Just one of the possible gifts from

I had a wonderful opportunity the other day to sit down with Lois Weinblatt, the Lead Concierge of the Professional Presents department at Zingerman’s mail order here in Ann Arbor. Lois and I met at a networking event where I had actually won a gift basket that she had put up as a door prize. We had gotten to talking about professional gifting and she offered to give me a free consultation to show me some of Zingerman’s reasonably priced gift options.

First of all, let me tell you that Lois is an amazing networker. She was genuinely interested in me and asked a lot of questions — and, no, they weren’t of the “probing for need” variety. She just likes to find out about people and what they do.

Second, one of Lois’ skills is she really knows how to make you feel completely unique and special. In fact, after our meeting I had to ask if my experience was typical or if I had received special treatment as a prizewinner. She assured me that, while she does cater to the specific needs and desires of each client, the level of service that I experienced was what she strives to give every person with whom she works.

Finally, the gifts. I had specifically told her that I was interested in some of the lower cost offerings. For those who aren’t familiar, Zingerman’s is known for their high quality foods and that quality does cost money. My concern was that their gift offerings would be outside the price range which most small business people can afford to spend.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Lois brought in a couple of their “off the shelf” gift baskets, running between $35 and $40. She also made up one custom arrangement in the same range. We discussed the options and she often had stories behind the individual items — ask her for the story of the crates in which they ship the coffee cake. Then, of course, she also let me taste anything that I thought was interesting.

Let me warn you. Don’t do this.

If you fail to heed my warning, then don’t come crying to me when you can’t eat the food out of the supermarket any longer. I wash my hands of the whole situation.

In the interests of complete disclosure, anything we opened for me to try, I took home the leftovers. Apparently they aren’t allowed to sell half a cookie at the counter. Who knew?

Some of the things I tried:

Moon Pies: These are not like the marshmallow filled “confections” you can find on the grocery shelf. They actually remind me more of those “Ding Dongs” snack cakes. The only difference here is that these were “Ding Dongs” that angels would make — by hand. Chocolate cake and buttercream frosting dipped in chocolate. OK, yum.

Palmiers: Not being a true foodie, it’s kind of hard for me to describe these, but they kind of reminded me of a cross between a croissant and shortbread. Buttery, flaky, melt-in-the-mouth sugary. I liked them, but Lisa loves them, especially with tea.

One-year Aged Cheddar: OK, the above warning goes double here. If you are happy eating your store-brand block of cheese, do not taste this. I am not a cheesemonger, but it seemed like every bite of this stuff had a slightly different sensation. At first it was buttery and smooth, then I caught the sharpness you’d expect from cheddar. In fact, I think I’m going to have to go try it again. Excuse me, won’t you?

What I’m trying to convey here is that even if the recipient isn’t a food connoisseur, they will still love getting a gift from Zingerman’s. Lois is experienced in selecting gifts for just about anyone from complete neophyte to gourmand and can even adapt the offering depending on whether it is going to a large group at the office or a single person in their home.

One, caveat: As of this writing, the winter holidays are fast approaching. If you would like to have a consultation with Lois, contact her for an appointment now. Not surprisingly, November and December are her busiest times of the year, so if you are interested in her personal touch with professional gifting, get in while you can.

Everyone on your list will certainly appreciate it.

Photo credit: Stuart Spivack