the chocolate peanut butter gallery

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Visiting Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan

August 5th, 2008

Zingermans

Not the greatest shot, but that’s Zingerman’s Delicatessen in the background, the cafe is in the foreground and in between is an outdoor seating area for patrons to chow down.

The second Taste Tester mentioned going to Michigan for vacation, the first thing that popped into my head was finally getting the chance to visit Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor. We were actually staying about 2 1/2 hours west of there at the Canadian Lakes in Stanwood but luckily it was on the way.

I think I found out about Zingerman’s by coming across one of their products in The Southport Grocery in Chicago a few years ago. I was instantly hooked. I received some of their products including coffee, dipping oil and an incredible chocolate cherry bread for my birthday that year. Shortly after, I purchased Ari Zingerman’s book, Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating which was a feast for me since this was around the time I was really getting into food.

Of course I was quite disappointed when I looked up their store and found out they were all the way in Michigan. Even when I was living in Chicago, I didn’t have a car which made it too far a trip, and now that I’m living in New Jersey, I never expected an opportunity to go.

Well, the gods of gourmet food were on my side and off we went on our road trip. We got up to leave at 5:30 am just so we would make it to Michigan before some of their stores started closing at 6:00 pm. Is that crazy? Sure, but we’re okay with being crazy.

Zingerman’s has a few shops (which I’m still a little confused about so forgive me if I’m wrong) that include a Bakeshop, Delicatessen, Creamery, Cafe and Roadhouse Restaurant. Our first stop (could you guess?) was the Bakeshop.

Zingermans Bakeshop

That pic is only of half of the Bakeshop. The other side has a big case full of more beautiful pastries. Somehow after all this time I’m still a little shy when taking photos in someone’s cafe / restaurant. So I snapped this one quickly while the staff was in the back. Turns out they were very friendly and the girl behind the counter was even from New Jersey. Ah, I felt right at home!

So foregoing self control, I purchased:

Magic Brownies
Cocoa Cake
Cinnamon Rolls
Fresh Fruit Tarts
Cheddar Herb Scone
Italian Bread
Mexican Vanilla Sugar

Are you wondering where the chocolate peanut butter is? I purchased what I believe was the only chocolate peanut butter product there, called the Zingerman’s Original Zzang Bar. Here’s part of the description:

“Starting with a honey nougat made with natural peanut butter, Charlie rolls it up in a sensual caramel made from muscavado brown sugar. The biggest and best peanuts we can find come next, and the whole endeavor’s finished off with a hand dip into a rich bath of 64% dark Ecuadorian chocolate. You’ll make a lot of new best friends when you treat ‘em to this one. Or better yet, get a couple and treat yourself!”

I have a lot to say about this Zzang Bar so I’ll be posting a review of that tomorrow.

While in the Bakehouse trying to figure out if I should go ahead and spend my life savings buying their whole stock of baked goods, in walked Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of the Zingerman’s Deli. I’d read his book, had waited so long to get to see his stores and considered this a one time opportunity, so I introduced myself and had a little chat with him. He was very nice and it was fun for me to talk to someone who’s career I definitely admire. I was a little nervous; I think I started the conversation with, “Hi, you don’t know me, but…” haha, but whatever, it was fun.

Zingermans

After visiting the Bakehouse, we got back in the car for a short drive to the Delicatessen. Taste Tester ordered a pastrami on some very tasty pumpernickel bread and I wandered around experiencing a little over stimulation with all of the beautiful signs around me and gourmet foods. I was really impressed with all of the handmade signs – there were so many of them and they were everywhere!

Zingermans Signs

Zingermans Signs

Zingermans sign

The packaging, menus and flyers were also really well designed and fun. Buying a food product that’s well designed may not make it taste better but it definitely ups the experience, at least for me. This is the only photo I got to take of a treat purchased there (aside from the Zzang bar) because by the time I took photos, everything else had been devoured or at the very least, attacked. Poor baked goods, they never do seem to evade doom.

Zingermans Cinnamon Rolls

Of everything we ate I think the Cocoa Cake was my favorite and sadly disappeared in record time. The Magic Brownies were awesome as well. I never got my hands on a Cinnamon Roll but were told they were also great. I thought I went overboard buying too much at the bakery but a couple days after my visit when most of the stuff was gone, I wished I had bought more.

Maybe someday I’ll get to go back there. Until then, I’ll have to stick with ordering from their website. If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying their pastries or breads, I know they’re a little pricier than what you’ll find in the grocery store, not to mention you have to pay for shipping, but I promise it’s worth it. If you’re not convinced by the drool-worthy descriptions and fun illustrations, check out this interview with Ari. It’s an old one, but gives you a sense of his opinions about food and business and will most certainly turn you into a Zingerman’s fan (if you’re not already one).

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