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Ari's Top 5
Here’s a quick roundup of 5 Zing things Ari is excited about this week—stuff you might not have heard of!
1
A package of Fiore di Sale sea salt

Fiore del Sale at the Deli

Flower of the Salt from the Sicilian Seaside

As summer salad season kicks in, it’s easy for me to get excited about all the amazing produce fresh in season. Beautiful lettuces, red and white radishes, arugula adding a bit of great vinegar and a fine olive oil are—almost—all you need to turn them into a wonderful salad.

Why “almost?” Those who know me well will already have guessed. Two things for me: you need a top-notch black pepper and a really fine sea salt. So much so that I sometimes travel with small packs secretly stowed in my satchel. I agree with the fine 1950s food-writer, Iles Brody, who wrote, “The majority of people put too little salt in the salad, and thus fail to bring out all the flavours of the greens.”

The Deli’s shelves are stocked full of great salt and pepper offerings. If you’re ready to put some very special salt on our salad this summer, buy yourself a bottle of the exceptional Fiore del Dale from the Deli. The salt harvesting is done the old-fashioned way (modern sea salt is machine dried and bleached).

Fiore del Sale is a “finishing salt.” You add it to your food at the table, or maybe right before serving, so the crystals are laying on top when you eat. Its lovely, light, snowflake-shaped particles are naturally rich in iodine, fluorine, magnesium and potassium, with a much lower percentage of sodium chloride than regular table salt.

The salt crystals have a wonderful aroma, often said to be reminiscent of just-picked violets. Terrific on tomatoes, lovely on lightly dressed lettuces from the farmers’ market. I personally love putting Fiore del Sale on eggs (scrambled, fried, hard-boiled, or deviled!) and on avocado. When the new potatoes show up at the market, you don’t want to be without it. Freshly cooked, drained, then dressed with a bit of olive oil (I like the delicacy of the Onsa’s oil from Tunisia) and a sprinkle of some of this salt…superb! 

Get Salty!
2
Bakehouse rhubarb pie

Rhubarb Pie from the Bakehouse

A sure sign that summer is nearly here!

As summer peeks its head through the window in anticipation of taking over, rhubarb shows up in Michigan markets.

Rhubarb originated in China and later made its way to Russia along the Silk Road. From there it went west into Europe and eventually over to North America. European settlers often brought starts of the hearty plant with them—as a result, it was often the first fruit cultivated that could be had in any quantity. In its raw state, rhubarb is so tart as to be essentially inedible. You have to cook and sweeten it, in much the same way that raw olives are inedible but later, after curing, turn into something terrific. Rhubarb was used regularly as a pie filling, hence its long-standing nickname, “pie plant.”

Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, but in one of those legal weirdnesses that make you wonder, Huffpost reports that “In 1947 a New York court declared rhubarb a fruit because it’s most often cooked as one in the United States.” If you’re not familiar with its flavor, some folks say that rhubarb tastes a lot like tart green apples. To overcome its natural tartness, rhubarb is almost always accompanied by a good dose of sugar in the kitchen. It does pair well with strawberries, which appear here at about the same time—the sweetness of the berries and the tart high notes of the rhubarb make a really good combination that you’ll often see in pies or preserves. This spring I had the belated glimpse of the obvious—serve this terrific rhubarb pie accompanied by a bit of whipped cream and a nice dollop of strawberry preserves on the side. It’s a great combo!

You can buy rhubarb pie at the Bakehouse, Deli and Roadhouse, while our supply lasts. When the rhubarb runs out…we’ll be on to other things! Enjoy it while you can!

We set the rhu-BAR-b high!

P.S.: If you’re really into pie, you can head to the Bakehouse table at the Westside Farmers’ Market, out front of the Roadhouse, Thursdays from 3pm to 7pm.

P.P.S.: If you want to try making the rhubarb pie at home, grab a copy of the really great, nationally recognized Zingerman’s Bakehouse cookbook.

3
Zingerman's Creamery Aged Chelsea cheese, cut in half on a wooden cutting board

Choosing Chelsea

Great goat cheese from the Creamery

If you want to witness how far the world of American artisan food has come in the last 40 years, take home some of this great goat cheese from the Creamery. Invite over a cheese lover you like. Let the Chelsea come to room temperature. Put it out with some slices of Country Miche bread from the Bakehouse. If you were to tell your guests that you’d brought the bread and cheese back with you from Paris, I’m pretty sure they’d believe you. Experiencing the dense, creamy, complex flavor of the cheese, set against the flavor of the grains in the miche, would be a pretty marvelous way to spend a late spring evening.

Chelsea goats are short “sticks” of goat cheese in the style of the French St. Maure, named for the Michigan town of Chelsea in western Washtenaw County. (My mind always goes back to Nico’s version of the song “Chelsea Girls” from my Velvet Underground-influenced youth, but I can’t imagine two “towns” more different then Chelsea, Michigan and the N.Y. City Chelsea of Lou Reed’s era!) The four-inch long, little logs are coated with a dusting of vegetable ash—a traditional French method for coating small goat cheeses to keep them from drying out too rapidly. Chelsea gets denser and fudgier as it ages and, when it gets older, almost flaky and flinty. At any age, it’s great for cheese boards, with wine, fruit, and pieces of freshly cut fennel.

The Chelsea is excellent on its own really—just cut slices and eat ‘em at room temperature, or at most with just a bit of Bakehouse bread, some fresh or dried fruit. I’ve also taken to lightly heating a few slices in a pan and then popping them atop my salad, dressing it all up with Albert Katz’s really great Gravenstein apple cider vinegar from Sonoma and a nice bit of good olive oil. Whatever else is in the salad, I like to get a few toasted walnuts on there as well—there’s something really nice about them with the cheese. Great locally made gift for goat cheese lovers for sure!

Available at the Cream Top Shop, Deli, or Roadhouse, and shippable through Zingerman’s Mail Order.

Chel-SEE you at the Creamery!
4
Scallops plated with succotash and wine on the patio at the Roadhouse

Sea Scallops at the Roadhouse

A delicious hint of the sea without having to leave home

While we’ve never really called them out as a headline act, scallops are actually one of the most steadily popular dinners at the Roadhouse—they’re one of those dishes that people come back for over and over again, quietly but consistently eating, enjoying, and remarking about how much better these scallops are than what they’re used to finding. In fact, one of my favorite, long-time, regular customers said with a smile a few months ago, “You guys have ruined me for scallops. I mean, I love scallops. And I travel all over the country and order them. But now, everywhere I go, I just think about how much better they are at the Roadhouse!”

One of the big, if little discussed, “secrets” to scallop quality is that most commercial versions these days are chemically treated to help them retain—in some cases even gain—moisture. Much as water-added-ham has become the commercial norm (reducing costs, prices and flavor across the board), treated scallops are what most people have been served. By contrast we only offer what are known in the trade as “dry-pack” scallops—no treating allowed. And we work with a long-time supplier—M.F. Foley out of Boston—to bring only the top of the catch, the freshest scallops we can get. “First and foremost,” the Foley folks say, “we don’t want to be bigger, we want to be better. Our scallops are never soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate because this standard industry practice destroys the natural flavor and texture of the scallop. People think we’re a bit crazy about our buying.” If they are crazy at Foley, it’s only in the same quality-committed way we are here. Their scallops are moister, more delicate, more delicious, more “of the sea”, you might say, than any other scallops around.

While you can order scallops at the Roadhouse any way you like, personally I go for ‘em done in a hot sauté pan, so that they outside gets slightly caramelized and seared just a touch. The meat in the middle is still really moist and tender, and they taste of the sea.

Next time you visit, ask for a little Roadhouse surf and turf—scallops topped with a bit of eastern Carolina pulled pork! The richness and smokiness of the pork (14 hours on the pit, sauced with a two-year-old, oak-barrel-aged organic cider vinegar from Quebec) set gently atop each of the scallops with their fresh-from-the Atlantic flavor.

Save yourself a SEA-t!
P.S. At Miss Kim, scallops are just as stellar. Sautéed with soy butter, fresh ginger, chili oil, and served with some sesame rice! Topped with local micro-greens. A lovely light dinner for warm-weather, al fresco dining on a nice summer evening or afternoon!
5
A Deli worker holding a bottle of vinegar on the patio

Fantastic Vinegar from the Fratelli Pofi

Artisan vinegar from Italy shows its stuff at the Deli

One of the best vinegars on our shelves on nigh 15 years now. I love it! Big time! Its flavor is marvelous. It’s a product of a couple of very modest, hard-working brothers, who’ve been making this stuff, basically in secret, for decades. In fact, the vinegar really doesn’t even have a formal name—we call it the vinegar from the Pofi brothers, and the brothers themselves just call it “vinegar.”

Even folks a few miles away from the Pofi’s farm have never even heard of it. Quirky, compelling, short and stout, Rolando and Giovanni Pofi aren’t going to be making it into any super-celebrity magazine spreads this year. They’re just two grizzled, local guys making one really fine vinegar. Clearly working men with gnarled farmer’s hands and weathered faces, they make me think of country characters you’d have seen in an old black and white foreign film from the ‘50s. Tufts of unruly gray hair shooting out from underneath the caps they wear to keep their heads out of the sun.

The Pofi’s farm is in the area of Zagarolo, in Lazio, maybe half an hour or so to the north of Rome. Wine is their main activity and their vineyard is small, but beautifully manicured, with straight rows of grape vines and trellises all the way down the hill and back up the other side. The vinegar is made from a pair of particularly interesting grapes—Malvasia and Greco—that the Pofis use for wine as well. Malvasia dates back about 2000 years and is thought to have come originally from Turkey and Greece. The Greco grape, as the name implies, is of Greek origin, likely brought to Italy in the 8th century. It contributes to some special sweet wines that are known for being rich, complex, and nutty.

During the winemaking in the fall, the brothers skim off what’s called the “cappello” or “cap” that forms naturally at the top of the wine vats. They mix what they’ve skimmed with some old vinegar from the previous year and leave it all to undergo a natural conversion. Within two or three months they have a new batch of vinegar that they then put into chestnut wood barrels to age over a year. They only make a couple of big barrels a year. Never filtered, it has a nice, cloudy, almost apple-cider-like appearance. It’s really smooth, mouth-watering, very succulent. The flavor of the vinegar is nutty, caramel-ly, with maybe a bit of apricot or peach, a slightly sherry-like aroma, with a lovely fine finish.

It’s actually so good I almost want to sip it as is. In fact, the Pofis told me that they’ve always mixed it with water to drink on hot days (actually an old Roman thing). To eat it, I’d probably stick to using it in simple ways, with wonderful summer greens and nice olive oil.

Check it out at the Deli!
P.S.: Speaking of the great Italian artisan food finds, my good friend Elizabeth Minchilli’s new book, Eating my Way Through Italy is OUT! If you love Italian food, check it out ASAP!!
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Ari

Upcoming Events

Thursday, June 21

Just for Kids: Summer Pasta Demo and Tasting
TIME: 11:00 am to 12:00 pm, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm
LOCATION:  Zingerman's Deli Upstairs Next Door, 418 Detroit St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104
PRICE: $15.00

Friday, June 22

For the Love of Goat Cheese
TIME: 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
LOCATION: Zingerman’s Creamery, 3723 Plaza Drive, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108
PRICE: $40.00

Saturday, June 23 and Sunday, June 24

Introduction to Fresh Goat Cheese
TIME: 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
LOCATION: Zingerman’s Creamery, 3723 Plaza Drive, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108
PRICE: $200.00

Tuesday, June 26

Just for Kids: Explore the World of Pies
TIME: 11:00 am to 12:00 pm, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm
LOCATION:  Zingerman's Deli Upstairs Next Door, 418 Detroit St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104
PRICE: $15.00

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