Food, Food Artisans

The Case of the Missing Olive Oils

a challenging year for olives

Our spring shipment of imports arrived at our warehouse a few weeks ago. Each year, this delivery is the one that includes our newest harvest of olive oils—in this case, we just got the 2014 harvest. It takes until May for the new oils to arrive because after the olives are picked and pressed around November the oil is left to settle for a few months to naturally decant out any sediment, and then it takes several weeks for the oil to make its way across the Atlantic on the boat. This year our import was missing a lot of the oils we usually bring in.

It wasn’t a surprise that the oils were missing. 2014 was an epically bad year for olives in Europe. Spain’s olive harvest was down 50%. Italy’s harvest was down about 35% overall, and in some regions, like Tuscany, it was down nearly 90%. What happened?

Blame it on the weather.

Olives at Castello di Cacchiano in Tuscany

Olive Groves at Castello di Cacchiano in Tuscany

Let’s talk about Italy. The winter of 2013-14 was mild. So mild, in fact, that it did not kill off the insects that chow down on olives. Then summer 2014 was rainy and humid, giving the insects the perfect conditions to proliferate. The larvae hatch inside olives, feasting on the fruit and boring holes that let in fungi and bacteria that give the olives an off, moldy flavor. As if all that weren’t enough, in September a hail storm hit the countryside and knocked much of the not-yet-ripe fruit to the ground.

With all this bad luck, it seems like an olive farmer should pray for a cold, insect-killing winter and a hot, dry summer. But not too cold. Tuscans still talk about the winter of 1984-85, when three weeks of frigid weather killed off most of their olive trees. (They also tell me that winters like that come around about every 30 years or so—which would mean we’re due to have one any time now.) And not too hot and dry, either. The south of Spain had a terrible drought last summer that decimated their olive harvest.

Too little water, no olives. Too much water, no olives. Too cold, no olives. Too warm, no olives. Rather than being a surprise that there was such a horrible harvest in 2014, it’s beginning to feel like it’s a miracle there’s ever a good harvest.

OK, I get it, the harvest was terrible. But what does that mean for an olive oil enthusiast?

For the majority of inexpensive grocery store olive oil there probably won’t be a huge impact. The price may go up a bit, but most olive oils on the market—including most extra virgin oils—are made with a blend of olive oils from who knows how many sources. Take a look the next time you’re in the olive oil aisle at the store. While the bottle may proudly announce that it’s “imported from Italy” on the front, if you turn it around to the back it may say something like, “Made with select, high quality extra virgin olive oils from Italy, Spain, Tunisia, and Greece.” There’s also no clear indication of when any of the oil was pressed. Those oils—from different countries and possibly even different years—are all blended together to get a consistent (read: boring) oil without a whole lot of flavor. If one of their sources of oil had a bad harvest, they’ll just supplement the supply from somewhere else.

For olive oils grown and produced on a single estate the situation is far more dire. It doesn’t just mean that there’s less oil available. In many cases it means no oil at all. Nearly all of the oils we sell come from a single estate, so there was a huge impact for us. By the time farmers went to harvest the olives, there wasn’t much fruit on the trees. And in many cases, like at Tiburtini in the Italian region of Lazio and at Cacchiano in Tuscany, what little fruit there was made oil of such poor quality that they shut down the mills and decided not to press any oil at all. We have a collection of a couple dozen or so olive oils that we have sold every year for a decade or more, but this year we don’t have nine of our regular oils because none was produced last year. With other oils, such as the crowd-favorite Maussane, we have our whole year’s supply in stock right now, and when it sells out, it’ll be gone ’til May 2016. (That is, assuming this fall’s harvest is a bit more successful!)

Rather than leave our olive oil shelves empty, we’ve decided to bring on a handful of new oils in a one-time-only olive oil pop up shop.

We taste dozens of new olive oils every month. We bring on maybe two new ones a year. But right now in our pop-up shop we have eleven new extra virgin olive oils. It’s unprecedented! We’re excited about the newcomers, but they’re only here for a limited time. When they sell out, that’s it, they’re gone. I just tasted all of ’em; here are a few notes on some of my favorites:

Ol Istria Leccino Olive Oil comes from the Porec region of Croatia. Made from just one kind of olive, Leccino, it’s soft, fruity, and buttery. Outstanding on simple dishes, like fresh mozzarella with a few ripe tomatoes.

Weka Olive Oil comes to us from New Zealand by way of some former New Yorkers. It’s made with the varietals of olives you typically find in Tuscany and is likewise bold, grassy, a little bitter, yet soft and supple in the finish.

Capirete Olive Oil comes from the Andalusia region in southern Spain. It’s made from picual olives and has a nice green banana aroma and a mild but bright flavor that’s an excellent match for fresh greens—or a grilled steak.

Tondo Olive Oil is from the southeastern corner of Sicily. Made from Tonda Iblei olives, this one is complex and nuanced, starting soft and sweet then building to big, fruity, and finally slightly bitter notes.

Read more about all of our new oils in our pop-up shop on the Zingerman’s Mail Order website.

Food, Food Artisans

Pavlova: An Awesome Summer Treat!

Amazing Pavlova

There are lots of things I love about summer – my birthday lands on the first day, June 21st, flowering gardens, sultry nights with singing crickets. And now I have a new love—the summer dessert Pavlova!

Pavlova photo

Pavlova is the iconic dessert of Australia and New Zealand, named after the Russian Ballerina Anna Pavlova, who performed there in the 1920s. It is a light, luscious, fruity, sweet, cloud-like dessert. It begins with piping a round of vanilla meringue and baking it until the exterior is crispy, but the interior remains soft and smooth. It’s then covered with a thick wavy layer of unsweetened whipped cream (plenty of sugar in the meringue for the entire dessert) and generously decorated with colorful seasonal fruit. In the land down under, it’s most popular in the summer, so passion fruit, mango and kiwi are common choices. Christmas is a summer holiday there and Pavlova is regularly featured as dessert at the end of the main holiday meal. It looks indulgent—totally fitting for a celebratory meal.

We learned about Pavlova from Kirsty Carre, an Australian food writer who came to Zingerman’s Camp Bacon with her husband, Steve, last June. While in town she put on a demonstration class for students at BAKE! where she taught us about Pavlova. I fell in love with it right away! We had an extra one and I spent an hour walking around the bakery, a little reluctantly, sharing samples with everyone. Trust me, it’s good. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

You’ll find Pavlova at Zingerman’s Bakehouse this July and August, made with local summer fruit. Enjoy them while you can!
amy's-signature

Amy Emberling is Co-Managing Partner of Zingerman’s Bakehouse

Food, Food Artisans

This Week at Zingerman’s 6/30/15

 ZMO Summer Sale

Summer Sale and Olive Oil Pop Up Shop at Zingerman’s Mail Order

Great things are happening at Mail Order right now! The first is our annual Summer Sale, which features amazing deals on some of our favorites! Like Bonito Tinned Tuna, or our famous Zzang Bars, or Rustichella Italian Pastas. Check out the Summer Sale page for more!
The other noteworthy event is our Olive Oil Pop Up Shop, which contains some really excellent oils at very affordable prices. Domestic favorites like California’s Seka Hills, or La Sovana from Tuscany, or Crudo, a bold, spicy oil from the southeastern corner of Italy. Check out the rest of the selection at our Pop Up Shop!


1st Sunday Tour at Zingerman’s Creamery

Join our cheese and gelato makers on Sunday, July 5th, 2pm, for an hour long adventure of how we transform local milk into delicious cheese and gelato. On this tour, you will observe Mozzarella stretching, as well as experience truly fresh gelato, as well as taste some of our cow’s milk and goat’s milk cheeses while hearing directly from the makers how they are made. After the tour, make time for tasting our selection of American cheeses and provisions, as well as house made gelatos and sorbets in our cheese shop.

Reserve your seat here


Roadhouse BBQ Dinner

One of our favorite dinners of the summer, this year’s BBQ dinner will celebrate Chef Alex’s favorite dishes from across the country, focusing on his West Coast upbringing. Highlights from the menu include Grilled Figs and Country Ham, Spicy Smoked Almonds, Cedar Planked Salmon and a Beef Brisket Carving Station. Tuesday, July 7, 7pm. 

Reserve your seat here


Celebrating the Farmers Markets at Zingerman’s Creamery

We’ve picked up the best of the Farmers Markets produce, simply prepared and combined with cheeses we love! Fresh herb goat cheese, spring green salads, and more. Through the evening we’ll feature items from producers that we’ve met through the markets, delicious ways to combine fresh flavors with your favorite cheeses, and end the evening with a sweet treat of seasonal gelato made just for the tasting!

Reserve your seat here


Cornman Farms Cocktail Class: The Green Fairy

Absinthe is an anise-flavored herbal spirit with a long and tortured history. Strongly herb-flavored and often very high in alcohol, this spirit known as “the green fairy” was the drink of choice among the Bohemian set in Paris around the turn of the 20th century. Wrongly labeled as both a hallucinogenic and the cause of many social ills, Absinthe was subsequently banned in much of Europe and the United States for roughly a century. Recent changes in legislation on both sides of the pond have resurrected this intense yet delectable liquor. On Thursday, July 16, 7pm,  we will discuss the history of absinthe (and the wormwood it contains) while crafting three classic cocktails created around the previously-maligned spirit: the Asylum, the Death in the Afternoon, and the Corpse Reviver #2. The class includes instruction and discussion, three cocktails, tasty snacks prepared in the farmhouse kitchen, and recipes.

Reserve your seat here


Brewing methods class at Zingerman’s Coffee Company

Learn the keys to successful coffee brewing using a wide variety of brewing methods from filter drip to syphon pot. We will take a single coffee and brew it 6 to 8 different ways, each producing a unique taste. We’ll learn the proper proportions and technique for each and discuss the merits and differences of each style.

Reserve your seat here


White Wine & Cheese Tasting at Zingerman’s Creamery

Join us as we explore the beautiful variety of white wines produced in our great state of Michigan! From light, dry, crisp Pinots to sweet, full-bodied Gewurztraminer we will taste through some of our top white wine picks and pair them up with cheeses from the shop.

Reserve your seat here


Welcome to Cornman Farms tour

Our Welcome to Cornman Farms Tour is an idyllic and dynamic 90 minute introduction to the rich history, agricultural projects and humane raising of animals. Join us Wednesday, July 29, 6pm, for a look at our vegetable and herb gardens, goat milking operation and historic restored Farmhouse and Barn—and enjoy a meet-and-greet with our visionary Managing Partner, Kieron Hales.

Reserve your seat here

See you soon!

Food, Food Artisans

A Visit from Majid Mahjoub

This past Monday, we were privileged to have a visit from our friend, Majid Mahjoub, owner of Les Moulins Mahjoub, purveyors of fine Tunisian foods. Mr. Mahjoub was in town for our Taste of Traditional Tunisia at Zingerman’s Events on 4th during the evening. But first, he took some time to share his traditional foodways with Zingerman’s staff on Monday morning:

Introduction

Introduction

 

Majid Mahjoub makes a point

Majid Mahjoub makes a point

 

Demonstration

Demonstration

 

After a delicious tasting for staff and a brief respite, it was off to the Taste of Traditional Tunisia dinner at Zingerman’s Events on 4th:

The Menu

The Menu

 

Chef Rodger, Majid, and Ari introduce the meal

Chef Rodger, Majid, and Ari introduce the meal

 

Majid and Ari

Majid and Ari

 

Dattes Mariné: Medjool dates in citrus marinade

Dattes Mariné: Medjool dates in citrus marinade

 

IMG_8642

Mechouia: Grilled pepper, onion, eggplant, tomato served with Ortiz tuna

 

Digging in

Digging in

 

Slata Bisbas & Ouefá la Grobalia: Shaved radish & fennel in citrus vinaigrette along with a six-minute egg  atop tomato relish

Slata Bisbas & Ouefá la Grobalia: Shaved radish & fennel in citrus vinaigrette along with a six-minute egg atop tomato relish

 

M'soki:  Tunis lamb served in an herb broth with spring vegetables, finished with Harissa oil & fresh herbs

M’soki: Tunis lamb served in an herb broth with spring vegetables, finished with Harissa oil & fresh herbs

 

Onsa's Orange Semolina Cake with fresh mullberry jam

Onsa’s Orange Semolina Cake with fresh mulberry jam

 

Convivial companionship

Convivial companionship

 

Mmm!

Mmm!

 

Mahjoub foods are available at Zingerman's Deli

Mahjoub foods are available at Zingerman’s Deli

 

Documenting

Preserving the moment

 

A very big thank you to Majid Mahjoub for making the long journey to share his food and traditions with Zingerman’s!

See you soon! 

Food, Food Artisans

This Week at Zingerman’s 6/24/15

spirited cheese tasting

The Spirited Cheese Tasting at Zingerman’s Events on 4th

Join our cheesemongers Tonight, June 23, 7pm for a spirited evening as we explore the potential of combining a really good cheese plate with our favorite distilled beverages. Happy hour will never be the same and a dessert plate will take on new meaning after an evening comparing the traditions between distillation and cheese production. Whether you are looking for the perfect Father’s Day gift or just want to learn more about really good cheese and mixers with friends, this will be fun for all.

Reserve your seat here


ZingTrain Speaker Series: Anese Cavanaugh

Anese Cavanaugh knows that you are an impact machine! She believes you have super powers! In fact, Anese believes it so strongly that she came up with the IEP method to help you to tap into that impact machine, that superpower. Because it is totally in your control!

Here’s the thing. Whether it’s your boss your interacting with, or your peers or customers or family, or your dog for that matter – how you Show Up is influencing how they feel, how you feel and ultimately the results you get. Our words only determine 7% of our impact, the other 93% is in how we Show Up. In our intentions, energy, and presence (our IEP).

Join us Wednesday, June 24, 8am, to learn how to strengthen your own IEP (from the inside out) so that you can create the results and relationships you want in a way that leaves you buzzing and blazing versus bummed, busy, and burnt out. And change your relationship with busy, burnout and other things that bum you out, once and for all

Reserve your seat here


Summer Sale and Olive Oil Pop Up Shop at Zingerman’s Mail Order

Great things are happening at Mail Order right now! The first is our annual Summer Sale, which features amazing deals on some of our favorites! Like Bonito Tinned Tuna, or our famous Zzang Bars, or Rustichella Italian Pastas. Check out the Summer Sale page for more!
The other noteworthy event is our Olive Oil Pop Up Shop, which contains some really excellent oils at very affordable prices. Domestic favorites like California’s Seka Hills, or La Sovana from Tuscany, or Crudo, a bold, spicy oil from the southeastern corner of Italy. Check out the rest of the selection at our Pop Up Shop!


1st Sunday Tour at Zingerman’s Creamery

Join our cheese and gelato makers on Sunday, July 5th, 2pm, for an hour long adventure of how we transform local milk into delicious cheese and gelato. On this tour, you will observe Mozzarella stretching, as well as experience truly fresh gelato, as well as taste some of our cow’s milk and goat’s milk cheeses while hearing directly from the makers how they are made. After the tour, make time for tasting our selection of American cheeses and provisions, as well as house made gelatos and sorbets in our cheese shop.

Reserve your seat here


Roadhouse BBQ Dinner

One of our favorite dinners of the summer, this year’s BBQ dinner will celebrate Chef Alex’s favorite dishes from across the country, focusing on his West Coast upbringing. Highlights from the menu include Grilled Figs and Country Ham, Spicy Smoked Almonds, Cedar Planked Salmon and a Beef Brisket Carving Station. Tuesday, July 7, 7pm. 

Reserve your seat here


Celebrating the Farmers Markets at Zingerman’s Creamery

We’ve picked up the best of the Farmers Markets produce, simply prepared and combined with cheeses we love! Fresh herb goat cheese, spring green salads, and more. Through the evening we’ll feature items from producers that we’ve met through the markets, delicious ways to combine fresh flavors with your favorite cheeses, and end the evening with a sweet treat of seasonal gelato made just for the tasting!

Reserve your seat here


Cornman Farms Cocktail Class: The Green Fairy

Absinthe is an anise-flavored herbal spirit with a long and tortured history. Strongly herb-flavored and often very high in alcohol, this spirit known as “the green fairy” was the drink of choice among the Bohemian set in Paris around the turn of the 20th century. Wrongly labeled as both a hallucinogenic and the cause of many social ills, Absinthe was subsequently banned in much of Europe and the United States for roughly a century. Recent changes in legislation on both sides of the pond have resurrected this intense yet delectable liquor. On Thursday, July 16, 7pm,  we will discuss the history of absinthe (and the wormwood it contains) while crafting three classic cocktails created around the previously-maligned spirit: the Asylum, the Death in the Afternoon, and the Corpse Reviver #2. The class includes instruction and discussion, three cocktails, tasty snacks prepared in the farmhouse kitchen, and recipes.

Reserve your seat here

See you soon!

Food, Food Artisans

This Week at Zingerman’s 6/16/15

Mahjoub illustration

A Taste of Traditional Tunisia at Zingerman’s Events on 4th

With special guest, Majid Mahjoub, owner of Les Moulins Mahjoub in Tunisia

One of the most exciting events on our calendar this year! We’ve been waiting three years for Majid and Onsa Mahjoub to make a return visit to Ann Arbor. Their last visit was fabulous that many who attended are still asking when we can do it again. The answer: Monday June 22, 7 pm. The Mahjoub family are growers and producers of some of our favorite products. From organic olive oil and sun dried tomato paste, to amazing harissa sauce, hand rolled, sun dried m’hamsa couscous, naturally cured olives, wild capers and much more. And all will be on the table for this dinner, along with the best of the season’s meat, fish, and vegetables.
*Note: This event is SOLD OUT.

Get on the waitlist here


The Spirited Cheese Tasting at Zingerman’s Events on 4th

Join our cheesemongers Tuesday, June 23, 7pm for a spirited evening as we explore the potential of combining a really good cheese plate with our favorite distilled beverages. Happy hour will never be the same and a dessert plate will take on new meaning after an evening comparing the traditions between distillation and cheese production. Whether you are looking for the perfect Father’s Day gift or just want to learn more about really good cheese and mixers with friends, this will be fun for all.

Reserve your seat here


ZingTrain Speaker Series: Anese Cavanaugh

Anese Cavanaugh knows that you are an impact machine! She believes you have super powers! In fact, Anese believes it so strongly that she came up with the IEP method to help you to tap into that impact machine, that superpower. Because it is totally in your control!

Here’s the thing. Whether it’s your boss your interacting with, or your peers or customers or family, or your dog for that matter – how you Show Up is influencing how they feel, how you feel and ultimately the results you get. Our words only determine 7% of our impact, the other 93% is in how we Show Up. In our intentions, energy, and presence (our IEP).

Join us Wednesday, June 24, 8am, to learn how to strengthen your own IEP (from the inside out) so that you can create the results and relationships you want in a way that leaves you buzzing and blazing versus bummed, busy, and burnt out. And change your relationship with busy, burnout and other things that bum you out, once and for all

Reserve your seat here


1st Sunday Tour at Zingerman’s Creamery

Join our cheese and gelato makers on Sunday, July 5th, 2pm, for an hour long adventure of how we transform local milk into delicious cheese and gelato. On this tour, you will observe Mozzarella stretching, as well as experience truly fresh gelato, as well as taste some of our cow’s milk and goat’s milk cheeses while hearing directly from the makers how they are made. After the tour, make time for tasting our selection of American cheeses and provisions, as well as house made gelatos and sorbets in our cheese shop.

Reserve your seat here


Roadhouse BBQ Dinner

One of our favorite dinners of the summer, this year’s BBQ dinner will celebrate Chef Alex’s favorite dishes from across the country, focusing on his West Coast upbringing. Highlights from the menu include Grilled Figs and Country Ham, Spicy Smoked Almonds, Cedar Planked Salmon and a Beef Brisket Carving Station. Tuesday, July 7, 7pm. 

Reserve your seat here


Celebrating the Farmers Markets at Zingerman’s Creamery

We’ve picked up the best of the Farmers Markets produce, simply prepared and combined with cheeses we love! Fresh herb goat cheese, spring green salads, and more. Through the evening we’ll feature items from producers that we’ve met through the markets, delicious ways to combine fresh flavors with your favorite cheeses, and end the evening with a sweet treat of seasonal gelato made just for the tasting!

Reserve your seat here


Cornman Farms Cocktail Class: The Green Fairy

Absinthe is an anise-flavored herbal spirit with a long and tortured history. Strongly herb-flavored and often very high in alcohol, this spirit known as “the green fairy” was the drink of choice among the Bohemian set in Paris around the turn of the 20th century. Wrongly labeled as both a hallucinogenic and the cause of many social ills, Absinthe was subsequently banned in much of Europe and the United States for roughly a century. Recent changes in legislation on both sides of the pond have resurrected this intense yet delectable liquor. On Thursday, July 16, 7pm,  we will discuss the history of absinthe (and the wormwood it contains) while crafting three classic cocktails created around the previously-maligned spirit: the Asylum, the Death in the Afternoon, and the Corpse Reviver #2. The class includes instruction and discussion, three cocktails, tasty snacks prepared in the farmhouse kitchen, and recipes.

Reserve your seat here

See you soon!