After opening up as a delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, back in the eighties, Zingerman's continued to grow and expand, and soon made the move into mail order and imported goods (this in the days before the Internet, even!). It's now a 360-degree business, from bakery and food-related books to coffee and consulting – famous the world over and even serving as a location for romantic comedies – but it's never lost focus on its celebrated meat selection (part-owner Ari Weinzweig even published the 'Guide to Better Bacon' in 2009). Zingerman's most celebrated product continues to be its artisanal bacon. Lovers of what is universally acknowledged to be the best food ever will undoubtedly want to join Zingerman's legendary Bacon of the Month Club.
Each shipment brings a pound or so of the country's finest slabs of hog from a rotating cluster of farmers and smokers from Virginia, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Tennessee. "They're all small-batch, truly artisanal work," explains Zingerman's Brad Hedeman. The bacon, prized by TV chefs like Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon, shows it in the smoke, the rub, and the curing process. There's a lot going on with these simple-looking slabs. One surprising tip from Zingerman's: The best way to serve high-quality bacon is when it's still soft, to fully bring out the flavors and craftwork. Crispy bacon is a wonderful texture, but tends to bury the subtler flavors. [$99 for three months, or $189 for 6 months; zingermans.com]