Sunday, November 23, 2008

One of A Kind: Rustichella

Last year at the One of A Kind, my best friend J told me that I “absolutely have to try something!!!” Prone as she is to the occasional passionate outburst, I wasn’t particularly excited, but I followed her insistent tugging on my arm, anyway. She took me to this simple, but elegant booth that featured bottles of brown and green stuff, where there was a mini gazebo-like structure at the front with a table full of tiny paper cups holding drops of brown liquid. She took one and shoved it in my hand, commanding me to sip it. I asked her what it was, and when she told me that it was balsamic vinegar – I won’t lie, I was skeptical. But being the fervent believer that I am of the One Bite Rule (meaning you’re not allowed to write new foods off without at least trying one bite of it), I tasted it, and oh, Cosmos...I was so gone. I was instantly, helplessly and irrevocably hooked to Rustichella’s infused balsamic vinegars.

Rustichella offers 12 flavours (and counting) of infused extra virgin olive oils as well as balsamic vinegars. I like the oils too, but I especially love the vinegars because they’re so delicious you can actually drink it – slowly, of course. Last year, they had a cranberry one, a fig one, a smoky-flavoured one, and maybe one or two others that I can’t remember. I convinced the best friend to get the smoky one, and I wanted to get the fig one because the flavours are really intricate and multi-layered, but I ended up getting the tangier, sweeter cranberry balsamic because my mum likes it better. Either way, all three are so, so good. I want a fig one this year though, and I’m putting in my order so someone at home can get me a bottle. The one inconvenience is that they don’t have any stores, retailers, or a web site and they do the One of A Kind exclusively, so there are only two opportunities a year to buy their products which means you have to stock up.

The kind gentleman who sold us our vinegars also gave us a hand-written brochure full of creative ways to use the product, besides the traditional salad dressing and bread-dipping. You can use it to marinate or cook meats, mix with fruits (I like to use strawberries, but I was told that Italians traditionally like to use watermelons), and even drizzle it over vanilla ice cream. That last one sounds iffy, but I promise it’s really tasty because the dairy in ice cream mellows out the tartness of the vinegar, and the infusions just bring a whole new dimension of flavour to the palate. And I find that it’s always a treat to use it on meat (especially pork chop!) because it just makes the dish taste a little more spectacular. I especially like how the sugars caramelize as the meat gets cooked – divine.

Be sure to try a sample at booth C-20!

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