Food Detective: White Balsamic Vinegar

1207327990I trekked to Worcester for Easter dinner with my boyfriend’s family, and as usual, everything—from the lamb kebabs to the mashed potatoes—was well worth the binge. But this time, surprisingly, it was something as simple (and healthy!) as a tossed salad that sent my culinary antennae up.

What was the insanely bright, tangy liquid adorning my greens? It tasted like Greek dressing, only much lighter. Turns out, it was as easy as this: a whirl of white balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.

So I went to investigate—first at Chowder’s neighborhood Whole Foods, then at Trader Joe’s. Both places stocked the stuff, and both bottles I found explained the difference between traditional balsamic and its cousin. The white variety isn’t aged in wooden barrels; plus, its black color is filtered out during processing, resulting in a completely clear liquid. At just $1.99 for a huge bottle, Trader’s version is also a clear winner.

Armed with my new purchase Monday night, I whipped up a white balsamic dressing using the best EVOO in my pantry, a dash of Parmesan cheese, and just a pinch of kosher salt. It was just as delicious as I remembered it; nearly as pungent as a dark balsamic dressing, but without that hard acid aftertaste.

So, faithful Chowder readers, I ask: what are some treasures you’ve uncovered in your own epicurean adventures? Have you discovered the key to crafting the perfect taqueria-style burrito at home? The secret to the creamiest mac ‘n cheese this side of the Mason-Dixon Line? Let us know.

In the meantime, we’ll be busy scouring the streets (and our own pantries) for more home-cooking tips, tricks, and hidden gems.