Ari’s Pick: Townie Brownies Take the Cake

Better chocolate raises the (bean-to-) bar to make the Townie my favorite brownie

Packaged townie brownies

For years, what we’ve been calling the Magic Brownie has been by far the Bakehouse’s biggest seller. While the Magic Brownies remain solidly ensconced at the top of the Bakehouse sales chart, I will come clean here and say that, far and away, my new favorite is the Townie Brownie.

The Townie Brownie got its start as part of our effort to make a wheat-free brownie to meet the dreams of our gluten-free customers. It worked. We use amaranth and quinoa in place of wheat and it’s been a solidly good brownie since its beginnings back in 2010. What made it so much better last month than it already was? Better chocolate, from French Broad Chocolate.

The newly French-Broadified Brownies are beautifully tasty. Less sweet, more complex, longer finish, and meaningfully more chocolatey. The new chocolate is one of the French Broad folks’ favorites. It’s a 68% dark bar made with cacao that comes from the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua using both Criollo and Trinitario cacao varietals, which have been caringly cultivated for generations. French Broad buys the cacao from the folks at Cacao Bisiesto in Nicaragua who, “pay a premium to local farmers for unique, Criollo-infused seed with fine flavor profiles, and plant rare varietals on their own farms.” Criollo, you might recall from last week’s writeup about Shawn Askinosie’s amazing collaboration with Zeke Emmanuel, “are considered the rarest and finest cacao.”

The folks at Cacao Bisiesto work too to help the farmers improve fermentation and drying. The result is that the 68% Nicaragua chocolate from French Broad won a Good Food Award!

If you want to try the slightly smoky, earthy, licorice-like flavors of the French Broad Nicaragua on its own, you can pick up the bar at the Candy Store on Plaza Drive. And you can enjoy them—maybe even more—baked into the Townie Brownie. We’ve got them at the Bakeshop, Deli, and Roadhouse. You can ask for one in your Brownie Sundae at the Roadhouse. The Townie Brownies are also amazingly excellent if you dip the edge into finely-ground (and not yet brewed) espresso.

In our 2032 Vision (see “The Story of Visioning at Zingerman’s” for the full version of the vision), we write that ten years from now, “Our dedication to the Ann Arbor area is a huge piece of what makes us who we are.” In this context, it’s only fitting that the Townie Brownie should become our best. It’s a terrific, values-aligned, full flavored, and delicious testament to the skill and hard work of the farmers in Nicaragua, the folks at French Broad Chocolate, and our amazing colleagues at the Bakehouse. Here’s to our hometown, to all the townies who support us so lovingly here at Zingerman’s, and to this terrifically tasty Townie Brownie!


Ari headshot
Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

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