Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Simple Cherry Tomato Marinara Sauce

To follow up on yesterday’s post on making calzone, here is a simple cherry tomato marinara that you can quickly prepare and serve with your calzone. It is a great light sauce for the spring or summer that's great on pasta, too!


1 yellow onion, diced

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes, sliced

salt and pepper to taste

optional: 3 large basil leaves, sliced


Slowly sauté the diced onion in the olive oil until they are translucent. Keep the heat low to medium to avoid burning. Add the sliced cherry tomatoes and lightly boil until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you have some fresh basil on hand, mix it into the sauce at the last moment so the basil retains its flavor. You could also add dried basil or oregano.

This makes about 1.5 cups of sauce. It can be made a day or two ahead.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Calzone are even easier than pizza to make at home. Pizza can be tricky to slide onto the pizza stone, but the calzone, little packages that they are, help to solve that problem.

Following the Silver Spoon cookbook recipe, I recently made calzone with ricotta, mozzarella, prosciutto and salami. The recipe isn’t available online, but they do offer the Fisherman’s Pizza recipe from the pizza section.

I admit that I cheated (again) and used Trader Joe’s pizza dough. It is simple enough to make, but we had company and I wanted to simplify the process. When I brushed the dough with oil, I added a little salt to the olive oil to help bring out the flavor in the dough.

Like with the pizza, the key to moving the calzone from the wooden paddle and then onto the pizza stone is using corn meal (polenta) underneath the calzone. As you are brushing oil on the dough, filling it, and then folding it over, periodically wiggle the paddle to make sure that it isn’t sticking. If it starts to stick (especially when you are pressing the edges to close the pocket), peel up the bottom and add some more corn meal.

The fun part is deciding what to put inside of your calzone. I went in the traditional direction of cured meats and cheeses, but you can choose anything. It is a great way to use small portions of leftovers like cooked spinach or sausage.

Tomorrow: simple spring marinara recipe to serve with your calzone.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Healthy Breakfast at Home

Yes, advertising executives, we know summer is coming and you think we should be worrying about our figures.

Instead of trying on our “skinny pants” to see what damage winter left behind, let’s be active in our daily lives and work towards health while we plan our meals.

I don’t count calories or measure my food in any way. Living a healthy life daily (i.e. not dieting, but rather integrating healthy meals into your routine) includes fresh fruits and vegetables, limited fatty foods and eating when you’re hungry.

Breakfast is a good place to start. What is your favorite healthy breakfast? I don’t mean that terribly dry and gag-inducing cereal or tasteless “healthy” bread you can only swallow with a full glass of water. I mean that healthy meal that you crave and enjoy while you eat it.

Being on the Greek-kick that we are as we plan our summer honeymoon, I’ve been eating Greek yogurt with fruit and honey for breakfast. (Trader Joe’s offers a less expensive and low-fat version of the yogurt.)

Does this mean I’ve sworn off luxurious brunches and waffles? Of course not! Moderation is the key to everything.

(I’m not a doctor and we all have different needs. For more information on what’s best for your health, you should always speak with your doctor first.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Please Support This Blog

To support this blog, click and order through the Amazon box in the upper right hand corner. You will pay exactly the same amount as you would on any Amazon order while the blog will generate funds to support its daily content.

Easy-peasy, right?

Thank you so much for your support!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Upcoming Holiday Menus: Passover & Easter

I remember my grandfather hiding the matza under cushions on Passover. While it was always a messy discovery, I enjoying eating the remaining (boxed) salted matza smeared with butter. Every Easter, my mother and I would decorate hard boiled eggs with dyes, crayons, markers, stamps and anything else she found in her studio that could be used on an egg.

Nostalgia, family, tradition and food are what comes to mind when we think of holidays. As a new family, my husband and I are actively creating new holiday traditions for ourselves. My contribution tends to be planning the menu too far in advance. Luckily, he’s happy to not only discuss the menu, but also try out some dishes ahead of time.

Passover, starting March 30th, and Easter on April 4th, are close. What are your favorite dishes served on Passover or Easter? Have you already thought about what you’ll serve?

As many of you know, historically Italy had a vibrant and active Jewish population. I’ve been reading Edda Servi Machlin’s cookbook Classic Italian Jewish Cooking looking for inspiration for Passover dishes. Her descriptions of the town where her family originated, Pitigliano in Tuscany, was known as “The Little Jerusalem.” She describes her family’s history as it was connected to the history of the Jewish population in this town and throughout Italy. As for her recipes, she’s the perfect, accessible source for any chef interested in trying new dishes.

Many of her recipes are familiar because of their dual traditional influences. For example, we’ve eaten Jellied Striped Bass (much like gefilte fish patties) and Tomato Bread Soup Peasant Style (papa al pomodoro). The interesting part is how the recipes differ from the recipes we might already follow.

I look forward to trying many new dishes. I’m intrigued by her Spinach and Ricotta Pancakes as well as the Marinated Squash Flowers. I haven’t tried any yet, but they are easy to read and seem easy to follow. I enjoyed the beginning chapters that describe the ingredients and how to use them. I know I’ll be following her instructions on how to prepare an artichoke the next time I make them Roman Jewish Style.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sava's Cafe in Ann Arbor, Michigan

I want Sava's Cafe on State Street in Ann Arbor to be my new favorite restaurant. With the high ceilings, spacious seating arrangement, and menu that includes fresh squeezed juices, potato pancakes and croissants with nutella, it is close.

But, it isn’t quite there yet.

While the menu is indeed NJ-diner-ish (the ultimate compliment for a breakfast spot), the food isn’t always hot or what you'd expect from the menu listing. The first time I went, I tried the potato pancakes and was surprised by their pink hue. They didn’t taste right, either. The waitress told me that they were seasoned with ketchup. Ketchup? Being allergic to the corn syrup in most commercial ketchups, I was surprised and displeased that I’d eaten some of it, since it wasn’t described in that way on the menu. Very kindly and apologetically, the waitress took away the dish. I ordered a toasted croissant spread with nutella which reminded me of Italy (another high compliment.)

Not wanting to give up on the inviting space, I returned a week later and tried one of their creative egg and hash concoctions. With a Mexican twist, it came with chorizo sausage, guacamole and sour cream. The combination of flavors, topped with an egg on top, was delicious, although not as hot as it could have been. My husband had a crepe, which was light and sweet.

Locally minded, they serve Mighty Good Coffee, which can’t be beat, and Knight’s burgers. I look forward to trying lunch or dinner there.

Thanks to the Ann Arbor Chronicle for linking to this review!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Google Translate

For those of you studying Italian, or other languages, there will always be new words or phrases to understand and learn. I’ve recently been introduced to Google Translate and now rely on it.

Most of the online translation services I used before were awkward and even inaccurate. While Google translate is surprisingly correct, I still recommend using it mainly for individual words and short phrases instead of long sentences to help improve accuracy. In particular, idioms won’t usually be correctly translated. In Google’s case, you can help it to improve by clicking on the “Contribute to make a better translation.”

Try it to translate your favorite recipe and let us know how it goes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Online Food Writing Class with Chloe' at FDU

I will be teaching Food Writing this summer through Fairleigh Dickinson University’s online program. The course runs from July 12 through September 17th and will be fully online. You can earn three credits upon completion of the course. Here is the course description:

Food Writing
Do you enjoy reading food magazines and talking about what you ate or are planning to eat? This course will focus on how to write precisely about food. Taste, restaurant environment and the history of the dishes will be considered in the pieces. (No cooking skills required!) Ultimately, good writing is the basis for any strong piece of writing and the skills developed in this class can be transferred to other subject. Readings will include published magazine articles as well as a current book on the subject.

For more information, search FDU’s Webadvisor for Summer Session II. You can look for the course by typing “Miller” into the instructor box and clicking “Distance Learning Classes only.”

I invite you to learn more about FDU’s online programs.

Questions about the course? Don’t hesitate to contact me at ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

If you are interested in other writing classes, please see my list of open classes. I am also available to work privately with you on your writing.  

Friday, March 19, 2010

Greek Food Resources

My husband and I are taking our honeymoon in Greece this summer. To prepare, we’ve been learning about the language, history, culture, myths and food.

My favorite Greek cooking blog Peter Minaki’s Kalofagas, which means "gourmet" in Greek. He offers regular and numerous recipes that look and sound delicious. I can’t wait to try the recipe for Pasta Shells Stuffed with Roasted Red Peppers and Feta.

The cookbook Vefa’s Kitchen has also been helpful.

What’s your favorite Greek food resource?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sushi @ Home and in Ann Arbor, MI

Now that we’ve prepared sushi at home, I think we’ll mostly be eating it out. It was not our easiest cooking adventure, although we did enjoy the results with a glass of chilled Saki.

If you decide to try it at home, I recommend watching these helpful Youtube videos:
Video on how to make sushi
Video on how to make handroll sushi
In the Ann Arbor area, you can buy almost everything you need at reasonable prices at the Hua Xing Asia Market.

The rice requires a bit more attention than other rice, as it needs to be properly cooled and mixed with rice vinegar. Carefully follow the instructions on your sushi rice package.

On recommendations from friends, we tried and fell in love with these two restaurants in the Ann Arbor area: Yotsuba and Godaiko. Both are outside of the downtown area and worth the short drive. Godaiko, next to an enormous Asian food market, has a Tatami room where you can sit on the floor with friends while you feast. Yotsuba is a bit further out and seems more popular; I’d recommend reservations. We were taken by the fresh ingredients, kind service to those of us who had questions about the menu and inventive sushi rolls.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Corned Beef: Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thanks to Epicurious, I made Corned Beef with Cabbage to celebrate the holiday. I was surprised to discover how easy it was to make. Essentially, you slowly simmer the meat, onions and carrots. That’s it! I also bought sauerkraut and made mashed potatoes on the side. With a Guinness, the meal was complete. We’ll have leftovers for sandwiches for days to come, which makes the preparation seem even simpler.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Eating Healthy

I use olive-oil by the heavy jug and cook as much as possible from scratch. Are my husband and I healthy? We could be healthier. I could stop making chocolates and avoid dishes that call for Italian lardo. Still, there are things I prepare and stock up on to help us to feel better and maybe even live longer.

It is all about balance. Do your best to buy fresh, local fruits and vegetables and pair them with healthy meats and grains. Visiting a local farmer’s market can be a fun, family outing. Not all of us, however, have the time to shop at a number of different stores. When you do shop at a major supermarket, do your best to “shop the perimeter,” as loca-vores say. This will help you to avoid the pre-prepared foods in the frozen aisles.

Don’t go crazy. If you are craving something, indulge and eat a little to avoid too much of it later. (Popeye’s anyone?)

Most of us spend our days sitting at our computer working. Sometimes we get bored and start to haphazardly eat. Keep your house/office stocked with healthy snacks to avoid snacking on something “bad” for you. Postpartum doula Elaine Petrowski offers some good ideas for healthy, right-out-of-the-cabinet snacks here. I bought the almond butter she recommended and recently tried it with apple slices. It was delicious.

I have been snacking on more roasted pumpkin seeds (crazy cheap at Trader Joe’s supermarkets) and mixing beets into my salads after reading this article in the New York Times, “The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating.” The nutritional value of each food listed is explained. Tara Parker-Pope writes that pumpkin seeds “are associated with lower risk for early death.” Sounds good!

I find that good organization in the kitchen (making one dish that can transform into altered leftovers later) helps to avoid a reliance on pre-prepared, fatty foods. For example, if you are cooking chicken one night for dinner with a side of mashed potatoes and zucchini, why not cook a few extra pieces? Later in the week, these can become sandwich meat or a different chicken dish with either a curry sauce or marinara topped with some slices of mozzarella. The leftover potatoes and zucchini slices can be mixed into a frittata perfect for breakfast or even dinner. The changed flavors will make it seem as though you are eating new dishes instead of leftovers.

For some more recipe ideas, try these vegetarian dishes from the historic Moosewod Restaurant. I enjoy soups (especially because you can make a lot at once and freeze portions to eat throughout the month) and often make spinach versions. My favorite is from my old standby, The New York Times Cookbook. This Zucchini and Spinach Soup on looks delicious. While you are on the site, try searching by ingredient for inspiration before your food starts to go bad in your fridge.

Today’s post is in response to a reader who asked for some suggestions for healthy foods. Hopefully these quick tips will help to make your kitchen a healthier place and a more user-friendly space, too. I am not a nutritionist, so if you have more specific questions or concerns, speak with your doctor or a certified nutritionist to plan out a diet that works for you.

What is your favorite healthy snack?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sichuan Pork Noodles & The Splendid Table

What is your favorite foodie program to watch, listen to or read? I enjoy cooking and listening to The Splendid Table on Michigan Radio. If I miss an episode, I can download it or catch up through the newsletter.

Since Sunday night is pasta night, last night I swapped the traditional Italian-American “macaroni and gravy” for the Sichuan Pork Noodles from a recent Splendid Table newsletter. The recipe was surprisingly quick and easy. The sauce – a mixture of ground pork with chicken broth, peanut butter, fresh ginger and other flavors, was cooked in one pot while the water boiled for the noodles in another. The result had a kick and was satisfying for a rainy spring night.

I wasn’t the only one who was taken by the recipe. The blog As Kat Knits also tried it – thanks to her for the photo!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Carlyle Grill in Ann Arbor, MI

I’ve been on the hunt for good, fresh ravioli in Ann Arbor. Carlyle Grill’s mushroom ravioli were recommended to me. So, I obediently went to the restaurant and ordered them. The ravioli were alright, but not as delicious as they’d been described. The creamy sauce and the filling were too heavy for the lighter dough and enormous plate.

We started with the fried calamari. Besides good ravioli, I regularly crave fried calamari. This restaurant has transformed the dish into something unique. The calamari is tossed with lemon cream, capers & artichoke hearts. It sounded interesting, but we didn’t enjoy it as much as we would have enjoyed it the traditional manner with marinara on the side. The creamy sauce on the crisp surface of the calamari made the calamari turn mushy. There were also some cucumbers mixed in which didn’t quite match the other flavors.

My husband’s steak with French fries was the hit of the evening. The steak was perfectly cooked and the fries were crispy on the outside. I stole some of his dinner before packing up most of my dinner to take home.

Like a lot of the independently owned restaurants on the outskirts of Ann Arbor, Carlyle Grill is built to look like a chain restaurant. It was comfortable enough, although a bit loud since it attracted a number of families with children.

If you decide to try it, be sure to check the website as they offer some discounts. It is located in the same shopping center as the Quality 16 movie theater and combines a discount with the theater.

Where have you had good ravioli in Ann Arbor?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pilar's Tamales in Ann Arbor, MI

Where I lived in northern New Jersey, you could eat almost anything cooked by someone who grew up in that country, or the culture, of the dish. I remember one student at a university where I taught bringing the class fresh empanadas that her grandmother made just for us (and her niece’s grade? Maybe, but they were delicious.) My parents brought me to an annual Cuban pig roast in the summers. In particular, there was no lack of fabulous Latin American food.

Here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, of course, there’s less. After a positive article in the local Edible magazine and driving by its colorful exterior, my husband and I ate lunch at Pilar’s Tamales recently.

As you can see from the photos, we ordered entirely too much: mixed plate of tamales (beef, pork and beans with cheese), one pork tamale, pork papusa and fried plantains. We shared an imported Coca-Cola made with real sugar instead of corn syrup. Needless to say, we were stuffed. As the menu describes, menu, almost everything is made there and they use many natural ingredients.

It is a small space that seems designed to mostly serve take-out. Since we were the only ones there, we comfortably ate at the counter. Everything was delicious and we enjoyed eating something not only authentic, but less common for this town. We look forward to going back and trying the other dishes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ann Arbor Cooks! Knife Skills Class

I’ve wanted to take a knife skills class for years. Ok, that sounds creepy, but it’s true.

In Italy, I often found myself struggling with a piece of fruit while the Italians peeled and sliced their fruit with a few flashes of the knife left over from lunch. It was a mystery to me how they did it so quickly and never had to run for a Band-Aid.

After taking the Knife Skills class taught by Natalie Marble, Owner of Ann Arbor Cooks!, my husband and I are now qualified to return to the Old Country. We can julienne, batonnet, brunoise and dice with the best of them. Ok, I’m not sure if those are all really verbs, but we learned a lot.

Preparing dinners, we have been slicing with the right knives at home and even standing properly while we do it. We practiced enough in class that we started to not only learn, but also remember the lessons. Starting with a large platter of vegetables and ending with a chicken, we used a number of different knives and techniques.

We each had our own comfortable workspace and Natalie was not only generous with offering personal assistance, but she was also quite patient when someone, I won’t mention names, kept regressing to her old ways.

I won’t give away her secrets; you’ll have to sign up for the class. If you do, you might see us there. We are eyeing some of her future cooking classes.

Disclaimer: As a former vegetarian and generally squeamish person, I wanted to – really wanted to – cut the raw chicken. As I sunk my fingers into the meat, however, I was displeased by the activity. I’m sorry I’m not the kind of person who can do that, but I am glad that I married someone who enjoyed the challenge. He had the opportunity to try twice since I shared my chicken with him.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reader Comments on Zingerman's (Part 2 of 2)

We’ll be returning to Zingerman’s for a Special Dinner Do-Over on April 13th. Will they be able to meet expectations? I asked readers to share their thoughts on Zingerman’s. Based on their experiences, it looks like it could go either way.

You can read Part 1 of the reader comments here.

If you would like to submit your thoughts on Zingerman’s, please use the Comments section below or email me (Chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.)

Going to Zingerman's is like going inside someone's crazy. But there is good food to be had until you can escape!

          - KC Trommer

I have tried to be excited about Zingermans, really I have.

Met for coffee and pastry a few times with friends when we first moved here from NYC -pretty good. Had a pastrami sandwich about a year ago - on stale dried out bread. No thank you!

I do like their sesame semolina very much, though, and will pay the price for it on special occasions. Had one near Roadhouse experience – walked in. It was very loud and very crowded, smelled like the boardwalk so we didn’t put our names on the 2 hour waitlist.

          - Laurie

Liz {my wife} is a Zingeraddict. I've also grown to love some of the more unique dishes, like "twigs and berries" and the trout salad.

          -Fabio Rojas

I agree about ZIngerman's being too pricey except as a treat. But I would like to add that it is a local treasure in terms of its support for wholesome, local food. I know that the folks of Locavorious use a Zingerman's kitchen facility. Instead of being cutthroat, Zingerman's appears quite supportive of other local food innovators.

          -Bonnie Bucqueroux

When I worked in Ann Arbor at the medical center I went there for lunch or after work for a sandwich MAYBE two times in 5 years. Much like Whole Foods being "Whole Paycheck", I referred to Zingerman's Deli as the "best $13 sandwich" in town. It is an iconic place though and I just took a visiting friend there (to deli and roadhouse) when we were in town for the Folk Festival. As MK said, I wouldn't head there for a sandwich typically, given the other great places around. I used to stop there occasionally (in the nine years since I worked in AA) when we were in town to pick up a specific thing like bacon, loaf of bread, cheese. In the last five years, the availability of Zingerman's products in Lansing has expanded greatly. There is daily fresh delivery of bread to the East Lansing Food Co-op and I can get quite a few of the Creamery Cheeses locally at ELFCO and the City Market. Nueske's bacon was another draw to Zingerman's, but I can even find that locally now. The one item I would head to the deli for that I can't get here anymore is the gelato. If you haven't tried the Burned Sugar Gelato, it is incredible. The E.L. Food Co-op carried it for awhile and I think Blaine and I were the only ones to buy it. By the pint it is pretty pricey and unless you had tried it before, you wouldn't know what to expect and want to make the investment in it.

When I was in town for the Folk Festival last month, I finally ate at the Roadhouse. We had to make early reservations because of the FFest crowds and ended up with the lunch menu. The prices were much less than I had anticipated on the dinner menu, which was a bonus. We had a great meal and excellent service and I thought I blogged on it, but I guess it is still "in the hopper" right now. I need to get to that. The brisket was great, grits incredible and pimento mac and cheese pretty tasty too.

I would return to the Roadhouse again, but honestly there are so many places I miss down there and so many new ones to try, I won't race back. I am going to be in AA for a week at the end of the school year for a mentorship/internship experience at the U. I will likely check Zingerman's schedule for classes or tastings, but won't fight my way through the crowd or make the financial commitment of a sandwich there.


I ate at Zingerman's Roadhouse this summer. I had the pork sandwich with South Carolina mustard BBQ sauce. The sauce was unique and made the meal.

          -Gregory Koger

We've been to all of the Zingerman's stores at one time or another. You have to understand that we live 3.5 hours away from Ann Arbor, and besides The Ark, Zingerman's is usually our destination. (We may throw in some gambling or spiritually-related event, but Zingerman's is our main destination.) We usually bring a cooler with us for the special cheeses, potato salad, and meats in the cases at the Deli and have at least one meal at the Roadhouse and usually split a sandwich at the Deli.
We visited all of the stores the last time we were there in April of '08 and received a Zingerman's road trip t-shirt at the end as a parting gift.

The service is outstanding. We chatted with one of our servers once about the steps they have to take to become a server. It's quite impressive to hear what they have to do. If there is any complaint, it's that they tend to hover, which I suspect they're trained to do. We're used to and enjoy the European way of table service: don't interrupt and don't hover, but DO pay attention to the customer to see when/if they need something.

The food has always been outstanding. At our ripe old age (mid-50s and early 60s) we've encountered several best-evers at the Roadhouse: meat loaf, mac 'n' cheese, ribs, for starters.

We met one of the owners at the Roadhouse when he came to our table delivering a lagniappe (Ari) and he was soon showing Bob around to look at his salt and pepper shaker collection after he found out that Bob was a collector. Nice guy and definitely involved in his day-to-day operations.

We had the Creamery to ourselves on that roadtrip t-shirt day & the person helping us out took his time with us. We ended up sampling just about every cheese in the entire store and of course brought a lot home, which is their goal. We just used some guanciale last night in a beef roast from that trip & it held up!

They're not cheap! The catalog is even more expensive... but we've sent gifts across the US from Z's and never had a problem. Apples to CA, olive oils to Oregon, gift baskets to VA and NJ.

My mouth is watering..... gotta get back soon!

          -Jan Patetta

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reader Comments on Zingerman’s (Part 1 of 2)

We’ll be returning to Zingerman’s for a Special Dinner Do-Over on April 13th. Will they be able to meet expectations? I asked readers to share their thoughts on Zingerman’s. Based on their experiences, it looks like it could go either way.

If you would like to submit your thoughts on Zingerman’s, please use the Comments section below or email me (Chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.)

PS: There were so many responses that I’ll be posting a handful everyday for the next few days.

The Roadhouse or the "deli?" Either way, I'd say underwhelmed, overcharged, and often patronized by staff who feel the need to share too much about the origins of the food or their recs on the food when I never asked!
          - Leslie Hinkson

I have only been once and that was the deli several years ago and the service was ok but they did not have the first 3 things we ordered for the kids (ordered off their menu) so we left, never to return.

          - Shayne Jovicevic

I love Zingerman’s. Don’t eat there often, but think the quality is impeccable.

Deli—best corned beef around (and don’t get the lean, if you need lean you shouldn’t be eating corned beef)
Deli—take friends from out of town and family a few times a year, but can’t afford to frequent too often

Bread—YUM….love it, trying to learn to make my own

Cheese—love the cheese, and it’s not that expensive, I make my own mozzarella and for $7 raw milk plus my time I get 2 balls, vs $10 for two of theirs (and their fresh mozz is the best I can find in town other than homemade)

Roadhouse---you gotta know how to order….I always get the kid sized burger and fries and it is plenty and YUM

They will always give you a taste of the sides, so fill up that way if you need more

I add and delete ingredients to get the perfect salad—and it is always delish

I do think they are pricey for things like fried chicken when that is all you get with fries--for the prices they charge they should include a vegetable (but again, ask for a taste and you’re set)

It’s pretty cool when Ari pours your water and busses your table…with a smile and nice chatter with the kids

Ok, now I’m hungry again!

          - Marnie Reid

We'll go to Zingerman's for a special treat. I don't tend to eat out much these days, but if I do, I want the food and service to be high quality, and I find that at both the deli and the Roadhouse for the most part. Yes, there have been off days, but if we ask them to fix something they always will. I don't like their coffee, but that's just personal preference rather than my thinking it's "bad".

I love what Zingerman's does for the community and I like many of their business practices. I also love the variety of foods I can learn about there, even if I can't afford them. They're great for ideas.

My faves: the dark chocolate or John Do Ya? (Gianduia) gelato, Apricot/cream cheese strudel, Chocolate chess pie, gingerbread coffee cake, the new Peace sandwich, just about any chicken sandwiches, their old pickles, breakfast at the Roadhouse, especially the grits and bits waffles, Roadhouse Monday night burger/salad special, Roadhouse fish (as a VERY special treat), any Roadhouse cheese boards, the Louis salad at the Roadhouse, Roadhouse fried chicken.

I love Zingerman's breads, but I make most of my own bread.

I'm a fan of Zingerman's bagels.

We, too, had a not-fabulous experience at a "special" dinner, but it was the recent Italian one at the deli. There were things that were wonderful and other things that weren't. I know if we'd complained, again, they would have offered us something. In the big scheme of things, it wasn't that important, it was more a matter of taste issues, and again, the things that were fabulous (the antipasto plate, the pasta and the spinach salad) were truly fabulous.

          - Jennifer Haines

We often go to the Roadhouse as our restaurant of choice. It's one of the very few places that my son with food allergies can order off the menu. Chef Alex has always been willing to make anything Nicholas wants without soy or dairy. I've been pretty impressed. I also LOVE their greens, just can't do them like that at home! Can't say I've had a bad meal there. My husband was suspicious of a $10 burger, but once he got to the cheese menu he cooled off a bit. Now he has no problem paying the $10.
We exclusively eat Zingerman's bread at home. Yes, pricey, but just can't imagine every going back to grocery store bread. We often get a cake for special occasions - to die for, the icing tastes like actual food instead of whatever most birthday cake frosting is made out of.

The deli isn't near anything I do regularly. I'm a huge sandwich fan, but if I want a really good one I tend to go to Morgan and York which is more convenient for me.

The collection of companies has always been very generous donating food for non-profits and Chef Alex even volunteered as a guest chef for a fundraiser I organized - he only charged us for the food.

          -Victoria Bennett



Bridgewater cheese

All the other cheeses (ha!)

Bread, esp. baguettes & the cranberry-pecan & bostoks

The coffee-place serves cubano which impressed my hubby

All the people who work there seem super nice and really engaged in life, which is awesome. This makes it really enjoyable for me to shop there. (Usu. the creamery/bakehouse/coffeeroasters, not the shop in Kerrytown. That one's too crowded most of the time for me to find enjoyable.)

The theme meals at the Roadhouse. We went to the Irish one. It was wonderful.

Giving back to the community.

Don't love:

I'm not a sandwich fan so I don't choose to go to the deli much

I'm not a fan of the types of soups they usually make; I wish they made other kinds because soup is one of my favorite things & they'd do a fantastic job!

I'm not a fan of the American food on the Roadhouse menu so I tend not to go there either, though the one time I did it was good if spendy. (The things on my "love" list may be spendy too, in others' view; I find them worth it to me.)

          - Suzie Heiney

I really like it. I don't go there often but I can't say I go anywhere very often. I like to take some tomatoes from the garden, a garlic clove and some basil and then get a little jambon serrano, a baguette and I ask them for a little olive oil. We also order a ball of fresh mozzarella and put it on the sandwich with the garlic, basil, jambon serrano, olive oil and tomato (preferably a romano). Then we can go and have a picnic somewhere. Peel the garlic, rub on the baguette, drizzle on the olive oil and add slices of jambon, tomato and basil.

Just like Spain!

They really give a lot back to the community. They buy from local farmers, when possible. They donate frequently to various groups, etc. etc. etc. I'll admit, when I started going there in '84 or '83? it wasn't as expensive but I still love it and have regular cravings for #13 - Sherman's Sure Choice.

          - Jennifer Kangas

We've eaten at Zingerman's Roadhouse several times and loved it! Everything we've eaten has been delicious; for carnivore and vegetarian, appetizer lover, beer taster, wine with everything person, and desert lover, it has something you will come back for as often as you can. But it is pricey, very pricey, for some things, even though it ends up being worth the cost.

          - Christine Lord

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chicago’s Paterno’s Pizza: Great Pizza, Pasta and an Incredible place to de-vegginize

Thank you to JoAnne Pavin for today’s post. She is a Chicago area holistic health practicioner, educator and writer. Her mission os to inform people that who we eat with and how we eat is just as important as what we eat. Check out her company Solutions to Health and her food blog A Table To Eat At.

After the last ten years of struggling with my vegetarian lifestyle, I found nothing more worthy of de-veggi-nizing myself than an Incredible Beef sandwich from Paterno’s Pizza in Chicago! Now, let me set the record straight, I am a true herbivore; but it was love at first bite when I sunk into this juicy meat delight. I stopped eating red meat over 20 years ago, but the Incredible Beef is a reason to start again.

You might think, what’s the big deal about beef and bread? It starts with the choice of ingredients and the people behind the recipe. John Paterno, a long time family friend and owner, says it comes from knowing how to choose quality beef, and what cuts are tender and tastiest. He explains “it starts with the shoulder or chuck and moves into the rib... you want the part (of the cattle) that provides the most flavor.” I don’t know if it is the flavor of the beef, the juice, or the soft buttery garlic bread it comes on that I love the most, or the fine melted mozzarella cheese, sweet roasted green peppers, and Giardiniera that grace the top! All the fine ingredients in the world can make a sandwich, but I personally believe it is the energy of the people behind it that make it so good.

Paterno’s is a family owned business since 1954. Josephine and Santo Paterno came to the United States from Sicily in 1938 with their two sons, John and Paul. They originally opened a liquor store, one of the largest in Chicago, but food was in their Italian roots and so the evolution began. They made a small carry out area in their store for pizza and sandwiches which eventually grew into a full size kitchen and restaurant. Today a full menu includes Santo and Josephine’s homemade recipes consisting of pizza, pasta, beef, sausage, meatballs, soups and much more. Since Santo’s passing in 2000, John and Paul and their daughters run the business, with Josephine, in her 90’s, still there every day making the soups and sauces.

My dad and John are grade school classmates, and long time friends. Dad and I recently went to pay John a visit and of course to eat some great food. It may be the retro 60’s P A T E R N O sign or the 70’s style bar that makes you feel like you’re in a time warp, but when food speaks for itself, who needs fancy ambience?! It certainly is a place where they’re not judging you on looks and you better not be judging them. After all it’s good food and good prices that keep you in business for over 50 years!

I am there for the Incredible Beef again, but decide I can’t pass up the pizza. With homemade dough and sauces, you are certain to welcome something new to your taste buds. In other words, it’s not just your run of the mill pizza. The thin crust is flavorful, with added crisps that make an extra crunch. The oregano, basil and a hint of garlic are apparent in the sauce, which is neither too salty, nor too tangy, and used in ample amounts, there is nothing worse than a pizza without enough sauce! The topping ingredients are fresh, not canned, or overcooked. If you are a meat lover, they have homemade meat balls, fresh sausage and pepperoni. Finally, real grated Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh red peppers make the cake! Or in this case, the pizza pie.

And to make the best of this feasting visit, I decide to stuff in a little linguini and clams with red sauce, which my Dad was having. It certainly is “all in the sauce”. A perfect consistency, neither too thick nor too watery, the marinara sauce is mixed with a perfect balance of clams which were obviously sautéed in butter and garlic before being tossed on top of perfectly cooked linguini. To accompany your meal, they offer many Italian wines, bottled and draft beers, or full liquor bar. The Sam Adams I had partnered well with the pizza.

Paterno’s Pizza, a place rich in history and in flavor, you’ll find a warm atmosphere, good people and great food. Leave your fancy attire at home. You’ll be more comfortable, especially after you stuff yourself with pizza, pasta and of course the Incredible Beef ! (sorry there is no picture of the beef I ate it too fast!)

Visit Paterno's Pizza, 5303 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, Illinois.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reprint: Zingerman’s Bacon Brunch

In the spirit of sharing Zingerman’s experiences, I’m reprinting this blog post from March 28, 2009. (Isn’t it sweet? It was so long ago that my husband was only my fiancé.)

That was one amazing bacon brunch.

The Buttermilk Biscuits with Chocolate-Bacon Gravy remains on the brunch menu, so you can try it for yourself. We’ve had it a few times and it is always stellar. With the recent publication of Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon, you can be assured that there will future bacon-related events.


I am now a Zingerman’s convert. I resisted for a while (if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I generally avoid agreeing with crowds), but after eating bacon-enhanced food for two hours at today’s Bacon & Brunch with Ari Weinzweig, I’m in with Zingerman’s.

The brunch and Ari’s talk on bacon, was co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor Book Festival. In May, Ari will be on a panel with other foodie authors discussing his book, Guide to Better Bacon: Stories of pork bellies, hush puppies, rock’n’roll music and bacon fat mayonnaise.

The meal started out with Zingerman’s Bakehouse Bacon-Cheddar Scones and American Fried Bread. The bread was fried in, you guessed it, bacon fat. I have never eaten a more luscious piece of fried bread in my life. (My fiancé noticed a few people at the end looking in the baskets for more bread and snatching an extra piece or two.)

We were then treated to South Carlolina Gold Rice Grits and Bits Waffle and Hangtown Fry (eggs with bacon and oysters mixed in) with Bacon Hash. The hash was particularly smooth and bursting with flavor. The waffles had crispy bacon bits on top. The bacon fat, which was the base for most of what we ate this morning, absorbs the flavors of the other ingredients and allows them to blossom.

Don’t fret, vegetarians. There was a tofu bacon option for you.

Then we had a bacon tasting. Now, I might not have found a physician in Ann Arbor yet, but I’m sure she wouldn’t have approved of a plate of bacon. Still, this morning was like a bacon holiday, so who was I to resist?

I had no idea that there were so many different kinds of bacon. I know that my father likes thicker slices of bacon and I tend to buy the less smoky organic bacon at Trader Joe’s. Ari talked about customers who know about different kinds of cheeses and wines, but have a hard time describing their favorite bacon. He suggested buying a variety of types of bacon and serving them at home to guests. (Is it too late to change our wedding menu to include more bacon?)

My favorite was Benton’s. It is the second to the last one on the plate. It originates in eastern Tennessee and is dry cured and smoked over hickory.

We ended with Buttermilk Biscuits with Chocolate-Bacon Gravy. My goodness, these were delicious. While I tried to hold back and not finish each plate offered, I wanted to lick this plate clean. The sweet-savory flavors shut off all my other senses so I could focus on the striking taste. It reminded me of the sweet-sour combination of a sea salt caramel, only chocolate was involved.

Throughout the meal, Ari shared his expertise with bacon. He shared some personal stories along the way. Ari grew up in a Kosher household and remembers eating fairly unremarkable beef bacon as a child. Most of the food that he sells at Zingerman’s is something he discovered, rather than something he grew up with.

About bacon’s importance, Ari stressed, “bacon is to North American cooking what olive oil is to Mediterranean food.” According to his research, bacon has been big since the beginning in America. It crosses almost all ethnic and cultural (although not religious) lines. The Europeans brought bacon with them and even influenced the Native American cooking. In the South, he said, you will almost always find a jar of bacon fat by the stove (not refrigerated) and it would be eaten in all seasons.

Zingerman’s kindly shared recipes from the upcoming book. I know I can’t wait until the book comes out to read more.

Have you eaten at Zingerman’s? I’d love your thoughts on your experience.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Crispy Waffles with Salted Caramel Coulis

Homemade caramel has always evaded me (think hardened sugar on the bottom of what was once a perfectly fine pot.) This recipe for a salted caramel coulis from Bon Appétit was surprisingly easy. With the addition of heavy whipping cream and butter, the caramel didn’t harden the way other recipes have.

The salt taste wasn’t very prominent. I might add more the next time to help add to the contrasting flavors.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spaghetti with a Cali Twist: Gluten-Free, Vegan by Guest Blogger Chloe Lauer

Thanks to Chloe Lauer for today’s gluten-free, vegan twist on a classic Italian dish. She is a health coach, urban planner, and yogi in San Francisco, CA. Chloe gathers cooking inspiration from what is beautiful and fresh at the weekly farmer’s market, and from memories of favorite childhood meals. For more recipes, check out her blog, Zest For Life Today.

Spaghetti is a classic Italian dish. For many, it evokes feelings of comfort -- memories of family meals shared around a table, or, perhaps, reminiscences of a cherished time abroad, savoring the flavors and scents of authentic Italy. Either way, thoughts of spaghetti bring smiles to our faces.

What happens when one discovers an allergy to wheat or chooses to eat a diet free from animal products, for whatever reason? Are we to forsake the very foods that bring us joy?

Do not fret, my friends. There is magic in the air – it’s called….(drum roll)…the spaghetti squash! When cooked, what looks like your average squash transforms into long, thin strands that quite resemble noodles! While they have a crunchier texture than wheat pasta, the experience of eating this squash can satisfy even the most entrenched comfort-food cravings.

Are you ready to give it a go?

Ingredients (local and organic preferred; all measurements approximate):

1 spaghetti squash

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup chopped white onion

½ cup grated carrots

1.5 cups sliced brown button mushrooms

2 cups sliced tomatoes

1 cup organic marinara sauce (optional – feel free to use more tomatoes instead)

¼ cup red wine

1.5 cups shredded kale

2 tablespoons dried oregano (or finely chopped fresh)

2 tablespoons dried basil (or finely chopped fresh)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preparing the squash:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the squash in half and remove the stingy middle portion containing the seeds (you can save the seeds to roast – makes a good snack). Place each half face down in an inch of water in your baking dish. (You may need to use two dishes, as I did, if yours are on the smaller side.) Bake for about 45 minutes, or until you can easily push a fork through the outer skin. Drain the water out of the dish. With a fork, pull the flesh of the squash out – it will turn into spaghetti-like strands. Set aside.

Preparing the sauce:

Chop the onion, shred the carrots and kale, and slice the mushrooms and tomatoes. Get out the olive oil, marina, and herbs. Heat a frying pan to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onions, and carrots. Sauté until the onions are transparent. Add the mushrooms and cover for a minute or two. Then add the tomatoes, marina sauce, red wine and herbs. Cover again and simmer until the tomatoes are soft and the liquid of the wine is cooked down. Finally, add the kale and simmer just until the kale is a vibrant green. Don’t overcook the greens.

Putting it all together:

Dish up the spaghetti squash into bowls. Top with a generous portion of sauce. Finish with sea salt and pepper to taste. If you’re not vegan, feel free to add Parmesan cheese!


Take a deep breath. Observe the beauty of what you have prepared. Feel the steam on your face. Smell the fresh scents of delicious, healthy nourishment…slowly, take your first bite. Chew thoughtfully. What do you think? Does this gluten-free, vegan twist satisfy your need for Italian comfort food? Or does it belong in another category entirely? Please share your experiences!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Zingerman’s Roadhouse Weekly Staff Tasting

A Special Dinner do-over invitation *and* an invitation to a staff tasting of the weekly specials? I couldn’t resist.

Every week, the Zingerman’s Roadhouse chefs share their carefully crafted, themed weekly specials with the staff. They describe the ingredients and sometimes the origins of the ingredients. After tasting a bite of each dish, the staff can better describe them to customers.

This week’s specials revolved around fish: everything from fried smelt to oatmeal crusted skate wing. With the skate, the chef displayed how the customers will be able to very easily debone the fish with one motion.

Drinks weren’t forgotten. The coffee flavor of the week and a new wine offering were also available for tasting. Monthly wine tastings are available for the staff to learn more about the menu.

Always Italian-leaning, my favorite was the Grilled Fennel-Spiced Amberjack that was served with a risotto-crab cake. I’m not one for fennel, but the taste wasn’t overwhelming and the risotto was deliciously smooth and flavorful.

When you return to the Roadhouse, you can be assured that the staff is familiar with the offerings. Thanks to the ever-gracious Events Manager Joanie Mallory for the invitation!