ZINGERMAN'S GUIDE TO GOOD EATING: HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST BREAD, CHEESES, OLIVE OIL, PASTA, CHOCOLATE, AND MUCH MORE

By Art Weinzweig (Houghton Mifflin, $19.95)

Humble food impresarios are about as common as millionaire dishwashers. As luck would have it, Zingerman's Deli founder Art Weinzweig fits both descriptions. More than two decades after scrubbing pots and pans at his debut restaurant gig, Weinzweigwho made a recent appearance to sign copies of his bookhas erected a homey little empire of culinary ventures in his adopted home of Ann Arbor, Mich. A Midwest college town might seem an unspectacular place to go into business; Weinzweig's constellation of companies (including a catering service, a training program for restaurant professionals, and a mail-order catalog full of house-made and imported foods) could likely survive in a much more competitive market. But in his dual role as epicure and businessman, Weinzweig takes a grassroots approach that explains his choice of HQ. "Leave no eater behind" is his tacit motto; at the signing, he introduced several Parmigiano-Reggiano virgins to the pleasures of full-bodied cheese, then asked a volunteer to place a few drops of top-flight balsamico on the back of each audience member's hand. If you missed the event, don't fret; Zingerman's Guide nicely captures the style of Weinzweig's culinary anecdotes, and the catalog (online at www.zingermans.com) enlightens you as much as it tries to sell you. An excerpt: "Challah was the treat-of-the-week for Jews of my grandparents' generation. . . . After a week of getting by on herring and rye crusts, they eagerly awaited the Sabbath challah with its luxurious, saffron-colored braids." If this seems more like food writing than catalog copy . . . well, that's because it is. The product descriptions exude affection and wit that sound like Weinzweig, not some wage-slave copywriter. He may not have attended culinary school, but this independent-minded entrepreneur has plenty to teach us about how to eat. nschindler@seattleweekly.com

 
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