Fly to the Sources of our Favorite Foods
If you shop here at the Deli, you likely already know that Zingerman’s sources the best food in the world and brings it to you. But you might not know that you can actually visit some of the artisan producers with us!
Zingerman’s Food Tours specializes in culinary travel, taking you behind the scenes and connecting you to the essence of a place. As the managing partner, Kristie Brablec infuses her passion for learning into culinary adventures around the world, creating tours that immerse guests in the rhythm of daily life, highlight the history of a region, share cultural experiences, and introduce the people who make local specialties. You don’t need to just take our word for it though! The Wall Street Journal said: “While standard food tours often promise little more than a string of superficial restaurant visits and a token cheesemonger stop, outfits like Zingerman’s are going deeper to explore food’s cultural roots.”
Each tour is unique, but there are commonalities. Guests can expect to spend 5 to 10 days in a beautiful international setting with a Zingerman’s host and a small group of fellow travelers. Every itinerary is designed to highlight the history and culture of traditional food and drink; to fully experience it requires some moderate activity. Almost everything is included, from hand-picked housing that reflects the local sense of place to meals celebrating local specialties. Guests are only responsible for airfare, personal spending money, and sometimes a meal or two on their own. For those hungry to get to the origins of great foods, Zingerman’s Food Tours is here for you!
5 Foods to Fly For
1. Conservas Ortiz Canned Fish from Basque, Spain
The Basque Country lies on the Atlantic coast on the Bay of Biscay, straddling both Spain and France. The Zingerman’s tour of the area is made for food lovers (and it also happens to be an especially good one for night owls, as it includes nightly strolls for pintxos, the Basque version of tapas), as Kristie explains:
Known locally as Euskadi or País Vasco, they have their own language, their own culinary traditions (recognized by Michelin granting stars to over 30 restaurants), and incredibly beautiful geography. For these reasons alone we should visit, but once you learn of their passion for combining the convivial act of dining with the best quality ingredients, well, there’s no turning back.
Tour guests visit an award-winning sheep creamery for cheese-making and sheep-herding lessons; a mill that makes talos, a traditional unleavened corn flatbread of the area; visit an Espelette pepper producer; and growers of alubia negra de Tolosa, the black beans of Tolosa. The tour’s flavorful stops include a visit to Conservas Ortiz (most often referred to simply as Ortiz), in the seaport town of Ondarroa, Spain.
Spain is well-known for its top-quality preserved seafood, and Ortiz is arguably the country’s most famous producer. Founded in 1891, the company is now run by the fifth generation of the Ortiz family but just as focused on quality and time-honored traditional practices, which tour guests learn about firsthand (and enjoy stellar samples!).
We carry a handful of outstanding Ortiz products, but if you’re not sure where to start, go for the Bonito tuna (often referred to as albacore tuna here in the States). It’s hands-down the biggest seller in our annual Summer Sale, which happens annually in June and July.
2. Comté Cheese from Jura, France
Between Lyon being chosen to be the international capital of gastronomy and the Jura Region being home to France’s most popular cheese (not to mention some of the oldest vineyards in the country), the Zingerman’s Food Tour that visits those spots is an especially epic one.
In Lyon, guests will dine at a century-old restaurant, visit a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, and learn about a collection of fruit and vegetable producers in the Rhône-Alpes region offering a responsible and sustainable approach to agriculture, while enjoying a fresh lunch prepared by a local chef right there on the farm. In Lyon, highlights include visits to vineyards and a distillery, dinner at a three-star Michelin restaurant, and a trip to one of Zingerman’s favorite locations: Comté Fort St. Antoine. Built in 1882, it was once a working fort that housed hundreds of soldiers, but had been abandoned for decades when Marcel Petite, a fifth-generation Comté cheesemaker happened upon it. In the 1960s, he transformed the decaying stone buildings into the premier aging cave in all the Jura for Comté. Of a visit to the storied spot, longtime Mail Order cheese specialist and warehouse manager Lisa Roberts says:
This was a dream come true for me. Everyone acknowledges that the French make great cheese and Comté is king in France. Comté from Fort St. Antoine is the crown of the king and a trip there is like a cheesemonger’s haj. The Fort is special because it’s an ideal environment for very slow maturing of the wheels. It was built into the side of a hill in the 1800s and abandoned after it failed at its job of stopping Germans in World War II. Inside it, the cheese can develop and express its individual flavors. I think it’s just about perfect.
The Comté we select from Marcel Petite’s Fort St. Antoine aging cave arrives at a point of ripeness where all the cheese’s beguiling flavors have come to life. Aromas of hazelnuts, fried onions, and spring berries shine over an undercurrent of cut grass, wet earth, and straw. There is a humble, everyday perfection in these wheels that keeps you coming back for more. Extra-aged Comté isn’t available year-round, but when we do have it in stock, Deli regulars rejoice at its return. Of the extra-aged Comté, Ari says it is “buttery, has a light nuttiness, and just the tiniest whisper of smokiness.” If you, too, could continuously consume Comté, carry on with additional reading to learn more about our classic Comté and the extra-aged.
3. Valserena Parmigiano Reggiano from Tuscany
Imagine taking cooking lessons with local chefs in a lovely Tuscan kitchen, wandering through the stalls of a food market in Florence, and visiting artisanal producers of some of the most outstanding food of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. (By this point you probably know what we’re going to say here, right?!) If you join the Zingerman’s Food Tour to Tuscany, Italy, you won’t have to imagine, you’ll be experiencing all of it!
One of those artisanal producers is Valserena, one of the last farmstead Parmigiano Reggianos still being made, at a fifth-generation family-run dairy, made from the milk of the Serra family’s herd of rare Sola Bruno cows. Tour guests literally get up before dawn to arrive in time to see the “birthing of the parmigiano” at the oldest dairy in Parma, in the lowlands of the Po River Valley, while they are in the process of making the morning’s batch of cheese. (For non-early birds, Kristie insists that prior guests agree that seeing this king of cheese being made is well worth the early wake up call!)
The Valserena is possibly the finest Parmigiano Reggiano to ever grace our cheese counter (head here to read more about it), but if you want to carry out a flavorful taste test, we also carry a couple of others that are pretty special in their own right. There’s the Caldera, owned by brothers Daniele and Mario Caldera, this Parmigiano Reggiano is from a small herd of 150 cows. And then we also carry La Vida 1944, a once-a-year special from Carlo Carburri, whose Sola Bruna and red Reggiana cows graze freely in the fields of his farm on freshly milled grain.
4. Sotto Fiesole Olive Oil from Tuscany, Italy
Guests on the Tuscany tour stay at a 15th-century farm in the countryside, 45 minutes outside of Florence. The property houses a hotel and residences on 55 spectacular acres overlooking the Arno Valley, olive groves, vineyards, and a panoramic view of the Florentine hills. You won’t just be looking at olive trees from afar though, another one of the tour’s stops will be to see Food Tours’ partner Bernardo Conticelli’s grove.
Bernardo runs a small farm named Sottofiesole just a few miles outside of Florence, where he grows traditional Tuscan olives including frantoio, moraiolo, leccino, and pendolino—without sprays or artificial pesticides. The olives are harvested by hand and pressed, in a nearby village, within five hours of being taken from the tree. (And not only is he producing a high-quality olive oil, he’s also a Florentine sommelier and wine maker, and co-hosts not only the Tuscany tour, but also the Zingerman’s tours to Piedmont, Paris & Champagne, and Lyon & Jura!) Until you can taste it in person, you can stop by the Deli and pick up a bottle of Sotto Fiesole olive oil.
5. La Vecchia Dispensa Balsamic Vinegar from Tuscany, Italy
To complete the trifecta of terrific Tuscan products, tour guests travel to La Vecchia, a family-owned producer of authentic aged balsamic vinegar to learn about what makes real balsamic vinegar so exceptional (and taste it, of course!).
We carry a number of La Vecchia’s vinegars as a part of our extensive Balsamic vinegar collection. (Fellow vinegar lovers take note: we have an annual Balsamic Blowout sale and often host Balsamic 101 classes, check our Events calendar to see when we’ll host it next.)
These are five examples of items you can pick up at the Deli and visit the producers on Zingerman’s Food Tours, but they’re far from the only examples of the kind of culinary travel you can experience with Zingerman’s.
- Esterházy Torta is a seasonal specialty made by Zingerman’s Bakehouse is a Hungarian walnut cream cake named after Hungarian nobleman and diplomat, Paul III Anton, Prince Esterházy. The Zingermans’s Food Tour to Vienna and Budapest stops at Esterházy Palace, one of the fanciest family homes you’ll ever see.
- The Food Tour to Hungary includes a visit to the Tokaj region, famous for its sweet Tokaji (pronounced tow-kai) wines, a variety of which (5 Puttyonos Aszú) is used in the Bakehouse’s Tokaji Cream Cake.
- Bristlings are close cousins to sardines (they’re commonly known as “sea sprats” and are actually sometimes referred to as “Nordic sardines”). We get a couple of varieties of these tinned fish from Fangst, in Demark, and should you join the Food Tour to Denmark, you can expect to enjoy fresh, local fish.
- Head to Ireland with Zingerman’s Food Tours and you visit a cheese shop, taste Irish farmstead cheeses, tour a family-run dairy specializing in a variety of Southern Mediterranean-style cheese, and go to a goat farm making Irish goat cheese. For a slice of cheese heaven closer to home, check out our cheese counter for seasonal Irish cheeses, like Coolea and Durras.
Clearly, no matter which tour you choose, delicious adventure awaits.