Food, Food Artisans

Ari Talks About Greek Mountain Tea

What’s in your cup?

Sitting in a café in the town of Metsovo in northern Greece many years ago, I innocently ordered tea. I was expecting the usual uninteresting bag of commercial black tea that I’ve come to expect almost everywhere in Europe. But before the waiter could leave the table, my late but much-loved friend Daphne Zepos (see the Epilogue in Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading. Part 3 for much more on this amazing woman) asked me if I wanted “regular tea or mountain tea?” Never having heard of the latter, but ever the inquisitive eater and drinker, I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Why not? I’ll try mountain tea.Greek-Wild-Tea-copy

A few minutes later it arrived—a bouquet of long light green stalks with tiny flowers and buds attached steeping hot water. Its aroma was excellent—a little sweet, a touch of mountain meadow. It has light amber color and a compelling, sweet perfume and a lovely, light, naturally sweet flavor that hints of thyme, lemon and anise.

In Greek, the mountain tea is known as tsai tou vounou (“TSAH-ee too voo-NOO”). After literally months of trying to find out the English name I’ve gotten that what they serve is called Diktamus. Others have said it’s actually called Sideritis or ironwort. It’s a hardy, flowering perennial that’s well suited to survive with only minimal water and rocky soil. Whatever it is, it’s worth trying if you’re looking for an herbal brew to experiment with. To brew it, you simply break up the branches, then boil them for about 5 minutes in water, then strain and serve. Like some green and oolong teas, you can get more than one brew from each bunch of buds.

Our terrific Greek mountain tea is coming through our new-found food friend, Vivianna Karamanis, who’s got an eye and a palate for extremely excellent products (try some of the roasted pepper-tomato sauce we’re getting from her at the Deli). This wild Greek Mountain tea is from the Pindos mountains in northwest Greece, where it’s gathered by hand over 3000 feet up. Only the flowers and the small bit of the most tender stems are used. More commercial brands will include much longer pieces of stem which also tend to woodiness and are less sweet.

It brews up into a light golden liquid that has a naturally sweet flavor. In Greece it’s consumed as much for health as for pleasure. It’s an old school remedy for colds, muscle pain, and more. Wild grown herbs like this are generally acknowledged to be more potent in that regard—the cultivation of plants doesn’t quite replicate what happens when nature is left to her devices. The high altitude growth tends to concentrate essential oils even further. Vivianna’s mountain tea is also certified organic. Many Greeks like to add a bit of thyme honey to sweeten it further but I drink it as it is. Great with a bit of a biscuit from the Bakehouse or some toast and jam.

ari's-signature

Food, Food Artisans

This Week at Zingerman’s 7/7/15

Farmers Market Creamery

Celebrating the Farmers Markets at Zingerman’s Creamery

We love our Farmer’s Markets! And we’re showing our love with a tasting this Friday, July 10, 6pm featuring the amazing produce from our neighbors at the Farmers Markets! With great items from Corridor Sausage Company, Beau Bien Fine Foods, The Brinery, and Boblin Honey it’s going to be a super tasty evening! If that’s not enough, we’ll end the evening with a sweet treat of seasonal gelato made just for the tasting!

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!


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

Honey Tasting with Slow Food Huron Valley

Join us and “Bee” Social!

Slow Food Huron Valley (SFHV) andAnn Arbor Backyard Beekeepers (A2B2) will be hosting a potluck on Tuesday, July 14, 530p – 9pm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

From SFHV: 

Slow Food Huron Valley (SFHV) and Ann Arbor Backyard Beekeepers (A2B2) are joining forces for a potluck from 5:30 until 6:45pm. This will be informal and will allow for those who cannot make it before 6:15 or so to join when you are able to come. Bring a salad, main dish, or dessert that incorporates honey or is seasonal.  You’ll have a chance to view the hives in the apiary if you wish.  
Introductions will follow at 6:45pm, then at 7pm, Zingerman’s Deli managing partner Grace Singleton will lead a honey tasting, exploring several varieties of unique honey from bees near and far.
A2B2 members are invited to bring a jar of honey to include in the tasting; members are also invited to bring their bee-related wares to sell (tables will be available).

This event is FREE and welcome to all members and non-members!

Honeycomb

Lovely honeycomb

For more information, please visit theSlow Food Huron Valley (SFHV) or Ann Arbor Backyard Beekeepers (A2B2) websites.

See you there! 

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!