Originally published in D-Tales here.
Zaccaro's Market, Detroiters' new destination for all their high-end grocery needs, just opened for business last Thursday, and I finally got the chance to swing over there earlier this week.
This place has loads and loads of potential, and I have no doubt that it will one day be every inch as cool as all the early buzz made it sound. But...and there's always a but...right now they still seem to be working through some opening-week kinks.
It would seem that the produce and imported meats and cheeses sections aren't quite, er, fully stocked yet. A gander at the meat and cheese counter, with blocks just kind of thrown about haphazardly and seemingly nothing pre-cut, makes me think (a) this doesn't look like 100 different varieties of somewhat-hard-to-come-by imports, and (b) this doesn't look quite done. The produce section was teeny-tiny--which is fine, considering that this isn't quite a produce market, but simply a high end grocer that carries a little of everything and a lot of nothing--but it was so teeny-tiny that I'm inclined to think that it is still being stocked, too. (Unless they just plan on selling oranges and lettuce and strawberries, but I find that unlikely.)
The wine bar, coffee bar, and demonstration kitchen all look great, but during the time I was there (3:30PM) it didn't really seem like very much was going on at any of them (I'm not even entirely sure they're all functional yet, though there is a drink menu at the "Expresso Bar"--a choice of spelling I truly hope was self-consciously kitschy).
I think where Zaccaro's most won me over was in the chocolates and pastries. I'm typically more of a cheese girl than a sweets girl, so an impressive cheese counter and nothing more would have had me singing their praises endlessly...but, since that was a bit disappointing (though I did find a tasty pre-packaged garlic-infused cheddar in the fridge section), I saw the potential in the pastries instead.
There is a wide selection of imported bar chocolate in pretty much every flavor imaginable (including chocolate made with chili peppers), perfect for the hoighty-toighty chocoholic. But don't let the sizes fool you--I saw some 1-oz. bars priced as much as $5.50 (these are imported from all over the world, and expensive even in their home countries to begin with). For a person who is out seeking the United Colors of Benetton in chocolate bars, Zaccaro's is the place to go--even more so than Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and other larger gourmet grocer national chains (who have more money and thus more product which includes more imports), and it is only with the chocolate that this can be said.
Then there is the pastry and bread counter. Some pastries are made in-store, including the cookies and a tasty raspberry-cheesecake-brownie treat I indulged in. Not the bestest ever, but quite tasty. Then there are the wide assortment of hand-rolled chocolate truffles, the highly decorative mousses and tortes, and other visually impressive pastries that are shipped from the Give Thanks Bakery and Cafe in Rochester, MI. Pastry Chef Rick Michaels is particularly skilled in German pastries and ornate decorations of cakes and tortes, and it shows in the small selection on display at Zaccaro's. Plus, added props for the utilization of an independently-owned Michigan bakery (though I'm sure some will gripe about Zaccaro's tapping the Oakland County market instead of keepin' it real with a bakery in the D, but...meh). The artisan breads sold at Zaccaro's also hail from the same bakery (the Wah-Wah Crowd: "But why not use Detroit locals like Avalon Breads, or a Mexicantown Bakery, especially since they need the business now more than ever?" No one's ever happy.), and are made in the traditions of classical French and German baking with only the purest and simplest of ingredients. And they make an Asino Cheese & Garlic bread! Mm-mmmm!!!!!
Little things like labels and price points for each item on display still need to be rectified, but again--they've only been open a week.
The wine is apparently still a no-go (I know owner Cindy Warner has been battling it out with the guv-ment to try to get her license to sell wine in time for the opening, but it doesn't quite seem like it happened. Unless I completely missed a section of the store.), though I will be very interested to see (a) what wines they decide to stock, from what regions and what vintages, and (b) what these wines will be priced.
One arena in which a place like Whole Foods simply cannot be beat is their impressive wine selection at very reasonable prices, something a small, independently owned place like Zaccaro's probably won't be able to pull off. But hey, Zaccaro's took a chance on the city and Whole Foods didn't, so :P.
Other points of interest: Zaccaro's is definitely catering to the Go Granola! crowd...lots of organics, lots of soy. There is a nice, if small, selection of imported coffees and teas. There is a variety of boutique-y food-prep accents--sauces and marinades and jellies and condiments you wouldn't be able to find just anywhere. A packaged of dried Chanterelles had me drooling until I remembered that I don't cook. And there is also a pre-packaged meals area when you first enter where you can buy pre-made sandwiches, salads (lettuce, pasta), etc. There is also a made-to-order panini counter, which I just think is all cool and Euro. I'm really glad Americans have caught on to the greatness that is the panini. Now if I could just find a decent chocolate brioche...
One thing that might deter some folks from shopping regularly at Zaccaro's is the price pointing. It's, ah...it's not very cheap. Did I mention the $5.50 chocolate bar? Or how about the $4.50 organic milk? (It's $3.50 at Meijer.) Or the $3.50 package of table water crackers? ($1.99 at Meijer.) And someone else told me there was a pasta salad priced at $7.00/lb., yikes. But...BUT...we must bear in mind that this place is independently owned, there is no other place like this place anyone near this place, and sometimes we must pay more for convenience.
Besides...the people living in the $250,000 lofts just north of the place can probably afford to shell out the extra few bucks.
In short...my first impression of Zaccaros' Market was one of promise. Not bowled-over impressed, but definitely interested. I'm greatly looking forward to seeing the wine selection, and perhaps even being able to chat with the sommelier. And the events Warner plans on having in-store--cooking demonstrations, *I believe* wine tastings, etc.--will really add to the appeal. It's set up quite nicely and can accommodate a medium-sized crowd for such gatherings, as well having all the makings of a great morning coffee spot and afternoon lunch spot. The décor is very loft-modern (minimalist, with drab concrete floors but highly-polished granite countertops and chrome accents). Overall--pricey though it may be, it's a great addition to our city.
SIDEBAR: Locals are very likely to run into people they know. I ran into Jerry, owner of the Park Bar, while I was there. Other people I know ran into other Park Bar regulars. It's a small city. You really can't throw a stone or buy bread without running into someone you've spent an evening drinking with.