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December 15, 2011

My Shot at Chic


By Elaine Viets

I was not going to spend another Friday night parked in front of the TV watching a DVD from the library. Not when I could do something chic.

Don and I were invited to the opening of EVOO Market in downtown Fort Lauderdale. EVOO stands for Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and the market at 1239 East Las Olas sells fine olive oils, balsamic vinegars and fashionable sea salts.

At the store’s grand opening, singer Laura Parker and guitarist Jaime Guiscafre serenaded us while we sipped vinegars and tasted olive oil.

That word "sip" is important. I don’t come from olive oil sippers and balsamic vinegar tasters. My family used white vinegar on their salads and on their floors. It also made a dandy spot remover and toilet bowl cleaner.Heinzvinegar

So I felt incredibly sophisticated standing around tasting balsamic vinegar. Thanks to the wonders of Wikipedia, I knew that aged balsamic vinegars were made from Trebbiano and maybe other grapes from the Italian provinces of Reggio-Emilia and Modena and aged in oak, chestnut, juniper, cherry and mulberry casks. A good 18-year-old balsamic can run 40 bucks a bottle. A 25-year-old balsamic can cost more than $100 for two ounces.Balsamicvinegar

The balsamic vinegars from the supermarket might look like the upscale balsamics, but they have all the signs of poor relations. They are thin, sour and pretending to be something better.

"Tasted straight from the bottle, there was no contest between supermarket and traditional balsamic vinegars," Cooks magazine said. "Even the best of the commercial bunch - while similarly sweet, brown, and viscous - couldn't compete with the complex, rich flavor of true balsamic vinegar. With notes of honey, fig, raisin, caramel, and wood; a smooth, lingering taste; and an aroma like fine port, traditional balsamic is good enough to sip like liqueur."

I focused on that "liqueur." I was about to have the Baileys Irish Cream of the balsamic world.

Again, I missed the word "sip."

I started tasting the oils first, to lay down a base, dipping cubes of crusty Italian bread into olive oil with shallots, then garlic, then sun-dried tomatoes. Butter-flavored olive oil and bacon olive oil beckoned as healthy alternatives to real bacon and butter, but I resisted.


Instead, I checked out the balsamic vinegars infused with cranberry, with black currants and with oranges. Yum!

Next I tried strawberries sprinkled with chocolate balsamic vinegar.


Fifteen calories an ounce and a rich chocolate flavor. I could feed my chocolate addiction without the fat.

I hung out scarfing up chocolate vinegar strawberries and making low moaning sounds, which attracted a helpful saleswoman.

"Would you like to taste our 18-year-old balsamic vinegar?" she asked.

I nodded. I couldn’t talk. I was distracted by the chocolate balsamic vinegar strawberries and didn’t focus on that word – taste.

The saleswoman filled a tiny paper tasting cup – about the size of a pill cup – with the thick rich balsamic vinegar. It was dark as Hershey’s syrup.

I slammed back the whole cupful.

My throat snapped shut, my eyes watered and then bugged out. The balsamic vinegar streaked straight down my throat and socked me in the gut.

"What do you think?" the saleswoman asked.

I didn’t think anything. I couldn’t. My brain shut down. I’d just tossed back a shot of balsamic vinegar. I couldn’t even talk.

"Hhhhhhhhh," I wheezed.

That’s when Don reappeared. "I can’t take you anywhere," he said. "I turn my back and you’re knocking back shots. Do you want to stay longer?"

At last I could talk again. "I’m ready to go. I’ve had my shot at being chic."



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Elaine, you're so darned funny. I can just see your eyes bugging out!

While visiting a friend in the Seattle area we did the tourist thing at the Pike Place Market, home of the fish-throwing seafood vendors. One stall was offering tastes of balsamics, including blackberry. I've served it over ice cream and over grilled peaches. Divine.

Man, I need to get hold of some of that chocolate balsamic. For, er, research. You know.

Karen, I recommend extensive research with the chocolate and also the black currant. It's low-calorie, after all.
The store email is evoo.market@gmail.com

I didn't know olive oil till I had it in Spain. A thick creamy green and so flavorful, it make me jealous that I can't find it here. Did find a near substitute at $40 a bottle, but it's really not the same. The Spaniards eat much better than we do. Better beef, better asparagus, better olive oil.

Margaret, I found that to be true in England, France and Italy, as well. And certainly in Peru and Ecuador, all that fish and those fresh vegetables.

Margaret, EVOO has Spanish olive oil, as well as Italian and Egyptian. It wasn't cheap, but it sure wasn't anywhere near $40.

You are bringing up all those taste memories ladies! I'm in heaven.
Tried the chocolate sauerkraut cake yesterday. It's delish!

The idea of chocolate balsamic anything makes me shudder, but now I want to try all this stuff, too, to see if it makes me as funny as Elaine Viets!

Going to have to investigate this Chocolate Balsamic stuff. It does make me feel good when I am at the froo-froo wine shop checking on $100 scotches to see the $200 pints of vinegar.

There has been a great deal written on extra virgin olive oil lately. Consumption and popularity has led to forgeries and fraud. Bulk "commoditized" olive oil is around 1EU a liter. Fancy "old world" label, now 15EU a liter.

Rachel Ray's brand of EVOO ain't so virgin.



Oh, you are so very chic! It sounds like great fun!
Zinnia's used to make a grilled angel food cake drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar -- so good!

Oh, Elaine! You are so funny! I'm surprised you could talk at all after tossing back a shot of vinegar of any kind. You're a better woman than I am, Gunga Din.

The bacon-flavored olive oil sounds like something to check out for my husband, who had to give up his beloved bacon after a heart attack. The chocolate balsamic vinegar sounds like something to check out for me.

A chocolate salad! Elaine, you may have changed my life today.

Cyrano's, my new after-Rep place since Zinnia closed, makes chocolate-covered bacon, which is much better than I expected it to be. I could understand some chocolate in a fruit salad . . . or a spinach salad with fruit . . .

My oldest daughter has recently sworn off bacon. She says she's tired of bacon being added to every possible edible, and that once the bacon is there that's all she can taste.

And she says that with a straight face, as if it's a bad thing. Sometimes I wonder how she can possibly be my daughter. :-)

She'll grow out of it, Karen.
Bet that chocolate covered bacon is endorsed by the Heart Association, Mary.
Linda, maybe your husband could add some bacon olive oil on his egg(white)s?

Wonderful, although I'm sorry you ended up with a storm in your head. Lots of different flavors, and I can't keep them straight. Olive oil is the healthy oil. Bacon not so much.

I loved it! I laughed so hard I cried. Wow, I didn't know that much about balsamic vinegar or olive oil. Red neck, I guess, only knew about the super market type. Note to self, increase knowledge on THINGS.

Wait till you taste the good stuff, Juanita. Just remember. The word is "taste."

"My throat snapped shut, my eyes watered and then bugged out."

Immoderation. Impatience. It's why so many adore you.

sip . . . taste . . . (like a hybrid car) not guzzle -- but I do wish I had been there to see you knock back that shot and I expect to see Helen or Josie doing something like that soon . . . ;-)

Jeez, Mary, if I knew I was going to be so entertaining I would have videoed it.
The "I's" have it, Tom.

That video would go viral on YouTube . . . ;-)

Mary, there is a new "oil" place on South Main St. Maybe we should check it out!

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