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Ari's Top 5

 

Partnership is giving, taking,
learning, teaching, offering the
greatest possible benefit while doing
the least possible harm.

—Octavia E. Butler

 

There are a few (though not many) seats left for the unveiling of Patrick-Earl Barnes’ new art piece, “Blacks in Culinary,” at the Roadhouse this coming Tuesday, August 30. It’s a fundraiser for the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County. Click here for all the creative and compelling details.
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The Collaborative Power
of Partnerships

Celebrating a new Managing Partner in the ZCoB
and a piece of public art

If art is how we attempt to think here at Zingerman’s, then perhaps I could imagine our Partners Group as a kind of artists’ collective. 

Counting me and Paul, our collective includes 19 Managing Partners plus 3 Staff Partners, for a total of 22. Each Managing Partner is actively engaged every day in leading their own ZCoB business. At the same time, we work together collaboratively to lead our 700-person-plus organization. As of last week, I’m happy to say, another “artist” has come into the collective. This is our second new partner in the last six months; Jaison Restrick joined Amy Emberling as Co-Managing Partner at the Bakehouse back in March. While financial metrics certainly matter—artists need to pay the bills, too—adding partners to our group is one of the ways that I measure our organizational growth and success. In that sense, 2022 is turning out to be a banner year. 

Last Thursday evening I did a bit of ZingTrain work, teaching the organizational ecosystem model to the leadership team from a very large, forward-thinking company on the West Coast. The CEO, who I think is awesome, asked the team to start out the session by sharing a moment in their lives that they will always remember. The stories folks in the session—coincidentally, about the same size as the Partners Group—shared were touching and poignant. Each brought beauty, vulnerability, joy, hope, fear, and a bit of artfulness to the evening. Since I went last, just before segueing into my talk, I had a good bit of time to think about which of the many remarkable moments in my life I might share with the group. I decided to tell a story that was fresh in my mind, something that had happened not even twelve hours earlier. 

The event was indeed one that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was the Partners Group’s approval of Lisa Schultz as a Managing Partner at the Roadhouse at our monthly ZCoB Huddle. Lisa is now a full member of the Partners Group, and will have a formal ownership share in the Roadhouse as well. Since our meetings are open, there were about 75 folks attending, many in person, and many logging in online. To an outside observer, someone who’s not intimate with the way we work, this might seem like a rather small event in the scheme of all that happens here. Those in the know understand that it was a truly big day in the nearly 15,000 days since we opened our doors at the Deli for the first time. What took place that morning was indeed a dream come true for our Community. Partnership is an essential, existential, element of the Zingerman’s ecosystem. 

Not everyone reading this, I know, will be inclined to work with partners. I have many friends who roll their eyes at the idea of it. I can say though, with confidence, that it is the only way I want to work. Partnership—first with Paul, now with Lisa and nineteen other people I care deeply about and collaborate with daily—has been a huge contributor to the quality of my own life, and to the health of our organization. Zingerman’s would not be Zingerman’s without it.

I long ago came to believe that people cry at weddings and graduations because they are witnessing a long-standing (though generally unwritten) vision come to fruition. This partnership, for me, was much the same. The achievement of something that we have worked towards for many years, Lisa becoming a Managing Partner, is a big deal for everyone involved. While it could be written off by cynics as a bit of bureaucratic formality, I see it very differently. In the spirit of thinking and working artistically, the story strikes me now a bit like Picasso’s poetic assertion: “There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who … transform a yellow spot into sun.” The sun in the organizational ecosystem metaphor is akin to hope. And this whole story is, in fact, a wonderfully hopeful one.

“Art,” I realized while writing, is embedded in the word “partner.” While both art and partnership can be done badly, at their best each has the power to bring beauty to our lives. Iranian-born, New York-based artist Shirin Neshat says, “I think works of art—any form of culture—have the capability to give people a certain hope and passion and belief and conviction that nothing else can.” This formal coming together—Lisa choosing to pursue the Path to Partnership, and the ZCoB and the Partners Group deciding to welcome her in—is an uplifting, hope-filled sun of an organizational act that brings beauty and health to the Zingerman’s Community and, I hope to Lisa and her family as well. 

Backing up to the beginning of all this, there is another moment in my life that I will always remember. It was Paul reaching out to me in the first few days of November 1981, to talk more seriously about the idea we had bounced around for a few years of opening a deli together. He didn’t know I had given notice at my job a few days earlier and that I was less than eight weeks away from being unemployed (and unemployment back then was nearly 10%!). Within a matter of days, we had agreed to be partners. On March 15 of 1982, we opened the doors to the Deli. One of the many things about our work that is noteworthy is that our partnership is still positive forty years later. We’ve had plenty of disagreements, lots of difficult days, we’ve tried each other’s patience, and worked through any number of hard times—of which the pandemic is only the most recent. And through all that, our partnership remains as strong as ever. 

From that very first phone call back in the fall of 1981, partnership has been at the core of what Paul and I did. It was how we worked and who we were. It was what made our lives livable in the ways we wanted to live them. Forty-plus years down the road, this all remains true. Leadership, even with partners, is lonely; I can hardly imagine doing it without. As Paul Farmer, who passed away last March, once pointed out: “With rare exceptions, all of your most important achievements on this planet will come from working with others—or, in a word, partnership.” 

Scientist-philosopher Stephen Harrod Buhner says,

All self-organized systems, it is important to realize, learn. They also retain memories of what they learn and they innovate on those learnings. They build more complex forms and behaviors out of their past experiences in order to generate more adaptable and resilient self-organization.

Buhner’s wise words are a wonderful, gentle, way to describe what we’ve done over all these years. Long before there was Servant Leadership, Stewardship, Open-Book Management, visioning, or the artistic approach to business in my life, there was Paul. The complex forms and behaviors of the ZCoB as we know it today are, to Buhner’s point, built upon the positive memories of my and Paul’s earliest experiences of partnership back in 1982.

In “The Story of Visioning” I shared my belief that our vision is, metaphorically, what we “build” or “construct” in our organizational ecosystems. In that context, partnership could be seen as one of the cornerstones of the ZCoB. Architect Bill Whitaker writes, “The cornerstone's three distinct characteristics distinguish it from the other stones used in construction; building orientation, history, and celebration.” The formal approval of a new partner like Lisa does all three—it is the orientation around which all our governance works; it’s a way to honor our organizational history; and it’s a time to celebrate what we have created together. 

While having multiple partners is probably not uncommon in professional services firms, it is not the norm in the food world, or really in most businesses, it is a big part of our vision. The Zingerman’s 2009 vision, published in 1994 (see “The Story of Visioning” for much more), is where we stated our intention to make this our reality—we were going to grow the business, but not in the way that most organizations did. We would open only in the Ann Arbor area, we would open only one of each Zingerman’s business, we would work as a synergistic collective, and each business would be led by its own Managing Partner(s). Paul and I wrote: 

Why take on new partners in new businesses rather than simply expanding our current business and adding more managers?

Quite simply, because it is our firm belief that for a business to bring the kind of energy, excitement, commitment to food, service, and staff that we are looking for, there absolutely must be an owner-operator on site. The personality of every business starts at the top, and the personality of absentee-owned businesses is often far too absent to create the kind of businesses we want to be associated with.

“New partners” is also about working to keep decision-making where we think it belongs—close to the customer and close to the food. We don’t want an enormous bureaucratic operation that loses touch with its roots. But we do want to grow, and we believe that creating more small businesses, with more leaders and less followers, is an effective way to do that.
We are now two additional visions—2020 and 2032—down the river of our organizational history, but partnership remains a cornerstone of our construct. Lisa is the latest partner to join, but absolutely not the last. Part of her new responsibility as a Managing Partner will be to encourage others in the organization to follow the same path she has been on.

Reflecting over the last few days, it became clear to me that the ZCoB Huddle at which Lisa was approved was a synergistic coming together of dozens of positive parts of our organization’s ever-imperfect existence—all assimilated that morning through the lens of the formal beginning of this new partnership. In the spirit of thinking artistically, the approval of Lisa as a Managing Partner in the ZCoB in the open and inclusive setting of our monthly huddle is, in essence then, an act of “public art.” Siah Armajani, who passed away two years ago this week, was one of the most creative thinkers in the world of modern American art installation. Born in Iran in 1939, as a young man he demonstrated against the autocratic regime of the Shah, before moving to Minneapolis in 1960. Armajani, amongst whose works was a series he called “Gazebos for Anarchists” (one of which honored Emma Goldman), once said that the purpose of public art is to make “artists citizens again.” Reflecting back on the event, it is exactly as Armajani imagined. In the same sort of way that Patrick-Earl Barnes’ new wall piece for the Roadhouse will honor “Blacks in Culinary,” the ZCoB Huddle that morning honors the good work of the organization, a celebration of Lisa, and a recommitment ceremony as we continue to move towards our 2032 vision, and an invitation to think about the world in a different way than we might previously. 

Thinking back, I can see that dozens of positive things manifested themselves all at the same time in the short session last Thursday morning: 
  • The Partners’ approval of Lisa’s application was the fulfillment of well over five years of her actively working to attain partnership. 
  • It demonstrated that someone like Lisa, who started as a server with the intent of working at the Roadhouse for just a year or two, can work their way into becoming a great leader—someone who has quietly, without drama, earned the respect of the people she works with in the restaurant, others around the ZCoB, and, clearly by dint of their decision to approve her, the Partners. Jaison Restrick’s story is, in the best possible way, much the same—he started working the counter in the Bakeshop 24 years ago.
  • It helped us to actualize an important part of our vision for 2032, the ten pages of which include this: “Each business in the ZCoB has a managing partner or partners who own real shares in the business, have a deep passion for what that business does, and are charged with leading its work.”
  • It made real our commitment to creating opportunity for folks in the ZCoB to grow and develop their work path as Paul and I had done, by becoming a Partner in a Zingerman’s business. 
  • The decision was made by consensus of the Partners Group—all the Managing Partners and also the three Staff Partners—once again demonstrating that consensus work among peers can really work.
  • The whole process of Lisa’s Path to Partnership was, I’m happy to say, public and very well-publicized. Working inclusively and openly as we try to do means that there have been plenty of chances for people to get to know Lisa better and to share input. It is, in that sense, as much a collective achievement as an individual one for Lisa.
  • Because the Roadhouse has been without a formal Managing Partner for five years—I’ve been filling that role—this is a positive move for succession planning and long-term organizational stability. 
  • From the time Lisa told me five years ago that she wanted to be a Managing Partner, she and I have essentially been acting as if we already were partners. We act as equals, making decisions by consensus, disagreeing at times, but as Paul says, “without being disagreeable.” All of which makes this moment a recognition of what has already been happening rather than a shock to the organizational system. 
  • Because we’ve made clear all along that ideally, we would love to have more than just one Managing Partner in the business (and in others) Lisa getting approved is not limiting; hopefully it serves as an example and invitation and inspiration to others to follow on the Path to Partnership at the Roadhouse as well. 
  • Because all our meetings are open, there were forty-something non-partner staff members attending. Lisa’s family—her husband, children, and parents—also came to the meeting. Rather than building walls between worlds, we work hard to make it possible for the people who are part of the ZCoB to pass pretty freely and openly between the various parts of their lives. We went around the room and each person shared something that they could offer as support to Lisa in her new role. Her father summed it up well: “I think Lisa is lucky to have found Zingerman’s. And Zingerman’s is lucky to have Lisa!” I agree!

Partnership is not a panacea, and, as I’ve said, I know it’s not for everyone. It certainly, we know, doesn’t always work out. I have a good friend who’s going through the equivalent of a painful business divorce right now. We’ve had a few partnerships here that ended. The first time it happened, I started to sink into despair, feeling like I had failed. But Paul reminded me that if we were, as per our 2009 vision, going to try to create multiple partnerships, they weren’t all going to work out. Wise words. 

Partners here, to be clear, don’t become partners because they’re perfect—we all, starting with me, make many mistakes and none of us necessarily know the “right answer” on any given issue. Lisa certainly knows no more today than she did the day before she became a partner. Rather, we agree to be partners because we believe that the prospective partner, in this case, Lisa:

  • Shares our vision and values and beliefs
  • Likes to work collaboratively and is emotionally intelligent
  • In the spirit of what I wrote last month about responsibility going up in multiples of 100%, is willing to take emotional and intellectual responsibility for the whole 
  • Is good at communicating in a constructive way and can work through things to conclusion
  • Has demonstrated that they are committed to personal growth
  • Shows the willingness to do the unglamorous hard work needed to really lead effectively, every day, in the real world 

Partners become partners at Zingerman’s because we believe that we can make something special together. What we have created through caring partnerships, it is very clear, far exceeds what any of us could ever have created on our own. All of which does make me wonder why shared leadership constructs like ours are so uncommon. What would happen if there were two Co-Presidents of the country? Or a pair of principles who worked collaboratively to lead each school? After all, as Robert Greenleaf once wrote, “To be a lone chief atop a pyramid is abnormal and corrupting. None of us are perfect by ourselves, and all of us need the help and correcting influence of close colleagues.” 

Partnership, as we do it here—whether it’s with Paul, Lisa, or any of the other amazing partners in the ZCoB—is a lot of work. In fact, it’s a lot like how writer Alain de Botton describes love:

We have this ideal of what love is and then these very, very unhelpful narratives of love. And they’re everywhere. They’re in movies and songs — and we mustn’t blame songs and movies too much. But if you say to people, “Look, love is a painful, poignant, touching attempt by two flawed individuals to try and meet each other’s needs in situations of gross uncertainty and ignorance about who they are and who the other person is, but we’re going to do our best,” that’s a much more generous starting point. So the acceptance of ourselves as flawed creatures seems to me what love really is. Love is at its most necessary when we are weak, when we feel incomplete, and we must show love to one another at those points. 
This, though we don’t walk around all week saying “I love you” to each other all day, is what I believe has happened here. In the same way that we are often exasperated with, furious at, or whatever other feelings you want to plug in, our significant others or family members, the same can happen at work. Doing partnership well is hard work; the honeymoon ends relatively quickly and then we get down to the business of imperfect decision-making, trying to figure out what to do every day, assimilating conflicting points of view, being patient with diverse personalities, etc. As Paul often says, professionalism—in business partnership, life partnership, poetry, or making pottery—“is sticking with things after the initial glamor has worn off.” Part of what informally makes me feel so confident about having Lisa (and the rest of the group as well) as a Partner is that although she has worked through thousands of difficult situations in her eighteen years here, she’s still excited about what we do every day, and also about our collective future. 

Rich Sheridan and his partner James Gobel, at Menlo Innovations here in Ann Arbor, have applied the principles of partnership beautifully all the way down to the team level. They have a whole course on how to do that work, which they call “pairing.” Their experiences of the benefits of operating in this way are very much aligned with ours. Rich says,
Pairing is the foundation of our work style and our learning system … it is one of the most potent managerial tools I have ever discovered because of all the traditional problems it helps solve. Pairing fosters a learning system, builds relationships, eliminates towers of knowledge, simplifies onboarding of new people and flushes out performance issues.
Coming back to the idea of art and partnership, writer Julia Brown said of Siah Armajani’s work:
The work of art is not self-contained but depends on a larger context for its meaning. It stands in a furtherance of a cultural history, which itself does not exist in isolation. … A result of this inclusiveness is complexity.

There is no single center, focus or place of emphasis. Armajani intends the work to be participatory and to itself participate in a complex environment to stand side by side with other things, to be “neighborly.” … Armajani’s art is one of complexity and inclusion. 
Her comments about Armajani’s approach sum up much of what we have created and continue to create here at Zingerman’s—an inclusive complexity with no single center that is at the heart of what makes Zingerman’s Zingerman’s. A coming together that honors complexity and all the nuances of being neighborly in the best, if ever imperfect, possible ways.

Although the story of partnership began four decades ago with what Paul and I did, the past 30 years of Zingerman’s—and hence, three-fourths of our organizational history—is really not about me and Paul as a pair. On the contrary, we are only two contributors to the collective leadership of the organization. Each of the partners has contributed hugely to making the ZCoB what it is. To wit, 30 years ago next month will mark the anniversary of the Bakehouse, the first place we put this idea of expanding partnership into real-life practice. Without Frank Carollo, the Bakehouse would never have been what it has become. Without Amy Emberling, who was one of the original bakers—and 22 years ago this month became a Co-Managing Partner in the same way Lisa and Jaison have just done—the Bakehouse would not be the Bakehouse. Without this work to share ownership and equity more widely, Zingerman’s would not have come close to creating what we have in the community. 

Jim Autry writes, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Without question, Paul and I have done that for each other over the years, as have other partners for us, we for them and each of them for the other. Sure, it’s not done in perfect symmetry; as you would likely imagine some get along better with others, relationship energies ebb and flow; frustrations rise and fall, etc., etc. None of us are perfect partners because there are no perfect partners. Alain de Botton says of marriage that when two people do it well, each is “increasing the admirable characteristics” in the other. 

Partnership, like anything else we care about and commit to, is work. Done well, a great partnership is, in itself, a positive work of art. While it’s not easy, it’s been an inspiring way for us to create something really special. I can’t imagine living without it. Charlie Mackesy’s beautifully wise picture book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, sums up how I feel beautifully: “Everyone is a bit scared. But we are less scared together.”

Later that Thursday evening, after I got home from the ZingTrain presentation, Lisa sent me a text. The symmetry and the synergy made me smile: “Thank you for everything today,” she said. “It’s one I will always remember!!”
Looking towards the future

For more on how we got to where we are and why we went there, see Part 1: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business.

I will be teaching much more about our organizational model—including Managing Partners and how we govern the ZCoB—at the Zingerman’s Experience seminar on October 17 and 18.

an overhead view of a basket of fish and chips with lemon wedges

Fish & Chips Pop Up
at Cornman Farms September 3

Book now for this special “serving”
of good English eating

While fish and chips are widely recognized as an English specialty, what’s not well known are its Jewish roots. One hundred sixty-two years ago, back in 1860, the same year that South Carolina became the first state to formally declare secession from the Union, a Jewish immigrant named Joseph Malin seems to have started the very first fish and chip shop in England. Malin’s family, who was in the business of rug weaving, had relatively recently moved to London from eastern Europe. Young Joseph, at the age of just 13, acted entrepreneurially in an effort to supplement the family income, selling the fish and chips on the street tray hung around his neck (imagine a vendor at a baseball game). His fried fish and fried potatoes were so popular that he soon started his own shop, which stayed in business for over a century. 

Malin was most likely drawing on the long-standing tradition of fried fish in Jewish culinary history. It became especially strong in the Converso Jewish communities in Spain and Portugal after the Inquisition. Fish could be fried during the day on Friday, then eaten later that evening and/or on Saturday when Sabbath rules forbade cooking. 

Why did fish and chips take off in 19th century England? It’s actually a great example of what writer Steven Johnson has come to call “the adjacent possible;” situations in which one innovation is only made possible by other innovations which have recently happened. Johnson writes, “What the adjacent possible tells us is that at any moment the world is capable of extraordinary change, but only certain changes can happen.” Fish and chips wouldn’t have tasted any better in 1860 than they did in 1680. What was different was the Industrial Revolution—steam trawlers meant a lot more fish could be brought into port and new-fangled ice machines meant the fish could be more effectively and safely stored for later cooking and sale. 

Being English, long-time Co-Managing Partner at Cornman Farms, Kieron Hales, grew up on fish and chips:

In the UK, you usually eat fish and chips at 9 o’clock at night, or at 10 o’clock in the morning, as soon as the fish and chip shop opens. The enjoyment is in the unwrapping of that paper and sitting on the hood of your car, where you’re usually attacked by seagulls. We invite our guests to recreate this moment at Cornman Farms’ drive-through fish and chips events on Saturday the 3rd. They’ll enjoy authentic fish and chips and stunning views of our grounds—without the attacking seagulls.
The menu for this first-Saturday-in-September pop-up will pretty much mirror what the young Joseph Malin might well have been making 162 years ago. Golden, battered cod served with a pile of freshly fried, thick, salty chips (a.k.a. French fries) and a side of sauce. Cornman also has plenty of bottled beer and wine to buy as well. You can eat your meal straight away with your fingers and/or the two-pronged wooden fork the Farm folks put in the package! Some outdoor seating and a cash bar will be available, too! If it’s nice out, you can put your blanket out and have a picnic on the Farm property. The event brings together a bit of English tradition, a celebration of youthful entrepreneurialism, and positive ways that immigrants impact society. Three cheers for fish and chips!
Catch some cod—reserve your fish & chips!
P.S. Make fish and chips at home? We have some incredible artisan malt vinegar from England in stock!
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an overhead view of a Summer Fling Coffee Cake with a wedge cut out of it, with shredded coconut and lime slices around it

A Special Bake of
Summer Fling Coffee Cake

A late-season weekend fling
with one of my Bakehouse favorites

As we move into the final weeks of summer, the Bakehouse has decided to have one more fling with the season. Or at least with this seasonally lovely coffee cake from the pastry kitchen. Summer Fling will be out this weekend for one last appearance before autumn rolls around. Because the Summer Fling Coffee Cakes freeze so well, it’d be a wise move to buy a bunch and then bring them out when you need a bit of culinary sunshine as the days get shorter with the season. 

What makes the Summer Fling Coffee Cake so good? Lime and coconut are, I think, a killer combination. The quality of the ingredients—sour cream, coconut paste, flaked dried coconut, fresh eggs, real vanilla, and a good dose of lime oil makes a big difference as well. Long, slow, toasting of the coconut helps to seal the culinary deal. Amy Emberling, Co-Managing Partner of the Bakehouse and co-author of Zingerman’s Bakehouse, says, 

The Summer Fling is one of our most versatile products—great with coffee or tea in the morning; lovely for a sweet afternoon snack; excellent after dinner. I love the texture of this cake. It’s moist and dense. I particularly love the name, reminding me of the distinctively different feel of summer socializing—more carefree and adventurous, disconnected from the real part of life, with a predetermined end date making unorthodox choices less risky.  
The flavor lingers long and lovingly on your palate, so a little bit will go a long way! Very good with gelato from the Creamery. It’s also great fried up very lightly in a well-buttered skillet. Bring one to your next meeting and make work that day into a bit of a party, or give one as a back-to-school gift to bus drivers, teachers, principals, custodians, or anyone else of whom you’re appreciative.

The Summer Fling Coffee Cake will available this weekend at the Bakeshop and Deli.
Ship a later Summer Fling to someone you love!
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three containers of McCrea's Single Malt Scotch Caramels on a yellow metal table

McCrea’s Caramels
at the Candy Store

Craft confectionary from Massachusetts

As crazy as the times we’re living in can feel, this is not the country’s first crisis. Jason and Kate McCrea created their small business around the time of the economic collapse of 2009. When Jason was laid off from his job as a software developer, the couple decided to convert his long-standing passion for confectionery into a way to make a living. Over a decade later, McCrea’s Caramels are some of the tastiest in the country. 

The idea of thinking about our work and our lives like art is actually the way that Kate and I first connected. In one of those historical moments that we don’t know are meaningful until much later, we met in person for the first time in February of 2020, six weeks or so before the start of the next big national crisis. While there were, and still are, lots of shared values (the McCreas wrote a beautiful long-term vision a few years ago) that helped create the connection, the conversation actually began around an artful approach to business. As I wrote last week, being around artistically-minded people and artistically-created artisan products is one of the best ways to help ourselves stay centered around art when so much of the world is focused on fear, blame, and other bad things. I feel fortunate to have connected with Kate and Jason, and to be able to stock their incredible caramels at the Candy Store. Here’s what Kate wrote back in February 2020:

I’ve just completed your pamphlet “The Art of Business,” and I’m a bit overwhelmed. You wove together threads that have seemed disparate into one story and it’s beautiful. My husband and I started our candy business 10 years ago, we’ve always operated at the intersection of art and science, but to refer to myself as an artist, that is something. I’ve always felt that I couldn’t say that (even though I do make art for myself), like claiming to be an artist might in some way prove me a liar. In addition, the huge job of creating this business has taken tremendous energy and, at times, I’ve despaired over how much of my creativity disappeared into “business.” Thinking of our business as a piece of art changes everything!

The McCrea caramels are well in line with that creative application of art to our daily work. They’ve been written about in pretty much every press venue you can imagine. New York Magazine, which only rarely will feature a supplier from outside the City, said McCrea’s were, “the pinnacle of gourmet sweets.” 

Not surprisingly, the work begins with great ingredients. Really good butter, pure cane sugar, and then different flavorings for each of their various offerings—real maple syrup, single-malt Ardmore Scotch whisky, sea salt from the coast of New England, real vanilla, organic coffee, black Hawaiian salt, and freshly juiced ginger. Jason’s confectionary work is wonderful, the labels are lovely, and the flavors are awesome. Allison Schraf, long-time manager at the Candy Store says, “I love these caramels because they are so buttery and have that soft chew of a classic caramel. I love the vanilla, but my very favorite is the single malt Scotch. It’s slightly smoky and has notes of wood and molasses. Round and full and just perfect for my autumn mood right now.” Stick a few in your pocket as a quiet midday pick-me-up. Or drop one in a cup of hot coffee (I’m loving our Bali) and make your own, high-quality version of a caramel coffee. 

McCrea’s Caramels are at the Candy Store on Plaza Drive inside the Coffee Company in an array of sizes and packages.

McCrea's Caramels at the Candy Store
You won’t see the McCrea’s Caramels on the Zingerman's Mail Order site, but it’d be sweet to send you some! Email us at service@zingermans.com and we’ll send them out tout de suite.
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a close-up view of tomatoes and sautéed peppers, covered in sesame seeds

Salad of Tomatoes, Sautéed Peppers & Sesame Seeds

A simple, scrumptious seasonal meal to make at home

Our counter at home this time of year is loaded with the incredibly lovely and super tasty heirloom tomatoes and peppers Tammie grows at Tamchop Farm. As I was writing last week’s piece about Greek Village Salad, I got to thinking about the great dried Greek herbs we get from the small artistically-oriented company of Daphnis and Chloe in Athens. Their oregano, fennel, and thyme are truly terrific. I happened to have a sample of their great new sesame seeds (we don’t have them in yet, but watch for them this fall). The thought of sprinkling sesame onto slices of ripe summer tomatoes and peppers suddenly stuck in my head. I’ve made the salad many times since and I still think it’s awesome!

Start with some great local peppers. There’s a wealth of wonderful heirlooms out at the farmers’ market right now. Wash, pat dry, cut them into wide strips, and gently pan fry them in hot olive oil until they’re soft. When the peppers are soft and very lightly browned, take them out of the pan and put them into a container. After they cool, cover them and put them in the fridge with the oil from the pan for a day or two. Tammie has taken to cooking them a couple of days in advance. The oil from the peppers permeates the olive oil! (You can, of course, make the salad in the moment—the peppers will still be really good right after you cook them.) 

To put the salad together, start by spreading a good bit of ricotta on a plate—I’m a huge fan of the Bellwether ricotta we have at the Cream Top Shop. (Kudos to head chef Bob Bennett at the Roadhouse for this idea he used on a different salad special—it's on the menu through the end of the month: local cucumbers and tomatoes on a bed of the Bellwether ricotta.) Cut some ripe heirloom tomato into good-sized chunks. Sprinkle them with a bit of sea salt (fleur de sel will be best). Spoon on the cooked pepper strips and some of the oil. Add some freshly ground black pepper as well. Sprinkle on a lot of sesame seeds. You can do them either raw or toasted, depending on your taste preference. Either way works well—raw, they’re a bit sweeter and more floral; toasted, they're darker with a lovely bit of caramelization. The idea is to put on a lot of sesame seeds—like you would see on the beautiful Bakehouse Sicilian Sesame Semolina loaf or a Sesame Bagel. The seeds are not just a garnish, but rather an essential element in the flavor of the salad.

Lovely to look at, and exceptionally delicious to eat!

Swing the Creamery to get some of that Bellwether Ricotta

Other Things on My Mind


Listening

Back around the time of our 40th anniversary in March, I stumbled on the rerelease of an album by Tia Blake and her Folk-Group. The music, recorded all the way back in 1970, was sold for a short while before disappearing from the market. The Georgia-born writer Tia Blake—whose full name was Tia Blake Wallman—made only this one single record, done back when she was 19 and living in Paris. If you like Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, Nico, Vashi Bunyan, John Martyn, and other near-mythical musical figures from that era, check this out ASAP! Wallman passed away in 2015 but this music will keep her memory alive for a long time to come—it sounds as fresh and alive now as it did fifty years ago. 

Adrian Swinscoe is in the UK and does great work around customer experience, plus he shares many anarchist beliefs and a love for The Clash. This podcast went live the other day with Adrian Swinscoe.

Reading

Invoking Ireland by John Moriarty.

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