Cupcakes. See more of Zingerman’s by clicking
on the photo.
Originally uploaded by ulteriorepicure.
It’s been nearly a year since I had visited the good people at Zingerman’s Deli in Kerrytown, Michigan. Although I still find this little oasis of specialty foods a little over-priced, starved for decent and fresh food, I always find it a treat to just wander (or rather cram my way) around the little boutique enterprise on Detroit Street.
I know, I know, this is the same company that also runs the “over-priced ‘truck stop’” (Zingerman’s Roadhouse) that I have been disappointed by on multiple visits. But, there’s always room for improvement, and I am always happy to re-evaluate.Indeed, my patience has paid off – well, in a very isolated way. Unlike most, who treat and visit the delicatessen as a Mecca of deli food, I have found more pleasure in the little “Next Door,” which not only functions as the eating space where clients gorge themselves on nosher and fresser-sized sandwiches ordered in the main house, but also houses Zingerman’s sweets. Here, along with coffees and teas, patrons are tempted with a small but lusty assortment of cakes, pastries, gelato and fine chocolates.
Not being a sweet-tooth in general, I’ve never tried their cakes – which look absolutely wonderful.
But even I, the ultimate non-cheesecaker, am tempted by their Muscavado Cheesecake – “Muscovado brown sugar with sour cream topping and graham cornmeal crust” and the sinfully dark Espresso Cheesecake, which features an espresso filling with their “Magic Brownies” crust.Zingerman’s layered cakes dazzle in sheer size. While the tall and mighty Hummingbird Cake (a “traditional Southern cake of coconut, fresh bananas, and pineapple covered in cream cheese frosting.”) sounds interesting, its rival, the Buttermilk Cake, described as “dense buttery yellow cake filled with raspberry buttercream and covered in smooth vanilla Swiss buttercream” seems to suit me better. Both look great. So does their “24 Carrot Cake,” despite its cream cheese frosting (I really wish I could get over my aversion to sweet cream cheese concoctions.).
The jewel of a “Gift Cake” is absolutely gorgeous – but just looking at the fondant encasing makes my teeth rot. My attention turns instead to a dish of tiny treats. Nestled among the matronly grande dames, are electric blue and yellow coiffed cupcakes ($2.95). For those who want a (still-too-generous) nibble, these offer a smaller taste of Zingerman’s chocolate, Hummingbird and Buttermilk cakes made irresistible by their sprightly cuteness.
Now, I have had their brownies and cookies (approximately $3-4 each). My favorite in each category are the Ginger Jump-Ups – molasses-colored soft cookies made of refined brown sugar from Mauritius and bejeweled with large chunks of spicy candied-ginger (they certainly do make me jump!) and the Dark Magic Brownies – basically their Magic Brownies sans walnuts. Seemingly innocuous, each square is a good quarter pound of dense and moist bewitching dark goodness topped with an equally damning chocolate crust. I must admit, their new Genuine Ginger Brownie, still to be tasted, may just unseat the Dark Magic. It’s basically a combination of my two current favorites – I’d get the candied ginger in a dark chocolate brownie. It’s next on my list.
Actually, that mysteriously dark goodness, as with all of the other goodness that makes Zingerman’s baked goods so sinfully delicious is butter. And they make no excuses. In fact, they proudly boast about the quantity, but more the quality of the fats they use. Although, their baked-goods website lists each treat and offers a nutrition information link, readers will get no substantive nutrition info here. Rather, you’ll get an amusingly unapologetic sermon praising their fat-filled creations: “While they may not reduce your waistline they are all natural and they sure taste a lot better than those low-fat cookies some factory concocted to take advantage of trend conscious consumers by selling something with half the fat, a reasonably high price, and only the tiniest fraction of the flavor.” (Um, who’s the one unreasonably pricing their items?) “[L]ike it or not, the fat is often where the flavor is,” is Zingerman’s mantra. Well, I finally get around to talking about what this post was initially supposed to feature. Nine-times out of ten, when I enter the Next Door, I make a bee line, only glancing briefly aside to acknowledge the baked goods on my way, for the gelato. Now, as I’ve noted in a previous post, Zingerman’s has had problems with their gelatos – namely, they’re frozen rock hard – unfortunately negating the very essence and beauty of the frozen delight: its unnatural creaminess. Held at a lower temperature, it has the advantage over ice cream of being denser which enables it to effectively coat the tongue and deliver more taste. Also, the lower temperature of gelato doesn’t freeze the “sense” out of your tastebuds, thus resulting in a more intense and flavorful experience.Well, whether or not they heeded my advice, received other complaints or just came to their own senses, they’ve been tinkering with their production and storage standards. And, I must say, their work has paid off handsomely. On my last visit to the Next Door, their gelato was across-the-board outstanding – both in texture and taste. Softer, they’re yielding the type of exquisite and unspeakable, nay, taboo, experience that true gelato should impart.
As the title of this post notes, this is a very good month – for gelato-eating at Zingerman’s. Although host to Cupid’s mischief and St. Valentine’s Day, there’s nothing cherubic or saintly about the devilishly tempting frozen treats offered this month at the Next Door. February has been luckily bestowed the honor of being “Chocolate month.” They are exclusively featuring seven varieties of chocolate gelatos in addition to a selection of their normal gelato flavors (which I don’t know why they even bother offering next to their irresistibly dark featured cousins).
Two are regularly offered chocolate flavors: John Do-Ya (their play on the hazelnut-inspired classic gianduja) and plain Dark Chocolate; four are only offered this month: Rocky Ride (dark chocolate gelato with homemade marshmallows and roasted peanuts), Turtle (with caramel and pecans) and my personal favorites, vexingly sweet and tangy Chocolate Balsamic Strawberry and the orgasmically spicy Chocolate Heat lethally laced with a heady dose of dark cinnamon and Cayenne; and there is one brand new flavor – Chocolate Banana Nut featuring rum-macerated bananas and walnuts (not a banana person myself – but I think those banana-chocolate combo fans would be pleased as rum). Indulge as you please (4 oz. $3.50/6 oz $4.95) – but do it quickly, they’re only there for another 24 days!!
P.S. Skip their chocolates. Though pretty and tempting, their selection of local Michigan Grocer’s Daughter truffles and Katrina Markoff’s Vosges Haute chocolates are both over-priced (at an obnoxious $2.25
per piece) and stale. So too are the bars of chocolate on their shelves. While not necessarily stale, you can find the same brands and baking and eating bars for a fraction of the price at nearby markets.
Zingerman’s Deli & “Next Door”
422 Detroit Street
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109