Food, Food Artisans

The Bridgewater Log

September’s Cheese of the Month is a new take on an old favorite.

This month marks the 12th anniversary of our Bridgewater cheese, so we’re celebrating this event with the launch of the Bridgewater round’s sibling, the Bridgewater Log. This is technically the same cheese, but in a larger two-pound log. The log has less of a cheese to penicillium rind ratio, and it’s more convenient for buying as much or as little as you need. Slice it thick or thin to top crostini, salads or pasta.

The Bridgewater has come a long way since its rather inauspicious beginning and remains, to this day, the only cheese we’ve created purely by mistake. One morning at the original Creamery location in Manchester, MI, we walked into the dairy and discovered three bags of cream cheese curd that we’d missed from the day before. The curd had over-drained and was too dry for cream cheese, so we added some fresh-cracked pepper, formed it into rounds, and covered the surface with the same penicillium used for Brie cheese. Within about ten days, the cheese was covered with the fluffy, white penicillium mold and we had our first batch of Bridgewater.

The next challenge was, “Would anyone like it?” So, I went to the Deli to have the cheese buyer, Carlos Souffront, taste it and give his feedback. Unfortunately he was out of town, so back I went to the creamery. About two weeks later, my daughter asked me why the car smelled funny and that was when I discovered the now-aged Bridgewater in the trunk of my car. I again drove to the Deli and had Carlos taste the cheese (I probably should have mentioned that the cheese rounds had been sitting in my car for two weeks). He really liked the flavor, and we started making Bridgewater that week. We also found a better place to age it.

The Bridgewater remains one of our most popular and versatile cheeses. When young, the paste is velvety and milky, with the earthiness of the fresh cracked Tellicherry pepper and the mushroom flavor of the penicillium rind. When it’s aged well, the cheese becomes more dense and the pepper flavor intensifies, creating a great accent to cooked pasta or served over a summer salad.

The new Bridgewater Log

The new Bridgewater Log

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Food, Food Artisans

Help Us Celebrate Ypsi-Arbor Beer Week!

Stop by Zingerman’s Creamery for samples of great local beers!

Since we started selling beer, wine and mead at our shop at the Zingerman’s Creamery, we’ve met a lot of Michigan’s amazing brewers and tasted a lot of great Michigan beer! We are incredibly lucky to have so many great homegrown brews here in the mitten!

So, we’re helping celebrate the great craft beer culture in Michigan by hosting a series of tastings in conjunction with Ypsi-Arbor Beer Week!

The brewfest lasts August 1-9, and we’ll be giving out samples of great Michigan beer, along with samples of of great cheeses to go with that beer! Stop in for the cheese, stay for the beer!

See you soon! 

Food, Food Artisans

Fantastic Ricotta Cheese at Zingerman’s Creamery

ricotta-cloud-cowBellwether Farms Jersey Cow’s Milk Ricotta 

The food world here has come an enormously long way in the thirty-two years we’ve been in business. Ingredients that for years we could only get by going to Europe—padron peppers, fresh sardines, great naturally-leavened breads, Iberico Bellota ham, etc.—are now routinely part of our work and our eating here at Zingerman’s. In fact, I’m so spoiled that when I go to Europe now I often lament the lack of high quality ingredients. Sure, in the right places you can get great food, but the average offerings even in France and Italy these days more often than not aren’t all that amazing.

That said, there are still a few things that are way better on the other side of the Atlantic. For most of my life, ricotta was one of those things. While there are some very reasonable offerings on the American market made by good people whose work I very much appreciate, I would respectfully say that we haven’t had access to ricotta with the kind of flavor and texture I love so much in Italy.

Here’s what I wrote on the subject many years ago:

Actually I can almost tell you to the day when it was that I had this ricotta revelation. It was the first week of November 1992, right before Bill Clinton defeated George Bush I for president. I was down in Rome to visit the people who make our Pecorino Romano. As we toured the Pecorino production, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a couple of workers stirring a large, steel, steam-shrouded kettle off to one side of the room. A few minutes later they start to slowly scoop out small mounds of soft white cheese from the kettles. These in turn are set softly into a series of small baskets—some white plastic, some natural wicker—sitting alongside each vat.

“What are they doing over there?” I asked my host. “Oh that? That’s ricotta,” he said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. 

We walked over to where the baskets were draining and offered me a taste. It was warm, lighter in the hand than it looked to be. I tasted it and had one of those “aha” eating experiences that stay with me forever. This stuff was incredible. Light, puffy, fluffy, sweet, so delicious that I could have just kept eating it and eating it all day.

For most of the last two decades, one of the best parts of going to Italy was that I got to eat a lot of that sort of really good ricotta. A few years ago, my ricotta fix became easier to fill when Liam Callahan at Bellwether Farms in Petaluma started to make what I could call Italian-quality fresh ricotta.

Long time Bay Area food writer and well-known cheese aficionado Janet Fletcher wrote about Bellwether’s work a while back. “Several years ago, on vacation in Sicily,” she said, “I took a daylong cooking class withAnna Tasca Lanza, the aristocratic proprietor of Regaleali, a venerable wine estate. I still recall one of the pasta dishes she made by tossing wild mustard greens with penne and the fresh sheep’s-milk ricotta made on the premises. When I got home and tried to duplicate it, I didn’t like the results because our domestic ricotta was so different. Sicilian ricotta, thinned with some of the pasta water, produced a creamy sauce with a crème fraîche taste. American ricotta was too sweet and grainy. Recently I made that recipe again, using a new cow’s-milk ricotta from Sonoma County’s Bellwether Farms. The dish tasted almost as if the Marchesa Tasca Lanza herself had made it.”

All of which meant that for the last few years, on my frequent trips to the Bay Area, I would buy up as much of the Bellwether ricotta as I could. A few weeks ago I walked into Zingerman’s Creamery and much to my surprise, just to the left of the beer and wine shelves, was a container of Bellwether ricotta. Turns out we can now get it weekly through a distributor in Chicago. What a totally happy surprise! I’ve bought five containers of it in the last three weeks.

“In Italy,” long time cheesemaker Lino Esposito once explained to me, “we have three types of ricotta. We have the southern ricotta, which is made of sheep’s milk. Then there is the ricotta of the islands—on Sardinia they make a blend of sheep’s milk and goat’s milk. And then there is the ricotta of the north, which is made from cow’s milk.” What Janet Fletcher would have had on Sicily is likely the first on Lino’s list. Bellwether’s is the third variety—cow’s milk ricotta made in the style of the north.

Long time specialty food guru Darrell Corti from Sacramento told me years ago that “eating great fresh ricotta is like eating clouds” and I’ll stand by his statement. I could eat the Bellwether ricotta by the spoonful. Actually I do. But it’s also excellent with pretty much everything! On toast, on pasta, in pasta (super great for stuffing ravioli or anything of that sort). Topped with a great honey (the Deli has some amazing ones—try the new blackberry honey that just arrived from the Pacific Northwest) it’s a fabulous dessert! Be great drizzled with that amazing dark cane syrup we’re getting from Charles Poirier in Louisiana. Now that I think about it some of this ricotta, a little Lutenitsa and a few slices of the sesame semolina bread would be a beautiful light lunch.

In 1986 Cindy Callahan was looking for a way to keep the grasses on their pasture trimmed and decided to try using sheep. Great natural grass cutting! The sheep that started as organic lawn mowers were also of course milk providers and soon thereafter she and her son Liam started to make cheese. Four years later Bellwether Farms was the first licensed sheep dairy in the state of California.

“Making ricotta was a natural extension of making aged sheep cheeses,” Liam laid out. “All the creameries we saw in Italy made ricotta with their whey and it made sense for us to do so as well. Once we started making our cow’s milk cheeses I developed our recipe for our Jersey whey ricotta. We take great care in making our ricotta and within the last 18 months added a whole milk Jersey milk ricotta to our lineup.” The latter is the one we have in stock right now.

“Our ricotta gets its flavor and necessary acidity from being cultured rather than adding acid (vinegar, citric acid, etc.).” Liam told me. I think this lets us have the best texture (really difficult to achieve because the Jersey milk is so high in protein) and by far the most flavor of any ricotta out there.” I agree fully.

On ricotta-making days the Callahan crew drives up the road to get the fresh milk. “Our Jersey milk producer milks around 200 cows but we only buy about half of it. They have been there farming for just over 100 years now,” Liam said, “and they still have three generations actively working the farm.” The milk is gently pasteurized and then made into cheese that same day. As with our Creamery’s great goat cheese (I had a one day-old fresh City Goat yesterday that was truly exceptional) it’s done completely by hand. They stir the curd by hand to start the process. When the cultured milk starts to float in the kettle it’s skimmed off and gently placed into the special plastic baskets in which it’s shipped. The handwork isn’t just romantic. It protects the texture and flavor of the delicate curd and it makes a really big difference in the cheese.

Ig Vella (the man known for his incredible California Dry Jack cheese) told me years ago about the days when the family dairy in Sonoma included regular ricotta making in its repertoire. “My uncle was an excellent ricotta maker,” he told me once with obvious pride and a touch of sadness. “In those days you had to keep the Fridays”—the day of the week on which Catholics weren’t allowed to eat meat—”so that was the biggest day’s production. It was fabulous cheese. But the state ruined it when they told us we had to pack the ricotta as soon as it was made. It was never the same from that point on. It just couldn’t drain right.” When his uncle died in 1963, the Vellas stopped making ricotta. The Callahans have fixed this problem by ladling the fresh cheese into perforated plastic baskets that allow the whey to drain while still protecting the cheese inside a shippable, state-approved, plastic-sealed-for-safety package.

This should be a good season for us as ricotta eaters. As Liam explains, “The seasons of the year affect the milk from both the cows and the sheep. In the spring the solids drop but the grassy aromas increase as they are in the fresh grass. The milk from the Jersey cows gets even more yellow color. When the animals are on the fresh grass the curd tends to be a bit softer.”

Elizabeth Minchilli recently wrote about a really nice dish of Tuscan black kale, stemmed, lightly cooked in olive oil with a bit of fresh chopped garlic and salt (when the kale is hot, add a bit of water to wilt it while it’s cooking). When the kale is tender, chop it (the food processor is fine if you pulse, not puree) and add, then chopped fairly fine and mixed with fresh ricotta and grated Pecorino Toscano. Toss it with hot, short pasta. The Baia pac-macs are great as are Martelli maccheroni or Primograno penne lisce.

Another great pasta dish on my ricotta-fixated mind is also from Elizabeth (I told you she’s good!)—pasta with ricotta, zucchini and mint. Start with sliced zucchini cooked slowly for a long time in a lot of good olive oil until they caramelize. Cook pasta really al dente. Take out a bit of the cooking water and mix with a good bit of the Bellwether ricotta. When the pasta is very al dente pull it out of the cooking pot and add to the zucchini. Cook for a minute or two stirring regularly. Add the ricotta-sauce to the pan, stir once or twice to warm it and then pour the whole thing into warm serving bowls. Top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and plenty of ground black pepper.

I’ll leave the last words on this to Liam. “Ricotta is a deceptively simple cheese,” he makes clear. “It really is unfortunate that the industrial versions can still use the name, but isn’t that so often the case?  This cheese holds a place close to my heart because of the many months of trial and error my mom and I spent at our 30-gallon test kettle making batches hoping to unlock the secret to making this with no added acid.  I am sure you have experienced the gratification of seeing something start to work and then become something amazing.  Each time I see the expression on a person’s face the first time they try it I am reminded how fortunate I am to be able to do what I do.”

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Food, Food Artisans, ZingLife

Did Someone Say Pimento Cheese?

Pimento w bread

by Tracie Wolfe,  Zingerman’s Department for People

When I first started working at Zingerman’s 5-1/2 years ago, one of the first things I tasted was the Zingerman’s Creamery pimento cheese.  It was a life changing experience to say the least. I had never been a fan of pimentos and had been reluctant to try it, but now I can’t get enough of it. It’s not just the Creamery’s recipe either — the Zingerman’s Deli, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, and Zingerman’s Mail Order versions are just as great.

My favorite part of the cheese has to be the 1-year cheddar. What I love about the Creamery recipe is that there are big chunks of cheese — you can really sink your teeth into them, and it melts in your mouth.

Ok, so the Creamery recommends that the best way to serve their pimento cheese is to spread it over pretzel rolls made at the Zingerman’s Bakehouse.  Um, yes… is there another way? Well, there are but the pretzels are my favorite by far. I always get them sliced — they are the perfect bite size way to get the pimento cheese into your mouth. The saltiness of the soft pretzels makes such a unique combination of flavors in your mouth.

Is there any way that you shouldn’t eat pimento cheese? NO. The Roadhouse pimento mac n’ cheese, especially when it is extra caramelized, is like heaven on earth. I actually made this at home and was amazed at how great it came out when I’m not anywhere near a professional cook. I think it’s just so good that you can’t do wrong by it! What else goes with Pimento cheese EVERYTHING. I put it on scrambled eggs, on a bagel, on a burger, on a hot dog… seriously, you can put it on anything. I venture to guess that it would even taste good on chocolate — ha!

Ok, so let’s be honest, all I really need to pair it with is a spoon and I’d be a very happy girl. Thank you Zingerman’s for this amazing, mind-blowing, scrumptious and life-changing recipe!

Food, Food Artisans

Valentine’s Day Chocolates at Zingerman’s Next Door

Top Picks from Emily:

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    • Pralus’ Chocolate Pyramids and Mini Pyramids — This pyramid of 75% chocolate, composed of some Pralus’ tropical origins, offers an exotic, chocolate-y vacation. Taste your way from toasty espresso Ecuador to jammy Madagascar. Break each tasting square of the Miniature Pyramids in half and you’ve got a romantic getaway for two!
    • Enric Rovira Spanish Drinking Chocolate — What better way to cozy up with your loved one than with an intoxicatingly thick & rich hot chocolate? – Available in sweet and smooth Traditional 55%; bittersweet and decadent Amargo 70 % dark chocolate.
    • Baking Chocolate — Looking to delight your sweetheart with a homemade indulgence? We recommend taking a simple recipe and seeking out the best ingredients you can find. Using these knock-out baking chocolates in your Valentine’s treats has been known to induce swooning. Choose from:Michel Cluizel Minigrams (chocolate drops) available in milk, 63%, 72%, 85%, or white. Askinosie Cocoa Powder. or Mindo Chocolate Maker’s Baking Disks.
    • Pralus’ Diabolical Bar —  One bite and you’ll understand; this is true love. Hazelnut & almond cream, dotted with whole Piedmont hazelnuts tucked inside milk chocolate.
    • Fran’s Salt Caramels —  A perennial favorite here at Zingerman’s, copper kettle cooked caramels, dipped in either dark and topped with grey salt or milk chocolate and smoked salt.
    • Chocolat Moderne Chocolate Covered Cherries —  Amarena Mon Amour! Joan specifically selects Italian Amarena cherries for their pleasantly tart flavor; they plump up beautifully during a bath of vodka syrup before being sealed up in a pearlescent dark chocolate shell. Available by the piece, as well as in ribboned 12-piece coral gift boxes.
    • Custom Box of Chocolates —  Our truffle case will be lovingly overflowing with confections of all kinds, ready to be for your sweetheart’s delight. Come visit us in the Next Door Chocolate Corner where we’ll craft your dream box!

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  • Chocolate Dipped Strawberries —  Plump ripe strawberries dipped in fine chocolate, adorned with either white chocolate, toasted coconut or slivered almonds.

Pre-order Valentine’s Day Chocolate Dipped Strawberries and Chocolate Covered Marshmallows, call 734-663-3354. Only sold in the truffle case this time of year, a real treat! Available for pick up at Zingerman’s Next Door: 2/13 through 2/16.


Valentine’s Day Chocolate & Bourbon Cocktail Hour at Zingerman’s Events on 4th – TWO Seatings!

Join us on Valentine’s Day for a sample flight of bourbon hand-picked by our very own in-house aficionados, paired with chocolate and confections made by Joan Coukos of Chocolat Moderne. The perfect complement to a dinner with your sweetheart.

reserve your 6pm-7pm seat here

reserve your 8pm-9pm seat here


Chocolate and Cheese Tasting at Zingerman’s Creamery

Join us on Valentine’s Day at 6pm for a night of tasting delicious handpicked cheeses and freshly made chocolate. We welcome special guests from Zingermans Candy Manufactory to bring the worlds of sweet & salty together for a mind-blowing chocolate and cheese event of a lifetime. With cheeses ranging from nutty, hard-crystalized Goudas to fresh, buttery-soft ripened cheeses, and fresh chocolates made especially for the event! Don’t miss it!

reserve your seat here

Food, Food Artisans, ZingLife

Beat the Winter Blahs with Zingerman’s Events

Take a Class at BAKE!

BAKE! is our hands-on teaching bakery in Ann Arbor. At BAKE! we share our knowledge and love of baking with the home baker community, seeking to preserve baking traditions and inspire new ones. We offer dozens of different bread, pastry and cake classes in our very own teaching kitchens.

Check out the full schedule and register for classes here


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9th Annual African American Foodways Dinner

Tuesday January 14, 7:00pm
Zingerman’s Roadhouse
The African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County presents: A Culinary Cultural Experience

Our community is rich with African American culture, history and knowledge and at our 9th Annual African American Dinner we will celebrate the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County. The AACHM was established in 1993 to research, collect, preserve and exhibit cultural and historical materials about the life and work of Black Americans in Washtenaw County.
From recently filmed Living Oral History interviews, to the Underground Railroad Tour, discover what local African-Americans witnessed, experienced, and contributed to building the community we share today. Chef Alex has created a menu highlighting the journey of seven of our families, sharing their history through food.

Reserve your seat here


Ari-Full-Front-credit-Benjamin-WeatherstonBreakfast, Books and Business with Ari Weinzweig

Thursday, January 17, 7:30am-9am
Zingerman’s Roadhouse
Breakfast served at 7:30 am, Event is from 8:00 am to 9:00 am.

Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 3, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Managing Ourselves includes Secrets #30-39 and will explore our belief that some of the most important work we do to build great organizations and lead rewarding lives is the work we need to do inside. The book includes essays on our approach to managing ourselves, mindfulness, leadership at the four levels of organizational growth, personal visioning, why the way the leader thinks will be manifested in the way the organization runs, creating a creative organization and more. You’ll also hear from Zingerman’s staff, we’ll be inviting employees from around the organization to engage Ari in a dialogue about Zingerman’s, building the business, being part of this organization and how you can apply Zingerman’s approaches to help strengthen your organization.

Reserve your seat here


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Home Espresso Class

Sunday, January 19, 1-3pm
Zingerman’s Coffee Company

Get the most out of your home espresso machine. Learn more about what goes into making a café- quality espresso. We will start with an overview of the “4 Ms” of making espresso, followed by tasting, demonstrations and some hands-on practice. We will also cover some machine maintenance basics as time allows. This is a very interactive workshop and seating is limited to six people.

Reserve your seat here


USA-map-states-outlinedCheese from the “Flyover” States

Friday, January 17, 7:00pm
Zingerman’s Creamery

Did you know that cheese is made in Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri Come taste some of the best cheese being made in the U.S. from the most unlikely places. We will taste 7 great American cheeses that you are unlikely to find anywhere else.

Reserve your seat here


american_spoon_sour_cherries_low-resThe Secret Life of Preserves: Featuring Noah Marshall-Rashid from American Spoon

Tuesday, February 4th, 630pm
Zingerman’s Events on Fourth

For over thirty years, the folks at American Spoon in Petoskey, have elevated preserves beyond the supermarket variety that sits for months on the refrigerator door. Noah and his family use only fresh fruit and craft their preserves by hand to preserve the maximum amount of flavor from early glow strawberries, damson plums, sour cherries and more. Spend a cozy winter evening with Noah to hear the American Spoon story and taste the spreads that have made American Spoon a Michigan icon.

Reserve your seat here


bourbon-chocolate

Valentine’s Day Chocolate & Bourbon Cocktail Hour – 2 seatings!

Friday, February 14, 6pm to 7pm OR 8pm to 9pm
Zingerman’s Events on Fourth

A sample flight of bourbon hand-picked by our very own in-house aficionados, paired with chocolate and confections made by Joan Coukos of Chocolat Moderne. The perfect complement to a dinner with your sweetheart.

Reserve your seat here:
1st seating at 6pm 2nd seating at 8pm


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Brewing Methods

Sunday, February 16, 1-3pm
Zingerman’s Coffee Company

Learn the keys to successful 
coffee brewing using a wide
 variety of brewing methods from
filter drip to the 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


the-fresh-honey-cookbookSingle Varietal Honeys: Featuring Author Laurey Masterton

Tuesday, February 18th, 6:30pm
Zingerman’s Events on Fourth

Single varietal honeys come from bees that eat the nectar of only one kind of flower. Laurey Masterton, author of The Fresh Honey Cookbook: 84 Recipes from a Beekeeper’s Kitchen, will guide us through tastes of her favorite single varietals, and we’ll experience the amazing differences in flavor that each delivers. She’ll also help us understand how each varietal can be used to create unique and tasty dishes. If you thought all honeys are pretty much the same, this is the tasting for you.

Reserve your seat here


the-fresh-honey-cookbookA Beekeeper’s Dinner Featuring Author Laurey Masterton

Wednesday, February 19, 7pm
Zingerman’s Roadhouse

Honey is honey, just that simple. But the life of a bee and making the honey is not. Did you know a hive of bees will fly over 55,000 miles to bring you one pound of honey? And that one pound of honey came from two million flowers? Considering one honeybee will only make about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her entire lifetime, that is not a simple task.
Chef and spokesperson for The National Honey Board, Laurey Masterson, author of The Fresh Honey Cookbook, joins us to enthusiastically teach us the benefits of using and eating honey. We’ll be tasting different honey varietals, honey from different regions and of course, using honey to prepare many of Laurey’s vibrant recipes and delivering amazing dishes to the table.

Reserve your seat here


coffee-cupping-alan-j08Comparative Cupping

Sunday, February 23, 1-3pm
Zingerman’s Coffee Company

Sample coffees from the Africa, Central and South Americas, and the Asian Pacific. We will taste and evaluate these coffees with the techniques and tools used by professional tasters. This is an eye-opening introduction of the world of coffee.

Reserve your seat here