This afternoon we had an ice cream sundae going away party for one of the paralegals in my office. The party organizer had already ordered a cake and requested brownies. I happily complied with a batch of Andrew's Brownies. This is not usually my brownie of choice, as is evidenced by the fact that I last made these almost two years ago (an eternity given the frequency of my baking schedule). I generally prefer my brownies to be super-fudgy (I have always thought that if you want a cakey brownie, you should just go eat some cake instead), chock full of toss ins like nuts or chocolate chips, and spiked with strong flavors like espresso, mint, or cream cheese. This particular brownie recipe is strongly chocolate and nothing else; its semi-fudgy texture is completely unadorned and naked. But as an accompaniment to vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, it fits the bill perfectly.
While I watched everyone enjoying their sundaes at the party, I had a flashback to the best ice cream sundae I have ever had in my life. Back in 2005 when I attended the wedding of my good friends Bryant and Elise in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I had received a restaurant recommendation to go to Zingerman's Roadhouse for dinner. I'm embarrassed to say that I can't remember all the details of what we ate, but I do recall that everyone thoroughly enjoyed our meal of new American classics. The waitstaff was extremely knowledgeable about the food, down to the purveyors who supplied individual ingredients. When a pregnant friend asked about the potential health risks of eating some of the cheeses on the menu, they sent out the restaurant's cheese buyer to discuss regulations on dairy product pasteurization, aging, and food safety.
When it came time for dessert, we ordered Ari's Original Doughnut Sundae, described on the menu as "A Roadhouse original: our housemade Dutch doughnut smothered in bourbon-caramel sauce, vanilla gelato, whipped cream, amazing Virginia peanuts and a cherry on top!" I should mention that the cherry on top is something I have never seen before: a homemade maraschino cherry. When I mentioned to the waiter how much I love maraschino cherries, he brought out an extra plateful for me. (One of my very lowbrow tastes is an affinity for the bright pink semi-translucent maraschino cherries in a jar; imagine my disappointment when I tried the Zingerman's version and realized for the first time that an authentic maraschino cherry is preserved in liqueur.) That doughnut sundae, served with a fresh hot donut and homemade gelato, was freakin' delicious. That is the highest compliment I can give when it comes to food.
During the rest of the wedding weekend in Ann Arbor, I discovered that Zingerman's is nothing short of a food empire. They also have a delicatessen, a bakery, a creamery, a coffee company, and a mail order food business. We ate lunch at the delicatessen twice (meaning that during the three days we were in Ann Arbor, we ate every meal -- except for the wedding reception dinner itself -- at a Zingerman's establishment). It's the kind of place where they offer homemade, handmade chocolate bars, unapologetically boast that their pretzel bread is made with lard, and split 80-lb. wheels of parmigiano reggiano cheese for the entertainment of customers. The folks at Zingerman's know good food. If you ever find yourself in Ann Arbor, do your taste buds a favor and stop by for a bite!