type 2 Diabetes, found, for example, that those that who participated in the program saw a major drop in total cholesterol, while those who did not participate saw an increase. The second found that medical students also benefited: They not only thought nutrition advice was important for their patients, but for themselves, too. By the second year, the participating med students were eating significantly more fruits and vegetables than they had previously.

Harlan expects a sea change to take place in the way doctors treat chronic illness—and the way insurance charges for it. At the conference, Kass described a future where doctors write recipes as prescriptions and insurance companies treat food as a reimbursable expense. (There is, of course, a strong economic argument in favor of a prevention-based approach to health.) Harlan predicts that care plans will eventually include menu planning, recipes and maybe even programming to get the ingredients delivered to patients. “Call me up in ten years and let’s see if that’s true.”