Food, Food Artisans

Zingerman’s Welcomes Épices de Cru

Spice Trekkers share the love

This week we’ve been very fortunate to welcome our friends the de Vienne family for a several days of talking, eating, learning, and laughter. Based in Monréal, the Spice Trekkers have been encouraging people to learn about spices and grind their own for over a decade. “Spices have an undeserved reputation for being complicated,” says founder Ethné de Vienne: “It seems like people are waiting for permission to get creative with spices. Spices have few rules. We just want to tell people it’ll be fine, just start cooking!”

We thought it would be great if they could show us what they mean, so we asked them to visit Ann Arbor for a series of workshops aimed at exploring the use of whole spices in cooking. In addition, they shared their knowledge with Zingerman’s guests in special dinners at the Roadhouse, and the Deli, as well as a class at Zingerman’s BAKE!

Here are some highlights:

IMG_6591

Philipe de Vinne, Alex, Justin

IMG_6418

IMG_6477

Ethné de Vienne

IMG_6454

IMG_6436

IMG_6576

IMG_6569

IMG_6584

IMG_6553

IMG_6540
Merci beaucoup amis!

Food, Food Artisans

Maddie and Matzo Ball Soup Memories

Maddie’s Matzo Ball Ritual

Back home in Illinois, in one town over from mine, centered right dab in the middle of Old Orchard mall, resides my childhood deli, The Bagel. The place hasn’t changed much throughout my lifetime. All of the servers have been there forever and recognize you the instant you walk through the door. A complimentary silver platter of deli pickles and a basket brimming with bagel chips and Kaiser rolls are still presented to you when you sit down at your table. The glass cases at the deli counter house the same array of layer cakes, cookies, and the largest collection of chocolate covered dessert items I’ve ever seen.

The encyclopedic menu hasn’t changed much either, with enough options that you could eat something different everyday for years, and still have more things to try. In spite of all of these options, my selections have remained consistent since I was eight years old: Reuben or turkey club, chopped salad, obligatory side order of French fries, and matzo ball soup.matzo-ball-soup

It was at the Bagel that my love of delis was officially affirmed and, looking back, one of the main reasons I think I was drawn to work at Zingerman’s Delicatessen six years ago. While the food and the people are obviously the hallmarks of any great deli, what I have grown to love about this type of restaurant in general are the rituals that people develop there. It is this subject that’s been at the front of my mind this week with the arrival of Passover, a holiday centered on the observance of rituals.

Throughout my time at Zingerman’s, I’ve developed a long list of my own personal rituals. Of the 100+ sandwiches on the menu, I pretty much always order the #73 (Tarb’s Tenacious Tenure). I like to sit in the same window seat in the Next Door (the second one back from the front door). And I absolutely must have a sesame bagel and cream cheese for breakfast at work on Sundays. Looking back, it makes sense that I’m wired this way because much of my affinity for ritual was harnessed back when I was a kid during weekly visits to the Bagel. I could probably list off an entire page’s worth of traditions from there, but the one that always sticks out to me was eating the matzo ball soup from my lineup of foods mentioned above. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. I had a system and always found joy in executing it the same way each and every time.

Served in a very shallow ceramic bowl, the Bagel ladles in enough of their golden chicken broth until it’s just about to overflow. One enormous matzo ball is placed smack in the middle (for visual size reference, think of an orange or an onion), the bowl is centered on a plate for balance, and the whole thing is sent over to the table in the blink of an eye. I remember that my younger self was always amazed by the number of bowls of scalding hot matzo ball soup the waiters would be able to carry at a given time. Granted it was nearly impossible that your bowl of soup would retain all of the broth during the journey to the table, but it was all part of the charm. Whatever escaped, you could just sop up with challah bread later.

After it was set down at the table, I’d always start by methodically skimming the outermost layer off of the entire matzo ball. This part always maintained the fluffiest texture and absorbed lots of the salty chicken broth. Once that portion was completed, I’d start spooning off chunks, which always had a bit more chew to them than the outer layer. After whittling my way down to the tougher core of the matzo ball, I’d switch over to spooning up just the broth until the bowl was emptied. And that’s how it went, every time.

A lot has changed during these past few years, but I’ve always found such solace knowing that places like the Bagel, Zingerman’s, and all the great delis around the country exist. Places where time stands always seems to stand still, where you see the same faces over and over again, where you know the food will hit the spot every time, and where you can take comfort in your rituals. It is this type of place that brings me peace and the type of place I long to find wherever life takes me.

For all of you celebrating Passover and Easter this week, I wish you happy and delicious holidays. Cheers!

- Maddie

Food, Food Artisans

Zingerman’s Spices up Ann Arbor with Montreal’s Épices de Cru

epice_spice_box_2015

Whole Spices Featured at Weeklong Series of Events in April

This month, Zingerman’s welcomes Canadian spice importers Épices de Cru to Ann Arbor for a series of workshops aimed at exploring the use of whole spices in cooking. The week will culminate in a trio public events at Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Zingerman’s Deli, and Zingerman’s BAKE!

Épices de Cru approaches spices in three unique ways. First, their spices are always sold whole, which protects purity and freshness. Second, they purchase directly from growers on sourcing trips, which ensures fair trade practices and consistent quality. Third, they source spices from traditional growing regions, or terroirs, which have historically produced the most flavorful products. “We believe in listening to the people who actually live the food we’re trying to make,” says owner Philippe de Vienne.

The Montreal-based company was founded by the de Vienne family, and has been encouraging people to learn about spices and grind their own for over a decade. “Spices have an undeserved reputation for being complicated,” says Épices de Cru founder Ethné de Vienne: “It seems like people are waiting for permission to get creative with spices. Spices have few rules. We just want to tell people it’ll be fine, just start cooking!”

Both Zingerman’s and Épices de Cru share the belief that home cooks can make better food by grinding spices themselves. Says Zingerman’s founder, Ari Weinzweig, “Thirty years ago the idea that everyone you knew would be grinding fresh beans to make coffee every time they brewed it home was almost unimaginable.”

Ari first encountered the Épices de Cru shop in Montreal’s Jean-Talon Market several years ago, and has long wanted to bring their spices to Zingerman’s. Last year, he learned they were finally looking for distributors in the U.S. “I was immediately excited,” he said, and invited the family to visit Ann Arbor in 2014 and share their knowledge of traditional spices. The visit was a resounding success, and Zingerman’s has since incorporated Épices de Cru spices into several dishes.
(Read Ari’s essay about the Spicetrekkers in the March/April Zingerman’s Newletter.)

For this year’s visit, Zingerman’s and Épices de Cru have scheduled three public events to showcase the wonderful and aromatic world of whole spices this April:


All Spice Routes Lead to the Roadhouse

Tuesday, April 14th, 7:00 pm at Zingerman’s Roadhouse
Roadhouse Chef Alex Young teams up with Montreal-based Spicetrekker Philippe de Vienne to create an unforgettable menu. Join us for a bit of spice history, a bit learning about how to use spices in your own kitchen, a good dose of spicy storytelling, and a really good meal!

Sorry, this event is already full.
Get on the waitlist


The Ins and Outs of Spices: How To Find, Store, And Serve The World’s Best Spices!

Wednesday, April 15, 6:30pm, at Zingerman’s Events on Fourth
Visiting spice trekkers Marika, Philippe and Ethné de Vienne voyage from Montreal to share over thirty years of incredible spice travels, travails, and terrific tastes with us. The results of their work are an almost overwhelming list of special stuff that we’re privileged to offer for sale at the Deli and for tasting on this exceptional, educational and enlightening evening.

Sorry, this event is already full.
Get on the waitlist


Baking with Spices

Thursday, April 16, 2015 6:00pm, at Zingerman’s BAKE!
Go beyond vanilla and nutmeg! Don’t miss this one-time opportunity to learn from the Spice Trekkers, who’ll visit BAKE! all the way from Montreal. The de Vienne family, spice experts and engaging speakers from Épices de Cru, have traveled the world to bring the best spices to North America and they’ve learned a lot along the way. They’ll walk you through the sites and smells of an array of baking and dessert spices that can breathe new life into standard recipes. Teaming their knowledge with our baking expertise, we’ll then sample a couple baked goods comparisons so you can taste the difference.Together we’ll demonstrate how good quality fresh spices and grinding your own at home can dramatically improve the flavor of your baked goods.

Sorry, this event is already full.
Get on the waitlist


See you soon!

Food, Food Artisans

It’s Pot Pie Season at Zingerman’s Deli!

Handmade Pot Pies chase away the winter blues!

pot pies 2 New Year’s Day kicks off our annual Pot Pie Promotion. During January and February, the Deli is piled high with six kinds of delicious pot pies (Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Turkey, Pork and Mushroom). Each pie is made by hand, a heaping scoop of hot filling between two folded layers of buttery crust. It’s the ultimate comfort food, and a great way to put some steam in you for the winter! Pot pies are available frozen, ready to heat, or ready to eat!

Zingerman’s Classic Chicken Pot Piepotpie-chicken2 Free-range chicken hand-picked off the bone and blended with big chunks of carrots, celery, potatoes, onions and herbs. Wrapped in a handmade butter crust. It’s the perfect lazy cook winter meal; it’s warm, filling, and easy as pie.

John H. Turkey – Turkey Pot Piepotpie-turkey2 Harnois & Son Farm turkey with big chunks of celery, carrots, onions, potatoes and spiced with Turkish Urfa pepper and fresh herbs, all wrapped in a handmade butter crust.

Fungi Pot Piepotpie-veggie (vegetarian selection) A fun pie for the fungiphiles! Michigan Maitake Mushrooms, Tantré Farm Organic Shiitake Mushrooms and a little Balinese Long Pepper, all tucked in an all-butter crust.

Darina’s Dingle Piepotpie-lamb A salute to the miners on the Dingle Peninsula of Ireland: this pie is made with lamb from Hannewald Farm, Stockbridge, Michigan, loads of potatoes, rutabaga, onions and a dash of cumin and rosemary. Wrapped miner-style (no tin) in a butter crust.

Cheshire Pork Pie potpie-pork1 Made from a 4-H Tamworth hog raised by Nic Harnois a future star farmer from Northern Washtenaw Co. braised with onions, apple cider and spices, and then stuffed in a handmade pastry crust with apples from Kapnick Orchards in Britton, Michigan. Wrapped miner style (no tin).

The Red Brick Beef Pot Pie potpie-beef1 This beef pie is our heartiest one yet. Packed with big chunks of all natural beef from Ernst Farm here in Washtenaw County, carrots, potatoes, and fresh herbs all wrapped in our handmade crust.

To sweeten the deal, we also offer special pricing for quantity: 10% off 10 pies, 20% off 20 pies, 30% off 30 pies!

Stock up and save: Pot Pies are only available during January and February!

Food, Food Artisans

Cookie Crunch Time

Holiday Baking with Maddie LaKind

The month of December brings with it a mixed bag of emotions. Thanksgiving is over—sad. Snow is coming—happy. Temperatures are dropping—nervous! Christmas and Chanukah are nearing—thrilled. And, perhaps most significantly, cookie baking season is officially here—elated!! On that sweet note, Zingerman’s is bursting with ingredients to help turn all of your cookie dreams into a reality. So for all of you eager bakers out there who are gearing up for endless batches of snickerdoodles, thumbprints, linzers, shortbreads and more, here are my top 10 cookie baking essentials this holiday.

1. Heilala Vanilla Products
Is there any ingredient more synonymous with cookie baking than vanilla? It seems to appear in almost every cookie recipe out there, which makes sense given its flavor boosting capabilities and beautiful bittersweet notes. If you’re looking for a way to really amp up your cookie baking skills, its time to talk beans. Vanilla beans that is. Heilala is a family run business started in 2002 by a father daughter team. After being gifted a plot of land in Tonga (a sovereign state of Polynesia), this team spent three years developing, planting, and harvesting vanilla beans. Their product is now sold to chefs and discerning palettes worldwide and is considered by many to be some of the best vanilla in the world. Heilala produces a wide range of vanilla products from extract, powder, paste, and even whole vanilla beans. Try any of them out in your next baked good or specifically these Heilala Vanilla Sugar Drops.

heilala vanilla

2. Cluizel Cacoa Nibs
Everyone seems to have a chocolate chip cookie recipe in their arsenal. But what about a cacao nib cookie recipe? Cacao nibs are simply a less refined form of chocolate produced by crushing dried/roasted cacao beans. Unlike chocolate chips which have been mixed with sugar, cacao nibs lend a toasty, slightly bitter, coffee-like flavor to pastries. And if you’re going to get your hands on any sort of chocolate this season, Michel Cluizel is the crème de la crème. Based in Normandy, France, Cluizel has been producing beautiful artisanal chocolate since 1948. In addition to maintaining high standards for his actual chocolate products, Cluizel remains firmly committed to preserving direct relationships with all his cacao farmers. Enjoy cacao nibs as a pastry topper or an add-in these Oatmeal Walnut Cocoa Nib Cookies courtesy of the “Joy the Baker” blog.

michel cluizel nibs

3. Bourbon Smoked Sugar
Anyone who has delved into the world of holiday baking knows just how much sugar is involved. Specifically, finishing sugars like powdered sugar or sugar in the raw. Just like adding a fancy salt or drizzle of good olive oil to a savory dish, finishing sugars can add that extra something to a cookie, creating fun flavor and textural combinations. For anyone looking for a sophisticated twist on your run of the mill granulated sugar, this bourbon smoked sugar is a must. Produced by Matt Jamie of Bourbon Barrel Foods in Lousiville, KY— the bourbon capital of the US—this sugar comes to life when grainy raw sugar is smoked from staves of old bourbon barrels. This process imparts an intense smoky flavor balanced with caramely, toasty bourbon notes. Try some sprinkled on top of your favorite shortbread or this decadent grown-up Bourbon Salted Toffee from Bourbon Barrel Foods.

bourbon smoked sugar

4. Mindo Cocoa Powder
If you’re a chocolate fanatic and live in the state of Michigan, then the Mindo chocolate company has probably popped up on your radar a time or two. Founded by two former auto-repair shop workers—Jose Beza and Barbara Wilson—the company maintains a harvesting operation in Ecuador (Jose’s country of origin) and a production facility in Dexter, MI. It is here in Michigan where all of their beans are ground and tempered by hand and then turned into a variety of unique products. While Mindo has a whole collection of delicious treats available for sale, their cocoa powder is the real showstopper. The flavor itself is rich, dark, and slightly acidic. Not only was it ranked one of the best cocoa powders in the country by “Food and Wine” magazine, but it also makes incredible cookies like these chocolate World Peace Cookies from famed baker Dorie Greenspan.

mindo cocoa powder

5. Halen Mon Sea Salt
Although you might not know its there, almost every cookie recipe in existence utilizes salt. It is not typically a discernable amount, but just enough to help balance and enhance the prominent flavors. One of my favorite recent trends in baking though takes salting to the next level by sprinkling a light amount of tasty sea salt or fleur de sel on top of the cookie itself. The contrast between sweet and salty is sublime and a fun way to enhance an existing recipe or experiment with a new one. My personal recommendation for finishing salt is Halen Mon Pure White Sea Salt. This now world-renowned company harvests their salt from the seas around the Isle of Anglesey near Wales and, may I say, it is hands down some of the best salt I’ve ever tried. The flavor is clean, bright, and just a tad briny, while the texture is super flaky. Contrasted with a gooey chocolate chip cookie, like these Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from the “Joy the Baker” blog, it is pure cookie heaven.

halen mon salt

6. Epices de Cru Cardamom
One of the newest product lines to come to Zingerman’s this year is the Epices de Cru collection of spices. Based in Montreal, this family run company sources hundreds of spices from around the world and is committed to the highest level of quality they can find. While their entire product line is exceptional, their cardamom pods are an exciting addition to any holiday baking lineup. I know cardamom might not seem like the most obvious spice for holiday baking, but its warm, mild spiciness makes it seem perfectly at home among old standards like nutmeg, clove, allspice, and cinnamon. Epices de Cru procures their cardamom from South India’s Cardamom Hills and sells them whole to be ground at home—ensuring freshness and the best flavor possible in your baked goods. Try this Cardamom out in Dorie Greenspan’s Cardamom Brown Sugar Snickerdoodles for a new twist on an old classic.

epices de cru cardomom

7. Echire Butter
Butter. Who doesn’t love luscious, creamy butter? Just like vanilla, salt, and sugar, the quality of the butter you use when baking can make a huge difference in the resulting flavor of you cookies. Two of my personal favorites for cookie baking in particular are Echire Butter and German Butter. Echire butter hails from France and is produced from milk collected from a cooperative of 66 different farms. All of the cows are carefully monitored during grazing in order to ensure a rich flavor and striking golden color in their milk. Once churned, the butter clocks in at 84% butterfat compared to about 80% in your average grocery store butter. The pure, sweet flavor also reigns supreme and is perfect for simple cookies like these Butter Cookies from “Gourmet” magazine.

échiré butter

8. Membrillo
This next ingredient is definitely the odd ball of the list, but here me out. Membrillo is a paste made out of quince (a fruit that falls in the apple/pear family), traditionally paired with Manchego cheese in Spanish cuisine. While it may not seem like your traditional baking ingredient, membrillo’s tartness and mild sweetness makes it perfect for sandwiching between shortbread or filling thumbprint cookies like these Membrillo Thumbprint Cookies from ‘The Kitchn” blog.

membrillo quince paste

9. Crème Fraiche
Crème fraiche found its way into my life fairly recently, but since it has, I’ve become completely hooked. Crème fraiche is simply soured cow’s milk cream that is similar in texture/flavor to sour cream, but with double the butterfat. This means more richness and an even milkier flavor. My favorite variety is produced by Vermont Creamery, a company famous for the exemplary dairy products ranging from cheeses to yogurts and even butters. With its slight acidity, it lends a welcome contrast to heavily sweet ingredients like fruit, or, my personal favorite, chocolate. Give them a whirl in Vermont Creamery’s own True Decadence Brownies for the ultimate holiday sweet fix.

créme fraîche

10. Lemon Curd
Besides peanut butter, there are very few products I will willingly eat right out the jar. Lemon curd is an exception to that rule. With its bright, tart flavor and super smooth texture, curd ranks high as one of my perfect desserts, particularly if it is made by Thursday Cottage, which has been producing traditional small batch curds for over sixty years. Based in England, Thursday Cottage uses all natural, locally sourced ingredients for their curd and stirs each batch in a specially designed curd kettle. While delightful on their own, curds are incredibly versatile in baked goods. Try dolloping some into a thumbprint cookie or sandwiching a spoonful between two shortbread cookies like “Gourmet” magazine’s Petite Lemon Curd Cookies.

lemon curd

To all of you bakers and eaters out there, I hope you find inspiration for your own cookie traditions in this tremendous list of products. Cheers and happy holidays!

- Maddie

Maddie selfie

Food, Food Artisans

Val Talks Zingerman’s Gelato

I scream, you scream, we all scream for gelato!gelato drawing

Gelato is Italy’s version of ice cream. It is to American ice cream what Gucci is to Levi’s. Most Italian towns have at least a few gelaterie, tiny shops that sell nothing but gelato. Big cities will have dozens of them. They’ll usually have at least a dozen flavors prominently displayed, everything from sexed up standards like super dark chocolate to more exotic flavors like Marron Glacé (candied chestnut) or Torrone (nougat). When you pick a flavor, they’ll pile it into a cup or cone using a paddle that looks more like a spatula than a scoop. You eat it with a brightly colored, shovel-shaped spoon that’s as long as a toothpick and as wide as a cheap emery board. But before you pick a flavor and dig in, you have to pick which gelateria to visit.

There are a few factors to pay attention to when choosing a gelateria. Avoid gelato with DayGlo colors. Stay away from gelato mounded six inches above the tub, it probably has tons of stabilizers to help it keep that shape. Don’t go for the spot that has little jars of Nutella or tiny plastic fruits stuck in the gelato to show you which flavor is which. If the menu tells you where ingredients come from, like having IGP hazelnuts from Piedmont or DOP pistachios from Bronte, you might have found a good one. But the best indication of all is a long line—or, since this is Italy, a big, disorganized crowd.

The crowd knows. Those people waiting understand that a particular gelateria makes ice cream with luscious texture and big, bold flavors. And that’s the thing about gelato: when it’s really good the flavors are more direct and pure than American ice cream. The hazelnut tastes like freshly toasted hazelnuts. The strawberry sorbet tastes like fresh, ripe strawberries. I’m sure if Zingerman’s Creamery were tucked away on some narrow, cobbled, Italian alley, it would have a crowd stretching around the corner.

Gelato is made with only four major ingredients so you can’t skimp on any of them and get great flavor.

Zingerman’s gelato maker Josh starts with milk from Calder Dairy, located about an hour down the road from Zingerman’s Creamery in Carleton, Michigan. Calder has a herd of 113 cows that are known by names, not numbers. They’re never given any hormones or subtherapeutic antibiotics. The milk is gently pasteurized and not homogenized, a process that agitates the milk to distribute the cream more evenly rather than allowing it to rise and separate. The result is that Calder produces a richer, creamier, sweeter milk.

To the milk, Josh adds cream from Guernsey Dairy in Northville, Michigan—the same source our Bakehouse uses for the sour cream they stir into every Sourcream Coffeecake. Then he mixes in demerara brown cane sugar. He adds pinch of stabilizer to help the gelato maintain its texture when frozen for a few weeks, and then all that’s left is to add the flavor. And oh, those flavors! His peanut butter gelato is made with Koeze’s atonishing Cream Nut Peanut Butter from Grand Rapids, Michigan. His dulce de leche gelato is made with a super thick and creamy dulce de leche caramel we get direct from Argentina, its home base.

vanilla-3 copy

In spite of great variety, Josh’s vanilla gelato is probably my favorite. “Before I started making gelato, I thought vanilla was just white and sweet,” Josh confessed to me the other day. I’d say that’s a pretty apt description of a lot of vanilla ice creams, but not so with Josh’s. He uses Madagascar Bourbon vanilla—and lots of it!—and the result is a rich, earthy, woodsy flavor that lasts and lasts.

What’s the gelato maker’s favorite flavor?

Burnt Sugar. That’s not because it’s the easiest to make—in fact, Josh calls it “a thorough pain in the ass.” He loves it because it takes sugar, one of the three base ingredients of gelato, and transforms it into an entirely different flavor. He starts with white cane sugar and cooks it with water in a big pot. Over the course of an hour, the water boils off, the sugar melts, and then just as it starts to burn he pulls it off the stove and adds additional water to make a syrup and keep it from hardening into a sticky hard caramel mess. “I put on gloves, and I should probably wear goggles too. Then I yell to get people out of the way. It’s so hot that when I add the water it boils upon impact. It’s like this insanely hot exercise of sweating and trying not to get it on your skin while it cools in the sink.” The burnt sugar syrup tastes like the top of a crème brûlée. The gelato flirts with the line between sweet and bitter. It’s sugar utterly transformed, and the end result is super smooth and creamy with an autumn orange-yellow color and a complex, intriguing flavor.

- Val

You can find our amazing gelato at Zingerman’s Creamery, and the Zingerman’s Deli Next Door coffeehouse. We can also ship gelato through Zingerman’s Mail Order.

Add some sweetness to the winter chill!