The Friday morning Blue Plate is one seriously awesome breakfast!
by Ari Weinzweig
This one’s not new, but it remains a bit of a “zecret” to those who aren’t already in the Friday-morning-know! I realized I was doing a disservice to thousands of other breakfast burrito eaters by not spreading the word more widely. The bottom line on this smothered breakfast burrito is that it’s incredibly awesomely good! I don’t say that lightly. Just writing about it now has me wanting one! Seriously, there are folks who come by the Roadhouse for a smothered burrito every Friday morning just for this blue plate special!
Why the smothered burrito is so good!
What makes it so good? The smothered breakfast burrito is another example of combining a series of super-high-quality ingredients into one amazing assemblage. When you take a bite . . . the burrito leads with the nice liveliness from the cilantro, and a bit of spice from the Roadhouse’s Salsa Ranchero (chopped tomato, cilantro, cumin, coriander, New Mexico fire-roasted green chiles, and minced onion) that’s ladled over top. You bite through the feathery light flour tortilla into the fluffy scrambled eggs, then the great smoky softness of the pulled pork (Niman Ranch free-running hogs, smoked on the Roadhouse pit over oak logs for about 15 hours), and then a generous bit of the milky mellow Monterey Jack from Ig Vella Cheese in Sonoma (one of only two or three dairies in the country that still make real Monterey Jack the old-fashioned way). It all comes together in this blend of creamy, slightly spicy, super smooth, savory goodness.
An ode to the smothered burrito.
One of the smothered breakfast burrito’s biggest fans is nationally-known poet, Ken Mikolowski. Given the overlay of two of his passions—poetry and this smoked pork-stuffed burrito—I asked him for a poem. Here is its world debut:
The marriage of steak and barbecue is a beautiful thing to behold.
by Ari Weinzweig
If you’re not in the mood for cooking at home, here’s a dinner that takes weeks to get ready, but all you need to do is drive over (or bike or walk if you live nearby) and order it! It’s a dish that’s rapidly becoming a Roadhouse favorite.
How the smoked ribeye started.
The Smoked Ribeye came on the menu for the first time about six months ago, and each time we take it off for a few days, people start asking for it again. As a result, it’s now on the dinner menu regularly. (It’s not on every night so it can’t hurt to call before you come in.)
So what’s a Smoked Ribeye? Someone described it to me last summer “as the best possible marriage one could imagine between steak and barbecue!” Hard to argue with that. A little bit of smoke, a nice piece of beef, a whole lot of flavor.
How the smoked ribeye is made.
It begins with pasture-raised beef from a couple of farms within an hour from here. The beef is dry-aged—the way all good butchers would have done 60 or 70 years ago—for about a month, and then butchered from whole sides right here in the Roadhouse kitchen. For the Smoked Ribeye, we start by seasoning the beef with a mix of cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, and freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper. The whole piece is then smoked here on the pit over smoldering whole oak logs for about two hours. When you order a Smoked Ribeye for supper, we finish it on the wood-burning (or “live fire” as many folks are now saying) grill. We typically serve it up with mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach, but of course, you can switch up the sides if you want (a little Roadhouse mac and cheese maybe?).
Smoked ribeye testimonials.
Is it good? Yes! Really good! So many people have told me the Smoked Ribeye is one of the tastiest pieces of beef they’ve eaten in ages! A few have said “ever.” Longtime Roadie Chris Domienik says, “It’s one of the best things on the menu. The smoke gets totally into the steak and it’s just so juicy and . . . It’s just awesome!” I took a Smoked Ribeye home for Tammie to try the other evening and my whole car was perfumed by the smokiness. Neither she nor I eat much meat but the Smoked Ribeye was so compelling it was gone in minutes! Smoky, savory, rich, meaty, and pretty darned marvelous!
I have something to tell you, dear friends. You are the first to know. Ronnie Drennan of Broadbent Country Hams in Kentucky will be at Zingerman’s Camp Bacon 2020, at the Main Event on June, 6th. We are sooooooo excited! Have you tried their hickory-smoked bacon? It’s divine. You can buy it at Plum Market. At the Roadhouse, we have Broadbent sausage on our breakfast and brunch menus. While we love our handmade Roadhouse sausage, sometimes only the Broadbent will do. It’s developed quite the following around these parts. What makes it so good? Let me explain.
It might be the history.
The Drennans use a dry-cure method for their ham, bacon, and sausage that has been core to Broadbent B &B Foods since 1909. The method is an important part of American foodways, because colonial settlers used it as they migrated out west to preserve their meats. Given the hardships the settlers experienced moving out west, staples like dry-cured meat came about simply as a way to survive. The Broadbent family brought this traditional method with them to Kentucky.
Ronnie Drennan’s grandmother, Anna Broadbent, created the recipe for the sausage she started selling in 1909. The dry-cured recipe is still used for the sausage we love and savor today from Broadbent.
It might be the dry-cure method.
When I envision the family making their sausage, I can picture a colonial family dry-curing their meat in a similar manner. At Broadbent, they mix a batch of fresh pork, about two-thirds lean pork trimmings, and one-third fat pork trimmings with seasonings (including sage and red pepper). After they grind that, they let it set in the cooler overnight, After they take it out and regrind it, they stuff it into cloth bags, which are hung to air dry and cure for a week or so. Somehow the climate in Kentucky contributes to the final product. Finally, it’s smoked over green hickory for 24 hours.
The cloth bags are an integral part of the story. Back in the day, settlers didn’t have plastic, and paper was scarce or too delicate. Muslin was cheap and available. It is also breathable, and soaks up the grease. So it is still used today!
It might be the flavor and texture.
Broadbent offers their sausage in mild or spicy, and we serve the mild version. Our Roadhouse sausage actually offers more of a kick, which is great when you want to spice it up. But sometimes I want the more buttery and smokey flavor of the Broadbent with my eggs, or on my biscuits. The finer grind gives the sausage a round mouth-feel. The patties are fork tender, and crumble easily enough to mix into an omelette or grits. The fat content makes a huge difference to the final product. Just like their bacon, the Broadbent’s sausage melts in your mouth like no other breakfast meat will. After it gets cooked up on the flat top at the Roadhouse, that fat browns into a perfectly seared patty of goodness that tastes like it’s been perfected for over 100 years.
Oh wait! It has been perfected for over 100 years. Come in and taste it at the Roadhouse, and better yet, come hear Ronnie Drennan tell more of the story at Camp Bacon on June 6th!
A pretty darned close to perfect culinary pairing to put on a plate.
by Ari Weinzweig
A long-standing classic combination, great beef and pepper pair up as well as almost any other culinary combo I can think of. Bread and chocolate. Peanut butter and jelly. Red beans and rice. Pasta and Parmigiano Reggiano. Beef and black pepper. Last week the Roadhouse crew put Steak au Poivre on the specials list. It was so good I prevailed on longtime chef Bob Bennett to run it again so I could share the good word here.
Really good ingredients, like dry-aged steak.
Like so much of the food we make at Zingerman’s, the Steak au Poivre at the Roadhouse is all about really good ingredients, assembled simply and served with solid technique and kitchen skills. The steak, like all the beef at the Roadhouse, is cut from the beef of pasture-raised steers. We dry-age the beef for about four to five weeks, then butcher it in the back kitchen every evening. The pepper is Tellicherry, from the district of Kerala on India’s southwest coast. The spice equivalent of farm-to-table, it comes to us by way of the de Vienne family up in Montréal. They, in turn, have spent years building relationships with spice growers and traders including their friend Sudheer, the man on the ground in India who makes this pepper happen. Sudheer grew up around pepper growing with his grandmother’s work on a farm in the region. As an adult, he’s made it his mission to master the pepper trade, and in the process set new and higher standards for high integrity spice trading.
And Tellicherry black pepper.
We buy over a thousand pounds of Tellicherry for the Roadhouse each year, all sourced by Sudheer from sustainable growers in the region. The flavor of the pepper is awesome—a whole other level in complexity and quality that has raised the bar on so many Roadhouse dishes (fried chicken, ribs, black pepper fries, etc.). Great authentic Tellicherry like this is wine-like in that its flavor grows slowly in your mouth; it has legs, you could say. Like a big, bold peppery Zinfandel maybe, it’s spicy but hardly habanero-hot. It livens the tongue, and continues to resonate with a well-rounded heat without taking over.
Putting it all together.
When you put those two together—pasture-raised, dried-aged, beef and world-class pepper from Kerala—you’ve got a pairing for the ages, a culinary combo I could eat regularly for the rest of my life. The coarse-cracked pepper crusts up on the beef as it cooks, slightly softening the peppercorns, picking up a hint of smoke from the oak-fired grill. The wininess of the pepper is a perfect match for the marvelousness of the meat! A great dinner for a cold winter’s evening. And, yes, some good Bakehouse bread and dark chocolate would be a great way to finish the meal. You can buy a bar of Shawn Askinosie’s amazing offerings at the Roadhouse and use it to finish off the Bakehouse’s superb sourdough bread that comes with your meal!
P.S. Looking ahead to next fall, September 9 is National Steak au Poivre day and also co-founder Paul Saginaw’s birthday. Put that in your calendar ASAP!
Deli Art Posters are for sale: Do you appreciate the amazing hand-done posters that decorate the Deli? Know someone who moved away from Ann Arbor but might love to feel re-connected to the community? Check out all these incredible pieces of art that are up for sale. Each is original and there’s only one of each. Shipping and local pick up available!
We do Food Tours!Our newest, and hence least known, business takes small groups of food-focused folks to visit craft food producers, winemakers, and restaurants in cool places like Croatia, Budapest, Italy, France, Spain, and more. Want to give a mind-blowing gift to your loved one? Here you go!
The Roadhouse sells bottled wine and beer to go! It’s true. Not only can you get great American wine or beer with your meal, you can also buy a (sealed) bottle to take out. Maybe even better still, you can drive up and buy it from the Roadshow without ever having to get out of your car.
Miss Kim books private parties on Mondays: That’s right—if you want to host a post-holiday party, if you want to hold a group meeting, meal, family reunion, or get married on a Monday (when the restaurant isn’t open for regular business) Miss Kim can help you make that happen. As of 2020 there’s only one Monday in every week so don’t wait too long!
Tiny Weddings at Cornman Farms: Want to get married in an intimate, far less stressful context, at a compellingly beautiful place? This is your shot. Tiny Weddings are the new micro-wedding experience at Cornman Farms that are beautifully designed, expertly planned and affordably priced. They only occur four times per year, and there are still a few spots available for Winter 2020.
For those of you who find eggnog to be a bit too rich, the Horchatini is the perfect alternative for a holiday drink. Mixed with horchata, the classic Mexican beverage made from rice, it is light and refreshing. With a dash of cinnamon and a splash of rum, it offers classic holiday flavors perfect for sipping by the fireplace or with dessert. Because horchata can be made in a bigger batch, this is also a really easy cocktail to serve at your holiday party! We make our horchata in house (there are hundreds of really good authentic recipes online), but you can also buy it bottled. No matter which way you go, this sweet and and creamy beverage is a hit this season! Stop in for one at the Roadhouse, or make your own at home.
For the cinnamon syrup:
Yields 3 1/2 cups
2 cups water
4 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cups sugar
In a small sauce pot add water and cinnamon and bring to boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, and strain out cinnamon sticks. Bring water back to a boil, add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved.
For the cocktail:
Yields one glass
Meyers Dark Rum .75oz
Goslings Black Seal Rum .75oz
Cinnamon syrup .25oz
Stir all ingredients over ice, strain into martini glass. Add a dash of cinnamon.
Dining out with kids at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor is a special experience for kids and parents alike, because of the tasty menu and more.
With more than a dozen items on the kids’ menu, and half a dozen side options, young diners can build a meal that’s just for them at Zingerman’s Roadhouse. The selection is sure to please even the pickiest eaters, or the more adventurous eaters who are bored with the average restaurant kids’ menu. There are portions to satisfy different size appetites, too. Be sure to check out the weekend brunch menu, including kids’ chocolate chip pancakes.
“I’ve been to all the restaurants, like 3 restaurants, and this is the best burger and mac and cheese I’ve ever had!” -young Roadhouse diner
The food found on this kids’ menu is not an afterthought, but kid-sized portions of the same full-flavored great American food served to adult Roadhouse fans. You’ll definitely find upgraded renditions of common kid favorites like chicken nuggets, grilled cheese sandwiches and burgers. But the magic is in those kid-sized versions of the favorites that have made Zingerman’s Roadhouse a destination restaurant in Ann Arbor since 2003.
They’re known for their pit-smoked meats, and the kids’ barbecue sampler that features pork, chicken and beef is a hit. The Roadhouse mac and cheese was chosen by Food Network’s Alton Brown as “America’s Best Comfort Food”. Kids can enjoy a bowl of the classic, or one that’s kicked up with Monterey Jack cheese, fresh cut corn, and shredded smoked chicken. Another popular choice is the crispy fried chicken leg (also available in gluten free!). Or there’s always the grilled New York strip steak or filet of salmon.
“I love the pink fish place!”- young Roadhouse diner
You won’t find frozen nuggets or box mix macaroni in the kitchen at the Roadhouse. They pride themselves on in-house butchering, partnering with local farmers and food producers, and making everything from scratch. That philosophy is applied to the entire menu, including the kids’ entrées. And if you’re looking for fresh sides beyond the french fries, welcome options include fresh fruits, steamed vegetables and sautéed spinach. The restaurant also serves baskets of warm sliced bread (complimentary with your meal, upon request) that’s baked fresh daily by their friends at Zingerman’s Bakehouse.
“We want to go to the bread place!”- young Roadhouse diner
If you want a cozy place for dining out with kids in Ann Arbor, a menu the kids are sure to love, and James Beard Award-nominated customer service, Zingerman’s Roadhouse is your place. By the way, your fur kids (the kind with four legs who get along with other animals), are welcome on the restaurant outer patio. During the warmer season, the space fills up quickly, so we recommend a reservation if you would like to bring your pup!
And if it’s just one of those days, you don’t even have to get the kids out of the car. Visit the Roadshow, the teapot-shaped trailer parked in front of the Roadhouse. Call 734.663.3663(FOOD) to order and pick up your meals, or just drive thru to grab sandwiches, muffins, and more.
Make your Thanksgiving memorable with this classic side dish!
Every year, Chef Bob and his team cook Thanksgiving meals to go for anyone who wants to take a break from the kitchen. Whole pit-smoked turkeys, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, roasted vegetables, green bean casserole—we have everything you need to fill your table with a Thanksgiving feast.
One of our favorites is a cornbread and sage stuffing that is simple to make and truly delicious. For anyone who does want to cook at home this year and is looking for a classic Southern stuffing recipe, we have it for you here:
Cornbread and Sage Stuffing Recipe
Yield: Makes enough stuffing to fill an 18-pound turkey or a 2 quart baking dish.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or 1 tablespoon each olive oil and unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, cut in small dice
1/2 tsp salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons rubbed sage, or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
4 tablespoons unsalted butter if baking separately
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Heat the olive oil (or oil and butter) over medium
heat in a large, heavy, nonstick skillet, and add the onion. Cook, stirring
often, until it begins to soften, about three minutes, and add 1/2 teaspoon
salt and the celery. Cook together for another few minutes, until the onion is
tender. Add the garlic, and stir together for 30 seconds to a minute, until
fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl, and add the remaining ingredients. Combine
well. Taste and adjust salt. Moisten as desired with milk.
2. Stuff the cavity of the turkey, or transfer to a buttered or oiled 2-quart (11″ x 7″) baking dish. Dot with butter. Cover with aluminum foil, and heat through in a 325-degree oven for 30 minutes.
So you offered to host Thanksgiving, arguably the most important meal of the year (no pressure!). Now you’re asking, what have I gotten myself into? You can do this. Take a deep breath, check out this list of practical tips and prepare to make tackling turkey day look easy. Heck, you might even enjoy it!
1. Don’t Turn Down Help
You’re doing the heavy lifting by cooking the main meal and offering up your home as the host of Thanksgiving dinner. Most invited guests will respond with “What can I bring?” Prepare a few answers for when the offers of help roll in. Being a good host doesn’t mean you’re responsible for every single thing. People genuinely do want to contribute something, so if you don’t have an answer they might all bring you cheese tray (ok, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing). Consider letting someone else bring the wine, appetizers, dessert or even extra chairs. Maybe ask a close relative or friend to help with the dishes after. Just don’t ask the person who’s always late (you know the one) to bring the appetizers!
2. Make It Ahead
Get ahead of the game by preparing as much as you can one to two days before. First, write out your Thanksgiving menu and collect recipes and ingredients to avoid a last minute run (or two!) to the store. Chopping vegetables, toasting nuts, making stocks and sauces, baking desserts, brining the turkey, and assembling casseroles can all be done the day before. Anything that cuts down your time in the kitchen while your guests are around is a good thing. Your friends and family came to see you, so you don’t want to spend the whole time cooking. And you deserve to enjoy the day yourself, too.
3. Keep Guests Engaged (especially the kiddos)
Giving younger invitees things to do can give your Thanksgiving get together a relaxed vibe and may even give everyone a chance to enjoy their meal at a more leisurely pace. Chances are the adults will join in the fun, too. Offer younger kids a chance to get involved in the meal prep by setting the table or heading outside to collect colorful fall leaves for decorating the spread. Older kids can get in on the action by peeling vegetables or taking guest drink orders with a notepad. Set up a classic kids table for dinner time that’s stocked with paper placemats and crayons to draw what they’re thankful for (again, great for everyone). For dessert, in addition to the pumpkin pie, put out cookies or cupcakes and embellishments (think frosting, sprinkles, candy corn, chocolate, and dried cherries). Have a few party games and a cocoa and coffee bar at the ready to fight off a food coma after the big meal and keep the fun going longer.
We’ve made it even easier for you to focus on hosting by doing the cooking for you! Order your Thanksgiving To-Go from the Roadhouse this year!
While it may sound strange to American ears, one of the most popular varieties of gelato in Italy is riso. That’s right—just what it sounds like. Rice gelato. (If you’re in Florence, try the riso at the classic gelateria of Vivoli. (For more on where to eat gelato in Italy see my friend Elizabeth Minchilli’s website and apps.) It’s not quite as strange as you might imagine, though—think rice pudding in frozen form!
Riso made with American heirloom rice.
In Italy riso gelato is generally made with the marvelous short-grain Italian rices that you may know, like Arborio or Carnaroli. The crew at the Creamery had the creative idea to make it with the Carolina Gold rice we get from Anson Mills in South Carolina and use so much of at the Roadhouse. This is the rice that put South Carolina on the culinary map—the rice most likely originated in Africa and was farmed primarily by enslaved people in the 18th and first half of the 19th century. Without free labor to work the fields of this low-yield, high flavor heirloom, it fell out of favor with more modern farmers and by 1920 it was completely out of production. Fortunately, seeds were found in a seed bank and folks like Glenn Roberts at Anson Mills grew determined to get it going again. It’s an exceptionally delicious rice—it was once regularly shipped to the royal courts in Europe. What we get from Anson Mills is grown organically, field-ripened (to bring out all the plant’s natural sugars), fresh milled and shipped to us with the germ (oil) intact. You can try it every day at the Roadhouse, and we sell it by the pound from the freezer case (with the germ left in it’s a perishable product).
How we make rice gelato at Zingerman’s.
To make the gelato, the Creamery crew cook the rice, add cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla powder, a bit of salt, and some burnt sugar syrup. In essence, it turns into a terrific holiday rice pudding in the form of gelato. Serve it up on its own. Bob Bennett at the Roadhouse turned into a sundae with cardamom-scented bits of fried biscuit on top. Scoop some on top of a slice of the Bakehouse’s Gingerbead Cake for the ultimate treat!
In fertile, marshy plains, rice has been a staple crop for several thousand years. Like corn, its ancient crony crop, the dominant species, oryza sativa and oryza glaberrima evolved first as a wild grass, then later a grain in Asia and Africa respectively.
Like so many of the things that are central to our diet, an inquisition into the story of our food leads us to the recurring tale of colonialism. And while that is certainly true n the United States, that colonialism played a role in the proliferation of rice throughout the country, what must be said is that this proliferation was due to the physical exertion and agricultural acumen of millions of enslaved Africans.
Judith Ann Carney, author of Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Harvard University Press) says, The standard belief that Europeans introduced rice to West Africa and then brought the knowledge of its cultivation to the Americas is a fundamental fallacy, one which succeeds in effacing the origins of the crop and the role of Africans and African-American slaves in transferring the seed, the cultivation skills, and the cultural practices necessary for establishing it in the New World.
How did rice get to the South? Well, The South needed something to send outside of The South. After the Jamestown settlement in 1607 (the first English colony in the US) the subsequent ones would soon be tasked for establishing an industry to appease the British mother nation. Southern states honed their focus on tobacco, cotton, and especially in Georgia and the Carolinas, rice.
Acre after acre was cleared throughout the south coast, and with picks and shovels, the first “African Americans” excavated ditches for canals, dispersing tidal waters into fields and also draining them. But it was their agricultural acumen that superseded even their physical output. Levees as high as six feet tall were built with the muddy heaps of soil left over from the excavations. Though the English settlers had no idea how to grow it, rice became essential to their way of life.
At the port of Charleston, through which 40% of all American slaves passed, those with prior knowledge of rice cultivation, fetched the highest prices. Today their descendants live in small farming and fishing communities along the Atlantic coastal plain of South Carolina and Georgia. They are a distinctive group of African Americans called Gullah, children of the so called “Rice Coast” of Sierra Leone. Due to their relative isolation (along with the breadth and multigenerational enslavement) Gullah people have — through folktales, basket weaving and of course, cooking — preserved their own culture in a manner other African Americans have been unable to. I am so very much looking to sharing more with you all about this unique culture and rich history of rice in the United States.
It’s said (apparently by a lot of people though I can’t tell you where “they” started saying it) that only those who grow up in rice growing and rice eating cultures can truly give rice the respect it deserves. And only those folks can really bring rice to the culinary heights it can achieve. Which is why I’m going to tell you right up front—I’m not a native rice eater. I grew up on potatoes—mashed, fried, baked, chipped, chopped, saladed and sautéed. Mr. Potato Head was one of my favorite toys, you might even say a childhood hero. As an adult, I became a big convert to pasta. I will happily sit down to a bowl of either, any and every night of the week. But while I’ve learned to love risotto and paella, the truth is that rice is not in my roots—I don’t ever claim to cook it with the reverence of a someone who grew up eating rice every day. That said, I can tell you that even in my semi-educated state, this newly arrived Carolina Gold rice is a major rice revelation . . . I’m up to about my tenth time tasting it and I’m still blown away by how incredibly good it is. If you have even the slightest interest in food, history, or human interaction and the power of vision and persistence you should try this rice.
South Carolina and Glenn Roberts produce really good rice!
Unlike the South Side of Chicago where I grew up, South Carolina is major rice country. People eat it with every meal. I feel like I’m out on a limb to say they eat it the way so many Italians eat pasta but that is indeed what many of the folks I talk to who grew up down there tell me to be true. So who am I to doubt it? Pretty much everyone I know from that fair Southern state seems to be a rice, eater I’m sure my belief would be right up there. Catherine Horton, who was raised in the region, told me that, “there was always a steaming bowl of rice on the table. For me, it’s the ultimate comfort food.” Most everyone else from the area that I’ve asked says much the same thing. I think more important though than the statement, is the way their eyes look when they say it. Alive and excited, culinary emotion coming out in a way that words alone can’t really convey.
Their passion, and that of Glenn Roberts, founder of Anson Mills and the man we have to thank for this incredible rice, is really what’s driven me to get to know it. Carolina Gold Rice is of interest (that’s an understatement—I should say, “has me so excited”) for two reasons. First, that we have Carolina Gold Rice at all is a milestone on our national drive to restore more flavorful, traditional food. It’s only in the last five years or so that it’s been available at all—the last commercial crop previous to that was grown in 1927. We’ve been happily selling and serving it ever since it was first revived by Mike Booth and Marion Hartz. Their rice really was good. Which is why I’m so totally even more excited by this new arrival of organic Carolina Gold grown by Glenn Roberts and crew at Anson Mills (from whom we get our amazing grits and other incredible corn meals). Because this new Carolina Gold is about ten times better than the other, already really good, Carolina Gold.
The History of Rice
To me what’s most important here is that, although, like all foods, Carolina Gold has roots in other parts of the world, what we have here is a unique American food of major import. When you look at its history, and then you taste it, you’ll know this is something special.
The original Carolina Gold rice is believed to have come to the Carolinas in roughly 1685 arriving from Madagascar in the form of a bushel brought back by Dr. Henry Woodward of Charles Town. From that single sack the rice grew to cover the land of hundreds of commercial plantations stretching down from the Cape Fear River basin of North Carolina all the way to the northern end of Florida. The bulk of the production though stayed in South Carolina, where by 1691 it was so well established that the state legislature allowed for planters to pay their taxes in rice. Rice was originally milled as it was elsewhere in the world, with wooden mallets. (More about this technique in a minute). The first water-powered rice mill was built in 1787.
Neither the cultivation of the rice nor the development of the cuisine that came to be called the “Carolina rice kitchen” could have been possible without the knowledge of the Africans who worked the fields and tended the kitchens. Both men and women took part in the cultivation of rice, with men performing the heavier tasks and women responsible for such tasks as seeding and, then after harvest, cleaning and pounding. While rice growing started mostly in swamps, African insight is credited with the trunk and dike system set up to manage water in the fields to take advantage of the fresh water tidal creeks. By 1700 Carolina growers were exporting back to England and down to the West Indies. With time, the name Carolina Gold developed a reputation in Europe as the finest rice in the world, and it saw favor at aristocratic and noble tables in both England and the Continent. The Dutch, who probably the passionate of European rice eaters (having colonized Indonesia and brought back the rijstaffel, or “rice table,” brought it to the Netherlands, paying many times more for Carolina Gold than they were rice from Asia. Carolina Gold was even exported to India.
In time, the rice came to dominate the culture, cuisine and economics of the Carolinas, much as the olive tree did in Southern Italy. Writer Christopher C. Boyle in “Rise of the Georgetown Rice Culture” quotes surveyor Robert Mills who wrote in 1826 that, “In Georgetown every thing is fed on rice; horse and cattle eat the straw and bran, fowls, etc. are sustained by the refuse; and man subsists upon the marrow of the grain.” In the middle of the 19th century the production peaked as people raised and sold off millions of pounds of rice.
The Civil War seems to be the acknowledged turning point in the history of the rice. Production volumes went down drastically after the war; the freeing of the slaves meant that many of the skilled field workers disbursed to other areas and more desirable work. The plantation masters were stuck in that old-line management quandary of being in charge, yet being dependent on the skill of their “underlings” to get the work done. They didn’t know enough themselves to really keep rice-growing going. To make matters worse Carolina Lowcountry soil is very soft, a severe disadvantage for 20th century growers trying to work on tractors instead of on two feet. And like almost all antique varieties that have passed out of commercial production Carolina Gold has very low yields. Because it grows so tall (about five-foot high stalks), it’s far more susceptible to damage from even modest winds. With all that working against it, it’s no wonder that what was once America’s premier rice growing region was rapidly replaced by far higher yielding plantations in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. The end of the line for modern commercial production came in 1911, when a hurricane took out most of the crop. As I said above, the last recorded commercial crop (until its recent revival) was gathered in 1927.
That was it up until the last few years. For most of the 20th century Carolina Gold was nothing more than a trademark owned by a large rice company that didn’t even grow Carolina Gold rice but liked the name. But now . . . wow. . . the stuff that Glenn is growing and milling for Anson Mills is something spectacular, head and shoulders above what we were getting, which, again, was already really good. All of which has absolutely nothing in common with the supermarket “Carolina Gold” rice, which has even less in common with the real article than cultivated wild rice has with really wild, wild rice.
What makes the difference?
For opener’s Glenn’s rice is grown organically, and he’s insistent that raising rice without sprays isn’t just the right thing to do for environmental reasons but also because it has huge positive impact on the flavor of the rice. Beyond that he’s making sure the rice is fully ripened in the field before being brought in. As it does with any other produce proper field ripening is a huge factor in getting full flavor development into our food. (Because it’s very difficult to feel or see the difference with grains I think this issue hasn’t gotten much attention. But as it does with the Anson Mills grits, the field ripening radically enhances the flavor.) Additionally, the newly harvest rice is stored frozen in the husk until we order it, at which point Glenn mills it with a small rice mill brought over from Japan.
The mill was especially designed for Glenn, in order to emulate the 19th century hand-pounding which, at that time, was the way that slaves husked the rice and broke off most of the bran to prepare it for cooking in the kitchen. Although I have a hard time getting my mouth around the phrase “hand pound emulation” (try saying it quickly five times in a row), conceptually I get it. On the cover of Karen Hess’ classic book, “The Carolina Rice Kitchen” there’s a photo of two, pretty surely enslaved, African-American women pounding rice in a two-foot high stone bowl. One woman is poised to pound, holding a five-foot long pole; the other has her pole in the bowl. Clearly the rhythms had to be coordinated to make it possible. Traditionally the pounding was women’s work. The men did the work out in the fields. The hand-pounding was done right before the rice was prepared, assuring an exceptional brightness of flavor; and it also broke up the grains just a bit, altering the texture and eating experience of the rice in the process. Unlike commercial rice-polishing which takes out the germ and the bran, the hand pound emulation leaves a bit of the bran on the rice grains, which leaves a bit of a “black eye” on some of the grains, and more importantly adds to the flavor of the rice. Leaving the germ in enhances the flavor enormously. As a result, this Carolina Gold is not “enriched” as other American white rices are. (Because the germ—and hence the rice’s natural oil—is left in, the rice is a perishable product and needs to be stored in the freezer or refrigerator.)
The other huge factor in the flavor is the “new crop” nature of the rice. As with so many foods (coffee comes to mind, as does olive oil, tea, etc.) the newly harvested versions of agricultural products have, for a lack of a less obvious word, freshness, and brightness of flavor that you lose as the months pass. While properly stored rice will be “good” for years, that freshness is lost in a matter of months. Glenn’s commitment to field ripening, germ retention and quick freezing have all made it possible for us to get at this amazing “new crop” flavor.
Can you really taste the difference?
Ultimately, being a flavor driven food person with a history background (as opposed to a historian who likes to eat), this is the key question I always ask. In this case, I admit to having approached the rice with a bit of skepticism, always a concerned that the quality of the story might outpace the eating quality of the actual product. But it only took one time cooking this Carolina Gold to verify that there really is something special to be had here. The rice is really exceptionally flavorful; a bit nutty, almost buttery and creamy to my northerner’s potato-prone palate.
South Carolina’s eating routines are definitely based on rice. Native South Carolinian John Martin Taylor writes that, “I grew up with rice and grits. We never had potatoes except with steak or potato salad,” he told me to emphasize the point. There are dozens and dozens of dishes that rely on authentic Carolina rice. Hoppin’ John, Limpin’ Susan (rice with okra), Creamed Rice, Rice Fritters, Rice Bread, Low Country Seafood Stew, and dozens of others all start with this special rice. The best-known dish I’m sure, is what they call “pilau,” which is seemingly at about a six degrees of separation ratio from what we know as “pilaf’s” Persian roots. (You could probably run some sort of seminar on the “proper” pronunciation of “pilau” in South Carolina. John Martin Taylor says it’s, “’PER-lo,’ per-LO’ or ‘pee-LO’” with the ‘o’ almost sounding like an ‘oo.’”) Some say the recipe arrived in the Carolinas traveling through the hands of Arab traders to Africa, from whence it would have gone on to North America. Alternatively, it’s theorized that Sephardic Jews en route from Provence shared the dish with Huguenots fleeing France who in turn took it to the Western Hemisphere. Either way, it got there and rice is well-rooted in the Carolina Lowcountry culture.
In the kitchen it’s of interest for its unique cooking characteristics and nutty, mellow flavor. Its grains are significantly softer than most other long grain rice and they stay separate when you cook ‘em. It does cook into an interesting risotto-type dish, which probably isn’t quite as out of place as it sounds. Glenn Roberts is passionate about the connection between South Carolina and the Veneto region in Italy. Cooks from Venice do love risotto, so it only makes sense that their counterparts in the Carolinas might have used similar techniques. In fact, he adds, “The Carolina Sea Island dish ‘Reezy Peezy’—Carolina Gold slow cooked with fresh field peas—bears its African Gullah name that sounds remarkably like the Italian St. Mark’s feast dish—risi e bisi—Arborio rice with fresh peas.” Adding to this is the fact that the typical lunch in Charleston was served at the very Italian 3:00, followed by a midday siesta.
The influence may well date to the late 17th century arrival of a team of Italian engineers, recruited to the Carolinas in an attempt to farm Carolina Gold here using Venetian rice growing methods. Although the Italian techniques ultimately failed, many historians think that African-American cooking (before the Civil War slaves were pretty much the only people in the cookhouse in the South) was influenced by these Italians because, unlike their other European counterparts—who were the landed gentry of the Charleston area by that time—the Venetians actually spent a lot of their time out in the fields working side by side with African and Native American field hands and slaves.
Perhaps the purest way to serve Carolina Gold is as what 19th century Carolinians called “Charleston Ice Cream”—simply cooked rice served in a nice mounded white “ice cream” scoop with a generous knob of soft butter set atop it to melt dreamily down the sides. Although there are number of long missives on the subject the recommended ratio of liquid to rice seems to be two to one. We’ve been serving it this way as a side dish at the Roadhouse for the last few months and it’s been a big hit.
My personal favorite preparation is Carolina Red Rice (also known as “Tomato Pilau”), which I learned to make from John Taylor’s “Lowcountry Cooking.” Dice some bacon (the Arkansas Pepper Bacon is my preference) then fry it ‘til crisp and remove it from the pan. The rice is sautéed (again, akin to Italian rice cooking) in the fat, then stock and tomatoes are added. The rice is then cooked covered (unlike Mediterranean rice cooking) for thirty minutes (John’s recipe recommends the thirty minutes, though other Carolina Rice recipes seem to stick at around 20 minutes for optimal doneness.) It’s easy and very delicious and the grains keep their integrity nicely through the cooking.
Read more history about rice and African American culture.
Recently I got caught up in a debate with a friend about steak at the Roadhouse. He was convinced that we are not well-known for our steak. Considering that many people think of the Roadhouse as a BBQ establishment, he has a point. But what he did not know is how much care and time we put into the quality of the steak we serve at the Roadhouse. He also hasn’t tried our smoked ribeye. Yet.
How we do our pit-smoked steak.
We’ve had steak on our menu since we opened in 2003. Really good steak for that matter. Admittedly, there have been times when I’ve come in for dinner and I have been torn between our tender, dry-aged ribeye and our hand-pulled pit-smoked BBQ. So you can imagine my excitement when Chef Bob Bennett rolled out a smoked ribeye about a year ago. Talk about the best of both worlds.
A guest recently described it as a “perfect marriage of steak and BBQ”. I can’t think of a better way to describe it. Our pitmaster smokes a whole, dry-aged ribeye over oak for about 2 hours. Our in-house butcher then portions the steaks, and we grill them to order for dinner. It tastes so good as it is, we only add a bit of butter to melt over the top. But we really want you to taste the deep smokey flavor of the beef. We actually take a lot of pride in our beef at the Roadhouse, so it is super important that we don’t add too much to overpower the natural flavor of good quality steak.
Taste the difference with our beef.
So what makes any of our steaks so noteworthy? At the Roadhouse, as with anything we serve, it starts with the source. We are able to constantly evaluate the quality of our meat because we are very careful about where we get it from. By selecting animals that are farm specific from Northern Ohio or Southern Michigan, the Roadhouse can make sure we know exactly where we are getting our beef from. The steers are humanely treated and all pasture-raised to ensure better tasting and more tender beef. We also make sure the beef is processed locally, which leaves a much smaller carbon footprint. We purchase whole animals, and our in-house butcher customizes all cuts and dry-ages the primal cuts for up to five weeks.
You can definitely taste the attention to detail in the flavor of our steaks. They are richly marbled with flavor. But then we definitely take it up a notch with the smoking. In 2004, we welcomed BBQ pitmaster Ed Mitchell from Raleigh, North Carolina to help us design and build our 13-foot BBQ pit, located just outside the restaurant. Ed taught us the secrets to really good whole-hog Eastern North Carolina BBQ, and ever since we’ve been turning out some of the best BBQ you’ll ever eat.
So what do you when you have really good steak and the skills to make really good pit BBQ? You put two and two together and make the best smoked ribeye in town. And then you put yourselves on the local map for really good steak. Come on by and taste the difference with our smoked ribeye at the Roadhouse.
Rockin’ new appetizer kissed with a touch of artisan cane syrup.
by Ari Weinzweig
This week, the Roadhouse is marking the much-awaited return of Fried Ribs!
What makes our fried ribs so good?
About 18 months ago, chef Bob Bennett brought a new dish to the Roadhouse; something seemingly simple, but one we’d never done before. It worked. Fried ribs rocked the house! Single bone sections of the Roadhouse’s already huge selling BBQ ribs, floured and deep-fried—essentially they’re chicken-fried ribs—and then finished with a generous drizzle of the amazing artisan cane syrup we get from Charles Poirier down in Lafayette, Louisiana. The only problem? They got so popular that our demand far exceeded Charles’ supply. His production is small—solely by hand, the way it was done 200 years ago. Which meant that about six months after they hit the menu, they were gone. After all, sugar is an agricultural product. And since Charles grows all his own sugar cane, there wasn’t anything he could do. I tried, to be honest, to find a suitable substitute but, not shockingly, nothing came close. Charles’ syrup is super special. So, impatiently, we waited. Now, finally, the new season’s syrup is here! Which means that fried ribs, in all their deep-fried, full-flavored glory, are back. If you’re one of the many who came to love them in their six month stint, you may want to join me and your fellow fried rib lovers in a loud round of “Hallelujah!”
It starts with really good pork.
The dish starts with the same super popular, super good pork ribs that the Roadhouse sells so many hundreds of a week. Free running pork, raised by Niman Ranch farmers here in Michigan, baby back ribs, 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, and then get topped with some of our Red Rage barbecue sauce. The fried ribs take a bit of a side road—they get cut into individual ribs, 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 then drizzle them with that oh-so-fine artisan cane syrup.
Poirier’s cane syrup really makes the difference.
The syrup is a story in itself. I met Charles at a Southern Foodways Alliance symposium about ten years or so ago. Charles raises the cane, crushes it, and boils down the juice. One hundred fifty years ago, half the state of Louisiana probably did the same thing. Today, best I know, Charles is the only one that’s still at it. He was proffering tiny bottles of his yet-to-be sold syrup. I tasted it straight from the bottle. It was mind-blowing. The 2019 crop is just as good as ever. The New Orleans Advocate wrote that “This coveted ingredient is Poirier’s Pure Cane Syrup, and it has lately been trickling into the culinary arsenal of well-known New Orleans chefs. The amber-hued delicacy is produced by Charles Poirier, following the same method used by his great-great-grandfather, Anatole Poirier (1873-1941). ”
Stop by and order some up Fried Ribs. You could make a meal out of them if you order them with some mashed potatoes and collard greens. Either way, if you like barbecue, good pork, a touch of sweet and a bit of spice, they’re surely going to be a hit with you too.
They are on our dinner menu, along with so many other really good things!
A favorite cocktail we occasionally feature at the Roadhouse is the Corpse Reviver no. 2. The original Corpse Reviver can be traced back at least to the 1930s, with ties to the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London. The drinks are aptly named because they are meant to be drunk as a hangover “cure”, with enough potency to be able to revive a dead person. Both the original and the no. 2 appear in the Savoy Cocktail Book, written in 1930 by the head bartender at the Savoy, Harry Craddock. The no. 2 recipe called for gin, lemon juice, curaçao (commonly Cointreau), Kina Lillet (now usually replaced with Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc), and a dash of absinthe. A note in the book cautions us that “Four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.”
Variations of the Reviver concocted over the years compromise a full family of morning-after cocktails, but the no. 2 will always be a Roadhouse favorite. Stop in any time for one, but if you wish to scare your friends with something yummy at your Halloween party, here is our recipe:
Orange and chocolate come together to make something super special
by Ari Weinzweig
As we approach the end of 2019, the pairing of orange and chocolate might seem somewhat mundane. But 400 years ago in Europe, the combo was completely cutting edge. If one wanted to reach for the exotic, impress a couple of your royal cousins, or catch the attention of upper-crust colleagues, chocolate with orange might well have been the almost-impossible-to-ignore ticket.
The exotic origin of chocolate and orange.
Neither ingredient would have been well-known among Europeans of the 16th century. Oranges are native to China; they started to arrive in Europe, likely into Sicily, by about 1400. Chocolate would have come a century later after the return of Columbus from the “new world.” Both were originally approached tentatively—exotic edibles for wealthy folks to experiment with. The same can be said for sugar, which came from India. It would have been innovators in the royal courts, the merchant class, and the church who’d probably have been the first to take a “chance” on these new luxuries. Because chocolate was mostly consumed in that era as a beverage, the original blend would likely have been hot chocolate scented with orange flower water.
Sean Askinosie revitalizes a classic pairing.
Now the combination of orange and chocolate is everywhere in some form. But they’re on my mind because of a very special iteration of this combination—the latest, and loveliest, of my good friend Shawn Askinosie’s incredible chocolate bars. The bar begins with the carefully crafted Trinitario cacao that Shawn brings from grower Peter Cruz in the Philippines. Thanks to Shawn’s good work, Peter became the first Filipino farmer to export cacao since the country’s land reform in the mid-1970s. The cacao is conched and blended with Turbinado sugar and cocoa butter (made by the folks at Askinosie from the same beans) and then a nice bit of orange pulp, and orange peel. The finished flavor is something special. Shawn’s enthusiasm for this new bar is especially high. “I love orange! You should have smelled the factory this week!”
Good things take time and effort.
To be clear, developing a new offering of this quality is not an overnight activity. Natural Law #10 (see Building a Great Business) is that “it takes a lot longer to make something great happen than most people think.” This bar is no exception—Shawn says it took about 20 iterations to get the ratios right, all done in a series of experiments that took over 18 months. I appreciate all the hard work and I’m betting that if you like orange and chocolate, you will most definitely want to buy a bar. Or five. The flavor is fantastic. The chocolate and the orange are beautifully balanced. Like any good partnership, they bring different things to the table. The chocolate is the bass line—dark, nutty, cocoa-y. The orange is the violin playing over top. Light and bright. Together, the combo is otherworldly. The royal court of Spain would have likely swooned over it. And if you have anyone in your circle who loves orange and chocolate together, you’ll definitely want to add this beautiful new bar to their holiday list.
Can a chocolate bar matter that much? Given the state of the world, I think every little bit of beauty we can spread makes a small but ultimately meaningful difference. Both Shawn and I are big fans of the work of the Irish philosopher John O’Donohue, so I’ll close this piece with a quote of his that conveys what I’m thinking after eating and reflecting on how good this bar is. Share a bit of your bar with anyone you care about. Or even someone you don’t yet know. As O’Donohue writes, “The time is now ripe for beauty to surprise and liberate us.”
About a decade ago, Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1; A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business came out, including an essay within called “Twelve Natural Laws of Business.” It is, as the title implies, a list of “Natural Laws”—principles that, I believe, all healthy organizations of any size, or sort or geography, are living in harmony with. #8 on the list states: “To get to greatness you’ve got to keep getting better, All the time!” With that in mind, I’ve continued to study and work on more “Natural Laws of Business,” which will eventually appear in print. One of them is: “Everything, whether we want to admit it or not, is out of control.”
That’s right. Although most of us use and hear the word “control” regularly, the reality is that nothing—nothing—is in control. All we have are varying degrees of influence. Any time I start to doubt the veracity of that Natural Law—I’m going to call it #17—I’m reminded that it’s true. Sometimes it’s something that, despite the best of intentions and hard work, I screw up. Other times it’s something I’d never have imagined; a situation in which I had no influence suddenly and unexpectedly alters our reality in significant ways (like the imposition of new tariffs which are going to raise costs on a whole range of great foods from Europe—like Parmigiano Reggiano and olive oil—up about 25%!).
We love New Mexico green chiles!
Which brings us to the New Mexico green chiles. I first encountered and fell in love with New Mexico green chiles on a trip to Santa Fe probably 30 years ago. Within a year or so we’d found a great source, and also figured out how to get them here. While finding New Mexico green chiles in commercial form isn’t all that hard (most are mass-market; not bad, but not great), what we found all those years ago were the opposite—truly flavorful, hand-roasted-over-open-flames, old-school, chiles that arrive at our door with the charred skins still in place and ten times more flavor than factory steamed and roasted alternatives. To make the whole project possible, we had to order a year’s supply. They arrive in Ann Arbor frozen, which is how most of New Mexico uses them throughout the year as well. If you’ve never had them, great New Mexico green chiles are something super special. A slow-building heat and wonderful flavor that adds so much to nearly any dish.
The absence of green chiles affected Zingerman’s.
Here’s where the “everything’s out of control” construct comes into play. Last year, on a Friday evening, the compressor on our Santa Fe supplier’s freezer went out. Because they had no alarm on the freezer, and because no one worked the warehouse over the weekend, what they’d purchased (most of the chiles come from small farmers who might have a 100 or so pounds), about 80 percent of what they were going to ship us for the year, was lost. Yes, that’s right. Thawed. Since you can’t refreeze them, they weren’t going to work. And because they’re an agricultural product, one can’t just “make more.” Our supplier was screwed. Unfortunately, so were we. And, doubly, unfortunately, if you’re one of the many loyal folks who love them here in Ann Arbor, you were too. We tried everything. Made dozens of phone calls. Ordered samples from probably 36 different suppliers. Nothing came close to the quality we’d become accustomed to over the decades. As we say so often, “You really can taste the difference!” And in this case, it was an unfortunate absence of flavor.
The crisis is over!
We agonized: Go with something inferior? Hold out and wait for what felt like an interminably long time until the next harvest? Long story short, we waited. And waited. And waited. But finally, twelve long months later, the 2019 crop has arrived. While I know it’s not, it feels like a miracle. Thank you for your patience in working through this. As George Harrison once said, “All things must pass.” We made it. Relief would be an understatement. Joyous celebration is more like it—the arrival of this new crop of green chiles has almost led to dancing in the streets and a very large, if not overly loud, collective sigh of chile-loving relief.
If you’re one of the many who already love the New Mexico green chiles, this is the official announcement. They’re back! You can get them—again—as you have for so many years in Deli sandwiches: the #75, the #51. And at the Roadhouse: breakfast burritos at the Roadshow, the smoked chicken, Monterey Jack and green chile mac and cheese, Southwest Vegetable soup, and black bean burgers. Soon they’ll reappear in the Bakehouse‘s Chile Cheddar bread on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
If you’ve never tried the New Mexico Green Chiles, come on by and find out what all the fuss has been about. Everything is all, still out of control. But finally, a year down the road, all is right with New Mexico green chile here in Southeast Michigan. Here’s a toast to nature! And to traditional, fully fire-roasted New Mexico green chiles!
The Teapot. The Trailer. The thing attached to the Roadhouse attracting a long line of cars. It’s been referred to as so many different things, and there is a cloud of mystery surrounding the shiny silver vehicle sitting on the north side of the Roadhouse near Maple Road. When I say cloud, I do not mean the smoke coming from the pit around the corner. That’s a conversation for another day.
So what is it? It’s Zingerman’s Roadshow! And it is not just any other roadside attraction. It serves really good food and really good coffee — to go!! All you have to do us drive on up to the window and we will have your order ready for you! So how did the Roadshow come about?
Get your Bakehouse goods here.
Originally purchased and operated by Zingerman’s Bakehouse in 2004, the vintage Spartan trailer was parked across the lot closer to Maple Road with the purpose of serving Zingerman’s Bakehouse pastries and breads. To this day, you can still drive or walk on up to order your favorite bread of the month or a bag of brownies. In 2007, the Roadshow was connected to the restaurant itself, and you can actually now stop by from the inside of the Roadhouse to place orders and say hello to the Roadies working in the trailer.
Did you say coffee?
It might look small, but the Roadshow is full of wonderful people and things! All of our sensational coffee drinks come from a full barista located within the trailer, which services the entire restaurant as well as our guests picking up coffee on the way to their next destination. We brew Roadhouse Joe, Detroit St. Decaf, and the monthly Roaster’s Pick from Zingerman’s Coffee Company every day, and make a variety of espresso drinks to order. Assorted hot Rishi teas are available, along with sodas, juices, and unique drinks like our Rhode Island Coffee Milk. Did you run out of coffee at home? Grab a bag of coffee beans from the Roadshow, and we will grind them for you!
Really good food to-go.
What else is in our magical trailer? Really good food of course! The Roadshow opens early so you can drive through for breakfast treats, and stays open until the Roadhouse closes so that you can pick up dinner. The Roadshow offers their own little menu, featuring delicious sandwiches, quick breakfasts and lunches, and the best breakfast burritos you will find anywhere in Ann Arbor.
You can also order anything you want from our full Roadhouse menu to-go. Just give us a call at 734.663.3663(FOOD) to order! All you have to do is drive on up to the window to grab it, we will have it ready for you! Did we mention that we loooooooove dogs? Bring your pooch with you for a bit of bacon and all the smooches from our Roadshow team!
It’s no big secret that at the Roadhouse we love bacon, and we love wine. So when we discovered a red blend created to savor with sizzling smoky slabs of deliciousness, we added it to our list before you could say sooey.
A wine created for bacon-lovers.
Just to be clear, the wine is not made with bacon. The “bold, rich and juicy” Rhône style red blend hails from California’s Central Coast. Aged for a year in oak, the 15% abv wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Merlot and Petite Syrah. Bacon was created to be a versatile option that can be enjoyed at a casual BBQ picnic, or even alongside rich meats at a formal dinner party. The most important thing Alex Guarachi, CEO of Guarachi Wine Partners, had in mind with this blend is that it would become a meal staple, just like bacon.
“There are two types of people in this world: those who love bacon and those who are wrong,” says Alex. “The vision behind Bacon came from my desire to create a one-of-a-kind wine that could be enjoyed by everyone.”
The flavor profile of a wine called Bacon.
Boasting dark red fruits with hints of peppery spice, bursts of spiced brambleberry jam and burnt caramel, Bacon is luscious on the palate while expressing approachable tannins. Its bold personality perfectly complements the deep, meaty flavors of anything cured or smoked. The wine was featured at our 2019 Bacon Ball, and it was a hit with the pork-laden menu created by Tempesta Market’s Tony Fiasche (especially with his spicy ‘Nduja!).
The real test is going to be how it stands up to our smoky BBQ. So far our wine-loving Roadies agree that it is something you don’t want to miss while we have it featured on our list. Stop in and try it with our ribs, our hand-pulled smoked pork, or maybe even a juicy burger topped with that glorious thing this wine was named after.
Check out our menu to find out what you would eat with Bacon wine!
Even though I know better, it’s still so easy to take the things that attain excellence every day for granted. Like the Brownie Sundae at the Roadhouse. We’ve been serving it pretty much every day for 16 years. But that changed last week when two different, unrelated customers told something along the lines of, “Wow! This is the best dessert I’ve ever had in my life!” At first, I thought they might be joking, but I asked—it was not said in jest. Both insisted that they were intently serious—it was the best dessert they’d ever eaten.
The number of Roadhouse brownie sundaes eaten.
(The Roadhouse, by the way, just had its Sweet Sixteen anniversary last weekend. Which means . . . since we’re closed at the Roadhouse 3 days a year, that’s 362 days of brownie sundaes per annum for 16 years . . . which my calculator says adds up 5792. Take out the 12 days that we were closed to redo the kitchen floor and you get 5780. Which happens to be the number of the new Jewish year that will be starting with Rosh Hashanah on Sunday Sept. 29! The Jewish website Sheerah Ministries says the year 5780 is “a year for vision declaring.” Which is convenient since a: we’re working to finish our new 2032 vision for the Zingerman’s community, and b: ZingTrain’s Creating a Vision of Greatness seminar is coming up next week! If you want to get ahead of the game, there are still some seats for the Pre-Rosh Hashanah Joan Nathan dinner at the Roadhouse on Monday, September 23rd.)
How it all adds up to be a special dessert.
What makes the Brownie Sundae so special? Great ingredients that come together in a terrific, back to basics, flavor combination. One of those now-classic Black Magic Brownies we’ve been making at the Bakehouse for decades. Vanilla gelato from the Creamery. Chocolate sauce made at the Roadhouse using Shawn Askinosie’s dark chocolate. Toasted pecans. Whipped cream. A real Maraschino cherry. The finished flavors . . . chocolatey, sweet, subtly bitter from the dark chocolate, buttery from the brownie, the fluffy milkiness of the whipped cream, the tart sweetness of the cherry . . . . it’s a serious symphony of flavors that I’ve realized over the years appeals just as much to eight-year-olds as eighty-year-olds. Swing by and treat yourself to a Brownie Sundae soon!
Sometimes all you need is a really good cheese board. And some wine.
by Marcy Harris
Do you ever have one of those evenings when you don’t want a big dinner? Maybe just a nice plate of assorted cheeses and a glass of wine? At the Roadhouse you can certainly create a delicious spread from our artisan cheese list, and we offer many options to customize your order. After all, eating cheese is about the whole experience, is it not?
About the Roadhouse cheese list.
Cheese flights don’t have to be limited to the appetizer or dessert course. By the time you’ve gathered all your cheeses and rounded them out with assorted garnishes, they can hardly be considered small plates anymore. Especially with all of the options for cheese on our list! If you look at the back of our dessert menu, you will find that we have quite a few that we price by the ounce.
We love them all! From the Kenny’s Farmhouse Kentucky cheeses to our 7 -year aged cheddar from Hook’s in Wisconsin, the creameries represented on our list are carefully sourced for the best regional flavors and sustainable practices by which they are produced. Vermont? California? No matter where it is in the United States, if it’s good cheese, we will find it and bring it to Ann Arbor.
What about cheese made at a local Michigan creamery? Even better. Our selection of Zingerman’s Creamery goat’s and cow’s milk cheese alone is worth a trip to the Roadhouse. They use fresh milk and old-world techniques to draw full, complex flavors put of their cheese. You can taste it in their fresh cheeses, like the delicate flaky City Goat, and also in their more deeply aged cheeses. Ever try the award-winning Manchester? With a fudge-like texture, this one boasts creamy, fruity flavors that mellow out into an earthiness when aged for a few weeks. It is hands down the best cheese on our list to eat with our balsamic-roasted grapes.
How to order a cheese board at the Roadhouse.
It’s as simple as picking up the cheese list and checking off the cheeses you want by the ounce, then telling your server. Our cheese boards will automatically come out with balsamic-roasted grapes and toasted bagel chips. But there are other ways to enjoy our cheese.
The beauty of ordering a cheese plate at Zingerman’s Roadhouse is that we have everything you need right here to load it up with your favorites. Crusty Zingerman’s Bakehouse bread, freshly farmed local fruit, slices of Newsom’s country ham, housemade pickles, local honey, artisanal mustard, —what more could you ask for? Wine? We have a full list of wines by the glass or the bottle that will pair well with your cheese selections. Just let us know what will make your flight everything you’ve been dreaming of, and we will make it happen.
How to order cheese (and wine) to-go at the Roadhouse.
So there are a couple of ways you could go about this. You could snag your friends and come in for a cheese and wine night at the Roadhouse. Tuesdays nights we offer 30% off all bottles of wine, so it could become your favorite Tuesday night tradition! But there is also something to be said about curling up a home in front of your favorite TV show or a good book with your cheese spread. So we are going to let you on on a lil’ secret:
If you order any of our cheeses to-go by the pound, it is cheaper than ordering a cheese board. Whether you order quarter pound, a half pound, or a full pound, we charge retail prices for any cheese on our list to take home. So all you need to do is call us at 734-663-3663(FOOD) to order your cheeses, pull up to the Roadshow, snag a loaf of bread to go with your cheese, and we will have it all waiting for you. It’s that easy! And our bottles of wine are 30% off to-go every day, so we can have your favorite bottle from our list ready for you, too!
So what are you waiting for? Make it a cheese and wine kind of night, you deserve it!
September 2nd is National Grits for Breakfast Day!
by Marcy Harris
Most of us have tried grits at one point or another. And most of us who have weren’t blown away by the store-bought instant stuff. Growing up, I would order them with my eggs only as a place-holder for hot sauce. Otherwise, there was no appeal to the watered-down white paste that tasted like cardboard.
The not-so-good grits.
When I mention grits now to anyone who hasn’t tried them at the Roadhouse, the reaction is often the same. People are polite, and say they are not a fan. They might mention that they haven’t really tried good grits before. And how much thought to we give to grits in the Midwest, honestly? They are a southern staple, so not necessarily one we are going to miss on our breakfast plates should we opt for potatoes instead.
So what’s the big deal about grits? Why do we keep talking about them? Why do they get their own food holiday (the countdown to September 2nd is on!)? If you’ve tried the Anson Mills’ grits at the Roadhouse, you’d understand. If you haven’t, and you are not sure if you like them, you’ve been trying the wrong kind of grits. So, how do you find good grits? We are here to help.
What makes good grits good grits?
Lots of flavor for starters. Grits should have a luscious, buttery corn flavor that deepens on your palate. But how do you know if the grits are going to have that? Here is a guide for what to look for or what to know about your grits before you eat them:
1. It all starts with the corn. There are certain varieties that lend themselves well to milling grits and producing that intense flavor we are looking for. Anson Mills uses heirloom varieties called Carolina Gourdseed White or John Haulk Yellow dent corn. They are left on the stalk until fully ripe, allowing the flavor to develop, instead of being dumped in a dusty silo.
2. How is it milled? The way the corn is processed makes a huge difference as well. If they are milled at a lower temperature, the flavor is much more intact. Anson Mills keeps the ambient temperature and the milling stones at 55 degrees. Speaking of, good grits are stone ground with the germ left partially intact. The germ imparts a ton of flavor. Much like instant oatmeal, the grits we often buy at the store are steel rolled. They are steamed first to release the husk and the germ. The heat and the rolling process squeeze out nearly all the flavor from the grits.
3. The cooking process. If the grits are stone ground, they will take on a coarser texture, which offers a better mouth feel. The texture will mellow out into a layers of creamy goodness, but the kernels stay intact and support additional ingredients. The key to keeping the integrity of the kernels is a slower cooking method, typically 1-2 hours. It allows the grits to slowly bloom and absorb liquid, but not become soggy. Instant grits are often mushy and runny by contrast, and don’t stand up well in a dish.
4. The preparation. Really good grits should be able to stand on their own. But there are certain ingredients that will enhance them, too. One can never go wrong with butter and a touch of salt and coarsely ground pepper. Can you say buttered popcorn? It’s a simple delight. Cheese is a popular addition in the South, and at the Roadhouse we use Cabot white cheddar. It is mild, with just enough of a smoky nuttiness to enhance the corn flavor instead of masking it. If the grits are strong enough, you should be able to add a touch of your favorite veggies, herbs, or even chopped smoked bacon for fun, but not to fill a flavorless void.
They go a long way if you make them at home, but nothing makes us happier then making glorious grits for you at the Roadhouse. So stop on by, put down that bottle of Tobasco, and let each spoonful speak for itself.
Fresh milling makes an old favorite better than ever!
by Ari Weinzweig
Looking for a lovely treat to take to work? Send along on the first day back to school? Something sweet to snack on with afternoon coffee? A great dessert you can just bring home from the Bakehouse? Maybe these newly-made-amazing Blondies will be just the ticket!
Even though I’m tasting as many of our products as I can nearly every day, I still miss things. Like most folks, I’d guess, I tend to gravitate towards either the foods that I think are really incredible (like the things you read about here). Or, conversely, to products with which we’ve started to experience some sort of quality challenge and may need to correct course. Which means that sometimes foods that are “in the middle of the pack” get missed—unintentionally, they can easily slip off my regular “radar” screen. Bakehouse Blondies have, I realize now, long been in that category. All of which, you will likely have already realized, is a long lead in to say that all that’s now changed—I tasted the “new” Blondies at the Bakehouse table at the Westside Farmer’s Market last Thursday out front of the Roadhouse. They blew my mind!
What changed? On the surface, not a thing! The recipe hasn’t really been altered at all. Lots of that Muscovado brown sugar we use so much of (see Pecan Pie, Roadhouse donuts, etc.), and chunks of the super tasty, lovingly sea-salted-pecan-praline, plenty of butter, fresh eggs and flour. So why did they suddenly get my attention? Same thing that’s taking so many other classic Bakehouse products to ever-higher levels of deliciousness—freshly milled wheat flour. In this case, it’s organic soft white wheat grown by Ferris Organic Farm in Eaton Rapids. Can you really taste the difference? Totally! Lovelier, livelier, fluffier . . . the flavor and texture both became even more interesting.
What’s the background on Blondies? There’s no relation, best I can tell, to either the comic strip (started in September of 1930) or the band (whose first album came out in 1976). Here’s what the Bakehouse folks had to share:
It may surprise some to know that the first recorded recipe for ‘Brownies,’ published in the original 1896 edition of Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, was actually a molasses-based variation of what we now call a pecan blondie. Notably absent from the recipe’s list of ingredients—butter, powdered sugar, ‘Porto Rico’ molasses (a very dark molasses), an egg, bread flour, and chopped pecans—was chocolate. Food historians note that it wasn’t until the early 1900s that chocolate versions of the recipe began appearing in a number of community cookbooks in the Midwest and New England. By 1910, the amount of chocolate called for in the recipes had increased, but molasses-flavored ‘brownies’ continued to appear in cookbooks as late as 1926. Recipes for vanilla or butterscotch brownies–sometimes frosted with chocolate or studded with chocolate chips–made their debut as ‘blonde’ brownies or ‘blondies’ in the 1950s, underscoring the primacy of chocolate.
Katie Frank, who does fantastic work at ZingTrain, says the Blondies are one of the most underrated products at Zingerman’s. The marvelous Ally Martin, long-time manager at the Bakehouse, waxes wonderfully poetic about them:
For those who’ve never enjoyed a Zingerman’s Bakehouse Blondie, let’s start out with their appearance. It looks like a golden, dense, cake-like dream. Next, break it in half, that’s when you really notice the sticky goodness of the pecan praline (made fresh at the Bakehouse) at the bottom of the brownie. Right about then, you’ll become aware of the Blondie’s heavenly aroma. Now try a bite. A big burst of butterscotch dances on your tongue, its sweetness tempered by the rich, robust flavor of Muscovado brown sugar. It’s only then you notice the toasted nuttiness of fresh pecans, & that’s when, boom! A sprinkle of sea salt joins the party. Together it’s Blondie bliss.
One hundred and seventeen years ago this month, Rocco Disderide opened up his new grocery shop at the corner of Detroit and Kingsley streets. Ann Arbor at the time had a population of about 15,000, and Disderide’s store was located on the recently-installed trolley line, which ran from downtown to the train station on Depot St. (For more on Mr. Disderide and the history of the building, see the Preface in Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business.) Disderide’s shop sold all manner of goods, from savory grocery staples to two-cent, too-good-to-pass-up sweets. It’s not unlikely that he stocked a popular American confection of the era. It had been developed by brothers Oliver and Daniel Chase, inventors of the original Necco Wafers (back in 1847, when Daniel invented the first candy cutting machine). In 1866, after the end of the Civil War, they figured out how to print messages on their hard candy discs. The new inventions were called “Conversation Candies,” and they quickly became a prime form of social media and a confectionary contribution to the late-19th-century dating scene. I can imagine young neighborhood folks popping in to buy some at Disderide’s. Sales would have really ramped up, six months or so later, in February of 1903 when Rocco was able to introduce the new format—for Valentine’s Day in 1902, Conversation Candies had come out in the heart shapes we still know today, and they were all the rage!
Fast forwarding a century, Charlie Frank was working at the Bakehouse. Like Oliver Chase, Charlie had an idea, and like Chase, he chose to follow up on it. He started handcrafting candy bars in the back of the Bakehouse’s pastry kitchen in 2000. In 2009 the Candy Manufactory gained formal recognition within the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. Ten years later, the Zzang® Bar is a staple of Zingerman’s eating. If you like high-quality confectionary, the candy bar is for you! Homemade peanut butter and honey nougat and a Muscovado brown sugar caramel, tossed with big, butter-roasted Virginia Runner peanuts and a teeny touch of sea salt, all dipped into delicious dark chocolate.
Next week marks the tenth anniversary of the formal kickoff of Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory. The classic Zzang® bar has evolved into a whole line of candy bars, brittles, and other creative confections, which we wholesale to shops around the country and retail here at our own spots as well. As of two years ago, we even have our own tiny, 100-square foot, chocolate-box of a shop that stocks over 200 different chocolates, candies, and other fascinating confectionaries. The Zzang®, Cashew Cow® and Cashew Brittle from the Candy Manufactory, to name a few. Chocolate bars from Missouri, Dubai, North Carolina, and California. Licorice from Sweden and Denmark. Gummies from Ohio. Toffee from California. Fruit jellies from France. Marzipan from Michigan. And on and on!
To celebrate the anniversary, the Candy Manufactory is going wild! This Saturday they’re having a host of activities out on Plaza Drive at the shop. Come to our candy store on that day to see candy making through our window into the kitchen, enjoy samples of our delicious handmade treats, and also from Marzipops Marzipan and Coco Doro Chocolate. Plus, 10% of the day’s proceeds will be donated to Mott’s Children’s Hospital. And…
Through August 18th, all the regular-size Candy Manufactory bars are on special—Buy one, get one FREE!
All Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory-made candy will be 10% off all month!
There’ll be opportunities throughout the day to meet Zingerman’s candy cooks in person!
Sign up for the Candy Manufactory’s e-news to be entered to win a $100 candy collection!
Oh yeah, there’s a big candy jar in the store right now—come by and guess how many bars are in it for a chance to win the whole jar!
Candy and generosity, it seems, are in our organizational blood and in our original building. In his great book, View of a Universe, about the history of Ann Arbor, Milo Ryan wrote about living in the Kerrytown neighborhood back when he was a kid. Of course, he went to Disderides. “More than once,” Ryan writes, Mr. Disderide “would slip in a jawbreaker or a piece of peanut brittle into the stack of groceries, or hand it to us with the change.” Kudos and congrats to Charlie and everyone at the Candy Manufactory for making Ann Arbor a bit sweeter of a place to be! Rocco Disderide, I’m pretty sure, would be proud!
Our own Roadhouse Supervisor shares what he learned from the Peach Truck.
by Zach Milner
It’s not very often in life when a food artisan with something of a cult following shows up on your doorstep. Even better when they share the same ideologies of quality and flavor. But when they actually go above and beyond your expectations? It’s like the ice cream on the peach cobbler.
A perfect product of their environment.
That’s exactly what the Peach Truck did when they showed up to the Roadhouse on their Grand Peach Tour 2019. Everywhere they go, they bring lines of 200+ people long with them, patiently waiting for the best peaches and pecans the country has to offer. Picked within 48 hours of their arrival, these peaches are prized because they are simply a product of the perfect environment that we call Georgia.
Georgia has a nutrient-concentrated red-clay soil, lots of rain, and, as Rick Haley from the Peach Truck told me, “Punishingly hot summers.” These summers pummel these peaches with a blast of humid heat that really ripens them to a perfect sweetness that no other place in the country can replicate.
Peach prizes in every box!
My family always called me a “fruit fiend,” simply because I eat so much fruit and really enjoy the best nature has to offer. So when I say this is easily one of the best pure fruits I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating, I mean it.
$42 for a 25lb box of peaches may seem like a lot, but that’s about 50-60 peaches you can share with family and friends. You definitely don’t wanna peel these bad boys (unless you are making a pie!), because the skin has such a nice, earthy note to the sweet, tangy insides of the peach. The sweetest part is the flesh that is hugging the pit, and the rest of the succulent peach has the tang to tie it all together.
I recommend waiting a couple days after getting one of these big ‘ol boxes; they still need to soften up to be perfect for eating. Rick mentioned to me to take them out of the box and lay them out on the kitchen counter at room temp. Just go over and feel a few of them–if they get soft like a ripe avocado does, they’re good to eat.
So then what do you do with 25lb of peaches? How about a homemade peach cobbler with a scoop of Zingerman’s Creamery vanilla gelato and pecans sprinkled on top? Amazing. Don’t even get me started on the pecans from The Peach Truck, which are the smoothest, creamiest, and butteriest pecans I’ve ever eaten as well…it seems I can’t even help myself. Making a pie? The buttery pie crust from Zingerman’s Bakehouse is perfect for a peach pie like mom used to make. But my personal favorite? Enjoying the fresh peaches with Zingerman’s Creamery City Goat cheese and a touch of summer basil. Wow.
Don’t miss them this time around!
They’ll be back July 27th for one last time until next year…so do yourself, and your tastebuds, a flavor (ha, get it?) and sink your teeth into the crown jewel of Georgia, the Peach Truck’s peach.
Ripe Georgia peaches for sale by-the-box in the Roadhouse parking lot
by Ari Weinzweig
Can’t wait for really tasty, tree-ripened Michigan peaches to the hit the market? I know I’m anxious for their arrival. If you are as well, we have a short-term solution for you: some super tasty, hand-picked, ripe peaches driven up to us in Ann Arbor by the folks at the now nationally-famous Peach Truck! They’ll be parked out front of the Roadhouse—right near the Roadshow—this coming Saturday afternoon from 2-3:30 so plan accordingly. That’s right—they’ll be there for just 90 minutes to make your peach purchase!
If you like peaches, I guarantee you’ll be happy you made time to stop by.Many of you seem to already know about the Peach Truck. They’ve been featured on The Today Show, in Southern Living, Food and Wine, Huff Post, Yahoo Food, among others. It’s a great idea—bring amazing peaches from the Peach State around the country on a terrifically peachy-keen road trip. It’s a great way to spread the love of ripe Georgia peaches to the rest of us!
The Peach Truck works with the oldest peach farm in Georgia (1885). Each summer, they host an enormous “tour,” or “roadshow,” featuring their world-famous Georgia Peaches. I’m getting the idea from folks who clearly know more about the Peach Truck than I did up until a few months ago, that this is a BIG DEAL. People wait in line to purchase peaches and are happy to do so (like they did for that Deli pop-up we did in Chicago last month).
Yes, it’s true, in another month we’ll have our own wonderful Michigan peaches at the Farmer’s Market. But why wait? You could have a 25-pound box of ripe peaches at your house starting this Saturday afternoon! As Stephen Rose, who started this whole thing, writes, “These are the sweetest, juiciest peachesyou’ve ever tasted, and they’re backed by the Peach Truck’s Sweet & Juicy Guarantee, so there’s no risk to you!” Given that peaches are an agricultural product, there is, of course, variability from year to year. No need to worry, though. Stephen reports: “Good news! Y’all, this is the best crop we’ve ever had. Not only is it the fullest crop in our history (did someone say no sell-outs and no limits?!), but the flavor is going to be off the charts!”
They’re also going to have the Peach Truck Cookbook on hand to sell. One-hundred recipes for good things to do with perfect peaches like these! I know the Roadhouse folks will be buying up some boxes to use for specials over the coming days. Peaches will be available by the 25 lb. box for $42 (they’re also bringing Georgia pecans for $10 for a 10 oz. bag (shelled & halved). The PeachTruck crew did ask us to remind you that they’re “100% cashless, so please bring your debit or credit card! This helps move the line quickly and keep our team safe!”
I spent a few days with Stephen when he came to a ZingTrain seminar last winter! Great guy, great business. Turns out he’s excited to be here as well: “We are so thrilled to bring The Peach Truck Tour to Zingerman’s Roadhouse. Zingerman’s has long been a brand we’ve admired from afar, and getting to attend the Zingerman’s Experience seminar last winter really prepped our company for the future. We’re so thrilled they’ve agreed to host us in Ann Arbor! We fell in love with the town last time we were here, and can’t wait to experience it during the magic of summer.” Stop by. Buy a box. Surprise your friends with this fine gift of Southern summer flavors!
Michigan native Marie Rose ships amazing wild salmon back to her home state!
by Ari Weinzweig
In his book Culture Care, artist Makamoto Fujimora writes that, “A healthy culture is impossible without the participation of artists and other leaders who are educated intellectually, trained experientially, formed spiritually, and growing morally. Beauty is both a goal and a catalyst for each of these elements.” I couldn’t agree more. The idea that life and business and community are all art has continued to build for me—the learning path I got on in writing “The Art of Business” pamphlet resonates with me more all the time. People who will bring that kind of beauty are quietly, but effectively, making the world a better place, one meaningful action at a time.
With her work at Shoreline Salmon, all the way out in Alaska, Marie Rose is bringing art alive in the very practical here and now. She seems certainly to be the sort of person to which Mr. Fujimora is referring, someone who is working to both preserve natural beauty and, at the same time, bring a small briny bit of that beauty to the rest of us in the form of some of the best tasting salmon in the world. And now, I’m happy to say, the freshly caught, meticulously-handled salmon we get from Marie and her partners is on the specials list this week at the Roadhouse!
So how did a girl from a Battle Creek start a business catching and shipping salmon all the way in the Pacific Northwest? “I went to Michigan State and got a degree in Social Work,” Marie shared. “Most of my advocacy work in college was focused towards women’s issues: reproductive justice and domestic violence awareness. When I accepted a job in Alaska focused on salmonconservation, it was on a total whim. That’s what grounded me in creating this life in salmon. I’d never even eaten salmon before I moved there. In fact, I hated salmon. I realized once I was here that I’d never had good salmon and that’s why I didn’t eat it.” Fortunately, her good work with Shoreline is making it possible for more and more Michiganders to experience salmon in its superb, wild, delicious state. Five years after heading west “just because,” Marie is now a passionate fish buyer, a partner in a growing small business, a purveyor of some of the best salmon in the country, and someone who’s creating a constructive and sustainable future for a famous, if at times, faltering, fishery.
“Why is your fish different?” I asked. “Our salmon is all pressure bled,” Marie shared. “It takes a lot more time. We immediately cut the gills out and take the artery out and we insert this tiny hose that goes right into the main artery and flush the blood out really quickly and then we gut it. When the salmon is bled and gutted so quickly it really increases the quality of the fish. Most people don’t use the pressure bleeding—there’s just not a general sense of urgency to handle the salmon all that well.” What’s the alternative to the methods Marie, Joe, and Keith are so committed to? Basically, it’s the lower quality salmon that dominates the market. It’s not as fresh; the flavor and integrity of the fish has suffered significantly long before it gets close to a consumer. “The way we’re doing it with Shoreline,” Marie says, “people get paid a price [higher than ‘market’] that’s worth their while.” While it might seem mundane to be framing finance and craft in the same construct, this is exactly the sort of meaningfully artistic way to live that Fujimora suggests we find. Shoreline is not just some slick, superficial marketing campaign—their product is markedly better than most of what’s on the market!
King salmon like this can weigh in at well over a hundred pounds, and the flavor of the fish is terrific! Meaty, big flavor, clean finish! If you haven’t had wild salmon before—and sadly—most Americans who live outside the Pacific Northwest might not—you’re in for a treat. Please know that every time you order it, you’re helping to preserve the natural beauty that has become a calling for this caring young woman from Battle Creek. And to help her spread that beauty, through better eating, into our own community here.
The Bakehouse’s Grain Commission continues to take quality levels ever higher
by Ari Weinzweig
In Part 1 of the Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Better Business, I wrote “The Twelve Natural Laws of Business.” It’s my very strong belief that all thriving, successful organizations—and, really, thriving individuals—are living in harmony with those natural laws. Number eight on the list is “To get to greatness, you’ve got to keep getting better! All the time!” You’ll see that reality with musicians, athletes, professors, teachers, and upper level executives. Everyone that’s achieving at high levels of well-being is working, steadily and successfully, on self-improvement!
One of the things I most admire about the work of all the amazing people who are part of the ZCoB is this same constant, steady drive to make everything we do better! Literally, not a week—barely a day, I’ll bet—goes by that something isn’t improved. This week we’ve got a big one: one of my favorite breads from the Bakehouse just got better!
Although almost every day I come across some customer who’s just discovered it, the Roadhouse bread has been one of my solid Bakehouse favorites for nearly 15 years now. It was actually a favorite of 18th and 19th century New Englanders, too, but for whatever odd reasons of historical trends, completely fell of fashion (as far as I know, we’re the only ones in the country that bake it commercially). Back those hundreds of years ago, it was known as “Rye ‘n’ Indian” or also “Thirded Bread.” Here, we just call it “Roadhouse Bread” since it’s been our “house bread” since we opened in 2003. A mix of organic wheat, rye, and corn, subtly sweetened up with a bit of molasses, it’s really quite excellent. (As you might also already know, I’m a big fan of very dark crusts—the darker the crust, the more the natural sugars in the grain caramelize and the better the bread tastes. I always ask for the darkest loaf on the shelf.)
In the last few weeks, though, this already excellent bread just got better! As part of the Bakehouse’s inspiring and insightful Grain Commission project, we’ve begun milling the rye—from a farm in western Illinois—for the Roadhouse bread right here on Plaza Drive. Does it make a difference? The answer is an absolute yes! Fresh milling, we’ve been learning, leaves the natural nutrients of the grain intact. Studies are showing that this simple act makes an enormous difference in bread’s impact on our bodies. It also improves the flavor and texture. There’s just something a bit more vital, a little bit livelier, a touch lovelier. And the texture seems to hold its moisture a bit longer—I’ve had one at my house for four days, and it still feels alive and well. This new project is a big deal, and we’re just beginning. Amy Emberling, Bakehouse co-managing partner, says, “Milling some of our own grain is one of the most exciting and transformative steps we’ve taken in years. It is going to transform not just our baking but also our relationship to our community.” Watch for way more Bakehouse offerings to transition to being made freshly milled on site in the months and years to come.
What do you do with the Roadhouse bread? Makes super marvelous toast—I love it with either the Creamery’s cream cheese or fresh goat cheese. Try it with the American Fried Bread on page 162 in Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon. Great for a sandwich, of course. If you want some history to serve at Thanksgiving dinner, the Roadhouse bread couldn’t really be more perfect—a blend of European influence and Native American origins, with a touch of the West Indies woven in. Oh yeah, one little known fact is that Roadhouse breadmakes super-great croutons! Just cut it into roughly one-inch cubes and fry gently in extra virgin olive oil, turning the cubes regularly, until they’re golden brown. Toss while hot with fine sea salt and a healthy handful of freshly ground, good black pepper. They’re great on salads, but honestly, I often find myself eating them just out of hand at home!
In any case, come by the Bakehouse, Deli, or Roadhouse to try this newly improved loaf! As you can tell, I’ve been loving it. I hope you do, too.
I was sitting in the monthly Marketing Meeting yesterday, and a bag of the cinnamon peanuts from Zingerman’s Candy Company was being passed around. We all took a handful to taste as we chatted about upcoming promotions and worked through our agenda.
My handful of peanuts was gone in seconds. As soon as the bag had made its way around the table, I got up, walked around all the way around, and shamelessly snagged another handful. I wanted to take the entire bag, truth be told.
Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory released their flavored peanuts made with spices from our beloved Épices de Cru a couple of years ago, starting with a sweet chili flavor. The salt and pepper variety soon followed, offering a lively smoky heat. Then, for those of us with the ultimate sweet tooth, the cinnamon peanuts arrived.
I was in trouble.
The Virginia Runner peanuts we sell through Mail Order and cook with at the Roadhouse are already delicious. But then they are toasted in butter, tossed with Muscovado brown sugar, a bit of sea salt, and two kinds of cinnamon.
Double the trouble. I fell in love.
Will the real cinnamon please stand up?
Zingerman’s has been sourcing its spices from Épices de Cru for years now. The de Vienne family travels the world for only the best spices, working closely with the families who produce them. The two spices we get from them for our peanuts are super high quality. Interestingly enough, one of the two is considered to be true cinnamon, and the other is not.
We are not surprised that the cinnamon Épices de Cru brings us from the island of Sri Lanka is some of the best in the world. It comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree, from a village that is actually called Cinnamon. When you smell it, you immediately understand why this is the true stuff. Also known as Ceylon cinnamon, the velvety red powder is deeply aromatic and sweet, like a winter holiday.
A cinnamon by any other name…
The other spice is what many people call cinnamon, but is not considered to be the real stuff. It is what we often buy in the store under the name of cinnamon, but is actually called cassia.
So wait a minute. Zingerman’s is known for high quality, authentic ingredients. Why would we use a spice that is not “real’? Just to clarify, there is nothing wrong with cassia. We bring in Indonesian cassia from Épices de Cru, and while it is not considered to be true cinnamon, it is delightfully different and adds another layer of flavor to the peanuts. It is more prominent and offers spicy, floral and woody notes.
Why two is better than one.
Once you try the cinnamon peanuts, you will understand why the two spices work harmoniously together. There is a nice balance of earthiness that rounds out the sweetness. In this video, Épice de Cru explains the differences between them, but also talks about how awesome they are as a pair.
At the Roadhouse, we sell the cinnamon peanuts in small 3oz bags and larger 6oz bags. Personally, I just skip to the larger bag so I can get my fill of the light and buttery toasted snack, coated with layers of soft spices that will take you to a whole new level of rich flavor. And I suppose I buy the larger bag so I can pass them around the table, too.
A beautiful blend that’s the bomb for everyday brewing!
by Ari Weinzweig
Hard to believe—it’s been sixteen years since we were first trying out various blends for what would become the Roadhouse Joe from the Coffee Company. Here we are, all these years later and, I think it’s worked out—the Roadhouse Joe is one of the most persistently popular coffees we’ve got on the ZCoB block! It’s got one of those all around, accessible yet interesting, big but not overwhelming, flavors. Something that you can drink for breakfast, midday, with dinner, or after dinner too.
What’s in the blend? Right now, it’s made up of Papua New Guinea, Costa Rica, Brazil Peaberry, and Indian—representative of the major growing regions of the world. But it hasn’t always been that way. The point of a blend—as opposed to the many single origins we do—is that we can adjust it a bit regularly to keep the flavor profile consistent. Less variation from “vintage to vintage.” And so we’re always working to make it a bit tastier and a snippet smoother. That sort of pushing towards—though, of course, never really reaching—perfection, is a lot of what drives most of us here in the ZCoB. Which is likely why I feel like the Roadhouse Joe is tasting better than ever!
Last week I referenced Natural Law #8 on the list of “Twelve Natural Laws of Business,” which says that “To get to greatness you’ve got to keep getting better. All the time!” It’s in play here as well. Managing partner Steve Mangigian (just back from visiting the fantastic farm at Daterra in Brazil, from whence we get our Espresso Blend #1, Brazil Sweet Yellow, Full Bloom, and more), shares that, “My approach in the last several years has been to continually make the Roadhouse Joe better. For example, this year we swapped out Guatemala beans for Costa Rica. It makes the blend more of a ’relationship coffee’—we like working with farms that turn into longstanding partnerships. The Indian Mysore (we were using a Monsoon Malabar) perks up the pepper/spice notes in the coffee and makes it a touch more complex.”
Any way you drink it, the Roadhouse Joe is likely to appeal. Smooth, just subtly sweet, a bit nutty. I like it best in a pourover out at the Coffee Company, but of course, I’ve consumed a lot of cups at the Roadhouse where it’s our all day, seven days a week, three meals a day, coffee of choice!
Check out the rest of our favorite drinks we make in house with Zingerman’s Coffee and Espresso.
The world famous Camellia Red Beans appear in Ann Arbor
by Ari Weinzweig
Natural Law #8 on the list of “Twelve Natural Laws of Business” says, “To get to greatness you’ve got to keep getting better, All the time!” There are countless examples of this Natural Law in action across the ZCoB. The Creamery tweaking almost every cheese ever so slightly each week to get better flavor and texture; the Bakehouse’s amazing work around fresh milling of grains; Mail Order’s efforts to reduce waste through better packing. The one improvement that’s on my mind this week is the Roadhouse starting to buy from Camellia Beans down in New Orleans. I’m not sure what took us so long. Camellia has been working with beans for nearly 150 years now, ever since the Hayward family started trading in the Crescent City in the second half of the 19th century. The Haywards have been formally selling their beans around the country under the Camellia label since 1923.
Putting Camellia Red Beans to work in the Roadhouse kitchen has been a big eye-opener—they’re truly exceptional! Of course, all that’s happened is that we’ve finally figured out what nearly everyone in New Orleans has known for ages. Camellia beans bring killer quality to the kitchen!! No joke—you really can taste the difference. Camellia beans clearly taste better and have a creamier texture. Back in the early 1980s when we opened the Deli, Camellia had already conquered the bean loving city of New Orleans. Even back then, nine out of ten bags of beans bought in the city were Camellia.
Can there be that much difference in a bean? The simple answer is “absolutely”. And why not? Beans are just as much an agricultural product as any other produce that comes out of the ground. And you wouldn’t even flinch if I told you that one variety of tomato was more flavorful than another. And the same is true for beans.
Every taste test I can find online, and every conversation with culinary experts I know, all say the same thing. Camellia beans are first class; creamier, tastier, more terrific. The family has become famous for buying well above the USDA’s highest for beans—their minimum is now known amongst Louisiana bean growers as the “Hayward Standard.” In a wonderful interview that I really recommend listening to, nationally-renowned, master seed saver John Coykendall said, “Camellia beans? Mercy! I love those things!”
Alon Shaya, a good friend and great chef at his Saba restaurant in New Orleans and Safta in Denver, has spent much of his adult life cooking in NOLA:
In New Orleans you eat red beans and rice on Mondays. It’s a tradition that goes back over 200 years. Our Monday night red beans and rice is a tradition at our home, cooked by my wife Emily, ‘the bean queen of New Orleans.’ It’s a tradition that we cherish and now can’t imagine living without. Emily is obsessed with only using Camellia, swearing that the beans just don’t taste right without them. I agree. We bring them with us all over the country so we can get the real New Orleans flavor whenever a pot of beans are on.
Longtime Roadhouse head chef Bob Bennett, who spent a few days with Alon and Emily in the Roadhouse kitchen for the special dinner we did last fall, has been putting the Camellia beans to work by having Red Beans and Rice on the menu at the Roadhouse regularly for the last few weeks! Those world-class Camellia red beans, simmered with a mess of smoked pork and spices, then served with the incredible Carolina Gold rice we get from Anson Mills, are super terrific! In a bit of a take-off on the British baked beans on toast, we’ve also been serving Red Beans on toast too. Tremendously good!
Red beans and rice were also one of the many specialties of the wonderful Mrs. Leah Chase, longtime owner of Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans. Mrs. Chase, sadly, passed away last month at the age of 95. I had the honor of meeting her a few times—she certainly inspired me and many others! Dooky Chase was amazing for many reasons, one of which is that it was the first restaurant in the city serving integrated audiences in an era when segregation was still standard practice. Read here and here for more on Mrs. Chase.
A good way to start your day; a super start to a great cocktail!
by Ari Weinzweig
The Sri Lankan writer Amanda Coomaraswamy said that “Industry without art is brutality.” I agree. And I’ll add that business without beauty is much the same. The beauty, for me, comes mostly in the little things—the small stuff that’s easily overlooked but makes for outstanding, though quiet, moments of both majesty and magic. Sometimes the magic comes from people. Other times from food. Other times still, it’s about a drink. In this case, it’s one of the simplest, but subtly special ways I know to start one’s day: a glass of fresh orange juice at the Roadhouse.
It’s funny how things that we could take for granted have somehow become so rare that getting the real thing is cause for pause. In this case, for most of the country, actually drinking fresh orange juice is not an everyday activity. What have we been drinking? For the most part, it’s commercially processed and packaged juice, that begins with oranges, and is sold as “fresh,” but could be many months old before it’s consumed.
I can’t remember ever having the real thing when I was growing up in Chicago. Clearly, we could have made it at home. It just wasn’t done. At least not in my family. Why squeeze, I suppose, when you could score the convenience of canned or bottled, store-bought, long shelf life options? In hindsight, it’s a bit embarrassing but I realize now that I grew up drinking the citrus equivalent of “American cheese singles.” Or Wonder Bread. Soulless industrial offerings that could be stored forever and kept consistent (in their standard so-so state) for ages.
What is all that commercial juice? Well, I wouldn’t have known either, but I decided to do a bit of homework. And now I know—there’s a reason why the “orange juice of my childhood” tastes so strange. And so little like fresh juice of the sort we squeeze and serve at the Roadhouse. For the industrial version, oranges are squeezed, en masse, and then all the oxygen is taken out of the fresh juice. That keeps it from turning bad. It also apparently takes all the flavor out. The flavor is then replaced with a series of “faux flavorings” (which are made by labs, combining “natural flavors” so that the labels don’t have to list anything artificial.) The end result, I know from decades of drinking experience is . . . orange for sure, but not all that tasty.
Turning back to the positive, though, there’s this delicious fresh juice that we have on hand every day. It’s kind of a marvel. I look forward to it every time I’m in the building. One good friend who gets around town said, rather adamantly, the other day: “You probably don’t realize it, but that orange juice at the Roadhouse is some of the best around.” She’s right—it’s easy for me to take it for granted—there’s not really much to it. Oranges. Squeezed. Poured into glasses. Honestly, it’s spoiled me—it’s become hard to drink the commercial stuff. The same, I should say, goes for the grapefruit. (We also squeeze lemon and lime juice for cocktails but we’ll save that for another story—try the Roadhouse limeade too!) I generally enjoy it in the morning, but it’s marvelous any time of day. It makes a mean cocktail.
Speaking of which, the fresh juice in that sense, can be as much of a revelation later in the day as it is when the sun is coming up. I asked Sarah Bartlett, bar manager at the Roadhouse, for her favorites. She sent me back a strong list:
Grapefruit juice (and lime) are in the Hemingway daiquiri (on the cocktail list)
Monkey Gland – OJ, gin, grenadine, and absinthe
Paloma – grapefruit juice and tequila
Salty Dog – grapefruit juice with vodka and a salt rim
With any or all of these in mind, I’d like to raise a toast—with alcohol or otherwise—to all the barbacks who do the work to squeeze all that citrus at the Roadhouse. A thousand thanks to Ava, Chris, Sophie, Ethan, and all the other folks who make the fresh juice magic happen every day!
Check out our breakfast menu for other awesome ways to start your day!
For those of you who love American Spoon preserves, this isn’t going to be easy to hear. We’ve said goodbye to the preserves we’ve had on our menu since the dawn of time, and said hello to a new jam. It was not an easy decision, and it’s not that we don’t love American Spoon anymore. Sometimes things just don’t work out. But man, it took forever to find something that measures up–in this case, in spoonfuls.
For Ari and Chef Bob, it was a tough 6 months sourcing out a new jam. We can’t settle for just anything to top our amazing buttermilk biscuits. They deserve something really good. After all, they’ve been good to us. But we’ve finally found just the right thing for our Southern homemade biscuits: Southern homemade jam.
Keep it simple, keep it delicious.
We are now spreading the love for really good jam with Blackberry Patch in Georgia. Ari has known one of the founders, Harry Jones, for years. Harry and his partner Randy Harvey took over Blackberry Patch in 1999, expanding the distribution of their jams and fruit syrups. Before then, it was owned by farmers local to Thomasville, with the intention of using time-honored Southern techniques with locally harvested fruit. The ingredients are simple: fruit and cane sugar, which is far superior to beet sugar. By keeping it simple, Blackberry Patch accomplishes their mission of making jam that tastes like your mom made it.
They’ve been featured in O The Oprah Magazine, Southern Living, Garden and Gun, USA Today, and more. After stumbling upon Blackberry Patch, Food and Wine named Thomasville one of the ”best small food towns in the country” last year. They couldn’t get enough of the jam and the Sweet Grass Dairy cheese that is also found in Thomasville. This is the kind of stuff that Zingerman’s dreams of–small town, artisan-made, with really good local ingredients.
Orange you glad we have a new flavor?
We started out with a flavor that is not well-kown up in these parts: Satsuma. It’s actually been a common request for years that we offer some sort of an orange marmalade on the breakfast menu, so this worked out well. Satsuma is a variety of Chinese mandarin. The original Chinese name means “honey citrus of Wenzhou,” which is an apt description of its gentle, sweet flavor. Satsumas originally came to the U.S. by way of a Jesuit plantation up the river from New Orleans early in the 19th century, and from there, spread across the South and out to California. The towns of Satsuma in Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Louisiana were all named after the fruit. By 1920, Jackson County in the Florida Panhandle started to call itself the “Satsuma Capital of the World.”
“Honey citrus” perfectly describes the flavor. It is delicate and unassuming, which is just what we want to showcase the buttery flavors of our biscuits. But we didn’t stop there. We also offer strawberry and blueberry as options, and they are both wonderful. We look forward to more seasonal flavors, as Blackberry Patch offers quite a variety!
If you like the jams for breakfast here at the Roadhouse, you might like them at home, too! The jams and the fruit syrups are now available in our retail shop, so you can smother your homemade pancakes and biscuits with pure deliciousness.
In the meantime, stop in for breakfast or brunch and get your jam on with Blackberry Patch!
Yesterday I was in search of a birthday gift for a friend who loves bourbon. It just so happens I love bourbon, too, so I was very excited to go shopping for the perfect gift for my friend. It turned into a memorable venture with a rewarding, delicious outcome.
I knew I was looking for something special, something limited release. So I wandered into A&L Wine Castle in Ann Arbor, a magical wonderland of spirits. A woman in front of me was asking the salesman for a bottle of Buffalo Trace (excellent taste!), and that’s when I knew what I was looking for.
Two years ago, the Roadhouse had managed to get their hands on a couple bottles of Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon, hand-crafted by Buffalo Trace. It is super limited, so we were lucky to get it in. Once word got out that we had them, the Colonel didn’t last long. But we got it in again recently, so I crossed my fingers that the Wine Castle did, too.
Great minds think about bourbon.
Thankfully when I asked for it, the salesman was able to grab me a fifth. He only had a couple bottles left! As he pulled it down, I struck up a conversation with the woman who was buying the Buffalo Trace. She was very curious about my request, and I told her about the small batch of liquid gold from her favorite distillery. She said it sounded wonderful, and then turned to her husband and said, “I wonder if Zingerman’s Roadhouse has it?”
The question was music to my ears. I assured her that we did indeed carry the small batch, and encouraged her to come in and try it before we sold out again. Then for about twenty minutes we nerded out in the shop about bourbon. We talked about the Colonel and many other liquid amber favorites, and I had fun telling her what I had learned about the small batch treasure from Buffalo Trace.
An aristocrat with ambition perfects an art.
At the end of the Civil War, the grand nephew of President Zachary Taylor purchased the O.F.C. distillery, one of the forerunners to Buffalo Trace. Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. developed innovative techniques for distilling whiskey that have been passed down through generations of distillers. Known as the “Father of the Modern Bourbon Industry”, he developed copper fermentation tanks, state-of-the-art grain equipment, column stills, a more efficient sour mash technique and a steam-heating system for his warehouses–all still used today. In 2009, Buffalo Trace Distillery purchased the Old Taylor Bourbon brand. In honor of the Colonel, they age the Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey inside century old warehouses that he had actually constructed and used for his own whiskey.
Every sip tells a story.
The connection with the woman at Wine Castle in and of itself was a rewarding experience, and I relished telling my buddy about it later as he opened his birthday present and poured me a couple fingers of the Colonel. It was everything I love all at once–a good story and sharing something really yummy with a friend.
The Colonel was just as I remembered it. Black licorice and honeyed raisin dominate up front, then caramelly butterscotch blooms on the tongue. Just when you think the softer, floral notes have dominated, a surprise dash of pepper and subtle tobacco stir up embers of heat to draw out the finish.
Each sip is a perfect reflection of pre-prohibition whiskey, and an homage to the legacy of the man who captured the science behind modern bourbon in a barrel. Come into the Roadhouse and taste what we are talkin’ about, before this batch runs dry.
One of the most regular customer comments I regularly hear at the Roadhouse is how good the sea scallops are. Nearly every night someone will comment on how much better they taste than scallops they’ve experienced elsewhere. In part, this is a tribute to the skills of the sauté cooks on the line. But it’s probably just as much about the quality of the scallops we buy, which, as you’ll have guessed, we get from our friends at Foley Fish in Boston. The Foley folks have been at this since 1920 and they have consistently supplied us (and others, like Monahan’s in Kerrytown) for years.
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), so too, 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 the Foley’s folks to take in only the top of the catch—the freshest scallops we can get. There is a huge difference, which would explain why we’ve developed so many loyal fans for these over the years. We have a lot of folks who order them almost every time they come in. Our longtime rep from Foley’s, Bill Gerencer, came out a few weeks ago and did a tasting for the staff where we tried the Foley “dry pack” scallops against something that’s being sold by others on the market as “all natural scallops.” The difference was drastic! It was amazing how much better the Foley’s scallops were. The staff kept quietly going back for more of the Foley’s offerings, while half of the alternate version was left on the plate at the end of the meeting.
While you can order scallops at the Roadhouse any way you like, personally I go for them done in a hot sauté pan, so the outside gets seared and slightly caramelized and the inside stays nice and tender and sweetly succulent with a taste of the sea. I’ll share what I learned from Cap’n Phil Schwind, author of a 30-something-year-old little cookbook called Clam Shack Cookery. I never met Cap’n Phil but according the book intro he’s been called, “the fisherman’s fisherman, the cook’s cook, and Cape Cod’s champion storyteller.” He turned me on to what is a great way to prepare scallops, one that we will happily make for you if you ask. The “proper” way, he wrote, to prepare scallops is to cook them in hot bacon fat, then sprinkle crisp bits of bacon over top. He says you should accompany that dish with, “. . . hot, black coffee so strong you dare not stir it for fear it will take the plating off the spoon.” I’m not convinced that our coffee is at that level of intensity, though I suspect that, not eating them as he did right on the boat, you might actually opt for a nice glass of wine instead.
I was chatting with my friend Marcy (the Roadhouse marketing manager) the other day, and we were talking about food (no surprise there). The topic turned to Ari’s Pimento Cheese and how much we L-O-V-E it!
Marcy said I should write about it and I thought, “How do you write about a food that has been a staple of Zingerman’s Roadhouse from the beginning, and say something that hasn’t been said before?!!”
She said I should try, so here goes!
It was love at first bite.
I don’t consider myself a foodie, per say, mostly because I gravitate towards good, simple fresh food. (Lucky for me, I work in a hub of such yummy things, Zingermans Roadhouse.) I should also state that Ari’s Pimento Cheese is the only pimento cheese I have ever had. So I’m not judging, I’m just sharing my point of view.
My first experience with Ari’s Pimento Cheese was during my server training with the lovely Ashini Harris. Six years on, I still am reminded of her great training, and I think of her often and smile. One day, as I was following her on a training shift, a table ordered the pimento cheese appetizer. When I first saw it, I thought, “Yes please!”.
I didn’t recognize the celery, because I had never seen celery sliced diagonally before (the culinary term is “cut on a bias”). I asked Ashini if it was aloe or cactus. She looked a bit horrified, probably wondering how I made it through life ever seeing celery, and told me what it was.
That being explained, she offered me a taste and WOWZA! Creamy, sharp, with just a kick of cayenne–I was hooked. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of my pimento cheese adventure!
My favorite way to eat Ari’s Pimento Cheese. What’s yours?
A short time later, I got to taste Ari’s Pimento Cheese in an omelette. With 5 eggs, free-range and delicious, and myriad combinations of ingredients, the Roadhouse makes an omelette that will take you through your day like a champ! So when I tried it with with Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon, New Mexico green chilies, and fresh tomatoes? Mind. Blown. Even better with a fresh baked biscuit and breakfast potatoes crisped to perfection.
It’s amazing on its own, yet there are so many ways to enjoy the cheese with other things on our menu. Melted pimento cheese is liquid love for your hungry soul. Add it to a burger, over your corned beef hash, or make a grilled cheese out of it. The taste blooms and the Vermont Cabot cheddar cheese just seems to highlight and compliment the other ingredients. As you eat it, you really do feel your tummy smile with satisfaction and happiness.
May is Made in Michigan Month, and I am super excited because there are so many things we have here at the Roadhouse that we can celebrate. One of those things happens to be a new soda we are offering on our non-alcoholic drink menu, made with natural botanicals. They are crisp, refreshing, food-friendly, and made in Detroit. Score!
Casamara Club started up in 2017 with Jason LaValla. His partner, Erica Johnson, joined in 2019. Since then, the team has created four flavors of soda bubbling over with natural flavor. They are all made with bitters in the style of an Italian digestiv (after-dinner drink) called amaro. What’s cool about this is that not only is the drink delicious, but it captures a sense of time and place in a bottle. These aren’t your everyday sodas. These are how sodas used to be made, and should always be made.
A sip of something to put a sparkle in your eye.
When soda fountains popped up in American pharmacies in the mid 1800s, they offered a new and invigorating way for people to feel better. Pharmacists made natural extracts to boost the curative properties of sparkling water. We’ve all heard the stories about Coca-Cola. It’s hard to think of ingredients such as caffeine and cocaine as “natural botanicals”. But when pharmacist Dr John Stith Pemberton created Coca-Cola, he was extracting the caffeine from the kola nut, a native of African rainforests, and the cocaine from coca leaves. While these substances are certainly addictive, the intention was to treat headaches, and at 5 cents a glass, many people found the drink a bargain to gain relief and a little pep in their step.
Other soft drinks created from root and herbal extracts soon followed without the cocaine, such as Pepsi, created to treat dysPEPSIa. Dr Pepper became a popular one with its 23 natural ingredients including cola, cherry, licorice, amaretto almond, vanilla, blackberry, apricot, blackberry, caramel, pepper, anise, sarsaparilla, ginger, molasses, lemon, plum, orange, nutmeg, cardamon, all spice, coriander juniper, birch and prickly ash. While Charles Elmer Hires is credited with the invention of root beer with his extract of sassafras, early versions of the beverage are known to include allspice, birch bark, coriander, juniper, ginger, wintergreen, hops, burdock root, dandelion root, spikenard, pipsissewa, guaiacum chips, sarsaparilla, spicewood, wild cherry bark, yellow dock, prickly ash bark, sassafras root, vanilla beans, dog grass, molasses, and licorice.
It didn’t take long for pharmacists all over the country to start adding their own herbs, fruit syrups, and “secret ingredients” to create an everyday “cure for what ails you”. Between the bubbles and the bitters, the fun and fizzy drinks sold at soda fountains all over America were tasty and good for easing indigestion. As far as discovering drinks with these qualities, however, America was a bit late in the game.
An ancient drink with a modern twist.
Amaro, an herb-infused liqueur, has been around since Ancient Rome and used in abundance for its restorative benefits. Amaro is traditionally made by infusing grape brandy with a mix of herbs, flowers, aromatic bark, citrus peel and spices. By the late 1800s, it was being sold by pharmacies and peddlers across Italy as a health tonic. While amaro translates to “bitter”, the drink stands apart from the ingredient bitters as a sweet and sippable after-dinner drink.
The folks at Casamara Club desired to create a drink that would capture the refreshing and herbal qualities of an amaro without the alcohol, and without the heavy, cloying sweetness of a modern soda. We know that over time, the natural ingredients in sodas gave way to lab-synthesized flavoring, preservatives, and high fructose corn syrup. Instead, Casamara Club is trying to get back to how sodas were originally made (without the cocaine, of course).
They make their sodas using the natural extraction methods of yore, using pot and still method. By using only natural, farmed ingredients and producing in small batches, they are able to evoke a genuine Italian influence in every bottle. According to Jason, “The long term goal is to go beyond the Italian influence and even deeper into the local–to work with indigenous botanicals as a way of celebrating the people, soil, and history that make Michigan special.”
They do add a bit of Demerara sugar to balance out the bitter taste of the herbs they are using, but not enough to make the effervescent concoction overly sweet. Instead, the flavors are delicate and harmonious, taking a bitters and soda to a whole new level.
Casamara Club has created four drinks based on ingredients carefully selected to provide an experience of flavor that is deep, meaningful, and authentic.
Alta (Italian for high or deep) Inspired by a Northern Italian aperitivo, Alta is intense, like a dry, spritzy Negroni. Lively notes of dark berries, fruity spices, and bright pink citrus peel.
Onda (Italian for waves or vibes) A Sicilian amaro reimagined as a dry, herbal limonata. Vibrant notes of candied lemons and fresh sage with dank salinity.
Capo (Italian for head of mafia) Draws on amaro traditions from the mountains of Northern and Southern Italy. Invigorating notes of fresh picked wildflowers and melow key lime acidity.
Sera (Italian for evening) An American-Italian family recipe. Perfect to unwind with after a long day, it is a riff on a paloma turned lo-fi cinnamon spritz. Dreamy notes of purple flowers, strawberry candy, and fruit tart acidity.
We offer all of these at the Roadhouse! They are delightful on their own, after a heavy BBQ dinner, or even mixed with a spirit for an invigorating cocktail. Stop in and try one!
When I hear the word “secret”, I typically think of something kept. But I also think that sharing a secret with a friend is quite special. At Zingerman’s, we don’t want to keep zecrets, we want to share them with you!
What is a zecret? It’s something we do that people might not know we can do. Perhaps it is something that is not on our menu, or we don’t talk about it as often as we should. So what is something we can do that you might not know about?
The Roadhouse opens up about their oysters.
By now, you might be aware that we serve oysters. Not sure what gave it away. Perhaps it’s the separate oyster menu we hand out. It could be the large display case of oysters on ice up near the host stand. Maybe it’s all the sun-bleached oyster shells we use to line our property. Regardless, the fact that we serve oysters is not a zecret.
What you might not know is that we can do things with the oysters besides just serving them iced on the half shell. We let the cat out of the bag about the Hangtown Fry, an awesome breakfast dish made with eggs and pan-fried oysters. But did you know we can also make Oysters Rockefeller?
We do actually offer them on occasion as an appetizer special, but we can make them for you at any time! And who can resist those plump, buttery, scrumptious babies? So good!
The secret really is in the sauce.
The original dish was created in New Orleans in 1889, at a restaurant called Antoine’s by a man named Jules Alciatore, the son of the restaurant’s founder. Apparently, there was a shortage of escargot at the time, so Jules used oysters as a substitution. Due to the richness of the dish, it was named after the wealthiest man in America at the time, John D. Rockefeller.
Did you know that Oysters Rockefeller have their own secret that can never be revealed? Jules made a savory green sauce for his oysters, and never told anyone what was in it. He took the recipe to his grave. Since then, many people have tried to replicate it, but can only make an educated guess as to what the ingredients were. It is believed that they included celery and capers, with herbs like parsley and maybe chive.
Since the secret sauce was never shared, many people now enjoy their Rockefeller with spinach as a substitute, and they are still pretty amazing. We make ours with spinach, fennel, applewood-smoked bacon, Sarvecchio cheese, and bread crumbs. Come on by and treat yourself to something sizzlingly rich and delicious.
We offer so many more seafood options on our menu!
When the Roadhouse opened in 2003, our vision was to create a full-service restaurant serving “really great American food” to hungry Ann Arborites and visitors.
As we prepared to open and develop our original menu, we asked the Bakehouse for traditional American breads, pies and cakes to add to the line up. They actually developed new signature items for us! Included with the original round of extensive recipe testing and tasting were Roadhouse Bread, Chocolate Chess Pie and Hummingbird Cake. The remarkable thing to us is that these three favorites stood the test of time and have been added to the list of things Zingerman’s Bakehouse and Roadhouse are known for. They’re so special, all three made it into the Zingerman’s Bakehouse cookbook!
Tracking the flight of the hummingbird cake.
A cake sweet enough to attract hummingbirds? This is another beloved southern food with an adorable name, that’s just plain delicious: hummingbird cake. In Jamaica, where hummingbird cake originated, it was commonly referred to as the Doctor Bird cake. Doctor Bird is a nickname for Jamaica’s national feathered friend, the Red-billed Streamertail, a member of the hummingbird family.
So how to did it migrate to the US? In 1968, Air Jamaica was established and began offering flights from Miami and New York to Kingston and Montego Bay. The icon on the tail of these planes was none other than Jamaica’s national bird, a hummingbird. Jamaica’s tourist board put together some promotional kits to send to the U.S. to increase interest in travel to the country. The kits included recipes of some local cuisine; among which was the Doctor Bird cake.
A southern favorite migrates to Michigan.
It gained popularity in the American south. There are numerous references to the cake in county fair reports and baking competitions throughout the 1970’s, although not always under the same name. The first printed recipe of the cake appeared in Southern Living magazine in February 1978. The Hummingbird Cake has since become the most requested recipe in Southern Living’s history.
The Bakehouse recipe for hummingbird cake includes coconut in the batter, a hefty dose of ripened bananas and pineapple, a handful of toasted pecans, a generous amount of cream cheese frosting and a tasty and beautiful finish of toasted coconut. It’s another generous recipe, with more fruit than flour in the cake. Since joining the cake line up at the Bakehouse in 2003, Hummingbird has become quite a fan favorite. It’s one of their most requested cake flavors for weddings too, spreading its sweet flavor to thousands over the years.
How a Jewish American cured brisket ended up an Irish American tradition.
by Marcy Harris
The rainbow will stop at the Roadhouse on St. Patrick’s Day! Our treasured and heartwarming Corned Beef and Cabbage will be available all day! It’s a dish that has become an absolute must have for the Irish holiday, and we use the best Jewish corned beef in Michigan to make ours!
So why is this important? Why is Jewish corned beef at the center of an Irish tradition?
Across time and oceans to your plate!
Corned beef has a long history with the Irish. In the 17th century, due to large quantities of salt and cattle, Ireland was a significant source of corned beef for Europe and America. But the Irish couldn’t actually afford to eat the corned beef they produced. So even though St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated as a religious feast day in Ireland, it wasn’t until over 200 years later that corned beef became a staple for the beloved holiday in America.
When the Irish immigrated to New York in the 19th century, they often bought corned beef from Jewish butchers. It didn’t take long for it to become a favorite when cooked up with potatoes and vegetables, especially cabbage, which was more affordable. Over time for Irish Americans, St. Patrick’s day became more of a celebration of their homeland, and they indulged in the corned beef supplied by their Jewish neighbors. Today, it is a dish commonly associated with the holiday in America, while in Ireland may people enjoy lamb or bacon.
Only the best from Detroit for your St. Patrick’s Day!
At Zingerman’s we don’t mess around with tradition, and we love our corned beef. So if we are going to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we are going to do it with the best Jewish corned beef we can find– the corned beef the Deli has been using since it opened its doors, from United Meats & Deli.
United Meats was started by the Corned Beef King of Detroit, Sy Ginsberg, at the Eastern Market in 1982, the same year the Deli opened! We love United Meats because they are committed to providing the highest quality, which is evident with their methods and ingredients. For example, instead of the dry, powdered garlic many people use in their corned beef, Sy squeezes in garlic juice. The juice gets soaked up by the beef, and it gives integrity to the flavor.
It is the cure for a rumbling belly!
When brisket is cured to make corned beef, it is often soaked in a salty brine. Sy uses a more traditional method of packing the beef with large grains of salt, known as “corns” because the salt is the size of corn kernels. This is the same kind of salt used by the Irish to make corned beef back in the 1600s. After curing, the beef is trimmed by hand and injected with brine by needles. This way, the liquid goodness really gets into the meat, adding flavor and tenderizing it from the inside out. Sy takes his brisket to another level with an overnight soak in brine.
Ari Weinzweig says “Good corned beef has been at the core of our work at Zingerman’s since we opened our doors! It’s been cured for us to Sy Ginsberg’s recipe for over 36 years now. Long, slow cooking makes for that really tender, mouthwatering texture.”
You can taste the difference in the sandwiches at the Deli, and you can taste the difference in the Corned Beef and Cabbage we serve at the Roadhouse for one of our favorite holidays. It is melt-in-your-mouth tender, lovingly braised by our chefs with locally farmed vegetables. A bowl steaming full of love and Sy Ginsberg’s Jewish corned beef is just what you need on St. Patrick’s day! See you at the Roadhouse!
The other day I was walking down the street by the Deli when a regular guest stopped me to share a thought: “We were down in Nashville for three days. And I gotta tell you, your fried chicken at the Roadhouse is really good! As good or better than the best of what we had down there!” That’s a pretty darned nice compliment coming from someone who travels the U.S. widely and who’d just eaten in what could be considered one of the capitals of Southern culinary prowess. Just to confirm the point, another guest pulled me aside tonight to say pretty much the same thing. The fried chicken is one of the most comforting foods we’ve got in the whole ZCoB.
What makes it so good? For openers, high-quality raw material. At the Roadhouse we use chickens that come from Amish farmers—the birds are just so much more flavorful than the standard commercial chickens on the market. They’re soaked in buttermilk, then dredged in flour that’s seasoned with a good bit of Tellicherry black pepper, salt, and red pepper before frying.
Over the years the fried chicken has become our biggest selling menu item at the Roadhouse. As per our guest’s point, it really is something wonderful. Crunchy outside (I like the crust best when it’s on the darker side), moist and hot inside. Served up with mashed potatoes topped with smoked chicken gravy, it’s a marvelous meal.
For those who don’t yet know, we do make a gluten-free version of the fried-chicken as well (remembering, of course, that the Roadhouse is filled with products that have gluten in them). We use organic Carolina Gold rice flour (see page 2 of the Jan/Feb newsletter to learn more!) from Anson Mills instead of wheat flour, and cook the chicken in the gluten-free fryer. There’s also the amazing and ever more popular Fried Chicken Mac and Cheese—the best of two terrific worlds in one wonderful dish!
Zingerman’s Roadhouse has secrets. Or zecrets, if you’d rather. And they are not well-kept. We want you to know about them!! So what makes them zecret? They are not typically published on our menu. But you can certainly come in and ask us to share them with you!
One of our favorites is a breakfast dish with a rich history. It’s called Hangtown Fry.
Only the best for your breakfast!
Ever since its creation in Placerville, CA (then known as Hangtown) during the Gold Rush in the 1850s, the dish has graced the tables of the nation’s leading hotels and restaurants. No wonder, as it is quite scrumptious! Ari tells more of the story below, but legend has it that it was made for a man who struck it rich with gold, then asked for an expensive meal at the local hotel to celebrate.
Hangtown Fry was actually on our breakfast menu at the Roadhouse years ago. When I asked Chef Bob Bennett about it, he recalled how it was served in pie tins from Zingerman’s Bakehouse. It did gain enough of a following that after we took it off the menu, we still had people come in and request that we make it just for them,
You don’t have to strike it rich to order it.
Here’s how it works. You come in and ask for the Hangtown Fry, and we will pan fry our chef’s selection of oysters for you with Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon, bread crumbs, and farm-fresh eggs. It’s a hearty breakfast, and the smokiness of the bacon is perfect with the sweetness of the plump oysters. Come on by for breakfast or brunch and treat yourself to this zecret favorite!
Oysters, eggs and bacon in one really good all-American dish, Hangtown Fry is a California classic that’s long been one of the most popular items on the Roadhouse brunch menu. I love it because it’s simple to make, it’s delicious and it’s got a great story to boot. I like to use a dry-cured bacon like Broadbent’s because that’s the sort of intense, long-cured bacon that Gold Rush-era cooks would likely have been working with.
The story of Hangtown Fry takes you to a northern California town originally known as Old Dry Diggins, then as Hangtown and now Placerville. Back in Gold Rush days it was a prominent supply town – many of the area’s miners went there to restock and cut loose, and, while they were at it, often got themselves into a bit of trouble. The name Hangtown came about in the middle of the nineteenth century, when three bad guys were strung up on the branches of a big old oak in the center of town. I’ve been told that the stump of that old oak is still “stuck in the mud” (so to speak) in the basement of a bar called The Hangman’s Tree (which you’ll be able to find quickly by the body hanging from a noose off the front of the building).
The dish is said to have originated at the now-defunct El Dorado Hotel, just across the street from the hanging tree. Legend has it that a miner rolled into town with gold from a fresh strike and ordered the saloonkeeper to serve up his most special dish. The cook offered a choice of three high-end options: oysters, eggs (hard to transport and hence costly) and bacon. The miner told him to toss all three into one dish, and Hangtown Fry was born.
It’s a very versatile recipe – great for brunch, lunch or a light supper. Don’t skimp on the egg quality – remember, they were a luxury in mid-nineteenth-century Hangtown and remain a key component of the dish, not just a way to hold the oysters and bacon together.
Since I almost never see single-serving recipes in cookbooks, I decided to design this one that way. But of course the quantities are easily increased for any number of diners. You can vary the number of oysters according to how much gold you’ve got in your pouch.
4 tablespoons oyster crackers, crushed
3 to 6 fresh oysters, shucked
5 ounces sliced bacon (about 2 to 3 slices), chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons bacon fat
3 large eggs, beaten
1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper
Dredge the oysters in the cracker crumbs. Leave them resting for at least 10 minutes so that the crumbs bond with the oysters.
In a non-stick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove from the pan, leaving the bacon fat. Reduce the heat a bit and add the additional measure of fat. When hot, add the oysters and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring gently, until the crumb coating is lightly browned.
Add the beaten eggs, salt and pepper, and stir gently. Add the bacon. Cook over low heat, stirring gently every 30 seconds or so, until the eggs are done as you like them.
Serve with San Francisco sourdough toast and “Folsom Prison Blues” playing in the background.
Serves 1 generously as a main dish, or 2 as a smaller side dish
Zingerman’s Roadhouse has been around for 15 years, can you believe it? As with anything that’s been around for over a decade, our well-loved restaurant is in need of a tune-up! We will need to close our doors for a couple weeks (from March 18th to March 31st) to make some repairs, mainly to the kitchen floor.
Two weeks seems like a long time, but the truth is, it’s a drop in the bucket when you think about how long our building has been around. Before the Roadhouse was here, this building used to be a Bill Knapp’s restaurant, built in 1958–over 60 years ago!
A roadside restaurant turned Roadhouse.
We’ve got the pictures to prove it, not to mention the testimony of several locals who used to eat at Bill Knapp’s when it still claimed the address 2501 Jackson Rd. on Ann Arbor’s Westside. Check out the Ann Arbor District Library’s page with newspaper clippings and photos of the colonial-style building!
Bill Knapp’s started in Battle Creek with the concept of opening restaurants near the highway. This worked out in our favor when we took over the space! What can be more convenient than being located right off of an I-94 exit? When the former managing partner and head chef, Alex Young, cold-called Paul and Ari in 2003 with his concept for the Roadhouse, this was just the beginning of a developing story. We’ve packed a lot in over the past 15 years.
Here is the timeline of events:
2002- Bill Knapp’s closes, including the restaurant at 2501 Jackson Rd. in Ann Arbor.
2003– Alex Young, Ari, and Paul open the Roadhouse on September 15, 2003 in the old Bill Knapp’s space.
2004-The Roadshow opens. The 1952 Spartan aluminum trailer was originally parked across the parking lot and not connected to the building.
2004– Pit-master, Ed Mitchell, from Raleigh, NC, helps design and build the pit-smoker in back of the restaurant.
2004– Alex starts his garden, which later turns into a 4-acre farm in Dexter. His produce becomes a huge part of the menu, especially his heirloom tomatoes.
2007– The Roadshow Spartan trailer is connected to the restaurant.
2007 and 2008– Zingerman’s Roadhouse chef Alex Young is nominated for Best Chef-Great Lakes Region by the James Beard Foundation.
2010– Alton Brown from the Food Network names the macaroni and cheese at Zingerman’s Roadhouse “America’s Best Comfort Food.”
2011– Alex wins James Beard.
2017– Alex leaves and farm closes. Bob Bennett becomes head chef.
2019– The Roadhouse closes for a couple weeks to upgrade a 15 year old kitchen floor.
The cake is a little different. So is the building.
Have you ever needed to take time off just to get stuff done? That’s where we are at in our timeline here. It’s been 15 years since we’ve done anything to the restaurant. Bob Bennett, who took over as head chef after Alex Young left in 2017, actually helped paint the walls back in 2003. He recalls the remodeling done to the building to make it ours. If you really look at the old photos, you can see where we opened up the kitchen line, moved the front door, and laid out beautiful barn wood throughout the restaurant for our signature flooring.
As for the kitchen floor, apparently we laid new tile over the old tile of the Bill Knapp’s kitchen. At this point, we need a new kitchen floor that will last us at least another 15 years. We’ve picked out a beautiful brick red color for the tile– one that is very non-slip. We can’t wait.
Is this all we are doing to fix up the restaurant? For now, yes. But we always have a vision of what’s next, and we’d love to keep updating the Roadhouse! Stay tuned for more tune-ups in the future that don’t involve us closing for two weeks!
We will still be serving food out of the Roadshow from March 18th through March 31st!
My math tells me we have about another five weeks until the formal end of winter. And then, of course, it could still be anywhere from a few days to a few months before warm weather actually arrives. In the meantime, and even then I suppose, we have this killer new single origin hot cocoa at the Roadhouse.
I met Tom and Monica Rogan from Goodnow Farms at the Mercantile artisan food show in San Francisco a few years ago. They’ve spent the last decade working around South and Central America to develop a line of direct trade, bean-to-bar chocolates. I was impressed with the chocolate and the choices they’d made about trying to work in sustainable ways. The Rogans are working from a two-centuries-plus-old farm in Sudbury, Massachusetts—it’s located on Goodnow Road, hence the name for their business.
While the cocoa itself is made in western Massachusetts, the beans come from a farm in Mexico. In the spirit of all the great chocolate bars we get from friends like Shawn Askinosie, French Broad, and others, this is a single origin sourcing for their cacao. The Hacienda Jesus Maria is a 175-acre farm, 120 acres of which are planted with cacao. The farm is just a bit inland from the northeast coast of the Gulf of Mexico, past Veracruz, due north of Chiapas. It’s very rooted in its community—the farm has a 100-year history with cacao (even longer than the Appleby’s have been at it with Cheshire). The Rogans share that, “Farmer Vicente Alberto Gutierrez Cacep employs the best farming and processing practices, and he strongly supports community initiatives and local businesses, including those owned by women. Vicente looks for a balance of life on his farm and also releases indigenous rescued animals back into the plantation, including monkeys and marsupials.”
I was caught by the non-Spanish surname. Turns out its of Turkish origin. Vicente’s grandfather moved to Mexico from Turkey years ago and started the farm. The backstory? Tom shared that, “Monica found farmer Vicente when she was in Tabasco for a friend’s wedding. She took a couple extra days to drive around the area to see what she could find, and stumbled upon him completely by chance. He has an incredible farm—he also does something rare with cacao farmers which is fermenting and drying his own beans. You need a large enough volume to make it work – not to mention quite a bit of skill.”
Goodnow is one of the few chocolate makers (along with Shawn Askinosie) who make their own cocoa butter as well as finished chocolate. While most mass market cocoa powder is alkalized (which means it’s washed with a solution of potassium carbonate), the Rogan’s (and Askinosie’s) is a different story. As the Rogans write, “You may need to stir your hot cocoa a bit more vigorously but you’ll get the full benefit of cacao’s flavanols and taste the unique flavor of the beans!” While I’m not suggesting you seek out this cocoa strictly for physical gain, there do seem to be a host of health benefits.
The idea of working directly with growers is not unique to the Rogans, but it certainly seems a very good thing for many reasons! The Rogans are really passionate about it. “While we’re open to working with producers who are Fair Trade certified, we prefer to buy our cacao using the direct trade model. We strive for as true a direct trade relationship as possible, although in some cases there’s still a middleman (more on that later). In some cases, such as this Mexican Almendra Blanca bean, we go so far as to have the beans picked up at the farm and brought directly to our door. Can’t get more direct trade than that. We make our delicious hot cocoa from the same premium single origin beans we use to make our chocolate, so each variety has its own unique flavor profile!” Why the name Alemendra Blanca? “The beans are really rare in that they’re white, as opposed to the purple color that’s far more commonly found.
This is, I should make clear, hot cocoa, so it’s lighter, more delicate and not the sort of intense chocolati-ness that fanatical chocolate lovers might be after. It’s got a great, subtle, nuttiness that I’ve found superb to sip along with a nibble of something sweet.
Come by the Roadshow or the Roadhouse today to try it out.
One of my favorite new things on the Roadhouse menu in the last year, this salad has been winning raves from friends, family, longtime regulars and first-time visitors alike. It’s got a killer combination of sweet and savory, crunchy and creamy—a bit of candy on a healthy bed of greens. Feta and fruit with spicy arugula. Crunchy brittle with soft creamy cheese. All dressed gently with a bit of olive oil and vinegar. I could eat this one nearly every day.
The feta here is probably my favorite cheese for putting on salads—crumbled, soft, beautifully-tasty bits of that super-fine, barrel-aged feta we get from near Almyros in the mountains northern Greece. Made from a blend of goat and sheep milk, and nicely aged in birch barrels, it’s not at all salty or sharp. It’s delicious. The creaminess of the cheese is offset by crisp apple slices—it’s good to get some fresh fruit this time of year! All of which are laid atop a bed of fresh arugula, my favorite salad green. And the key, the capstone, the thing that takes this into the realm of remarkable is the addition of that crazy good Cashew Brittle from the Candy Manufactory (the Roadhouse orders it especially for this salad!). Terrific toasted cashews embedded in sheets of caramelized sugar and butter. Crunchy and not too sweet. Broken into small pieces for the salad, it adds just the right amount of sweetness. It’s like using toasted nuts, but better. And more buttery.
You can order the salad to start out any meal at the Roadhouse. We’ve got some great new pepper grinders that make it easier than ever to add a nice dose of that farm-to-table Tellicherry black pepper we use. You can also make the salad into your whole meal—if you want a double sized large one, just let us know. Or you can come in at Happy Hour and pair it with a biscuit sandwich or plate of Black Pepper Fries. Or combine cool and fresh with warm and cooked by having the salad alongside a bowl of either that delicious Southwest Vegetable Soup (I like it with the addition of some pulled pork or smoked chicken—just ask), or some of the heartier Ancho Beef Chile. A great way to brighten a winter day!
If you’re not drinking Bourbon at the Roadhouse, you should be!
By Sarah Bartlett, Bar Manager
From a bartender’s perspective, the popularity of bourbon has risen significantly thanks to popular tv shows like Mad Men and a booming industry of craft cocktail bars. Euromonitor, a market research company, states that American whiskey sales have risen a whopping 40% in the past 5 years. Folks have come to appreciate the sweetness of bourbon over the smokiness of it’s eternally-popular cousin, Scotch.
You’ve probably heard that bourbon must be made in Kentucky to be named such, but the law says it can be made anywhere in the United States. The mixture of corn, malted barley, wheat, and rye must be at least 51% corn, stored in new charred oak barrels, and can’t exceed 160 proof. While there is no minimum age requirement many bourbons are aged for years, like one of my personal favorites Elijah Craig 12 year. Aging for longer periods forces the distillery to project demand years in the future, making availability spotty and creating hype when particular brands are scarce.
Being a restaurant that specializes in really good American food and beverage, it makes perfect sense to have many different bourbons available. While the majority are distilled in Kentucky, we carry bourbons from Michigan such as Detroit City Butcher’s Cut and the increasingly popular Journeyman Featherbone from Three Oaks. High West Distillery from Park City, Utah is a crowd favorite with their various ryes, American Prairie bourbon, and Campfire; a blend of bourbon, rye, and Scotch.
There is no standing rule that you have to spend more for good bourbon. Two years ago at the Roadhouse bar, W.L. Weller went mostly unnoticed on the shelf. Rumors began that Weller was the same as highly sought-after Pappy van Winkle with a different label and much lower price tag. There is some truth to this, as they have the same mix of grains, but their age and warehouse locations are vastly different. Today we can hardly keep Weller bourbons in stock!
The best part about drinking the “liquid gold of America” at Zingerman’s Roadhouse, is you can can sample anything before committing to a full pour. In fact, we encourage sampling to ensure we find you a product that will provide a memorable experience. Whether you’re sipping it neat, on a giant ice cube, or enjoying it in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, you’re going to love it alongside our pit-smoked barbecue. Better yet, visit us at the bar on Thursdays when we feature a Blue Plate BBQ special and $2 off any bourbon pour. Don’t forget to ask for a bourbon punch card–buy 9 and get the 10th for a dollar! See you next week?
Winter is upon us, and everyone has their own way of keeping warm. It could be wrapping up in a cozy blanket in front of the fireplace. Some folks prefer to warm up by staying active, perhaps with a bit of snowshoeing followed by hot cocoa. I’ve actually heard quite a few people say they are leaving for a tropical vacation for a few days. As for me, since I’m not diggin’ my toes in sand anytime soon, a hot toddy will have to suffice to spread the warmth.
Melt away those winter blues!
One of our talented bartenders at the Roadhouse, Simon Anderson, pulled me aside the other night when the freezing rain was keeping us all on edge. He offered me a sip of something heartwarming. It was a steaming hot brandy infused with pineapple, and I felt myself melt into a puddle when I tasted it. It tasted like candied dried fig macerated in the hot juice of a pineapple just pulled off the grill. It tasted like leaving a winter storm to be on a Caribbean beach somewhere, but you need both elements to appreciate what you have. Since I’m not hopping on a plane anytime soon, it’s just what I needed to accept that fact and stay put.
Oops. Turn that pineapple into something useful.
It came about as an accident, as many things do. The restaurant had accidentally ordered three cases of pineapple. We love pineapple and will gladly dish it up all day, but we needed to use it or lose it. So Simon made a pineapple syrup, and also infused Christian Brother Brandy with pineapple, cinnamon and a dash of Cayenne. He then blended Chai, chamomile, and Golden Yunnan teas with açaí, fresh ginger, and orange zest.
The result? Think roasted pineapple soaked in brandy with a dash of exotic spices. It’s radiant, like the sun on golden sand. It will warm your hands, your soul, and and even your toes. Come in, get out of the chill, and sip one with us.
A new Michigan whiskey flight, featuring feathers.
by Marcy Harris
A journey to find the quality you seek may not take you far from home. While the Roadhouse has had many adventures seeking out the best liquor in America, one of our favorite discoveries has been right here in Michigan. Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks offers everything we could hope for in handcrafted spirits: A commitment to quality, to staying 100% organic and kosher, and above all, to really good flavor.
That’s not to say we don’t love a good story, too.
We are Zingerman’s after all! The story of Journeyman Distillery begins with a corset and buggy whip factory. The space Journeyman currently occupies was used by E.K. Warren in the late 1800s for producing the first line of corsets made with featherbone instead of whalebone. Apparently he was also a prohibitionist. But perhaps if he was around to taste the whiskey coming out of his former factory today, he might chirp a different tune. At any rate, he put the small town of Three oaks on the map with his comfy corsets.
Fast forward to 2006, and a golf lover by the name of Bill Welter travels to Tasmania to visit his friend’s new golf course. Greg Ramsay not only developed the famed Barnbougle Dunes Golf Course in Tasmania, but his love for whiskey led him to turn and old grain mill into a distillery. Bill plays golf, visits the distillery, and drinks some whiskey. A few years later, he would return to Tasmania to learn the craft of distilling. By the end of 2010, Bill and his father, Chuck Welter, had purchased the old featherbone corset factory that once belonged to an avid prohibitionist…and turned it into a distillery.
The Roadhouse becomes a part of the story!
And what a fine distillery it is. By using the best quality grain in the Midwest from organic farmers, Journeyman has produced excellent whiskey with spirited flavors. We are thrilled to showcase them in a new flight at the Roadhouse. One of our bartenders, Lauren Grant, came up with the idea to showcase the rye, wheat, and bourbon whiskeys we bring in from Journeyman.
Lauren says, “I was inspired to put this flight together to showcase really great American whiskey that’s distilled in Three Oaks, Michigan. All of the grains (wheat, corn and rye) the folks at Journeyman Distillery use are certified organic and I love supporting businesses who go the extra mile to ensure they are using quality ingredients. The Buggy Whip Wheat is crafted from 100% organic Michigan grown wheat. This flight is a fantastic way to experience three different variations of a classic American spirit while also supporting a local Michigan Distillery.”
A toast to the prohibitionist who understood quality.
In order of tasting, the flight includes Featherbone Bourbon, the Last Feather Rye, and Buggy Whip Wheat. The Last Feather is a 2X Gold Medal winner, and the Featherbone has received accolades for being one of the best bourbons made outside of Kentucky.
Of the Featherbone Bourbon, Journeyman Distillery states: “Today, we create quite a different kind of Featherbone at Journeyman and find it ironic to be operating a grain-to-bottle distillery in this once “dry” community. We hope that E.K. would find it in good spirits to see us carrying the torch for manufacturing into the 21st century.”
The folks at Journeyman named several of their whiskeys in honor of E.K. Warren and his revolutionary and adventurous spirit, and also in recognition of the fact that the products he made were done so in a time when manufacturing meant American-made. Journeyman has continued to do so with their artisan spirits right here in Michigan–a great place to live, eat, and drink whiskey.
FEATHERBONE BOURBON WHISKEY | ORGANIC & KOSHER
10 Great Bourbons Distilled Outside of Kentucky – Men’s Journal
The 14th Annual African American Foodways Dinner Event.
by Ari Weinzweig
On Tuesday, January 22, we’ll be hosting our 14th Annual African American Foodways Dinner at the Roadhouse. Five different, delicious, rice dishes that highlight African American culinary traditions; two inspiring speakers; a wonderful way to raise money for a great local cause; and, of course, a coming together of community to share food and learning in the spirit of generosity which powers all of us every day. While the import and influence of African American culture, cooks, and cuisine play a huge and positive part in this country every single day, the dinner gives us an opportunity to highlight a particular part of that culture and cuisine.
This year, our work will be around the fascinating flavors of great rice. While commercial rice is quite easily available and well known, the roots of rice-growing in North America are little understood. And while industrially-processed, relatively flavorless rice is everywhere, there are some barely-known heirloom varieties with a whole other world of fine flavor out there!
At the dinner, we’ll do a bit of looking back—from the world of West African rice-growing centuries ago to the little-acknowledged work in the American colonies by enslaved African people. And, fast forwarding to 2019, to the also little-known role of modern African American chefs in what is becoming a renewal and revolution in the world of heirloom rices in American cooking.
It will also be a tribute to both the sorrows and celebrations of African American farmers over the centuries. Back in the early 20th century, there were roughly 1,000,000 black farmers in the US, owning about 15,000,000 acres. Today African Americans own less than 1 percent of American farmland. And there are fewer than 18,000 African Americans farming for a living. This dinner will, in part, be a fundraiser for one of the folks who’s working to turn that trend around—Farmer Melvin Parson whose work with We the People Growers Association has been both super-inspiring and exceptionally effective. Melvin will be at the dinner to share his story and talk about how funds raised can help him and others create the world class urban farm in Ypsilanti that he’s been working so hard to build!
Our other guest speaker at the dinner will be the equally inspiring, insightful, creative, Stephen Satterfield. While you may not—yet—know Stephen’s good work, if you come to the dinner, I guarantee that you will be inspired, and motivated to make more of a difference. He’s a skilled writer, publisher, wine expert, and more! I’ve heard Stephen speak a number of times in the last few years—at a Southern Foodways Alliance symposium; at Camp Bacon (a fundraiser for Southern Foodways—the speaker line-up for the main event is up and tickets are for sale); and at last year’s Juneteenth Celebration here in Ann Arbor (not to mention at the Roadhouse where he’s our wine consultant!). Having heard hundreds of other speakers over that time period, I can tell you that Stephen’s content and style are both top notch. If you want to get a taste of his work, check out his wonderful new Whetstone Magazine or his writing at Civil Eats.
All the talking and fundraising aside, the main point of the evening is the meal! A whole series of dishes prepared by head chef Bob Bennett, working with Stephen, Melvin, and me to bring the flavors of America’s fantastically flavorful heirloom rices to the fore! You can see the whole menu here. Hope to see you there for this celebration of the past, present, and future of African American cooking in this country!