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On The Heels Of Ari Weinzweig:  Chasing The Tasty Genius Of Zingerman’s Deli In The Burbs

   

WEST BLOOMFIELD, MICHIGAN – I grew up on Zingerman’s Deli… that is after I was lucky enough to find them. It happened so long ago that it almost seems like a dream. I had just moved to back to Michigan from the East Coast and had settled into Ann Arbor in 1985. Michigan is my home state but was born further up North in Muskegon. A2, as it’s known, was very foreign to me. Somehow I was walking aimlessly and checking out the old churches, train stations and was poking around Detroit street.  I passed by a curious brick wedge of a building and could smell bread. This place, whatever it was, seemed to be closed but there was an orange glow in the steamed up window. I peered into the place and could see cheeses hanging from a rack from the ceiling. There were people cleaning up the kitchen. I walked over to the front of the building and the large sign said – Zingerman’s Deli. Instinctively, I knew this place was magical. I made note of it and promised myself I would return.

The deli was only three years old at that time. The Zingerman’s story goes back to 1982 and has grown since them into a $20 million a year business. The focus has always been on quality ingredients and tastes that go far outside the realm of what a traditional deli could bring. The founder Ari Weinzweig  played outside the boundaries of convention and brought exotic tastes in crafted cheeses, artisan breads, imported meats, re-wrote the rules on what a deli could be. Weinzweig has taken this vision and created a brand that includes a Roadhouse restaurant, a creamery, a confectionary, a coffee roasting company, a catering business and some very impressive business books, (and did I mention his cookbooks?).

Needless to say I have been going there ever since. Even though I moved around a lot in my post college years in places like Chicago and New York City I can tell you there is nothing that even compares to Zingermans. It’s famous with me.

I have to tell you that this place is always somewhere on my mind. Every food experience I come into contact with I find myself making comparisons to the Zingerman’s standards. Currently I am living in Novi, Michigan and we have many great things out here too but our deli’s are nothing in comparison to the great Ann Arbor culinary Mecca. Don’t get me wrong , we have quality foods out here too, but the deli’s don’t have that special Zing.

Even when I lived in Chicago I would hit the Jewish delis in my Lakeview neighborhood and although they were good I didn’t make that special connection. In New York I would hit all the big time greats like Zabars, The Carnegie Deli, Katz Deli, The Stage, and Junior’s and nothing really came close to Zingermans. Truly.

As a student of the street I tend to keep my eyes and ears open and am always on the lookout for something new and exciting. That is a good thing too because I happened to find some amazing things here in the burbs make life here a little more pleasant and palatable. Zingerman’s has worked out a deal with the Plum supermarket chain and now we have access to some of that great deliciousness.

PLUM MARKET – WEST BLOOMFIELD

The market is phenomenal. They are an upscale chain that is dedicated to quality. You can walk down any aisle and see that this market is in a league of its own. That being said it is a fantastic place to go for lunch. There is a huge salad and soup bar there that takes up two islands. The hot foods section has some amazing prepared foods that you can take home including entrees and incredible sides. Now there are different kinds of Reuben sandwiches there from Zingermans Deli. The last time I went there the sign was down and I had to ask for one without pointing to what number I wanted.

The staff gladly made me one and it takes about a good ten minutes. This has the incredible corned beef that you can get in Ann Arbor and it is served on that one of a kind rye bread that made Zingerman’s famous. The big yellow sign is down for now but I can tell you what else is on it. This sandwich board also serves Sy Ginsberg Corned Beef sliders, the famous Brooklyn Reuben with pastrami, and a full flavored Vegetarian Reuben that will knock your socks off. I cannot forget the Georgia Reuben with the smoked turkey and coleslaw as it is over the top delicious. Now maybe that big sign is getting an upgrade or something I will try and find out but now you got the lay of the land.

Now you can also buy the loaves of bread in the bakery section and also get an assortment of pies and deserts from the famous deli. This will save you a trip into Ann Arbor in case you don’t feel up for the drive. I take great comfort in knowing that this place is literally just down the street from me. Now that I know that it is around I make it a point to go there more often. Keep an eye out for the gelato too from the Zingerman’s creamery. I am glad to see this place carrying some of my favorite foods from there.

I also found Zingerman’s bread in a couple of other places. Krogers in West Bloomfield carries their bread and other baked goods. You can buy the loaves whole there and have them sliced on the big bread slicer so you can take it home. There are many different types of bread including the onion rye. I really found my bakery Nirvana here and was really ecstatic about it. The Kroger’s in Northville carries the bread there too over on 6 Mile road.

NORTHVILLE, MICHIGAN – ANOTHER ZINGERMANS SIGHTING

I found a coffee house in Northville that proudly serves Zingermans baked goods. There is a sign on the window to this place but the name escapes me. It is next to a family eatery that serves ice cream and it is right across from this bar called, “The Starting Gate” I think. It’s the bar that serves ribs and it is nearby a wine store. Every time I see the Zingerman’s name my eyes and ears perk up and I mentally connect to a high quality experience. It’s how I am wired.

I still make it down to the main Detroit street location from time to time as well as the Zingerman’s Roadhouse restaurant on Stadium Blvd. But when I am in the burbs I keep my eyes opened for even more places where I can get more of my favorites.

WHAT MAKES THE ZINGERMANS BRAND SO HYPNOTIC?
When Zingermans isn’t busy making food they are busy talking about it. Let’s face it these guys are in their own world but it is a world of high dedication and excellence. Everything has its own proper place and function in that environment. It almost as if a foodie periodic table exists because everything they do and promote tends to complement one another. It is sort of like the aged balsamic vinegar and chutneys they have by the bread sample station when you first walk into the deli. There is a hierarchy, a sort of divine order and a purpose for everything that they do. Plus eating their incredible creations makes you feel better from the inside and out.

They have literature that educates their consumer on the wild direction they’re embarking on. It’s not that they are only concerned about creating a solid business for themselves but they are constantly informing the customer on what they’re up to. We have the opportunity to learn with them. As an entrepreneur and a business owner I find that very encouraging. There are many other businesses who can learn and benefit from the kind of consumer education they create and freely give out in the form of newsletters, newspapers, menus and info sheets that you can pick up when you visit.

The customer service is also encouraging. They invite you to learn right along with them. It’s not just a meal, or an experience but more of a journey. At times, it seems more like a quest. I am reminded of the time I discovered their extensive oyster collection at the Roadhouse during a birthday dinner. I was trying to keep my composure but the child in me wanted to taste one of each. I compromised to an extent and settled for half of the oysters featured in my menu.  It’s hard to stay sensible for too long because I want to take on the full epic journey adventure.

So now you get a little more information about this amazing company. When you see the famous Zingerman’s logo at any one of the fine establishments I pointed out in this article remember that  this company is centered on high quality. The other thing I can tell you is the fact that these amazing foods are in the burbs is cause for uproarious celebration.

Good Eating – and Enjoy !!

 

 

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“A VISUAL ASSAULT: REM Dissected Scene By Scene

The bottom video was shot in 1989 and is the closest thing I could find to what the original show opener was like in 1987. This was a departure for REM as much as it was for the audience. Just when you thought you knew the band they changed on you in a new and exciting way. It would take some time to recognize them once again. In the case of, “Document” the album had to grow on me. I noticed this sort of thing happening with the Smiths too.

There was one sequence in the video, not shown in this edition, when the words – “Want” and “Need” come on screen. The words flipped interchangeably and morphed into a strobe that said, “Need Weed” and I remember the crowd going a bit wild over that. This was Ann Arbor after all. There is some talk about the set list being accurate. I do not believe, “Orange Crush” or “Pop Song 89” was performed in 1987. Those songs were released after REM went to Warner Brothers. “Document” was the last album created under the I.R.S. Records label.

There is another version of, “The One I Love” done on the live tour. Stipe starts out with a slow intro and for a minute I thought the whole song would be done slow. It then kicks into the tempo we all know. The stage was also bathed in an eerie red light. How this song got perceived as a love song I’ll never know. It was about a sick love obsession.

Over the years I hear the young kids go, “Oh who cares about that stuff, REM was long before my time.” Trust me, you wish you were there. This show was nothing but historic.

 
 
 
 
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