Balsamic!

Discussion in 'Food and Drink' started by purr1n, Jul 1, 2022.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    In the early 90s, I lived in the Santa Cruz area. Yes, there were plenty of brain-damaged hippies. I could smell pot emanating from every corner. Homeless people lined Pacific Ave where a semi-famous independent book and record Logos store once stood. Many of the records I own today were purchased from Logos. I do wonder today how fancy Pacific Ave has become - how successful the city has been in eliminating the homeless presence. My roommate back then asserted : Santa Cruz, the way it is, the pan-handlers are part of it. If they weren't there, you wouldn't like Santa Cruz. Excellent point.

    I was a young tech-worker back then making more money than I could possibly spend. I took on contracts that appealed to me. A couple of friends and I wanted to start a company; but in the end, Santa Cruz was too laid back. It's atmosphere was not-conducive to doing work, both literally and figuratively.

    One roommate I had sold fine wines for a living to the local restaurants. He sold really good stuff, so good to the point that if we tried a wine we did not like, we poured it down the drain laughing regardless of the price. If it's shit, it's shit. The more expensive, the harder the laugh. The center of the house was the huge combined kitchen and dining room. He picked the wines, maybe got some very fresh ingredients from the organic food store (the industry wasn't as commercialized back then, so organic vegetables tasted better as it was picked more ripe, also Odwalla was FUCKING awesome back then).

    I would do a lot of the cooking because I had the potential: I understood the importance of technique seeing my grandmother and mother cook. We'd have friends over all the time. They would just drop by without notice, knock on the door, and we'd invite them in for a meal. After the meal, the friends would insist of doing all the clean up. Ahh, this was true communism and camaraderie! Hey it's Santa Cruz!

    My roommate gave me a book on Italian cooking. I don't remember who authored it, just that the book was an old paperback with fine print and no pictures, but plenty of explanation. The three things he insisted upon was that we use the pasta with the chubby lady on it, real Parmesan cheese imported from Italy (the Wisconsin Parmesan is something different LOL), and Monari Federzoni balsamic vinegar. (Remember that back then, we didn't have such exotic selections in the USA). I've mostly stuck to these three things. While I'm not an expert in balsamic vinegars, I've found that other brands, even special expensive ones with fancy packaging, never had quite the same taste, complexity, fruitiness, and bite of the imported Monari Federzoni stuff. There was always something missing.

    So this was super cool when a couple of you guys sent me a care package. Thank you @Taverius! Wow, what an amazing community we have from people all over the world. Perhaps world peace is possible. But only after we slay those objectivists extremists! :eek:

    I've got my stash of bourbons, smaller stash of tequila, soy sauces, and now balsamic. I can really get into this. This is what I got. I have no idea of their history or story. All I know is that one is aged 12 years and the other is aged 25 years, the "extra vecchio" one. And I know that what I've tried so far, the 12 year Afinato, is amazing. If anyone is knowledgeable, please chime in!

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    For those familiar with cask-strength bourbons, this is like "cask-strength" balsamic. Looking at the small bottles, I thought I would be bummed because I would run out of it soon. Not so, merely a few drops are needed! I normally don't eat salad, mainly because Asians tend to eat more cooked vegetables and my wife makes super weird American salads with all sorts of random shit put into it like pine nuts, dried cranberries, avocado, feta cheese, chickpeas, oranges, etc. It's basically a mish-mash of random shit into grossness.

    I prefer my salads simple with high quality greens, maybe romaine, red butter, and arugula. I love arugula because I like sweet salad dressings and bitterness plays well with sweet. Yes, I picked out some leaves especially for this experience! I'm hooked now and will probably eat more salads and thereby extend my life.

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    Next up, I need to find some quality cheesecake in town. I love cheesecake. It is my favorite desert. No kidding. I don't know how you guys figure this out.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 1, 2022
  2. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    I had a female friend who introduced me to Monari Federzoni. I was also impressed and now always keep a bottle.

    Since we're on the topic, any favorite olive oils? Assume for straight eating with salad or bread, not for cooking.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2022
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    LOL, it would be a massive waste! This stuff is too good.

    There's this Taiwanese ginger, sesame oil, <insert alcohol> chicken soup dish, 麻油雞. Normally rice wine is used, but my family recipe is to use other alcohols such as beer. I've expanded up what my mom did to incorporate a variety of alcohols, rice wine, dark beer, bourbons. While I use decent quality bourbons, I won't use my best stuff in quantity, only as a drizzle to top it off. So I guess this could be used in that sense, a drizzle to top off meats. I'd use the cheaper stuff to baste the meat before I throw on the gas grill for the final sear.
     
  4. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    If you end up liking the 25 year even more than the 15 year, then it may be a good idea to pick up their 100 year to really get your socks knocked off.

    Giusti 100-year Aceto Balsamico di Modena - Grande Vecchio Grade Balsamic Vinegar - Imported from Modena, Italy - Wooden Gift Box - Luxurious Gift Idea https://a.co/d/do4uqMA
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Oh yeah, this is nice. My son was like you are crazy! Makes no sense right? At least with the balsamic from grocery store. I'll tell ya something: The 25 year extra vecchio, it's really no longer a vinegar. It's transformed into something else entirely different. I can't see the 25 year used for salads. Think of it as a super advanced tart candy sauce from ancient aliens. There's this back and forth interplay between the cheesecake and the 25 year. A little dance where the lead keeps changing. Interesting and quite spectacular.

    PXL_20220702_032245978.jpg

    I need to figure out what else this goes with. Maybe drizzled on a purist grilled steak seasoned with only salt and pepper?
     
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  6. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    I remember now, they were so good. I wouldn't buy other brands of juice because theirs was so much better, and it was because fresh unpasteurized juice made a real difference in flavor. Unfortunately an E. coli outbreak caused them to pasteurize everything, and along with being acquired by Coca Cola they became another generic brand.
     
  7. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    You can try it on whatever - but it is pretty sweet under the sizzle of sour, so keep that in mind.

    Here for the 25 it's like berries and cherries, cheesecake and other creamy desserts like panna cotta mascarpone and friends, and on hard cheese. And ice cream. It's killer on ice cream.

    Anyhoo, a bottle of 25 lasts a looooooooong time.

    I'm sure you can find them in the USA, and you will need to for the 12 if you end up using it - I go through ~2 a year - but it was easier for me to find someone in italy that would ship Modena DOP to the USA than it was to find someone there that sold Modena DOP.

    All of the Modena Balsamic Vinegar Consortium DOP vinegars are pretty similar in quality, tbh, this is one of the better ones, but there's not a huge variation so long as you stick to the DOP products in the fancy bottle.

    The IGP stuff which is out of spec for various reasons and not allowed to be packaged in the Giugiaro bottle is more of a crap shoot.

    It can anywhere from simply 5 different ages of DOP in smaller bottles in a gift set, to supermarket-grade vinegar with a hint of balsamic.
     
  8. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Something interesting is that balsamic doesn’t come from wine but starts as grape juice. It’s often the case in Modena that as soon a child is born, they start fermentation so that a barrel is ready as a wedding present


    These are the best books. My favorite cookbook to this day is The Whole Beast by Fergus Henderson. It has zero pictures but is a masterpiece in recipe layout

    I don’t think brand names are as important as whether you trust the source. Avoid Italian oil unless you really know the supplier. Olive oil is tainted by the mafia there with a lot of branded “100% olive oil” is actually mostly canola. Costco does their homework so you can probably trust their producers. Spanish olive oils have been pretty reliable to me.

    Freshness is probably the most important factor . That means if you are in California you probably aren’t doing much better than CA olive oils. The best olive oil I ever had was when I lived in southern France and I bought oil from a generic local co-op. It tasted nothing like I ever had before. Almost like butter and actually tasted like olives.
     
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  9. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    Here near Genova everybody has olive trees in their yard in alternating years you prune and collect, so if you help all friends with olive collections in the summer you get enough to last you most of the year for salads.

    For cooking oil we buy directly from a producer.
     
  10. joch

    joch Friend

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    East meets West: modena vinegar with Chinese dumplings (off the boil or pan-fried). Regular vinegar with dumplings are just too sour with good savoury dumplings, but the sweet fruitiness of some modenas goes well with them.
     
  11. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Classic combinations are balsamic with strawberries and also vanilla ice cream
     
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    The black vinegar provided at places like DTF are a bit too sour, especially since quite a lot of it needs to be used to infuse the dumpings with sufficient flavor. I found the 12-year good for dumplings.

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    On a good solid vanilla cream, the 25-year is exquisite. I cannot find words. There's the expectation of chocolate because it looks like chocolate. So for a second we taste chocolate, until it turns in cherry, and then chocolate for a quantum slice of time before back to cherry, or was that fig, or molasses. I hope you guys get the idea.

    PXL_20220702_171444225.jpg
     
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  13. dmckean44

    dmckean44 In a Sherwood S6040CP relationship

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    Going off your descriptions, I'm thinking some sort of take on a banana split could be wild. With some really good chocolate shavings maybe some toasted almonds.
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    LOL, I'm putting some of this stuff into a small eye-dropper bottle and taking it with me on my next trip to Baskin-Robbins with the kids. Add the fancy restaurants too.
     
  15. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    I was never much into Balsamic... but it looks like I never had the real stuff!
     
  16. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    DOP: Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Mostly find 12yo (salad grade) and 24/25yo (dessert grade). Not only the location is protected but the production method too.

    IGP: Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Location is protected, but production methods don't have to conform to essentially medieval traditions. Can be anything from essentially DOP quality to fairly bland.

    Neither: So long as you don't include the word Modena it can be anything made anywhere.
     
  17. philipmorgan

    philipmorgan Member of the month

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    I was on this crazy no-fat heart-health diet for a while and discovered that there are mind-blowingly good balsamic vinegars out there flavored with all kinds of crazy stuff. These are a great no-fat substitute for salad dressings, etc.

    My all-time favorite: cucumber honeydew from The Olive Tap -> https://www.theolivetap.com/product...mber-honeydew-white-riserva-balsamic-vinegar/

    Thick, syrupy, tart and a bit sweet. Goes great on salads or as a sauce on single-bowl rice dishes.
     
  18. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    This thread inspired me to pickup some De Nigris aged balsamic from whole foods. It was richer, darker, and more complex than the Federzoni I've always used, I really liked it.
     
  19. philipmorgan

    philipmorgan Member of the month

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    Oh, one more balsamic tip. I went into a fancy olive oil/balsamic shop in Nelson, BC and one of their ways of showing off their white balsamics was to mix a dash of it with soda water. It tasted great, like a tart soda pop. Probably has a lot of mixed drink potential for the alkys in the house.
     
  20. Lunk_Wray

    Lunk_Wray Obsessed with Headstage

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    I suspect that paperback mentioned in the OP might have been Italian Food, by Elizabeth David. The classic which introduced Italian cuisine to a British (and American?) audience.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_David
     

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