Ari's Top 5

The key in a restaurant, and the key in any kind of high-pressure situation,
I think, is that 75% of success is staying calm and not losing your nerve.
The rest you figure out, but once you lose your calm, everything starts
falling apart fast. 

—Sam Kass

a black and white photo of a leaf on patio pavers

What’s the Deal with
“No Drama”?

How a snippet of sarcasm turned into a constructive contributor to organizational culture

It began as a joke. 

Four years later, it’s now just good business. A small, but serious, organizational improvement. Like most of what we teach and do, the Roadhouse’s work to roll out its “No Drama” training has cost almost nothing. The benefits, on the other hand, have been big. 

While it’s true that the idea for the program started with a joke, if I go back up the river of the Roadhouse’s history a bit, what happened before the humor was a whole lot of frustration. It had been a long day already, and I was quickly losing my patience with what I perceived as unnecessary drama from many of the people working that evening. You might know all too well what I’m talking about. The feeling that folks were wasting time talking about stuff that wasn’t relevant: Exaggerating the flaws of their coworkers or the customers and going off on long lamentations about what someone else should have done. One person would get going, and then, within minutes, others would follow suit. The whole shift seemed like it had been taken over by drama. If folks had been actors trying out for a David Mamet stage production, some on shift would have gotten a standing ovation. The problem was that we weren’t on Broadway—we were in business. And in business, this kind of drama is destructive. 

Next Thursday, June 30, Lisa Schultz, longtime Restaurant Manager at the Roadhouse, is going to present this No Drama work at a ZingTrain webinar. In that conversation, you’ll be able to learn the details of what we do, how we do it, how it’s helped, and why you might want to consider something similar for your workplace as well. During the session, she’ll share our list of things we ask the staff to steer clear of (stuff like dramatic language, “skunking,” etc.), and what we ask them to do instead (make generous assumptions, “Three and Out,” and more). Lisa—along with head chef Bob Bennett—has been teaching the No Drama program as part of the Welcome to the Roadhouse orientation class they’ve been doing for several years now and leading the staff of 100-plus people to actually implement it every day. While each week still includes some drama, I will say with certainty that there is far, far less of it than there was four years ago. During that time, the No Drama work has, without question, quietly but effectively enhanced the Roadhouse’s culture. As ROIs go, it’s probably one of the best investments we’ve ever made.

Before all of this work got going, back on that fateful, drama-filled evening, I was, as I said, feeling very frustrated. It was, it turned out, the high blood pressure that came before the humor and the long-term creative solutions. In the moment, I wanted to give our dramatic actors a piece of my mind. If I had, it would have been highly destructive. I wanted to yell, but years of therapy, self-management, journaling, daily running, and hanging around with good people helped me not to. I’d imagine you know the feeling. Frustration gets high and you want to go get in everyone’s face and set them straight. Had I done that, I would have felt better for 15 minutes or so. But in the process, I would simply have created more drama—drama which would have reduced the health of our ecosystem. Because I’m “the boss,” I probably would have won the battle, but our organizational culture would have eroded. 

Looking back, I somehow managed, with a bit of emotional aikido, to turn what was getting me so angry into slightly tongue-in-cheek humor. In hindsight, it was an example of one of the elements of what’s now the No Drama program—“Right place, right people, right time.” Instead of unloading on the bad actors in the dining room the way I wanted to, I looked around for Lisa who was working at the standup rail opposite the bar. Trying to find some humor and hope in the dark, I said, “Maybe we should do a BLC to start a drama-free workplace!” We both laughed and went back to work. 

A few days later, the whole thing happened again, and my tension level went really high. In the spirit of channeling anger constructively into art, I decided to actually draft a BLC. I was mostly focused at the time on simply calming my brain. Four years later, I’m reminded of the advice that advertising guru David M. Ogilvy once wisely offered: “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.” 

“BLC,” as some of you know, stands for Bottom-Line Change. It’s the recipe we’ve been using to lead organizational change for over 20 years now, adapted from the good work and teachings of Stas’ Kazmierski. You can read much more about how Stas’ changed our lives in the new pamphlet, “The Story of Visioning at Zingerman’s.” BLC is a tool that, like the No Drama work, anyone here can use—one that enhances leadership skills and offers an effective way to turn complaints into creativity. It illustrates Maria Popova’s point when she says, “The only valiant way to complain is to create.” The first step in our 5-step Bottom-Line Change recipe says, “Write up a clear and compelling purpose for change." This is the "why" that’s driving us to make changes in the first place. I cranked out my list:

  • Drama is distracting—it takes up time and energy that would be better spent elsewhere

  • Drama makes work less fun

  • Drama makes it hard to stay centered, calm, and focused and we know those are the best places to be

  • Inter-work drama often excludes staff members and hurts feelings

  • Drama increases costs and really has no upside

  • Drama makes it less likely that guests will get good service,

  • Injuries are more likely to increase because we’re distracted from our work.

  • Drama leads to more turnover, lower sales, and lower NOP

  • In the context of Lean management, drama is Waste—it wastes time, it wastes human ability, it reduces creativity, etc. 

I’m not suggesting the feelings and frustrations behind the drama aren’t real. They’re mostly, I truly believe, worthy of further attention. The challenge for all of us—myself included—is to manage the emotion that comes up and find a way to communicate what’s on our minds constructively and caringly. This is exactly what the No Drama work is designed to do: Create practices that can help us steer our minds clear of disaster. Instead of inciting, we learn to get centered. When we do No Drama well it looks as if nothing has happened, when in truth, a good deal of mental discipline is quietly at work inside our heads. 

In the webinar, Lisa will share the details of Dos and Don’ts that we’ve written into the program here. The point of this piece, and really of the ZingTrain conversation with Lisa, is less about exactly how we do it here, and more to get you thinking about what unnecessary drama might be doing in your business (or, for that matter, your life out of work). The specific tactics and tools Lisa will list are important. The biggest piece of this work for me, though, is the radical shift to actually make No Drama a job expectation. Just like coming in on time, giving great service to customers and coworkers, accuracy in placing orders, etc. No Drama is now a part of what it means to work at the Roadhouse. Those who are open to the No Drama program will do better. Those who really love being dramatic, we can now calmly and caringly encourage them to go, with dignity (and yes, following proper HR procedures), to do it somewhere else. 

One technique that we might consider adding to the list is to turn our emotional pain into organizational gain, shifting away from the negative by writing a positive vision of the future. “The Story of Visioning” pamphlet has much more on this, but if you want to see the vision I drafted for the No Drama work, email me and I’ll send it your way. At the time, I did it mostly as a joke, but, to David Ogilvy’s point, it turned out to be a positive step towards a healthier culture in the restaurant. 

The idea of staying centered under pressure, as the No Drama work helps us to do, is inspiring. Doing it every day is, at first, difficult. Restaurants in particular, and really most parts of our lives, are essentially the equivalent of improv. Customers and colleagues say things we weren’t ready for, orders go missing, coolers go down, people call in sick and we find ourselves short-staffed, and so on. I’ve been doing this for 40 years and if there have been 40 days where nothing went awry, that’s probably a lot. The No Drama work at the Roadhouse is an attempt to create what we could imagine now as an improv guide to getting through the day without dropping intrusive and distracting drama bombs on our businesses. No Drama isn’t a panacea, but it does offer us a way to work more peacefully, more effectively, and more caringly. 

Improv itself is anything but easy. It’s hard enough to get my words right when I’m sitting alone writing, away from distractions, with time to think. On shift, where everything is happening live, we get no rewrites, no time for edits, no proofing. The reality of life in restaurants—and maybe in your world as well—is that, mostly, words just come out. To make it even harder, drama is all around us every day. Look at the news. If we wrote dramatic and negative headlines in our in-house staff newsletter the way they do on the national networks, someone at Zingerman’s could easily find something like this waiting for them on their computer when they began their workday:

CEO Fails to Show Up at Meeting!

Partners Argue about Allocation!

Key Customer’s Order is Completely Screwed Up!

Busboy Quits Without Notice!

Partners Clash Over Future of Organization!

Experts Wonder: Can Consensus Really Work? 

All of them are real conversations and problems that have happened here at Zingerman’s over the years. Still, I can’t imagine coming to work with good energy with a daily blast like that. Just writing these down here is raising my anxiety. Dramatic headlines, like dramatic conversations at work, may get our attention, but they are not helpful. Excessive drama of this sort makes it impossible to act with dignity; it erodes energy, reduces hope, and distracts us from what we really need to be doing. All of which just reinforces how incredibly important it is for us to do this No Drama work. If we do it well, the lives and work of everyone involved are improved, quietly, but meaningfully, every day. 

We are all, I’ve come to understand, triggered by totally different things. George Saunders, who writes and teaches fiction for a living, says that we are all struggling to separate “... things as we think they are and things as they actually are. Off we go, mistaking the world we’ve made with our thoughts for the real world. Evil and dysfunction occur in proportion to how solidly a person believes that his projections are correct and energetically acts on them.” When we don’t handle the delusions well, we get drama. And when we act in overly dramatic ways, all of our lives are diminished.

While a new staffer may have started work here last week, the reality is that they are bringing a lifetime’s worth of beliefs, behaviors, and biases with them. An event that’s irrelevant to one person can totally trigger another. As psychologist Terry Real writes, “I believe there’s no such thing as overreacting; it’s just that what someone is reacting to may no longer be what’s in front of them.” Thinking back to what I shared last week about our history as a metaphorical river running through our lives, Monika Vaicenavičienė writes that, “Rivers … collect fragments of our lives. Sometimes people lose things in rivers, or throw them in on purpose. Some are carried along by the current. Occasionally they resurface; in this way, the river brings us pieces of the past.” What happened to us at the age of eight can, when something similar happens thirty years later, send us spinning. 

In the context of spinning out of control and the reference to rivers, excessive drama evokes the image of a whirlpool. Things are moving along swimmingly, and then, out of the blue, one person slips into drama. Within a matter of minutes, the whole shift goes south. “The World of Phenomena” website says:

A whirlpool is a body of swirling water formed when two opposing currents meet. Whirlpools may form wherever water is flowing, from creeks and streams to rivers and seas. Any whirlpool that contains a downdraft–one capable of sucking objects beneath the water’s surface—is called a vortex. 

Like everything in life, the Roadhouse is not, it turns out, the only one doing this work. Somehow I’d never heard of Cy Wakeman until I began putting all this together a few weeks ago, but sure enough, she’s a skilled speaker, writer, and leadership coach who arrived at a similar set of conclusions: Drama in the workplace is waste. Drama is destructive. Drama drags people down. Wakeman writes that, “Our research has shown that the average employee spends nearly 2.5 hours per day in drama—gossiping, tattling, withholding buy-in, resisting change and stepping down from accountability.” Those are big numbers! Wakeman’s work means that the average staff member spends 800 hours a year stuck in drama. Unmanaged, that drama is doing terrible damage to the business, and to their own well-being. In honesty, the stats scared me. If I’d let myself react with drama, I’d have freaked out and started telling everyone I knew how terrible the situation really is. Instead, I’m going to take a deep breath, smile, and double down on teaching and living the No Drama work! 

Here’s what Lisa told me last week about the difference this No Drama work is making: 

The No Drama work has helped change our restaurant culture in a very positive way. It has laid a framework and provided commonality of language and tools to reduce drama and manage personal energy. Since we implemented and started teaching it to most departments in the last four years, including all new hires, shifts run smoother, teamwork is even more cohesive, and follow-up conversations are easier to have. 

Head Chef Bob Bennett adds, “I think the teaching of the No Drama work has really helped us put into action a lot of things we always wanted in our culture but maybe didn’t have the tools for. Things like ‘going direct,’ actively appreciating, and energy management really feel closer to the forefront of our daily work than ever before.”

What do we have instead of drama? Ironically, in a beautiful bit of alphabetical inversion, we have Dharma. If you don’t know the term, Dharma is the Sanskrit word used in Buddhist and Hindu practice that means something along the lines of “right order” or a calm, considered quality of grounded energy. While the words sound similar—drama and Dharma—the difference is … well, dramatic! Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche, who is often referred to as the founder of modern Buddhism, says, “Practising Dharma is the supreme method for improving the quality of our human life. The quality of life depends not upon external development or material progress, but upon the inner development of peace and happiness.” Cy Wakeman says, “Self-reflection leads to behavioral change in the moment. Contemplation fuels our evolution.” At the Roadhouse we say, “Calm is contagious!”

If we do the No Drama work well, here or in your organization, at work and/or at home, we can caringly embrace our own inevitable anxieties and imperfections. When we reduce drama, we increase the odds of working every day with dignity. We reduce stress and diminish distraction. We have more fun, our energy is better, joy is increased and also, it’s likely in the process, our sales. Like most things to which we aspire, No Drama is easier said than done, but we can make it happen. 

It’s not (yet) on the No Drama action list at the Roadhouse, but reading a small bit of poetry can help us get centered surprisingly quickly. I like to go back to these lovely lines from Pádraig Ó Tuama:

So let us pick up the stones over which we stumble, friends, and build altars. Let us listen to the sound of breath in our bodies. Let us listen to the sounds of our own voices, of our own names, of our own fears. Let us name the harsh light and soft darkness that surround us. 

One drama-diminishing technique that is on the list is something I came up with for myself as I struggled many years ago to learn to manage my own energy more effectively. Given my affinity for acronyms, I called it SBA: Stop, Breathe, Appreciate. When I feel my anxiety rising, my frustration getting super high, and the heat rising in my face, I simply stop. I square my shoulders. Then I breathe. Slowly, through my nose, I take in as much air as I can. Then slowly, I let it out. Last but not least, I find someone nearby and thank them for something that I really do appreciate. In the moment, writing here, I’ll appreciate Lisa for leading this work. I appreciate her as well for all she’s done at the Roadhouse for the last 18 years since she started as a server who was, as I remember it, probably prone to her own dramatic responses (as we all were at earlier points in our leadership lives). We all, eventually, leave a legacy. Lisa, who’s now very close to becoming a Managing Partner at the Roadhouse, will likely be here, as she’s said, until she retires. When she does, she will have contributed many good things to the ZCoB. One of them will be this work on No Drama. 

If you want to learn more about the details of the No Drama work as we do it at the Roadhouse, log on in a couple of weeks and you can hear Lisa tell the story for herself. In the meantime, you might take the advice of playwright Anna Deavere Smith who says: 

Be more than ready. Be present in your discipline. Remember your gift. Be grateful for your gift and treat it like a gift. Cherish it, take care of it, and pass it on. … What you are will show, ultimately. Start now, every day, becoming, in your actions, your regular actions, what you would like to become in the bigger scheme of things.
Sign up for the "Creating a No Drama Work Culture" webinar
P.S. If you want to read more about related work in effective self-management check out our Emotional Engagement Self-Starter pamphlet set.
a bottle of Marqués de Valdueza olive oil

2021 Harvest Olive Oil from the Marqués de Valdueza

Amazing flavor from a 1000-year-old family business in western Spain

It’s not every day you get to buy a craft product from a family business in Spain that started up a thousand years ago. If you’re looking for a wonderful, world-class olive oil, you might well want to buy a bottle of the Marqués de Valdueza from the 2021 harvest. It arrived at the Deli last month, and it is truly delicious! I’ve loved their oil ever since I first visited the farm about ten years ago. Thanks to a series of small but very significant improvements to their process, it is now more special still!

You’ll be hard-pressed to find any product that’s a whole lot more rooted in family and national history than this. The family—formally known as the House of Álvarez de Toledo—has been a fixture in Spanish history for something like ten centuries. The farmland on which the olives grow was first worked by the family in 1624. If you’re looking at a map, it’s just west of the historic stone-walled town of Merida, roughly 25 miles or so east of the Portuguese border. Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo, who leads the family business today, is the 13th generation to formally carry the work forward. Fadrique has clearly found a passion for food and for making special things happen, a vocation that’s manifested in all the work that he’s put into making the Marqués de Valdueza oil as good as it is. Fadrique wrote to me recently to share his thoughts:  

As you know, my family has been producing olive oil on our Perales de Valdueza estate for centuries now. The connection we have with the land and our implication and commitment to the local community has made our estate a landmark for the region. We believe that, if our products are good, it is made possible to a great degree by the land and community that have become an intimate part of my family’s history and present-day activity, both culturally and economically. We are able to produce oils that are ever-improving thanks to the quality of the countryside in Extremadura and the people, some of whose families have worked with ours for generations. It is their diligent labor and knowledge that make the Marqués de Valdueza products possible.

Everything about the oil speaks to its excellence. The olives are all carefully picked by hand (olives don’t do well with drama either). Harvesting is done quite early in the autumn, when yields are significantly lower, but the flavor of the oil is far more interesting. The trees are grown with much wider row spacing than most of the huge commercial farms that have been planted in the southern part of the country. As John Cancilla, who’s joyfully and effectively worked with the family for decades now, explains, “This allows the wind to pass freely through the trees, reducing pests, and the roots to spread naturally without being piled on top of the root system of the surrounding trees.” Most importantly, in the moment, the newly arrived Valdueza oil is exceptional. It’s made from a unique blend of four different varietals that grow on the farm—Hojiblanca, Picual, Arbequina, and the rare and unique to the region, Morisca. As good as the oil has been since I first tasted it ten years ago, the 2021 harvest is better still. It has a super fine long finish with well-balanced complexity. Fadrique shared: 

Together with the tradition that forms the foundation of everything we do, we have invested in numerous technological innovations these last few years, both in the olive orchard and at the mill. We work very closely and on a continuous basis with some of the best olive oil experts in Spain, who have helped us tweak our equipment and processes in such a way as to shorten harvest and production times and reduce most of the friction in our system that generated heat and modified the organoleptic and chemical attributes of the oils. We also adjusted our filtering and decanting methods, so no organic materials that could cause anaerobic fermentation remain in the oils. We continue to keep our oils in nitrogen-flushed, stainless steel tanks and bottle it only when orders are received.

The Valdueza oil is very good, eaten simply, with Paesano or Rustic Italian bread from the Bakehouse. It’s great on salads (lots of local greens are coming in), on toast, and drizzled over Piquillo (or better still, Cristal) peppers. Oil of this quality is at its best when we use it to finish a dish—drizzle it over fresh fish straight from the broiler or just-sautéed local spinach. It’s amazing paired with the last of this spring’s asparagus and the first of the summer’s arugula. You can use it in chocolate dessert recipes instead of butter (0.75 part Marqués de Valdueza oil in place of one part butter) or on the Creamery’s vanilla gelato with a twist of Tellicherry black pepper. It’s also quite tasty with the lovely local strawberries on the market right now (really—it’s a stellar combination). If you want to sip it from a small glass as professional olive oil tasters would do, make a toast to the family that has continued to work to get better at all they do for ten centuries now. I feel fortunate to be a beneficiary of their very tasty work!

Ship some Valdueza to your sister in Virginia
overhead view of packaged Townie Brownies

Townie Brownies
Take the Cake

Better chocolate raises the (bean-to-) bar to make
the Townie my favorite brownie

For years, what we’ve been calling the Magic Brownie has been by far the Bakehouse’s biggest seller. While the Magic Brownies remain solidly ensconced at the top of the Bakehouse sales chart, I will come clean here and say that, far and away, my new favorite is the Townie Brownie. 

The Townie Brownie got its start as part of our effort to make a wheat-free brownie to meet the dreams of our gluten-free customers. It worked. We use amaranth and quinoa in place of wheat and it’s been a solidly good brownie since its beginnings back in 2010. What made it so much better last month than it already was? Better chocolate, from French Broad Chocolate. 

The newly French-Broadified Brownies are beautifully tasty. Less sweet, more complex, longer finish, and meaningfully more chocolatey. The new chocolate is one of the French Broad folks’ favorites. It’s a 68% dark bar made with cacao that comes from the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua using both Criollo and Trinitario cacao varietals, which have been caringly cultivated for generations. French Broad buys the cacao from the folks at Cacao Bisiesto in Nicaragua who, “pay a premium to local farmers for unique, Criollo-infused seed with fine flavor profiles, and plant rare varietals on their own farms.” Criollo, you might recall from last week’s writeup about Shawn Askinosie’s amazing collaboration with Zeke Emmanuel, “are considered the rarest and finest cacao.” 

The folks at Cacao Bisiesto work too to help the farmers improve fermentation and drying. The result is that the 68% Nicaragua chocolate from French Broad won a Good Food Award!

If you want to try the slightly smoky, earthy, licorice-like flavors of the French Broad Nicaragua on its own, you can pick up the bar at the Candy Store on Plaza Drive. And you can enjoy them—maybe even more—baked into the Townie Brownie. We’ve got them at the Bakeshop, Deli, and Roadhouse. You can ask for one in your Brownie Sundae at the Roadhouse. The Townie Brownies are also amazingly excellent if you dip the edge into finely-ground (and not yet brewed) espresso.  

In our 2032 Vision (see “The Story of Visioning at Zingerman’s” for the full version of the vision), we write that ten years from now, “Our dedication to the Ann Arbor area is a huge piece of what makes us who we are.” In this context, it’s only fitting that the Townie Brownie should become our best. It’s a terrific, values-aligned, full flavored, and delicious testament to the skill and hard work of the farmers in Nicaragua, the folks at French Broad Chocolate, and our amazing colleagues at the Bakehouse. Here’s to our hometown, to all the townies who support us so lovingly here at Zingerman’s, and to this terrifically tasty Townie Brownie!

Dispatch a batch of brownies
a white dinner plate with salmon, spinach, mashed potatoes and a lemon wedge

Superb Bay of Fundy Salmon at the Roadhouse

Thanks to the folks at Foley Fish

We’ve been buying fish from the Foley family to broil, grill, and sauté at the Roadhouse every week since we first opened the restaurant’s doors back in September 2003. Then, and now, Foley Fish has been some of the best of the best. As Michael Foley, the grandson of the founder, writes in his history of his family and their now 116-year-old fish business, Swimming Upstream, “We have always had an absolute standard quality, not a relative one. ‘Best available’ or ‘good enough’ have never been good enough.”

The Foley family fish story, as Mike tells it, starts not on a ship, but in a field in the center of Ireland. I’m not sure which of Manchán Magan’s “thirty-two words” would best describe it, but Mike says it was a “small subsistence, family farm in Attykitt, a hamlet of no more than 30 families, in [County] Tipperary.” Mike Foley’s grandfather, Michel Francis Foley, came to the U.S. at the age of 16, all the way back in 1898 to work in his older brother’s Boston fish business. By 1906, Michael Francis was opening his own fish retail market. He envisioned Foley’s being by far the cleanest fish market in Boston. He had his staff hose everything down and clean every hour to maintain standards and developed a way to double wrap the fish in more costly papers (instead of newsprint) to protect customers’ clothes on their way home. Today, the Foley folks are still just as diligent about the quality of their fish, and they’re also at the forefront of promoting sustainability in the seafood world. Foley is as picky about who they sell to as what they sell; I feel honored to be one of their accounts. Literally everything we get from them is excellent. As Frank Foley, Michael’s dad, who I met many years ago on a visit to Boston, said, “Foley’s gimmick is quality. … Quality comes before everything. It’s the reason why profit is always the bottom line of a profit and loss statement—it comes after quality.” 

The Bay of Fundy itself is an amazing place. Off the east coast of Canada, tucked into the Canadian Maritimes between New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the east coast of Maine, it was recently named one of the “Seven Wonders of North America.” Its remarkable tidal range of about 50 feet is the highest in the world (the average is just over three!) Better water movement makes for healthier farmed salmon. The region has been inhabited by the Mi’kmaq people for many centuries, long before Europeans arrived, for whom salmon was an essential part of everyday eating. The Bay of Fundy salmon has always been exceptionally delicious. Rob Romeo from Foley’s says, “We regularly do a cook/taste test on salmon from all over and the Bay of Fundy always stands out as the best.” What makes this particular fish so good? 

1. Time out of the water—the Bay of Fundy salmon gets to Foley’s within 30 hours, and to the Roadhouse the following day! (Most salmon, often coming from Chile, Norway, or New Zealand, is 48-130 hours old before it even gets to the distributor, and it can still take a couple more days to get to a store or restaurant.)

2. The quality of the feed—this makes an enormous difference between one farmed salmon and another. For Foley’s Bay of Fundy salmon, no chemicals are used, and wild herring is added to boost both flavor and fat content, making for a tenderer texture. 

3. The fish are farmed at 20 to 30 percent less density, meaning there’s more room to move, better muscle development, and ultimately, better flavor.

4. A century of good work by the folks at Foley’s, who say, “We have been working with this product and farm for decades, they know our quality standards. … We expect the best and if any of the fish is below our quality checks, we simply send it back.”

At the Roadhouse we buy whole, 12- to 15-pound salmon, and butcher them regularly in the back kitchen. Because it’s been on the menu for so long, I have, I confess, taken the Bay of Fundy salmon a bit for granted. But twice in the last ten days, I found myself in the prep kitchen when there happened to be a few extra pieces of cooked salmon leftover. One was simply broiled with nothing more than salt and pepper. I tried it. It was terrific. Clean finish. Complex, lovely. The other piece had been ordered with blackening spice, but, at the last minute, the guest changed their mind so the salmon wasn’t sent out. It too was outstanding—the contrast of the spices with the delicate richness of the fish were a beautiful combo. Swing by the Roadhouse soon and order some of the Bay of Fundy salmon. Great for lunch or dinner, or added to a green salad, it will likely brighten your day in a big way. I know it did mine!

Make a reservation at the Roadhouse
lush, green and rocky Irish countryside with a road winding through

An Invitation to a Wonderful Zingerman’s Week in Ireland

Only seven seats remain as I write

It's been over 30 years since I went alone to Ireland for the first time. I knew very little about the country, I had no friends or food producers there to call on, and, back before the world of the web was the norm, I had very little idea what I was getting myself into. That trip changed my life in wonderful ways. Thirty years later, I have many friends there. I’ve swum regularly in the river of its history. I love the music (sad-music lovers—give a listen to the bagpipes on Lankum’s “Young People,” or the harmonium on band member Radie Peat’s somber dramatic performance of “Dark Horse,” live in Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol on Easter 2017). The poetry is powerful, the literature lovely, and the landscape unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been back to Ireland now probably two dozen times.

In the years since I made that first trip, Irish food has, I believe, become some of Europe’s best. In fact, there is now so much wonderful food and drink that even this intensive eight-day tour will only scratch the surface in the best possible way! If you grab one of these last few seats, I will guarantee you a whole lot of great eating and drinking, combined of course with a wealth of creative connections, wonderful culture, learning, and laughing. And, if you fall in love with Ireland as I did all those years ago, you will likely go back many more times. 

People ask me all the time why I’m so drawn to Ireland. In the context of what I wrote a few weeks ago about sadness, I’ve realized one of the big reasons, in a quiet way that I wasn't conscious of at the time, is that there’s something powerfully evocative in the spirit of the place that resonates for me. Not the stereotyped jovial “Irish humor” that’s often portrayed in movies, but, rather, the extreme but gentle, moving, and really almost magical sadness. The bleak beauty of the landscape is really beyond belief. I’m haunted by all of it, and always hungry for more. 

Zingerman’s Food Tours Managing Partner Kristie Brablec has connected with longtime friends of the ZCoB Kate McCabe and Max Sussman from Bog & Thunder, who will serve as co-hosts. You can see all the amazing details of the trip on the Food Tours site. Buy a seat soon before they run out! You’ll experience some amazing eating, a wide range of emotions, and take in some of the most beautiful and moving landscapes you’ll ever visit.

Snag your spot
P.S. The first tour for Ireland will be September 19-28, 2022. Or, alternatively, you can go with Kristie, Kate, and Max October 3-12. Sign up soon! If you do, I'll buy you a copy of Manchán Magan’s lovely Thirty-Two Words for Field to help you get ready!

Other Things on My Mind


Where the music of Karolina Cicha that I mentioned last week dives deep into eerie, ancient, edginess, Australian singer-songwriter Loren Kate’s records are elegant, emotionally engaging, intellectually intriguing, and beautifully poetic. If you accept, as I do, John O’Donohue’s belief that the world is suffering from a crisis of ugliness, her music is a small step in a more positive direction. 

I shared a conversation with Michael Tingsager from Hospitality Mavericks in the UK: Visioning and the Myth of the One Thing.


George Lakoff and Mark Turner, More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor.

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