Thursday, April 2, 2009

Manna from Heaven: Guanciale & Zingerman's

John & Nino's Homemade Guanciale

A wise man once said that you get back from the universe the energy you put into it, or maybe that was Oprah. I started this blog as a simple outlet for my passions in life: food, wine & the Adorable Monster. But so many people have been reading and saying the nicest things in the world. And just this week, gifts rained down on my doorstep and into my mail box like manna from heaven. I'm so blown away by the generosity of spirit that I just had to blog about it! I've always said that one of the best things about food is that it's meant to be shared with others, and this has never been more evident than this week.

The first gift came courtesy of the Adorable Monster. One of the best things about having a dog is that it's introduced us to our neighborhood in a whole new way. Since getting the Monster, I've met so many of our neighbors I never knew, but I've especially bonded with other dog owning peeps. There's Bowser, a pit bull mix, across the street, and then there's the Monster's favorite, Nino, a beautiful, furry black rescue dog that walks by our house frequently, often accompanied by one of his two owners. After weeks of small talk, I finally struck up a conversation about food with Nino's owner, John. As it turns out, we are both passionate cooks and foodies. John quickly described to me how he had an entire freezer dedicated to meat storage and that he was currently curing his own Guanciale, an unsmoked, bacon-like cut of meat made from pork jowls.

I've often read about Guanciale, an ingredient not often found in the U.S., but very popular in parts of Europe, particularly Italy. It's most well known for being the key ingredient in pasta carbonara. In the U.S. pancetta is typically used in its place, but recently Mario Batali's father has begun importing it to us (thank you Mario). I've often read about it, longing to try it, but have never had the opporunity, until this week when I opened my mail box to discover that John & Nino had generously left us a hunk of their prized, homemade Guanciale. After doing a happy dance with the Monster, I immediately snapped a photo on my phone and sent it off to my Top Chef Brother, knowing he was the only other person in my life that would appreciate my pork jowl gift, given that he regularly butchers his own pigs to make salumi. He wrote back calling guanciale "an amazing product" and urging me to make pasta with it. Trust me, I plan on it! So look for that dish coming up in the next week.

I thought my week couldn't get any better after the pig gift, but then yesterday I came home to discover a very exciting package laying on my doorstep. The label proclaimed that it heralded from Zingerman's, the best deli in the whole world, if you ask me. Just the day before, after my lunch at Clementine, I'd been pining after Zingerman's, wishing in vain for one of their world famous sandwiches. They're so good that even Gayle King ventured to Ann Arbor, MI on the Oprah show solely to eat one. I had the pleasure of dining on them frequently throughout my college years, as Kuzak, who attended college in Ann Arbor, both introduced me to Zingerman's and returned with me often. In fact, we have a wedding in Michigan in July, and I'm excited because I plan to sneak in a side trip to Zingerman's no matter how far I have to drive. It's that good.

Zingerman's Package - Reuben Sandwich Treasure Chest

Quickly, I rushed the package inside and discovered that Kuzak's brother and the Chicago Foodie had sent us a Zingerman's Reuben Sandwich kit as a thank you gift for hosting them over the weekend. This is one of the best gifts I've ever received! Shipped overnight and packed inside styrofoam with ice was: 1 loaf Jewish rye bread, corned beef, Russian dressing, coleslaw, swiss cheese, pickles, potato salad and 2 magic brownies! Also, included were instructions on how to prepare their famous sandwich. I literally can barely wait until dinner tonight (I confess that I've already eaten one of the brownies). I'll be assembling and blogging our sandwiches, so stay tuned. And for everyone looking for a great, unique gift, this fits the bill in spades!

Zingerman's Booty

Also, if you're not familiar with Zingerman's, now is the time. Check them out. Besides their sandwiches, they carry world famous artisanal products that you cannot find anywhere else. The Chicago Foodie, knowing my affinity for honey, also included a lovely specialty honey that I'm sipping my tea right now. So think you to everyone for their kindness - and gifts of food & love. I can't wait to enjoy them and to share them with you here. I'll be making Zingerman's Reubens and also Pasta Cabonara with Guanciale!

422 Detroit Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

(888) 636-8162

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