Zingerman’s is an Ann Arbor Institution.  Started in 1982 as a Deli focused on superior quality of food, it has grown into a family of small businesses around town, including a Bakehouse, a Creamery, a Roadhouse, and a mail order catalog.

A sandwich at Zingerman’s Deli isn’t just an ordinary sandwich.  It’s on fresh-baked bread, with hand-made cheeses and the finest quality spreads. (I should also mention that all this fine quality is baked into the price.  Expect to pay a minimum of $10-$15 for a sandwich.)

Although Zingerman’s is not shy about their love for meat, there are TEN different vegetarian sandwiches to choose from (3 of which are vegan too!!!), in addition to a variety of veggie salads and sides.

Although I have been trying to eat less dairy lately, my memories of the Leo’s Friendly Lion sandwich from a few years ago overcame me, and I simply HAD to order it.  Fire-roasted chiles, avocado spread, and loads of cheese, grilled to perfection? Yes, please!

 

However, as yummy as my sandwich was, it didn’t live up to my memory of it from the past.  I think my cleaner style of eating has changed my tastes and I found myself wishing I’d ordered the Viva Las Vegan instead (see picture of menu above).

One thing that exceeded my expectations, however, was their Moroccan Carrot Spread. It was a light, fluffy spread with a sultry smoky flavor, made of carrots, sweet potatoes, house-made harissa spice mix, olives, and lemon juice.  (tip: if you order this, be sure to order a side of foccacia crisps.  I didn’t think to, so I ate my dip with a spoon).

Other hits at the table included a sandwich with Roasted Asparagus, mushrooms, and cheese, a Noodle Kugel, and Macaroni and Cheese.  And isn’t that salad gorgeous?

  

Overall, we were all satisfied with our meals, though since the sandwiches were so heavy and pricey, I’m okay with the fact that it might be a while before I’m able to go back. 

Next, we drove a couple of miles down the road to Zingerman’s Bakehouse and Zingerman’s Creamery.  In fact, we arrived at the Creamery just in time for their Sunday 2pm tour!  For just $5, we got to spend an hour learning about how cheese…and gelato is made, including samples.  The only down side?  The cheese making room is about 90 degrees Fahrenheit and humid! (unfortunately, I missed the explanation of why!)

 

At Zingerman’s they truly make their cheese by hand.  Additionally, they use local Michigan milk, and the lowest legal temperature for pasteurization (to preserve some of the beneficial enzymes).  Below, our tour guide shows how Mozzarella is made (notice, she’s wearing galoshes).  30 minutes later, after a soak in brine, we were eating it – yum!

But our favorite part was the Gelato.  This was the richest, creamiest, chocolatiest gelato that I’ve ever tasted.

       

Did I mention that the $5 ticket for the tour also serves as a $5 gift certificate for the cheese store?  It’s essentially a free tour with $5 purchase.  They even let us combine our tickets towards a single purchase.

And you don’t have to live in Ann Arbor to try their cheese.  The cheese can be ordered online from Zingerman’s Mail Order.  Additionally, I’ve spotted it in Chicago at City Provisions Deli, which features the best artisanal regional foods.

Lastly, we popped into the Zingerman’s Bakehouse next door to pick up a Chocolate Sourdough souvenir.  Their bread also freezes well and when re-heated in the oven has the perfect crusty exterior and soft interior.  This loaf had a wonderful sourdough flavor and giant chunks of deep chocolate.  It is a treat for breakfast or dessert, and is good enough on it’s own – no butter or margarine necessary.  The bread can also be purchased from  Zingerman’s Mail Order, and makes a great gift!

  

And then, with our stomach’s full, we said a fond farewell to Ann Arbor, and I hope we’ll be back soon!  

A special thank you to Krin & Etan for a fun weekend full of Ann Arbor’s best!

What’s the best Food Souvenir you’ve ever purchased?

Do you ever send food as a gift?