Food, Food Artisans

This Week at Zingerman’s 2/8/16

February Events at Zingerman’s

Bottles RH

Cocktail Class at Cornman Farms: An American Cocktail in Paris

For Valentine’s Day we turn our attention to one of the global capitals of romance: Paris. Specifically, Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Founded in 1911 and sold to Scottish-born celebrity bartender Harry MacElhone in 1923, Harry’s was THE place to imbibe in the City of Lights. Celebrities like Marlene Dietrich, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Gershwin, Jack Dempsey, Coco Chanel, and perhaps most notably, Ernest Hemingway, all spent time enjoying a cocktail (or several) at this famous watering hole. Even James Bond visits Harry’s in Ian Fleming’s 1960 story, A View to a Kill. Join us this evening as we look back on the impact Harry MacElhone had on international cocktail culture with three of his own romance-inspired tipples: the Between the Sheets, the Monkey Gland, and the Vie Rose. We’ll discuss the not-so-secret society of the International Bar Flies that called Harry’s home, as well as other cocktail history and lore. Guests will learn to make themselves, and then enjoy, all three cocktails, as well as delectable light fare created by Cornman Farm’s talented chef. Guests will leave with the recipes and the know-how to recreate these cocktails at home. Thursday, February 11th, 7pm.

Reserve your seat here


Pick Your Perfect Pair at Zingerman’s Creamery

Beer and wine are popular accompaniments to cheese, and in this choose-your-own-adventure-style tasting, we’ll help you pick your perfect pairings! We’ll serve 3 classic styles of beer, 3 cheese-friendly wines, and a selection of frommage to taste. With each beverage sample, we will suggest a couple of our favorite cheese pairing and give you a chance to try out other cheeses as well! You’ll leave with lots of notes about the combinations you tried and the confidence to pick out pairings on your own in the future! Thursday, February 11th, 6pm.

Reserve your seat here


Smitten in the Mitten at Zingerman’s Deli

Taste why we are smitten with wine and chocolate from the Mitten! Join us on Friday, February 12th for a Michigan-centered happy hour featuring a trio of select Michigan-produced wines and a specially crafted sparkling wine cocktail paired with assorted chocolates that are hand-made by some of our beloved truffle-makers from the Great Lakes State. This is an excellent accompaniment to a dinner with your sweetheart.

*Note: This event has two seatings.

Reserve a seat for 6pm

Reserve a seat for 8pm


Comparative Cupping at Zingerman’s Coffee Company

Sample coffees from the Africa, Central and South Americas, and the Asian Pacific. On Sunday, February 14th, 1pm, we will taste and evaluate these coffees using the techniques and tools used by professional cuppers. A brief understanding of coffee will also be presented highlighting different processing and growing methods. This is an eye-opening introduction to the world of coffee.

Reserve your seat here


Classic Cocktails from the Prohibition Era at Zingerman’s Roadhouse

In 1919, the US government passed the 18th Amendment, clearing the way for 13 years of the folly that was Prohibition. During this time, manufacturing and the sale of alcohol was made illegal, driving alcohol consumption underground. Millions of people in small towns and big cities alike imbibed at secret bars and taverns called speakeasies. Bartenders, working with limited resources to alcohol, began an era that resulted in some of the most creative cocktails the industry has ever seen.
Roadhouse bartender and cocktail historian Alibeth Vandergrift has chosen several of the most popular Prohibition era cocktails to pair with a 1920s style menu created by Chef Alex, featuring some of the times most popular foods. On Tuesday, February 16th, 7pm, the Roadhouse will turn our dining room into a vintage speakeasy, transporting the guests back to the 1920s.

Reserve your seat here


Chocolate & Cheese at Zingerman’s Creamery

A night of specially-selected cheese and chocolate pairings with Cheese Monger Tessie from Zingerman’s Creamery and special guest Allison Schraf from Zingermans Candy Manufactory. We’ll bring the best of both sweet and savory worlds together for a full-flavored event of a lifetime. With cheeses ranging from hard, nutty goudas to buttery soft, mold-ripened favorites, we are also featuring hand-crafted Zingerman’s chocolates made right here in Ann Arbor. Thursday, February 18th, 6pm.
*Please note: This tasting will feature products that contain tree nuts and peanuts.

Reserve your seat here


Cheese Showdown – Old World vs. New World at Zingerman’s Creamery

On Thursday, February 25th, 6pm, cheesemonger Tessie will be gathering up some of the best offerings from our friends in the American artisan cheese community and putting them up against classic cheese selections from Europe! We’ll explore styles of brie, cheddar, lactic goat cheeses, cheddar, gruyere, and blue cheese, with representatives from both sides of the Atlantic in each style. We’ll choose a winner of each matchup and then vote which continent goes home with bragging rights!

Reserve your seat here


Cosmically Good Geisha Coffee at Zingerman’s Coffee Company

It’s Geisha coffee, a rare, wonderful and very limited selection of very special coffee beans from the highlands of Panama. It comes from Finca Santa Teresa smack in the center of the Panamanian isthmus. It’s grown at 4000 to 8000 feet.
We procured this extra special coffee from Finca Santa Teresa. Like our friends at Daterra Estate in Brazil, these guys are doing it right. They’re paying better salaries to the staff, providing free meals, free medical care, transport to and from work, training and education. Their use of natural resources is wise – recycling of water, waste material, etc. The farm has a school for the kids of the crew that work there.
If you do try it, you’re pretty likely to like it. Light, elegant, velvety. My warning is that if you try it you’ll probably want to drink it again and again. Your only salvation is that we only have 100 pounds and then we’re out.
Celebrate this special coffee on with us and pre-order yours!

This is no program with this event. Your ticket reserves one 0.25 lb bag of coffee in your name that can be picked up after 4pm on Friday, February 26th.

Reserve your seat here


Brewing Methods at Zingerman’s Coffee Company

Learn the keys to successful coffee brewing using a wide variety of brewing methods from filter drip to syphon pot. This tasting session on Sunday February 28th, 1pm, will explore a single coffee brewed 6 to 8 different ways, each producing a unique taste. A demonstration of the proper proportions and techniques for each method and a discussion of the merits and differences of each style will take place.

Reserve your seat here

See you soon!

Food, Food Artisans

Emily’s Valentine’s Day Picks for 2016

Valentine’s Day is fast upon us…

…and Zingerman’s Deli is incredibly giddy at the thought of Valentine’s sweets. Whether you’re shopping for your spouse, an unsuspecting crush, a friend, or family, we’ve got something to make them swoon and smile.

Custom Box of Chocolates

VD Custom Box of Chocolates

Make your valentine swoon with a loving assortment of chocolates. Our truffle case is a treasure trove of confections. Visit us in the Next Door Chocolate Corner to craft your sweetheart’s delight.

Our seasonal favorites include:

  • Sweet Gem’s Champagne Hearts filled with chocolate ganache drunk on Mawby’s Blanc de Blanc with an added splash of cognac.
  • Chocolate in Chelsea’s Balsamic Strawberry starts with a layer of jammy strawberry, topped w/dark chocolate ganache, and finished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
  • Grocer’s Daughter’s Honey Caramel Hearts are made of dark chocolate filled with honey caramel, sprinkled with smoked sea salt.
  • Chocolat Moderne’s Heart Collections feature an array of flavors blended with chocolate encased in colorful heart shapes.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries and Marshmallows!

These special seasonal treats are limited in quantity.
Pre-order your chocolate dipped strawberries & marshmallows today in the Next Door or call 663-3354. Available for pick-up 2/12-2/14.

VD Chocolate Covered Marshmallows

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows
Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory Vanilla Marshmallows hand-dipped right here at the Deli in Michel Cluizel chocolate and coated in Zingerman’s Bakehouse Graham Crackers.

VD Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Plump ripe strawberries dipped in Michel Cluizel chocolate from France, adorned with your choice of white chocolate, toasted coconut or slivered almonds.

Tickets to the Valentine’s Day Wine & Chocolate Happy Hour

VD Smitten in the Mitten

Taste why we are smitten with wine and chocolate from the Mitten! Join us for a Michigan-centered happy hour featuring a trio of select Michigan-produced wines and a specially crafted sparkling wine cocktail paired with assorted chocolates that are hand-made by some of our beloved truffle-makers from the Great Lakes State. This is an excellent accompaniment to a dinner with your sweetheart.

Reserve a seat for 6pm

Reserve a seat for 8pm

Vosges Haut Chocolate, Exotic Chocolate Mini Library

Get lost in this chocolate lover’s library and explore a worldly assortment of flavors with a selection of bars featuring, Vosges founder, Katrina’s favorite chocolate pairings.

Spanish Drinking Chocolate

VD Spanish Drinking Chocolate

Cozy up to your valentine with this hot chocolate made so thick & chocolate-y you can stick a spoon up in it. So intoxicating you might want to sip this sitting down.

Comptoir du Cacao, Praline with Salted Caramel

Creamy milk chocolate filled with a paste of freshly ground nuts, thin crispy wafers and ribboned with salted butter caramel. What’s not to love?

Askinosie Chocolate, Tanzania Trio Gift Set

Express your affection for the cocao bean with this single-origin collection. Each bar features unique ingredients and is hand crafted using beans sourced directly from Askinosie’s cocoa farmer partners in Mababu, Tanzania.

Big Picture Farm, Goat Caramels

Soft caramels made with fragrant vanilla and creamy milk from a happy herd of pasture-raised goats. Smooth, buttery, with a complex sweetness. Packaged in a gift-worthy box adorned by adorable illustrations of the goats. Perfect for the sweetie in your life.

Chocolat Moderne, Chocolate Covered Cherries

Amarena Mon Amour! Flavorful Italian cherries bathed in a sophisticated, vodka-infused syrup concealed by smooth dark chocolate shell. Pleasantly tart, delicately sweet, and wonderfully juicy.

Chocolate Gelato Month

VD chocolate heat gelato

Classic

  • chocolate
  • vanilla
  • mint chip
  • rocky ride
  • chocolate heat (spicy)

Premium

  • johndoya
  • turtle
  • cherry chip sorbet
  • stone ground & salted
  • choc. balsamic strawberry

See you soon!

Food, Food Artisans

This Week at Zingerman’s 2/2/16

February Events at Zingerman’s

Perfect Pairing

Pick Your Perfect Pair at Zingerman’s Creamery

Beer and wine are popular accompaniments to cheese, and in this choose-your-own-adventure-style tasting, we’ll help you pick your perfect pairings! We’ll serve 3 classic styles of beer, 3 cheese-friendly wines, and a selection of frommage to taste. With each beverage sample, we will suggest a couple of our favorite cheese pairing and give you a chance to try out other cheeses as well! You’ll leave with lots of notes about the combinations you tried and the confidence to pick out pairings on your own in the future! Thursday, February 11th, 6pm.

Reserve your seat here


Cocktail Class at Cornman Farms: An American Cocktail in Paris

For Valentine’s Day we turn our attention to one of the global capitals of romance: Paris. Specifically, Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Founded in 1911 and sold to Scottish-born celebrity bartender Harry MacElhone in 1923, Harry’s was THE place to imbibe in the City of Lights. Celebrities like Marlene Dietrich, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Gershwin, Jack Dempsey, Coco Chanel, and perhaps most notably, Ernest Hemingway, all spent time enjoying a cocktail (or several) at this famous watering hole. Even James Bond visits Harry’s in Ian Fleming’s 1960 story, A View to a Kill. Join us this evening as we look back on the impact Harry MacElhone had on international cocktail culture with three of his own romance-inspired tipples: the Between the Sheets, the Monkey Gland, and the Vie Rose. We’ll discuss the not-so-secret society of the International Bar Flies that called Harry’s home, as well as other cocktail history and lore. Guests will learn to make themselves, and then enjoy, all three cocktails, as well as delectable light fare created by Cornman Farm’s talented chef. Guests will leave with the recipes and the know-how to recreate these cocktails at home. Thursday, February 11th, 7pm.

Reserve your seat here


Smitten in the Mitten at Zingerman’s Deli

Taste why we are smitten with wine and chocolate from the Mitten! Join us on Friday, February 12th for a Michigan-centered happy hour featuring a trio of select Michigan-produced wines and a specially crafted sparkling wine cocktail paired with assorted chocolates that are hand-made by some of our beloved truffle-makers from the Great Lakes State. This is an excellent accompaniment to a dinner with your sweetheart.

*Note: This event has two seatings.

Reserve a seat for 6pm

Reserve a seat for 8pm


Comparative Cupping at Zingerman’s Coffee Company

Sample coffees from the Africa, Central and South Americas, and the Asian Pacific. On Sunday, February 14th, 1pm, we will taste and evaluate these coffees using the techniques and tools used by professional cuppers. A brief understanding of coffee will also be presented highlighting different processing and growing methods. This is an eye-opening introduction to the world of coffee.

Reserve your seat here


Classic Cocktails from the Prohibition Era at Zingerman’s Roadhouse

In 1919, the US government passed the 18th Amendment, clearing the way for 13 years of the folly that was Prohibition. During this time, manufacturing and the sale of alcohol was made illegal, driving alcohol consumption underground. Millions of people in small towns and big cities alike imbibed at secret bars and taverns called speakeasies. Bartenders, working with limited resources to alcohol, began an era that resulted in some of the most creative cocktails the industry has ever seen.
Roadhouse bartender and cocktail historian Alibeth Vandergrift has chosen several of the most popular Prohibition era cocktails to pair with a 1920s style menu created by Chef Alex, featuring some of the times most popular foods. On Tuesday, February 16th, 7pm, the Roadhouse will turn our dining room into a vintage speakeasy, transporting the guests back to the 1920s.

Reserve your seat here


Chocolate & Cheese at Zingerman’s Creamery

A night of specially-selected cheese and chocolate pairings with Cheese Monger Tessie from Zingerman’s Creamery and special guest Allison Schraf from Zingermans Candy Manufactory. We’ll bring the best of both sweet and savory worlds together for a full-flavored event of a lifetime. With cheeses ranging from hard, nutty goudas to buttery soft, mold-ripened favorites, we are also featuring hand-crafted Zingerman’s chocolates made right here in Ann Arbor. Thursday, February 18th, 6pm.
*Please note: This tasting will feature products that contain tree nuts and peanuts.

Reserve your seat here


Cheese Showdown – Old World vs. New World at Zingerman’s Creamery

On Thursday, February 25th, 6pm, cheesemonger Tessie will be gathering up some of the best offerings from our friends in the American artisan cheese community and putting them up against classic cheese selections from Europe! We’ll explore styles of brie, cheddar, lactic goat cheeses, cheddar, gruyere, and blue cheese, with representatives from both sides of the Atlantic in each style. We’ll choose a winner of each matchup and then vote which continent goes home with bragging rights!

Reserve your seat here


Cosmically Good Geisha Coffee at Zingerman’s Coffee Company

It’s Geisha coffee, a rare, wonderful and very limited selection of very special coffee beans from the highlands of Panama. It comes from Finca Santa Teresa smack in the center of the Panamanian isthmus. It’s grown at 4000 to 8000 feet.
We procured this extra special coffee from Finca Santa Teresa. Like our friends at Daterra Estate in Brazil, these guys are doing it right. They’re paying better salaries to the staff, providing free meals, free medical care, transport to and from work, training and education. Their use of natural resources is wise – recycling of water, waste material, etc. The farm has a school for the kids of the crew that work there.
If you do try it, you’re pretty likely to like it. Light, elegant, velvety. My warning is that if you try it you’ll probably want to drink it again and again. Your only salvation is that we only have 100 pounds and then we’re out.
Celebrate this special coffee on with us and pre-order yours!

This is no program with this event. Your ticket reserves one 0.25 lb bag of coffee in your name that can be picked up after 4pm on Friday, February 26th.

Reserve your seat here


Brewing Methods at Zingerman’s Coffee Company

Learn the keys to successful coffee brewing using a wide variety of brewing methods from filter drip to syphon pot. This tasting session on Sunday February 28th, 1pm, will explore a single coffee brewed 6 to 8 different ways, each producing a unique taste. A demonstration of the proper proportions and techniques for each method and a discussion of the merits and differences of each style will take place.

Reserve your seat here

See you soon!

Food, Food Artisans

African American Dinner Theater

Last night’s 11th Annual African American Foodways Dinner at Zingerman’s Roadhouse was a wonderfully intimate dinner that gave a whole new meaning to the term “dinner theater.

This year’s feast was based the recipes and foods common to Western Michigan in the middle of the 1800s, and Roadhouse Executive Chef Alex Young created a wonderful multi-course meal evoking this period. In keeping with the spirit of the evening, the meal was served family-style. The meal began with Sweet Potato Pone Bread and Vermont Crackers served with tomato jam, followed by fried hominy and pickled green beans, and then fresh rabbit in a rich milk gravy served with flapjacks. The next round brought big bowls of Hoppin’ John and pickled Lima beans with corn. Platters of beautifully fried chicken followed. To top it all off, diners enjoyed slices of lovely squash pies made especially for the dinner by Zingerman’s Bakehouse.

After the meal, guests were entertained this year with a special performance by Dr. Von H. Washington, a professor in Western Michigan University’s Department of Theatre, and Toronto-based mezzo-soprano (and former Zingerman’s employee), Ali Garrison. The pair presented a dramatic scene written especially for the dinner; a theatrical reading based on their research for Dr. Washington’s play, “In Search of Giants.” The play comes to the Arthur Miller Theatre on the University of Michigan’s North Campus Thursday, January 28th.

In the scene presented, Washington and Garrison play two Abolitionists, Henry Bibb and Pamela Thomas, meeting in January 1845 at the Underground Railroad Station in Schoolcraft, Michigan near Kalamazoo for a kitchen table conversation about food, freedom and human interaction. Ali Garrison is a direct descendent of Dr. Nathan Thomas, noted Michigan abolitionist whose home was a prominent stop on the Underground Railroad.

This year’s dinner was a wonderful tribute to the people of another place and time, whose contributions to the abolitionist movement through the Railroad and other activities helped bring thousands to new lives of freedom.

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See you soon! 

Food, Food Artisans

This Week at Zingerman’s 1/26/16

11th Annual African American Foodways Dinner at Zingerman’s Roadhouse

“In Search of Giants: a bit of theater, good food and an exploration of the history of the Abolition Movement in Michigan.”

Von H Washington

Dr. Von H Washington

Ali Garrison

Ali Garrison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join us Tuesday, January 26th, 7pm, as Dr. Von H. Washington (theater professional for more than thirty years) and Ali Garrison (mezzo-soprano, direct descendant of Dr. Nathan Thomas, and employee from Zingerman’s early years) present a dramatic scene written especially for Zingerman’s 11th Annual African American Foodways Dinner.
This theatrical reading will be based on their research for Dr. Washington’s play, “In Search of Giants,” which is coming to Ann Arbor on Thursday, January 28th at the Arthur Miller Theatre on the University of Michigan’s North Campus. Washington and Garrison play two Abolitionists, Henry Bibb and Pamela Thomas, meeting in January 1845 at the Underground Railroad Station in Schoolcraft, Michigan for a kitchen table conversation about food, freedom and human interaction.

Reserve your seat here


Balsamic Vinegar Tasting at Zingerman’s Deli

Working near the historic square in the center of Castelvetro, an old Italian town southwest of Modena, La Vecchia Dispensa founders Roberta Pelloni and her husband Marino Tintori make a variety of exceptional vinegars. Quite simply, these are some of the best balsamics we’ve ever tasted. So good in fact, that we’ve partnered with La Vecchia Dispensa to make our Zingerman’s private label balsamic vinegars. On Wednesday, January 27th, 630pm, their son Simone Tintori will join us to share the history and flavor of his family’s balsamic vinegars. Don’t miss this chance to talk with one of the artisans responsible for this lovely vinegar.

Reserve your seat here


Blue Cheese Dreams at Zingerman’s Creamery

Creamy, crumbly, and slightly funky, blue cheese can seem intimidating, but our cheesemongers are here to serve as your guide into this flavorful world. Join us on Thursday, January 28th, 6pm, as we taste our way through the classic styles of blue from around the globe as well as from here in the States, accompanied by our favorite serving suggestions. Come prepared to learn all about these fascinating cheeses and the folks who make them.

Reserve your seat here

See you soon!

Food, Food Artisans

Balsamic Vinegar from La Vecchia Dispensa

La Vecchia Dispensa

I once spent a night near Modena, Italy at an agriturismo, basically the Italian version of a B&B that’s on a farm. I got to talking with one of the owners and he asked what brought me to the area. I replied I was there to visit La Vecchia Dispensa, a balsamic vinegar maker.

“Oh!” he exclaimed, excited. “You see that door? That goes to my attic. That’s where I keep my balsamico. Would you like to see?” He opened the door to reveal a small, cluttered room with a set of five small old wooden barrels filled with balsamic. “It’s nothing fancy like Vecchia Dispensa,” he told me, “but it’s enough for my family.” I had heard that people still make their own balsamic in their attics, but I didn’t really understand how standard it is it until I saw it. (As an aside, an attic filled with balsamic smells a lot better than an attic filled with mothballs.)

Balsamic has been made for family use for hundreds of years.

In fact, for most of its history, balsamic was made ONLY for the family. Every family around Modena would keep their own set of barrels in the attic to age with the seasons of the year. The balsamic was—and still is—an incredibly valuable family heirloom, like at the agriturismo. It was used primarily as medicine, not as salad dressing. If you had a stomach ache, grandma would prescribe a spoonful of balsamic. (Not bad, huh?) The Italian word balsamico comes from the same source as balsam in English: a resinous liquid with medicinal benefits.

Today, aspirin has replaced balsamic as the medicine of the day, but balsamic remains a family affair in Italy. The balsamic we get from La Vecchia Dispensa is made by the Tintori family. When I visited, Simone Tintori showed me around theacetaia—the space where the balsamic is made. His family has perhaps a dozen sets of balsamic barrels. A set is called a batteria and typically includes five barrels. As Simone explained it to me, each batteria is made by the grandfather when a new daughter is born into the family. The balsamic made in the barrels will become a part of her dowry, but they’ll remain with the family’s collection even after she is married. The dozen batterie in the Tintori family’s collection represent a dozen daughters over the last few generations.

Each batteria bears the name of the daughter who owns them. I saw Antonietta, Guendolina, Roberta. Many of the barrels are decades old. As we walked through the acetaia, Simone points out batterie belonging to his sister, his aunts, his grandmother. On the walls above the barrels were old black and white family photos. “The acetaia is our family pantheon,” Simone poetically explained.

The same barrels made for Simone’s grandmother when she was a toddler are still in use today.

In fact, they’re probably at their best now, having decades of use. When you put vinegar in a wooden barrel, the barrel doesn’t just flavor the vinegar. The vinegar also flavors the barrel. It’s an ongoing virtuous cycle, a vinegar-flavored barrel gives a different, more complex flavor to the vinegar than the brand new barrel did. A well-made barrel can be used for as long as a century before it falls apart.

It’s the barrels that give the balsamic most of its flavor.

To make traditional balsamic, you start with just one ingredient: grape must, the unattractively named fresh-pressed juice of grapes, skins, seeds, and stems. The grape must is cooked and reduced, then it goes straight into barrels. To start the aging process, it’s mixed with a little of last year’s balsamic, called the “mother,” which kicks off the transformation from must to vinegar. As it ages the balsamic will spend time in at least four different barrels or as many as a dozen. The barrels in a batteria are typically made from a variety of different woods including oak, acacia, cherry, juniper, and mulberry. By the time the balsamic is ready to sell, it will have spent time in each barrel in the batteria. Each type of wood contributes a different flavor. Older barrels add complexity and balance.

These days, most of the balsamic on the market doesn’t come from family pantheons.

About fifty years ago, balsamic makers starting producing a variation on their ancient, traditional product. If you see any balsamic for less than $100 a bottle, you can bet it’s this new version of the vinegar, which I’ll call “regular balsamic.” Regular balsamic isn’t always just made of must. It can have up to 80% wine vinegar which is cheaper than must but often has a harsher flavor. But perhaps the biggest difference is that unlike the traditional balsamics which age for at least a dozen years before they’re allowed to be sold, regular balsamic can be sold after just two months. That’s what happens with the thin, sweet, bland vinegar you find in most grocery stores today.

When choosing a balsamic, it’s always good to taste—if you can. When that’s not an option, check the ingredient list. If wine vinegar is listed first the flavor will be weak, and you’re likely to see caramel coloring added as well—too much wine vinegar dilutes the balsamic from the dark liquid we expect and caramel coloring is added to hide that. At Vecchia Dispensa, they use 70% grape must as the base of their regular balsamics and they never add any caramel coloring. But for my money, I’d say it’s how the balsamics are aged—and how long they’re aged—that makes the biggest difference. Vecchia Dispensa ages in good wooden barrels for years, and you can taste the complexity and balance they give. In Italy they used to put the age of the balsamic on the label (and that’s still how we do it at Zingerman’s), but the Italians recently switched over and started listing the density instead. If you find the density listed on the label, as the density gets higher the balsamic will be thicker and sweeter. Our six-year balsamic has a density of 1.18 and a bright, acidic flavor while our thirty-year balsamic has a density of 1.35 and a deeper, more raisiny flavor and a consistency closer to molasses.

 – Val