Thursday, 19 June 2008

Talk and (balsamic) vinegar

Slow Food London continues its series of original events with a balsamic vinegar tasting at the Natural Kitchen, in London’s Marylebone (

Expert taster Manlio Guidetti grew up among the acetaie (sets of vinegar barrels) of Modena, in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna, and can spot a watery caramel-boosted fake a mile off, and tell you how to do so, too.

An excellent balsamic vinegar should be very well balanced in sweetness and acidity; not too dense but relatively fluid, and have a Guinness colour with a deep gold hue that is still transparent on a white plate.

Two good buys are a three-year-old Bellei at £4.10 for 250ml and a 12-year old 100ml bottle by Acetaia Sereni for £20 (Orrery Epicerie, Marylebone; 0207 616 8036).

The tasting will demonstrate how to use different ages and styles of balsamic vinegar with various foods.

For example, use a couple of drops of aged balsamic vinegar instead of sugar to marinate strawberries or fresh figs and melon and then serve with a dollop of mascarpone.

It’s officially the last week for asparagus in Britain so griddle some while you can and serve it with parmesan shavings, and tiny splashes of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

In Emilia Romagna eight-to-ten-year old balsamic vinegars are used to “pepper” simple regional dishes such as shelled broad beans with thin slices of pecorino; or to draw out some of the sweetness from the cured fat in an antipasto of San Daniele ham and Felinetto salami.

Murray’s in Clevedon, Somerset, recommends a ruby-red sparkling Lambrusco, Picol Ross from small producer Paolo Rinaldini (£10; 01275 341222). It’s a summer-friendly wine, best served chilled, with a hint of violet on the nose and sweet blackberry on the palate. Its acidic edge helps to slice through Emilia’s hearty cuisine.

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