Good Food

Culinary Zecrets: Ari Shares Zingerman’s “Secret” Dishes & Products

The Langos is a Bakehouse gem!

A “zecret” is a little known fact, product, or special at any of the Zingerman’s businesses

There’s so much going on at Zingerman’s that no one—not even me—can stay current on every single addition to our culinary offerings. Every day there’s some new special, a little interesting new twist, a new import arrival, an upgrade to an ingredient in a long-standing Zingerman’s classic. Many of our foods, of course, are famous—everyone knows about the Reubens at the Deli, the rye bread or the Magic Brownies at the Bakehouse, our handmade cream cheese at the Creamery, the fried chicken at the Roadhouse…

But today I’m going to share some zecrets—a handful of the many (I could probably put down a hundred if you give me a couple hours!) delicious foods and drinks around the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses that, although I think they’re exceptional and I eat them regularly, haven’t yet won the widespread acclaim from the press and the public at large that I would argue they easily deserve!

You can get a Breakfast Burrito at the Roadshow—you don’t even have to leave your car!

The Breakfast Burrito at the Roadshow
It’s easy to forget about these babies, but once you have one, I’ll wager good money you’ll be back for more. Freshly scrambled eggs, Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon, real Monterey Jack from Vella Cheese (one of only two or three places in the country that still produce handmade Jack the old fashioned way), and roasted New Mexico green chiles, all wrapped in a soft wheat tortilla. Add hot sauce to taste! It’s top notch, terrifically too good to pass up! And since it’s in the Roadshow, you don’t even have to get out of your car to get one!

Jefferson Red Rice from Anson Mills at the Deli
To find this one, walk over to the freezer case, right next to the steps you go up to order your sandwich at the Deli. You can see why it’s a zecret! It’s one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in the last six months. We have access to it thanks to the always exceptionally good work of Glenn Roberts at Anson Mills. Like his amazing grits and Carolina Gold rice, this stuff is a hard to find, almost unknown anywhere in the U.S., heirloom varietal. Glenn discovered it by accident in the Carolinas in a conversation with a colleague whose family has been growing rice in the region since the early 18th century.

This rice is nutty, rich, super delicious, and easy to cook. Although I’m sure you can do much fancier things with it, I just boil it in salted water until it’s al dente. If you want to dress it up, add a touch of good olive oil and some freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper. If rice can be life changing, if eating and appreciating an authentic taste of the American 18th century appeals to you as much as it does me, buy some of this rice. It ain’t cheap, but amazing food is rarely inexpensive (unless you grow it yourself). And by the way, the more we eat it, the more we increase the odds that this wonderful, nearly-lost rice variety will continue to be grown and enjoyed! Biodiversity, super story, fantastic flavor.

Tteok bokki at Miss Kim
Since it’s only been a few months since we opened our doors at Miss Kim (rather quietly and discreetly, on purpose) pretty much everything on the menu is still a zecret. Probably not for long, though. Of all the great items that Ji Hye (managing partner and chef) has put on her opening menu, the Tteok bokki is my favorite. The formal translation to English says that these are “rice cakes,” but I don’t think that does justice to the dish. To be clear, tteok bokki has nothing to do with the crispy, dry rice “cakes” that are sold in supermarket health food sections. These are more like “rice gnocchi”—tender but firm morsels made out of cooked rice, formed into strips about two inches or so long and maybe half an inch across.

They’re cooked with a spicy chili sauce that’s laced with little bits of diced cooked pork. When the rice “gnocchi” are cooked up in the pan, they get a bit of crispy browning to them that makes them slightly chewy to the tooth but tender on the inside. The whole thing is then topped with a six minute egg. When the plate comes to the table, you break the egg with your chopsticks (or fork) and…you eat!

Lángos at the Bakehouse
Every Tuesday and Saturday, the Bakeshop offers the chance to enjoy a very delicious version of the most popular street food in Hungary. While lángos (pronounced long-GAUCHE) is almost unknown over here, in Hungary, it’s almost everywhere. There are lángos stands all over the country, in much the same way that you can find hot dog carts all over Manhattan.

The legend of lángos is that it started when bakers would take a bit of not yet fully proofed dough out of the mixing bowl and bake it early in the day in order to stave off their hunger until they could have a more proper lunch. This old style, hearth baked lángos, is on our list for future development. For the moment, though, we’ve started with the slightly more modern, and infinitely more popular, fried version of the dish: brushed with garlic and sour cream, sprinkled with fresh dill, topped with hickory smoked ham, Marieke 1-year Gouda cheese and a dusting of paprika.

Like most fritters, it’s far better when you eat it only a few minutes after it’s emerged from the oil. If you’re looking to add a little life to your lunch next Tuesday or Saturday, think about heading over to the Bakehouse and ordering up a lángos.

Coffee a brewing in a siphon pot

Mocha Java brewed in a Siphon pot at the Coffee Company
One of my favorite options off the Big Brew Board at the Coffee Company: brewing in the siphon pot. It creates a dense, slightly more intense cup. The Mocha Java—a blend of Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, and Ethiopian coffees—does particularly well this way. Makes for a delicious, nutty, smooth cup of coffee. Highly recommended! Amazing how much a special cup of coffee to start your day or break up your afternoon can make a difference!!

Mac and Eggs at the Roadhouse for breakfast
If you like the macaroni and cheese at the Roadhouse—and clearly a lot of you do since we sell a ton of it—you might try starting your day with this really good dish. It’s the same Martelli macaroni we use for the regular Roadhouse mac, made in the tiny town of Lari by the Martelli family, who’ve been at it since 1924. It’s made with great grain (you can’t make great pasta from mediocre wheat); mixed slowly at cool temperatures (like we do with the bread at the Bakehouse to protect the flavor of the grain); extruded through bronze dies (to get the appropriate and traditional very rough surface); and dried super slowly for about 50 hours (to protect the texture and flavor of the pasta). It is, truly, the best macaroni I’ve ever had. We take that macaroni and toss it with diced up applewood smoked bacon from Nueske’s, and top it all with a couple fried eggs. I like to grind lots of black pepper on top. Great way to start your day!

Navarrico Icons Wine Vinegar from Greece
I love good vinegar, and this is one of the most delicious I’ve tried in a long time. It’s made from white Sultanina grapes, which are left on the vine to dry in the hot Aegean sun. The drying enhances the natural sugars in the grapes, which are then crushed for their juice and naturally converted using traditional methods (nothing fancy—you introduce “mother” cultures and let the wine made from the grapes turn naturally to vinegar over a period of months). The result is moderately sweet vinegar, which has no additional sugar added to it. I love it. Light and delicious. The story is that it came into the U.S. through our importer of Greek specialties, Vivianna Karamanis. The initial offering arrived with the delicious addition of wild Greek thyme and rosemary. But being a bit of a purist, and wanting to let the natural flavors of this incredible vinegar take center stage, I asked her (nicely!) if she could get the producer to send us some without the herbs. Three years later, thanks to Vivianna’s patient persistence, it’s just arrived! Highly recommended to any vinegar lover! It’s high on my own list at home for salads, adding to soups, deglazing fish, pork, chicken, or even just sipping on its own. It’s that good. It’s still a zecret but probably not for long!