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Ari's Top 5
Thank you for signing up for our new weekly curated email! Here’s a quick roundup of 5 Zing things Ari is excited about this week—stuff you might not have heard of!
Suckling Pig Dinner
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Suckling Pig Supper at Miss Kim

A special pork-focused evening on Monday, July 9

A few months ago, Marika de Vienne and her husband Steve Allison of our erstwhile spice suppliers, Épices de Cru, came to town from Montreal for our third annual Spice Week at Zingerman’s. As we do every year the de Viennes visit, we strung together a week’s worth of tastings, classes, and events. One of my favorites was the spice-centric special dinner that chef and managing partner Ji Hye Kim put together at Miss Kim. The highlight of the meal, for me at least, was the whole—actually two whole—suckling pig. Beautifully roasted by Ji Hye, the pigs came to the table looking golden brown and crispy. Moist, tender, meaty, spicy, rich—they tasted terrific. The response was overwhelming excitement from guests and staff alike. I’m still thinking about the meal.

A few days later we got to thinking—why not roast a suckling pig, say, every month for a special event where pork lovers could come and enjoy a delicacy they’d probably never make at home? So, next Monday evening, July 9, we’ll host the first of these special suckling pig dinners at Miss Kim!

The parade of suckling pig suppers will continue—the second Monday of every month—which makes the next one August 13th. Each month Ji Hye will choose a different theme, and a different way to prepare the pigs. Next week, it’s gonna be a Ssam Suckling Pig Supper—“ssam” means “wrapped” in Korean—and you’ll get a whole platter of super tender roast suckling pig to wrap into lettuce and perilla wraps. The meal will be served family style with, the Miss Kim crew says, “more camaraderie and assorted house-made accouterments than you can shake a hoof at.” So, if you like pork, you’re up for a fun and flavorful taste of very traditional Korean cooking, come on by! Hope to see you there!

Pig Out at Miss Kim!
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Borgotaro Parmigiano

Borgotaro Parmigiano Reggiano

Bold flavors from the top of the Parmigiano peak

It was about a year ago now that we were awaiting our very first shipment of newly sourced Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses in Ann Arbor. The first wheels arrived in early autumn, and we’ve been eating and enjoying them ever since. I still catch myself marveling at just how good they are. In particular, last week, the aroma and flavor of the cheese from the Borgotaro dairy really blew me away!

The dairy at Borgotaro is located up in the mountains, about 60 kilometers southwest of the town of Parma and about as far from Parma and Reggio-Emilia as you can get and still be in the region. The city of Genoa is only 64 kilometers away. Head south and you get to Tuscany. The dairy is located in the town of Albareto, at the center of the Borgotaro district up in the mountains (sidenote: the father of the late great actor James Gandolfini, of Sopranos fame, came from the village). Borgotaro is a member of the Slow City movement, which encourages support of local food and drink and a generally slower pace of high-quality community life. Borgotaro dairy is a co-op—it’s owned by its farmer members. Today they have about 20 producers, plus five small farms from which they buy milk. Most of the Borgotaro farms now have about 20 or 30 cows.

The milk from the farms is still collected here the old-fashioned way—in cans. Cheese is made within two hours of milking. They have 13 kettles in which they make about 23 cheeses a day, roughly 7,000 per year. One of the things that makes this cheese so special is that they use almost exclusively natural aging at ambient temperatures throughout the year. That means it’s much colder in the winter, warmer in spring, and even warmer still in summer—they have refrigeration in the aging rooms, but they use it only on the hottest days to protect the cheese. Most of the time, they leave the windows open to allow for natural air flow. 

By contrast, many more mechanized and modern dairies don’t let the temperature swing very much. If you hold the cheese strictly at colder temperatures, you lose less moisture, which means at, say two years, you have an extra kilo or so of cheese to sell. When you’re selling your cheese off en masse to big distributors who aren’t that focused on the nuance, why not hold the weight? It allows low-end producers to get cheaper Parmigiano Reggiano into the supermarket, but the flavor, while still “perfectly fine,” will never be fantastic.

The Borgotaro folks are a rare exception—for them, flavor clearly comes first. The wheel of Borgotaro cheese that the Deli crew cut into last week is great. The aroma is amazing, and it has a big round flavor that’s sweet, but not at all out of balance. It’s great on pasta or in risotto with porcini or other mushrooms—or on salad, with mountain honey.

The recently published Slow Food Guida al Parmigiano Reggiano listed Borgotaro as one of their “top” cheeses. Andrea Bezzecchi, vinegar maker, and cheese judge, wrote to say of the Borgotaro cheese: “The color is golden, really rich in perfume with fruity and broth notes. The flavor is full and fills the mouth, with rich notes of cooked butter, broth, and spices. The crystals in the cheese are really defined and create a nice experience in biting the piece, which completely melts in the mouth leaving a complex and very long taste of meat broth, dried fruits, and spices.”

As you can tell, I love it! I’m guessing you will too.

 

Get a Taste of Borgotaro
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Emilia Romagna Dinner at Greyline

An Emilia-Romagna dinner at the Greyline, Tuesday, July 10

Up-and-coming food expert Andrea Bezzecchi comes to cook

Speaking of Andrea Bezzecchi, he’s coming to Ann Arbor next week to host a delicious dinner featuring the foods of his home region of Emilia-Romagna. The dishes of Emilian cooking are some of the most delicious, richest, and most highly revered in all of Italy. The region is home to the three of the greatest foods around—Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and traditional balsamic vinegar—and all three will be featured next Tuesday evening! Accompanied by commentary and a good bit of culinary history from one of the rising young stars of the Italian food scene.

Andrea, apart from being a really nice guy, is one of the most in-the-know food folks in the region of Emilia-Romagna. But it’s not just about intellect—his passion for traditional food parallels his knowledge. Andrea’s family has been producing balsamic vinegar for three generations. When his father passed away unexpectedly, Andrea, at a very young age, stepped in to keep the family’s artisan activity alive. Over the last two decades, Andrea has developed a great passion for traditional vinegar beyond balsamic. He’s working with a half dozen other artisan vinegar fanatics in Italy to preserve traditional techniques, and his naturally converted, well-aged wine vinegar, his balsamic, and his very special beer vinegar are all excellent!

That said, there will be much more to the meal than just vinegar. Andrea’s palate and culinary sensibility is very advanced! In recent years, he was certified as a formal judge for the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consorzio’s constant grading and assessment of cheese. The dinner will feature, among other excellent things to eat, the cheese from the Borgotaro dairy mentioned above. There will also be delicious Prosciutto di Parma ham from Giovanni Bianchi, of the amazing Pio Tosini (read about Pio Tosini in the Mar/April newsletter, page 10), that’s aged for well over two years, more Parmigiano Reggiano from the Roncadella dairy, honey from the award-winning Miele Thun, and vinegars from Andrea’s small firm of San Giacomo.

The evening will be casual—an Emilian eating experience that you might have if you gathered your whole family together at shared tables, laughed a lot, told stories, and savored so many good flavors you’d still be thinking about them months down the road. Andrea will, of course, share stories of the raw materials we use. The Deli crew will be concocting non-alcoholic shrubs made with Andrea’s vinegar as well as tastings of Lambrusco wine, and another surprise wine from the region.

Come to this Tuesday evening Italian dinner at the Greyline and take home a new appreciation and an even higher enthusiasm for the traditional foods of the province of Parma.

PS: Speaking of Parma and Pio Tosini, the Deli Merch crew has this beautiful piece of original artwork up for sale. There’s only one, so don’t dally. It could be hanging in your dining room next week!

Eat, Drink & Explore Emiliana-Romanga
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Chicken Hill Black Peppercorns

Chicken Hill Black Peppercorns from India

Our genuinely excellent July Spice of the Month


In his terrific little book, Tastes of Paradise, the German historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch says, “The taste for pepper [in medieval Europe] showed symptoms of having become an addiction. Once habituated to the spices of India, Europe was ready to do anything to gratify its craving.” My own addiction to pepper has led me to search, with ever greater diligence, for more and more interesting pepper offerings. Fortunately for me, the de Vienne family at Épices de Cru are very kind and excellent enablers. Every year they seem to show up with some super interesting, exceedingly excellent examples of black pepper perfection. Now, it’s this wonderfully named, exceptionally aromatic black pepper from India. They’re all good, but Chicken Hill is my top choice for the summer!

Chicken Hill is an amazingly aromatic and flavorful, super-fine black peppercorn from a small corner of southern India in the very-famous-in-the-spice-world Cardamom Hills. If you’re looking for something special and even a bit adventurous but don’t want to personally sail halfway around the world to feed your peppery fix, come on down to the Deli and check out Chicken Hill black pepper.

Can you tell the difference? Of course!! Let the Deli crew sample (or at least help you sniff) four or five of the very fine black peppercorns we’ve got in stock from the folks at Épices de Cru. Like fine wines, each will have its unique flavors, a function of terroir in which the pepper vines grow, and the style and craft of the farmers who grow, pick and process the peppercorns. I happen to like them all, but the Chicken Hill stands out—there’s something a bit more than everyone else can bring to the table, something special that keeps you going back.

Here are the notes from the de Viennes, who very clearly, know what they’re talking about: “This exceptional terroir produces dense, heavy peppercorns, which in turn presents a heady, strong aroma reminiscent of black tea. Very subtle but it’s a little unexpected for a pepper doing this job. Mushrooms, fruity, clove. With plenty of heat, this gorgeous black pepper kicks up any dish, whether added during cooking or as a finishing spice.” I’ve got a trio of tins stacked on my counter. Don’t be a chicken—come on down and try this rare, hard-to-find, amazing black peppercorn ASAP.
Get a Taste of Chicken Hill Here
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Fried Ribs at the Roadhouse

Fried Ribs at the Roadhouse

Rockin’ new appetizer kissed with a touch of artisan cane syrup

Because we’re around so much good food every day, it takes a lot to get our staff really talking. But that’s what happened a few weeks ago when fried ribs hit the Roadhouse appetizer list for the first time.

The dish starts with the same super-popular pork ribs that the Roadhouse sells so many hundreds of weekly—they also helped earn the Roadhouse a spot on Bon Appetit's Top Ten New Barbecue Restaurants list back in 2009. Made from free-running pork, raised by Niman Ranch farmers here in Michigan, these baby back ribs are liberally spiced and then set on the pit over oak smoke for about three hours. From there they head back to the kitchen where they braise for another three hours, and then they’re left to steam for another three hours still. When you order a rack, the slabs go onto the grill over more oak wood smoke, topped with some of our Red Rage barbecue sauce.

The fried ribs take a bit of a side road—the get cut into individual ribs, are dipped in buttermilk and seasoned flour, and then dropped in hot oil in the deep fryer. It doesn’t take long before they come out golden brown and hot. We drain them quickly and finish with a drizzle of Charles Poirier’s powerfully good artisan cane syrup.

The syrup is a story in itself. I met Charles probably five or six years ago at Southern Foodways Alliance, and immediately upon tasting, fell head over sweet heels in love with his homemade cane syrup. The whole thing is incredible–he raises the cane, crushes it, boils down the juice. One hundred and fifty years ago half the state of Louisiana probably did the same thing. Today, best I know, Charles is the only that’s still at it.

Because Charles’s syrup is limited, we bought up all we could get last winter. Fried Ribs will continue on while supplies of the syrup last (next harvest will be in the autumn). You can try Charles artisan cane syrup on a fried chicken biscuit at Happy Hour, too!

The fried ribs have been so popular that almost everyone at the Roadhouse has been talking about them and eating them! Stop by and order some up. I think you could make a meal out of the dish if you paired them with sides of mashed potatoes and collard greens. Either way, if you like barbecue, good pork, a touch of sweet and a bit of spice, they’re sure going to be a hit with you too.

Take a Bite This Week!
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Ari
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