Oil and vinegar are pantry staples...but if you are a "foodie", you probably seek out unique flavors in oil and vinegar the way some people savor particular varieties of fine wine. This past week I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Traverse City, MI. Downtown, I stumbled across a tasting bar called Fustini's. The store was flanked by gorgeous stainless steel canisters that housed 21 different types of olive oils and 14 varieties of balsamic vinegars. Strolling along the bar, I sampled delectable infusions of everything from meyer lemon to porcini mushroom. The wonderful balsamics were all from Modena, Italy and barrel aged at least 12 years. They ranged from white balsamic to pomegranate and of course there was the traditional 18 year balsamic. The flavor combinations seemed endless. I opted for the tunisian harissa olive oil and the cherry balsamic. As soon as I got home, I couldn't wait to get another taste of that flavorful heat of the harissa so I quickly sliced a baguette and dipped the crusty bread right into a deep pool of oil. Delicious.
I must admit, three years ago I never even thought about flavored oils and vinegars. Thanks to my friends at Sur La Table, who generously gave me my first good bottle of aged balsamic vinegar, I have been officially converted. Yet another milestone in my adventure as an accidental foodie.