The weekend before last, Jeff and I drove to Ann Arbor, Michigan to visit his brother Kevin who is getting his PhD in physics at the University of Michigan (yes, Kevin does science).
The drive is about 8 hours not including stops. We left Friday – Thursday was both of our last days at work! We got in and had a late dinner at Zaaman, a cheap and tasty Lebanese place. I got mujaddara, a dish I had never heard of, but that I thoroughly enjoyed.
On day two we stopped by the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market in Kerrytown, where we procured cherries and cinnamon rolls.
Next we stopped at Zingerman’s Deli. I had heard a lot of hype about Zingerman’s. It has been described by many as the best deli in the country, and of course I had to see for myself.
It’s pretty small inside, and you had to stand in a line to get inside so you could stand in line to order your sandwich. The line moved fast though, and still didn’t give us enough time to decide before we got inside. The sandwich board is rather daunting, though being vegetarian I was lucky to only have about ten delicious-looking options. I went for the Leo’s Friendly Lion, which has avocado, roasted New Mexico piquillo peppers, Wisconsin muenster cheese, and tomato on farm bread.
It was delicious as promised. All the ingredients were obviously top-notch, and it was grilled to perfection. After savoring our sandwiches, we went back for some samples. The thing about Zingerman’s, which sets it above almost anywhere else in my mind, is they let you try anything. Sure, you’ve been in cheese shops where you can try a bunch of things, but have you been in a food store that will grab you a sample of literally anything that looks good to you?
We started at the cheese counter. We stared at it for a moment – they have a huge selection. A woman asked us what we wanted to try, and I finally thought to ask for a cheese similar to Montcabrer or Garrotxa, some of my favorite cheeses. She pulled out Twig Farm Tomme, a raw goat milk tomme from Vermont. I have had good tommes and also ones I didn’t like. This one was definitely good. I liked it a lot. We went on to try many other cheeses, the highlights being one with brandy-soaked raisins, Caña de Oveja – a creamy and delightful sheep’s milk cheese, and Pleasant Ridge Reserve. We bought a little bit of both Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Caña de Oveja for later consumption.
After doing cheese, we went to sample some olive oils. A very enthusiastic woman noticed that we had a bag of cherries and proceeded to get us samples of cherry jam, preserves, vinegar, and finally, a drop of 25-year-old Italian balsamic that was stored in cherry wood (that’s a $150 bottle – like I said, you can sample anything). I also got her to give us a sample of manuka honey, which is a New Zealand specialty that I hadn’t found in the US – until now! It was actually Australian made, but close enough.
That night we played Agricola and made pasta with beans at Kevin’s apartment. Sunday morning we probably ate something, but I can’t remember except for grapefruit and leftover pancakes. And we toured Kevin’s lab, but may or may not have done anything else. That night we went to a game night at some of Kevin’s friends’ house. We played Lifeboat, which was alright, 7 Wonders, which I really really liked, and Battlestar Galactica which I now hate with a passion. We ordered some pizza from Jets which was decent.
Monday we went to Zingerman’s Roadhouse for lunch. The Roadhouse is Zingerman’s sit-down restaurant. It features classic American food like burgers, steaks, and a whole menu section of macaroni and cheese. As a mac and cheese lover, this was what drew me to the Roadhouse (other than the fact that I wanted to try anything done by Zingerman’s).
The lunch did not disappoint. I got their classic mac and cheese and salad combo. I thought it was going to be too little food, but the mac and cheese was so incredibly rich that it was almost too much. The dressing was a delicious house-made ranch. Mondays there is a burger special which Jeff and Kevin got; it was a burger, fries, a salad, and any cheese on your burger for $13. They had a veggie burger which I tried and it was awesome. Kevin couldn’t decide on a cheese so we got some cheese samples. Yes, you can sample stuff here too. I also sampled their pimento mac and cheese – it was good, but I liked the one I got better.
After lunch we walked around downtown while Kevin did some work at his apartment. We went in a game store and the Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair (aka 826 Michigan). Next we decided to go to all the other Zingerman’s locations. This included the Creamery (where we got gelato – chocolate and vanilla for Jeff, raspberry sorbet for me), the Bakeshop (where I got brownies and Jeff got a chocolate chip sourdough loaf), and the Coffee Shop, where we just got t-shirts for completing the Tour de Bacon (which is going to all the Zingerman’s within a day, though they’re not super strict on that timeline). I think that Zingerman’s is my favorite group of stores ever.
For dinner on Monday we ate at an Indian place called Madras Masala which had good Alu Palak (spinach and potatoes). We walked around more of downtown. I like Ann Arbor’s downtown; it’s lively and full of really cool stores.
Tuesday, our last day in Ann Arbor, we stopped in to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. I wanted to go here because they have a replica of the frescoes in room 5 of the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii.
As a classics major, I took a course on Pompeii and Herculaneum. My professor went to the University of Michigan, not coincidentally. Our final paper was our own interpretation of this room, agreeing with or refuting three papers about what the frescoes meant (one of which was by my professor). So you can imagine that I was very excited to see the room in person. Doing so kind of disproved my interpretations a little (the pictures we were given were not as clear as they should have been) but it was still really fun.
The museum as a whole was really cool. It is bigger than I expected and has stuff from lots of different ancient cultures. There’s an especially cool glass exhibit. I would definitely recommend a visit.
That was about all we got to do in Ann Arbor. We stopped in the public library (where you can check out the art on the walls) and ate lunch at Jerusalem Garden, a falafel place. They were setting up for the art fair, which is the biggest street art fair in the country. Sadly our schedule didn’t allow us to stay for that. It did allow us to have extreme difficulty leaving the city due to all the streets being closed for the art fair, however.
I liked Ann Arbor and would like to visit again.