Ari's Picks

Finding Farina for Breakfast at Zingerman’s Roadhouse

Freshly milled wheat from Zingerman's Bakehouse makes a wonderful meal.

Freshly milled wheat from the Bakehouse
makes a wonderful meal

Who knew? A lot of people might have. Just not me. But now, after over 40 years of working in the food world, I know—a bowl of hot farina, made from freshly milled wheat, makes for a seriously marvelous, world-class meal. It’s a delicious artisan return to what a well-made wheat porridge would have been like back when Malinda Russell was writing in Paw Paw in the second half of the 19th century. When we first came out with Cream of the Crop freshly milled whole wheat porridge at the Bakehouse a few years ago, I was excited for our Cream of Wheat-loving customers. It was obviously an enormous quality improvement over the standard commercial offerings! Topped with butter and maple syrup, honey, or fresh fruit, it’s pretty fantastic.

This month, the Roadhouse has it on the breakfast menu as well, topped with a bit of that terrific Vermont Creamery cultured butter. If you come by in the morning during the week, you can have your farina sweetened, of course, with real maple syrup. Alternatively, you could ask for it the way I would eat it: I skip the syrup and enjoy it with just that amazingly flavorful cultured butter and then a bunch of that fantastic farm-to-table Tellicherry black pepper added after the bowl is brought to the table. Or, instead of the butter, you could opt for some of the terrific Séka Hills olive oil we get from northern California on top. Mind-blowing! Tasting it this way the other day, it was so good that I went back and added more oil and pepper. Essentially, I realized, it’s a bit like a “bruschetta in a bowl!” So good! Alternatively again, add a fried egg on top!

For historical context, the commercially packaged Cream of Wheat debuted at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago which opened on the 1st of May. On May 5th of that year, a stock market crash started what came to be called the Panic of 1893 and a serious depression followed. Part of the response locally came from Detroit Mayor Hazen Pingree, who created what came to be called his “Potato Patch Plan” which called for community gardening on vacant land in the city to help folks feed themselves. So little is new!

You can also buy bags of the Cream of the Crop (uncooked) at the Bakehouse to make at home too. Thanks to everyone at the Bakehouse for making it possible to add a wonderful dish to our weekly cooking routines! And to the Roadhouse for getting on the menu so we can all just walk it and order it up ready-cooked!!

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PS: The first images that came to mind when I began thinking about “farina” were of the late Mimi Fariña and Richard Fariña. Mimi was a folk singer and the sister of Joan Baez; Richard was also a singer, a really fine lute player, and the author of the classic ’60s novel I’ve Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to MeHere’s a clip of their music!

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