Food News

Zingerman's News Feature

Gifts, Good Eating and a Great Holiday Season!

Red Truffles from Northern Italy
I suppose you could say that they’re sort of a little mini-Mediterranean version of surf and turf — anchovies from the Adriatic and Sicilian capers stuffed into incredible, round, red Piemontese cherry peppers. Pop the whole thing in your mouth. Chew slowly. Let the layers of flavor unfold on your tongue. First the sweetness, then the heat, all enhanced by the suave saltiness of the anchovies. Succumb to this savory sensation; let yourself be ravaged.

Browned Butter Fudge from Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory
Candymaker Charlie Frank starts with an amazing base — Kerrygold Irish butter! Their butter is pretty beautiful — made only when the cows are grazing on grass — and very delicious. We use the one in the silver foil which is cultured in the old style to enhance the cream’s already amazing flavor. To take it to an even higher flavor elevation Charlie gently browns the butter to give it a naturally nutty flavor. Add sugar and fresh milk and you’ve got a set of very superior raw ingredients.

A Couple of Creative Cacao Collaborations
 El Rustico from Askinosie and Holy Mole from Patric!
Shawn Askinosie’s excellent chocolate bars have been at the top of my personal eating list for many years now. This one is particularly interesting — dark chocolate that is with more coarsely ground than usual, laced with hand-chopped bits of vanilla bean. The bar features a poem by the Deli’s very own Ian Mays, a suitable entry to a poetically powerful piece of vanilla studded dark chocolate.

Holy Mole is a new offering, celebrating the Deli’s 30th Anniversary, from Alan McClure, the man behind Patric Chocolates. He and our own Margot Miller have combined their efforts to come up with this intriguing dark chocolate, spiced with smoked paprika from Spain, Indonesian cinnamon, and a hint of vanilla salt. A sensual touch of heat to go with the dark loveliness of the chocolate — a memorable gift for anyone who likes to live on the edge of the chocolate universe.

Rush Creek Reserve Cheese From Wisconsin
Limited edition cheese from Wisconsin’s Uplands Cheese Company, made only in the fall when the milk is particularly rich and very delicious. It’s a washed rind cheese — thin, slightly sticky rind — bound in spruce bark and aged for about 8 weeks so that it’s nice and creamy and sort of prototypically unctuous inside. The truth is you could just spoon it out of the rind and eat it as is, but in the winter I really like to eat it atop just-cooked potatoes or with a couple good slices of the Bakehouse’s pain de montagne.

Primo Grano Pasta from Abruzzo
Start with better pasta and presto! your meal can go from a B to an A+. The Primo Grano pasta is made from a special wheat that is mixed at cooler temperatures (protectsing the flavor, is extruded through the old style bronze dies (resulting in a rougher surface), and dried very slowly (48-60 hours to get the proper texture in the bowl). As with all the great pastas, I prefer to cook it very al dente, the better to taste the wheat.

Owen’s Creek Olive Oil
From Owens Creek Ranch, Walter Hewlett’s family’s farm in the central valley of California. Made from Sicilian varietals, handpicked and pressed within 24 hours, the oil is deliciously delicate and slightly spicy. In addition, it has a great story: Walter’s grandfather, A. Walter Hewlett was a pioneering cardiologist at U of M in the early years of the 20th century (and his father, Bill Hewlett, founded Hewlett-Packard). Thanks to Walter’s generosity and commitment to helping enhance his grandfather’s early work, $4 from every bottle of this most excellent oil will end up in a fund for research at the Cardiovascular Center here at U of M.

Brand New Artisan Bars from Vietnam
Made by a pair of Frenchman, Vincent Mourou and Samuel Maruta who have been working for four or five years to put this project together. The bars are exceptionally amazing. Presently, we have two of the Marou bars on the shelf. The first is the 78% bar, made from cacao that comes from farms in the Ben Tre province on Vietnam’s southeast coast. This bar is deep, dusky, sensual, long lingering with a lot more low notes and a finish that I swear is a bit smoky and that gets me thinking of Chinese green gunpowder tea.

The second bar is equally excellent. It’s made from cacao that comes from farms in the Tien Giang region, just a bit to the north of Ben Tre. The bar, at 70%, is a touch lower in cacao content and just a bit sweeter as a result. Remarkably cinnamony (and yet no cinnamon or other spice has been added) that I think also hints of cloves, or maybe nutmeg. Margot Miller who manages the chocolates so well at the Deli said the same thing. “It reminds me of a German spiced plum cake,” she said as we struggled to describe the bar’s unique deliciousness.

Whey Cream Goat Butter from Nordic Creamery in Wisconsin
One of the most exciting arrivals we’ve had at the dairy case in a long time. Made by Al Bekkum at Nordic Creamery near the town of Westby in Wisconsin’s picturesque Driftless region, it’s got a wonderfully clean, full flavor. You can do anything with goat butter that you do with cow’s milk butter. It’s terrific on toast, and a pat of it on steamed vegetables is delicious. You can use it to make some pretty marvelous buttered noodles. Or my favorite, put some on just cooked steamed potatoes.

Red Rock Cheese from Wisconsin
A tasty new addition to the repertoire of fourth generation cheesemaker Chris Roelli. Red Rock is winning raves all over the country and all around the Zingerman’s community as well. For the Red Rock, Chris came up with a recipe for an old style Wisconsin cheddar (with even more annatto than usual to give it a strikingly bold orange color). Like the Dunbarton, he’s introduced a bit of blue veining, but has kept the cheese creamy on the tongue and maintained the sliceable texture of a cheddar. Best thing of all might just be to put it out on a cheese board along with some fresh fruit and crackers. Either way it’s a striking new offering to set out on your table!

Fresh Candy Bars from Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory
Thanks to the work of Charlie Frank and his little crew (thanks Ethan!) at the Candy Manufactory, we get to eat fresh candy, made from the same kind of excellent full flavored ingredients that we use everywhere else in the Zingerman’s Community. And, not surprisingly, you can totally taste the difference. On top of the freshness factor, the other thing hardly any Americans have gotten to eat is candy made from really great ingredients. If you haven’t had a chance to taste these amazing artisan candy bars, definitely stop by the Bakehouse, Deli, Coffee Co. or Roadhouse and ask for a taste today.

Txakoli Vinegar
Rarely seen but really, really good vinegar from the Basque Country in northern Spain. We spent, literally, nearly three years working to get this special, small production vinegar over here; I’m glad we did because I’ve been partaking in it regularly since it arrived. Made mostly from the indigenous Basque grape variety Hondarribi Zuri, Txakoli (pronounced CHA-koh-lee) is the everyday wine of the region. The wine itself is fresh, light, a bit honey like, but without being at all too sweet.

Evalon Goat Cheese from Wisconsin
One of my favorite new cheeses of the last few years, Evalon is a delicious, aged artisan goat milk cheese from Wisconsin. It’s made by Katie Hedrich, who (along with our own Aubrey Thomason at the Creamery) is one of the top female cheesemakers in the country. The Evalon is semi-firm in texture, slightly firmer than say a Fontina, softer though than a Swiss Gruyere. It’s great as it is on any cheese board though I suppose you could do pretty much anything with it and you’d end up with something special — grilled cheese, a bit of grated onto a salad with apples and toasted walnuts, or a little bit shaved onto a pizza.

Chelsea Goat Cheese from the Creamery
These aged, mold-ripened goat logs have been so good the last few weeks that I feel compelled to have them on my Christmas list. They’re really quite delicious — kudos to Aubrey, John and everyone at the Creamery for doing the constant tweaking and improvement work to get them where they are. As with all of our Creamery goat cheeses, the Chelseas are made from milk that comes to us from a couple of local farms. They are also really excellent on their own, just cut slices and eat ’em at room temperature — or at most with just a bit of Bakehouse bread, some fresh or dried fruit. I’ve also taken to lightly heating a few slices in a pan and then popping them atop my salad.

Compelling Caper Sauce from Calabria
This smooth textured sauce is made from caper flowers, which are more tender than the buds that we’re more accustomed to eating, seasoned with a touch of vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. It’s an easy to use convenience food of the highest quality. The caper sauce is a great canapé — just spread it on squares of buttered toast. On a grilled mozzarella sandwich. Add to your deviled eggs. Or mix with some mayonnaise to make potato salad or rice salad. Or spoon a bit onto just-cooked salmon or swordfish.

Ortiz Tun with Some Terrific (Zingerman’s) Artwork
We’ve long loved the terrific tuna we get from the folks at Ortiz. Line caught bonito (aka “albacore” in English), cooked and packed in water –great tuna like this one is a staple of the high end Spanish kitchen. Pretty clearly it’s becoming a staple for those in the know here in the States as well. This year we’re particularly excited to sell the Ortiz tuna because our artwork has been chosen for use on their special gift tins this year. The beautiful illustration done a few years back by our own Ian Nagy is now appearing on the tuna tin worldwide!

Superb Sardines from Spain
If you’re looking for the best of the best you’ll want to head down to Detroit St. where on any given day you’ll find many different types of tinned and jarred sardines from a dozen different producers in almost that many countries, but these glass-jarred beauties from the Ortiz family in the Basque Country in Spain are at the top of my personal list right. Prepared and packed by the Ortiz family on Spain’s Cantabrian coast, they really are pretty incredible. What do you do with such amazing sardines? Well the easy answer is, you eat them. I put them on salads with great frequency. I eat them on pasta — try ’em with either a fennel scented tomato sauce or, equally excellent, with a few spoonfuls of olive or caper paste and some grated bread crumbs over top.

Westwind Bread
It you like a good whole wheat bread, I’d try this one soon. It’s made from Michigan wheat, milled for us by the folks at Westwind (hence the name) Mill in Linden. It’s got a great nutty, well rounded flavor and it most definitely makes for some terrific toast. Probably would be wonderful with the aforementioned goat butter! Or just about anything else for that matter! Made, as are so many of our breads, the old-fashioned way—wheat flour, water, sea salt, a natural sour starter and about 12 hours of rise time. If you like wheat breads, ask for a taste next time you’re in—we bake it every Monday and Friday. Local bread baked by our very own Bakehouse working with all local wheat. And if you eat it in Michigan it’ll be local its whole wheaty life!

Kifli from the Bakehouse
The kifli are, to my taste, some of the most terrific new treats to come out of the Bakehouse this year. If you like a bit of something sweet after dinner but don’t want to overdo it, a couple of these tasty little crescent-shaped cookies are pretty surely a good solution. To take things up a notch as well, we’re packing them into beautiful gift boxes as well—bring one to any holiday event, give it as a gift to lovers of great cookies and use ‘em to win the hearts and minds of pretty much anyone you know with Hungarian roots.

Three Terrific Hungarian Tortes
Rigó Jansci – Hungarian Chocolate Torte from Zingerman’s Bakehouse
If you haven’t yet tried the Rigó Jansci, check it out soon. It’s a beautiful rectangular torte, covered in a thick coating of dark chocolate ganache, with the name—Rigó Jansci—written in script across the top. The name, by the way, is pronounced ree-go yon-chee. It’s named for a Hungarian-born, Roma violinist who fell in love with an heiress named Clara Ward. Unfortunately she happened to be married to someone else at the time. Apparently wired for passion and adventure, she chose Rigó and romance over her husband and a more proper life as a well-mannered princess. The “invention” of the cake came shortly thereafter, when a baker designed it in her honor. Serve it at room temperature with a cup of the coffee from Zingerman’s Coffee Company.

Dobos Torta
This one was created in 1884, and named after its inventor, Jozef Dobos, one of the best known pastry chefs in what’s probably the most pastry loving country in Europe. Dobos had a very famous shop in Budapest and the torta was a classic there. Sometimes known in the US as “7-Layer Cake” the Dobos Torta is made from thin layers of very light vanilla cake, sandwiched around a chocolate buttercream. More chocolate buttercream coats the sides of the torte, which is then topped with a thin layer of slightly chewy, delicious caramel. It’s really pretty amazingly delicious. At the Bakehouse we make the buttercream with Valrhona chocolate and a touch of espresso.

Esterházy Torta
The Esterházy is a third traditional Hungarian torta. This one is named for Paul III Anton, Prince Esterházy who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A member of the rich Hungarian Esterházy family, he was reputed to be the richest man in Europe that was not a king! His cake follows in those footsteps—exceptionally rich, and very elegant Layers of toasted walnut cake filled with a magnificent mixture of vanilla bean pastry cream, fresh whipped cream and more toasted walnut, decorated with vanilla and dark chocolate poured fondant in a distinctive design used specifically for Esterházy cakes. Beautiful, delicate, delicious.

British Bangers from Nick Spencer
Of late we’ve doubled our selection of Mr. Spencer’s English-style offerings by bringing in his delicious traditional bangers. Bangers are both good and very traditional British food—probably the most popular of British sausages. These are made from pork (though he has a beef version in the works as well), seasoned (as a properly made banger should be) with breadcrumbs and herbs. Nick uses only natural pork casings and steers clear of nitrates, nitrites or MSG. As Nick explains, “the perfect banger is the combo of the lovely soft texture combined with delicate herbs and seasonings.”