Marvelous Malted Milk Bar from French Broad Chocolate in Asheville

A new chocolate arrival with intriguing roots in the past.

by Ari Weinzweig

A French Broad Malted Milk chocolate bar at Zingerman's Roadhouse.

It doesn’t cure coronavirus. You can’t use it to pay your mortgage. It won’t fix the food shortage. It won’t work as a mask. But if you want to add a small bit of culinary beauty to your day, consider a small bite of the Malted Milk Chocolate Bar from our friends at French Broad Chocolate in Asheville. 

A more creative chocolate.

Creativity, I would suggest, usually comes when we connect things that haven’t been previously connected (for much more on the subject, see “Secret #39” from Part 3). At first glance, you might not give this bar high marks for creative innovation. In a way, nothing about it might seem all that different. Good chocolate. We have loads of it. “Bean to bar.” Check. Blending chocolate, milk, and malt? More on this in a minute, but it was “invented” 98 years ago. So what’s the creative innovation here? It’s the idea of combining world-class artisan chocolate with world-class malt in the form of a chocolate bar. Far as I know, it’s never been done! (Shawn Askinosie does make some superb Malted Milk Balls). And what I know for sure is, it’s really good!! 

French Broad’s inspiration for the Malted Milk bar.

The bar, as I mentioned above, comes to us from my friends at French Broad Chocolate in Asheville. I’ve long liked all of their bean-to-bar chocolates—the Peru is one of my favorites and I love the Nicaragua for both its flavor and because it brings a cacao “origin” to the U.S. that’s rarely seen here. The Malted Milk bar was one of the last of the French Broad Chocolate list that I tried—I’m generally a dark chocolate eater, and I rarely eat milk chocolate. My mistake. Now that I’ve tasted it, this one has me hooked. Caramelly, toasty, it has something special, an edge of excellence that I haven’t quite been able to pin down. Or put down—I’ve gone back to it to taste and taste again about 10 times in the last week.  

I asked Jael Ratigan, one of co-founders of French Broad Chocolate, how the bar came to be:

Malted Milk was one of the first bars that we made when opening our Chocolate Factory in 2012, so…eight years ago! It’s our most popular flavor, really exemplifies our sourcing values. It’s won national and international awards. The malt bar definitely has a backstory. All of our products do! (We have that in common with you at Zingerman’s.) Asheville has won national attention for its thriving craft beer scene, boasting more breweries per capita than almost any other U.S. city. Rising up to support this industry is a new kind of malt house, one that provides locally-farmed, artisan malts that bring depth and character to beers. We are honored to collaborate with this innovative business, Riverbend Malthouse, to bring you our Malted Milk Chocolate: a milk chocolate featuring Heritage barley malts, locally milled by community grain miller, Carolina Ground. To create this chocolate, we toast malted barley, and grind it with our cacao, organic sugar, Humboldt Creamery organic milk powder and organic browned butter. This chocolate has a creamy, malty flavor, with aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon. It might bring you back to your youth, when “malt” meant a light, chocolatey milkshake.

The story of malt.

To Jael’s point, probably every American will have heard of ordering a “malt” or maybe even a “malted milkshake.” But few of us—certainly not me—know the backstory. I’m guessing many might not even know what malt actually is. Let’s start with the latter. Here’s what the founders of Riverbend say: 

So, what is malt? Simply put, malt is the soul of beer. It provides the color, body, flavor, and mouthfeel in every beer. A wide variety of cereal grains such as barley, wheat, rye, corn, and oats can all be malted using the standard three step process of steeping, germinating, and kilning.

Better barley and more careful craft mean better quality malt. Check their website and you’ll see what I mean. The idea of mixing malt with chocolate and water was done in the latter half of the 19th century. But what took the “malted to fame” was the invention of one “Pop” Coulson who worked for Walgreen’s in 1922. Walgreen’s drug stores started in my hometown of Chicago in 1901. The first store was at the corner of Bowen and Cottage Grove on the city’s Southside (about five miles north of where we lived just off 71st St. when I was a kid). It was the year before my grandmother arrived in the city, a young girl, from Lithuania and also when Rocco Disderide had the Deli’s building built. It was earlier in the same year Elisée Reclus wrote his insightful letter to his anarchist comrades. Like Disderide’s, the original Walgreen’s was mostly about the selling of food. 

The malted milkshake is born.

By the time the Spanish flu was winding down in 1919, Walgreen’s had 20 stores. The company really took off in the 1920s—they found an unplanned opportunity with Prohibition when pharmacies were allowed to still sell whisky to folks who had a prescription from their physician. Back then, drug stores were thought of as much for lunch counters as they were for filling prescriptions. In 1922, Mr. Coulson, already renowned as a master of soda counter concoctions (a mixologist of his day), had the inspiration to add a couple scoops of the store’s famous vanilla ice cream to an otherwise dairy-less “malt,” and made the first “malted milkshake.” For much of the 20th century, Coulson’s invention was a big seller all over the country. 

This bar from French Broad Chocolate brings that creative invention into a new 21st-century form. Maybe we’ll work with the French Broad Chocolate folks to start planning a centennial celebration for the malted milkshake in 2022! In the meantime, stop by the Candy Store or the Roadhouse to grab a bar (or two) of this terrific new arrival from Asheville. 

Buenos Aires Dulce de Leche Brownie

Wickedly good collaboration of South and North America

by Ari Weinzweig

A Buenos Aries brownie from the Bakehouse.

While they’re not our top seller, the Buenos Aires Brownies from the Bakehouse just might have the most loyal fan club of anything we make. While many folks still aren’t familiar with them, the ones who are start to swoon and wax poetic at the mere mention of them. If I remember right, at one point we put them “on vacation,” but we heard so many comments from highly concerned customers that we quickly brought them back. 

The best of two worlds in one brownie.

The Buenos Aires Brownies are, I’ve realized, a great culinary coming together of two classic comfort foods—one from each of the two American continents. Dulce de Leche, from South America, has its generally acknowledged roots in 1829, or so the story goes, when a cook preparing sweetened milk to drink at a peace treaty meeting between two warring politicians left the milk on the stove too long and it cooked down into a confection the texture of a thick honey. The meeting failed (having nothing to do with the overcooked milk) and Argentine politics and factionalism continued on in conflict for decades. The nation did seem to coalesce, though, around the wonder of this new confection. To this day, Argentines eat Dulce de Leche even more than Americans eat peanut butter or Italians eat Nutella—whether it’s on toast, in tarts, layer cakes or cookies, many people won’t go a day without it. With this story in mind, Argentina claims Dulce de Leche as its own. But in the same way that the American South is deeply and intensely divided about the “proper” way to make BBQ, pretty much every country in South and Central America has its own slight variation on the recipe and many still lay claim to being the true origin of Dulce de Leche as well. 

The possible birth of the brownie.

Brownies, the North American contributor, date back to the late 19th century. The most interesting origin story I’ve seen is that they were developed by an unknown pastry chef in 1893 at the request of Bertha Palmer, the wife of Potter Palmer, founder of the famous Palmer House Hotel in my hometown of Chicago. She wanted a dessert that well-to-do and proper citizens could carry to the World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, and brownies are what she got. The original, for what it’s worth, apparently had an apricot glaze. Earlier that year the Crash of 1893 was caused when a coup and a wheat crop failure in Argentina sent stock prices falling. Hence, both Dulce de Leche and American brownies were “born” in the shadows of Argentine politics—it’s all the more fitting then that they now come together to form such an enjoyable, rich, sweet union. 

What makes our Buenos Aires brownie so good.

A century or so after the Palmer House brownies were first introduced, the Bakehouse came out with this exceptional Buenos Aires brownie. That dark chocolate Black Magic Brownie, split down its horizontal middle with a layer of the Dulce de Leche. Creamy, a bit gooey on a hot day, chocolatey . . . all topped with amber-colored crystals of Demerara sugar. Pretty terrific! You can buy the Buenos Aires brownies on their own as individuals, or in the ever-popular Bakehouse Brownie Party 4-Pack (the Buenos Aires is always on the top of the stack so its delicate, lovable, lusciousness doesn’t get squeezed out by the other three.) I will confess that the way I like to eat a Buenos Aires Brownie is to gently push a few of the great Piemontese hazelnuts I wrote about last week into the Dulce de Leche at the edges. The crunch and savoriness of the nuts make for a marvelous contrast to the lusciousness of the brownie and Dulce de Leche. Of course, the Buenos Aires Brownies go great with a good cup of coffee—the Costa Rica Reserve that’s the coffee of the month, has been terrific! (In Costa Rica they call Dulce de Leche “cajeta” and use it, among other things, to stuff sweet empanadas!)

We have them at the Roadshow, along with many other Bakehouse goodies!

New at the Roadhouse: Paesano Pizzas!

A piece of my childhood that makes for marvelous adult eating.

by Ari Weinzweig

Cheesy Paesano pizza in a to go box at the Roadhouse.

One of the things I feel like we’ve done well in our nearly 40 years of working together at Zingerman’s is to take childhood comfort foods that people became accustomed to in commercial form, and then “remake” them using really great ingredients! We end up with something that tastes so good, folks freak out! Zzang!® bars are the classic in my mind. Make a candy bar out of homemade peanut butter and honey nougat, butter-toasted Virginia runner peanuts, dark chocolate, and a tiny touch of sea salt, and you get something that feels comforting with a whole new level of quality. On a similar note, I think about the Graham Crackers at the Bakehouse, the handmade Cream Cheese at the Creamery, or the corned beef hash at the Deli. Now I’m adding another one to that list: the new “Paesano Pizzas” at the Roadhouse

What I know and love about pizza.

For context, let me say that I’ve studied a fair bit about and eaten regional pizza specialties in Italy, especially in and around Naples. Over the years, I’ve eaten at the many great New York City pizza-by-the-slice-spots (salute to Joe’s). There’s also the long-standing Detroit-style recipe right here in Michigan. And I love my friend Chris Bianco’s work in Arizona. Each is an amazing tradition that I’ve revered for years! These Paesano Pizzas at the Roadhouse, to be clear, are not meant to compete with any of those. Instead, they go back to my childhood. (And, maybe, to yours.) They’re, essentially, what my friend John T. Edge would call an “homage” to English Muffin pizzas! 

The pizza of my childhood.

My mom was a good person; not necessarily a great cook. I learned many things from her, but food and cooking weren’t on that list. Unlike so many other folks I know who work in the food business, I wasn’t raised with wonderful memories of amazing family meals, or generations-old recipes that we handed down. We were, I guess, in the middle. Middle class. Middle West. Middle of the 20th century. Meals that were completely of their era of industrial American eating that probably should have been billed as “factory to table.” Kraft mac and cheese® out of the box; hot dogs (from the freezer) and baked beans (from the can); Pop-Tarts®; tuna noodle casserole, Nestle’s® Quik. It sounds suboptimal now, but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t enjoy what we were eating. One of our big treats was those English muffin pizzas my mom would make. You take an English muffin and split it. Give it a light toast. Add tomato sauce (which I’m sure came from a can) and some cheese. Melt the cheese until it’s bubbly hot. I loved ’em. 

How we are making Paesano pizza at the Roadhouse.

What we’re making at the Roadhouse is our 2020 version of those English muffin pizzas. We start with the super popular Paesano bread from the Bakehouse. Instead of cutting slices from top to bottom, we first cut it horizontally, and then cut it again, into good-sized “pizza-shaped” wedges. Which, if you know the bread, results in a surface that closely resembles all those holes and crevices of an English muffin. Then we make a really marvelous tomato sauce. Kudos to Chef Bob Bennett for crafting it—it’s deliciously bright. The key to its quality is the tomatoes—they’re the “Bianco Napoli” tomatoes we get from my friend and nationally-recognized pizza maker Chris Bianco out in Arizona, produced in collaboration with his friend Rob DiNapoli and California farmer, Cliff Fong. I’ll write more about the sauce and the tomatoes down the road, but for right now I’ll just share that 10 days after the pandemic period started, The New York Times ranked Bianco Napoli #1 of the dozens of tinned tomatoes they taste-tested: “The most balanced tomato, in terms of sweetness and acidity, and one that passed Julia Moskin’s test: being put on a sandwich straight out of the can.” 

Why our pizza is so good!

When you place your order, we top each slice (you get two slices in an order!) with a generous spread of the Roadhouse tomato sauce. We top that, in turn, with a nice handful of grated Monterey Jack cheese from Vella Cheese. I’ll note here that Vella’s real, traditional, handmade Monterey Jack is a world-class offering. No joke. Ninety-eight percent of the Monterey Jack you’ll see is made to use up marginal commercial milk because it has a short make time and requires really no aging before it’s ready for sale. But the Vella cheese—made since the early years of the 20th century—is super special. Aged for a few weeks, it is softer and more flavorful than the commercial, almost rubbery, stuff we’re used to seeing. We throw it under the broiler the way my mom did with the English Muffin pizzas, wait til it’s hot and bubbly, pull it out, and finish it off with a touch of extra virgin olive oil, chopped herbs, and Maras red pepper from Turkey. Truly awesome!

If you’re going to take the pizza home, you’ll probably want to heat it up before you eat. Just put it in a 350° oven on a baking sheet until it’s hot and bubbly. I like to drizzle on a little more extra virgin olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper before serving. 

Order our Paesano pizza with our new online system!

The Art of Business (and Life and Everything Else)

Making a moment to take in the beauty of everyday 

by Ari Weinzweig

An illustration of Ari Weinzweig wearing a t-shirt with Patrick Earl Barnes wearing a t-shirt that reads "Ari is how you think".

By my count, this is now week 7 of the first pandemic I’ve ever been through. I can’t say what it’s like for others, but I do know that, speaking at least for myself and for friends and coworkers around the ZCoB, even under the best of circumstances, these are tough times. Clearly, those who have fallen sick and the health care workers who are working so hard to help them, are in the hardest, highest pressure, spots. But even if you’re a step or two removed from the “front lines,” this remains a really stressful period. The uncertainty of it all; the separation from family, friends, and colleagues; the disruption of regular routines; the cancellation of weddings and commencements, the economic challenges. I think for most everyone, the feeling of dislocation and the grieving of the way things “were” will go on for a long while. No matter how grounded, and no matter how protected one is, this is a challenging time. 

The other evening, I started to think that the stress that goes with dealing with the pandemic is actually a bit like Coronavirus—you can’t see it, most of us are quietly carrying it around, and it’s very contagious. It can weigh on any of us in quiet ways, even when our moods seem good on the surface. It can take a long time to incubate, and when you don’t expect it, it can knock you down pretty hard.

The art of coping.

The good news is that while we don’t have a medical cure for the virus, we do have tools to help us with the understandable anxiety. Last week I shared a bit about how journaling each morning helps me manage through my days. The response to that post was so positive that I thought maybe I’d keep the theme going this week by reminding myself, as well as everyone else, that even in these extremely tragic and trying times, beauty still abounds. To take a minute here and a minute there to just pause, and take in the positive things that still, even under all the pressure of the pandemic-induced uncertainty, still surround us. To be clear, I know that doing this doesn’t make the bad things go away. But remembering to take note of the loveliness that surrounds us even when we’re struggling, can successfully serve as (at least part of) an emotional lifeline. 

This idea of approaching our lives as artists, noticing the nuances, making poetry out of our lives, is all the subject of the pamphlet I put out last year, entitled “The Art of Business.” But don’t let the title throw you off—it’s really about the art of . . . everything. It shares what I’ve learned over the years about trying to bring a creative artistic approach to pretty much everything (even the most mundane of them) I do. About how I’ve tried to regularly appreciate the little things, the warmth of someone’s smile, the color of the crust on Bakehouse bread, to pay close attention to each note of a song I love, the complex flavors of each piece of food I eat, the coffee I sip. To appreciate the many great people I get to be around—Tammie, everyone in our organization, friends, vendors, just people on the street who smile and wave when I’m out running even when I don’t know them. 

Every little bit adds up. To make the mental space to notice the small acts of kindness. The other day I was out running when I saw a man stop his car by the side of the road. He walked to the other side, picked up a tiny turtle he’d spotted, lifted it up and put it back into the woods away from the road. As my friend, the artist Patrick-Earl Barnes says, art isn’t just what you hang on your walls or what you listen to, “Art,” he says, “is how you think!” 

The art in beauty.

I was reminded of all this the other evening. It’d been a long day. Nothing overly dramatic or drastic. Just a lot of zoom meetings, worrying about health and safety, keeping up with Health Department directives, and trying to figure out Federal loan requirements . . . you know, kind of a typical day in business during a pandemic. After I went for a long run to clear my mind, I decided to drive out to Tamchop Farms (behind Cornman Farms) in Dexter to say hi to Tammie and see how things were going there. And there, all there really was, was beauty. Tammie’s amazing work to get her heirloom seeds going. The seed companies she’d carefully selected. The tiny sprouts sticking out of the dirt hand-packed into seed trays. The sun was going down, the dogs were moving about, the pepper and tomato plants were growing. The hoop house was glowing as the sun set behind it. No Zoom, no SBA loan logistics . . . just a few thousand tiny seedlings that are soon to be fruit-bearing plants, none of which gave a whit about economic collapse or human health or any of my worries. 

The beauty that evening, it just so happened, was exceptional. It had been gray and raining all day and was supposed to stay that way. But while I was out there with Tammie the clouds started to shift and the sun started to come back out a bit. By the time the sun hit the horizon, it was beautiful. You can see it in the photo above—Pepper (one of our four pups) just looking calmly and quietly out towards the setting sun (but actually, I’d guess, listening carefully for one of the sandpipers he loves to chase). 

To be honest, that 20-minute “beauty break” turned my whole day around. It reminded me again, of what I already know enough to know—that the beauty, the art, is always there to be seen. And even under duress, it still helps to appreciate the loveliness of the little things. They don’t fix the bigger problems. But they do make the odds of getting through them higher, and the days just a bit happier. A lot, I’ve realized, is just what we focus on. I love this quote from British writer Michael Korda—it kind of puts it in all in perspective for me: “The pleasure lies not in the cookies,” Korda says, “but in the pattern the crumbs make when the cookies crumble.” I love that. And I love you all! Let’s get through this. Together!! Thank you all for making the community and the world a more beautiful place, even when we’re faced with some tough stuff! 

Order a copy of the Art of Business pamphlet!

Fried Chicken Sandwich at the Roadhouse

A classic already in the making

by Ari Weinzweig

A fried chicken sandwich with pickles, bacon, and cheddar cheese.

Even in this challenging time, there are still positives that play out. I’ve started to build some rewarding relationships through my connection with the Independent Restaurant Coalition and all the good people who are part of it that are working so hard to help restaurants around the country get through this. At Mail Order, folks have made meaningful systems improvements. ZingTrain is learning about online training. We kicked off the new ZingShare collaboration. 

Another development that’s generating a lot of excitement—with staff and guests alike—is the new Fried Chicken sandwich that the Roadhouse has been offering over the last few weeks. In hindsight, I’m not sure what took us long to do it. What is it? The same super tasty, signature fried chicken from the Roadhouse. You’ve likely had it at some point. Amish raised chicken, soaked in buttermilk, rolled in flour that’s been seasoned with salt, a bit of red pepper and a whole lot of freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper, finally deep-fried until it gets that crunchy, spicy, savory, light brown crust. The fried chicken has been the biggest selling item on the Roadhouse menu for years now!

What’s on the fried chicken sandwich?

In this case, we take a hot-out-of-the-fryer, boneless chicken breast, put it on a lightly grilled Bakehouse challah bun that’s generously spread with a New-Mexico-Green-Chile-Ranch dressing. Add a little Vermont cheddar cheese, a couple strips of Nueske’s Wisconsin applewood smoked bacon, and, last, but not least, the ingredient that takes the sandwich over the top—a pile of sliced pickles from Don Hermann’s pickle farm in Ohio. The whole thing comes together into one holistically sound, wholly delicious, sandwich. The spice and crunch of the chicken; the cool but spicy tang of the Ranch; the calm mellowness of the cheese, and the sweet smoke of the bacon, all brought to their best by the contrast with the vinegary vivaciousness of the pickles! Is it good? Let’s just say that Tammie and I have shared one as part of our evening meal three times over the last week. 

How to enjoy your fried chicken sandwich!

You can eat the Fried Chicken sandwich in the car right after you pick it up. It’s great while it’s hot, but it’s also still super tasty at room temperature (there’s something special about leftover cold fried chicken!). The sandwich comes, of course, with fries (try the Tellicherry Black Pepper Fries). Order one. Or four. Be safe. Carry out! And carry on!

Order one today using our new online ordering system!

South Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce from the Roadhouse

Great on pulled pork, but you can happily eat it on about 18 other things, too! 

by Ari Weinzweig

Pulled pork from the Roadhouse, smothered in South Carolina mustard-based BBQ sauce.

While mustard BBQ sauce is still not super well known up here in the Midwest, if you were to head down to South Carolina, you’d find out yellow mustard BBQ sauce is about as common as ketchup. One of our former staffers hailed from that part of the world. “I think I was fifteen before I realized barbecue could come in any other color,” she once told me.

The history of South Carolina BBQ sauce.

Central South Carolina is one of the only—if not the only—places in the country in which mustard-based sauce is the norm. The general theory among culinary historians is that the tradition had its roots in the cooking of German immigrants to South Carolina and their love of good mustard. Germans colonists started arriving in the area in 1674 and by the time of the American revolution, they comprised about 20 percent of the population in the colony/state. Some of the biggest names in South Carolina mustard barbecue to this day—Bessinger, Sweatman, etc.— are of German origin.

The golden “secret” ingredients.

History aside, the main thing here is that the mustard sauce is good. Really good. It’s made with a lot of Raye’s stone ground yellow mustard from Maine, Gingras oak-barrel aged cider vinegar from Quebec, a pinch of sugar, and a bunch of spices: ground coriander, celery seed, fresh garlic, chili pequin, and freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper. To be clear on the color, third-generation BBQ man David Bessinger says, “A lot of people from outside of South Carolina think it’s like more of a French’s—you know, French’s Mustard. But it’s not; it’s—it’s more of a darker golden look and that’s why we call it the ‘Golden Secret.’” 

All the ways to enjoy South Carolina BBQ sauce!

The “golden secret” is a good name, and you can, in fact, make it the secret to a whole series of tasty treats at your house with this sauce as the secret ingredient. You can order it on pulled pork or ribs. And beyond that, the possibilities are abundant. It’s good on a fried egg sandwich. It’s a great sauce for fish. Or pasta. Spoon a bit atop a pile of the Creamery’s handmade cream cheese like you would pepper jelly—pretty darned good! It’s excellent spooned on top of some of the Roadhouse’s bacon-braised collard greens. Add it into scrambled eggs before you cook them. Put it on a grilled cheese. Spoon it over grilled salmon, a steak, or a burger. Use a little bit as a quick salad dressing. One of my current favorites is to mix a few spoonfuls with a tin of sardines and you’ll have a super tasty salad or appetizer (seriously, it’s terrific!).If you want to learn more about South Carolina mustard BBQ sauce, the Southern Foodways Alliance website is a wonderful resource.

Rian Fertel interviewed the late pitmaster Douglas Oliver for SFA. Asked if the tradition would survive, Oliver’s response seems poignant for the pandemic, and for all of us in the food world: “The future of barbecue here, I think it’ll—it’ll survive. Because like I said, it’s back to good food and everybody loves a little pork every now and then . . . I think it’ll survive. I’m—at least I’m hoping for the time being. I’m pretty sure . . . we’ll survive.”

Try our South Carolina BBQ sauce when you order our BBQ pork!

Secret #31: Managing Ourselves

Making our way through the madness without going mad.

By Ari Weinzweig

Ari Weinzweig, writing at the counter in the Roadhouse.

The great 20th-century business writer Peter Drucker (he wrote 39 books before passing away in the fall of 2005) said, “That one can truly manage other people is by no means adequately proven. But one can always manage oneself.” Drucker’s dry humor always makes me smile. More poignant, though, might be this anecdote from Holocaust survivor, author, and psychologist, Edith Eva Eger: “On our way to Auschwitz my mother said something I never forgot. She said: ‘We don’t know where we’re going. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Just remember, no one can take away from you what you put here in your own mind.’” I can’t really imagine what Eger and others were dealing with as they were suddenly pulled from their everyday lives (in her case, part of a “successful” middle-class family in Budapest) and put on trains for Auschwitz. She and her sisters survived the camps. Her parents did not. But people like Eger and the stories they tell, the positive outcomes they arrived at out of such horrible situations, inspire me now more than ever. 

Managing ourselves during a difficult time.

Right now, I think it’s safe to say that literally everyone we know is struggling. No one has been through this before. No one knows what to do. Everyone, I choose to believe, wants to do the right thing. We just don’t know what that is. Which makes Dr. Eger’s mother’s statement all the more accurate. As she said, we don’t know where we’re going. We don’t know what’s going to happen. And all we can really do is manage the way we respond to the difficult and unexpected reality into which all of us have been immersed. 

I spent about half a lifetime messing up many parts of my own self-management, then, much later, studying like crazy to figure out how to do it better. And, later still, deciding to share what I’d learned by writing Managing Ourselves, teaching ZingTrain classes and seminars, and giving keynote addresses, I do know that how we handle ourselves through this is all we can really manage effectively. This is the self-management Dr. Drucker was recommending half a century ago. While experts have helpful advice, no one can tell you or me or anyone how to feel as we stumble and struggle our way through it all. What we feel is always real, even if what we fear or believe may not ever happen the way we’d worried it would. As the marvelously insightful Chilean scientist Humberto Maturana said, “There is no virtual life of emotions.” 

Understanding the things we can and cannot manage.

Rebecca Solnit, whose writing has long inspired me, says that “History is like the weather.” Ironically, when I teach seminars on self-management, I’ve long been saying, “Emotions are like the weather. We can’t control them. We don’t even have any influence. All we can do is alter how we respond.” What we do know is, as Dr. Eger’s mother said, that we can manage what we put in our heads. The material in Part 3 of the Guide to Good Leading, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Managing Ourselves, is a lot of what I’ve learned on how to do that, imperfectly, under duress. While I’ve never self-managed through a pandemic, the essays in the book—mindfulness, managing ourselves, free choice, creativity, along with daily practices like journaling, jogging, and talking to friends—they all matter, now maybe more than ever. 

Managing Ourselves can help!

This morning, by total coincidence, as I was writing this, I got an email from a physician, a longtime ZCoB supporter and ZingTrain client, who lives in my hometown of Chicago. “Just was reading your Managing Ourselves book this a.m. for ‘therapy.’ Really helpful to have a chance to step back during these unusual times and do some self-reflection. I’m definitely doubling down on a few of your tips.”

If you want to read a longer interview about what’s in the 400+ pages that make up Part 3email me, and I’ll send it your way. If you have questions that I can be of help with, email at will. If you have ideas about how to get through this, definitely send those too—I’ll take all the help I can get. Part 3 is up on the ZingTrain site. If a big book is overwhelming, the Managing Ourselves essay, Secret #31, is out in pamphlet form too—the single off the album, so to speak. We also have it on the Zingerman’s Press site as a PDF. And hey, if you can’t go out like you usually do, maybe this is a good time to do more reading?

Whether you read the book or not, the work towards more effective self-management always makes a difference, all the more so in difficult times like these. To wit, I’ll leave you with more words that Dr. Eger’s mother shared with her young daughter en route to Auschwitz: “Practice every day and say to yourself: I am powerful. Don’t react, but think. Never shoot from the hip. Don’t allow people to get to you. You don’t have to invite people for dinner, but see the humanity in them.”

Ancho Beef Chuck Chili from the Roadhouse

Dry aged beef, world-class beans, and a slew of spices make for a more marvelous meal.

by Ari Weinzweig

A bowl of Roadhouse ancho-beef chuck chili.


Here’s some comfort food that’s ready to pick up from the Roadshow. It’s been a staple on the menu ever since we opened up back in the fall of 2003. Small bits of dry-aged beef chuck, simmered for hours with black beans until they’re tender, spiced with a little cumin, a bit of Muscovado brown sugar, lots of Ancho chili, and some spicy Pequin chile flakes. Very flavorful and good on its own, it’s also superfine on the Chili Cheese Fries, or beautiful on a chili-cheese burger. The chili’s got a good long finish—almost floral from the spices, but really subtly so—it’s hearty, but surprisingly, not heavy. Spicy, but not super-hot. 

A big bean upgrade.

The Roadhouse chili has had a host of loyal followers for ages now! But the chili got even better last year when we switched the black beans from standard commercial offerings to Camellia Beans from the Hayward family down in New Orleans. Now that we’ve made the move to upgrade, I’m not sure what took us so long. Camellia itself is anything but new. The family-owned firm has been working with beans for nearly 150 years now, ever since the Haywards started trading in the Crescent City in the second half of the 19th century. In 1923 they began putting the Camellia brand on their beans and selling them around the country. 

About Camellia Beans.

Now that we’ve made the move to upgrade, I’m not sure what took us so long. Camellia itself is anything but new. The family-owned firm has been working with beans for nearly 150 years now, ever since the Haywards started trading in the Crescent City in the second half of the 19th century. In 1923 they began putting the Camellia brand on their beans and selling them around the country. Putting Camellia Red Beans to work in the Roadhouse kitchen has been a big eye-opener and significant improvement in the quality of everything we use them in! We’ve finally figured out what nearly every New Orleanian has known for ages—Camellia beans bring exceptional quality to the kitchen! This is not hyperbole or hype. Most everyone at the Roadhouse agreed in a matter of days that you really can taste the difference. 

Why are Camellia beans better?

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 tomatoes, carrots, apples, or any other produce that comes out of the ground. There are thousands of low-price, low-quality options out there. Or, alternatively, one can seek out something really special—you’ll pay a bit more to get it, but you’ll benefit from the improved quality of flavor. It’s true with chocolate, it’s true with coffee, it’s true with beer. And, as anyone who uses Camellia knows, it’s totally true with 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 and tastier. The family has become famous for buying well above the USDA’s highest standard for beans—their minimum is now known amongst Louisiana bean growers as the “Hayward Standard.” In a wonderful interview, nationally-renowned master seed saver John Coykendall said in his home state of Tennessee, “Camellia beans? Mercy! I love those things!”   

All the ways to enjoy the Roadhouse chili.

All of this registered with me a month or two ago when I realized that we had started getting way more compliments on the chili than ever. The correlation with the switch to Camellia was impossible to miss. You really can taste the increase in creaminess and flavor that comes with Camellia! You can buy the chili by the bowl through the Roadshow. Add it to a burger. It’s great ladled over a warm Roadhouse biscuit. Pick up a quart and keep it in the freezer. Once you get some home you can add a bit of grated cheese or sour cream. Dig in, stay warm, and stay centered.

Find out more about how we can deliver chili and more, right to your door!

Caraquet Oysters at the Roadhouse

Delicate cold water oysters from way up north in New Brunswick 

By Ari Weinzweig

Two Caraquet oysters on crushed ice, with lemon and cocktail sauce.

We open many thousands of oysters at the Roadhouse each year! You can see the empty shells mounded up out front! But in all our 16 ½ years, I don’t remember seeing these little beauties from New Brunswick in house! I’m glad they’re here. Mild, delicate, with an almost crab-meat-like-sweetness, and a marvelous melony finish, the Caraquets are pretty darned tasty! Balance them out by ordering some of the brinier, saltier Malpeques from Prince Edward Island and you’ll have a great Canadian Maritime start to your meal! 

The history of Caraquet.

Caraquet is a small town in northern New Brunswick, on the southern shore of Caraquet Bay on the Acadian Peninsula. The native peoples of the region, the Mi’kmaq, have many thousands of years of history in the region. The European takeover of the land and the founding of the town of Caraquet dates to 1760 when a small group of French seamen were stranded there. The town was named for the Bay which may have derived its name from either the Mi’kmaq term for the meeting of two rivers, or a French nautical term, caraque, meaning “carrack,” or “large galleon,” related, too, I would imagine to the Irish currach. It’s been a fishing town throughout and still has an active port, fishing fleet, and a series of seafood packing plants. 

The Acadian influence in Caraquet.

To this day the Acadian influence in the town is strong. It’s home to an Acadian Museum and reconstructed Acadian Historical Village. Caraquet also has a big Acadian music festival every summer. This year’s festival will be held August 5-15 and will feature the terrific band Salebarbes. You’ll immediately catch the Cajun connection—when you listen to their music, the likes of which Caraquet oystermen have been listening to or playing for centuries, you could easily imagine yourself on the Louisiana Bayou. (I know New Brunswick in part for the musical contribution of Julie Doiron, who grew up in Moncton, about three hours’ drive south of Caraquet. I’ve been listening to her music for years!). 

How to enjoy oysters at the Roadhouse.

Drop by the Roadhouse any time of the day to enjoy some oysters, and maybe add a glass of sparkling wine to go with them. Know someone who’s never eaten an oyster? Bring them by to have their first, and then make the day of their “initiation” into their Oysterversary. Come by the Roadhouse for the delicious details. It’s well worth it!

Make a reservation with us!

Family Day Trip to Zingerman’s Roadhouse

What to Know & Things to Do Nearby

by Nicole Pelto

A child has big excited eyes while dining at the Roadhouse.

When you set out for a family outing to Zingerman’s Roadhouse, you might smell it before you see it: the savory smoke from our 13-foot BBQ pit wafts all the way down Jackson Road! 

Following the delicious aroma, you’ll find Zingerman’s Roadhouse on the corner of  Maple and Jackson roads. When you pull in and see a charming antique Spartan trailer, likely attracting a line of cars, you’ll know you’re in the right place! This silver trailer is Zingerman’s Roadshow, the Roadhouse’s to-go outpost, serving great food and specialty coffee drinks.

The Roadhouse is an exceptional destination for a family getaway, whether you live in town, are driving in from across Michigan, or are visiting us from across the U.S. We pulled together some of our favorite things to do in Ann Arbor to help you plan your visit. 

EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE

When you and your family arrive, you’ll be greeted by our host stand and begin your experience of our exceptional, James Beard recognized service. Zingerman’s takes hospitality seriously and Zingerman’s is proud to deliver its own, next-level brand of service.

MENU HIGHLIGHTS

While we are most well known for our thoughtfully curated all-American menu and lovingly sourced ingredients, we also host a mean brunch on Saturday and Sunday and offer a carefully crafted kids menu. We are confident everyone in your group will find something they love on our menu.

MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME

Keep your eyes peeled for our salt and pepper shaker collection and enjoy comfortable seating in our several varied dining rooms, including counter seating with a direct view into our busy kitchen. Take in the art on our walls, much of which tells the stories of our artisan food suppliers, and are studded with Zingerman’s special brand of design and illustration.

MAKE A DAY OF IT! 

While you’re in town, we encourage you to sample what Ann Arbor has to offer! We are proud to be located in Ann Arbor, an exciting town with no shortage of activity options. 

Our servers will be thrilled to give you their own personal recommendations of fun activities while you’re in town. If you’d like to make a reservation before you arrive, give the restaurant a call at 734-663-3663 or book your table online. We hope to see you soon!

The Roadhouse Smothered Breakfast Burrito Blue Plate

The Friday morning Blue Plate is one seriously awesome breakfast!

by Ari Weinzweig

The smothered breakfast burrito blue plate special at the Roadhouse.

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:

Roadhouse Burrito

tasty when eaten
with relish

Come by Friday morning and have one for yourself! 

Check our other breakfast blue plates!

Smoked Ribeye from the Roadhouse

The marriage of steak and barbecue is a beautiful thing to behold.

Smoked ribeye with sautéed spinach and mashed potatoes.

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!

Learn more about our dry-aged steak!

Broadbent Sausage for Breakfast

It melts in your mouth.

by Marcy Harris

Broadbent Smoked Sausage wrapped in a muslin bag printed with the logo and nutrition information.

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.

A close up of browned Broadbent smoked sausage at the Roadhouse.

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!

Check out our full breakfast menu!

Steak au Poivre at the Roadhouse

A pretty darned close to perfect culinary pairing to put on a plate.

by Ari Weinzweig

A sirloin cut coated with Épices de Cru Tellicherry black pepper, plated with au Poivre sauce, spinach, and potatoes.

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!

Read more about our fabulous ingredients!

5 Zingerman’s Little-Known “Zecrets” to Share

Tell all your friends!

by Ari Weinzweig

A happy bride and groom getting married at Cornman Farms.
  1. 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!
     
  2. 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! 
     
  3. 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.
     
  4. 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!
     
  5. 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. 

The Horchatini Winter Cocktail

A drink recipe

A Horchatini cocktail, topped with cinnamon.

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.

Horchatini Recipe

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

  • Horchata 2.5oz
  • 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

Bring them to the Roadhouse. They’ll love it!

by Sara Hudson

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.

A mini kids' burger and mac and cheese at the Roadhouse.

Variety

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

A young diner with an excited smile on his face after eating at the Roadhouse.

Unique

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

Fresh

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

More

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.

Download the Zingerman’s Roadhouse Coloring Page & Kids’ Menu

Roadhouse Cornbread and Sage Stuffing Recipe

Make your Thanksgiving memorable with this classic side dish!

Zingerman's Roadhouse cornbread and sage stuffing.

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
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 6 cups crumbled cornbread
  • 1/2 cup milk, or as necessary, for moistening
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter if baking separately
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions:

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.

Host Thanksgiving Like A Boss

3 Tasty Tips

By Sara Hudson

Zingerman's Bakehouse brioche rolls, served in a basket with china and linens.

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!

Carolina Gold Rice Gelato from the Creamery

An Italian classic with an American twist

by Ari Weinzweig

A pint of Zingerman's Creamery Carolina Gold rice gelato.

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! 

Available at the Cream Top Shop and the Roadhouse. We also ship gelato to every state in the Union!

Our dessert menu lists seasonal gelato flavors from Zingerman’s Creamery!

Rice and African American Culture

by Stephen Satterfield

A head shot of Stephen Satterfield.

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 in 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.

Read about Ari Weinzweig’s love of Carolina Gold rice!

Carolina Gold Rice

A delicious rice that’s worth its weight.

by Ari Weinzweig

A scoop of Carolina Gold rice with butter melting into it.

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.

Smoked Ribeye at the Roadhouse

A perfect marriage of steak and BBQ.

by Marcy Harris

The Roadhouse butcher trims a freshly cut ribeye steak.

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.

Check out our whole list of steaks!

Fried Ribs at the Roadhouse

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

by Ari Weinzweig

A plate of fried ribs at the Roadhouse.

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!

Corpse Reviver no. 2

A spookily delicious cocktail recipe.

A Corpse Reviver Number 2 cocktail with a Luxardo cherry.

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:

Corpse Reviver no.2

Ingredients:
Plymouth Gin    0.75oz
Lillet Blanc        0.75oz
Cointreau          0.75oz
Lemon Juice     0.75oz
Absinthe           Rinse

Instructions:
Rinse a chilled cocktail glass with absinthe, then double strain the remaining ingredients into the glass. Add a Luxardo cherry for a full ghostly effect.

Check out our current list of cocktails!

Shawn Askinosie’s New Dark Chocolate & Orange Bar

Orange and chocolate come together to make something super special

by Ari Weinzweig

An Askinosie chocolate bar surrounded by orange slices.

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.”

Available at the Candy StoreNext Door Café, and Zingerman’s Roadhouse.

The Great Green Chile Crisis of 2018 is Officially Over!

Fire Roasted New Mexico Green Chiles are BACK! 

by Ari Weinzweig

A Diez y Uno breakfast burrito from Zingerman's Roadshow, cut in half to show off the New Mexico green chilies.

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! 

YES!!! The Diez y Uno breakfast burrito has also made a comeback!

What is Zingerman’s Roadshow?

The magical drive-up at the Roadhouse.

by Marcy Harris

Zingerman's Roadshow, an antique Spartan trailer that serves to go food at Zingerman's Roadhouse.

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!

Check out the Roadshow menu!

Bacon Wine at the Roadhouse

Only the best for our favorite smoked meat.

by Marcy Harris

A bottle of Bacon wine by Guarachi Wine Partners. The label looks like a butcher's block.

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!

Treat Yourself to a Brownie Sundae at the Roadhouse

The best dessert ever?

by Ari Weinzweig

A Roadhouse brownie sundae with vanilla gelato, whipped cream, a Maraschino cherry, and chocolate sauce.


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! 

How to Order Artisan Cheese Flights at the Roadhouse

Sometimes all you need is a really good cheese board. And some wine.

by Marcy Harris

A wedge of blue cheese on a wooden board with balsamic-roasted grapes at Zingerman's Roadhouse.

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!

A Guide to Good Grits

September 2nd is National Grits for Breakfast Day!

by Marcy Harris

Three varieties of Anson Mills' ground corn, milled for grits.

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.

Have you tried them in a waffle?

Pecan Blondies from the Bakehouse

Fresh milling makes an old favorite better than ever! 

by Ari Weinzweig

Zingerman's Bakehouse pecan blondies.
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 PieRoadhouse 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.

Buy a Blondie at the BakeshopDeliRoadhouse, or at the Bakehouse table at the Westside Farmer’s Market on Thursday afternoon!  Feeling generous of spirit and sweets?  Send some Blondies to your best friend in Santa Fe! 

Roadhouse Red Rage Sauce: A Recipe

How do you make really good BBQ sauce?

A rack of Roadhouse ribs with Red Rage BBQ sauce.

If you plan on grillin’ yourself, though, let’s at least make sure you have a BBQ sauce that will make your feast unforgettable. Ever wondered why our Red Rage tomato-based sauce is so good? 

Here it is:

Roadhouse Red Rage BBQ Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup Muscavado brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Pilsner beer
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 2 tablespoons dark molasses
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground coffee 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Urfa pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground dried chipotle chili peppers
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Pequin chili flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt

Procedure:

Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy-bottom stock pot and mix thoroughly.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Allow the sauce to gently simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  

The Candy Manufactory Celebrates a Delicious Decade!

Ten years later—how sweet it is! 

by Ari Weinzweig

Charlie Frank holding up the sign for the Zingerman's Candy Manufactory Store.

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 4The 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! 

Zach Milner Preaches Peaches

Our own Roadhouse Supervisor shares what he learned from the Peach Truck.

by Zach Milner

A box of peaches with the Peach Truck logo on the top, opened to reveal the peaches inside.

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. 

What’s the Buzz? The Peach Truck is Coming!

Ripe Georgia peaches for sale by-the-box in the Roadhouse parking lot

by Ari Weinzweig

The Peach Truck unloads 25lb boxes of peaches for the guests waiting in the Roadhouse parking lot.

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 LivingFood 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!

New Season’s Wild Alaska King Salmon at the Roadhouse!

Michigan native Marie Rose ships amazing wild salmon back to her home state! 

by Ari Weinzweig

Marie Rose from Shoreline Wild Salmon, holding two freshly caught salmon.

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.

Freshly Milled Rye Makes Roadhouse Bread Even Better

The Bakehouse’s Grain Commission continues to take quality levels ever higher

by Ari Weinzweig

A loaf of Roadhouse Bread with fresh butter.

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.

Zingerman’s Candy Cinnamon Peanuts

Big flavor in a small package.

by Marcy Harris

A pile of Zingerman's Candy Company's Cinnamon Peanuts.

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.

Sweet, crunchy…addicting.

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.

Roadhouse Joe from the Coffee Company

A beautiful blend that’s the bomb for everyday brewing!

by Ari Weinzweig

A bag of Roadhouse Joe beans.

 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.

New Orleans Red Beans and Rice at the Roadhouse

The world famous Camellia Red Beans appear in Ann Arbor 

by Ari Weinzweig

Red beans and rice at the Roadhouse.

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.

Why Camellia beans are better.

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.

About Camellia and a New Orleans tradition.

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

Camellia red beans at the Roadhouse.

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. 

Cook at home with a bag of Camellia red beans from our General Store!

Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice at the Roadhouse

A good way to start your day; a super start to a great cocktail!

by Ari Weinzweig

A glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in front of a large, state of the art juicer at the Roadhouse.

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:

  • Mimosas!!!!!!
  • 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
  • Blood & Sand – scotch, OJ, sweet vermouth, and Heering cherry liqueur 

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!

Blackberry Patch Jam: The Search is Over

Nothing but the best for our biscuits!

by Marcy Harris

A jar of Blackberry Patch blueberry jam.

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!

Jam on!

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!

What’s on our breakfast menu?

Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon at the Roadhouse

Ambition and innovation, barreled and bottled.

By Marcy Harris

A bottle and a glass of Colonel E.H. Taylor small batch bourbon.

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.

Sea Scallops at the Roadhouse

You really can taste the difference!

by Ari Weinzweig

Close-up of sea scallops cooked with bacon, at the Roadhouse.

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.

Roadie Nancy Leat Talks Pimento Cheese

It really is the best pimento cheese. Ever.

By Nancy Leat

Roadhouse server Nancy Leat, holding the Ari's Pimento Cheese appetizer.

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.

But that really is just the beginning…..

What will you have with our pimento cheese?

Casamara Club Amaro Sodas at the Roadhouse

A taste of time and place, captured in a bottle.

By Marcy Harris

Four bottles of Casamara Club soda, each with a uniquely designed label.
Photo courtesy of Casamara Club

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!

What else is on our beverage list?

Zingerman’s Roadhouse Zecret #2: Oysters Rockefeller

A secret within a zecret.

by Marcy Harris

Oysters Rockefeller at the Roadhouse.

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!

Hummingbird Cake- More Fruit Than Flour

This cake is not for the birds.

A piece of Zingerman's Bakehouse hummingbird cake.

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.

Check out our dessert menu!