Friday, March 16, 2012

Zingerman's Deli & Empire


Ok then, I am going to lickety-split put out the last of my Ann Arbor posts as really, things are getting mighty beautiful around these parts and I have the photos to prove it! 


I would be crazily remiss to talk about life in Ann Arbor without mentioning Zingerman's Deli. These folks opened in 1982--yep, that is 30 years ago, meaning not that far off from the time period when Perrier was considered to be a human being (as I previously mentioned) and if you asked for a "knish" you might very well have been responded to with a "Gesundheit."


For once, and once only, to say that Zingerman's is an institution is absolutely without the least bit of exaggeration. Is it regularly on the "Best Delicatessens in America" lists? Check. Heralded by the James Beard Foundation? Yep. Loved by Oprah? Even that. It is exhausting and their empire was built up brick by brick, year after year, the hard way! Food geeks, dig in here for more history.


Admittedly, I did not get to glaze over in stupefaction while trying to pick from their gazillion sandwich choices because why? The line was simply ridiculous. Why I suggested even trying on a Saturday at lunch time...well, I was jet-lagged and senseless is all I can say. It was the coldest day of my visit, whip-smackingly so and yet there was a half-hour line outside. That, my friends is how good these gobblings are. 


Inside, the joint is jumping and luckily my Mom and I were welcome to poke about even though we hadn't slogged through the line to order. Phones were ringing, orders being called out, finished goodies being delivered. Bustle, bustle. 


Yet again for the food geeks, Jane and Michael Stern named Zingerman's Bakehouse Rye bread as the best in America last year. Um, if that isn't worth taking the plane (for those of you that do not have the most lovely Mom and Sis on the planet in Ann Arbor), I don't know what is...


...save perhaps for the Apple-smoked Bacon that this fine lady offered up to the poor souls that were frozen from the wait outside. Admittedly, I kept the napkin that the little piece was served on and smelled it for days after. I know that is odd, but they could bottle that scent as perfume.


Now, where things get especially interesting for me is Z's extremely fine taste in all worldly delectables. Yes, of course, there are moments of pricing of madness. Sixteen smackeroonies for a tiny jar of wild artichokes from Italy? Well, yes because where else exactly do you think that you are going to find wild Italian artichokes in these parts, hmmm? 


Ahhh, mais oui. La grande mais oui. Because of the relatively selective olive oils for sale, gasp, oh gee, there is to be found both types (fruity and nutty) from the our own very dear Moulin Cornille in Maussane. It is a co-operative and even our friends that live in the Baux Valley bring in their olives to add to make this oil! It is fine stuff indeed. 



I could barely approach the cheeses but to say that the choice was equally worldly is another understatement. Murray's NYC look out! 



After the wait, the worthy that wish to eat sur place can take their victuals over to the charming little Victorian next door, which also has a slew of baked goods on the offering, too tempting for anyone to turn up their noses for dessert. 


Z's prides itself on the quality of all that it does, that is why it has grown and become so loved. They smoke the meats, they bake the bread, they sweeten the chocolate. It is amazing actually, especially when you think of how completely ahead of their time they were and continue to be. Their success is well-deserved and that they kick back to the community is zooming them into the future. And yes, I did have a bit of Zingerman's--a wonderful brunch at their Roadhouse restaurant. My Mom, Sis and I all chose the same dish as it was the dish to be chosen, without a doubt: the Georgia Grits and Bits Waffle, which is filled with grits and cheddar and topped with bacon and the most amazing syrup. Yes, you read correctly. The ghost of Elvis take heed. Zingerman's has a new staple for you! I ate half (you will notice that I actually felt the need to order a side of scrambled, poor me, I had no idea what was coming my way). 

So there you have it for Ann Arbor! As always, my infinite love and thanks to my Mom, Sister and my Mom's companion Leonard for showing me the best time possible! 

24 comments:

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Heather:
What an amazing place and, once inside having survived that queue, we doubt very much that you would have been able to drag us out before closing time. Now something like this store surely represents the very best of what can be achieved but, as you point out, it is the result of years of punishing hard work and not, as would be imitators imagine, a nine day wonder.

Elizabeth said...

While I've wandered all over Italy with Ari (the owner) tasting things like those little sixteen dollar artichokes, I've never actually had the pleasure of visiting Zingerman's. Lucky you!!

LA CONTESSA said...

I"M STARVED NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Good thing I spent this rainy day in the kichen cooking!Think I'll go dive into something that is really for the SONS but I better sample first!

Glamour Drops said...

You can tell, just from looking, that the bread would taste amazing! Such a glossy finish....ooh I am a sucker for fresh, really, really good bread. It's late Saturday afternoon in Melbourne, so now I am starving thank you very much Heather.... and I can feel a trip to the bakery & cheese grocer coming right up...x

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

I've enjoyed this dining experience at Zingerman's .......... there is always a place in the world for those with passion and commitment. Thank you for taking us home with you and allowing us to share some of your joy and pleasure.
Bisuos

Lost in Provence said...

Hello friends--this deli actually reminds me of your favorite Brighton spot, minus your perch in the window!

Lost in Provence said...

Ah, of course! Ann Arborites have YOU to thank for the Italian section--that totally makes sense actually. :) I only met Ari once--he was bussing tables at the Roadhouse! Now THAT is an entrepreneur...And yes, I think that you would loose your mind in Zs. It is just so wonderful.

Lost in Provence said...

Hee hee, careful Contessa or there won't be anything left!

Lost in Provence said...

Me too, V. Bread and cheese are my true peché mignon and I am grateful to have access to incredible examples of both! I am surprised you don't make your own bread. Now, I know that I can't because I would just eat it all immediately but I think that you have more restraint than I do...

Lost in Provence said...

Je t'en prie! Wondering when you are next going to by at your French Work in Progress...?

Acquired Objects said...

I haven't had breakfast yet and this last dish looks fabulous! Yes please we'll one have plate of the above since the husband and I can split most plates. Looks like a great deli and would love to visit!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Debra~

Lost in Provence said...

Right back at ya Miss! And yes, that brunch would have been right up your alley, Debra!

Liza in Ann Arbor said...

Ahh good old Zingerman's. I hardly ever go! That line deters me every time, but when I do wait (usually with visitors from out out town ;), it's of course worth it. Glad you enjoyed your time in A2.

Lost in Provence said...

Oh Liza! If I had such an awesome deli I would brave the line--just not it the cold! And not on a weekend. :)

Elizabeth said...

No no! The selection is all Ari. In fact, I've learned more from going around talking to food artisans with Ari than I can remember.

Lost in Provence said...

For certain, dude loves what he does and your response is just further proof that he is the real deal. I got wimpy about expounding on his "empire" but he has taken something that is already great and made it even better. Zingtrain? He even has a Camp Bacon--need I say more?

I am wondering if you are going to be a part of his Italy tours this Fall...?

chcmichel said...

I grew up in Michigan but never have made it to Zingermans. My mother and father were both graduates of the University of Michigan but obviously Zingermans was not around when they were in school or maybe I would have made it there. Sounds like the kind of place I love to go to. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

quintessence said...

OH my - I would be in serious trouble here!! Looks fabulous! I'm with Debra - haven't even had my coffee and now starving!

Gustia said...

Hi Heather! I spotted your question about buttermilk substitutions in France on the Smitten Kitchen blog post for Carrot Pancakes. I have the answer! I've lived in Monaco for 12 years so when I first arrived I had to use trial and error for all of the products I was used to in Canada! There are 2 French buttermilk products that I use here all the time: The first is "Lait Ribot" from the company, "Malo" It's in a white plastic bottle about 8" tall. The second is "Elben Lacteor, Lait Fermenté Maigre" in a tall, square, waxed cardboard container like the standard quart-sized containers that milk is usually sold in in North America. Both work perfectly in recipes that call for buttermilk. The Malo is a bit richer and more expensive but the Elben Lacteor is cheaper, more acidic and available at Casino, Marché U etc. The Malo I buy at Lafayette Gourmet. I've just subscribed to your blog. We North Americans must stick together. Let me know how your pancakes work out!

Lost in Provence said...

Yay Gustia!! Thank you SO much--for taking the effort to come here and find me, for giving me that magical answer AND subscribing! Whew. And I couldn't agree with you more, so I signed up for both of your blogs and am looking forward to reading more.

And now I have a little treasure hunt to look forward to. I'll be aiming for the Elben Lacteor (and truly, thank goodness you piped in because there is no way that I would have ever, ever figured this out otherwise) but will keep an eye out for the Malo as anything that is richer is sadly, what I will choose. Sigh.

I'll keep you posted but I think that they will have to wait until Sunday brunch this weekend...

I hope that you are having a sunnier day in Monaco than we are here...

Gustia said...

Glad I could help and thanks for your subscription too! Sadly, it's grey here in Monaco but it's a good chance to stay indoors to bake and blog. If you have trouble finding the buttermilk I can mail you some. As you know, the post here in France is really fast...

Lost in Provence said...

Gustia, that made me laugh! And you knew that it would too...And I hear you, it does feel good to be guilt free about actually staying indoors! We are spoiled folks, aren't we?

Carol said...

In the "better late than never" category, I'd like to thank you for the wonderful posts about A2. We love our Maize & Blue city!
Three years ago, a friend in Tokyo entrusted her daughter to my care for several months so she could take accelerated English classes at a language institute in A2. Being of college age, she lived during that time in a house with some UofM undergrad students. When it came time for her to leave, I asked her to pick a place for a farewell dinner, somewhere that would be a special memory of her last day there. She chose Zingerman's. We sat on the deck outside and ate (delicious!) and talked for over four hours. I hope her memory of that evening is as sweet as mine is.
Ann Arbor is about to provide me with a bittersweet memory when my son graduates from the University of Michigan next week. We plan to celebrate as we did his sister's graduation two years ago: sandwiches and cold drinks on the patio at Charlie's, a place you'll never read about in any fine (or even a little bit sorta fine) dining guide, but a great place for peoplewatching and celebrating milestones on a spring day.

Lost in Provence said...

Oh I love it too, Carol and thank you for your wonderful response. Zingerman's is amazing on so many levels but it also reflects the diversity of A2 in such a wonderful way. But now you have me curious about Charlie's! Wow. We aren't food snobs in my family, we'll eat in a shack (and have) for good eats. Wishing your son all the best as he graduates next week and heads out into the world!