Occassionally–very occassionally–I’ll be contacted by someone in the food industry who wants to send me something so I’ll write about it on the site. Like, for example, Emeril contacted me the other day and he was like “Yo, Adam, I have a new BAM sauce I want you to write about” and I was like, “Yo, Emeril, back off, k? I have integrity. I don’t write about things just beacuse you want me to.” He began to cry and I had to sing “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac to help him regain his composure.
Seriously, though, I have a policy. Here it is: you can send me stuff but that doesn’t mean I’ll definitely write about it. I’ll try your product and if I like it I’ll write about it. If I don’t, I won’t and we’ll both move on with our lives.
And so it was that a very nice guy named Clark who works for a P.R. firm wanted to send me olive oil and balsmaic vinegar from Academia Barilla. I told him my policy, he said “that’s fine,” and then messangered it over. That means someone on a bike rode it over. That was exciting.
What was delivered was a beautiful press pack: a tote bag (like the kind you get from PBS), inside of which were two big bottles–one of olive oil, one of balsamic vinegar–but also a chef’s hat, a Zagat’s guide to Italian food in New York and a folder describing Academia Barilla’s mission. Here it is: “Preserve authentic Italian food products and protect them from imitation.” They do more, but that’s the relative portion here.
I looked for a recipe to try the vinegar with and I found, in Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating, a recipe for strawberries coated in balsamic. It was easy to do. First you buy a box of strawberries. Here’s where I think I failed, though. I bought my strwaberries from Whole Foods and when I got home the top one was moldy. If I had any gumption I would’ve run back and gotten my money back or exchanged it but it was so hot that I threw out the moldy one and examined all the others and they were ok. I washed them and trimmed them. Then I held up the bottle of balsmaic and took this picture:
I decided to pour a little into the cap and taste it before using it. It came out syrupy which made me happy because that’s how the vinegar was when I was in Italy. And it was very tart (I hacked a little) but also very sweet, like a good balsamic should be. I was impressed. I am not a shill: this is good vinegar.
The recipe I did, though, kind of sucked. Not because it’s a bad recipe but my strawberries weren’t really that fresh or ripe or yummy. You put half of them in the food processor with a little more than a tablespoon of balsamic:
You use the resulting sauce to coat the other strawberries and then sprinkle it all with sugar. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour (this is the masceration process). It looks like this when it comes out:
It tasted pretty good, but not great. It needed vanilla ice cream as a base which I didn’t have. I’m sure with great, fresh, ripe strawberries it would have been terrific. And I’m excited to use that vinegar in a salad or something else where balsamic vinegar is appropriate. “My life,” I say to the camera beehind shiny white teeth, “has been forever changed by Barilla! Try some today, you won’t regret it!”
I swear I’m not a shill…