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For instance, I like the maple balsamic better than maple syrup. To me, even the best syrup is too sweet and sugary. Well, there's nothing sweet about the maple balsamic vinegar. But for me, it purifies the maple flavor. I now drizzle it directly and undiluted on pancakes and enjoy it far more than I ever did syrup.
Right now my favorite balsamic vinegar is the tangerine. I dip bread into it without any oil at all, and also use it alone on green salad. It needs no help.
But in my tasting of vinegars, I knew the moment I tasted it that the red apple balsamic would be my wife's favorite. And her response, when I brought home a bottle, made me feel like a Good Husband. She uses it all the time now.
Don't take my word for it. Midtown Olive Press is built around the concept of tasting. Bring some friends and head to Friendly Center and taste the differences. I'd suggest that you alternate oils and vinegars, the one clearing your palate for the other.
Talk about a cheap but classy party or date!
Well, it's cheap only if you don't buy anything. I have a habit of falling in love with a flavor and bringing home a bottle of this and a bottle of that. But as long as you buy only small bottles, and pick only one or two, it's not expensive at all.
Only people like me who can't make up their mind, and therefore buy some of everything, end up spending a lot.
One of my favorite finds on this last trip was the olive pesto. It looked, in the jar, like it might be like the olive tapenade at I Cugini restaurant in Santa Monica. When the restaurant closed, I thought I'd never have that most brilliant of tapenades again.
Well, I probably won't, because the olive pesto from Midtown Olive Press is not a tapenade and doesn't try to be. However, I'm still glad I tried it, because it is wonderful in its own right. (It's one of the few things you can spread on a sharp rye bread that isn't overpowered and doesn't clash. Two very strong, delicious flavors!)
The nice thing about a tasting at Midtown Olive Press is that even the oils and vinegars that aren't my favorites are still very good.
Even the dark chocolate balsamic. It won't replace chocolate bars for me, the way the maple balsamic has replaced maple syrup. But it's surprisingly good – even as I realized that there was absolutely nothing I'd ever want to put it on.
Speaking of delicious finds, The Extra Ingredient, Greensboro's own local kitchenware shop, has several tall racks of specialty foods.
Recently I learned that when we're making a small batch of pasta for two people, the Ritrovo Selections red sauce called "Abruzzese Sugo al Pomodoro by Casina Rossa" comes in bottles that are exactly the right size.
Of course, that wouldn't matter if it weren't also exceptionally delicious. But it is and it certainly takes less time than making a tomato sauce from scratch.
(My wife also loves alfredo sauces, but not me. I rarely like white sauces – too many servings of chipped-beef and lima beans in white sauce as a kid, I suppose, so that the sight of a white sauce makes me faintly nauseated to start with.)
You can see what it looks like at Ritrovo's website: http://www.ritrovo.com/i-1500cas-red-pasta-sauce.php
I haven't even gotten to the dozens of books and movies I wanted to review this week.
Fortunately for me, the appetite of newsprint for editorial content is insatiable: There will be another week – unless you're writing for Newsweek. (Wasn't their final issue smug and self-congratulatory for a magazine that was obviously failing?)
Let me just steer you to an online vid that a friend in LA spotted in the LA Times online. It's a story about resourceful teachers who have created musical instruments for kids in South American slums ... out of trash.
The problem is that real musical instruments are simply too valuable. They would be stolen – possibly with damage to the child in the process.
But when you make instruments out of found materials, they have no resale value, and so they don't get stolen.
They also sound surprisingly good. But look and listen for yourself online at http://sn.im/musicfromtrash
It's kind of the opposite of The Music Man, in which the point is selling expensive instruments, with no training at all; here the instruments are, literally, garbage – but the training is excellent.
There's an even longer trailer , 11 minutes long, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6rgkCUstaE
It's encouraging to see the power of music even under the most trying circumstances.