Food, Food Artisans

New Tuna Swims into Zingerman’s Deli

Zingerman’s Deli recently started using a different brand of tuna on their sandwiches. We caught up with Deli Managing Partner Rodger Bowser to get the lowdown on the new tuna. Here’s what he had to say: 

How did you first hear about Skipanon tuna?

tobago-tunaI first discovered Skipanon through Ari, who had heard about them but hadn’t had the chance to try their products yet. This sparked my interest, so I called them and began emailing with them. I also checked out their website and thought they looked pretty cool. I had the owner, Mark, send us some samples. He send some large bulk cans and a mess of other canned fish. The more I found out about the company and their fish, the more I liked them. This was especially true after I tasted the tuna. After two months, I was able to visit their cannery in Oregon while I was visiting the area. I got to meet the entire crew and watch their production line in motion. It was a wonderful visit and this solidified the new relationship even more.

What can you tell me about Skipanon?

If you want to know more about Skipanon, I’d recommend watching this video that I came across recently. You’ll hear about them straight from Mark Kujala (the owner). His passion for what he does really comes through. Small family-run canneries are sort of a thing of the past. I was surprised to even hear of this small custom cannery, operating out of Warrenton, OR. It was started in the 70′s by Mark’s father, Paul. They can salmon, tuna, steelhead, sturgeon, among other fish. They fish for the salmon on their own boat, and the tuna is hook and line caught from 3 to 4 other boats. They fish using sustainable practices and keep freshness in mind at all times. Their fleets and canneries have multiple certifications and awards in recognition of this too.

What is it about Skipanon tuna that makes it better for our sandwiches and salads?

After tasting the tuna in our recipes, it was a no-brainer. It simply made a better American-style tuna salad. We use a simple, but tasty recipe for our tuna salad, and this tuna is perfect for it. We like to let the tuna do the work. The tuna salad tastes great, and the portioning and moisture of the fish allows for a fluffier texture. Since its cooked in its own juices, we are not draining a bunch of water off the tuna once we open the can. We get cans full of tuna instead of cans of tuna and tuna-flavored water.

Using Skipanon tuna is better for our 3 bottom lines (Great Food, Great Service and Great Finance):

• It’s better tasting.
• It’s full-flavored and traditionally caught and processed.
• Skipanon’s service is the kind of service that we love to give.
• We like to work with companies that do things right.

This tuna will cost more, but it’s well worth the increase in price. I suspect the sandwich price will go up about $1. But this isn’t a bad thing, when you consider how much better this sandwich, costly slightly more, will taste. Our customers know a good thing when they taste it. And, they also know that great ingredients from great companies cost a little more. This increase in cost isn’t due to inefficiency, but rather from the extra time spent carefully crafting a great product, hiring skilled workers, and being an active part of their community. This is a methodology that we understand and can relate to. We want our vendors to be fairly compensated so they can keep doing what they love to do best for a long time to come, and we can create a long-lasting relationship with them.

Stop by the Deli for a taste! 

Food, ZingLife

One Year in Deli Retail: A Reflection

The Retail Life—Zingerman’s Style

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My one-year anniversary in Zingerman’s retail came around earlier this month and, looking back, it has been quite the jam-packed year. Starting with the madness of graduation crowds last May, then Farmer’s market weekends over the summer, countless football Saturdays in the fall, extravagant Christmas shopping weeks throughout December, epically slow days during the polar vortex, and now, finally, a lovely, flower-filled spring. This year truly flew by!

In order to regain my bearings and gain a sense of closure on my first year of adult working life, I thought I’d take a minute to look back on my time in retail so far. Given my obsessive love of lists, a top ten countdown seemed like a fitting medium for such reflection. So, for all you curious folks out there wondering what the ins and outs of retail life at Zingerman’s really look like, I present to you…

“Ten Signs That You’ve Worked in the Zingerman’s Retail Department for Over 1 year”

  1. When you look at a wall of olive oils, vinegars, and mustards and immediately start brainstorming vinaigrette recipes.
  2. When you’ve officially become the personal grocery shopper for your family and friends.
  3. When days are no longer divided by breakfast, lunch, and dinner but by cubes of cheddar, brownie bites, and sample sips of olive oil.
  4. When Saturdays and Sundays become the Mondays and Tuesdays of your workweek.
  5. When “taking the office home with you” means cheese scented work shirts and socks/pants/tops/(insert piece of clothing) lodged with breadcrumbs.
  6. When bacon becomes a primary food group in your diet.
  7. When descriptors like “grassy”, “peppery”, “sharp”, “buttery” and “barnyardy” find their way into your daily jargon.
  8. When you can site off bagel flavors and bread delivery schedules like times tables.
  9. When you begin to revere cheese mongers like rock stars.

And finally…

  1. When your co-workers begin to feel like your second family.

Thank you to all of the guests, managers, colleagues, and friends who made this one of the best (and most delicious) years of my life. I’m eager to see what the next chapter brings.

- Maddie

ZingLife

A Tale of Two Townies…

community-2009…and how they ended up at Zingerman’s

I recently sat down to talk with Josh Pollock, manager of the Bakehouse bake shop about growing up in Ann Arbor, working for another local business icon, Borders, and how we came to join Zingerman’s.

EJ Olsen: What’s your background?

Josh Pollock: I grew up in town as a faculty brat. My dad was a professor at the UM School of Engineering. I went to Newport, Forsythe and Pioneer. After high school, I was ready to get out of town, so I left for about 10 years and during that time is when Zingerman’s really established itself. I lived in NYC for a couple years and had a lot of great food experiences there, including going to all the classic Delis like Katz’s, the Carnegie Deli, the Second Avenue Deli and some of the great old kosher dairy restaurants there, too. When I came back to visit a couple of times, I visited Zingerman’s Deli and it was great to get that high-quality corned beef sandwich right here in Ann Arbor.

What was your first sandwich at the Zingerman’s Deli?

I’m pretty darn sure it was hot corned beef on rye with mustard.

Okay, so I was born here at UM hospital. I went to Wines, Forsythe, Pioneer and Community. In fact, while at Community, we used to go to the little store on Detroit St. that eventually became the Deli. We also used to go to Kerrytown for lunch at Kosmo’s. I was first exposed to a Reuben sandwich on trip somewhere with my family, and I really liked that sandwich. When the Deli opened back in ’82, they immediately had a reputation for great sandwiches, so I had to give them a try. And there at #2 was the Zingerman’s Reuben. I’d never tasted one quite that good, quite that BIG–

(laughter)

So, I was a regular customer and fan for the next few years. Moved to San Francisco, came back after a few years and Zingerman’s was doing better than ever and it was really nice to stop in and say hello. Moved to Washington DC, came back. Zingerman’s always made returning to Ann Arbor really nice, you know?

Yeah.

So many things in Ann Arbor have changed. It was nice to see that Zingerman’s was not only still there, but had grown considerably.

It’s one of the things you do in Ann Arbor. You’ve got your list of things, and going to Zingerman’s is on almost everyone’s.

When I came back to Ann Arbor permanently in the early 90s (I’d been working publishing in NYC), and I was attracted to working for Borders because they had a passion for books, and they had great bookstores. And at that time, Borders didn’t really consider itself a chain, they considered themselves a collection of fine bookstores, and that was the line.

I remember!

When Borders came to an end, I was really looking for something that had a lot of the same attributes that existed in the early Borders. A passion about what they did, a desire to do it incredibly well, and culture that really supported giving great service and being the best at what you did.

And this is what’s made Zingerman’s such a nice fit. Like the early days of Borders, they know exactly what they want to do. Instead of chasing the money, they’ve concentrated on chasing the three bottom lines: great service, great food, and great finance.

I was attracted to working for Borders for the same reasons you mention above. And I love to read, so it was hard to imagine a more perfect job!

I was a legacy staffer at Borders, as my mother worked for Tom and Louis Borders at the old State St. store back in the 1970s. It was very much part of the fabric of Ann Arbor. When they became successful, it felt like our great hometown bookstore had caught on and that was a pretty neat feeling.

I had a long and fun career at Borders. And, as you said, for a time Borders and Zingerman’s really resembled each other in terms of culture and passion and service.

So, after that ended, I wanted to work for another organization that really mattered to me. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to have that sort of experience again. It was sort of a high-water mark with regard to quality of work life. And, lo and behold, I found it all these years later here at Zingerman’s.

Yes, yes! Managing the bake shop, I see a lot of the same things I used to see managing the Borders downtown. You see a lot of people you know. You see their parents!

(laughter) Yes!

You hear from everyone you know about every detail of their experiences at every one of the Zingerman’s businesses! It’s a lot of fun and it’s also a lot of responsibility, because you have to carry the banner. And it’s a great banner to carry and the company makes it very easy to do. It’s a great place to be because just as with Borders, you get to know people and their tastes, and you can personally recommend a book. It’s the same thing with food.

Absolutely!

So when something new comes in, some new Hungarian dish, you can say “You’ve got to try this” and to see the look on their faces when they make that food connection. You watch their face light up as they get it, and that’s so exciting.

It is! If you grew up in Ann Arbor, you have a unique relationship with a large percentage of your clientele. These are friends and neighbors, the people you know and so I think there’s a heightened sense of responsibility. I’m going to see this person again soon, and I can’t just not give my best because…

They’re gonna tell my parents!

(laughter) Right! And so there’s that personal investment in the people who come into our businesses. I feel like I’m recommending something that I love and I have no qualms about doing so. I mean, for YEARS, I recommended Zingerman’s before working here, so it’s been a pretty seamless transition.

There’s something here for everyone, and chances are if we make something you like it will be among the best, if not the best, you’ve ever tasted. We’ve had people who say they don’t like something, they try our version, and they like it. That’s exciting.

And now, I must get back to my Sólet!

Mmm, Sólet!

Food, Food Artisans

7 Things About Laurey Masterton

A Beekeeper’s Dinner Featuring Author Laurey Masterton

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Join us Wednesday, February 19, 7pm as we welcome Chef and spokesperson for The National Honey Board, Laurey Masterton, author of The Fresh Honey Cookbook, to Zingerman’s Roadhouse. 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.

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  1. She grew up in Vermont. Her parents were innkeepers and often cooked dinners for up to 45 people, including inn guests. Laurey attended her first such dinner at age 16 months. She wrote a memoir looking back at this time called Elsie’s Biscuits: Simple Stories of Me, My Mother, and Food. This is where she developed her love of good food.
  2. While in college, Laurey discovered the theater department and after graduation, she embarked on a 10-year career as a Theatrical Lighting Designer for various theater productions in New York City. She left New York to become an instructor for Outward Bound Asheville, NC.
  3. She quickly realized that Outward Bound was not her calling and, at the suggestion of her sister, started a catering business in 1987. The business soon expanded to include a cafe and in 1990, she moved Laurey’s Catering and Comfort Café into downtown Asheville as a part of a wave of city renewal.
  4. Faced with the frustrations of being a small-business owner, Laurey says she was on the verge of quitting when she decided to retool. She credits the Zingerman’s Experience seminar at ZingTrain with helping her develop a new vision for the business, and turning things around.
  5. Laurey is an avid bike-rider, and often participates in benefit rides for various non-profit organizations. She is s three-time cancer survivor and has trekked across the Continental US (3100 miles!) to raise research money and awareness for ovarian cancer. She works with the LiveStrong Foundation to help with support, counseling and assistance for cancer survivors.
  6. She became interested in honeybees while catering an event with Project Honey Bee. She went to beekeepers school, began raising bees, and even did a TED Talk on the subject of bees. A strong advocate for raising awareness of the integral part that bees play in our ecosystem, she has written a cookbook called, The Fresh Honey Cookbook, featuring a chapter each on 12 different honey varietals. The book is full of recipes, and interesting information about bees, pollination, and honey. She currently serves as spokesperson for the National Honey Board.
  7. Laurey likes to improve on recipes calling for sugar by using an interesting honey varietal. Her favorites are: avocado, sourwood, poplar, tupelo, and chestnut.
ZingLife

Federal and State Congressional Leaders Meet at Zingerman’s Deli

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(L-R) MI Rep. Irwin, US Rep. Dingell, MI Rep. Zemke, Sandy Bledsoe, Grand Rapids Comptroller Vander Werff, Pete Garner

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, State Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, and State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor met with Zingerman’s Deli staff and Ann Arbor business owners at the Deli yesterday afternoon to discuss proposed increases in the state and federal minimum wage.

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MI Rep. Irwin provides some levity.

The Congressional Representatives chose to meet at Zingerman’s following a recent trip by Paul Saginaw to Washington D.C., where he, along with other national business leaders, met with U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez.

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Carole Woods of Zingerman’s Deli makes a point.

Dingell praised Paul’s trip to Washington, saying, “It says that there’s conviction there, which is sufficient to cause a very substantial expenditure to inform the Congress of what Zingerman’s and what Mr. Saginaw, who made the trip, thinks is the need of the country.”

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More discussion.

Dingell is a co-sponsor for bill H.R. 1010, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would increase the federal minimum from $7.25 to $10.10. Irwin and Zemke are co-sponsors for Michigan House Bill 4386, which would increase the state minimum wage from $7.40 to $9 in 2014.

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Further discussion.

During the meeting (known as the #SandwichSummit on Twitter), the Representatives listened as Deli staff shared their experiences, and talked about the implications and benefits of raising the minimum wage.

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Grand Rapids Comptroller Vander Werff makes a point.

Also present to express their support for the proposed legislation were local businesspeople Sandy Bledsoe, owner of The Espresso Bar in Braun Court, and Eve Aronoff, owner and chef at Frita Batidos on W. Washington St. downtown, as well as Comptroller for the City of Grand Rapids, Sara Vander Werff.

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US Rep. John Dingell along with Deli staff Nancy Rucker, Miriam Flagler, and Levi Clark.

“It is but equity…that they who feed, clothe and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed and lodged.” – Adam Smith,  The Wealth of Nations

A big thanks to everyone who participated!

Food, Food Artisans

It’s All in the Jam

Please join us for:

The Secret Life of Preserves: with Special Guests: Noah Marshall-Rashid & James Beard Award Winner, Justin Rashid from American Spoon

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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 this coming Tuesday, February 4, 630pm at Zingerman’s Events on 4th, with Noah to hear the American Spoon story and taste the spreads that have made the company a Michigan icon.

I’ve officially hit the mid-winter food slump. Don’t get me wrong, I adore potatoes, could find a million ways to cook squash, and have no problem eating pasta for days. But what I really crave in the midst of these epic, sub-zero temperatures is fruit. Not flavorless, too-big-for-comfort grocery store fruit, but real farm-grown treasures that fill the Ann Arbor markets all summer long. Despite the limited supply of such delights this time of year, there is something that has helped me fill the void—jam.

My first jab at jam making came during my junior year of college. The month was April and the first crop of spring produce had finally made its debut. Feeling the itch for some fresh, non-starch-based foods in my life, I made the trek across campus to do a bit of shopping at the Kerrytown Farmer’s Market. While taking my prerequisite stroll down the U-shaped walkway, I felt like I had reached produce heaven. Strewn across fold-up plastic tables were hefty bunches of skinny asparagus spears, English peas waiting to be plucked from their waxy pods, delicate artichokes tinted with shades of violet and army green, and carrots so petite and strikingly orange in color that they looked like a different vegetable entirely. But what really caught my eye were the pints of bite-sized strawberries and long stems of rosy rhubarb. Inspired by strawberry rhubarb pie, possibly my favorite dessert of all time, and a yearning to finally learn the art of jam making, I told myself that today was the day.

Berries at FM Strawberries Fruit

Fueled with both enthusiasm and eagerness, I left the market and paid a quick visit to the Ann Arbor library, checking out as many books on jam as I could find (and comfortably carry in my backpack). Next, Downtown Home and Garden for the full lot of jam making supplies: boxes of mason jars, a ladle for spooning the jam into jars, a funnel to get the jam in the jars without any spillage (an ideal product for my cleaning-crazed self), and a special set of tongs for lifting jars in and out of hot water baths. Who knew that a food product with only three ingredients—fruit, sugar, and some sort of thickening agent—would require such an extensive collection of equipment?

Upon arriving home, I jumped right in. I boiled a big pot of water and sterilized all of the jars. I washed the fruit and chopped them into tiny pieces. I cooked them down with a frightening (but necessary) amount of sugar, reduced the mixture down until it achieved a velvety texture, and then thickened the batch with a bit of lemon juice. After reaching the point where the mixture could coat the back of a spoon, I ladled my concoction into the jars, quickly capped them off, and re-dunked them in the water bath to sterilize again, making them safe to keep out of refrigeration for months. Within only a matter of an hour, I had gone from two bunches of rhubarb and four pints of strawberries to six jars of jam. Now that is some math I can get behind.

Apricots with Hand Finished Jars Finished Jars in Line

After sampling the first taste of my creation, I was hooked. And for summers to come, I continued to experiment with new flavors and combinations. Last summer, in particular, I entered into what you may call a “jam frenzy” of sorts. Apricot, blueberry, tomato, sour cherry, red currant, Concord grape, pears, gooseberries—you name the fruit, and odds are I cooked it down and put it in a jar. To me, the whole jam-making process feels almost like meditation. You set out with this intention, take all of the preparatory steps to achieve that intention, exercise great patience and concentration, and end up with something beautiful. While the process itself is fairly labor intensive, like any other skill in the kitchen, it just takes a bit of practice before it becomes second nature. I will continue to cherish those moments of kitchen calm, watching fruit transform into a tangible marker of a time, a place, and a season. For me, food doesn’t get much better than that.